Chapter 67 - Atlantis!

Harry looked around and saw the others still engrossed in their exploration of the repository.. Harry wondered why it was taking them so long. Was it that difficult to uncover the way out? He hadn't found any clues to escape, but he also hadn't actively searched.

He was mentally exhausted and didn't want to face any more intense revelations or emotions that may come from delving into the repository again. He let out a sigh and lay on his back, staring up at the glittering ceiling above. The silence in the hall only amplified his thoughts.

It was mind-blowing to discover that the mysterious man from his past had ties to Atlantis. How far back did this ancient city exist? Millions? Billions of years ago? There were so many unanswered questions about the evolution of life and intelligence.

Despite this, a few core mysteries had been solved. He understood that the Source was the underlaying energy that connected all universes. Through celestial bodies, it breathed life and magic, creating a consciousness that could appreciate it's beauty but was also cursed with the desire to question everything.

This thirst for knowledge had led the Atlantean's down a dangerous path of experimentation, ultimately resulting in a cataclysm that destroyed the city.

And now, here he was at the root of it all.

Harry pondered if his connection to the source would be as strong as it was without the failed experiment of the Atlantean mages.

As he lay there lost in thought and theories, the others began to emerge from their trance almost simultaneously and engaged in hushed and hurried discussions that were incomprehensible to him.

He remained comfortably sprawled on his back, completely spaced out. Perhaps they believed he was still under the trance's influence? It wasn't until Daphne called his name that he stirred. "Harry? You're awake aren't you?" She sounded annoyed, as if she knew if was ignoring them.

He let his thoughts drift away, back into the depths of his mind.

"Harry!"

"Yeah, yeah" he muttered, pushing himself up. A dull buzzing sensation filled his body, as if he had just run a marathon.

"Just tired."

"Well, snap out of it," Daphne chided. "Professor Flitwick found a way out."

Harry could feel the end drawing nearer.

"It's remarkable," exclaimed Flitwick. "This construct is a shield, designed for protection and used by the survivors to leave their memories behind and leave the city. And leave they did! They are our magical ancestors. However, this shield was not intended to allow re-entry into Atlantis."

"But," continued Flitwick triumphantly, "I managed to figure out how to manipulate the enchantment just enough for us to enter the city."

"How do we do that?" asked Daphne.

Flitwick didn't answer; instead, he brandished his wand and murmured softly under his breath. Incantation after incantation filled the air, and seconds stretched into minutes before suddenly everything began to glow and shimmer, then disappeared altogether.

As the light faded, a wave of heat hit them, causing them to shield their faces. Once their eyes adjusted, they were met with a breathtaking sight.

All around them lay the remnants of a once-great city, now reduced to rubble and ash. The air reeked of sulfur and the ground was cracked, radiating intense warmth. Ruins protruded from the scorched landscape, some partially buried while others stood tall but crumbling. What seemed like sculptures lay shattered on the ground where they had once stood proudly.

Feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of destruction, Harry couldn't help but look around in disbelief. Gigantic structures lay scattered across the landscape, surrounded by dark hills and erupting volcanoes that sent plumes of smoke and ash high into the sky. This place seemed alive with raw elemental power.

The air crackled with magical energy, beckoning for Harry's attention. He reached out with his own magic to understand its nature, but the moment he made contact, a piercing scream echoed through his mind without end. Overwhelmed by the pain and suffering contained within the magic, Harry broke the connection and fell to his knees, gasping for breath.

"Harry!" Daphne cried out in concern. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," Harry managed to say once he caught his breath and stood back up. "But the magic here...it's screaming in agony."

Flitwick, Hermione, and Daphne took in his words quietly, realizing the true horror behind their current surroundings.

"Let's find higher ground and get our bearings straight," Hermione muttered, biting her dry lips nervously.

Carefully navigating through the ruined cityscape, using magic to clear a path and avoiding streams of molten lava snaking through the rubble, they made their way towards the nearest hill that didn't look like an active volcano. As they climbed, the evidence of a catastrophic event became more apparent - buildings twisted and collapsed from intense heat, vegetation reduced to lifeless ash, and everywhere, the eerie silence of a city long abandoned.

Despite the intense heat and difficult terrain, they persevered in search of the magical river that had brought them here. In the distance, they heard a loud boom and saw ash rising into the sky. The area was vast, and Harry couldn't help but wonder if they had somehow crossed into an alternate dimension.

As they climbed further up. Varaha's words stuck with him, reminding him to approach their journey with caution and respect for the immense power of Gaea. Harry wondered what he would do if they found the source of the calamity - fix it or destroy it completely? Or perhaps there was another option he hadn't considered yet.

Their legs ached from the long ascent, but they pushed on until they reached a peak. As they caught their breath, they were awestruck by the view all around them. Ruins of once majestic buildings dotted the landscape, some standing tall and proud despite the ravages of nature. A sense of disbelief washed over them as they tried to comprehend that this was thousands of years old. It seemed as though Atlantis had only succumbed to its fate yesterday.

"What next," Daphne asked, breathing heavily. They had been walking for a couple of hours by her reckoning.

"We need to find the river or it's source," Harry murmured.

"And how do we do that?" Hermione asked. "All I see is destruction and volcanoes exploding."

Harry sighed and pinched the top of his nose in annoyance. "Thanks for stating the obvious," he sniped.

Hermione scowled and Harry ignored her. He knew what he had to do but he was wary of doing it.

He had to meditate on the magic of Atlantis and filter through the noise to find the river or the source.

Flitwick sensed what Harry had in mind and was unsure if it was the best idea. "Harry," he said softly. "Can you handle it?"

Harry sighed. "I don't have a choice do I?" None of the others could do what he could and he was getting impatient with the search.

He sat down on the blackened ash that coated the ground, crossed his legs and took a deep breath.

Harry reached out with his magic, strengthening his mind to endure the pain. The landscape around him seemed to shimmer as he opened his magical senses to their limits, and his eyes took on a distant look as he tried to connect with the very fabric of the city itself, seeking any trace of the river's energy signature or its source.

The initial flood of magic hit him like a freight train, swirling around him like a maelstrom of untethered power. Harry gritted his teeth, trying to filter through the noise and chaos that assailed him from every direction.

Fissures of magic crisscrossed the landscape like an intricate web, most weak and fading while some burned with an ominous red glow, hinting at their latent potency.

As he delved deeper, the sheer scale of city began to overwhelm him. This was not just any city they were in - this had been home to generations of powerful witches and wizards. Layer upon layer of forgotten spells and enchantments lay hidden beneath the rubble, trapped in time like flies in amber. To tamper with one could unleash untold consequences.

Finally, he saw it - a ribbon of silver snaking its out of the rubble in the distance.

"Found it," Harry gasped, breaking free from his trance-like state. He took several deep breaths, attempting to ground himself in the present as the others waited with baited breaths, their faces etched with concern.

"To the north, If it is that," he said, breathing heavily, pointing towards a cluster of volcanoes. "Just behind them."

"Doesn't look like a direction we want to be taking," Daphne said dryly. Just as she spoke one of the volcanoes erupted and she looked at him with her eyebrows raised. "See what I mean?"

"It'll take us days," Hermione added.

"No one said this was going to be easy," Harry replied succinctly.

Flitwick clapped his hands together and rubbed them against each other, his expression focused. "Let's get moving and find a place we can get some rest. We know what we have to do and we can't waste anytime. We don't know if Tom and the others will find a way to get there and we can't let them get to the source before us."

"Agreed," Harry murmured. It was a race now.

-x-x-

Tower of Elysium

Vampires had breached the wards. How, they did not know. Tom and Moody were negotiating with Drake when it happened and all of a sudden the tables had turned.

Drake attacked with blinding speed but Tom's skill with a wand was enough to hold him back. And now here they were, in a Mexican standoff, while screams began to echo from the caves below.

Valerie blurred into the bank manager's office, her eyes alight with lust and fangs dripping with blood.

"You're not done yet, Drake?" she mocked, high on the blood of the witches and wizards she had turned into mindless drones.

Moody grit his teeth. "How?" They still had an ace up their sleeve but how?! How did they manage it?

Drake chuckled darkly. "How is irrelevant, Alastor. The question is what now. Your Elysium is going to be overrun soon. What will you do now? Will you wait until all my brethren crash through these doors or will you give me what I want?"

Tom was thinking fast. How did they breach the wards!? They were airtight. But like Drake said, now that they had, what next? They couldn't afford to lose their only leverage and compromise seemed like the only solution.

"If you think you'll be leaving here alive you're painfully wrong, Drake," Tom hissed furiously and activated the runes they had prepared.

Drake and Valerie's eyes widened in shock as they felt an invisible barrier close around them, trapping them in place.

"But seeing as we don't have time with your brethren running loose, how about we make a deal."

"I'm listening," Drake growled while summoning all his strength to break free but it was of no use."

"We go together," Tom said, surprising them all. "We know the location, you have the knowledge. We go together or else you die here tonight and then we go and finish the rest of your kind. The loses will be great but you will lose. You will be turned to ash and all for nothing!"

Drake grit his teeth and said nothing.

"Call off your dogs now. Maintain the status quo and we see where this goes from there."

"As long as we get what we want, let's do it, Drake," Valerie said quietly. She didn't want to die. Not until she saw Gaea with her own eyes.

"Fine. Fine!" Drake said, his voice a deep growl. "I agree to your terms."

"Swear it on your magic," Tom commanded.

"I swear on my magic that we agree to your terms until we reach Gaea."

Tom and Moody, exchanged a look and silently agreed this was the best they could hope for.

-x-x-

Atlantis

Harry could feel the river's pull growing stronger with each step they took, almost as if it were calling out to him, an inescapable siren's song.

They had been trekking through the ruins for a long time. It had been hours and exhaustion was beginning to overwhelm them, not just from the walk, but from the oppressive atmosphere.

As they entered what seemed to be a plaza that must have once been a vibrant center of activity. Decrepit buildings lined the perimeter, their grand facades crumbling to reveal ash-stained open space was littered with rubble and debris, but free and away from volcanic activity, A sense of eerie stillness hung in the air.

"We need to rest," Hermione gasped, bending over with her hands on her knees. "Just for a bit. My legs won't carry me any further."

"This will do," Daphne huffed, slumping down against a half-toppled column. "Seems like a decent enough place to make camp. And figure out how much further we have to go."

Harry sat down on some rubble and looked up at the sky. It was red and haunting, there seemed to be no concept of day and night here, but the air seemed to be getting cooler and if he strained hard enough, he could faintly see stars beyond the dark clouds.

"I'll set up the tents," Flitwick said, wiping sweat of his brow. He had incredible stamina for someone of his size.

With a wave of his wand, he conjured four small camping tents from thin air. He muttered spells over each one, and a soft, golden light streamed out of his wand expanding over the tents and getting absorbed into them. "There," he said with a proud grin, straightening up and brushing off his robes. "These will do nicely."

The tents materialized, standing tall and sturdy against the desolate landscape. Daphne and Hermione stood up to look inside and were amazed to find that the inside was an opulent space reminiscent of the finest Hogsmeade inns. Four-poster beds adorned with silk sheets rested invitingly, plush rugs softening the stone floor, and a little fireplace crackled merrily in one corner, casting a warm glow throughout. A writing desk and chair, a wardrobe, and even a bathroom with steaming hot water awaited them.

"Merlin's trousers," Hermione breathed. "Professor, I had no idea you were so proficient in the art of camping!"

Flitwick blushed but adopted an air of modesty. "Just a tiny bit of house elf magic," he said, waving off the praise. "Now, everyone get some rest, six hours should be fine for us to recover our strengths."

Harry and Daphne exchanged a glance, silently communicating. Their relationship was different now. Should they enter the same tent or rendezvous later, when everyone was fast asleep. Daphne for her part knew she wanted to get him alone. Not just to talk, but just to be.

"Why don't we freshen up, eat and then get some rest," Harry suggested.

Daphne got the hint. She reached into her jacket pocket and summoned her emergency food supply. "You guys go ahead," she said. "I'll set up the food."

Couple of hours later, after they had eaten and Flitwick retreated to his tent, Daphne went in with Hermione and Harry looked around their surroundings. His gaze lingered in the direction of the source. It was calling out to him.

He walked a little distance away within sight of their camp and conjured a lounge chair and settled in, facing the cluster of volcanoes that was his destination.

He reached within his pockets and pulled out his bag of spliffs.

A little while later, Daphne emerged from the tent, yawning and stretching languidly. Hermione was fast asleep, and Flitwick's snores served as a rhythmic lullaby. The air was cooler now, but the air around the volcanoes still radiated an uncomfortable heat.

She spotted Harry on a lounge chair, smoking a spliff as he stared at the ominous skyline ahead. Smirking to herself, joined him and sat down next to him on his chair.

"Thought I'd join you for this view," she said, eyeing the volcanoes in the distance. "It's quite breathtaking in a macabre sort of way."

Harry felt her body press into his side and passed her the spliff with a grin. "Thought you'd never come."

In silence, they smoked, lost in their thoughts about the perilous journey ahead.

"This could be it, couldn't it?" She asked softly.

Harry didn't answer immediately, but his grip on the spliff tightened, knowing what she meant. "It could be," he finally said, exhaling a cloud of smoke that curled around them like a ghostly apparition. "But... I'm glad to have you by my side," he added.

A smile tugged at the corners of Daphne's lips, that coming from him was almost like a confession of love.

She leaned over him, her hand on his chest and looked into his eyes, "Glad to have me by your side?" She snickered. "When did you turn into such a sap?"

"Oh shut up," Harry said, rolling his eyes with a grin. "You know what I mean." He brushed a stray lock of hair behind her ear and looked into her eyes with smouldering intensity.

Daphne's eyes shone brightly, and she leaned in to kiss him softly.

"Yes I do," she replied softly.

Their lips lingered together, the attraction between them a force as powerful as the volcanoes looming in the distance. It was a kiss born from something more that just lust, a spark that had been sitting idle just beneath the surface for so long, fanned to life by the intensity of their situation. They pulled away, panting slightly, their hearts racing.

The faint stars above seemed to twinkle knowingly as if they were aware of their secret tryst, probably their last before the end came upon them.

-x-x-

Tower of Elysium, The Cave

Drake and Valerie stood transfixed, their eyes locked on the River before them. The mesmerizing body of magic flowed with an otherworldly glow, as if the very essence of divinity coursed through its veins. White light, flecked with shimmering gold particles that raced within its depths, captivated them both. It was as if time had stopped, and the only thing that mattered was this moment, this connection to something so grand and incomprehensible.

"I've never seen anything like this," Valerie breathed out in awe, her voice barely audible over the soft roar of the river's current.

Drake could only nod in agreement, at a loss for words to describe the wonderment he felt in his dead heart. Side by side, they stared in reverence at the divine phenomenon before them. The vampires had spoken of this place, their ancient whispers filled with fear and reverence, but nothing could have prepared them for this.

As they stood there, Drake reached into his robes and withdrew a worn piece of parchment, yellowed with age and scribbled with ancient symbols. "It's a map, passed down through generations in my coven."

Tom and Moody exchanged glances, of all things, they had not expected this. The vampires had more knowledge than they had thought. The map was intricately drawn, depicting a world they had never seen before. Vague familiar landmarks intertwined with bizarre and fantastical illustrations of lands they could only dream of. In the very center of the map was an island with a name scribbled above it.

"Atlantis," Moody breathed out in disbelief. "Merlin's beard, it's Atlantis."

Drake nodded grimly. "And at the centre," he said, "Pointing to a strange structure, "Is the Source of all things. The very elixir of immortal life."

Moody raised an eyebrow, his lips curling into a sardonic smirk. "Aren't you already immortal?" His tone dripped with sarcasm and a hint of disdain.

"Not in the light," Valerie whispered. She couldn't believe it. Their dream was so close to being achieved.

Tom's eyes widened in understanding and he quickly put the pieces together and understood.. the Source was what would allow them to change things. It would be where they would make their move. He could not let the vampires gain control of it.

"So how do we get there?" Tom asked.

Drake's lips curled into a smirk. "Follow me," he ordered and walked towards the River.

"Don't!" Moody warned, having seen the effects of simply touching it.

"Don't be afraid Alastor," Drake said coolly. Steel your nerves, focus your mind and step into the light."

That said he walked in with his eyes closed and a door made of gold materialised before him.

-x-x-

After nearly two days of navigating treacherous terrain and circling around the cluster of active volcanoes, they finally caught sight of their destination at the edge of a steep cliff.

As they peered down below - into the valley filled with ruined structures and debris, their attention was immediately drawn to a sphere of pale bluish-white energy that pulsed and swirled chaotically, sending out bursts of light that struck the ground like bolts of lightning. Even from far, with the ruins like tiny dots, it was massive to their eyes.

Mammoth golden arches curved around the sphere, as if built to contain the energy and instantly they knew. They had found it. The structure that had brought ruin to Atlantis.

"My god," Daphne breathed in awe.

Hermione and Flitwick were slack jawed but Harry. Harry's eyes had glazed over. The call was strong now. Hypnotic and Desperate.

"Come to us, Chosen One. Join us and make us whole."

There were fully intact towers around the structure, undamaged by the rage of the Source.

"How do we get down there?" Hermione asked.

"We can levitate each of us one by one," Flitwick said and drew his wand.

"Wait," Harry muttered.

"Come to us, Chosen One."

"Just wait," he murmured and closed his eyes and steeled his mind to shut out the voices. They weren't letting him think.

"You okay, Harry?" Daphne asked, her brows furrowed in concern.

"Yeah," he replied. "It's calling out to me. Can any of you hear it?"

They shook their heads in negative.

He felt his magic resonate strongly with the sphere and he knew without a doubt. This was it. This was the source he was connected to. This was the magic that had given him unparalleled power. And now, it was calling him to join it? What did it mean?

"I wonder why those towers are undamaged," Flitwick murmured. "Even the structure seems whole."

"Levitation is a fine," Harry said finally. "But don't worry, I'll handle it."

Hermione, Daphne and Flitwick had little time to comprehend what he meant before they felt their bodies levitate off the ground along with Harry and they descended rapidly down the cliff and onto the ground below. Hermione and Daphne cried out in terror at the sudden descent, while Flitwick's usually solemn face was etched with panic.

Just when they thought they were about to meet their untimely end, their bodies reduced speed and descended gently onto the rocky ground below. Daphne let out a relieved sigh but her anger quickly replaced it as she stormed over to Harry and smacked him on the head. "Next time, warn us before you decide to throw us off a cliff!" she snapped, her eyes blazing with fury. "I thought I was going to die!"

If it were anyone else, Harry would have crushed them into pulp by now. But instead he contained the flash of rage with ease and it turned into amusement. "We're down aren't we?" he deadpanned.

Daphne glowered at him, hair disheveled and eyes sparking with a fierce anger, making them even more piercingly blue and Harry couldn't help but think she how absolutely radiant see looked. He felt more attracted to her than he ever did before.

She saw that look on his face and her anger transformed into annoyance. "Prat," she scolded and whacked his arm.

Hermione couldn't help but analysis the byplay. There was real attraction between them. At first she thought it was just Daphne, but now... Harry was interacting with her in an almost human way. She had her scepticism about his changed nature, but now... Although, that did nothing the fact that he was a mass murderer.

"Let's go," Harry said, his voice, refocused.

Daphne fell into step beside him and as they made their way down to the shallow slope towards the looming structure, Hermione's stomach twisted in nervous anticipation. Something told her this was not going to end well.

She felt Flitwick's piercing gaze on her and glanced down to see his wise eyes studying her with understanding.

"Don't overthink it," he said with a hum. "They have brought each other out of darkness. We cannot comprehend the bond between them."

Hermione sighed and followed the pair glumly. She couldn't help but feel a sense of impending doom upon them as she glanced at the chaotic magic they were heading towards. She just hoped, at the end of it all, there could be peace.

-x-x-