Damaged Goods

Part 24

"I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." - Umberto Eco

It was cool and comforting here, wherever here was.  Hermione looked around the soft gray that enveloped her.  It was like fog only she sensed it was something more substantial. A shimmering light moved closer to her and as it approached, she saw a humanoid creature, glowing blue-white. It was tall and carried itself proudly.  Hermione felt no fear as it stopped before her.  She knew this creature. "Where am I?"

"Somewhere safe. Rest now milady.  Nothing can harm you here."

She sat down on the wispy substance, not surprised that it felt like a comfortable chair. Trying to remember what had happened, she gave a strangled cry.  "My parents are dead." Lifting her head, she stared at the humanoid and saw it nod.  Hermione stared at her hands, waiting for the sorrow, the tears, denial, but she felt nothing. 

"Emotions such as the ones you are searching for are foreign here," the creature said. 

"Are you an angel?"

"Some mortals attribute that title to me, others call me a demon.  I am just what I am.  Someone who will keep you safe." The voice was soothing and melodious.  "Sleep now milady and allow me to care for you."

That sounds lovely, Hermione thought. Sleep, yes.  Not to think anymore of the pain and misery.  Lying down on the wispy substance, she closed her eyes…

****

Waking with a start, Severus sat up quickly trying to get his bearings.  He saw that he was in a bed in the hospital wing of Hogwarts. A familiar smiling face greeted him from the end of the bed.  "Welcome back, son. I thought we lost you that time," Albus said softly.

"Albus," Severus said thickly, trying to shake off the grogginess. "What happened?  The last thing I remember…" He looked around the room quickly and saw Hermione laying several beds away.  "Is Herm…Miss Granger all right?" Severus coughed, holding his side as a sharp pain ripped through him.

A brief flicker of a concern crossed the Headmaster's face. "She will be.  For now she is resting and in no pain. You, however, need to lie back down," Albus saw the defiance in Severus' face, "if you wish me to tell you anything."

With a small scowl, Severus complied, easing back down onto the bed, wincing slightly.  "You had extensive internal bleeding Severus," Albus said soberly, his eyes serious. "Had you not sent the Summoning spell, you would have died before anyone found you.  Poppy assures me you will recover but you must rest and allow the blood restoring potions to work."

Sighing, Severus nodded.  "And Miss Granger?"

Again Albus' face changed slightly. "She has no physical injuries."

Severus brow furrowed, waiting for an explanation.  "You must trust me, Severus." Albus spoke quietly, looking towards Madame Pomfrey's office door.  "I will tell you everything later."

"Very well, Albus," Severus said wearily.  "I will not be going anywhere. I am afraid I am no longer of any use to you. Once Malfoy tells the Dark Lord of my betrayal…"  Of choosing a Mudblood over the brotherhood.

Smiling, Albus pulled a copy of the Daily Prophet from his robes.  "Just rest Severus and let me read something to you."

Albus cleared his throat and read from the front page.

"Strange Natural Phenomenon Injures Ministry Official and guests.

"A strange occurrence last night at the home of Lucius Malfoy, honorary Ministry Official and Hogwarts Governor, left a dozen injured and one dead. Rescue workers arrived at the scene to find the great hall of the Malfoy manor in shambles.  An explosion, apparently originating in the lower chambers, left a gaping hole in the main floor and dislodged the pillars that supported the ceiling.  Portions of the unsupported ceiling collapsed, injuring several guests with falling debris, while other guests were severely burned.

"Rodwick Castlebery, head of the Department of Disasters gave this statement: 'It was determined that the explosion was caused by a natural gas build up.  A small earthquake that occurred moments before the explosion opened a crack in the pocket of gas allowing it to seep into the manor. Once released into the manor, a flame from a candle apparently set it off.  It was really fortunate that the explosion was self-contained and dissipated the gas quickly, or we would be sweeping the victims up instead of taking them to St. Mungo's.'

"Among those retrieved from the house were escaped Azkaban inmates Rabastan Lestrange and Antonin Dolohov Ministry officials are very anxious to know why these two escaped convicts were in the Malfoy house during a dinner party, which included three Ministry employees. Those capable of answering questions appeared disoriented and could not remember why they were at the manor.

'It is a side effect of the gas,' stated Johannas Pitwick, emergency attendant at St. Mungo's. 'The effect is similar to a Befuddlement charm.'

Severus shot a look at Dumbledore.  Pitwick was a member of the Order.

"Those taken to St. Mungo's are being kept under observation.  The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of the family.  Lucius Malfoy was among those critically injured. Narcissa Malfoy and son Draco were unavailable for comment."

Folding the newspaper, Albus grinned at Severus.  "There you have it my boy.  A natural disaster.  Very opportune timing, don't you think?" His eyes sparkled knowingly at Severus.

"That does explain what happened," Severus said warily, frowning.  He honestly did not know what occurred during the time he had experienced the vision.

"Does it, Severus?  Are you sure that this explains what really happened there?  Are you willing to admit that fate had a hand in stopping the Death Eaters from killing Miss Granger and yourself?"

Severus sneered. "You know how I feel about fate Albus.  Fate is what you make it.  Yes, it was very fortunate that the phenomenon happened when it did." He looked away from Albus' intense gaze.  "I do not know what occurred, I was preoccupied at the time."

"Yes?" Albus asked eagerly.

Severus told Albus everything that had happened up to the point when he had the vision.  He was uncomfortable with sharing those details.  "I can only assume I was hallucinating.  Maybe the Cruciatus began to effect my mind." When Albus didn't comment, Severus continued.  "I cast the Summoning spell, and that is the last thing I remember."

Albus stroked his beard thoughtfully.  "Will you tell me what you saw in this vision?"

"I am tired," Severus said honestly, not wanting to share what he had seen with Albus.  It scared him to think that he was indeed losing his mind.  He would rather die than to end up like the Longbottoms.

"Yes, of course," Albus said brightly.  "You do need to rest Severus.  We can continue this discussion later this evening."

****

"And just where do you think you are going Severus Snape?"

Severus ignored Poppy as he pulled on his boots.  "I should have thrown your clothes out the window," she said irritably seeing Snape fully dressed.  "Now see here, you need at least another day in bed—"

"I am fine Poppy," Severus snapped. "I need to speak to the Headmaster." 

"Fine. Fine." She threw up her hands. "But don't expect me to let you back in here if you have a relapse, you stubborn man."

Severus' mouth twitched. His eyes flickered over to Hermione. "How is Miss Granger?"

"Still unconscious.  Her vital signs are good and there are no head injuries.  She should come around in a day or so."

He waited until Madame Pomfrey had returned to her office, and then walked over to Hermione.  She was pale, her chest rising and falling steadily.  His fingers grazed the top of her right hand before he spun on his heel and left.

He rapped on Albus' office door. There was a moment of silence before the door swung open.  Minerva stood beside Albus, running one hand over her hair while the other brushed across her bodice.  Her cheeks were flushed and Severus gave Albus a sly smile.  "Don't let me interrupt," he said, waving his hand at them. Minerva's cheeks grew redder as Albus chuckled.

"I thought you were supposed to be recuperating."

"Poppy insisted I was well enough to get out of her way," he lied smoothly. 

Minerva approached Severus, her eyes bright. "Minerva, if you are going to get all soggy—" he warned, as Minerva wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. 

 "Thank you for bringing Hermione back."

"You are welcome," Severus said sincerely with a small smile.  "You do realize however that I will have to look for ways to take extra points from Gryffindor this term?  I cannot have you thinking I have gone soft."

Minerva snorted. "You, soft?  Really Severus, I have never underestimated your stony character. We will win the House Cup even with your unfair tactics and sneakiness."

"Of course," Severus said silkily, "if I were snogging the Headmaster, I too would have such confidence."

"You, you Slytherin," Minerva said indignantly.

"And you love me for it." Severus leaned over and kissed her cheek.

Minerva blushed and shoved him away.  "I will leave you to your privacy," she said, heading for the door, "and Albus, I have warned Harry not to visit Miss Granger.  He was relieved that she had been returned but most determined to see her."

Severus waited until Minerva had left before he sat down.  "How are the Weasley children taking the news about their brother?"

"Remus Oblivated Ron and Ginny's memory of what happened with Percy and Hermione.  It is imperative at this time that his treachery is not known to the Weasley family."

"And Potter?" Severus asked snidely.  "Is he to be trusted with this information?"

Albus gave him a reproving look. "Young Harry needs to know, to be aware of the danger, for his own safety and Miss Granger's.  He will not tell the others."

He held his tongue. Severus really didn't care if Harry informed the world that Percy was working for Voldemort, since he no longer could return.

Dumbledore walked over to the cabinet where he kept the Pensieve.  "Severus, it is very important that you tell me everything that happened at the manor that night."

"I do not know what happened," he said honestly.

"But you do.  It is there in your memory." Taking out the Pensieve, Albus set in on the desk. "You will need to remove the memories.  When Voldemort calls you again he will be suspicious to why you were not at the manor that evening."

"Are you done with me then, old man?" he asked contemptuously.  "The Dark Lord will be delighted to make an example of the Mudblood-loving traitor."

"Unless you plan to tell him, I dare say no one else will," Albus chuckled. "I arrived at the manor within seconds after you had left.  I wanted to find you and Miss Granger quickly, but took a moment to remove the memories of those in the hall that were conscious, which was most fortunate as several Apparated before the Ministry arrived.

 "Pitwick will have taken care of those the spell did not effect.  The only two we are concerned about is Lucius and Rabastan who are still unconscious.  Pitwick is to inform me when they awaken, and I have posted an Order member to keep an eye on both of them.   If all went well, no one at the manor remembers that you or Miss Granger were ever there."

Shaking his head, Severus could feel the relief flooding over him.   The thought that he was no longer able to continue as before had plagued him the last few hours while lying in the hospital wing.

"Now, let's see exactly what happened," Albus encouraged.

Severus placed his wand to his temple. Carefully he went through the events in his mind.  The last thing he wanted Dumbledore to see was his slight 'indiscretion' in the cell.  He withdrew the section of thoughts that started when he grasped Hermione's hands.  Severus moved aside so that Albus view into the Pensieve with him.

Severus saw himself taking Hermione's hands and looking deep into her eyes.  A brilliant blue white dome appeared around them. Lucius and several others were still laughing but he could not hear what they were saying.  He watched as Lucius and Bellatrix raised their wands and he saw the green rays streak towards him and Hermione.  Amazed, he saw the rays hit the blue light and ricochet causing the revelers to duck.  Now Rabastan, Percy and Rodolphus were casting spells at them with the same result.

The glowing dome shivered and red sparks started to dance across it.  The ground began to shake as a low rumbling filled the hall.  People were looking around and a few swayed.  A loud noise like the roar of a large beast, sounded beneath the floor. Suddenly the marble tiled floor erupted as a huge stream of noxious gas and fire burst forth. The large white pillar nearest the newly formed hole cracked and toppled, crushing one man. Those nearest the eruption choked on the fumes and smoke, as their robes on fire. Lucius was thrown off his feet hitting a stone pillar, the right side of his robes on fire. The pillar toppled with in seconds, pinning him beneath it.  Large chunks of the ceiling then fell upon him and others.

Severus gripped the edge of the Pensieve as he saw a great, scaled head twist its way through the tiles, its terrible eyes fixed on him. Opening its mouth menacingly, it lunged towards the magical dome but was reflected.  A howl of rage filled the hall as a beam of blue-white light shot from… "Hermione?" he whispered.

It was over within a matter of seconds, the great beast disappearing beneath the floor though black smoke still billowed from the gaping crater in the center of the room.   Severus watched as the dome around him and Hermione dissipated and they fell to the floor.

Albus stared thoughtfully at Severus. "How did she…" Severus' voice broke, stunned at what he had seen.

"I think you need to tell me what you saw when you took Miss Granger's hands."

Staring at the silvery swirl inside the Pensieve, Severus told him everything he had seen in his vision.  He glanced up to see the old man beaming.

"Excellent, excellent. I had my suspicions but didn't dare to hope. Your account now verifies it.  Miss Granger is the Aetherius Custosratis Elementum."

Severus looked at him in amazement.  "Are you sure? Have you tested her?" 

"No. There are no tests that will reveal her true identity.  Did you not notice how strong your powers were when you touched her? Your account is evident enough.  Only the Aetherius Custosratis Elementum could summon the Kriegerwächter," Albus hesitated, looking intensely at Severus,  "and only the Aestus Custosratis Elementum could summon the DracheKrieger."

Severus blinked, his knees feeling weak.  Had he heard correctly?  "This cannot be Albus."

"And why not Severus?" Albus' smile widened.  Scowling, Severus shook his head.

"Then why did they fight if we are both Custosratis Elementum?" he asked skeptically.

"For control," Albus chuckled.  "You are really a stubborn git at times.  Once mutual submission was achieved, the powers intertwined and you see the result."

 "But she almost died." 

"Essentially, she is dead."  Severus' head snapped up.  "When you both were brought to the hospital wing, Poppy concentrated on Miss Granger for she was not breathing and had no pulse.  'I believe, in fact I am almost positive, that her spirit has left her body. Remember, I told you that an Ethereal Mage could plane travel.  The power she evoked caused her spirit to leave her body.  It is the price of using the highest power of summoning.

"When Poppy left to get some potions from her office, I cast a charm on Hermione to maintain her breathing, heartbeat and circulation.  In essence, her body is merely functioning, but she is not truly alive.

"She is like you.  Her will to fight, to overcome, is strong; something that a few short months ago never would have surfaced.  I am proud of you, son."

"You are proud of me?" Severus' mind was racing, trying to make sense of what Albus was telling him.  Hermione is dead. She is dead.

"You helped her find her strength, the courage to live and to fight.  Had you turned your back on her, and I must admit I was afraid that you might in fear of harming her worse, she world not have found her way."

"She will wish that she had not found her way once I tell her that her parents are dead," he said quietly, realizing how inane that was.  If she were dead, what did it matter?

Albus placed a hand on his shoulder. "Hermione will already know.  She knew before it happened, or at the time.  The premonitions she has had have been of you and myself because we are Custosratis Elementum.  However she will also have premonitions of those she loves. That is how she knew to knock the Portkey from Harry's hand." Severus' eyes grew darker at the mention of Harry's name.

"If you believe what I have told you, you must summon the power to help me bring her spirit back, Severus." 

"Yes, anything," he said quickly, ignoring Albus' smile.

****

They entered the darkened hospital wing.  "Headmaster?" Poppy's sleepy voice asked from her office.  "Has something happened?"

"No my dear," Albus assured her. "We are here to visit Miss Granger and would like a bit of privacy."

"Yes, of course," Poppy said, shutting her door.

Albus pulled the curtains around Hermione's bed. "Take her hand," he instructed. Severus took Hermione's left hand, Albus her right. A swirling light began to encircle them.  "Concentrate.  Summon the image of the DracheKrieger but do not seek to summon the material creature."

A minute version of the creature of his vision appeared within the circle, as did a phoenix. "I command you to find the of the Kriegerwächter. We seek audience with him."  Severus repeated the instructions to the small dragon figure.  The creatures bowed and disappeared. 

Within minutes a new creature appeared in front of Albus. It was not in miniature form.  Severus recognized it at once.  It was the warrior from the vision. 

"Why have you summoned me?"  The voice was haughty and loud causing Severus to glance towards Poppy's door. Then he realized it had not opened its mouth and he knew, like other elemental magic, only he and Albus could hear and see it.

"I have summoned you to request that you return this girl's spirit." Albus said with authority.

A hollow laugh caused a shiver to run down Severus' spine.  "And who are you, mortal, to make such demands of me?"

"You know what I am and that is enough.  I have the right to ask this of you."

"She has no reason to return to this plane." 

"It is not your place to decide this for her."

"She has chosen."

"She did not know.  You have used treachery to coerce her and I command you to give her the chance to decide. The Aetherius Custosratis Elementum is needed here."

"How dare you command me!" the creature roared, raising the sword high.  Severus' hand shot into his robes but before he could pull out his wand he saw the golden image of the phoenix appear, deflecting the weapon. Albus raised his hand and a swirling cloud of blue encircled the warrior, growing smaller and smaller until it encased him, pining his arms tightly to his sides.  The sword fell to the floor without a sound.

The warrior bowed.  "She must choose.  If she does not, she is mine."

"Agreed, however there will be no treachery."

Severus started to speak but Albus warned him with a look.  The creature moved to stand beside Hermione.  There was a flash of light and it disappeared, the light absorbing into her skin.  "Why does that thing want her?" he asked in a whisper

"It feeds off her powers.  As long as she remains in his realm he can use her elemental magic." Albus explained quickly.  "There are power struggles beyond our world. That is something we do not have claim on," he finished with a sigh.

Feeling a resurgence of pain in his stomach, Severus looked at Hermione, watching and waiting…

Hermione heard a voice calling her.  Looking up she saw the creature once more standing before her.

"Milady," it said as it bowed. "It has been requested that you leave this place, this sanctuary of peace.  I must tell you this but beg you not to consider."

'Leave?  Why would she want to leave?  It was so nice here.  Comforting.  But there were things to do, people she wanted to see,' she thought as images of Ginny, Ron, Tamara, Remus, Hagrid, Harry and Professor Snape flashed across her mind.

The creature cocked its head.  "Those you want to see will bring nothing but pain to you.  Betrayal, death, and pain beyond anything you have known yet.  Trust me milady, it is better to remember them than to subject yourself to that."

Hermione shook her head, trying to clear the fuzziness in her brain. "They are my friends, they would never hurt me."

"Humans are selfish, devious creatures," the creature said, a note of anger in its voice. 

"No.  They are good people.  Sometimes we do hurt each other but there is always forgiveness."

"And what of the pain?  Your world is on the verge of a major war, one that will leave you in heartache beyond anything you have experienced.    Your innocence has been brutally taken from you. Your parents are dead.  Or do you not remember?"

Her mind was filled with a vision of her home, of her parents sitting in the living room.  Her mother was sipping coffee as she went through the newspaper, her father watching television. There was several loud 'cracks' and three Death Eaters appeared, two masked, one not.  A sadistic sneer graced Lucius Malfoy's face as the others grabbed her parents. 

Hermione tried to shut the vision out, tried to refocus her thoughts as she watched her father put under the Cruciatus, her mother brutally raped, Lucius telling her dying parents what he had done to their only child, what he intended to still do to her.

"Why are you doing this?"  Hermione put her hands to her ears but still she heard the screams, her mother pleading, and the ribald taunts of the Death Eaters.

"They will all die, your friends, those you care for.  Do you want to witness this, hear the cries of their families as they bury the dead?"

Sobbing, Hermione started to shake her head, to plead with this creature not to make her go back, but then she remembered.  Memories of what Harry had gone through these past years, how easy it would have been for him to give up. It gave her strength. 

And she remembered the others: Tamara crying her heart out on Hermione's shoulder when she had learned of her parents death; Ginny's stalwart friendship and courage; Ron and his bickering, and his good natured smile when he said he was sorry.  She remembered Remus, who had lost his best friend, ostracized by society yet always comforting others; of Hagrid, the half giant with the biggest heart in the world, who had always been there for her when she was on the outs with Ron and Harry.  And she remembered Severus, the dark, irritable man who had reached out to help her when no one else could, the man who had risked everything to rescue her from Malfoy

How could she not return?

"Very well," the creature said, its voice no longer melodious and soothing.  "You have made your decision.  However, since you have decided to leave my protection, you must choose another.  Your foolishness will not be forgiven next time you enter my realm."

"Choose?  I don't understand." 

The creature stood in silence.

"What am I to choose?  I told you I want to go back!" she screamed at the stony creature.  

There was a flash of golden light as a large phoenix appeared.  "Aetherius Custosratis Elementum must choose a Custodis before you are allowed to return to your world.  Listen to your heart and choose." With another flash the phoenix disappeared.

Closing her eyes, Hermione once more saw those she cared for, and listened…

Severus felt his heart leap within him as Hermione stirred.

"Severus?"

He hesitated a moment, feeling Albus' eyes on him.  "Yes.  You are safe at Hogwarts Miss…Hermione," he said softly, taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"Hogwarts?"

"Yes.  Just rest now," he murmured, releasing her hand as she drifted into a natural sleep.

He felt Albus' hand on his shoulder.  "I shall inform Poppy that Miss Granger has regained consciousness."

"Who did she choose?" Severus asked quietly.

"That, my boy, is something only she knows. And until she is trained in the ways of ethereal magic, she will not know herself."

He looked at Hermione, reluctant to acknowledge the thrill he felt running through him because she was all right.  Severus felt bone weary and confused at what had happened, of learning of the powers he possessed.  That she possesses.

Staring at her, Severus felt conflicting feelings; his body remembering her softness, how close he had came to tasting the forbidden fruit, and yet his mind saw her as a young girl, his student. He was confused by the contradictory feelings of love for a child and woman.

What a fool I am, he thought, glad that it was over.  Term started in three days and the line of relationship would be firmly back in place, filling him with relief and regret.

"Severus," Albus' voice broke through his musings.  "You need to get your rest.  I will not have my Potions master missing the Sorting. I have put the Pensieve in your chambers." Severus looked cautiously at him. "I would advise you to put 'all' your memories of what happened at the Malfoy manor safely away."

A small sardonic smile appeared on Severus' face.  "Of course, Headmaster." I no longer have need of them. 

****

Hermione opened her eyes and looked around anxiously in the dim light.  She had felt someone…"Harry?"

 Harry appeared from underneath the Invisibility Cloak.  "Hi," he said softly.

"What time is it?" Hermione asked. "In fact what day is it?  It feels like I have been asleep forever."  

"It was a little after 2am when I left Gryffindor tower, and it is Saturday.  Term starts Tuesday, remember?"

Hermione sat straight up. "Oh dear.  I had forgotten.  My books and supplies…"

"Mrs. Weasley sent everything we need.  Professor McGonagall told me you would probably get out of here tomorrow but I couldn't wait," he said flushing.

"Oh.  I am glad to see you too, Harry," she said blushing.    

"Me too."

Sitting down gingerly on the bed, Harry took her hand. "Are you alright?"

Hermione nodded.  Harry squeezed her hand. "Did…did Malfoy…"

"No.  He didn't rape me.  Professor Snape came before anything happened." She said with a small smile.

"I am glad for that," Harry said. "Very glad."

They were silent a minute as Harry looked down at her hand. "Will you go with me?" he blurted out.

"I thought I already was," Hermione teased.

"No, I mean, when term starts, well, I mean…will you walk with me to classes?  You know, let everyone know that we are a couple," Harry explained going redder.

"I would like that Harry."

"Thanks.  I guess I better go, and hopefully you will be out of here tomorrow.  Sleep well."  He stood and kissed her lightly on the cheek before disappearing beneath the cloak.

With a smile on her lips, Hermione turned over and snuggled her pillow close as she closed her eyes.

Very tactful, Potter.  Severus felt the hatred for the boy flowing over him in waves, stepping out of the shadows of the dark corner to which he had retreated when he heard the door opening.  He didn't know why he was even there but felt compelled to watch over her, to assure himself that she was all right.

Severus moved to stand at the foot of Hermione's bed.  She had fallen asleep and he studied her pale face. "Tread carefully, Potter," he said very softly.  "If you think I will allow you to ruin this girl…" he paused, watching as Hermione shifted. I will take you to Voldemort myself before I allow that to happen.  Not this time, Potter.  Never again.

****

Deep in the recesses of the earth beneath the crumbling manor on the shores of Scotland, Voldemort opened the door to a chamber.  His red eyes glowed as he walked over to the crib.  He stroked the gold hair before lifting the child in his arms.

"Dada?" The little boy asked, moving his little hands up to touch the face of the man that held him. 

Voldemort chuckled.  "That's right, little boy."  He sat down in a chair holding the boy on his lap.

A rap on the door drew his attention. "Enter Wormtail."  Wormtail entered, followed by Percy. "Ah, young Weasley.  I trust you are willing to share some information with me."

"Of course, Master," he said, prostrating himself. 

"Tell me of my Death Eaters."

"Dolohov was taken to Azkaban this morning.  Malfoy is still in critical condition at St. Mungo's but has regained consciousness. They do not think Rabastan will recover.  The extent of damage to his head was beyond what the healers could repair." Percy said apprehensively, watching his master's face intently.

"Perhaps you can enlighten me to what happened at the Malfoy manor, Weasley," Voldemort said, his voice low.  "Others have been too thick to tell me anything except that they were there."

Percy felt sweat bead on his forehead.  He tried hard to think about that night, but it was fuzzy. "Forgive me, milord," he said, throwing himself on the floor at Voldemort's feet. "I don't know.  The only thing I remember is being in the hall waiting for Lucius to begin the festivities."

He felt a sharp kick to the side of his head. "Get up you fool.  I punished the first ones I asked but realized I would have to destroy too many of my own Death Eaters.  You were subjected to magic, to remove your memories."  Voldemort's red eyes glowed.  "There are ways to retrieve your memories, however I can not promise you will survive the process."

Percy bowed low, his knees shaking. "If it will help the cause, I willingly accept."

"Very good, Weasley," Voldemort said softly. "You are learning.  I fear that it will do little good at this moment however.  I have already tried." His head turned and Percy saw the bodies.  "They were willing and yet I received nothing."

The boy in Voldemort's lap laughed. Percy looked at the child, confused as to why he was here.  Voldemort smiled. "Such a delightful child don't you think?  I understand you are expecting your own."

"Yes, milord," Percy said, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice.

"You lie, Weasley," Voldemort chuckled. "Your wife is expecting a child but it is not yours. Still, it will be a loyal follower. You will see to it."

"Yes, milord."

"Do you know what I have here, young Weasley?" Voldemort asked, stroking the boy's silky curls. 

"No, milord." 

"Of course you would not.  The young do not take time to learn about the ancient powers, to understand the ways of nature or of the gods. You are going to be privileged today Weasley, to witness something that few have ever seen.  Wormtail, bring the woman in."

Wormtail left and returned with a woman that looked to be in her late sixties with straight raven hair and dark skin. She had the emaciated look of someone from a starving country.  Her eyes were white and unmoving and Percy realized she was blind.

"This Weasley, is Miss Velaquoriz, a Muggle, and she possesses more power than you could dream of.  And that power will be mine. Miss Juanita Velaquoriz," Voldemort said silkily,  "welcome to your execution."

"Fool," she croaked, her voice hoarse and raspy, her accent thick.  "A pox on your eternal soul."  The woman threw back her head.  A small rumbling sounded and Percy felt the ground shake beneath his feet.  For one terrible moment, he had a fleeting vision of the ground splitting.

Voldemort stood, dropping the child now screaming, and drew his wand.  "Impedimenta." The ground stopped shaking and the woman fell.

Voldemort picked up the crying child and handed him to Percy.  "Keep him quiet," he hissed. "Wormtail, the book."  

Hurrying over to a table, Wormtail brought a small chest over to his master. Opening the chest, he withdrew a large book, the size of the tome much larger than the chest.  Percy squinted trying to make out the markings on the book.  He recognized the ancient runes of power lining the spine of the book.  His curiosity was peaked when he saw several Egyptian hieroglyphs on the cover and the faded name between the hieroglyphs, Descentras.  His eyes widened as he recognized the name of the dark wizard. The child in his arms whimpered.  "Shhh," he said, waggling his fingers at the boy.  When he turned his attention back to the book, Voldemort had opened it and was tracing a bony finger across a page.

Percy watched curiously as Wormtail took a small clay pot from the table. Taking it to the woman and kneeling beside her, he took out a knife and pricked her index finger with the point of the blade.  He then drew three drops of her blood into the pot and brought it to Voldemort.

Voldemort stepped into the center of the room and bent down. Carefully he sprinkled from the clay pot what looked to be black dust onto the floor.  When he had finished, he handed the pot back to Wormtail and Percy saw that he had drawn a pyramid.  The center had been divided into five sections from top to bottom.  In each section another symbol had been made.  Again the symbols resembled those of hieroglyphs.  Percy recognized the one that depicted water, earth and fire.  The other two were not familiar.

"Wormtail, release her."

Wormtail released the woman from the spell and helped her stand.  He positioned her at the point of the pyramid, holding her arms firmly as she struggled.  Voldemort raised his left hand and began chanting.  Percy watched as a beam of orange light shot from Voldemort's palm and struck the woman in the chest.  The crescendo of the chants grew louder and louder until it seemed they were thundering off the stones as the beam of light connecting them pulsed and grew brighter. 

"Collect this magic from wherever it may be, from the possession of anyone who may possess it, more speedily than a hound, more swiftly than a shadow."  Voldemort's voice intoned.

In horror, Percy saw the woman open her mouth in a silent scream as she began to wither, her flesh twisting and shriveling.  With one last booming chant from Voldemort, a hollow scream echoed from the macabre sight that had been Juanita Velaquoriz as her bones fell to the floor.  The etched symbol of earth in the pyramid glowed bright orange a moment before it faded, the entire sketch fading away.

Voldemort gave a triumphant laugh as he turned to look at Percy. "Did you enjoy that, Weasley?"

"Yes, milord," Percy said, trying to keep his voice from shaking.  Voldemort walked over to the crib. "This little one will be next when the moon is full once more.  Again, another Muggle with extraordinary powers."

Percy swallowed hard, his eyes wide at what he had witnessed. He did not know what truly happened, but he felt the evil darkness of the power that had been evoked, and his stomach lurched.

He looked and saw that Voldemort's wand was raised and pointing at him. "Now then Weasley, you will show me what happened at Malfoy's that night. Legilimens!"

Percy felt the invasion in his mind, of something pulling and tugging at his brain.  He saw the great hall of the manor, the floor bursting forth, black smoke billowing, a creature immerging, flashes of blue light…  Then his limp body fell to the floor.

Wormtail whimpered when his master turned his gaze towards him.  The malicious gleam in Voldemort's eyes sent a shiver through him. "Leave!"

"Yes, master," Peter squeaked, hurrying out the door. 

Voldemort walked over to the crib once more, where the child lay asleep. He stroked the silky hair as a twisted smile crossed his face.  "Well, well, what other secrets have you been hiding from me Severus?"

In the Hospital wing, Hermione Granger thrashed in the bed, screaming, with Severus trying desperately to wake her.

End of Part One of Damaged Goods….

****

Aetherius Custosratis Elementum- guardian vessel of the element of the Ethereal

Aestus Custosratis Elementum – guardian vessel of the element of Fire

Terrenus Custosratis Elementum – guardian vessel of the element of Earth   

Fous Custosratis Elementum- guardian vessel of the element of Water

Custodis- custodian of the spirit

Kriegerwächter-Warrior guardian

DracheKrieger-Dragon warrior

"Collect this magic from wherever it may be, from the possession of anyone who may possess it, more speedily than a hound, more swiftly than a shadow. The Papyrus of Ani, The Book of the Dead, courtesy of LorenaSnape

AN/THANK YOU so much for reading my story and the encouragement.  Big thanks and chocolate frogs to LorenaSnape and Ozratbag2 for beta services and listening.