DISCLAIMER:This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author Note: Many thanks to, Dame Niamh, my beta reader and sounding board. I doubt I would have made it this far - to the end of the first part of this story - without her help and friendship. Niamh is a talented writer and all of her stories should be on your reading list if you have been enjoying, At Any Moment. There is a lot more to come, and the second part will be much more SS/HG-centric.

Carnage

Arcanus be the name bestowed

Warded in since time doth flow

He be Master of this fortress

Guardian, watcher and restorer

I sense so many different emotions that have formed a swirling cacophony of gibberish for one such as I. Echoing screams of pain, torment and despair…human shadows involved in a macabre dance, and halting movements stunned by death, as their essence scatters on the wind. Others are left tending to, caring for and sharing themselves with those whose essence remains tenuously holding onto life. How silly these beings are! If they were to set their essence free, to eddy in the breeze, they would be at peace and find themselves always with me.

I have no way to make myself understood, save for those few who know of me, and they are not here at this moment.

The keys are living yet, but all is not secure and I am forced to watch and defend myself from depravity in my own way. I have sensed so many things in the last little while and though I might not be a living being, I am that which the Founders infused within these very walls.

I am Arcanus.

I am not sentient in the way that you humans would seek to make me. I rest within one solitary location – a castle made into a school, but one that has seen so many changes happen upon it, that the definition is somewhat limiting. I have seen evil leave its mark on me in many different ways, but I have never been directly threatened. The human known as, Riddle worked it out when I did not intervene so many years ago. What he did not understand was that I was never in danger of discovery. He sought to wipe other humans from his conscious thought, not me.

I would have dealt with him swiftly had I been threatened.

When I was created to guard mere stonework, I was imbued with a certain sense of my task, and like the chosen keys that have existed throughout that living thing known as time, I have sought to watch and listen for those who would try to expunge my symbol; the symbol of knowledge, trust and equality that is known to all living beings as, Hogwarts. I may appear to be mere stones piled upon one another to those with no sense of magic; other than the whimsy of living beings, but I have seen many things and I have watched for this time to come to pass. Within my thoughts there has always been the idea that someone at some moment would threaten that which the Founders created, but it is testimony to the stupidity of those sentient beings that tried to extricate me, that they could not…or would not treat me as a threat to their plans.

The wards, my wards have held since the Founders linked me to them and I have ensured in my own way that those safeguards will never be completely breached, as they so very nearly were this time. I was delayed watching for a more direct threat to occur to me, and so I was caught unaware as those keys called to bear witness to depravities reach struggled, and I was nearly lost in the maelstrom of evil circling and probing, looking for a definite weakness to exploit.

They did not find weakness, only strength; and it is strange, but I have a sense that the Founders had long ago decided many things without allowing me to understand that level of sentience. Perhaps they never thought that I would so closely succumb to malicious intent.

War

Carnage

Loss

Futility…

All are human words and as such they are alien to me in the strictest definition. I once told Albus that, 'he sought to make that which I could never be. He sought to make me human.' I have no concept of humanity, other than that which is imbued within my spirit; my sense of being, and even that was made for me, not by me. Sentience acts merely as a wellspring of comparison, but had evil been the Founders' intent, my essence would have been overlaid by deceit. I would have sought to mould myself to the changing negativity around me.

I did not succumb when all seemed at an impasse and though my poor choice nearly foiled the gathering of forces, it was sufficiently clear that in the main I had chosen well.

But how shall I start? Should I remain on the periphery and allow my gifts to the keys to stand in my stead? I can at this moment see all too well how difficult it was for the keys to start to record it all for me. They were in their own way, my sentinels – my link to the living, and I; in my own way, will always be their link should they require it.

Their essence, their being shall always stay with me, even as they continue to exist as living, breathing humans. Essence is a strange phenomenon, but whatever the Founders chose to give me by way of sentience gave me the un-paralleled opportunity to ensure that never again would those seeking quick gains for despicable aims threaten Hogwarts.

It would appear that in some small way I can offer judgement, but then I should have known that. How else was I supposed to choose the keys? Those favoured and rewarded by their gifts? Even depravity has found his gift in an odd sort of way. As one essence sought me out to bind, build and strengthen me, it looked back, and in its own unique way, helped the fifth key find his release. Like an eddying drift of smoke caught on the breeze's current, his essence was removed from Hogwarts, but his legacy will forever be a reminder of poor intent.

I am at peace now, and the final rallying call at any moment will see the blessing of the four keys who ensured that I would remain forever in my home. Those four who gathered me here have been replaced by four more who sought to ensure that depravity did not hold me to ransom, nor foster that negativity of spirit that would have surely followed.

Endless, overwhelming light and he who always felt himself on the outside of any joy, has received the most precious gift I could give – freedom!

I sense a new beginning, as though the veil of darkness has been rent in two. In its own way essence is the greatest of the gifts bestowed on living beings. As it guides and binds to the living, it strengthens and changes according to individual need. Essence without the limitations has aided me, as it has aided the many seeking to perform their final human task. Bound together as a force they did not recognise, they have ensured that depravity's hold could be defeated. It is one final call as life struggles and surrenders away from the simplicity of humanity's grasp.

It is over.

Essence…

Energy

Release

Touch

Silence

Freedom…

END OF PART I

All constructive criticism, comments and reviews are most welcome!

Check out my LJ in the next few days - link from my author page - and I'll be posting the poem and the solution to those clues that I'm willing to let out of the bag. For some of the answers though, you'll just have to read (and review please) the rest of the story! :)

To everyone that has read and reviewed - Thank you! I would have continued nevertheless, but it is nice to know that someone other than myself likes it! ;)