Chapter Fifteen ~ Prediction

Hermione crept down the dungeon stairs, the din of her skirts silent as a ghost. She inched along the wall, looking forward and back, making sure everything was empty. She did not want to be found by a crazed Oracle.

When she had gone to check on Crystal and found her bed empty only to notice that Draco had claimed sudden disappearance as well, Hermione put two and two together, as only Hermione could do. She had headed straight for the dungeon, having the gut feeling that the sinister magic for the day had yet to be finished.

Holding her skirts so they wouldn't swish and hiss as she walked, Hermione ran the last few corridors to the dungeon. When she hit the head of the final hall, she slowed down. A faint, blue light was pulsating out of the far door. Once again Hermione was proven right.

Disregarding her need of stealth, she bolted down the corridor, skidding to a halt in front of the entrance and peering inside. At first she could see nothing, as the blue light cast menacing shadows over everything in sight, pulling the walls into darkness and then out again. But when she looked closer she could tell it was coming from Crystal. Big surprise.

She was sitting in the middle of the room, her hair brushed smoothly around her face, framing it in a sheet of darkest brown. She was cradling something in her lap, the blue light encasing her entire body, like an aura. As Hermione inched closer she noticed that it was less of a something and more of a someone; more specifically, Draco.

"He's alive," Crystal suddenly said, her voice low and calm. Hermione continued to move, unfazed. She was used to Crystal reading her thoughts now. "He is only sleeping."

"You seem to like doing that to people," Hermione replied, walking steadily to where Crystal sat and knelt in front of her. She looked into Draco's face and noticed the unbelievable calm that shown from it. She had never seen him this calm save for that split moment in the lake room with the gold of the setting sun playing across his features. Still looking into his face she asked, "Why did you do this to Harry? Why did you choose this path for him?" She was surprised that she spoke these words quietly, as it was her intention to scream out in rage.

Crystal flipped her hair over her shoulder and away from her face. She seemed to move in a sort of slow motion, her hair fluttering down over her shoulder and her dark eyes blazing with the night. "I did not choose it," she said. Hermione looked up at her.

"And still you lie."

"I tell no lies." Hermione watched as Crystal brushed the hair away from Draco's face and laid a hand over his chest as it rose and fell with his silent breath. She touched him like she loved him, as if she were his mother. "With this I tell not what I wish, but what has been shown to me."

"But you set the paths for everyone. You choose the outcome," Hermione protested.

Crystal turned her eyes away. "No, you don't understand--,"

"I could if you let me. You're the Wanderer, and an Oracle of Prodigy; you make the decisions for everyone."

"Yes and no. My powers are complicated. You could not even begin to understand them." She looked up to Hermione, and the girl returned her gaze. There was the sudden look of confusion in her face and the distant look of a Seer at work in her eyes. When she spoke next, it was almost in a hazy manner. "No," she said breathlessly. "You would understand them. You'd understand my powers farther than any mortal could. And you will, because you will have known them."

"What did you say?" Hermione asked in a voice no higher than a whisper. She was not sure if this was Crystal or the Wanderer speaking. But the Oracle blinked once and the life came back into her face, her trance broken.

"I speak nothing of concern," she told her, looking away. "Nothing."

Pursuing the subject no longer, Hermione returned her attention back to Draco. "What's happening to him then?" She sat back, bringing her knees up so she could rest her chin on them. "I've never seen him so peaceful."

"He is dreaming," Crystal told her, gently removing Draco's head from her lap. She set his head down onto the floor and stood up, staring down at him. "He is dreaming," she repeated, although with much more sorrow than before. She turned away from him and headed for the far wall where Hermione noticed that the chains had been brutally ripped out and were strewn across the floor. But as she watched the older girl lay her hand against the wall she noticed that in one small breath, the imposing magic that was her birthright fell away and she was merely Crystal Tiara once more. The light continued to pulse.

"And why is he dreaming?" Hermione asked. A tugging on her skirt caught her attention and she looked down to see Draco's hand intertwined in her dress, his knuckles white from holding so hard. "What is he dreaming?"

"He is dreaming because he needs to," Crystal replied, her voice choked-as if she was trying not to cry. "He can only remember through his dreams."

Hermione continued to stare at Draco's hand. "About his Dark Mark?" she asked. Crystal nodded.

"About his Dark Mark," she confirmed.

Draco's grip tightened.

****

Ron lay sprawled across the Gryffindor sofa, his arm thrown over his eyes so he wouldn't be blinded by the fire's light. With the rain pouring outside, it seemed that everything around him was far too cheerful and bright.

Rain.

~The beauty of the rain is when it falls.~

Ron groaned and flipped over on the cushions, burying his face into the crimson fabric. Why did Malfoy's words keep echoing in his head? Why did Malfoy echo in his head period?! The guy was an insignificant slimeball and his opinion did not matter, especially on the subject of Harry and the prophecy.

~The prediction Crystal made down in the dungeons was magnificent. It embodies everything that's beautiful about Potter within it.~

Ron sat up and threw the pillow away from his face. It flew across the room and landed in the fire, blazing into a spurt of white flames before returning to its original state once more. Scowling, Ron rose to his feet and began pacing. He had so much pent up energy, and he needed some way to rid himself of it all. There were still many rooms for him to investigate in the tower, but he was afraid to venture out of the safety of the common room. He couldn't face anyone at the moment.

And it wasn't for the sadness and pity he felt for Harry, or the shared feelings of sympathy he felt with Hermione and Leo, or the anger and rage he felt toward Malfoy and Crystal. Ron pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead, trying to push out the thought before he could finish it. But it came anyway.

He couldn't face anyone because he wasn't anyone. As shameful as it was for him to admit self-pity, it was true.

He was not Harry, fighting the forces of evil as they beat him down at every turn, and he wasn't Hermione, whose knowledge and kindness aided Harry and even called forth a strange friendship with Malfoy. And even Draco had a sense of significance to himself. He knew something, meant something and was just another part of the puzzle that could complete the entire picture. And Leo and Crystal were the ones to put the puzzle together.

But he, Ron, was nothing. He had no place to be there, no right and no importance. He didn't own a scar, didn't obtain a Dark Mark, hadn't been tormented by Purgatory and wasn't overly powerful. In fact, he had sent Harry to be trapped in Crystal's mind and brought his near death unto himself.

"And the sixth Weasley strikes again," he muttered, sighing heavily and let his hand fall away from his face. Then everything became enclosed to him, the fire much too hot. But he knew the stuffiness was from the guilt at pitying himself, and he wished he could stop but couldn't help it. "I need air," he informed no one, and moved over to the window.

Putting his weight behind the frame, he pushed open the heavy, glass and leaned out. A gust of cold, brittle wind splashed his face and the pouring rain had already soaked him and the carpet underneath. But he didn't care. It felt refreshing.

Gazing out across the dull gray landscape, Ron could only make out Enol's illusion faintly. The trees were swaying in the strong wind and the river to the side of the tower was overflowing with fresh rainwater. But he knew that underneath all this false glory lay souls, tired and worn, waiting for their time to come. And already he was thinking of Harry, and wondering if, by the end of this year, he would probably be one of these souls.

Thinking of Harry also made Ron imagine he was seeing him down on the ground, the rain coming no where near him and his white tunic standing out in the darkness.

But-wait.

Ron leaned farther out the window, the rain pelting down his back. He narrowed his eyes to get a better look and, sure enough, his assumptions were confirmed. It was Harry, wandering outside on a day like this; not to mention a place like this. But what was he doing?

But as Ron looked closer, he noticed that Harry wasn't alone. Something smaller and brighter was leading him through the rain, his hand raised into the air in front of him and warding the cold rain off of both of them. It was Leo.

****

"Where are we going?" Harry cried over the wind, crouching away from the rain. He needn't have bothered, though. Leo had set up a gentle force field around them to keep them dry. He held out his hand in front of him to keep it active, although he did not seem to notice the downpour at all.

"Trust me," he answered, leading the way into the forest. "Just-just trust me," he repeated, quietly this time. He continued to brave the terrain, his steps flawless in the horrible rain. But when Harry looked closer he noticed that Leo's feet never really touched the ground.

But he followed with no more doubt clouding his mind. He tailed the boy closely, keeping him within his line of vision. The storm plaguing Enol was vicious, bending the trees and overflowing the stream.

"What's with the fierce storm?" Harry shouted into Leo's ear, only to be faintly heard. But Leo caught every word.

"It's Crystal," he told him, tilting his head back but keeping his eyes in front of him. "It's reflecting her mood. This either means that she's depressed, she's angry.or she's actually sad." But by the tone of his voice, he highly doubted his last statement.

For a long time after that he said nothing, simply leading the way through the dense trees. Harry focused his concentration on keeping his footing. He, unfortunately, did not possess the ability of self- levitation, and he had to make sure he didn't find himself knee deep in a puddle. Tree roots, stones, and other forest nuisances were of no concern to him; the illusion took care of them.

It seemed that Leo's destination was pretty far, for Harry noticed that they should have been walking for well over half an hour now. Not to mention that they were going at a slow pace due to the rain. But just when his still tired body began to ache for the softness of a bed, Leo stopped walking.

"Here," he said, and then lowered his hand, rooting the force field into the ground. Harry raised his eyes from the ground, barely making out where they had stopped.

They were in the middle of a clearing, the trees surrounding them in a tight and secure circle. Although Harry did not know it, this was the same clearing Hermione had found Draco standing in; the same clearing where their bond had been created through fear.

"Where's here?" Harry asked. Leo just shook his head.

"Just wait," he replied. Shrugging, Harry settled himself on the forest floor, glad that the force field had covered the wet ground as it was implanted. He sat down and leaned back, his legs stretched out in front of him. Leo watched him, his gaze silent and calm, as Harry gathered together the breath he had lost on the walk. His chest rose rapidly, the cold air refreshing yet stinging his lungs. Leo hadn't thought that maybe this expedition would be a little much for him, but it was something Harry had to see. But soon Harry's senses picked up, and he raised his head to meet Leo's eyes.

"What?" he asked rather defensively, just a hint of friendly guard surrounding it. Leo shrugged.

"You look tired."

"I am."

Leo tilted his head. "So why didn't you say anything?"

"It's not a big deal," Harry replied, but immediately proved himself wrong by falling into a horrid coughing fit. Leo waited until he had finished, his face looking pale when finally he ceased.

"I should have let you rest," Leo insisted, his tone only slightly regretful.

"You should just drop the subject," Harry countered, although he smiled slightly.

Leo sighed. "I should've waited for a better time."

"You should pay more attention to your charges," Harry said, and pointed past Leo's leg toward the clearing. The boy followed his gesture curiously.

Standing in the clearing, his dark demeanor unmistakable, was a soul. The white slits for his eyes glowed savagely, yet they were not narrowed in hatred. It stood very still, the rain almost falling right through it.

Harry automatically jumped to his feet, his heart beating faster and faster. He involuntarily turned his back and was about to run right out of the protective shield when Leo's hand stopped him.

"No," he said, his eyes simple and at ease. "He is not mad. He will not hurt us."

Harry looked down at him and then looked at the darkened shadow blurred from the on coming rain.

"He?" Harry asked. Leo looked to the ground.

"Harry Potter, meet.my brother, Jakob."

****

Did sleep always require so much pain? He did not remember ever feeling this way. Stiff. Cold. Fear, that was different. Fear was common in the tower. And sleepless nights. He could remember that. But pain in his sleep. Pain only came when he woke up afterward. But this was real. This was pain. And it had broken his barriers of sleep.

Open your eyes Draco. See what you have forgotten.

He opened his eyes. He could not move. Frozen in a chair. Around him was a circle of hooded creatures. People. People he knew. Death Eaters. He flicked his gaze in front of him and another figure stood there. Tall and imposing; night's shadow had come to take him away. He did not know what was going on. He did not know why he felt deceived, mislead.betrayed.

"Let us begin," the Shadow said, his voice shrill yet low, piercing yet rumbling. But what would he begin?

Open your ears Draco. Hear what you have forgotten.

"Child of the night, release who you are and cease to be nothing but His," the Death Eaters were chanting. "Child of the night, release what you are and begin to be everything of His. Child of the night, release what you'll be and you will always belong to Him."

"Hold out your arm," the Shadow said. He obeyed, and the movement broke him from within. The Shadow pointed its wand to his arm, the white of his skin vulnerable. He could only watch. "Child of the night, bear what is mine. Know it to be your place and where you belong. Faith unto me and faith returned to you. Always put a lord before your own."

Open yourself Draco. Feel what you have forgotten.

A brand was burned into his skin. Heat more than pain. He couldn't say anything, didn't you know? He did not choose this. He was all but given a chance.

Black skull. Protruding snake. It would make them scream, to see it. It burnt like a brand, but their cries would only hurt more.

"Child of the night, hold your burden." The chant went on. "Blood of your blood. Blood of His blood. Blood of us all."

Dagger in its hand. Was it really there? Where were they now, for the light began to change. Blue was not the fire, golden was fire. Fire was red, orange, yellow. Never blue. Light was not blue. And stone was not dark and years away. His manor was perfect. Made to his liking. What was going on?

Dagger in its hand. The silver was stained, and the stain was red. Blood was red; so was fire. But the light was blue. But the dagger was real, and real was real. But why a dagger? Why such a blade, when spells could hurt so much deeper?

Dagger in its hand. It was meant for torture. Or could it be part of the ritual? What had they said? Why were there women? His head in her lap and her fingers cradled him. Don't let them use me, he cried. Don't let them near.

Dagger in its hand. It held it high above his head. Blood dripped from the tip as it plunged into his skin. Pain never felt so sweet! Sweet, sweet, as a dew drops first day and honey running softly through the trees!

"Blood of your blood. Blood of my blood. Your soul is no longer yours."

Was it a trick? Was this deception? He would never pay a price so grand. Never.

Do you remember?

Yes.

But why don't you know?

We cannot know what we do not want to.

The Dark Mark. It was different. A slash near the skull, smaller than anything else. Insignificant. Utterly important. Why had he felt betrayed? Draco, Draco, know what you have forgotten. Draco, Draco, feel and see and hear. It happened, long ago. When you were scared and they didn't stop. You were branded but you never belonged. You were chosen yet you never willingly came. You were used when you would have done it anyway. Deception can hurt where love can heal. Your path can never be altered.

****

Ron closed the window and slid the bolt home. He stood there for sometime, staring at the rain beating against the glass. He wanted to go outside and follow Harry; he wanted to make sure he was okay. But he couldn't. Fear had always been his downfall.

"Where is the ring I gave you?" Crystal asked, her voice breaking into his thoughts.

"In my room," he replied.

"Always wear it," she told him, her voice closer now, almost to his ear. He looked towards the ground.

"I don't want to wear it."

"Why?"

"Because it came from you."

There was a short pause. "Wear it.because I gave it to you," she said, placing a hand on his shoulder. The touch was warm and it took away the cold that the rain had brought. Ron looked up and into his reflection in the window. He could only see his face, because there was only his face.

"You touch me and I feel better, because it reminds me that you are human," he said, slowly turning around. "And I'd ask you to hold me, and help me to be strong." He looked behind him, and his serene expression did not change. "But you couldn't, because you are not there."

The fire cracked solemnly and the shadows danced across the walls, but the room was empty save for him. It had always been empty, and she had just never been.

.Ron woke with a start, his body jerking upward. He had fallen asleep on the sofa after he closed the window, and the dream he had had wasn't exactly a reassuring one.

But something strange seemed to have overcome him, for he rose silently to his feet and made his way up to his dormitory room. Once inside, he went to his nightstand and opened the drawer, rummaging in it for a few seconds before retrieving something.

It was the ring.

"The hilt was managed once, and now it shall be managed again," he said, slipping the intricate circle onto his finger. And even afterward, Ron hadn't the slightest clue to why he had said what he had said.

****

"What are you doing?" Harry asked. Leo had stepped out of the force field, the rain soaking him the minute he entered it, and made his way over to the soul. To his brother.

"I want you to watch something, Harry Potter," Leo was screaming, making sure his voice was heard over the violent storm. "I want you to see my brother on his judgment day."

Harry's eyes went wide. "What? What judgment day?"

Leo had come face to face with the shadow now, and the piercing white eyes of the soul stared down at him. "You were gone when I spoke of it," Leo called behind his back. "It is the day each soul in Purgatory waits for. It is the day when they return to their place of birth in Heaven, or suffer forever in the pit of Hell. They go to their place of eternity but leave behind their spirit with us."

Harry shook his head, the information swirling around in his mind. "But why do I have to watch? This should be something between your brother, your sister, and yourself."

"No!" Leo had rounded on him, the anger in his tone coming forth furiously. "That demoness is not worthy to face her brother! She has gone against everything that an Oracle of Prodigy stands for, tipping the scale between good and evil. She will never regain the forgiveness to do what she has promised."

"You can't say that about her," Harry heard himself reply. He did not know why he was sticking up for Crystal, but there was something inside of him that was saying that she was receiving more accusation than what was sufficient. "Why are you putting her through so much guilt? You're her brother; I thought you loved her!"

"I did," Leo bellowed, his hands clenching at his sides. "But she has betrayed me! It is more complicated than any of you could ever know."

"How? She's dealing with a gift she didn't ask for! She didn't have an alternative for this life." And suddenly Harry's mind remembered the one other path Crystal was given: death on the moor, blood of the earth.not a soul to see her lost life. There was an understanding between them now, between The-Boy-Who-Lived, and an Oracle who wished she never had. "What else is there to know?"

"Everything else! 'There is a balance to all things, everyone has a purpose. We are darkness and we are light', words of our very oath!"

"What?" Harry asked. The child was hysterical, speaking nonsense or else things Harry did not know. "Where did that come from?"

"We are bound to those words, Harry Potter," the boy said, turning away from him and facing the featureless shadow once more. "Now watch as I share this with you. You must see this." He raised his hand to the soul, his palm held open and exposed.

"But why?" Harry asked in desperation. "Why do I have to know this?"

"Because you must!" Leo cried, and then his being burst with the unbelievable power that he was able to mask so well. "WOHS EM EFIL! SHOW ME LIFE!"

Harry watched as a great beam of light fell from the sky onto the soul. It held perfectly still, staring at the little boy in front of him with his arms raised and his hair flying about his face in the wind. The rain had abruptly stopped, causing the force field around Harry to disappear. It seemed that even nature must hold her breath for an Oracle.

Leo, breathing hard, had his eyes closed and was clenching his raised fists. It looked as if he were seeing something in his mind's eye, things he did not want to see. There was a moment when he jerked involuntarily, and then fell to his knees with a great cry. All the while the soul of Jakob watched him, his tall frame staring mindlessly down at the brother he never knew.

"Such a life," Leo said, his voice strained. "Such a life to one of my own blood. And I never knew."

The beam seemed to glow brighter, although this change was dwarfed by the change following it. Horrendous cries had begun erupting in the air around them, growing each moment and suffocating them from within their clearing. Harry clamped his hands over his ears, trying to block out the sound. But he kept on watching, knowing that whatever was about to happen would be priceless beyond his years.

****

"What is that?" Hermione asked, looking up from Draco's face. She looked to Crystal standing by the wall and noticed that she had her head perked up too.

"I don't know, but it sounds familiar," she said. It was a faint buzzing noise, the vibration of it tickling Hermione's throat. She shook her head at the sensation and set Draco's head back onto the stone flooring, standing up and brushing off her dress.

"You're right," she said, moving to stand next to the Oracle. "It sounds familiar. But why does it seemed muffled?"

"My magic," Crystal replied. "It has created a shield around the dungeons." She then rose into the air, light as a feather in the wind, so that she could peer out the minute window near the top of the wall. She looked out, her white gown fluttering around her feet. "Oh no," she whispered, her face turning a pasty white. Hermione looked up at her.

"What? What's going on?" she asked. Crystal didn't look at her.

"Judgment," was all she said in return. Hermione's eyes widened. "Quick," Crystal said, the minute her feet were back on the ground. "He's performing a judgment, but it's no ordinary one. Besides, he can't be out there by himself! The souls--,"

"Don't exactly like him," Hermione interrupted. "He told me."

"Then you know he is in danger." The Oracle turned towards the door and started running for it, lowering the pulsing light as she went until it was entirely gone. They both ran into the hall and hurried to its end, hitting the landing of the stairs and flying up the steps as well.

"What about Draco?" Hermione asked, tailing Crystal closely from behind. "Can we just leave him there?"

"He'll be safe," Crystal answered, opening the door at the top and falling into the corridor. "He needs to stay that way for awhile."

"Why?"

"Because he needs to remember," she answered, and then said no more for quite some time.

****

The two girls continued on their journey through the maze of corridors, each one breathing harder as they pressed on. When they hit the entrance hall, Crystal pointed a finger towards the double doors. They flew open at the gesture and proceeded outside at top speeds.before abruptly stopping on the foyer.

The cries were coming from all around, each one more excruciating than the first. The Oracle threw her head this way and that, trying to find the source of the commotion. But the fantasy of Enol blocked her view.

"Gone with thee," she said hurriedly, waving her hand over the landscape. Following her gesture, the illusion disappeared only to reveal the agony of thousands of souls. "What is going on here?" Crystal screamed, her eyes wide and dull. Hermione came up behind her, her hands pressed firmly over her ears.

"It's worse than last time. There's more pain and suffering rather than anger," she said. The Oracle did not seem at all happy. She hurried down the steps and over to the nearest soul, crouching on the ground and cowering away from an invisible torture.

"Laeh rea dilch," Crystal said. She touched a finger to the shadow's brow and instantly it was cured. It rose noiselessly to its feet, staring at her with blank eyes. "Mor fereh wemac eht neecile?" she asked it. The shadow did not speak, but raised a darkened hand, pointing above the trees.

Crystal looked up and her eyes fell upon the column of light that she had missed before. She quickly beckoned Hermione over to her, her eyes never leaving the beacon in the sky. "Are you good with pain?" she asked when the girl came running to her. Hermione looked her at, puzzled.

"Yes," she replied, not sure what purpose the question held. Crystal snatched her hand up in her own, holding the other high above her head.

"Then hold on," she warned, and then let brought her hand crashing down.

It was a tremendous blow to the chest, if anyone wished to describe it. One minute you could be standing, unharmed, on the outskirts of the forest, and next you were blown backwards right to the center of the trees. Hermione actually fell to the ground by the forcing hit, stumbling over her garments and landing in the rain-soaked mud.

"Hermione," someone said from behind, and both girls spun around to see who it was. Harry stood near the edge of the clearing they had landed in, his being, dry as a summer day, yet his expression completely foreign to him.

"Harry? Wh-what are you doing out here? You should be in bed, resting," Hermione started, struggling to her feet. But the ground was still slippery, and she fell back down again. Harry hurried to her side and helped her to her feet. Once she could stand on her own, he backed away, allowing her to try and straighten out her dress. But he still had that dead, almost angry look still in his eyes.

"You shouldn't be out here," he suddenly told her. Hermione looked up from her skirt and stared at him.

"What do you mean I shouldn't be out here?"

"It's too dangerous."

"Yes, but more so for someone who's ill."

Harry's eyes narrowed in annoyance. "I'm not ill."

"Yes you are. Besides, Crystal brought me out here."

But at the sound of the Oracle's name, Harry's attention was diverted. He looked suddenly horrified and looked past her shoulder towards the center of the clearing. Following his gaze, Hermione turned to see what he was looking at. But what they saw did not matter to Crystal. They would watch if they must.

"Leo," she cried, her hair and drapery fanning out behind her. And it was no wonder either, as her magic instantly released a shield surrounding them, blocking out the sounds of the tortured souls. "What do you think you're doing?" It was odd hearing these words come from her. She sounded more like a scolding mother than anything else. "You're not supposed to be judging these things if I'm around!"

"Shut up!" Leo cried, his eyes squeezed shut. For once, he sounded like a little boy, having gotten in trouble for disobeying the rules. "You can't tell me what to do anymore! I am an Oracle as well and I am old enough to take care of myself. You found that out a long time ago."

"Off the point, Leo," Crystal responded, keeping her distance from her brother. "The souls do not welcome you. Judging a soul alone is dangerous! What if it attacked you, or worse! What if you entered one?"

"They won't attack me. Moreover, they're less likely to hurt me than you are."

Crystal faltered, words hitting her once more. Insults from a brother his age weren't accepted lightly. "How do you know they won't hurt you? How can you be so confident?"

"Because," Leo said, turning around and actually looking at her. "He's my brother."

And let the records show that no other time had Crystal looked so surprised and terrified than at that very moment.

****

Ron tried running again but it was no use. Those screams were so painful, so agonizingly horrid that they rendered him helpless. He could remember hearing them faintly through sleep one night, their tone drowned out by the barriers of unconsciousness, but this was so much more than that. So much more.

He pressed on, tired of playing the useless sidekick. "If they can do it then so can I," he said to himself, his own words lost in the wave of misery.

The moment the cries had erupted Ron had rushed to the window, eager to find the source of suffering. Upon gazing into Purgatory, two figures had caught his attention; two, slender frames, clad in white and rushing towards the woods. It could be no one else but Crystal and Hermione. When the Oracle took Hermione's hand and they disappeared, Ron had bolted out of the common room, reaching for his cloak on his way out. He would not be left behind again. He would be at his friend's side.

But as he flew down the last staircase, the pounding screeches ringing in his ears, he noticed that he was not the only one left in the tower. Someone else was making their way to the oak doors, though their journey seemed to be more difficult. As Ron descended the final steps he noticed the pale, blonde head struggling to stay up and the white skin of his hand as it reached weakly for the handle. Draco seemed to be having quite a bit of trouble standing on his own two feet, and it was apparent that he would do better lying asleep in bed.

"What are you doing here?" Ron called, walking over to the other boy who was leaning heavily against the door. Draco turned his head to see who had spoken, though the cold cruelty that he reserved for a Weasley was absent in his tired face.

"Weasley?" he asked, squinting slightly. Ron came to his side.

"What happened to you?" he asked. And to his astonishment, it was not spoken with brutality. But he had to yell to be heard, as the cries were growing in intensity. Draco clamped a hand over his ear, his head sensitive to the sound.

"Damn Oracle knocked me out," he replied. He squeezed his eyes shut. "Can you stop that screaming?"

Ron snorted. "No, you bloke," he replied, casting him an annoyed look. But at the lack of Draco's independence, he grabbed his arm and slung it around his neck, heaving him into a standing position. Draco seemed utterly confused, and stared at him with blank, gray eyes. "If anybody asks, I had a severe case of momentary stupidity and you just looked unbelievably pathetic. Otherwise, I never helped you," Ron said. Draco only nodded.

"Yeah, alright."

With that, Ron reached forward with his other arm and pulled the door open, the echoing terror increasing in volume. "You're going to have to run as hard as you can," Ron screamed into his ear. "We're going far."

"To the clearing," Draco answered, stepping in time to Ron's feet. "We need to get to the clearing. Ah, shit," he suddenly said. Ron didn't stop running with him.

"What?"

Draco looked devastated. "Now I owe you."

Ron shook his head, trying to suppress a grin in spite of the current events. "You have no idea."

****

They continued their journey in silence; even if they wanted to speak it would be lost in the chaos. At first both boys were afraid to venture into Enol without the illusion around them, what with the faceless souls suffering at every turn. But the column of light in the distance drove them to press on, knowing that something was happening and they wanted to be there to see it. They needed to be there to see it.

"You're getting heavy," Ron said after a while. He hiked Draco's arm higher around his neck and clasped his side with his other hand as best he could. "And you smell like rain."

"I was in the dungeon," Draco told him, trying to shift more of his weight onto his own two feet. "And you're just weak."

"Are you asking to be left behind or something? Because arguing will grant you that."

"Shut up and help me walk," Draco answered, and sure enough, Ron quieted down. It was rather odd. Never had they exchanged this many words without insulting one another's lineage and aiming for one another's throats. "Hey, Weasley?"

"Yeah?"

"I still think you're family's stupid."

Ron was panting hard from the prospect of running. Sweat drenched his brow and had dampened the back of his tunic. "Good. And I still think you're family would do better in a mental institution."

Draco winced as he distributed far too much weight on his weak legs. "Good."

They pressed on.

After a few moments, however, they were only yards away from where the clearing was. Draco relieved Ron of his dead weight and began walking on his own, slowing down every minute. Both looked, wide-eyed, as the beam of light rose high into the air, the warmth of it prominent. They tilted their heads back, trying to see just how far the light went.

"Is it just me," Draco started to say, his pace reducing itself to a leisurely stroll. "Or has the screaming died down?"

"It's not just you," Ron answered. "It sounds faraway now, but that's impossible. There are souls everywhere in Enol."

"But look. If the illusion's gone, how is it that the forest is still here?"

Ron stopped, looking around himself frantically and suspiciously. "I hadn't even noticed."

"That's because you're dim. Now come on, we're almost there--,"

"I am not dim," Ron retorted, cutting in front him. "It's just hard to thoroughly observe things when dead souls are crying all around you and you have to carry a fainted man across the landscape."

Enraged, Draco pushed his shoulder from behind.hard.

"Ow!"

"I didn't faint, half-wit, the Oracle knocked me out. She's done it to everyone, even you."

Ron rolled his eyes. "Yes, but I had the dignity to at least be injured, so I had a reason to pass out."

"Are you saying I'm fragile?"

"Of course not," he defended, hopping over a bush and barely missing a stray branch. "Because it goes without saying." Then he felt another hit on his shoulder and then a stinging pain at the back of his head. "Hey! You threw a rock at me!"

"Oh, very observant, Weasley," Draco muttered. "Keep walking." Grumbling, Ron proceeded towards the clearing, his anger relieving the pang of immense uncertainty. But soon the unease fell back upon him as the scene in the clearing revealed itself to him in full measure.

Everyone was there: Leo, Crystal, Hermione, and even Harry. But there was someone else; well, something else. Harry stood next to Hermione, well away from the two Oracles. They looked different from what he knew them to be. Harry looked angry more than anything, and Hermione was less afraid than she was interested and intent on what was happening. She stood a little behind Harry, her hand knotted in the fabric of his clothes. She had a habit of doing that, clinging to Harry when she was actually uncertain. It was the glow that was Harry, drawing strength from him when there was none around.

But the Oracles were a completely different story. It was a ceremony of power, that's all Ron could draw from it. Leo knelt in front of the beam of light, standing within it the shadow of a soul. He had his arms raised before it and his eyes were squeezed shut. Behind him stood Crystal, her hands on his shoulders. By the look of things, it didn't seem that Leo wanted her there at all, as his hand clenched into fists as his sister's grip tightened. But the look of disappointment, anger, and calm on Crystal's face was set, and she would not move.

"Judgment," Draco said, coming up from behind Ron. He spoke in a whisper, but because of the immense silence in the clearing, everyone heard. Harry and Hermione looked over at them, surprise overcoming all their emotions. Crystal turned as well, annoyed, but Leo did not notice; or if he did, he did not acknowledge it.

"Get in here, now!" Crystal was screaming to them, her voice booming in the quiet. One hand remained on Leo's shoulder while the other raised itself towards them. Both boys were pushed into the center of the clearing, falling to the ground. With that done, Crystal returned to facing the soul in the light, her determination returning.

"What was that about?" Ron asked, rising to his feet and helping Draco up, not minding his lack of finesse. Draco scowled at him as he took the offering hand.

"I told you, it's a judgment. They're sending that thing to Heaven or Hell, whichever place it deserves to be."

"But you were also disturbing the force field Crystal placed," Hermione told them coming towards them. Harry was beside her.

"Tell me what's really happening," Ron said, disregarding Draco's scowl. He neglected to ask why either of them was out here, as it was clear they had their reasons. Now, he only needed to know why he was out here at their side.

"It's a judgment alright," Harry said, staring over towards the ritual and absently pulling Ron and Hermione farther from it. "But Malfoy underestimates it. That's no ordinary soul.that's their brother."

"What?" both Ron and Draco exclaimed. Hermione urged them to be silent.

"Quiet, both of you! Harry, catch them up on what's been going on."

"Yeah, okay," he said, and turned back to the boys in hushed whispers. Having already heard the tale of the long lost Tiara sibling, Hermione brought her focus back to the event at hand. Everything had gone eerily silent and the world they were in seemed to fall in a time freeze. The only sound was coming from the monotonous whispers of little Leo, his lips barely moving as he spoke under his breath.

Crystal, without actually speaking the words, had told both Harry and her that judging their blood wouldn't be easy. It required a lengthy ceremony, one where the performer had to sacrifice a great amount of magic for the cause. Thus was her reason for growing angry with Leo. He was not yet old enough to handle such a job. So she decided to transfer her magic over to him. She went up behind him, muttered some words in Ytineres, and placed her hands slowly on his shoulders. The silence had become prominent then, and Leo had begun the incantation.

"But why the words?" Draco asked, staring back at the three held strong by magic. "The most he said last time was 'show me life'. Otherwise, he was done."

"Well, we don't exactly know why there needs to be a special ritual," Hermione said, moving over to the boys once more. "But I doubt any of us want to go over there and find out."

"And Leo brought you out here to watch it?" Ron questioned. "Why?"

"Do you really think there's an answer for that?" Harry replied. He sighed. "I just want to go to bed."

Ron took a step back, looking at him thoroughly. "You're really pale."

"You think? I've been out here for over an hour. In the rain." Harry stared at him, obviously disgruntled. "Without a cloak."

"Wait," Hermione started, placing a hand on Harry's arm to quiet him down. "Listen."

"To what?" Draco asked.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Listen to Leo," she said. Ron stared at her.

"Yeah, he's mumbling something. We know. What's the big deal?"

"Listen to what he's actually saying, that's the big deal! Now be quiet, all of you."

Harry shook his head, apparently longing for a time of rest. "Hermione, you know we can't understand a word they're saying!"

"Listen," Crystal's voice suddenly said, her strong tone surprising them all. The four of them turned towards the Oracle, taken aback that she had her head turned to them and was staring with her dark eyes. "Listen to him."

"There is a balance to all things, everything has a purpose."

Harry furrowed his brow, straightening up. "Do you hear that?"

"We are darkness, we are light. We are shadowed, and we are bright."

"What's he saying?" Ron tried. Harry's eyes just grew very wide.

"He said that to me before. He's reciting their oath; the Oracle's oath."

"We are caged, and we are free. We are blind, yet we may see."

"Do you feel that?" Hermione asked, her voice soft and dreamy. The three boys turned to her and saw that she had her eyes closed and was breathing deeply. "Do-do you feel that?" she repeated. "It hurts."

"Hermione!" Harry cried. She had suddenly lost it and fell backwards, her legs going limp from under her. Harry caught her in his arms, her body suddenly light and feeble. "What's happening to her?"

"Listen," Crystal said again. "Listen to him."

"From one side is Dark, to the other, Light. To neither are we bound; to both we are tied."

"She's right," Draco suddenly said, slowly doubling over. "I can feel it. I can.it hurts."

"What's going on?!"

"Ron, quiet down, please! Just take Hermione."

Ron took in a deep and shuddering breath, but he held out his arms towards Harry. "Yeah, okay." He bent down and scooped her up, the skirt of her dress draping his arms. "What's going on?"

"Every blessing, we'll know, though our hearts stay impure. Every sin, we'll have done, though for sins we shall yearn."

The ground began to shake under them, their footing growing unsure. Panicking, Ron fell to his knees and clutched Hermione in his arms so she'd stay safe. Harry held on to Draco's shoulder to steady him, but remained standing. "The ground," he said, staring at the sodden earth. "It's breaking."

"Breaking?" Ron cried.

"When powers unite, powers may fall. Hell be our stay; Heaven, our call."

Harry looked toward the Oracles, the thundering roar of power beating within his very heart. Beside him Draco was on his hands and knees, gasping for breath. It would have been in Harry's nature to see if he was alright, but regular thoughts evaded him now. He had eyes only for what was happening.

"Harry," Ron suddenly whispered, although the words rumbled audibly in his ears. "Harry, is that what I think it is?"

Harry looked over to his best friend. He saw Ron hold Hermione close to his chest, but his head was tilted back and he was staring, awestruck, at the sky. Harry followed his gaze to see what had caught him in such wonder. At the top of the golden column of light, swirling ferociously with blazing white clouds and a dark, sapphire sky, was the only place no one would ever live to see: Heaven.

It was peace and tranquility; chaos and turmoil; order and mayhem. It was everything and nothing.

It wasn't what Harry had expected. He had always thought of Heaven as a vague dream, with soft, fluffy clouds and warm, golden lights. He imagined choirs of immaculate angels, each one singing the world's praises. He envisioned the peace that would overcome the body, and the sweet, smiling face of someone who cared.

But the scene before him, the tremendous sight, was nothing compared to what he had thought it to be. It was the sky during a ferocious storm, although light echoed from everything around. Everything was havoc and welcoming. Within him, Harry could feel a great swelling, one that almost over came him. It was the feeling of joyous excitement, the need to let others know what he was seeing becoming almost unbearable. He could scarcely breathe, his heart pounding audibly in his chest. It was-- .so.strange.

"There it is," Leo said, staring at the sky and rising to his feet. He took a step back so he stood at Crystal's side. She didn't notice for she, too, was looking into the raging glory. Harry couldn't understand how he was able to hear them, but their words were strong and clear, so he listened. "It took a lot, but there it is."

"Hell will open soon," Crystal answered. "It won't stay silent if Heaven won't. It'll want Jakob."

Leo moved his eyes so that he looked up at his sister. His small hand reached out and took his sister's in his own. Surprised, Crystal looked down at him, absolutely nothing glowing through her eyes.

"You won't let that happen," he said, sounding so young and innocent. "You won't let that happen, will you Crysi?"

"No," Crystal said, her eyes lighting with joy although a smile did not appear on her lips. Harry squinted, trying to see her face better. "I won't let that happen."

"Because you're my big sister?" Leo asked. She nodded slowly.

"Yes. Because I'm your big sister and because Jakob was my big brother."

Leo shivered slightly. As if on response, Harry did as well. "What will you do?" he continued, looking down at the ground below him. Crystal followed his eyes and knelt down, her hand still holding her brother's.

"I'll close it," she said firmly. "I'll have to close it. But I need your help." Leo nodded slowly and deliberately. "I need you to lead Jakob up there." She pointed to the sky and in doing so, sent Heaven into a frenzy, the clouds quickening in their movements and a streak of light flashing across the sky. After a moment, it settled once more. "He doesn't know where to go, so you'll have to lead him. Can you do that?"

"Yes."

"Then do so," Crystal said, letting go of his hand. "It's happening now."

Leo suddenly looked back to where Harry and the others were clustered. The look in his eyes was that of immense joy, more so than he had ever seen before. "Are you watching?" he asked, his stare locking onto Harry. Harry shivered noticeably, his hands gripping themselves into fists. "Are you watching everything?"

"Yes," Harry replied, although he couldn't remember saying anything at all. "I'm watching."

"Good." Leo turned back towards the column. "Don't blink," he said. He shimmered slightly before dissolving into his swirl of blue lights. The small orbs floated towards the silent shadow hovering in the beam and encircled him.

"Say your good-byes brother," Crystal said, watching as the lights lifted the soul towards Heaven. "Time will allow you no others."

At that very moment a shrill cry wrenched the air. It stabbed its way into Harry's heart and penetrated his very being. In response, the ground before Crystal burst open and a horrendous flame rose to meet her. But it was no ordinary fire. The heat it gave off was sinister, singeing the edges of Harry's tunic. The surrounding trees simply withered away into black ash, the effects spreading throughout the forest. Even Leo, who had traveled quite a ways away, was halted by the flames. He was forced to materialize back into himself, his small body recoiling from the fire.

"Crysi!" he cried, staring down to where she had last been. Harry quickly searched the clearing for Crystal even though the flames stung his eyes. He called her name out a few times, but the attempts were in vain. He could not see her.

"Harry!" Ron's voice broke through Harry's panic, the alarm unnerving. He had almost forgotten the others behind him, their presence lost until this moment.

He spun around and looked to Ron still crouched on the ground. Hermione still lay in his arms, although something terribly wrong was happening to her. She was struggling to draw breath, one hand on her throat while the other gripped Ron's collar. She was slowly hunching into a ball, her eyes squeezed shut in her effort. "Harry, I don't know what's happening to her," Ron cried. He had Hermione across his lap, his hands holding her head up. His face had gone pale and ghostly, the opposite of what he usually looked like. Tears fell from his eyes, but Harry suspected they came from the burning fire rather than from grief.

"Hermione," Harry said, kneeling beside them both. At his side Draco still rested on all fours, although he seemed to have calmed down now. He was taking long shuddering breathes and watching as Harry tried desperately to help his friend. "Hermione, breathe!"

"Crystal!" she suddenly burst out, her body jerking in response. Harry fidgeted a little, his eyes darting across her face and trying to understand what was going on.

"Wh-what about Crystal? Hermione, you have to breathe. Just.just calm down, okay? You don't have to rush anything. Just take one, slow breath." He gripped her shoulder lightly as she followed his instructions. With a great exertion she was able to cease her struggle and draw one satisfying breath. She took another and then another, each time the life coming back into her face. Soon, her breathing became regular, and she no longer looked to be in so much pain.

"My god," Draco whispered from his side. Harry looked at him only to find his eyes intent on Hermione, although the wonder in his voice seemed to have no source. "Unbelievable."

"Crystal," Hermione said again. She turned her eyes to the fire, the flames reflected in her brown eyes. "Harry.she's in there."

Both Harry and Ron tore their eyes away from their friend and stared into the fire. In one fleeting moment Harry thought Hermione had gone mad. Nothing, not even beings of half immortality, could withstand such a merciless blaze. Because it wasn't just any fire, it was the inferno known as Hell. And Harry just had the gut feeling that such a place would show pity to no one.

But then a swirl of dark hair and a flash of white skirts caught his eye and his face paled. She was in there, right at the heart of the flames. "Crystal," he screamed, springing to his feet and racing towards the flames. But he couldn't even get near. He had hardly taken a step when the heat became unbearable to the point of death. The hem of his trousers fell into nothing but ash, and his body was drenched in sweat before he could even comprehend of stepping away. If Draco hadn't stood forward and pulled him back, he probably would have died.

"Damn it Potter, you could have been killed," he hissed, leaning heavily on Harry's shoulder. "Have you got shit for brains? She's a freaking Oracle! She's fine!"

"But.--but that's Hell," Harry replied, his voice coming out dead and parched. The heat had dried out his mouth. "Nothing can survive that alone."

"She's not alone," Draco answered, looking up into the beam. "Leo's helping her. He's giving her his powers." Harry looked up as well and watched as the boy was leading the soul to Heaven, his faced turned upward and making it impossible to see his features.

"How do you know?" he asked. Draco shook his head.

"Like Hell do I know," he answered.

****

Crystal whipped this way and that, her hands swiping uselessly at the flames. She was blind; blind, save for the churning colors of red, orange, and gold. She cried out, closed her eyes to the Fire, tried to run away.but it all ended in vain. There was no escape, and the heat was terrifying.

She had opened Hell before -- thousands of evil souls had been given their due when she Judged them - but she had never actually been within the Fire. She had never known its power and horror. And now.now she felt the hideous pang of fear. It was torture beyond torture! The penetrating heat began within her; her heart burst into ashes and she could feel as the embers smoldered and spread. She was dying from inside, during her brother's very own Judgment.

"Here," Leo's voice said, echoing in her mind. "I think you need help."

A fine, sweet cold began to grow from inside Crystal, the epicenter starting in her chest. It spread throughout her body, pushing out the murderous heat and revitalizing her once again. Crystal stopped her thrashings and let the magic take over her, the flames licking her body but her senses numb to their blows.

"Thank you," Crystal answered. She opened her eyes then. The light from the Fire was still increasingly painful, but she would bear it. It was the Voices that she feared.

"You're lonely."

"You're suffering."

"Come home with us; we'll keep you company."

"Your desires will kill you one day."

Crystal tried to block the eerie whispers out of her head and concentrate on the task at hand. She needed to close Hell. She needed to close Hell now.

"You've never known friendship."

"You've never known joy."

"You've never known a man, nor the satisfaction to lust. You've never known love."

"Your desires will kill you one day. We can save you from them."

She fell to her knees; the hard, coarse ground scraping her shins and sending fire rising up her arms. She ignored it. Her eyes held shut, she waved her hand in front of her face. A violet haze appeared and followed her hand where it went. Making the Celtic sign against enchantment in the air, she leaned forward and placed her fingers over the split in the earth. Her nimble touch found the beginning of the fissure and she began to feed her power into the earth. Slowly, ever so slowly, the ground beneath her began to mend.

"You want what they have."

"You want what they will never appreciate: friends, loves, lives."

"You want a world without shadows of light and darkness made from Heaven's sorrows."

"You're desires will kill you one day. We can save you from them. We know how."

Crystal clenched her teeth, urging her power forward. The sooner she finished, the sooner the Voices left her. The wretched demons of Hell had a power all their own: temptation. It was hard to resist them; of that she was certain. She knew they were nothing but lies and secrets, each trying to lure her into the pit of eternal suffering. But it was hard not to listen. The more she ignored them, the louder they became. They dug into her mind and burrowed deep within her thoughts.

"Have you ever felt the first stirrings of love?"

"Have you ever lived life without taking care of others?"

"Have you ever wanted to kill? The Higher Being forbids you to, but you are capable."

"It gnaws at you. You want to kill. You've always wanted to kill. Come with us. We'll let you."

"You're desires will kill you one day. We can save you from them. We know how. Come with us."

She was almost done. The Fire was diminishing now, the flames decreasing and the heat evaporating. Even the Voices were growing faint; their demon owners falling back into their tormented abyss. The violet mist outlined the tremendous crease, leering at her through the Fire. But the task was almost done. Hell was closing, and her brother would rest forever in the civil chaos of Heaven.

"Your successors!" a voice suddenly cried, edged with the unmistakable pleading of a soul in need. "Your successors will mark the end of you life! Take heed, dear Oracle! The day they come to their calling will be the day you will die!"

Crystal froze, her fingers hovering over the ground. The Voices never sounded like this, shrill and beseeching. They were aggressive and demanding, not suffering cries on the brink of tears.

"Let the Dark One never leave your sight! His is the fate to end all fates! The line of the great king lives, and the Sword shall rise again. Take heed, dear Oracle! The fate will end all fates, and the hand shall wield the Sword again."

With a deafening rushing sound, Hell was sealed. The flames flew into the night sky as the last crack was mended, and the world was sent into a temporary blindness of golden blaze. Then the light died slowly and Enol was as it should have been. In the distance, Purgatory stood in all her horrific glory, while the illusion of the forest still lingered where Crystal knelt.

Breathing hard, she struggled to her feet, her skirt bunched in her hands and her dark eyes wide with fear. She was shivering madly, though she had no idea why.

"Look!" Ron cried, his voice jagged and strained. Crystal threw her head back and looked up, the sweat dripping from her brow.

At the tip of the beam of light, their white hue vivid among other things, was Leo and Jakob. They hovered across from each other, strangers in life, companions in death; brothers in both. Crystal watched as Leo touched his hand to his chest and then reach forward to touch Jakob's. As his fingers came in contact, the eerie covering of a soul melted away and Jakob looked like Jakob had in the world.

Enol feel into silence. All the world, from theirs to the real, stood and watched as the first Tiara sibling was finally revealed. It was slow; the tint of death slowly slipping from his body. It was not really him, for no amount of magic could bring a being back to life. But it was the essence of him, materializing as he passed into his other life.

The hair like Leo's, the eyes like Crystal's, and the strong shoulders and supple hands of them both; he was their kin in every way.

"Good bye, Jakob," Crystal whispered, wrapping her arms around herself. She dare not go up there and speak to him face to face. She was far too stained with the sins of her youth to face him. Only Leo was worthy. She said her farewells from the ground, gazing at him from a distance as she had been forced to do all her life. "Live well."

She watched as Leo dissolved into light once more and began to descend back to earth. Jakob, on the other hand, began to rise. Rise into Heaven, amongst the blue sky and white clouds. Before anyone knew it, he was gone, and the Judgment had ended.

The beam of light disappeared as Heaven closed its gates once more. The illusion fell slowly back into place and the black, charred lands of Purgatory faded into the pleasant forest again. There was an interval of silence here, one where the quiet was broken only by the deep and ragged breathing of all five occupants of the clearing. Crystal still stood in the middle of the circle of trees, her hands tight around the fabric of her dress and her head still thrown back. Her eyes were closed and she was working to steady her breath. Harry stood only a little ways away from her, one arm unknowingly supporting Malfoy. Both boys looked tired beyond reason, their hairs tousled and their faces devoid of any color. And behind them sat Ron, still holding Hermione in his arms. She had awaken fully now, though she clung to Ron with a child-like fear. Ron, himself, sat with her in a strong embrace; his head was bowed low and he was inhaling weakly. No one said a word.

****

Leo stood next to his sister, looking at everyone and feeling an immense sense of guilt. He really should have waited for a better day to do this ceremony. Everyone looked sick.

He had remained standing in silence, his descent greeted by quiet gasps and coughs. He, himself, was unharmed in anyway. On the contrary, he was very much in an elation of joy. He had seen his brother, spoken to him, shared memories with him, exchanged smiles with him. It all happened slowly and quickly at the same time, neither one seeming to fit the moment that they had been in. But he was happy, and right now, that was all that mattered.

But his happiness could have waited a little longer.

Ron looked shamed, Hermione was in shock, Draco seemed drained, Harry had been ill, and his own sister was on the verge of passing out. He should have waited for a better day to do this. He should have waited until Harry had rested from his ordeal before he dragged him out into the middle of Enol. It was his temper that had done this to him, and he felt disgraceful. But only slightly.

"Crysi," he said, looking up at her. She did not look down to him or open her eyes.

"What?"

"Go ahead. I'll take all of you back to the tower."

Crystal sighed in relief. "Thank you," she breathed, and fell backward onto a bed of light that Leo and conjured. The boy made his way to Harry and Draco then, Crystal's unconscious weight hovering behind him.

"You got sick from the rain," he said, reaching up and feeling Harry's forehead. The most he could do was nod in response. "And you've been drained of your energy," he said to Draco, shaking his head and checking his pulse. "I'll take you to the tower as well." He conjured two stretchers with a wave of his hand and helped both boys onto them. "I'd let you sleep on light as well," he explained, indicating his sister. "But a physical object would just feel better to you than floating on nothing." Harry only nodded before falling into a deep sleep.

Leo then strode over to Ron and Hermione. "Sleep," he said, touching a cold finger to Hermione's burning face. She instantly went limp, her fingers releasing their grasp and her eyes going slack once more. With the help of Ron, Leo laid Hermione on a third stretcher. "Your turn," he then said, facing Ron and bringing up one more stretcher. To his surprise, the boy shook his weary red head.

"I'll walk with you," he said, his voice almost gone now. He brushed off his clothes and ran a trembling hand through his hair. Leo stared up at him, unconvinced.

"It's alright, Ronald Weasley. You'd like it better if you laid down and slept."

"But I want to watch over Harry and Hermione," Ron protested. He glanced at them before pulling nervously at his collar. "I want to be able to protect them if something else happens."

Leo smiled tiredly, impressed by such devotion. "I will take care of them. Sleep."

"Okay," Ron answered abruptly, sleep already tugging at his eyes. He collapsed on the spot, causing Leo to direct the stretcher behind him so that he fell neatly onto it. With everyone trailing in a convoy, Leo made his way back to the tower.

A/N: Late post once again. I'm sorry. Eternal thanks to all my faithful readers:

epicyclical dan-rad Casey Silvia Dreaming One sniggler27 Silnar Emmi Apolla2 Adrielle*Silverleaf LuckyQH

Thanks for sticking with me. My appreciation can only be described so far! =) I will do everything within my power to get the next chapter up by Christmas or else Harry Potter deny me as a fan!!! thunder and lightening Besides, the creative juices are flowing and I can't wait to dive back into 'Oracles'. Happy Holidays! Au revoir.