A/N: This chapter was beta-ed by the fantastic AutumnSouls. She also writes stuff that's really cool, so go check her out too.
When you are reading this, it is undoubtedly because I am dead. I asked Sirius to keep it safe for you, without anyone (except you, naturally) ever reading its contents. If I survive through the War, then I will retrieve this from him. If not, it will pass on to you.
One thing you must understand; this is not for the weak of mind and will. I will say this as honestly as I can - the contents of this book are very likely what got me killed. If this does not dissuade you, then read on - but know this; you will not be able to back away from this world if you have set even a foot into it. Your only chance to return to a more normal life is to burn this book, forget it ever existed, and carry the last knowledge of it to your grave.
I am conflicted about whether to allow you to even consider reading this. On the one hand, this book details terrible and horrific arcane arts that have been mostly forgotten in time, collected painstakingly by my grandmother and her grandmother before her, and from my own efforts during my Hogwarts years. On the other hand, I have sacrificed my body, my mind, and my soul to the study of these magicks purely to keep you as safe as I can - and you may understandably have people of your own whom you care for, even if only yourself.
I'm afraid there's not much more to elaborate without giving away the book's contents. I should mention that your life will become significantly more dangerous should you choose to delve into the contents of this book, but significantly more rewarding; you will find yourself gambling very often with your sanity, your life, and things that you possess yet you never knew existed; you will very likely lose everything in a single misstep, but should you succeed, you may obtain great things - power, authority, and knowledge that could change the course of history.
I ask you not to make a choice immediately. Think over it for at least three days. This choice can never be taken back, no matter how much you may wish it so.
I love you.
Iris dusted the chalk off her hands and stared at the circle she'd drawn.
If Vernon and Petunia saw this, they would throw her out into the street. They were honest, God-fearing folk that didn't do things beyond their comfort zone and especially didn't delve into sorcery. Drawing a pentagram wider than Iris was tall was surely not one of the few approved activities on their list of things Iris could do.
She'd been visiting this place for almost a month now. A storm-drain, the place she picked being the center of a tunnel, utterly dark and damp, and consequently, nobody came here, not even vagrants. It had taken her three days to clear out all the broken glass and other gunk that had piled up here, then the next day it'd rained and given her all the work to do again. This past week, it hadn't rained at all, and the tunnel was relatively dry, dry enough to draw on with chalk. This, perhaps, would be her last shot to do something before it rained again and all her work was for naught.
A circle, thirteen feet in diameter. Five sharp lines forming a star, the outer vertices overlapping with the circumference. Ancient runes written into the spaces between the straight or curved lines, and a single lit candle placed on the northeastern vertex. She reached out tentatively with a foot, and scuffed the chalk circle at two places, the north north-east and east north-east, creating two small scratches. She stood facing the circle, standing at the southwest, and swallowed.
She didn't need her wand for this one. Not as complex as wandless magic, because all she was doing was releasing the magic from her body and letting it enter the circle, powering it. She took a deep breath, and slowly exhaled, focusing on her inner turmoil; the magic, taking presence of a gentle white smoke, rolled out of her mouth, slowly falling to the ground. She continued to exhale for twenty seconds, until a small puddle of the stuff fell. While the movements were slow, it quickened as it neared the circle, as if it were being sucked in; after a brief moment, the last of the mist was gone, and the circle and pentagram glowed a little bit brighter.
"I call thy name," Iris whispered into the silence. "I summon thee to the mortal realm. Heed my call, Eligos, and serve."
It might not have sounded as cool as Latin or Ancient Greek or what-have-you, but it was better than risking grammatical or pronunciation errors for a language she didn't know. The circle glowed brighter, just a little bit, and the light faded away. Iris watched the circle intently for several more minutes.
The candle remained lit.
Iris sighed, softly, so not to disturb the circle. A failure, then. Reading that journal, Iris was fairly certain that her mother was somewhat insane towards the end of it. She picked up her backpack, a frayed object that Dudley had once ruined; Petunia had given it to Iris without so much as repairing it, making her stitch it up herself instead. Her chalk, her candles, and her lighter all went back inside, and she was about to leave when she heard some hooligans approach from the exit she wished to go through.
"Well, well, well! If it isn't the Witch Bitch!"
Iris schooled her expression into neutrality as 'Big D' and his four lieutenants approached. Figures. They'd be the sort to look for abandoned areas in which to smoke pot and drink without getting yelled at by truant officers. Iris' hand unconsciously went up to her throat, where she clutched the silver chain that had been with her for almost all her life.
"What are you doing here?" Dudley said, smirking, although the smirk faded a bit when he saw the pentagram. "The fuck? Are you actually summoning Bloody Mary or something?"
"Bloody hell, she's an actual Satanist," one of his mates muttered. He managed to convey a surprising amount of disapproval in his tone despite being a failure at life himself.
"Well? What are you doing, slag?" Dudley asked. "Trying to bring mummy and daddy from the dead?"
"Fuck off, Dudley," Iris said with as much venom as she could muster. Dudley was sort of immune to it by this point, though, and he just smirked.
"Or maybe you're trying to resurrect Cedric?" Dudley sniggered, and Iris went deathly still. She vaguely recognized that her hands were impossibly cold and beginning to shake. "Always moaning his name in your sleep - who's Cedric, Iris? Your boyfriend? Your pimp?" He adopted a falsetto that was still deeper than Iris' normal voice. "Oh, don't kill Cedric!"
"Dudley, just - bugger off," Iris said.
"Shit, mate, she's pissed," laughed Piers Polkiss. "She looks like she wants to murder you!"
"She can try," Dudley said disinterestedly, but Iris didn't miss the way he glanced warily at the pentagram.
"Big D," one of the other pimpled gobshites spoke up. "Why's she off-limits, mate? You could let us teach her a lesson, you know. Maybe pound it into her, if you know what I mean."
Someone snorted, but Piers and Dudley shot him a dirty look. Apparently even they weren't so morally decayed as to find rape funny. Iris took a hesitant step back either way. She would defend herself, but she didn't want to. The Ministry never believed that a house-elf had cast a Hover Charm three years ago - they might very well snap her wand the next time.
"Not funny, fuckface," Dudley muttered, shaking his head. "You're not thirteen anymore."
The kid looked shamefaced, ducking away. "Yeah. Sorry, mate."
"So!" Dudley turned back to Iris. "Do you wanna hang out with us? I know you have no friends. Never managed to make any. Or maybe they're dead alongside Cedric."
The hesitance disappeared and the rage came back, bubbling to the surface. "Don't talk about him," she snarled. "He was a hundred times the man that you'll ever be."
The candle went out, and everyone stared at it.
There had been no wind. There had been no wind this entire day, in fact, and whatever wind there was didn't make it in that deep inside the tunnel. There certainly hadn't been any when the candle spontaneously went out, leaving the six of them with a little less light and a thin trail of smoke floating up to the surface.
"Maybe she actually is a Satanist," someone muttered.
"Whatever," Dudley dismissed, although he was definitely unnerved. He always was, when he suspected witchcraft, even if it wasn't that. Iris stared at the circle she'd drawn. White chalk, carefully drawn shapes, a single unlit candle on the northeastern vertex and two scuffs where she'd dragged her toes across them. Nothing had changed.
A low, mournful sound filled the tunnel, steadily growing louder. Dudley was frozen in place even as his mates began backing away. The sound became louder and louder, higher pitched, echoing through the tunnel, until it was an impossibly loud, inhuman shriek. Iris cried out in pain, clapping her hands over her ears, as the noise reached a crescendo and held the note. Dudley fell on his arse and began scrambling away. The pentagram faded away into nothingness and the chalk dust hounded after Dudley like a malevolent blizzard.
Then it stopped.
Iris staggered slightly, letting her hands go. She heard… nothing. Just ordinary sounds of the neighborhood. Cars, birds, children running home from school. Dudley stared at her with terrified eyes.
"What - what the fuck was that?" he snapped at her. "I'm going to tell mum and dad."
Iris didn't respond. That - that shouldn't have happened. What was going on? Dudley stood up and began walking from the tunnel, shoulders hunched and hands inside his jacket pockets, determinedly not looking at Iris. Iris sighed, picking up her backpack, and followed him out. She too determinedly didn't look at him, instead staring at the rubbish-covered ground just behind him, but a sudden movement caught her attention.
Her eyes snapped up to find a giant of a person wearing a coat, standing in front of Dudley. They were so tall that their head wasn't visible from where Iris was standing, being blocked out by the archway of the storm drain tunnel. Funnily enough, Dudley didn't seem to notice, walking straight at him. Iris felt a lump form in her throat, and she stopped, and hoarsely shouted.
"Dudley, stop! Come back!"
"Fuck off, freak!" Dudley shouted back, and walked right into the person, and finally realized he'd bumped into something.
Iris watched him flail about, wondering what he'd bumped into. Then he realized that he couldn't see it, and began to panic. When Dudley panicked, he was the kind of person to shut down. That was - that was not the correct response in this situation. A single, skeletal arm in an oversized coat sleeve lifted up, and grasped Dudley's shoulder.
Iris rushed forward, and grabbed Dudley's other arm, tugging at it. Dudley flailed fitfully, hitting Iris across the face and knocking her glasses off; Iris scrambled back, snatching them up as she did so. The skeletal being grasped Dudley's throat and lifted him up, pulling him out from the tunnel so that they could look at eye-level to each other.
Dudley's head disappeared above the tunnel archway. Then, the being let go of him, dropping him. He did not move.
Iris swore and drew her wand. There was no other choice, as much as she'd wanted to avoid it. She raised her wand, and bringing forth memories of studying with Hermione in the library, practicing Quidditch with Katie and Angelina and Alicia, and Mrs. Weasley's great big hugs - she spoke.
A silvery light burst from the tip of her wand, bubbling and coalescing into a beautiful stag, almost too large to fit in this tunnel, being forced to lower its head to make sure its antlers didn't scrape against the ceiling. A sense of tranquility and courage bloomed in her heart as her guardian charged at the terrible thing, roaring in such a way that she heard it in her mind rather than with her ears, and Iris stood confident.
The tall person caught her beast, skidding back a few steps. Then, it grabbed her stag's antlers, and twisted. The wet snap that followed sliced through all her courage and tranquility and replaced it with utter, utter dread. Her stag dissipated into mist, and Iris felt her knees getting weak.
What had just happened?
The tall person took a step towards her, and then stopped at the entrance.
Iris blinked. Was… was it waiting for her? To try and go home? Either way, it wasn't attacking her, wasn't following her deeper into the tunnel. Did it dislike the darkness? Strong against the light, weak against the shadow? Was that why it had managed to dispatch - murder her guardian? Iris took trembling steps forward, her wand held in front of her. When she came within three feet of the weird creature, it lashed out with its long arms, trying to grab her; Iris fell to the ground and scrambled back, the action of her slipping and falling fortunately keeping her from being caught in the thing's grasp. Then her arm brushed against Dudley's momentarily forgotten body and she shrieked.
He was… he was so cold. No pulse. No breath. And… and...
Iris screamed in horror as she witnessed the empty eye sockets that graced Dudley's face. The blackness stared accusingly at her, blaming her, but without anger, only sorrow and pain. She scrambled to her feet and ran towards the other end of the storm drain; she risked a glance back and saw that the thing was shuffling away from the entrance, as if to cut her off from the other side.
Her heart pounded more fiercely with the terror of the situation. People told her that she had her mother's eyes. They told her that enough that she got sick of hearing it but she didn't want to lose her eyes like Dudley did. She ran faster.
She charged out of the tunnel, nothing blocking her way, and she continued moving forward and onto the streets. She barely spared a glance for oncoming traffic, more concerned with getting away getting away getting away. Under the threat and the unyielding panic in her heart, there was no reason to the paths she took, and that was how she ended up in the local public library. She breathed hard, understanding why she might have been led here; this had always been her sanctuary from Dudley and his friends.
Iris ducked behind the closest shelf immediately, and peered through a gap in the books to look outside. The figure approached, taking slow, methodical steps, as if walking didn't come naturally to it and it had to put in effort to the motions. She began to shake as it approached, in its long, black coat hanging loosely off its eight-foot frame. The head was hidden by a hood that cast a shadow over its face. For some reason, Iris was glad for the hood. Otherwise, she might be staring into something quite horrific…
"Are you alright, love?" a voice interrupted her train of thought, and Iris flinched violently. A young librarian, maybe in her early thirties, pursed her lips. "No. You're clearly not. What's wrong?"
Iris swallowed, her words trapped by fear. She glanced at the front of the library again. The creature stopped as its head bumped into the doorway. To any other observer, it must have appeared as though the automatic doors were opening and closing without reason. The librarian followed Iris' line of sight to the doors, and frowned.
"Strange," she murmured, and made to approach.
"No!" Iris let out a strangled yelp, and the woman paused, turning back to Iris.
"Th-there's something there," Iris stammered. God, she must sound like a lunatic. "I - damn it, you have to believe me. It's been following me. My cousin - oh, God, it killed my cousin. You have to believe me."
"Something there, you say?" she looked again, scrutinizing it from a distance. The figure in the doorway restlessly shuffled, agitated at its inability to move inside, at the glass doorway for preventing its entrance. "Okay. Would you like me to call the police, love?"
Iris shook her head. "I - I don't think they can help. You can't see it, can you? I doubt they could either. It's after me. I know it is."
"Alright. No police," the woman said after an infuriatingly long pause. Probably wondering if she should call the police, but not for Iris. "What can I do instead, then?"
"Y-yeah. No police. Don't want them to get hurt," Iris said quietly. "Hey, could - could you open the back entrance? I know there is one, even if it's not used. I used to come to this place all the time as a kid. Hide from my bullies."
The woman didn't like that suggestion, Iris could tell, but at the same time she was probably trying not to upset her, thinking she was high or something. Iris laughed bitterly. Fuck. She should've thrown her mother's journal in the fire the first time she set eyes on it, like mum had suggested she do. Instead she had to look at it, read it, get curious, because she had been locked in her room all summer with nothing to do.
"Please, just open the back door for me. I won't hurt anyone. I'll be on my way, alright? Don't make me go near that thing. I can't. I don't want to die…"
The woman finally nodded, though clearly not happy. Probably just to make sure that Iris didn't hurt the patrons of the library or throw a tantrum and ruin the nice categorized books. She began walking briskly towards the rear doors. They were made of wood with windows, not automatic like the front doors were. The wood was worn and the paint peeling in some places. It would lead straight to the public garden behind the library, where people could enjoy their books, once upon a time.
There was a massive crash and Iris flinched, looking back, the librarian doing the same. The glass doorway had shattered as the thing finally ran out of patience. Now it was walking through the library, the dark hood aimed at Iris, purposefully slow in that strange gait of theirs. The shellshocked librarian stood dumbly with the keys in her hand.
Iris screamed in frustration, snatching the keys from her limp fingers. "Which key?!"
The librarian didn't respond, her eyes going glassy. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
Iris picked the oldest-looking key, a simple and worn brass one, and jiggled the lock, which was also made of brass. A pretty good guess, except for the fact that the key got stuck. Iris shoulder-charged the door to no avail. She ripped the key from the lock and tossed it away; she shoved the librarian in the opposite direction, and drew her wand.
Her emotions toiling, the blasting curse was significantly more violent than usual. The glass shattered into fragments the size of her pinky nail; the wood fractured and splinters flew in all directions, including on Iris' exposed arms and cheeks. She charged through the half-ruined doors and spared a glance back; the creature was less than fifty feet from her. She sucked in a deep breath, and thrust her wand at the thing.
The thing made no attempt to dodge the explosion curse; dust was raised and nearby bookshelves fell like dominoes when it struck with a bang. The thing continued to walk as if it had encountered nothing. No magic, then. Iris turned around and ran, as fast as she could. She thought of her options. Where could she go? She didn't have any friends here. She knew where Hermione lived, but that was on the other side of London, and she wouldn't want to drag the thing to Hermione anyway. The Burrow? If only she could apparate - fuck! What else could she possibly use? She didn't have her school supplies, her small amount of magical currency, and she didn't have her Firebolt either-
She almost paused in her epiphany, with only the threat of whatever was chasing her prompting her to keep running.
Iris raised her wand at the general direction of Privet Drive, and uncaring of who saw or heard, she screamed.
"Accio Firebolt, money-purse, Hogwarts supplies!" And Hedwig! "Accio bars on windows!" There. She'd be able to get out now.
Then she kept running.
After a minute, she heard something fly towards her; hope bloomed in her belly as she wondered if her things had come. No, it was a fucking Ministry owl, all regal and pompous-looking, and it dropped a letter. Iris did her best to ignore it, but the stupid scrap of parchment was fast enough to keep up with her adrenaline-fueled sprint, and it unfolded. The owl disappeared somewhere, probably going back to the Ministry so it could start sending her letters about how she'd used Blasting curses and all that as well.
"Iris Potter," said the smug voice, "the Ministry has received reports of a Patronus charm cast in the vicinity of-"
Iris shot a tongue of flame at it, instantly incinerating the letter. Fuck the Patronus, fuck the Ministry, and fuck the house arrest that Dumbledore had put her in! If she'd had access to her friends, maybe she wouldn't have gone stir-crazy and read the journal that belonged to her insane mother.
She took a deep breath, painful as it was with her ragged lungs, to try and calm down. No. It wasn't their fault that Iris decided to ignore her mum's warnings and keep reading. It wasn't their fault that Iris tried drawing a bloody pentagram to summon otherworldly creatures. But it would've been great if she had some actual company, instead of being left to wallow in her depression and continue to have nightmares about the graveyard with nobody to comfort her.
She continued running.
What about the Knight Bus? Did they take IOUs? After all, her stuff was flying out here, including her purse, although Iris wasn't certain if it could catch up with the magical torture-transportation. Her heart went wild for a moment as she considered the possibility of her summoning charm not working; she wasn't in a right state of mind, she might have been too far away from 4 Privet Drive, could it be possible that she was all alone?
Her worries disappeared as her trunk, her purse, and her firebolt came from the distance, coming to a neat stop in front of her. She leapt onto the broom, used a special clip that she'd bought at a Quidditch supplies store that locked her trunk onto the read end of her broom, pulled the cord of the purse around her neck and stuffed the purse itself under her shirt; and then she took off into the air.
Summer temperatures meant nothing when she was flying, not wearing protective equipment, and the sun was low. Flying at a reasonable one hundred miles an hour, her fingers were already simultaneously numb and stinging from the cold; her arms were covered in goosebumps, and her ears felt like they were going to fall off. Still… she needed distance. She needed to get away from whatever that thing was. She couldn't stop now, she couldn't rest, until she had enough distance from that thing that she might be able to get a decent amount of rest.
Where was safe? She had no idea where Sirius was staying. She had no idea how to get to Ron's place, because the last time she'd gone, it had been via Floo rather than actual physical travel. She lamented again her inability to apparate. Maybe she would be safe at Hogwarts? After all, Hogwarts was a stronghold of ancient magics, layered with protection for things that were forgotten these days. If anywhere was safe from what was chasing her, it would surely be Hogwarts.
Her destination decided, she flew north. It would take hours, and she would need to gear up. She came to a halt in mid-air, and stood on her toes atop the broom; in this uncomfortable position that Wood had made her practice her balance with, she unlatched her trunk and dragged out her Quidditch robes. Heavy, breaking wind, waterproof, it was everything she needed for the journey. The additional padding on her crotch helped too - another reason brooms weren't the nicest transport, even with cushioning charms, especially for the men. Iris couldn't say she'd ever tried changing clothes a thousand feet in the air, but there was a first time for everything. Her broom was clever enough to compensate for her wobbling somewhat, so Iris managed to change, taking three whole minutes to do so.
She wondered how much ground the thing had covered.
Thinking about the tall man made her shiver still, but she wasn't panicking anymore. She began pushing the broom to its top speed, a theoretical 244 miles per hour indicated air-speed. She wasn't sure how good hers was still, with all the wear and tear on it, but it was fast enough. She pulled on her padded leather flying helmet - something she'd thought was really cool ever since she visited the Imperial War Museum on a school trip back when she was nine years old - and her aviator goggles, magically charmed to match her prescription. She cast a bubble-head charm around her lower face to improve breathability and resist the cold, even as she drove her Firebolt up in a steep sixty-degree incline.
She punched straight through the clouds, and shot into the sky. She might not have gone to Muggle school beyond occasional summer classes, but she wasn't dumb (especially with all the time she spent in that library as a kid) and she knew full well that higher altitudes meant going faster. It was hard to tell just how fast, considering how the sky around her was so vast, but even with her Quidditch outfit - fully concealing, made of multiple layers of leather and wool padding, with warming charms stitched into them - she was starting to feel cold.
The sky was beautiful. There was that, at least.
She'd never climbed so high on her broom before. There really had been no need to do so; brooms, for the most part, were used as sporting items rather than meaningful transport, due to their inability to carry more than one or two people, with little to no cargo, and their speed lacked when compared to the Floo or apparition. And if they were only used for Quidditch - and a few other sports around the world, like Broom Racing or whatever - then they didn't need to get up so high. With that in mind, brooms weren't really suited to high altitudes, either. But her trusty Firebolt sped on, gaining speed. Three hundred miles per hour sounded about right, measuring by instinct.
As the sky darkened, she almost struck something in front of her.
Iris let out an undignified yelp as she performed a barrel roll, twisted down and out of the way of whatever she was about to hit. What the hell? A balloon or something, maybe? She spared a glance back, and ice-cold terror gripped her heart.
It appeared like a bolt of fabric, accidentally rolled out in the wind, stretching fifteen feet. The fabric was tattered and worn, visible even in the darkness. At the top… a pair of rotting arms emerged from torn-off sleeves, the skin unattached to the flesh and limply hanging off whatever was left of the meat, and the face of the thing was hidden by a mask made out of some sort of avian skull, dirty and cracked, and the strangely black eye-sockets (Dudley's missing his eyes) stared right at her. She tried to forget that glint of gold on the corpse's left index finger, a cheap and tacky gold ring just like the kind her cousin used to wear.
A coincidence. It had to be.
Coincidence. Coincidence. Coincidence.
Iris pushed the Firebolt into a violent downward spiral as the thing lunged at her, covering hundreds of feet in seconds. A scream was torn from her throat. She plunged through the clouds, letting gravity drag her down, going faster than she'd ever gone; she pulled up sharply and pointed herself at the horizon, the broom bleeding speed as gravity once again became a force to be fought against instead of an ally to be welcomed. Behind her, the thing emerged from the clouds, chasing her in a straight line, the fabric billowing behind it like infinitely thin tentacles waiting to grab her.
The wind howled, deafening her even as the sound of her own blood rushed through her skull. It reminded her of the time Mrs. Figg had taken her to an RAF air show and the sky overhead roared with English Electric Lightnings and F-4II Phantoms. If only she had afterburners now - she could feel the Firebolt straining under her tight grip, vibrating slightly as it pushed its top speed.
Despite her terror, she glanced back. It turned out to be the correct choice, as when she did so, she saw a tendril of cloth snap at her like a whip. She pulled into a tight roll and the cord snapped past her head. She rolled over again, hanging from her broom, and yanked hard, dropping her like a stone as she began to dive. The creature followed her, and as the tree-tops appeared in front of her, Iris pulled herself back up.
The broom creaked in protest as she barely managed to avoid flattening herself across the Scottish countryside. The creature, seemingly defying physics, straightened out easily and continued to follow her. Iris desperately dodged between the trees and branches; at the speed she was going, protective charms on her clothes or not, she was going to die if she crashed into anything. Although, frankly, death might be a better option than being caught by whatever it was.
She drew her wand and pointed behind her. "Bombarda!"
Dirt and chips of stone sprayed from the earth with a bang, traveling fast and hard enough to be shrapnel. The creature plowed into them, stumbling as the physical force of it sent it off-balance. Definitely uninjured, but it did buy her a precious second or maybe even two. Iris pulled her broom into a climb again, hoping that the momentary advantage would be enough to give her safety even in the open.
The chase continued for some time, during which the thing strained to catch up with her. The Firebolt was a little faster, but the thing didn't experience fatigue - mechanical, like her broom, or mental, like Iris herself - and Iris occasionally had to dodge tendrils of cloth snapping out at her.
Iris grimaced. She was getting pins and needles in her arms - this was not the time! She let go of her broom with one hand, steering with the other, clenching and unclenching her fist to try and get the blood flowing again. She put her hand back, and repeated the process with her other arm. She shook it slightly and made to focus on the flight again.
Then something struck her from behind.
Iris yelped as she was shoved forward from the force of it. Behind her, the thing lashed out at her again; it was only due to years' worth of honed instinct that Iris managed to dodge them, and even then only barely. She tipped the broom over again, sending it into a dive towards the Scottish woodland. Hogwarts had to be close now. She had been flying for at least a few hours at this point, almost always near or even above the theoretical top-speed of the Firebolt. She had flown for at least four-hundred, five-hundred miles, maybe even six.
Then the broom stuttered, and whatever charms made it fly began to fail. As she spiraled downward, feeling a burning sensation on her back where she'd been struck, she wondered if she was going to die.
She regained control of her broom, and it jerked back into a hover. She urged to go forward - it was a bit more sluggish, the acceleration a little weaker than usual, but it still moved. She glanced up. The thing - it wasn't following. Where was it? Iris looked around - all this stress was not good for her heart.
She raised her wand. "Lumos Maxima!"
A bright light illuminated the tree-tops. Nothing, no matter how hard she looked. Could… could she finally be safe? Had the hunt ended? A weak, bitter laugh came from her mouth. This might have very well been Dudley's (he's missing his eyes) final round of Iris-hunting, if the implications… if her hypothesis was true. (Just a coincidence.)
She continued coasting, her wand lit, wary for threats. None came at her, no tendrils of cloth snapping out at her from between the branches, no tall people with trench coats stepping out of the shadows. She picked up some speed and continued to fly. Then she kept accelerating, until she was desperately hurling herself in the direction of Hogwarts. It couldn't be far. She did a double-take; were those a set of train tracks? For the Hogwarts Express? It was very possible, and if it was, it would take her directly to the outskirts of Hogsmeade, and then she'd be able to find the school.
Elated, she charged forward, but her broom stuttered again.
Iris grunted as she managed to reign the broom back in; even a momentary lapse in power could be dangerous at such high speeds. The acceleration when she took off again was even slower than before. After two minutes, the broom stuttered once again, this time for six whole seconds during which Iris was plummeting towards the ground. Panicking, she cast "Arresto Momentum!" on the broom, and she barely managed to hang from it. After that, she took it low and slow; this turned out to be the correct choice, because only a minute after the broom had regained functionality, it lost it again - this time permanently, as far as she could tell.
She gasped as she hit the gravel, her broom ploughing its handle into the ground and tossing her forward. She clenched her fists and stood back up, her hips and thighs aching where she landed, and limped towards her broom. She pulled it out of the ground and released it; it dropped right back down.
"Up!" she barked, but the broom only rolled about uselessly. She sighed, picked up her belongings, and began to walk. She nervously glanced at the sky, hoping nothing was there chasing her. There wasn't.
Mars was bright tonight.