I really don't know what else to say other than sorry! My life has been crazy the last year and I just didn't have the time for writing. I hope someone is still reading this story after a year of silence...
If you do, enjoy!
Chapter 18: Cursed
Hogwarts – Tuesday, 28th of January, 1996
"Rise and shine, darling!" a loud voice called. My eyes flew open just in time for me to see Kol's grin above me before the giant pillow he had in his hands hit me hard in the face. Still covered under it I groaned when I heard Kol chuckle. What had I been thinking to decide that sleeping on Kol's sofa was a good idea?! Yeah, right… I didn't want to murder Lavender in her sleep…
When I felt Kol grab my covers and start to pull them away, I quickly sat up and threw the pillow back at him. Sadly, he had already anticipated my move and caught it with ease. He grinned brightly, already bouncing with energy.
"Come on, we need to get down to the great hall or we won't have time for breakfast before the first class!" he told me excitedly and I looked at him confused.
"What's got you so happy this early in the morning?" I asked him. Not that I minded him being happy, but why was he in such a hurry? As far as I knew McGonagall didn't have a class he could visit in the first period and Fred and George would be in their DADA lesson. At that moment I remembered that Elijah was probably still away on his mission, which meant we would have to endure Umbridge again today. I groaned and seriously considered asking Fred and George for some nosebleed nougat.
Once I was dressed, Kol and I went down to the great hall together. I wasn't nearly as excited to get to class as he was. Not only would I have to sit through one of Umbridge's lessons again, I would also have to see Ron and Lavender the whole day. Kol seemed to have noticed my tension and was trying to distract me by telling me about some prank he wanted to play to Umbridge, but I was too nervous to really listen.
When we entered the great hall, my eyes instinctively travelled along the Gryffindor table, quickly finding Ron and Lavender sitting next to each other. My chest tightened painfully, and I felt tears forming in my eyes again. Then Kol leaned down to me.
"Don't give her the satisfaction of seeing you hurt." he whispered in my ear and I gritted my teeth. He was right. I wouldn't be that lonely eleven-year-old who ran to cry the toilets because someone was mean to her anymore. I had gotten through much worse. But damn, did it hurt to see them together.
"Want to make them jealous instead?" Kol suddenly asked me and when I only looked at him in confusion, he winked playfully. "Just smile at me and pretend to not even notice them. I'll do the rest." he smirked and then casually wrapped his right arm around my shoulders and led us over to some free places at the Gryffindor table that were as far away from Ron and Lavender as possible. I was aware of some people throwing us curious glances and while I wasn't really all that convinced of Kol's plan, I found it kind of sweet that he was trying to make me feel better and so just went along with it.
We sat down and all gentleman-like Kol poured me some pumpkin juice, and then quickly grabbed himself some pastries with his left hand, his right arm still wrapped around me. When he pulled a piece off his croissant and held it in front of my mouth, attempting to feed me, I couldn't take it anymore and burst out laughing, quickly shaking my head.
"This is ridiculous." I told him chuckling and he only grinned innocently, shrugged his shoulders and ate the croissant himself. "More for me then."
"Hermione! Here you are! We've been worried!" Harry exclaimed and sat down next to me. Neville, Fred and George sat down opposite of us.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Harry! I was…" I trailed off, unsure what to tell them. Then I saw Fred's eyes wandering between me and Kol, eyeing his arm on my shoulder critically.
"Wait, have you two..." he started loudly and I quickly interrupted him.
"No! No, Fred, we haven't done anything!" I said blushing but the others already had caught on.
"You and Kol are together?" Neville asked confused and I groaned when I heard Kol chuckle. Why did I ever go along with this?!
"No, there is nothing between me and Kol. We're just trying to make Ron and Lavender jealous." I explained embarrassed. Somehow that sounded really immature. George grinned.
"Well, from the look on their faces, it definitely works."
"Yeah, they're both glaring daggers at you two. If looks could kill…" Fred added and Harry strained his neck to see what they were looking at.
"Why is Ron sitting with Lavender?" he asked confused and I was tempted to slap my hand against my forehead. Shouldn't that be obvious by now?
"I found them kissing last night. That's why I didn't go back to the common room. I ran into Kol and he said I could sleep on his sofa." I summarized last night for all of them, leaving out our long talk and the running from Filch. They didn't need to know everything.
"Yeah, well, anyway, I had a fantastic idea for a prank last night!" Kol quickly changed the topic, excitedly talking to Fred and George now.
"First we need to sneak into Umbridge's private room and measure where exactly her bed is located in the room…"
Budleigh Babberton, England – Tuesday, 28th of January, 1996
As I was sitting in the comfortable armchair in the little muggle house I was currently occupying, sipping my morning coffee and reading my issue of Witch Weekly I didn't think the day would be anything else than a nice, relaxing, uneventful Tuesday.
Then, all of a sudden, the alarms I had set around the property alerted me that someone was coming to visit. Quickly I got up, knocking over my coffee in the process. Never mind.
I didn't waste any time putting the plan I had for a case like this in motion. I started shooting blasting spells at the room around me. I was completely certain my unannounced visitor was Dumbledore, coming for the original version of that blasted memory, and I had no intention of talking to him.
When the room looked sufficiently like a fight had taken place, I quickly grabbed one bottle of dragon's blood and splattered the contents around the room. When my unknown visitor knocked on the door, I hurried over to the corner and transfigured myself into a big plush armchair and held my breath, hoping Dumbledore would fall for the disguise.
My first clue that my visitor was not Dumbledore was when instead of 'Alohomora' I heard the lock crunch and the door fly open. Then, a pair of shiny shoes crossed the doorstep. The man wearing them was dressed in an expensive black suit and carried an equally black suitcase in his right hand. My stomach dropped.
He entered the room and looked around interestedly, walking casually to the blood splattered on the wall. Horrified I watched him dip his little finger into it and then licking it off. He gave an appreciative smirk.
Then he walked right over to the cupboard in which my firewhiskey was stored and poured himself a glass. With it he went to the armchair I had kicked over, picked it up easily and sat down. He took another curious look around the room and I relaxed a bit. Still looking at the room in general, he suddenly spoke.
"It's a pleasure to meet you again, Mr. Slughorn." he said casually "I trust you still remember me."
Of course, I still remembered him. Even though it had been forty years since Minerva brought him along to one of my Slug-club alumni parties, one didn't just forget Elijah Mikaelson. Back then she was very ambitiously pursuing her career at the Ministry, trying to rise in the ranks to not be stuck with the jobs nobody wanted any more - like assisting original vampires with... whatever the two of them had been working on. Though I suspected the ministry official who gave that job to the newest member of the department never realized exactly whoElijah Mikaelson was.
Now he spoke again. "You do realize I can hear your heart racing in your chest?" he asked casually as he turned to stare right at me. A shiver ran down my back. Of course he had known all along. My disguise was made to fool a wizard, not a vampire.
I quickly transfigured back into a human and then busied myself pouring a glass of firewhiskey for myself. It was still early in the morning, but the situation was extraordinary. Then, I repaired the other armchair and sat down opposite of my unexpected visitor.
"So, to what do I owe the pleasure?" I asked politely, even though I could already guess why he was here. It was no secret that Dumbledore had hired him as the new DADA teacher. Though why he would take such a risk was still a mystery to me. Even Dumbledore had to see the danger he was putting all of his pupils in. Remus Lupin had at least been human 27 nights of the month.
"Cutting short on the pleasantries I see. Very well then, let's get straight to business, shall we?" Mr. Mikaelson smiled at me politely for a moment, then his expression became serious.
"I have been informed that you are in possession of a memory that is very crucial to defeating Voldemort." He stated. I gasped at the name and felt my heart speed up again. Suddenly, I was self-conscious about it, knowing he could hear it. Dumbledore was really putting me in an impossible situation. I couldn't give up the memory, but refusing one of the oldest, most powerful creatures on this planet? That didn't sound very clever either. Why did Dumbledore send him instead of coming himself? To intimidate me? That was no way to treat old friends and colleagues!
"Whatever Dumbledore told you, I don't hav-" I started to interrupt, but Mr. Mikaelson only scoffed lightly and raised a disbelieving eyebrow, seeing right through me.
"I came here in an effort to persuade you to give me the memory in question." He explained and when I opened my mouth to protest again he raised a hand to stop me and picked up the suitcase. He put it on his lap and opened it so I could see inside it. It was full of paper?
"These are one million British pounds, the muggle equivalent to roughly 200,000 Galleons. If you give me the memory, you can take this money, get on the next plane to the Caribbean and live out the rest of your live in a…" He threw a quick, disgusted look around the room. "In a more comfortable accommodation." He explained. I stared at the muggle money in his suitcase. His offer was tempting. I was tired of running from the Death Eaters, moving from one muggle house to the next. I longed for the comfortable, luxurious lifestyle his deal promised. But it wasn't that easy.
"If I give you this memory and Dumbledore acts on what he sees in there, You-Know-Who will know he got the information from me. He will kill me. Nobody can run from him and money won't save me." I explained. I wasn't ready to die yet. And, I wasn't enough of a martyr to sacrifice myself for the greater good as Dumbledore wanted me to. Carefully, I watched Mr. Mikaelson's reaction to my answer.
For a moment he just looked at me with an unreadable expression. Then, an evil smirk appeared on his face and he stared right into my eyes.
"You seem to be under the misconception that Voldemort is the biggest threat you face. But, you see, he is not in this room right now." He told me smoothly, his voice silky and polite. I shuddered and felt my heart beat quicken again. His words reminded me sharply of exactly who it was I was talking to. I had a lot of contacts around the world and I had heard the stories about him.
Now the question was: who was really more dangerous? The guy who mindlessly murdered muggles for fun or the man who wrapped the head of his brother's girlfriend as a birthday present?
Meanwhile, Mr. Mikaelson had not taken his eyes off me for a second. He was still smirking.
"Now, I would strongly advise you to accept my offer." He paused for a moment and put his empty glass down on the coffee table. Then, he slowly closed the briefcase with the money and set it down on the floor between us.
"Take it. This is your last chance before I have to resort to more... medieval measures." His tone was still pleasant and the smirk had not left his face but I couldn't help the shiver that ran down my spine. Was it really worth it?
I took a moment to consider my options. Giving up the memory meant losing my good reputation, the respect Dumbledore held for me and – most importantly – dying a horrible death at You-Know-Who's hand once he found out about it. But what would Mr. Mikaelson do if I refused his deal now? Would he really resort to torture? Or was he just trying to scare me? His only reason for wanting this memory was that Dumbledore had asked him to get it. He had no personal interest in defeating You-Know-Who so, surely, he would do nothing that Dumbledore wouldn't approve of, would he?
Apparently Mr. Mikaelson had read my decision from my facial expression as he suddenly stood up.
"What a pity." In a split second he was right in front of me and grabbed my chin in an unrelenting grip. Desperately I fumbled for my wand. I ripped it out of my pocket, but before I could utter a spell he had grabbed my wand with his free hand. I heard a little snap and knew I was completely helpless.
Mr. Mikaelson scoffed, amused. "Pathetic. My students can do better than that." he commented as he slowly raised my chin. Fearfully, I raised my eyes to look in his face and saw him staring right back. He smirked.
When I realized his intention I quickly tried to shield my mind from his intrusion, but it was no use. I had never bothered to train myself in occlumency and even if I had, I doubted it would have been of much use in a battle of wills against a thousand-year-old original vampire.
He already knew what he was looking for so, in a matter of seconds he had ploughed through my defenses and arrived at the exact memory I had tried to hide. There was nothing I could do to stop him and so, helplessly, I relived it – fully aware that he too could see it all.
When it was finally over my shame nearly outweighed my fear. He released my chin and took a few steps back.
He looked at me critically. "Seven pieces?"
I could only nod. As horrible as the thought was, I was convinced Tom Riddle went through with it.
"Well, that was quite informative. Thank you very much for your cooperation." He nodded politely and I considered throwing the two broken wand pieces in his still smirking face, but resisted the urge.
Without another word he turned around and walked to the door – taking the suitcase with him. Longingly, I watched it go. I should have just taken his deal! At least I could have moved to somewhere warm and comfortable instead of hopping from one muggle house to the next.
At the doorstep he turned around again.
"Take this house as a little consolation from me. The owners won't return anytime soon."
Hogwarts – Tuesday, 28th of January, 1996
"Okay, Harry, remember: don't mention Voldemort and don't shout at Umbridge. Please don't let her provoke you again!" I begged him desperately as we made our way from the Dungeons to the Defence classroom. He only had to get through this one lesson today without getting detention and then Elijah would hopefully be back for our lesson on Thursday.
"I know, Hermione. I always try. It's just so infuriating that Voldemort's returned and instead of doing something to protect the people, the Ministry spends all of its efforts on making me and Dumbledore seem crazy." he explained frustrated. I could definitely understand his outburst. In the last months I hadn't been very good at controlling my temper either.
We hurried up the stairs and down the corridor to the classroom. Snape had kept Harry after the lesson to berate him about a failed essay, so we were already running late. Not a good start, I thought. The door was closed when we arrived, and I took a deep breath - Harry wasn't the only one who had to be careful today – before slowly opening the door.
As I had already suspected the mats in the classroom were gone, replaced with the normal desks. All of our classmates were already seated. Again I felt a sting in my chest when I saw Ron sitting in the second row, Lavender right next to him, holding his hand in hers. They didn't seem to care much about our late arrival, though. Everyone was looking at the front of the classroom, a confused expression in their faces.
When I opened the door completely and entered the classroom, I saw why. Instead of Umbridge standing in front of the class, Kol was sitting on the teacher's desk, his feet swinging happily back and forth, an excited grin on his face. He turned to smile at Harry and me.
"Hermione, Harry, how good you could make it. I was starting to worry that you two suffered from sudden nosebleed." he winked at me, then gestured to the empty table at the front of the classroom.
"Please, have a seat." he turned back to the class. "As I was just saying, my dear brother is busy on some super-secret mission for Dumbledore and because he didn't want you to be stuck listening to Umbridge's nonsense again, he asked me to take over instead."
He casually hopped off the desk.
"Unlike my brother, however, I don't believe that physical brawling is your best shot at surviving a fight. You're witches for a reason. Which makes this lesson the perfect opportunity to get you all started on practising some wandless magic." he smirked at the gasps accompanying his last statement.
"Wandless magic? That's impossible!" Seamus blurted out what most people were thinking. Wandless magic was very rare and very difficult.
"Really? Is it your wands that make you wizards? Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't all of you do some unintentional magic as children before you got your wand?" Kol asked challengingly.
"Well, yeah, but like you said, it was unintentional. Without a wand, there is no way to control it." Dean argued.
I was intrigued. What Dean and Seamus were saying was exactly what we had always been taught. Children showed random flashes of magic, but you needed a wand to actually use spells. But I had seen first-hand how Kol had easily subdued Lupin without a wand. I knew he could do it. And now he was going to teach it to us, how exciting!
And besides, was children's magic really random? I tried to think of the first time I had used magic. For a second, I inexplicably had the vague picture of a car and an explosion in my head, but I shook it off. No, the first time I used magic was when I was five years old and trying to reach a book on a shelf I couldn't reach. I had stretched as far as I could and got really frustrated and then suddenly, the book had just fallen out of the shelf all on its own. I didn't know how I had done it, but I had clearly reached my goal, just by wanting it very much, no need for a wand or a spell. Was that how wandless magic worked? I focused on Kol again.
"That's because you're only taught to use magic with your wands. Wands have many advantages, they amplify your magical powers and make spells less exhausting to use. Using a wand, with specific movements and incantations also makes your spells more focused and you can use magic for much smaller things, like changing the colour of your clothes or opening a door. However, you don't just turn into a muggle when you lose your wand in a fight." Kol winked and then continued. "With a bit of practice you can easily fling an opponent across the room with a burst of magic or set something on fire." he explained.
"As creating fire is quite easy and not as dangerous as throwing someone around, I think we should start with that." he turned to the box sitting on the teacher's desk and with a wave of his hand, he levitated candles out of it and made them fly to all of the desks, until everyone had one sitting in front of them. He grinned at all of the students staring at him after this display of wandless magic.
"Still think wandless magic is impossible?" he smirked. I chuckled. Show-off.
"Okay, now: Put your wands away and then focus all of your willpower on lighting your candles. Don't let yourself get distracted. If it helps, you can use the incantation 'Incendia' to guide your magic in the right direction."
When he finished talking everything was unusually quiet for a moment, the only sound were whispered 'Incendia's. Everyone really wanted to learn how to do this. I looked at my candle. The instructions sounded easy enough and we had already learned to do this spell in our second year in Charms. But to do it without a wand?
I took a deep breath, put my hands around the candle and focused on making it burn. "Incendia!"
I tried again, with the same result. And a third time…
Frustrated I looked around the classroom. To my relief, none of my classmates had managed to light their candles yet. Kol sighed.
"Try and feel for your magical core first and release the magic through your thoughts. As you're so used to using your wands your subconscious is probably suppressing some of the power." he advised and I tried to follow his instructions, feeling for the magic inside of me.
It was harder than I thought, but finally I could feel the soft tingling feeling that I came to associate with doing some more powerful spells. It wasn't very strong. I tried the spell again, but all that happened was that the candlewick started smoking a bit. I tried to channel more magic, but the tingling feeling was getting weaker by the second and, suddenly, it was gone again. Exhausted, I leaned back in my chair. What had happened? Did I really have so little magic? Kol had said that wandless spells took more energy than normal ones, but were my reserves really already depleted?! There had to be more! I tried to find it again, but was interrupted by a cheering from the Slytherin side of the classroom.
Draco Malfoy was sitting there, smirking arrogantly as the candle in front of him burned with a strong flame. I gritted my teeth. Malfoy couldn't be better than me! Shockingly, he wasn't the only one who had improved. Zambini's candle was glowing lightly, the candle in front of Ron was melting, and Parvati's was flickering each time she said the incantation. How were they all so good?
Kol solved this riddle for me, when he walked to Malfoy to congratulate him for the spell. "As you should've noticed by now, wandless spells eat up your magical reserves pretty fast. Don't worry, it will get better the more you're using them. If you're a descendant of a powerful magical bloodline, your magical power might be greater. However, even if you're not, once you have grasped the basics you can also channel other witches, magical objects, your ancestors or astronomical events to power your spells." he explained and I gritted my teeth. Was he really saying I had less magic than Malfoy because I was a Muggle-born? Coming from Kol, it felt like a slap to the face. Especially because it seemed to be the truth.
My brooding was interrupted by Harry, who suddenly started screaming as a green darting flame burst out of his candle, hissing loudly. As I turned to look at him I saw that Harry's face was torn in a grimace as he was clutching his forehead desperately.
As soon as it had started, it was over again, the flame went out, Harry's screaming stopped and his posture relaxed.
"Harry? Are you okay?" Kol was standing in front of us, a confused expression on his face. Harry tentatively took one of his hands away from his face, his other one still rubbing his scar.
"Yes, I'm fine, I just got scared by the sudden high flame." Harry tried to come up with an explanation. Kol obviously didn't believe him but thought better than to question him in front of the whole class. Everyone was staring at Harry.
After another 20 minutes of me staring uselessly at my candle, it was finally time for lunch. It frustrated me to no end. By the end of the class most people had managed to light their candle at least for a short moment (except for Neville, who got a nosebleed instead, after which Kol warned him to stop in order to not over-exert himself). It wasn't even that I hadn't found the magic inside of me. After searching a bit more, I had felt a very strong tingling sensation, but for some reason I couldn't get it to flow through me to use for my spell. It was as if something was locking it inside, blocking my access to it. I had tried again and again to break down the internal wall, but all it did was completely exhaust me.
Everyone slowly left the classroom, chatting excitedly. Harry had already fled the classroom as soon as the bell rang in order to avoid all the stares. I slowly trailed behind, waiting for everyone to leave. I wanted to speak with Kol.
"Puh. I'm starving now!" Kol exclaimed. "Come on, let's get down to lunch before Fred and George eat all the pudding!" he grinned and I quickly followed him out of the room.
"Kol, what do you think happened to Harry?" I asked him. I was really worried about Harry's scar and maybe Kol had some idea what was going on. He turned thoughtful.
"I'm not exactly sure, it looked like he was accidentally channelling a malicious spirit or something." he started slowly.
"He said his scar was hurting really badly when it happened, could it be that the curse had something to do with it? That he has some kind of connection to Voldemort?" I asked his opinion about my theory and Kol frowned.
"You think he channelled Voldemort? That would definitely explain what happened, although I'm not sure how he would have managed that. Even a curse as strong as the killing curse shouldn't create this kind of connection…" he trailed off, seeming to be deep in thought.
We walked a few minutes in silence. I noticed that he was throwing me worried glances and finally he asked.
"Is that all that's bothering you? You seemed a bit off today. I learned this new spell yesterday which we could use to change Lavender's hair into dozens of slimy eels if that cheers you up?" he offered with a grin and I chuckled.
"Thank you Kol, but that's not it. I'm just frustrated that I seem to be utterly hopeless at wandless magic." I admitted quietly and he sighed.
"That has nothing to do with your skills Hermione. I think it's quite normal if you're born to muggle parents. You just don't have the power. But like I said, I can teach you how to channel magical objects or other people and then you'll be as brilliant without a wand as you are with one." he smiled at me encouragingly and I snorted in frustration.
"It's not even that! I can feel the magic inside of me, but I can't seem to reach it, as if there is something blocking me, like a kind of wall or something." I explained angrily and he frowned.
"Like a wall? That sounds an awful lot like a curse." he suddenly stopped in the middle of the corridor, people behind us bumping into him and complaining loudly, but he was just staring at me worriedly.
He grabbed my arm, pulled me into the Charms classroom that we had just passed and looked at me.
"Let me try to channel you. If there is something blocking you, maybe I can undo it this way." he offered and took my hand when I nodded slowly. Until now I had only been frustrated at myself, but his reaction was scaring me a bit. What if something was wrong with me?
Kol started levitating a big statue in the back of the room and I could feel some tingling rushing through me and then into our interlocked hands. It was a strange sensation. When the tingling ran out and I started to get exhausted I could feel something flaring up inside of me. A strong tingling was blubbering around in my stomach. But it never reached my hands. After a moment Kol stopped, frowning.
"You're right, there is definitely more magic there, but it seems to be locked away by a curse. There is something else blocked by it as well, but I can't figure out what it is." he explained.
He was right. The strong tingling was intertwined with two other sensations. One was a bubbling anger and the other something cold that left a metallic taste on my tongue. I shuddered. What was that? Was it even a good idea to break down this wall that was locking everything away?
While I had been analysing the feelings inside of me, Kol had found some candles and arranged them in a circle around us and was busy writing symbols on the floor. When he was finished, he put the chalk away and sat down cross-legged on the floor in the middle of the circle. He gestured for me to do the same and then grabbed both of my hands.
"I'm going to try to break the curse. Do you have any idea who could have put it on you?" he asked and I shook my head confused. The only people who regularly tried to hex me were Malfoy and his goons, but this seemed too complex for them.
Kol shrugged and then closed his eyes and started whispering Latin incantations that I had never heard before. The candles around us flickered and I felt the tingling sensation in my stomach flare again, but other than that nothing happened.
After a few minutes, Kol huffed in frustration and opened his eyes again. He seemed annoyed with himself. He let go of my hands and touched his nose. Shocked I noticed that it was bleeding.
"Kol, are you okay?" I asked him worriedly and he frowned.
"Yes, I'm just not strong enough to break the curse." he growled. "I hate this body."
"What do you mean?" I asked him confused.
"I've told you, this is not my real body. I was thrilled when my mother put me into the body of a witch again, but she took care to choose someone not very powerful so I would be easier to control." he complained angrily and fumbled with a leather band around his neck. On it he pulled out a little star amulet.
"What is that?" I asked him curiously.
"An amulet with some drops of my sister's blood. Through it I can channel a bit of her power to do some more complex spells. Hopefully, it will be enough to break that curse on you." he explained, then grabbed my hands and began chanting again.
Another few minutes passed, but I still couldn't feel any difference. Finally, Kol gave up.
He was breathing heavily and started rubbing his temples to relieve what seemed to be a bad headache.
"I can't break it." he admitted defeat. "This spell must have been cast by a very powerful witch." he explained. "If it's any comfort though, I think that it was meant more to protect than to harm you. There is also an unbreakable cloaking spell on you that will protect you from anyone trying to find you. Could come in handy now that Voldemort is back." he winked, trying to cheer me up.
I didn't know whether to be relieved or not. Why would I need protection from my own magic?
I hope you like the chapter, I promise I'll be quicker with the next update!