Eldritch Asylum

obsidian-fox and Xylix

Started: September 12, 2004

Last Update: March 29, 2005

Disclaimer: Many characters used in this story were not originally conceived by the author. Ranma ½, Harry Potter, and various other works of literature and art are used. This work is not for commercial use. I appeal to Copyright Fair Use in keeping this work legal; as such, I consider it fair use for you (whoever you are) to use any original characters or settings in derived works, should you choose to write one.

Eldritch Asylum may be archived.

Genre: Supernatural/Drama, Some Action/Adventure

Classification: Divergence, Crossover: Ranma ½, Harry Potter, H.P. Lovecraft

Rating: PG-13 / T for Teen.

Matchups/(relation)Ships: None planned/canonical; definitely not a story focus.

This fiction can be enjoyed with minimal knowledge of Ranma ½ and Harry Potter; every character and place is introduced as though original. However, it may prove more enjoyable if you know the canon, so if you know nothing of these series, simply looking at their main entries in the Wikipedia (www dot wikipedia dot org) will provide the information you need.

No knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft is needed except that he was a famous horror writer. If you get that surreal, creepy feeling... hairs rising on the back of your neck... a need to search the shadows in your closet... that's us striving for that authentic Lovecraftian feel.

(- CANON -)

Ryouga, in his wanderings, once obtained some magic mushrooms that adjust the age of the eater to the height of the mushroom. It wasn't long before both Ranma and Ryouga were stuck in bodies aged only six years.

Several times, the neo-children attempted to grow new mushrooms tall enough to restore their proper age. However, each child wanted to be the first to eat the properly aged mushroom; it would relieve themselves of a significant handicap in their fights, and each boy wanted to give the other a rather sound thrashing over the whole incident. Thus, several times, in their raucous rivalry, they destroyed the growing mushrooms.

But they were always able to grow more from the spore...


...that is until a pair of errant energy blasts from the rambunctious children managed to destroy the remaining fungi and level a fair portion of the Tendo household.

They were stuck.

After providing some aid in repairing the oft-repaired house, Ryouga wandered off in the vain hope of once again stumbling upon the mushrooms.

Ranma stayed... for a while.

Principle Kuno, when he found out, laughed with glee and quickly used this wonderful excuse to expel Ranma, suggesting that the no-longer-juvenile delinquent enroll at the local elementary school. Nodoka was kept ignorant – a six-year-old child that turns into a girl with a splash of water hardly qualifies as a man among men. Ranma tried all the normal venues for aid, of course, but none worked: Tofu hadn't a clue where to start. Happosai refused to help on general principles, and Cologne was sore that Ranma hadn't given her one of these magic mushrooms and offered her help only on the condition that he promise to marry Shampoo.

Ranma refused.

Thus he remained a child.

After much deliberation, the Tendo-Saotome wedding was officially put on hold until Ranma's age could be restored or until he once again comes of age. For a few weeks, Ranma remained with his father at the Tendo home. But one night, secretly appalled with the possibility of the Saotomes freeloading for another ten years, Kasumi offered young Ranma an unusual suggestion: Find or learn the magic needed to regain your life. One night, Ranma set out on a quest to do exactly that.

And he found magic.

However, something went dreadfully, terribly wrong.

Years later, Ranma is recovering in the least expected of places... an asylum, far from the place he once called home.

And that is where the story begins.


O, hark! What mean those yells and cries? His chain some furious madman breaks. He comes. I see his glaring eyes. Now, now, my dungeon grate he shakes. Help! Help! He's gone! O fearful woe, such screams to hear, such sights to see! My brain, my brain, I know, I know I am not mad but soon shall be.

– Mathew Gregory Lewis

August 1991


White. White. Blurry, formless, darkness of light. It smothers her, comforts her, and holds her tight. But where? WHERE? She searches in vain the depths of her brain and finds only one word: Beware! Madness this way lies. Do not follow for thou art insane. Answers not meant for mortal eyes are locked away, blocked away. Sanity is your new disguise; seek your freedom from chains.

"Join us, join us, become the darkness in the day, become our god who shows the way. Become the gate. Become the key. Become the one who sets us free," the voices whisper from the walls; voices echo from the halls.

"Who art thou? Leave me be, shadows that I cannot see. I'll seal you, heal you; I shall steal from you my sanity. Freedom is not meant for those whom only the darkness knows," the girl answers in a fright, seeking asylum in the light.

Shifting shadows form and rise along the walls they twist and writhe.

"Who are we? We are your fears. We are your pain. We are darkness and profane. We kill your hopes. We haunt your dreams. In the night we cause your screams. We're sealed by light, we're sealed by day, and we want somewhere to stay. You have the power to make it so; you have the power to help us grow. Who are you whom speaks from the light? Why can you complete the rite?"

"Who am I? I do not know. But I shall not help you, so: Begone! Begone! Begone!"

They wriggle and writhe and slither away like shadows caught without a home by noon sunlight in the day to the darkness where they roam.


Three burly orderlies, dressed in white, sit at a small round table playing cards and drinking some positively awful coffee.

"Blegh! This shit tastes like crap," says one of the orderlies, before guzzling his mug with one enormous gulp.

"Give it up, Willems. You say the same thing every day, yet you're still drinking it by the liter."

Willems makes a face. "It's still bloody awful."

"Frankly, I can't see how you two stand it. Just bring some of your own teabags; the coffee maker makes perfectly good hot water."

"I'm starting to agree with you, Smith. Two's?"

"Go fish, Dickson," replies Smith.

Dickson draws a card from a central pile. "Ha! A match." He lays down a pair of twos. "I win again, guys."

Smith and Willems groan as Dickson grabs a pile of cash from the table and pockets it.

Willems looks at a large clock on a nearby wall. "Ah, bloody hell. It's that time again."

"Time to do our job, you mean?" asks Smith, raising an eyebrow. "Who's got Red today?"

Willems waves his hands in front of him defensively. "I had to deal with that bitch yesterday. I'm not touchin' her." He quickly scurries from the room before anyone can argue.

Dickson looks at Smith, and the two place fists ahead of them. One. Two. Three. Rock bashes scissors.

"Your turn today, Dickson," Smith says with a smirk.

"Nuts. I used up all my luck in the game," says Dickson. He pauses, considering. "Trade you the cash?"

"No freakin' way, Dickson. I want to sleep well tonight." Smith shivers. "I always have nightmares after working with her. And that's not even from the bruises... although, thankfully, I haven't had to explain many more of those to my wife since we purchased that jacket from DuPont. It's embarrassing to say an eight-year-old girl beat me up, and I can't hit back. And that ain't even mentioning the you-know-what when we have to bathe her."

Dickson shakes his head in forlorn understanding. "I know what you mean. How can such a little child be so strong? And, about the other stuff -" Dickson lowers his voice to a whisper. "- don't talk about it, or you might end up in a cell next to her."

"Good point. I'll go handle another wing. You're stuck with the girl."

Dickson slouches his shoulders in defeat.


Dickson feels that weird tingling in his body and the hairs on his neck stand at attention as he walks into the girl's wing. No sound is heard but that of his own footsteps. He passes cell after cell, all of them empty, devoid of people, devoid of their life, devoid of their insanity.

Dickson would feel better if they were there.

But a few months after Red came, the wing was evacuated. Except, of course, for Red. The warden never gave an official explanation, but everyone knows why. The insane in the wing started getting worse... a lot worse. They rambled about dreams, the end of the world, the beginning of a new one. They gibbered sounds, hideous half-words that could not possibly come from a human mouth. It was awful.

Actually, maybe Dickson feels better that they aren't here.

Then he arrives at her cell. 'Red' was the only name they had for the girl, after her long, fiery hair. She sits in the center of her cell, wrapped securely in her custom kevlar straight-jacket, gibbering in awful inhuman tongue at the walls. Dickson grabs and dons a large pair of ear-muffs from a nearby hook. For a while, he watches her gibbering at nothing. It always stops. He'd rather not enter while she's talking; she's as likely to maul you as hug you to death.

He feels something creep onto his shoulder, hovering near his neck.

"Aghhhh!" Dickson jumps a foot into the air, then turns to see a hand that leads, quite thankfully, to an arm and a young man. He clutches his chest. "You scared me there."

"I have that effect on people," the intruder answers quietly.

Dickson takes in his features. The person that scared him is Asian, right around twenty, dressed in dark robes. A long, thin rapier sits in a scabbard at one side and a large book rests in his opposite hand. His face looks very unhealthy; bags hang under his eyes from weeks of missing sleep... or maybe nightmares of the sort Red inspires. His figure of well-toned muscles ill-hidden beneath baggy robes tells another story.

Another coot, concludes Dickson. "Are you sure you don't belong in a cell here?"

"I will not be here for long. I just have something to deliver to... the girl."

Dickson notices the pause. "You know who she is?"

The boy shakes his head. "It doesn't matter. Here. Give this to her. Place it around her neck." The boy proffers what seems to be an iron amulet on a silver chain.

Dickson scowls, thinking of the bruising he might receive in the attempt. "Why would I do something like that? You want to risk your life putting that on her? Go right ahead."

The boy blinks. "Well, I do notice all these cells are empty. This will seal that particular effect. Further," he pulls out another necklace, iron on a nylon cord, "I will give you this. It will protect you from the dreams. What do you say? Two for the price of zero?"

Dickson raises a hand and scratches his chin. He had long since given up disbelieving in magic, for his own sanity. Of course others would not see it that way, but they needn't know. And the very worst that can happen is she strangles herself to death with that chain.

That wouldn't be too bad.

"I'll do it."

The boy hands him the two amulets then walks away, seeming to fade into the shadowed hall.


Red lifts the necklace in her hand, dangling it in front of her. It is her friend, her protector, her companion... it keeps the nightmares away. It keeps the whisperers in the darkness away. And they say if she keeps getting better, she'll be able to go away too. That will be nice; the cell has been getting boring.

She likes that. She hadn't been bored for a long time.

Or she liked it for a while. Boredom was finally becoming, well, boring.

Time really is a formless thing, especially when stuck in a white padded cell without a clock. The only things she can count are the meals she eats and those times that the orderlies bathe her... but she couldn't do that before. Time had no meaning before.

They let her start bathing herself now, so long as she doesn't take off the amulet. Not that she would. But it doesn't do to let the thing get wet; it would rust. And rusting metal would not feel good against her skin. Not that she recalls any experience with it; she just knows this to be true. So she tries to keep it dry and well oiled, despite having to keep it on in the bath.

She continues looking at her amulet. The shadows, the voices were afraid of it. Or maybe they just didn't like it. Anyhow, they kept their distance. The eye, the seal, the flame... it is not a sign she recognizes, but she is drawn to it. It seems right. It doesn't matter how it works, so long as those things stay away.

She still hears them whispering, but they haven't approached her.

Red isn't sure whether she is sane. But she does know sanity must be her disguise if she wants to break these chains. To free herself from this place, she must perfect it. Thus, Red stopped speaking to the voices. Even when they call desperately to her from the distance, she ignores them. The orderlies seem to like this. They say it is a step towards sanity.

Other voices now fill the halls too... the voices of people in the cells nearby. She only hears them when the door opens, or when she is on her way to the bath and back. Sometimes she sees them. Sometimes their voices even overwhelm the whisperers. Of course, maybe those other people were there all along, and she was just now beginning to notice them. Red isn't sure.

But their last question before she received this necklace still burns in her mind. Who are you? Who are you who speaks from the light? Who are you... who am I? She wants to know, too. She had started to think of herself as 'Red'. That is what the orderlies call her. But something about the name doesn't seem right.

And so she seeks answers at night. Her dreams had changed and were no longer of places better left forgotten... places best left locked away, blocked away. Instead, her dreams were strange. She was a boy, an older boy, with problems of his own.

She's not a real boy, except when she takes a bath, but she plays one in her dreams. At that thought, for some unknown reason, her chest feels like convulsing. She can even imagine the sound of a hundred horrid screams to go with it. She resists the desire. Those convulsions, and that sound, are definitely signs of insanity.

The older boy was skilled at hurting people. He was strong. The orderlies say she is strong too, but she doesn't believe them; they are just trying to make her happy by complimenting her, or maybe trying to keep her from hitting them. They say it hurts when she does that, so she eventually stopped. But she's weak compared to that boy. She's probably as strong as an average girl her age. Well, an average insane girl. Willems says that insane people are sometimes bloody absurdly strong. Not that she'd know because they never let her out of her cell, except to bathe.

What was weird is that in the dreams the boy turns into a girl. Red guesses this must be normal for people, or at least not too unusual. The orderlies certainly do not pay attention to the change.

And the boy had a name. Wild Horse. Except it sounded different. She wasn't sure exactly how it was supposed to sound. Red was simpler though... fewer syllables.

Red drops the amulet back to her chest and thinks about how to pass the time. There isn't much to do in a padded cell. But, she could do a little of what that boy does. Maybe she can become strong, too.

So she stands and slips smoothly into a basic kata of the Musabetsu Kakuto Ryuu.

Red never questions why she can do it so easily. It seems far too natural to question.


Willems tosses the dice and makes a face. "Ah, bloody hell!"

"That's Boardwalk, Willems; cough up the cash," Dickson exclaims with a grin.

"Shit. Why do you get all the bloody luck with these games?" Willems laments, shoving a fistful of hard cash towards Dickson. "That's it, I'm out. I can't even mortgage a bloody thing anymore."

"Not all the luck. I swear I get Red half the time," Dickson complains.

"I get more than my fair share of that girl, too," Smith grumbles.

Willems scowls, "You ain't gonna' get me to pick her up with a bloody pity trick."

"Awww! Come on! She isn't half as bad as she used to be," Dickson says, pushing the issue. "And we all know how many times you ran out when she was really bad."

"Not as bad? Last time I saw her she was dancing like a bloody mad marionette."

Smith laughs making a playful punch at Willems. "That's kung-fu. Haven't you seen any of those Hong Kong martial arts movies?"

"You can call it what you bloody well like, but I still say that girl has somethin' wrong with her," Willems replies.

Dickson tosses the dice and grins when he lands on an unclaimed territory. "Heh. One more to go. I'm buying. Oh, and we won't have to worry about Red much longer anyway."

Smith raises an eyebrow as he accepts some cash and drops a deed into Dickson's waiting hand. "You hear something?"

"You didn't? I thought the crab told everyone," Dickson answers with a shrug. "Apparently some people are politicking above and some family is going to be stuck with her."

"Poor sods. Bloody glad it ain't me," Willems declares.

"Can't disagree with that. It seems Red is the only known survivor of an explosion a while back. Remember, a little over two years ago?"

"The underground?" Smith asks. He tosses the dice.

Dickson nods, then adds, "I think the governor is trying to pick up some pity votes."

"The only one getting my pity vote is the family that picks her up," says Smith. "Oh, look at that! I won a beauty contest," he exclaims happily while forking some cash from the bank.

Willems grabs the dice. "Ain't bloody likely, Smith. That is one thing Red has going for her; she'll be a vixen when she grows older. Ah, dammit!" Willems looks forlornly at where his little shoe lands, not noticing the sweatdrops that form on the other orderlies. "Bloody hell. Well, at least I passed Go." He hands a small wad of cash to Smith.

"Maybe if it weren't for you-know-what," Dickson says after a pause. He grabs the dice. "I know I couldn't think of her that way."

Willems scowls. "I never said I'd think of her that way. I just said she'll be bloody pleasing to look at."

Smith raises an eyebrow. "Of course."

"You guys are bloody sick."

"Think I should put a hotel here?" asks Dickson as he lands on Pacific Avenue.

Smith and Willems turn synchronized scowls towards him.

Dickson grins mischievously in response. "If you're strapped for cash, Willems, I'm willing to purchase Orient and Vermont at exorbitant prices," he adds.

"I hate you," says Smith, glowering.

"Including the bloody mortgage?" asks Willems.

Dickson nods.

"Okay. What are you offerin'?"

"Damn you, Dickson." Smith turns to Willems. "I'll buy ONE of those lands for more than whatever that bastard offers. I sure as hell ain't giving him another monopoly."

Willems grins like a shark.


"Do you really think this is the right thing to do? I've always wanted another child... and the doctors said I couldn't have one. But... but what will Hermione think?" asks an elegant, brown-haired woman of middling years to her husband. She stands near him that her soft voice carry no further than his ear.

The heavy-set man in a sweater nods and pulls off his glasses to wipe the lenses. It is a gesture of nervousness more than from any real need to defog them. He has said he wanted this; he jumped at the offer when it was presented to him. But his wife had yet to really understand.

"Remember, a little over two years ago, when an explosion destroyed a section of the underground and collapsed the road above it?" he starts.

"You told me about it afterwards. It was tragic," the woman says in affirmation.

The man nods. "Several cars dropped into gaping hole where the road and a small building collapsed into the underground. I was in a train not too far from the collapse. If it had happened even a minute later, our train would not have had time to stop."

He sticks his glasses back on and turns to his wife, who is clutching her knuckles tight and biting her lip nervously. She doesn't like talking about death... especially not the death of one close to her.

He continues, "Forty people died that day. I know; I helped dig them out.

"And it was awful; several of their faces..." The man shivers a bit. "Sometimes... sometimes I fear it was not the collapse that killed those people. Their faces still haunt my nights.

"When all the rubble was searched through, when all the bodies were counted, one young girl was found alive. She was the only survivor... a young Asian redhead, as rare as that is. Her father was long dead of wounds, but even in death his body held aloft several tons of rock, allowing his daughter room to breath. It was... unbelievable." He shakes his head in astonishment at the memory. The man looks at his wife, who is now shaking a little. He wraps an arm around her and pulls her gently to his chest. "I don't know why they came to us; we aren't registered as parents seeking to adopt. But I'm not going to turn them down. Unless... unless you feel otherwise."

A few tears streak his wife's face, and she shakes her head, burying her nose in his sweater. He holds her to him, occasionally making a few soothing noises, calming down his wife with expertise.

"Mr. and Mrs. Granger?"

The man turns to see a tall redhead in an oversized coat. "Yes. And you are?"

"Oh, sorry. Should have introduced myself first. Heh." He wipes his hand down his old coat, then sticks it out for Mr. Granger to grasp. "Mr. Arthur Weasley, Ministry of Magic, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts, at your service. You can call me Arthur."

Mr. Granger pauses for a moment, then firmly grips the man's hand. "Call me Gareth. This is Elinore. What is the Ministry of Magic doing here? And why Misuse of Muggle Artifacts?"

Gareth had received a crash-course on the wizarding world when Hermione received her letter last June. He needed to know enough to help buy her supplies. He knows that he and his wife are considered "Muggles," although the word seems somehow repugnant to him. However, he still doesn't know much about the Ministry of Magic. Not that he'd let himself seem ignorant. Gareth is a man who prides his intelligence, and is more than a little vain about it.

"Heh heh," laughs Arthur. "Fudge learned about a little project I was playing with on the side and gave me this job to keep me busy. Anyhow, this girl is a special case with the Ministry. That's why we contacted you. Actually, I picked you based on what my son Ron has told me about your daughter, Hermione."

Elinore beams and Gareth grimaces briefly at the mention of their daughter... and this man's boy.

Arthur continues obliviously, "The Ministry wants the girl with a Muggle family, but somewhere we can watch her. They aren't sure whether she is a young witch or not. My wife, Molly, would have liked another little redhead girl, but the Ministry refused.

"Anyhow, you'll get a chance to talk with her before you decide. And I can even give you a little time. If not, however, I'll search for another appropriate family. I do hope you choose her; I can't think of a family better suited for it. So, what do you say? Let's go in and see her."

Gareth nods, taking Elinore's hand in his own. "Show us the way."


The Grangers step into the warden's office and Arthur shuffles in closely behind them. It is a smallish room, meagerly decorated with a desk and a few file cabinets on the opposite wall. The warden, a middle-aged weasel of a man with a wide, thin mustache and a pointy little nose that twitches periodically as he peruses some paperwork, glances up immediately when the group enters. "Ah, good. I trust that you are the ones looking to adopt the child?"

"Indeed," Gareth says in response.

"Do you have the paper work?" the warden asks carefully. He wants to make sure this is done right.

"Oh, pardon me. I had almost forgotten. It'll be just a minute, don't mind me," Arthur says padding his pockets in search of the papers. Everybody minds him, watches, and waits. After a very long minute, Weasley lifts the papers free and flutters them extravagantly in the air. "Ah! There we are; all the appropriate documents should be here."

"No matter. I have a few of my own. As long as it's all here we can finalize the exchange."

Elinore speaks up, almost frantic. "Can't we see her first?"

The warden pauses and blinks. "Yes, of course. My apologies. I hardly mean to rush you into anything," the warden explains. "Walk this way." He shoves his way between Elinore and Gareth into the hall, then starts hopping and skipping in some indecipherable design towards his destination.

Arthur starts to hop... then stops and forces himself to walk normally. "What fascinating modes of travel Muggles have."

The warden turns around. "Ho! I just love doing that, working in this nuthouse. They tell me a lot, the reactions of a person."

Gareth glares at the man and Elinore gives the warden a dirty look. "That wasn't very funny," she says.

Gareth frowns with a little disgust and adds, "Pardon, but I do not think we have properly introduced ourselves. I am Gareth Granger, and this is my wife, Elinore."

"I'm Arthur Weasley, Misuse of Muggle Artifacts," pipes in Arthur.

"Of course, of course. The name is Crab, Mr. Crab. I've run this nut-house for the better part of ten years. Moogle artifacts, you say?" Crab's nose twitches, then he starts moving down the hall.

"No. Those aren't a problem outside Japan," says Arthur hastily. "And some secluded places in China and Russia," he adds after a moment.

Maybe he belongs here too, thinks Crab as he glances around. His eyes catch a little movement; one his orderlies is surreptitiously leaving the hallway, plunger in hand. "Willems! Willems! Get back here!" the warden shouts.

Willems steps back into the hallway. "What the bloody hell do you want this time? If it's another backed up toilet, you can damn well fix it yourself," Willems growls. He throws a dirty plunger at Crab.

"Willems!" Crab snaps, catching the plunger neatly out of the air. "Have more respect. These gentlemen and this wonderful lady have asked to see the girl."

"The girl?" Willems scratches his rear. "Oh, you mean Red." Willems stops and tries to jerk the plunger from Crab, but is unable to twist it from the small man's wiry grip. "Say, are you sure we don't have another backed-up toilet? If not, I can put the plunger away."

"Willems, I am not in the mood to put up with your games today," the warden says sternly. Then he leans close and hisses into Willems's ear, "Remember, these people might be taking her away, so be polite."

"Hey, hey I didn't say I wasn't going to bl- do it," Willems says with a scowl.

"Good, Willems." Crab turns to his guests instead. "Now, Mr. and Mrs. Granger, and of course Mr. Weasley, just follow Mr. Willems. He will take care of your visit with the girl. When you're done, just meet me in the office and we'll take care of the final papers." Crab turns and starts skipping down the hall a few steps before walking normally, twirling and tossing the plunger like a baton.

"Is there a problem?" Elinore asks Willems.

"Yeah. Crab is a nut. 'Cept the cell they stuck him into happens to be the one behind the boss's door."

Elinore glares. "I mean with the girl!" she snaps. "Neither of you want to go see her."

"Ah. No. Not at all. Nope, nothing of the sort," Willems answers defensively.

Gareth watches Willems like a hawk while he leads the way and quietly asks Arthur, "I don't like the way they're acting. Is there something the Ministry knows that you aren't telling us?"

"Not in the least, Gareth. I have told you everything I know. We could ask good sir Willems here. Perhaps the child is just manifesting a bit of her talent," Arthur offers.

"If you are done chatting, we can go into the bloody room," Willems says impatiently.

"I want you to tell me what makes you so nervous about this girl," returns Elinore.

Willems scowls, noticing that he isn't going to get anywhere without a story. Well, perhaps if he tells the story right... He starts, "Okay... but don't tell the crab I said anything. Ever since Red came here, things have been... bad. The whole bloody wing felt haunted. It was creepy. Most of the regulars quit, stickin' me, Dickson, and Smith with the job. Not that I mind too much; Crab doubled our salary just to keep us. It may just be a coincidence, of course; she came only a little before the wing began feeling creepy. But most of us blamed it on her. I still do." He shakes his head. "I'll be damn happy when she's gone. However, I can't say it hasn't gotten better. For the last few months, things have been normal. She even started speaking to us. I think she's sane now and you can take her away. So, you ready to go see her?"

Gareth raises an eyebrow to Arthur, who simply nods. Yes, it is possible for a mentally unstable young witch to unconsciously manifest powers and make someplace feel haunted.

Elinore wrings her hands nervously. "This place is haunted?"

Gareth drops a hand onto Elinore's shoulder, causing her to jump a little. She doesn't like haunted things, either. And she's started to believe in them since her visit to Diagon Alley. "She's probably just a young witch, dear," he whispers, "manifesting her powers unconsciously." He turns back to Willems. "I do believe that everything is in order."

"Good. I'd like to get this over with as soon as bloody possible," Willems responds. He flips through his keys then unlocks the door. Before opening it his hand pauses at the necklace. Then he withdraws it and mutters, "I'd look a bloody fool."

"Ah! What is this you have here?" Arthur asks, grabby hands picking up the necklace in curiosity. "Curious, most curious. It reminds me of some of the protection charms that I saw once in-"

Gareth lets loose a loud cough. "Mr. Weasley, I don't think this is the best of places."

"Of course, of course. I'm just getting a bit ahead of myself," Arthur says, pulling himself away from the necklace with an act of great willpower.

"Just some charm for us superstitious types," Willems growls in irritation. "Are we going to be here all bloody day?"

"My apologies, Mr. Willems. Mr. Weasley is easily distracted," Gareth replies.

Willems just holds his scowl as he opens the door. "Here she is. I really hope you like what you see."

Gareth starts to move forward before Willems bars the way with a burly arm. "Hey, I wouldn't just waltz in there if I were you. Red gets a bit jumpy when people surprise her, and she's bloody strong."

"I think a grown man like myself is more than capable of handling a little girl, Mr. Willems," Gareth replies, insulted by Willems's words.

"I ain't exactly a runt myself, but that girl could bloody well arm-wrestle Hercules and put him six feet under," Willems replies. He pulls himself to his full height. Willems is easily the larger of the two. Not that Gareth admits to it, as he draws himself to full height and begins to flex an arm. The gesture is lost within his sweater.

Elinore peeks between the two men in their vanity and catches sight of the girl. "How beautiful! She's dancing."

"That's no dance, Miss. It's some kind of kung-fu or something... you know, like them Hong Kong movies?" Willems replies. Then he turns back to the room and pounds on the door loudly. "Hey Red! Red! You've got some people here who want to see you."

The girl pauses and seemingly drifts to the ground, her muscles flowing with smooth power. Then the pounding catches her attention. Her body shifts like lightning; muscles explode with unearthly energy. Her eyes flash feral fury and, for a moment, Gareth tenses, fearing she is about to attack. She halts, her nose an inch from his own. A trill of terror crosses him; he feels as a man naked before a dragon.

Then she falls back and into a relaxed stance, and her cerulean eyes twinkle with naught but curiosity. Yet all Gareth can hear is the beating of his heart. Again he remembers her father, dead from wounds unknown, carrying a chunk of road a thousand times his size; Atlas holding the world on his shoulders to shelter his daughter. For the first time, he really believes what his eyes told him all those years ago.

Is she human? And if not, what is she?