Serpent Tongue: Chapter Twenty-Six: The Price of Control
AN: Shoutout to Lassie for giving me a literal chapter of a review, it really did make my day. I love how you guys are generally suspicious of people being dead if I don't specifically list them as being such, you've learned so much!
I will say that as the series goes on, it will get darker and heavier, but book two is mostly setting up the future plot than anything else.
As I've said, this fic is almost exclusively AU from this point on, so while there might be some canon events, expect the outcomes to be very different, and I will not be changing the direction this story is going.
Also: please don't review on unrelated fics about this one, its incredibly rude.
"Remus Lupin?" Remus stood suddenly, the plastic chair quaking under him as he moved. The man that had spoken was a kind-faced man in scrubs Remus saw more in Muggle hospitals than magical ones.
"How's Hope?" he asked abruptly and the man blinked.
"Hope Potter is her birth name, yes?" he asked instead. "The name she gave me was Elpis Slytherin."
Remus' lips twitched faintly. "Yes, she likes that one."
"I'm Con," the healer introduced himself. "We met recently when your niece was asking me a lot of questions about the Gates of Tartarus." Remus' brow furrowed. "I'm a Lore-keeper in my downtime. She's a very curious sort."
Remus chuckled then. "She certainly is that."
Con made a gesture with his fingers and Remus stood with the aid of his cane to follow him. "Elpis is doing all right, but I use that term mildly. She was shot in the shoulder, had the wound seared shut, then was stabbed through the same shoulder." Remus' mother had been a Muggle nurse, he was familiar with wounds caused by guns and he couldn't help but wince. "It will scar but she wasn't very concerned about that…her forehead has been split in several places. She doesn't need to keep a bandage over the slices, they've scabbed over, but she asked to keep it. Her broken ribs are healed and her other cuts and bruises have been fixed…that's not the biggest problem."
Remus looked through the small window into one of the private rooms in the clinic. After Hermione and Daphne had told him where she was, they'd probably raced them themselves. That was so like them.
Hope had a hand pressed to her eyes, her shoulders trembling as she told them something and the pair were concerned, their mouths moving, though Remus couldn't make out what was being said. But neither of them were touching her, that wasn't like them. The three of them weren't overly touchy to begin with, but looping arms are normal, even the faintest brush against shoulders.
Then Remus focused on her arms. Black veins running over her skin.
"She's been cursing Thanatos since she showed up here," Con informed him. "She told me that she drains everything she touches."
"Drains?" Remus said weakly.
"She held an orange and it rotted away, for one, but she did say that someone died from touching her too long…she's got a bad case of life absorption, that much I know," Con sighed. "So far, nothing positive is coming out of it…do you know what touch aversion is?"
"Not wanting to be touched?" Remus couldn't imagine why she would if she was absorbing the life of everyone that touched her.
"It's a bit more than that. It's an incredibly strong discomfort to physical contact. Elpis puked when I just barely touched her, and she asked me to numb her shoulder before she'd let me heal it." Con frowned. "She's also been asking for someone named Thalia?"
"Her aunt," Remus supplied. "She'll be here in a few minutes…but is she doing all right?"
"She's been rather…stoic," Con conceded, looking into the room in time to catch Hope's eye. She raised a hand slightly and he responded in kind. "I think it's mostly shock and trying to keep her emotions in check…don't take it personally if she starts flinching away from you, it's an unconscious response."
"Is it… is it always going to be like that?" Remus asked instead. He'd asked his father that once when he was very small, aching and raw after a transformation. His father had looked so pained.
"I don't have all the answers," Con said simply, spreading his hands and then the door opened at the front and Remus heard the steps before he saw her. Thalia was stony-faced and carrying a box under her arm.
It took a moment for the introductions and explanations and then Con knocked politely and opened the door, effectively cutting off the conversation between the three girls. "Hello, Elpis, feeling any better?"
Hope arched an eyebrow with barely a wince as the eyebrow disappeared under her bandage. "Physically, I'm okay. Emotionally…well, I plan on drinking myself into stupor."
"I'm not sure drinking is your best option, Elpis," Con sighed. "But you have some people very concerned about you."
He stepped to the side to allow Remus and Thalia into the room. "And I'm going to make myself scarce…"
"Hi," Hope said, her voice hoarser than Remus remembered. Had she been screaming lately?
"Hi," Remus said. "Where've you been?"
"Somewhere in the Atlantic," Hope decided after a moment of frowning. "I'm not really sure where exactly…I got kinda turned around…" Her eyes flicked towards Daphne. "I heard something about people not being able to track me…sorry, I'm not sure if that was my fault or not. My spell didn't completely backfire on me, I mean, it was still totally my fault, but—"
"Hope." He subconsciously reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, but Hope stiffened automatically so he drew back. "I was worried but I'm not going to yell at you."
"Don't worry," Daphne chirped, "we've given her a very stern talking to."
Hope was a cross of somewhere between amusement and exasperation. "I've agreed not to practice Earth Magick so recklessly…" She scowled at Hermione but didn't deny the truth to that decision.
"Hey, sweetie." Thalia's smile was soft. "How's the shoulder?"
There was a bandage pasted there under her shirt. "Well, I've learned taking bullets for banshees isn't always the smartest decision—oh, shut up," she cut herself off suddenly with a snap.
Remus and Thalia shared a confused look.
"Léon's a complete bastard," Hope informed them, rubbing at her temple. "I need to look up banshees and their bonding when I get home, because this—" She made a general gesture to her head. "—is not fun!"
Remus had no response to that.
"I need a pen and a lobotomy," Hope grumbled.
"A pen?" Hermione asked.
"I've got some ideas for how to deal with this." Hope lifted her arms, the black veins pulsing and clear and she turned to Thalia. "Thanatos hasn't answered any of my summons, so if you see him, tell him to fuck off."
"Hope," Thalia and Remus warned at the language.
"He screwed me in a cornucopia of ways," Hope shot back, eyes black and flashing. "I don't want to see him."
"He came to see me about you, actually," Thalia spoke lightly and Hope crossed her arms and looked away with a scowl. "Mostly about your gift."
Hope's lips curled into a sneer at the word 'gift', but she said nothing.
Thalia took that to indicate she could continue. "He called it having a touch of death in the mildest sense. Really, it's a way to siphon the life force from all living things. There's different ways to apply it, but it is the most powerful and dangerous of his Three Gifts."
"Of course," Hope grumbled bitterly.
"Hope." Thalia reproached and Hope huffed. "Your severe aversion to touch…Antioch had that too."
"Great. Maybe I'll die like him too." Hermione's eyes widened and Daphne grit her teeth together.
"That's enough," Remus snapped finally and Hope's eyes met his, fiery and dark. "Your life isn't a joke, Hope, and neither is your death."
"I'll be dead in two or three weeks of starvation unless I lock this up," Hope snarled, rocketing her arms upwards. "That or I get killed some time before that…which is why I want to go home and why I want a goddamn pen!"
It was then that Remus and Thalia decided to give her a moment with her friends and step outside.
"She's angrier than I expected," Thalia admitted finally, eyes impossibly blue as she glanced over to Remus. "But this isn't really anything anyone in the family would've wanted, either." She sighed. "Thanatos said if anyone could handle it, it'd be her, but…only one other person has had it before, and that didn't go well."
Remus was out of his depth. Hope had hit her rebellious teen phase before she'd even become a teenager, but this wasn't a situation that Remus was unfamiliar with. He'd been so angry the first few months of his transformations, and it wasn't Hope's fault that she'd inherited something as difficult to deal with as life absorption at a touch. But being angry all the time burned you out. "It's easier to be angry than have a breakdown," Remus offered helpfully.
"Is she going to be in trouble at her school?" Thalia inquired curiously, her fingers brushing faintly against his where they stood.
"Well, they've forbidden experimental magic, given Hope's teleportation spell was untested." Remus hadn't been too surprised to find that out, but he was pretty sure that it wasn't going to stop Hope inventing spells. "She was gone for less than two days, but she's pretty high-profile, it was probably a miracle that the Daily Prophet didn't find out about her disappearance…" Remus shook his head. "The Aurors couldn't find her when she ran away when she was ten, I'm not really surprised they didn't have as much luck the second time around." It was almost darkly amusing now that Hope was safe and sound, in a manner of speaking. "Unfortunately, Dumbledore is going to want to see her when she gets back."
"It's my idea, actually," came Con's ever-helpful tone and Remus was starting to see why Hope liked him so much. "A week away from her school might be helpful in settling her, especially with how her touch is right now…I understand she screamed when the school matron touched her before coming here."
Both Remus and Thalia winced.
"I suppose you could always try home-schooling her, that might be better," Con admitted, "but isolation isn't really the best option for her, I think."
"Did you tell her that?" Remus asked archly.
"I'm her healer," Con said simply with a shrug of his shoulders, "it's my duty to heal her body and her mind. If I say something is for the best, it is taken as the truth. A week might not be enough time, but it's probably better to give her a limited amount of time than no time at all. She's always struck me as the stubborn type."
They both laughed at that. "Well," Remus said, "you wouldn't be wrong."
Con gave them each a smile. "Be patient, she needs looking after, but…" his eyes shifted to the side. "She might be angry at the world now, but not forever. No one can stay angry that long, not even her."
"Somehow, I think that would stop her," Remus muttered.
"However," Con added, "if a week passes and she doesn't feel well enough to be in a school like hers, I am fully prepared to write a note to keep her out of school for the first term…I'd just rather not."
"Thank you." Remus inclined his head. He'd rather not, but he recognized Hope's mental and emotional health as far more of a priority than being physically in school.
Thalia had given Hope two gloves for each hand, spelled so that even though the material was relatively thin, Hope didn't feel the pressure of someone touching her quite so much, which was a welcome relief. The first ones went up to her elbows, though leaving her fingers exposed, and the second ones stopped at her wrist, hiding those fingers from view.
Hope was almost certain that they were a gift from Thanatos, he was the one that wanted her to control this gift of hers. He wanted her to be able to take them off and use his gift, control it without being controlled.
Instead, she opted to pretend that Thalia had been the one that had enchanted them; it made her feel better.
Hope sank to the floor as her door slid shut, leaning her back against it and squeezing her eyes shut.
Hermione and Daphne had to go back to school, they didn't have the luxury of having a panic attack when someone so much as touched her. Apparently, there'd been a few rumours going around about Hope after someone heard her screaming when Madam Pomfrey tried to touch her. Now, it seemed, people were under the impression that she was missing a limb -if only- which is why she'll be out of the school for a week, recovering from regrowing a limb. That, Hope found rather annoying, because she'd met people that functioned fine with a prosthetic, Laudine, for instance, was a complete badass.
She pressed a hand to her face and wished she could will herself to cry, but the tears just wouldn't come. Hope wasn't sure crying would make her feel better, but maybe it'd emotionally exhaust her to the point of passing out.
Your thoughts are depressing, Léon's voice appeared suddenly in her head and Hope growled.
Don't you have something better to do? She fired back.
I am doing something better, he said sourly and Hope got a flash of an image, dark hands clasping the helm of a ship, steering it steadily through the sea.
Hope jumped suddenly at the knock on the door.
"Hope?" Remus' careful voice called through and Hope wanted to bury her face in her hands again. Everyone was walking on eggshells again and she hated it, but at the same time, letting anyone touch her was an even worse option. "I'm heading out to tutor Astoria…I'll be back for dinner…are you going to be all right?"
"Fine," Hope muffled through the door and there was some silence on the other side before his steps moved away. She leaned her head back until it knocked against the door.
Why don't you just drop out? Came Léon's voice again, this time wholeheartedly curious.
"What're you talking about?" Hope asked out loud, pulling herself into a standing position and running a hand through her mess of hair. What she needed was a nice long bath. She threw open the closet doors to find something casual to put on. It took very little effort to find some denim and flannel.
That was when she realized there was a box sitting on her bed.
School, you hate it, I can feel it. Léon sounded annoyed about it. I've seen you use Earth Magick, you're, I guess, all right at it— Hope's face screwed up in annoyance as she approached the bed. It was a simple wooden box with a sigil burned into it. –-all right enough that you can invent spells and they don't turn out half-bad. She was glaring now. So why stick around? You don't like wand-magic.
I skipped two years by studying ahead with my friends, Hope said finally, but there's a law over here that says you can't drop out until after you've taken your OWLs, which is next year for me.
You're a fifth year?
"Fourth," Hope corrected. "Our OWLs happen at the end of fifth."
Lucky, ours were at the end of sixth at Beauxbatons…but we never had a law as stupid as that.
Hope rolled her eyes. "I'm pretty sure it was because Pure-bloods liked to marry younger and refusing magical education meant they wouldn't be able to control their magic." She slid the lid off the box to allow herself to see within.
"Oh!" Her eyes widened in astonishment as she lifted the sword from within.
It had been beautifully crafted, with far more specialization that Hope had etched, but her sketch had been rather rough. The hilt was almost bronze in colour, like the rest of the sword, though she knew it to be the Aegean Iron she had asked for. Sword colours were another specialization that sword-makers took into account, because Milun, from Léon's ship, had a sword that seemed to glow a bright blue ("It glows blue when Red Coats are nearby," he told Hope with a wink once he managed to find all his clothes and Hope caught the reference and had to stifle her laughter), silver was a usual choice, but Hope thought bronze suited her better; earth tones were more her style. There was a strap of leather wound around the hilt, but Hope could see the carved snake scales that led up to the snake head that had its jaws clamped on the blade itself with small onyx stones for eyes.
You must really like snakes, Léon snorted.
"Family hazard," Hope said, lifting it in her hand and giving it a few cursory swings through the air. It was heavy in her hand, but that was just because she wasn't used to it. "Is it better to drink alcohol after a bath or before?"
"Dunno why you're asking me."
Hope only just jumped at the sudden appearance of Léon de Grammont stretching out his legs on her bed like he belonged there. He was the most annoying person on the planet, she swore. "Will you stop doing that!"
He bared his teeth in a grin and she still hated him as he looked around her room with vague interest. "None of this surprises me," he noted, seeing the books strewn throughout and parchment wadded up in balls. "Have you always been a nerd?"
Hope thought about a time when she'd gotten smacked for having higher marks than Dudley. "A nerd who likes piracy in practice rather than in theory doesn't sound like much of a nerd to me."
"Depends on what kind of pirate you want to be, I guess." Hazel eyes flicked over to the box the sword had come in.
"How did you even get here?" Hope demanded, making a general gesture towards him. "I've got wards, strong ones."
"You think they could be stronger."
Hope glared. "Stop picking thoughts out of my head."
"Stop being so fucking open and it won't be a problem," Léon retorted, rolling his eyes. "Your thoughts are generally depressing and…confusing."
"Confusing?" Hope asked flatly.
"What's the word?" Léon snapped his fingers, his brow furrowing. "Scattered? Yeah, scattered. Are you ever not thinking about Earth Magick?"
"Sometimes." Hope shrugged. "Earth Magick is the most interesting thing to me."
"What's your affinity?"
Hope was thrown off and she was starting to hate how confusing he was. "My what?"
He rolled his eyes, nearly sneering. "Didn't your Earth Magick teacher tell you about this shit?"
Hope's mouth twisted. "I'm self-taught. Morea Avis died centuries ago and she was the last Earth Witch I've heard of."
Léon arched an eyebrow. "And you think because they don't advertise, they're not around?"
"Earth Magick is considered a Dark Art here so…no dice."
Léon scoffed loudly. "Gods, this country is so backwards."
Hope snorted and shook her head, looping her clothes and heading into the bathroom, not even caring that she was leaving some boy she barely even knew lounging around on her bed and flicking through her journal aimlessly.
The hot water did wonders on her aching body, though she was careful around her shoulder where the seared burn remained over her bullet injury. Con had sped up the healing, but, even so, Hope had never minded scars.
Hope felt clean for the first time in days and it was absolutely heavenly. She dried off and dressed, swiping a hand through the foggy mirror to see the face reflected in it.
The dark eyes, the bronze hair falling loose around her face. On one hand, she hated that she looked so much like Thanatos after his great gift, but, on the other hand, she had never been so comfortable in her whole life.
One spell later and her hair was dry and she was hiking it up into a loose top knot before looking down at the thick black veins spreading over her hands.
She needed to find a way to tamp that down. Starvation didn't really sound like a viable option for her.
Hope pulled up the gloves and stepped out of the bathroom to see that Léon had fallen asleep on her bed, just like that. And all Hope could feel about it was amused. In sleep he looked younger and softer than the harsh captain who had yelled at her after the sinking of the Golden Fleece.
Mindy must've brought back Hope's trunk at some point and Hope lifted the lid quietly to pull the Flamel's miniaturized trunk from within, letting it expand to full size next to her desk.
She started piling things out of it quietly, because it had only dawned on her last night that the trunk appeared to be larger on the outside than the inside, like there was a false bottom…She knocked lightly on the bottom and her knock echoed. There was a hole tiny enough for Hope to stick her finger through and pull it up to reveal the bottom of the trunk.
Hope frowned, reaching down to pull a folded piece of parchment from the top of the items within that had a decorative H on it. She flipped it open and read:
So you found the false bottom in this trunk. How unsurprising. (Hope's eyebrow twitched) Consider this a gift to use how you will. I never had to worry about my research being stolen, and I would recommend you to encode yours as well; some magic is too dangerous to be known.
Hope's eyebrow arched as she put the parchment aside to lift a thick leather-bound book with a large circle containing a triangle containing a square containing another circle burned into the cover: the symbol of the Philosopher's Stone. She opened it, intrigued. At first it made no sense, but then the letters rearranged themselves and Hope could make out the words clearly; this was Nicolas Flamel's research on the Philosopher's Stone.
It was awing to possess something that created something so powerful, but—
Her fingers brushed against a small box, the only other thing in the trunk and she lifted it, letting the single item within it fall out into her hand.
The Philosopher's Stone sat easily in her palm, the colour of blood, a cluster of crystal. Powerful and unassuming as it had been the first moment Hope had held it, and so very dangerous.
Hope could feel her magic inside her, in her blood and in her bones, like a distant and present warmth that it would kill her to be without, and she got the same feeling off the Stone.
Better safe than sorry with it, she thought.
Hope pressed it to the centre of her chest and made to murmur the incantation that she had used to hide it before in a pocket of space in her skin, but the stone sank right in, leaving an imprint of the stone against her skin like a tattoo. Now that was weird.
She stood up, looking wildly around for her book on Earth Magick. It was next to the bed and Léon twitched in his sleep when she grabbed it and flicked to the right page.
Salazar had enchanted the book after the incident with the Troll when Hope had used a too-advanced shield that had nearly killed her so that its pages were only revealed one chapter at a time. She wasn't able to advance until she'd mastered the most recent chapter.
The last one had given her a bit of trouble, because even though she'd felt confident with the casting, the next chapter hadn't unlocked, which had been rather annoying, but now there was a new chapter.
Advanced Casting the title read.
Intent is the focus of Earth Magick, learning to channel your innate magic is what was applied in the basics through using words as incantations, however, advanced Earth Magick is a different matter. You will find that often you no longer need an incantation for the magic within you to respond to your wishes, because spells are not merely wished to life, they are cast with action and purpose. And though spells of Earth Magick don't require wand-waving, they do require will, as you previously discovered, and, often, gestures of the witch's own hands. It is common to see anything from simple snaps to complicated hand gestures in Earth Magick, as all movements of the hands are used to harness magical energy and produce magical effects.
Even though you have reached the advanced stage of your magic studies, you are not yet advanced enough to cast spells without needing to consider each spell's specific Circumstances. You might need to consider the phase of the moon, the season, the weather, or even the constellations you are casting under in order for the spell to work.
More complex spells might require external ingredients, such as herbs, candles, incantations, and sigils or tools to focus the intention of the witch, like a wand might. Spells require focus and clarity. There is no room for doubt, because not all spells succeed and some can even backfire in disastrous ways.
It is wise to familiarize yourself with the proper hand movements before performing a spell. See Imogen Seymour's Guide to Practical Hand Movements in Casting.
And that was it. There was nothing else on the pages.
"I swear, Salazar," Hope growled under her breath and the dark veins along her arms seemed to pulse under her gloves.
One problem at a time. Hope needed to get a handle on these new powers of hers. She grabbed up the journal the girls had left her with, the pages splattered with ink, creasing open to a new page when there was a polite knock on the door.
It startled her, and she clutched her journal to her chest, but Remus was gone and that left only one person in the house.
She slid the door open cautiously to see that Mindy had left her with a small box outside her door. She knelt to pick it up and open it, surprised.
Hope had been complaining about not having any pens since she'd gotten home. Quills were cumbersome and the ink went everywhere if you weren't careful. Hope had tried at using them for a solid two years, but her brain worked too fast for the quill to follow. It was annoying to have to slow down.
And in the box were a set of fountain pens.
Hope exalted Mindy to the high heavens, taking out a pen and uncapping it as she began to write.
What Hope needed was a way to inhibit the godly blood within her, that's where her touch of death was coming from, but that was easier said than done. It was easier to think of someone as being half-human when their mother was so, than half-Godling when their father was so, but the problem was you couldn't be half a Godling. Being a Godling went deeper than blood, it was written in your bones. It would be like cutting off a limb…but Hope needed the control more than anything. She could handle a little pain if that's all it took.
She carefully etched thick bracelets like shackles with runes carved into them…imbuing them with her blood would give them the strength they needed…
Hope kicked Léon's foot with her own. "Hey, idiot, wake up."
The banshee jolted awake, lurching forward before his eyes cleared and he realized where he was and flopped back down. "Ugh, it's you."
"Imagine that," Hope deadpanned. "Me…in my room…tell me about banshee bonds, moron."
Léon scowled at her, so Hope thought the sentence again, hard and loud and she hoped it echoed in his head. He winced. "It's like having a mental link to one other person with the dial turned on high…it means being inside someone's head, feeling their emotions, hearing their thoughts, knowing exactly where they are every minute of every day…and sometimes you bind to the wrong person, that's why Maman is dead."
Hope swallowed thickly, watching how his fingers played with a silvery coin hanging loose around his throat.
"It's not something I ever wanted," Léon told her hollowly. "It's a dangerous thing to have, like having a platonic soulmate, having a key to the lock of someone's heart or mind…" He paused and chewed on his words. "It's terrifying."
"I'm sorry," Hope said, and she meant it. "About your mum…but I'm not here to make your life hell, I don't really care what you do…but it sounds like this is permanent—" She glanced to him and he nodded. "And…I'm pretty fucked up right now, which probably doesn't help."
He handed her his flask and Hope tilted it back, letting the alcohol burn down her throat.
"We're all a little fucked up, no offense," Léon told her, and his eyes told a story. "I can't say that I watched my crew die, but, well." He shrugged helplessly, and Hope took another drink before shaking the flask in her hand. "It's enchanted. Never ending alcohol."
Hope had a lot of questions about that, but she didn't ask any of them, bringing it to her mouth again and taking a long drink.
Léon reached out a hand to steady her shoulder when it shook, but Hope breathed in sharply. He paused before testing the waters carefully and dropping his hand to her shoulder.
Hope looked at it in surprise, noticing that the pressure didn't make her sick to her stomach, the touch making her skin crawl. "Is this bothering you?"
She didn't know why but she could feel the traitorous warmth in her eyes and cascading down her cheeks. She pressed a gloved hand to her face, over her eyes.
Hope waved him off, laughing despite the tears, but they came off choked and so very sad. "You're the first person I can stand to touch me," she admitted wetly and Léon eyed her cautiously before reaching a hand out to take one of her gloved ones.
Hope squeezed it painfully tight.
"I still think you're a bitch."
"That's sweet of you to say," Hope said before drawing back her hand and adding a few more details to the sketch. She offered him the flask.
"Keep it," he told her flatly. "You need it more than me." He looked over her doodlings. "That looks dangerous."
"Playing it safe isn't my strong suit," Hope admitted, almost sheepishly, relenting as he tugged at the journal, looking it over with a vague sort of interest.
"I can barely comprehend this," he informed her, "and that's only because I've been hearing how you think, which is still annoying."
Hope rolled her eyes and snorted.
"But I know enough about developing spells that I know you need to have a strong foundation or it doesn't go the way you want."
That had Hope lifting her head in surprise, blinking at him, picking up the stray thought. "Your mum invented spells."
"One or two," Léon glared at nothing in particular. Hope couldn't tell if it was directed at her or something else entirely. "She always said she didn't have the head for it."
A strong foundation was a good idea…something to build the inhibitors on top of. It would stabilize the spellwork…what worked best for that?
Hope went back to Nicolas's trunk, searching for something there to help and Léon furrowed his brow at her. "What's your strongest spell?" he asked her curiously as Hope unearthed a pair of goggles with interest before finding a set of gears that looked like they'd been a part of something bigger than had broken apart. They were lightweight and small enough…she could etch a few stabilizing runes onto them…
"This one," she said without looking up from the gears as she held out her journal to Léon and he took it with a furrowed brow.
"This page is blank," he told her and Hope snorted. Léon pressed a hand against the page, blinking at the warmth he felt under his palm. "You enchanted it."
Hope grinned, taking another swig from the flask. "I call it the Letum Ultima…it has enough destructive power to level a building."
Léon's eyebrows rose high on his forehead and he whistled lowly. Care to share?
Trust goes both ways, Hope returned. That's the most dangerous spell I've got.
She wasn't about to hand it over to someone she didn't completely trust. He could respect that, he could feel the pulse of caution, wary and utterly raw. She reminded him a lot of his mother, so much so that it was almost painful.
His tongue felt swollen in his mouth. There was a box of his mother's that he'd never touched. The one with two letters carved into it: El. Banshees were omens of death, but his mother had been stronger than that…maybe she had known the name of the girl who would one day end up tied so completely to her son.
"What's wrong?" Her brow furrowed under the splits of skin at her brow. The lightning bolt she was famous for was red and the fresh cuts looked like the fractal scarring that accompanied a lightning strike. But that was under the skin; this looked like someone had taken a carving knife to her brow.
Nomia's scar over her face had always been rather obvious and he knew instantly that her protégé's would be the same. He blinked and saw the face from the Golden Fleece, eyes solidly black with veins spreading from the eyes like they were spreading up her arms, only this face bore more scars. Then the image was gone.
"Nothing," Léon said, and it looked like she was going to say something, but she decided better. "Don't you have school to go to?"
Hope's mouth thinned. "Technically I'm off for a week, recovering." She twisted her fingers together and Léon didn't think he'd ever seen her so uncomfortable. "I hate the school, really. I don't like wand-magic when I can just use my hands, I don't like Snape or Dumbledore, I don't like most of the people in my house…and there's so many of us packed into rooms that I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack if I go back."
The honesty was surprising, almost brutal as she told it to him. Léon didn't know if he'd even heard her lie, but they hadn't really talked enough for her to do so, he supposed.
"Then don't go back." The result was obvious to him. "Study from home."
Hope arched an eyebrow. Honestly, the idea was so much better than the alternative, but she doubted Remus would approve. He liked having her around, definitely, but Remus had been isolated for years, he knew what it could do to you. "Don't know if I could get away with that…Mindy?"
The house-elf appeared with a crack and Léon yelped, scrambling back at the sound. Hope's house-elf looked rather surprised at the appearance of a banshee on Hope's bed, but relaxed noticing Hope's lax posture. "Yes, mistress?"
"Could you please find me some chiselling tools?" Hope asked.
"Of course, mistress." Then she disappeared, reappearing with a small box that she handed carefully to Hope, making sure not to touch her, which Hope appreciated. "Would mistress like something to eat?"
Hope thought about food turning to ash in her hands and her mouth. It made her stomach roil. "Maybe later," she said, looking down at the rough sketch and jotted spells.
Mindy looked caught somewhere between disapproving and worried, but she accepted Hope's words and left them be.
Léon pulled himself out of Hope's bed -with great reluctance, it appeared; Hope couldn't blame him, the cushions were pretty great- to stand upright. "Better head back and make sure that my crew isn't dead."
He said it nonchalantly, but Hope didn't believe that.
"Are you going to want your coat back?" she asked.
Léon's brow furrowed before he remembered the long coat he'd given her the previous night after the chilly air had set in. "I outgrew it," he said before raising a hand, making a twisting motion, and vanishing in a blink.
She couldn't even feel his presence in her mind and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.
Hope frowned, picking up the coat she'd looped over her desk chair. It was made for someone of slighter build than him and the material was still too new. There was no way it used to be his.
It was almost sweet of him.
She shook her head before drawing herself to sit cross-legged on the bed, twisting the pen between her fingers and starting again.
It was hard for Daphne, to have to listen to the words falling heavily from Hope's mouth, to know what had actually happened, the image of Hope bathed in water and fire and blood, her scream echoing as the black veins spread over her skin.
Hope's voice had broken when she told them. She'd only been with the Golden Fleece for a week, but it had been a solid week, a thrilling week, and Daphne had been able to tell that she'd been itching to go back out. Hope had taken a few walks around the Black Lake to ease the sensation, but Daphne remembered the first time Nana had seen Hope.
"That the Potter girl? Girl's like a fish out of water, they should throw her back in the sea where she belongs." Daphne had frowned, because they weren't really nice words, but Nana had simply patted her shoulder fondly. "We all have different paths that we must take, and I know where your friend's leads."
She sounded a bit forlorn as she'd said that too…like there was something terrible waiting for Hope. Daphne hoped not; Hope really needed a break.
"Is Hope okay?" Angelina's concern was clear as the pair rounded the corner, almost walking into the entirety of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, who were apparently heading out to the pitch to train.
"I'm not sure I'd consider her 'okay' emotionally," Hermione muttered, shaking her head and both Fred and George frowned identically. "They're keeping her out of school for a week to see if she'll be better by then…but we'll see."
No one missed how utterly vague Hermione's response was.
"Why are you practicing in the middle of the week?" Daphne asked with a furrowed brow.
"'Think Wood's trying to catch the snakes off their game -no offense," Fred said quickly. There was still Daphne's green and silver tie secured around her throat.
Daphne rolled her eyes. She might enjoy flying every now and then, but she knew that she'd never care very much about Quidditch as a game, but she continued to walk with them towards the pitch when Oliver Wood gave an outraged hiss.
"I don't believe this! I booked the field for today! We'll see about this!"
Daphne stared after the Gryffindor captain as he approached the entirety of the Slytherin Quidditch Team, his cloak billowing after him. "He seems…aggressive."
"Like you wouldn't believe," Alicia sighed, "c'mon, let's not leave him out in the cold."
"Flint! This is our practice time!" Oliver's loud voice echoed. "You can clear off now!"
Daphne and Hermione had never liked Marcus Flint and Hope hated him even more. Where Draco Malfoy was an annoyance, Marcus Flint was an aggravation. He had made too many comments about Hope's parents' deaths for her to ever treat him kindly and they would extend the same flag.
"Plenty of room for all of us, Wood." Flint tried to bear his teeth in a grin in an expression that Hope pulled off effortlessly but gave him the unfortunate appearance of a beaver.
"But I booked the field!" Oliver was getting redder and redder until Daphne was sure he was nearing puce. "I booked it!"
That seemed to delight Flint further. "Ah, but I've got a specially signed note here from Professor Snape." He withdrew it from his robes to read it aloud. "'I, Professor S. Snape, give the Slytherin team permission to practice today on the Quidditch field owing to the need to train their new Seeker.'"
They had a new Seeker? That was news to Daphne.
"You've got a new Seeker? Where?"
The much taller and much broader Slytherin Quidditch Team members made just how small Draco Malfoy was more obvious. She didn't think he should be smirking nearly quite so much.
"Aren't you Lucius Malfoy's son?" Fred asked, giving Draco a look of immense dislike.
"Funny you should mention Draco's father." The whole team was sniggering now. "Let me show you the generous gift he's made to the Slytherin team."
Daphne didn't know brooms very well, but she knew that Hope possessed a Nimbus Two Thousand, and she knew it didn't look nearly as shiny as the handles in their meaty grips, the lettering proclaiming them to be Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones.
"Very latest model. Only came out last month. I believe it outstrips the old Two Thousand series by a considerable amount. As for the old Cleansweeps—" The disdainful sneer towards Fred and George's brooms was clear to see. "—" sweeps the board with them."
"At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in," Hermione responded icily. "They got in on pure talent."
She had been spending entirely too much time with Hope and for a brief second Daphne was so utterly proud of her, but then Draco opened his mouth.
"No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood," he spat.
Daphne was enraged. Fred and George were ready to wring his neck. Alicia was shrieking and Angelina was shouting, but it was Daphne who made the first and final move.
Her fist connected with Draco's cheek with enough force that it sent his head reeling.
"How dare you!" she snarled. "She's worth one hundred of you, Heir Malfoy! If her blood is muddy it's because she's closer to magic at its most natural form while you're so unimpressive that you might as well be a flobberworm!"
Then she grabbed Hermione, ashen-faced and stunned, and steered her quickly away from the situation, remembering Con's brief words to them earlier: "If she's getting overwhelmed from the stimuli, the best thing is to remove it from her, even if that means taking her to an entirely different room."
He'd been talking about Hope, of course, but Daphne thought the topic still applied to Hermione.
"What a complete arse!" Daphne was still spitting mad. "What gives him the right to be all uppity? Who's at the top of class in fourth year? You are! Who's mediocre at best in second? Definitely him!"
Hermione surprised her then by jerking them to a stop and then winding her arms tightly around her friend. "Thanks," was thickly muffled into Daphne's shoulder.
"'M'sure Hope could've come up with something better," Daphne admitted.
"I liked yours better," Hermione's laugh was wet and Daphne patted her shoulder gently.
More likely Hope would've beaten Draco bloody; her mother had been a Muggle-born too. And that was something Daphne would've paid to see.
The sun was shining down on Hope as she made her through the forest surrounding Potter Manor, the two swords at her hip bumping against her hip as she moved, to reach the Tower, it was the best place to attempt magic. It seemed like ages ago when she'd used the Philosopher's Stone to make those shield markers (she hadn't found anything truly useful for them yet, but she was sure she'd find something eventually).
She hadn't been in the Tower for a long time now, which was unfortunate, because Hope really liked the Tower (though she had a lot of ideas of how to improve it). She entered and let the light shine down on her as she pulled out the two light-weight gears with the runes she'd carefully etched into them with the tools Mindy had provided, speckled with her dried blood. Now all that was needed was unrefined gold to focus and power the runes.
Hope dragged the large clump of gold she'd transfigured the first time she'd used the stone. Evidently, she'd made a bit too much that day, after all, the shield markers were remarkably small, and the binders she'd be making would be similar in weight.
She fixed the red-lensed goggles that had once been Nicolas Flamel's over her eyes, took in a breath and released it, focusing and working hard to not actually speak incantations (no wonder the upperclassmen had such a hard time with nonverbal spells). Hope curved her hand like she was making a half circle -the gears trembled- before making a rising motion, to which the gears responded, lifting to hang easily in the air.
Months ago, such an action had taken an incredible amount of strain, but it was a mark of how much her magic had grown that she could only feel a thread of that strain and it wasn't nearly enough to buckle her.
Melting the gold would be harder and she knew she'd need the incantation for that. "Tíko," she breathed, allowing a small part of the chunk of gold to grow hot and melt and her other hand lifted it to float up into the air, winding around the gears -giving off sparks as it came over the engraved runes- before thickening into something akin to bracelets.
It was incredibly delicate work and Hope could feel sweat beginning to collect at her brow after ten minutes. They were looking less like bracelets now, and more like shackles, which Hope supposed was poetic.
They rested heavily on the floor as they cooled and Hope sat in a chair, rubbing her fingers together under the gloves like she was trying to feel her skin underneath them, the skin that drained life with a touch.
Hope hadn't felt like a monster when she'd killed those Red Coats, killing was different when you were out at sea and it was kill or be killed. No, it was how she killed that made her feel like a monster.
And she couldn't bear to have a power like this, no matter what Thanatos had thought…he'd chosen wrong; it couldn't be her, it could never be her.
She touched the binders lightly and though they were still warm to the touch, they weren't going to burn her skin when she put them on.
"Now or never," Hope murmured to herself, stiffening her spine with resolve, reaching for the binders and snapping them into place before her resolve failed her.
Hope had been expecting it, after all, she was essentially suppressing what was part of her blood, her bones. What made Hope so utterly unique happened to be the thing that was killing her, and suppressing that was going to be brutal.
She thought it would be painful, but gods below, it was worse, far worse than she'd expected. A raw, tortured scream ripped from her throat, like she was burning, like she was breaking. The pain only stopped when Hope fell into blissful unconsciousness.
Summoning the dead was harder than it looked, and Aggie had had to start over no less than three times -and this was even with her Necronomicon open to the right page- and she was pretty sure that if her Mum knew what she was doing she would get an earful about desecrating the final resting place of the Blackwood family.
Then it finally took.
The offerings Aggie had laid out crumpled to ash and smoke, rising up in the air until they almost seemed to congeal into a form.
A pair of eyes opened and Aggie stared.
Of course, she'd seen images of her aunt Aglaia around the house, the young fresh-faced Auror with freckles dotting her cheeks, her hair strawberry blonde instead of her sister's rich red. They didn't look very much alike when they were pictured together. Aglaia didn't look much older than Aggie, only just twelve, maybe sixteen or seventeen than the actual nineteen that she knew she'd been when she died.
"Niece." Aglaia's eyes glittered. "At last we meet."
"Uh…hi?" Suddenly Aggie felt incredibly out of her depth. Was it right to come right out and ask a ghost for advice? It seemed like a poor choice of words for the living, but this wasn't something she could go to her family about; she wouldn't burden them with that. "I need some advice."
"Strange to ask advice from the dead." Aglaia arched an eyebrow, looking far too sly and devious. She reminded Aggie rather vividly of Hope. But she waved her hand as if to say 'please, continue'.
The words were still ringing in Aggie's skull, and they hadn't left since the day the Fates had spoken them:
The first with shadow,
The second with the dead,
But the third takes from the living their life instead.
Let the living be filled with dread,
As one of Peverell's blood runs red.
First there were three,
And then there were two.
For death there is always a due.
Aggie hadn't slept well since the day she'd heard them. She'd done the math, she'd analyzed the words. Galen was the first with his ability to travel by shadow, she was the second with the ability to summon the dead, and Hope had to be the third with the most tragic ability of all -absorbing life.
"One of us is going to die," Aggie said hollowly.
"The fate that awaits us all in the end," Aglaia informed her niece rather sagely.
She wasn't being very helpful. Aggie glared at her.
"Maybe you should be talking with your brother or your cousin?" Aglaia suggested. "Or my sister. I can't tell how to correct the flow of stream, only show you how to guide your raft along it."
"I can't talk to Hope," Aggie shook her head aggressively. Her mother had only just told them what happened when Hope had vanished from Hogwarts…the sinking of the Golden Fleece, the murder of the crew she'd been a part of, the awakening of a gift she'd probably never wanted in the first place. And how Hope could hardly bear to be touched. "She's got too much on her plate. And Galen and Mum too."
They were still trying to find a way to repair the damage to the Gates. Aggie couldn't interrupt them; it was work that was far too important work.
"But do you know what's so special about where the Gates of Tartarus are currently located?"
Aggie blinked. "You mean about the Massacre of Elysium?"
Aglaia smiled thinly and without humour.
The Massacre was a dark stain on Godling history. There was a reason that the number of Godlings still alive had dwindled down to the double -or was it single now?- digits. There was a reason that it was incredibly rare to even know that someone had any godly blood; it was generally a close family secret. It was better to be safe and alive than out in the open and dead.
"The Gates can only manifest in places that are completely devoid of magic, rarely existing outside Greece…you could say it seeks out what people might consider to be 'clean rooms'," Aglaia explained. "Just beyond the establishment of Elysium is the most recent manifestation, but it's not the only place it can appear. Right now, your enemy has the upper hand, he knows exactly where the Gates are and how to continue to break them down, you know where they are, but you don't know how to fix them or make it impossible for your enemy to damage them further…you're on Amynta Moswell's trail, try not to fall off it, Agathe Blackwood."
Aggie stilled her nervous movements at that. Amynta Moswell was Ajax's mother, the daughter of Zeus who'd gone missing and was presumed dead.
Aglaia was considering her with calculating eyes. This was the side of her that had made her a formidable Auror.
Aggie wondered if one day that would be her, young in death, providing cryptic advice to future generations. The thought numbed her more than anything else.
"I always wondered if prophecies came about because the ones that were a part of them tried to avert their fate," Aglaia considered mildly. "I guess we'll find out, won't we?"
Aggie swallowed thickly. "I guess we will," she agreed before Aglaia's form dissolved.
She breathed in the empty air, more at home among the dead than she ever had been before, feeling the grave dirt beneath her shoes, the bones trembling, aching to spring forth at her command.
Power over the dead had always been a bit dangerous. There was a reason this was the first time since Thanatos' own sons that his gifts had manifested once more.
Thunder boomed overhead, and Aggie tilted her head back to look at the darkening clouds. There was a storm rolling in…rather fitting given their current situation.
Aggie would find a way to fix this, no matter the cost.
"I really think you should stay another day," Con spoke patiently, despite feeling something far from patience regarding the woman before him. "You and your friends were wounded very seriously, Nomia, rest is necessary for the body to rejuvenate itself."
Nomia scoffed, her arm in a sling, the only sign of her serious injuries, the burns and bruises had long-since faded. "I'm not sticking around when I could be off doing things…like slaughtering my way through the Red Coat forces…that sounds like a fine vacation if you ask me."
The druid heaved a heavy sigh. Dealing with someone like Nomia for any length of time tried every last one of his nerves.
"I appreciate what you've done for me," the former pirate captain said, "but I heal fast, I'm not human, remember."
"Neither am I," Con responded calmly, "but one of your companions is, and—"
"And she's not as bad off as we were," Nomia insisted. "We'll be fine, we'll look after each other."
What he said next, however, made her pause at the doorway. "What should I tell Elpis?"
Nomia's spine went stiff, her face hard. If she started crying over her killed crew, she'd never stop; Nomia needed to be strong and brutal, that was all she needed to be. There would be time later to grieve when she sent those crimson bastards running with their tail between their legs.
"Don't tell her anything. As far as she knows, we're all dead. That's all she needs to know."
"She was quite distraught over your death…I believe she killed several Red Coats upon her arrival on the Golden Fleece."
Nomia's lips curved into a wrathful smirk. "Good…I didn't train some half-assed weakling."
Con choked faintly. "That's all you've got to say about her?"
Nomia turned back to him, giving a small shrug. "She knew I was brutal when I first started teaching her how to use the sword…but she never told me to slow down or stop. Girl's tough…she's a lot like Nelda in that respect." Nomia's expression softened at the thought of the woman who had once extended a hand to a curious Naiad and pulled her into a world of chaos and gunpowder and sea monsters. "Probably tougher, though, she's made of steel."
Con sighed, pressing a hand to his face. "You are incorrigible."
"You know how to flatter a girl, Con." Her eyes glittered devilishly, teeth bared into a grin. "She doesn't need me. Paths are made when we start walking. I gave her a starting point, it'll be up to her where she goes from here on out."
"You've got a lot of faith in a girl you were fighting with before all this tragedy," Con pointed out a bit wryly.
"Just because I think she's an idiot from time to time doesn't mean I'm gonna throw her to the wolves." Nomia rolled her eyes, sweeping a hand through her hair in annoyance at the blood that had dried there. "Leave that to the Brits."
Con's eyebrow rose. "This path you've set her on…is very dangerous."
"This is a dangerous world," Nomia said flatly, pulling her coat over her shoulders, not even bothering with the armholes given the state of her left arm. "Better to live with brutal truth than a pretty lie…some of us figured out a long time ago that if you want to make a martyr, you have to build them yourself." Her eyes sharpened. "I really wouldn't want to be around her when she finds out that truth…I've heard her temper is rather fatal." She seemed almost cheerful about that as she left Con in the empty room of his clinic, still staring at the space where she'd been standing moments ago.
But he didn't think that anything she'd said had been wrong, which was a bit unfortunate for Elpis.
Hope awoke in a daze, a pain-filled daze, her hair tumbling around her, the thick golden bracelets seeming to almost pulse around her wrists. She could feel their power through the pain. Her whole body was aching from it and she could just barely feel something separate from her, someone far away, breathing in seawater. Whatever Léon had done to block her off from him had clearly only been temporary and was fading fast.
Her whole body ached. She didn't know how to describe it…it was worse than exercising your whole body, though not quite as painful as it had been before she'd passed out.
Hope pulled herself upright, tossing the goggles to the side, and copper burning in her throat.
She coughed a glob of blood onto the floor, but Hope hardly considered it, stumbling her way into a standing position.
Her head throbbed with the sudden movement and Hope almost threw up.
"This was a terrible idea," she muttered to herself, using a hand on the wall to guide herself to the door and then out into the bright sunlight.
That was an even worse idea, because the light seemed to explode in her face like a flash bomb and all Hope wanted to do was curl up in her room with the windows boarded up and all her blankets over her head…probably a cool cloth over her eyes, because holy fuck was that hurting like a bitch!
And it would be just her luck that Hope half-blinded by pain saw someone appear to meld out of the shadows.
Her first thought was Thanatos (which made her angry), but then she realized this figure was nothing like Thanatos (which made her confused).
They looked rather…normal, well, mostly. There was a headscarf over their head, the material falling low enough to effectively hide the eyes from view, but not their skin, a golden-brown, like they'd been blessed by Helios or some other sun god, and they were wearing some sort of loose tunic that was longer and looser with trousers beneath to match the color and material. But they radiated enough power to take Hope's breath away and make her think immediately that whoever stood before her was neither human nor common, but something else entirely.
"Elpis Slytherin," their voice was rich and Hope's ears rang, though she was sure that was just a side effect from her spellwork, "my name is Ahn. We're long overdue for a chat."
AN: I wonder who Ahn could be? ;) With this chapter part one of book two is officially done, so now we'll be heading into the very heavy stuff.
Aglaia was super cryptic, but what do you expect from a child of Thanatos. There's a lot of stuff going on in the background that poor Hope is missing on, but don't worry, she'll get up to speed eventually.
Ahn's entrance was supposed to be more dramatic, but what can you do?
As always: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE REVIEW!