A/N Okay, yes I know, it's been like four months since my last update, but to be fair, I was sans-internet for three months of that and the last I had school, …a lot of school.
So yeah, um, I'm back… hopefully. After all, I still do have school.
This chapter is dedicated to Kayla, for without her occasional badgering me about it, it probably never wouldn't have gotten done. Plus she's my most loyal reader for some reason :P. Cheers.
Chapter 9: Hindsight is 20/20
It's funny how the mind wanders, when it's bored.
"John where are you going?"
"I'm going to get my damn sword back."
It seems to have it's own ideas about what thoughts are relevant. And, unfortunately it seems to always pick the ones you don't want to dwell on.
"Let me come with you."
"No. I need you to stay here. Trust me."
"Then take Ami or Procyon. Take Jack, or Asher, Fleur, somebody. Just don't go alone."
"I have to. I lost it, I won't risk anybody getting it back. Trust me."
Famous Last Words. You'd think me, of all people, would know when I'd just jinxed myself. Believe it or not, I had to. Okay, I didn't have to go alone, that was my own stupidity. But I did have to get my sword back. If I didn't, I'd die, and then, consequently, Kara would die. It really is a wonder I'm still alive, now that I think of it, what with the balancing act necessary to keep me that way.
"You want to know where the Death Eaters are holed up? Why?"
"My business is my own! You have your money, now tell me!"
"Look to the abandoned Malfoy Manor. The answers you seek are there. But if I were you-"
" -I wouldn't go poking around there, if you know what's good for you."
It was dumb. I know, we've been over this. But hey, I figured, how hard could breaking into the stronghold of the most evil wizard who ever lived and who is currently receiving demonic aid really be?
Pretty damn hard apparently. I had just managed to climb to one of the upper towers when the roof collapses out from under me and I find myself spiraling into a ring of about twelve death eaters, all with their wands pointed straight at me. I'm a good duelist, but I'm not that good. Maybe Ryu could have beaten them, but not me. So I gave up. It's better, I figured, to be captured and then later escape, then be killed out-right. Right?
I'm still debating that choice.
So they threw me in the dungeons, after taking all my gear, including my portkey out of here, they locked the door and now I'm stuck, waiting. They hung my sword outside the door. It's not back in my possession, but the proximity will enough to keep the curse from doing me in.
Footsteps coming closer. It's him, I don't even have to guess. I know. It's him, Sarezhade. The door to the dungeon swings open and he swaggers in. The arrogance that radiated off him was almost tangible.
"Hello John." He growled.
"Sarezhade, I presume? Whoever let you out of your trinket?"
He smiled, cold and cruel. "I must assume then that all Screibbs are as arrogant and annoying as you are. Your ancestor was."
"He kicked your ass didn't he? I'd say that's worth bragging about." He struck me across the face, leaving a small gash behind. I watched as he left my prison and strode over to where my sword was hanging on the wall, glinting in the dim light. He removed a silver knife and sliced a chunk off it like it was made of butter. I bit back a howl of pain, it felt like he'd taken a piece of my arm. As I watched the tiny crystalline turned black as coal in his hands. With a satisfied smirk, he slipped it into a pouch and entered my cell again.
"You really have no idea what you're up against John." Sarezhade said conversationally as he began to pace around the dungeon. "My forces far exceed anything your pathetic Guardians can muster. Vampires, werewolves, dementors. Horrors your feeble human brain can't even begin to comprehend.
"Do what you will Sarezhade." John gasped, sweat dripping from his forehead "I'll live to see your locked in that gem again."
"No. I'm afraid you won't see it." He smirked. "In fact, my face will be the last thing you'll ever see. …"
"A'right Lads and Ladies, here we are about to dive into the den of evil itself in order to rescue our murky eyed chum." Jack muttered as the team, minus Harry who was still on inactive roster due to comatose state, stood just outside the Malfoy Mansion, having been led there by Kara's innate sense of her husband's location.
"Thank you for pointing out the obvious Dingo-breath." Tonks snapped, her nerves and her hair frazzled.
"People. Let's get serious now." Asher rumbled. "Here's the plan- Tonks, Ramirez, the two of you and Kara need to sneak in there disguised as Death Eaters, and rescue John. The rest of us will cover your retreat, once everyone is clear of the wards around this place. Port-key the hell out, clear?"
It had been a fairly simple matter to knock out three random Death Eaters and steal their robes. Then Tonks and Javier had altered their features into the first two death eaters they'd seen, ironically, Blaise Zabini and Morag MacDougal.
They had just made it to John's cell when the dungeon warden blocked their way. "Halt!" He commanded imperiously, until the two metamorphamagi removed their robes, then his entire demeanor changed.
"Lady Zabini, MacDougal sir, I'm sorry, I didn't realize it was you."
"Well you realize it now, you twit. MOVE!" Tonks snapped, her lip curling in disgust. The stammering guard got out of their way and the three of them floated past, wondering exactly who the two shape-changers had become. Tonks stuck her chin out regally, only to fall flat on her face as soon as they'd turned a corner.
"Sodding robes!" She growled quietly as the other two helped her to her feet. Kara led them down the dungeon corridors, towards John's cell. When they'd reached it Javier managed to pick the lock open and swing the door open with a soft creak that woke John from his fitful sleep, he looked up at them bleary eyed, gaze unfocused.
"Aren't you a little short for a Death Eater?" He asked Kara, before she whipped off the hood.
"Oh hah hah, smart-ass." She grunted as she helped her husband to his feet. "You're just mad because for once you get to be the 'damsel in distress'" John responded by sticking his tongue out at her.
"Wait a minute, how does a pure-blood like you know about Star Wars?" Tonks asked as the three of them half-carried, half-dragged him out of there.
John threw them a weary lopsided grin, "What can I say? I'm a pop-culture junkie."
After traveling down several corridors in the opposite direction that they had come from, they entered a large dining hall with many huge stained-glass windows on either wall depicting members of the Noble Malfoy house. Unfortunately they also found themselves face-to-face with a load of black robed men and women, as well as a number of dark creatures.
"I've got a bad feeling about this…" John muttered.
Asher received a coded message through his wand, nodding grimly he looked up at the rest of the team. "Their in trouble let's go." Wordlessly the seven remaining Redhawks mounted their brooms and zoomed heedlessly towards the Manor. Ami flew straight for the stained-glass windows, just before she reached them grabbed her broom and whipped around until she was holding it like a rifle, falling towards the windows."
"REDUCTO!" She roared, in a second each and every one of those windows shattered, giving the aurors access to the inside. With a feral yell Ami landed in the midst of the enemies, a whirlwind of hexes and curses flying from the tip of her wand.
The rest of the team was seconds behind her, Procyon, his hands engulfed in flames, drove back a pair of Giants, Fleur and Ryu found themselves surrounded by Vampires, Asher transformed into a wild grizzly bear, stunning spells bouncing of his flank as he bowled into a group of death eaters.
Ami lost her wand to a disarming-charm, the stick of bamboo sailing into the hand of the death eater who shot the spell.
"Big mistake." She grunted, she toss her broomstick out a few meters in front of her where it floated about two feet above the ground. She then leapt on top of it and used it as a springboard to launch herself into the air. She landed a one-two kick to the death eaters chest, then a mid-air backflip caught him under the chin. She landed lightly on her feet, snatched her wand out of the air and calmly picked up her broom, leaving the blacked-out death eater where he fell.
Jack and Ramirez stood back-to-back to each other, their brooms held under their arms.
"Lock 'n' Load!" Jack shouted putting his broom in lock-mode. "Stupefy" a machine gun storm of green light shot from the tips of their wands stunning enemy after enemy as they rotated on the spot.
John had taken up his sword and was busy hacking away at some multi-limbed demonic horrors that were ninety-five percent fangs and claws.
"Lumos Solem!" Fleur cried, the streak of sunlight issued from her wand vaporizing the Vampire in front of her. She didn't see the other one until it had leaped on her back and plunged his fangs into her neck. She let out a cry of pain. Next thing she knew the vampire was forcefully thrown off her due to a fireball, courtesy of Procyon Black seconds later he wa forced to defend her from a legion of evil looking red-caps.
Ryu was dueling with Flint and MacDougal and giving as good as he got.
"Infueges!" Flint shot a jet of flame from his wand, which Ryu counters with a sphere of water, at the same time throwing a shield up to block MacDougal's stun spell. He crouched behind the shield as the two death eaters fired off volley after volley of curses until the shield finally fell and Ryu was over-come
Fleur was not looking so good either. "Merde!" She swore holding her hand against the pair of gashes in her throat, sweat ran down her forehead and she fought for breath. After a moment, she passed out.
We need to leave. Procyon thought angrily. NOW! His eyes glowed an emerald green and the floor beneath them shook to the very foundation. The walls around them began to crack and crumble around them. All fighting ceased as all parties looked around them in fear.
John found himself facing Morag MacDougal, the real Morag MacDougal, with his wand drawn.
"It's time I did what my master was unable to." He pointed the wand at John. "Occultis Paramis Extus." A bolt of black energy hit John right between the eyes before he could even consider moving. He screamed in pain as blood coursed down his face.
With a deafening roar the walls and ceiling began to collapse around them. "The Wards are broken!" Asher yelled over the din. "Everybody out NOW!" he activated the Master-key that would allow the entire teams port-keys to function whether they were able to use them or not. In a blink, they were all gone.
With a start Harry's eyes popped open and he sat up with a gasp. Once he realized he was in the Redhawk hospital wing, he calmed down and took stock of himself, aside from a little nausea, dizziness and soreness. He felt fine.
Then he tried to get out of bed, and suddenly found himself on the floor.
"Harry?" Ginny walked in, looking worn and ragged and carrying a large leather-bound book. "What are you doing on the floor?"
"I was kind of wondering that myself, actually." Harry replied mildly, looking up at her. "How come my legs don't work?"
"Harry, you've been in a coma for the past week. Between that and the potions we've had you on, your legs are going to be out for a little while longer."
"Oh." Harry muttered as Ginny helped him crawl back into the bed. "Fantastic. What're you reading anyway?"
With an embarrassed blush Ginny revealed the cover of her book. Releasing the Beast Within: A Beginners Guide to Animagus Transformation. By Jake Berenson.
Harry grinned weakly. "Have you tried transforming yet?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, something's holding me back. I'm not sure what it is, but something doesn't feel right, It's like-" There was a piercing scream followed by Collins' loud voice summoning her.
"Stay here I'll find out what's up." Leaving a very disgruntled Harry behind, Ginny rushed into the common room to find the entire squad gathered around… something. When she entered they quickly made room for her to get through.
If she hadn't been a professional healer, what she saw next might have caused her to become ill. As it was she had a hard time.
John was lying on the floor convulsing with blood leaking out of his eyes. Kara was kneeling on the ground next to him, glowing hands pressed to his face. As Ginny and the others watched the bleeding slowed then stopped completely.
"John what happened?" Kara asked desperately.
"Worry about that later!" She snapped. "We need to get him into the medical wing now. Asher, Jack carry him in there! Hurry!" The two men hefted John between them and carefully hauled him into a bed in the medical wing.
Ginny began removing salves, potions, and medical instruments from cabinets and placing them on the table.
"Okay first things first, Kara I need to know exactly what you just did to him." She muttered tersely, her gaze focused on the tool in her hand.
Kara was meanwhile placing bandages over her husband's eyes. "I'm a biokinetic. I can heal some injuries just by touching them. Why do you think I was made field medic?"
Ginny nodded. It had made sense. "Well, you did stop the blood flow, but whatever curse was used on him, it's like nothing I've ever seen before."
"Sar…rez….zhade!" John rasped. "Broke… my sword."
"What is he talking about?" Harry wondered.
"That doesn't matter!" Ginny said distractedly. "Whatever they did to him, it's taken his eyesight. I don't know a cure for it!" She sighed sadly. "I'm afraid he's permanently blind."
The entire room went silent save for John's raspy breathing. "He broke my sword."
Suddenly it clicked into place for Kara and she swore vehemently. "He broke the Diamond Blade." She dashed into the other room where they'd all appeared moments before. There, lying where he had fallen, was the jewel-like blade and near the hilt the was a small, barely perceptible piece missing from it.
"I don't understand why that's so important." Javier wondered. "He could still use the sword, well, if he was still able to see, I mean."
"No, you don't understand, he and that sword are connected. A piece of it is like a piece of him. What kind of dark magic could they do if they say, had a finger? Or an eye? A drop of blood, a hair off his head?"
Stunned looks were on everyone's faces. They were all Aurors, they knew what kind of dark magic could be done to a person with just a single hair.
"What can we do?" Asher asked. Kara's face took on a dark look as she replied.
"Nothing. All we can do is wait."
"Ginny you got another patient over here!" Procyon called, kneeling next to the prone figure of Fleur. The girl was gasping as if unable to breathe, her eyes were unfocused and dulled. Then she let out a scream and they could see inch and a half long fangs protruding out of her upper jaw.
"Shit!" Jack yelled and jumped back. "She's been bitten by a vampire!" Suddenly her eyes snapped into focus and she leaped into a crouching position, pupils dilated, hissing at them with her newly acquired fangs bared.
"Don't look at me." Ginny shrilled fearfully, "There's not a sodding lot I can do about that!"
"Then let me!" Procyon growled stunning the half-veela and throwing her into a side room, casting an unbreakable locking charm and sealing all the windows inside." They could hear her raging against the door inside.
"She'll be fine by morning, once the blood-lust wears off."
The next day
Ginny sighed in frustration. "Har-eee!" She whined. "I can't do this." She collapsed wearily into the chair next to Harry's bed."Yes you can Ginny." Harry replied encouragingly, "You just have to let go." They were currently in the hospital wing and Ginny was attempting to master transforming into an animal.
"Let go?" She shot him a curious look. "What do you mean?"
Harry growled in frustration, not being able to find the right words to express himself properly. "Let go, let yourself, you the human Ginny Weasley, go. You have to revert to something a bit more… primal. Something more animalistic. Let the animal come to the surface. Listen to the beat of your own heart, if you can, focus only on that, block everything else out… Ginny are you listening to me?"
She looked at him irritated, "No, I was 'blocking everything else out,' you git."
"Ah right." Harry's face colored a little in embarrassment. "Well, wait till I'm finished talking at least."
He cleared his throat and continued. "As I was saying, listen to your own heart, focus on that, let it become the pulse that you build the rhythm of your animal self around, if that makes any sense."
"Kind of… Let me give it a shot." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, focusing her hearing until the only thing she could hear was her heart, which she didn't so much hear as feel, pounding deep within her chest.
She felt an odd sensation, like she was being lifted into the air, though she knew her feet were still firmly on the ground.
Suddenly there was a vague feeling on her back, around her shoulders… some kind of extension, appendages, …wings? The feeling of floating intensified and her heartbeat got louder, stronger. He shoulders flexed unconsciously, as if flapping these invisible wings, up down, up, down.
bu-bum, up… bu-bum. Down…
This is it. Both Harry and Ginny thought at the same time. the transformation is going to happen. Harry smiled pleased as Ginny's form was enveloped in a faint white glow.
Then Ginny let out a grated gasp as electric bolts of pain shot through her body, breaking her concentration. She fell to the floor and the glow faded. As the pain vanished she was left with one lingering thought.
"Ginny. Are you okay?" Harry asked, a note of concern in his voice.
"I'm fine, but I'm not ready to try that again. Not yet."
"Don't turn on zat light."
"It's not sunlight, it won't hurt you."
"I know zees. I don't want you to see me… I don't want anybody to see me." A low growl emitted from the girl's throat. "I'm a monstair."
"No, you're not… you're only half a monster."
"Ha ha." Fleur spat. "I didn't know you could make a Joke, Procyon."
"It wasn't a joke, Veela are immune to vampirism, therefore only your human side was affected. Replaced, essentially."
"It doesn't matter," Fleur sighed pitifully, "I am still a monstair."
"Only you can decide that Fleur. Only you can make yourself a monster."
"The choice is yours."
"I SAID GET OUT!" She screamed, her eyes glowing an electric blue in the darkness. "LEAVE ME ALONE, DAMN YOU!" There was a crash as she threw something against the wall, then all was silent except for her ragged breath.
"If it helps. I killed the one that bit you." A sliver of light as Procyon opened the door, then he was gone, and everything was black again.
And she was alone.
I'll never ride a broom again, or watch another movie, I can't fight, I can't read, I can't write, I can't be an Auror, I'll never see her face again. My god, I won't be able to cross the street without help…
It's over, he's won.
"Stop it John." Her voice.
"Stop what dearest?" He responded with more than an edge of sarcasm in his voice.
"I know what you're doing John, stop it. Stop feeling sorry for yourself."
"Sorry?!" He sat up in the hospital bed they'd confined him to. "SORRY!? I CAN'T FUCKING SEE ANYMORE! I'd say if anybody earned the right to 'feel sorry-'" He did the air quotes. "-for himself I damn well have! God I don't even know if I'm talking to you, you could be behind me and I could be talking you a wall right now." He fell back on the bed, as if he'd been deflated. "What can I do Kara? What would you have me do? Try and put a good face on it? There's no silver lining here Dollface. No gold at the end of this rainbow. No-"
"Shut up!" She snapped.
"What?" He blinked, confused now that his rant had been cut off.
"Shut up." She repeated. "And stop acting like a god damned baby. I understand it's going to be hard for you, there's going to be a period of adjustment."
"PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT?!"
"WILL YOU LISTEN TO ME PLEASE?" She yelled, John was stunned into silence. Kara didn't ever yell, she just… didn't. "Now. As I was saying, there will be a period of adjustment, but damn it John, at least you're still alive. You very easily could have been otherwise. As long as you're alive, you can fight. There's hope."
John let out a defeated sigh. "I just don't know Kara. I feel so… invalid. How can I protect you now? How can I look out for you if I can't see?"
She reached out and grasped his hand. "Maybe it's my turn to look out for you now." She smiled sadly. "We'll get through this John. We'll find a way, I promise."