Title: The Curse of Fate
Author: Mistress Nika
Rating: PG-15 (Yes, 15. That's somewhere between PG-13 and R)
Summary: Thousands of years into the future, vampire Harry only wants to join his loved ones in death. However, his curse of immortality is absolute. Therefore he sends himself back into the body of his infant self, vowing to this time refuse eternity. When do things ever go according to plan? Unexpected changes to the timeline, people who aren't as they once were and more send his life spiraling out of his control.
Pairings: Harry/Lucius(main), possible Harry/Severus, possible Lucius/Severus, possible Harry/Lucius/Severus, Sirius/Remus, Theo/Hermione, possible Theo/Blaise, possible Hermione/Ginny, Draco/Luna, possible one-sided Harry/Luna on Luna's part, possible Hermione/Pansy, Cedric/Eleanor(OC), past Harry/Ginny
Warnings: AU, het, slash, angst, language, violence, time travel, VampireHarry, DarkLordHarry
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Notes: All Hail EmpyrealFantasy, without whom this chapter would not exist! I love you, Empy!
Chapter Twenty Three
Harry James Potter, Dark Lord Extrodinaire, was bored. No, not just bored. He was completely and disgustingly Bored.
He lay upside down on a sofa in the Ravenclaw common room. One leg was hooked over the arm, the other over the back and his arms were splayed at odd angles with palms pressed to the floor and elbows in the air. His head hung a few inches above the floor as his loose raven tresses pooled below.
He sighed heavily. He had absolutely nothing to do.
All schoolwork was easily completed in approximately .02 seconds, he wouldn't be caught dead at a Quidditch practice, all his minions were behaving themselves, Hermione was in class, Severus was in class, Lucius was at the Ministry doing who knows what. There was no one to talk to, get into trouble or otherwise have fun with. There was no one to pester, annoy, kill or maim. He felt like pulling his hair out and the few students in the common room were already looking at him like he was crazy.
"Nragh!" he exclaimed, pointing his hands at the staring teens and wiggling his fingers wildly, simultaneously twisting his face into something resembling a demented house elf. Most chuckled, a few coughed and returned to whatever they were doing before their attention was captured by the apparantly unhinged first year.
Just as he was considering how best to alleviate his boredom, preferrably with explosives, his salvation came through the door.
"Hermione!" he cried happily, flipping upright and grinning at the girl.
Said girl paled. She took one looked at the crazed gleam in his eyes and the too bright smile and decided she wanted none of it. She promptly turned on her heels and exited the way she had just come. Not one to be deterred, Harry merrily skipped after her.
Twenty minutes later, Hermione found herself resigned to the inevitable and smuggling a sheep into the Great Hall.
Classes were canceled and the entire staff spent the rest of the day combing the castle looking for sheep. One had been found in the dungeons with the number four painted on its side. Another was found in Hagrid's garden, happily chewing on his cabbages, with the number one. Sybil Trelawney tripped over Number Five who mysteriously appeared in her personal quarters. Number Two was finally captured after leading a flustered McGonagall on a spirited chase around the Great Hall. Apparantly, they were magic resistant sheep and had to be corraled manually. The search for the missing Number Three continued well into the night. It never occurred to anyone that there was no Number Three.
Easily dismounting her broom, Madam Hooch dismissed her last class of the day and headed to the broomshed to return the school brooms to their proper places. She never noticed the small figure lurking behind a tree. "Yipe!" she exclaimed as she suddenly pitched forward, eyes wide and mouth open in surprise, dropping the brooms to catch herself with her hands at the last moment. After regaining her composure, she glanced back to see what had tripped her only to find her bootlaces tied together. Scratching her head in confusion, she wondered, "How the devil..?"
Two floors down a similar scene played out when McGonagall went to leave her classroom. She managed to grab the doorframe and steady herself, only to look down and find her laces tied together in a neat little bow. A steely look came over her and her eyes narrowed as she peered around the hallway suspiciously. "Harry James Potter!" she shouted, righting her laces and chasing after the rapidly retreating footsteps and childish giggles.
Hermione giggled impishly as she ducked into a secret passage and headed off to meet up with her accomplice, glad for the fact that everyone tended to blame all pranks on either Harry or Fred and George.
"Buttscratcher!" Fred called over the cheers of the crowd, waving a stick above his head and carrying a tray full of them. "Buttscratcher!? Get your buttscratchers here! Buttscratcher!?"
"Buttscratcher!" came the answering cry and he shoved his way through the crowd to the person's side.
"Buttscratcher!" he exclaimed, handing the stick to his grinning twin.
"Buttscratcher," George agreed happily.
Turning back to the multitude of students watching the Hufflepuff/Gryffindor match and ignoring him for the most part, he retrieved another stick from his tray and continued calling out, "Buttscratcher!"
"Buttscratcher!" Harry called loudly from the Ravenclaw stands, waving to get his attention.
Hermione elbowed him viciously in the side. "Don't encourage him!" she said, scowling. Harry just smiled at her innocently.
Halfway to his destination, Fred tripped over his mysteriously-tied-together shoe laces and tumbled down the stairs, spilling his buttscratchers everywhere and landing at the feet of yet another red-headed boy.
"What exactly are you doing?" Percy asked, his nose turned up in disdain.
Undaunted, Fred shoved his newest product in his older brother's face. "Buttscratcher?" he asked with a hopeful grin.
Percy sniffed and replied with a firm, "No."
"Buttscratcher!?" he reitterated, shaking it violently at him.
"No, Fred! I do not want a buttscratcher!"
Fred looked disappointed, but quickly cheered up as Professor Sinistra let out a yelp as she tripped on the scattered sticks and went down in a flurry of flailing limbs and angry curses.
"What in Merlin's name is this!?" she demanded angrily to the nearby students at large, a buttscratcher clenched in her white-knuckled fist.
Fred grinned. "Buttscratcher," he answered smugly.
The theme to Mission Impossible played softly in the background as a group of black clad ninja-wannabes creeped silently down the halls, stopping before a certain stone gargoyle.
"How do we get in?" Hermione whispered, turning to her cohorts.
Blaise pulled a large tome out of his bag and opened it. "It says here that the ancient Dumbledorians almost always used some type of sweet for their passwords. If we can just figure out which one the high priest of this particular sect fancied most, we should be able to enter the temple with little trouble."
"You're so brillant, Doctor Zabini!" Pansy squealed girlishly, hugging him around the shoulders. "With the treasure sure to be inside, I'll finally be able to pay off all of my late father's debts and restore my family's good name!"
"Why am I here again," Draco sneered from the back of the group, "when I could be sleeping?"
"Oh, but, Colonel Malfoy," Pansy explained quietly. "We need you and Major Nott to protect us should we run into any hostile forces or angry natives. Just as we need Doctor Longbottom to be our healer and Lord Potter to direct us in any areas of the occult we may encounter and to defeat the temple guardian."
"This is ridiculous-ow!" Draco was cut off by a smack on the back of the head from Pansy.
"Hush! You're ruining everything!"
Harry meanwhile had begun intoning gibberish while making nonsensical hand gestures at the statue. He then leaned forward, knocked on the gargoyle's head and whispered, "Open up, will you?" To which it sprang aside, revealing the spiral staircase beyond.
"Oh, Lord Potter!" Pansy cried dramatically, abandoning Blaise to hug him instead. "You're so wonderful! While your dabblings in the occult may have caused you to be shunned by your noble peers, it is these skills which aid us so grandly now!"
Hermione shushed the other girl before her loud theatrics could get them caught and Harry led them forth into Dumbledore's office, currently dubbed the Temple of Doom. The moment they set foot within, Fawkes exploded off his perch and began to dive bomb them in a mock attack.
"Oh!" Pansy exclaimed, slapping the back of her hand to her forehead and feigning faintness. Theo quickly caught her lest the 'delicate flower' hit the floor.
Raising his hands dramatically to the sky, Harry called out, "Oh magnificent guardian of the ancient Temple of Dumbledoria! Be at peace, for I am the high priest's brother's nephew's third-cousin once removed's grandson's step-daughter's decendant!"
Letting out a joyful string of phoenix song, Fawkes calmly landed on Harry's shoulder and began preening his hair.
This had the unfortunate side effect of waking the previously sleeping portraits.
"Who are you?" one asked, peering at the ragtag group of young students quizzically.
Dislodging Fawkes and causing him to return to his perch, Harry grinned, swept the hat off his head and bowed low. "I am Indiana Potter. This is my lovely sister, Hermione Croft. And these are my minions."
Argus Filch stared agast at his group of detentionees. When Dumbledore had given him the group of troublemakers, he'd ordered them to scrub the stones of the entrance hall until they sparkled or else he'd break out the thumb screws. Nott had looked disturbingly excited and asked if he could just skip the scrubbing and go straight to the screws.
Longbottom had burst out in a torrent of pathetic waterworks that had caused even his cold heart a twinge of guilt. Although, he had a sneaking suspicion that he had been played as, right after he'd hesitantly and awkwardly said a "there there, don't cry", Longbottom's tears vanished and he grinned almost deviously.
Zabini glared at him and demanded a mop as he refused to ruin his expensive designer robes by kneeling on the filthy floor. The Malfoy brat joined him in glaring and told him in no uncertain terms that his father, who was on the Board of Governers thank-you-very-much, would hear about how his son was being forced to do menial labor like a lowly house elf.
Granger spent fifteen minutes going on about how it was physically impossible to make the stone floor sparkle without the use of magic, high-end cleaning products or several centuries of constant errosion by fast-flowing water. Parkinson had crossed her arms, kicked him hard in the shin and stormed off. By the time he'd stopped hopping on one foot, she was long gone.
Would it not have ruined his reputation, he might have pawned this group off on Hagrid. Even the one who had done as he was told disturbed him immensely. Potter had attached scrub brushes to his shoes and was now happily skating back and forth, a trail of foamy suds left in his wake.
"Albus, this must stop!" Minerva demanded to the headmaster who sat impassively behind his desk. The rest of the staff nodded in assent, happy to let the deputy headmistress handle this situation. "This has gone far beyond playful pranks! Just this past week they jinxed Gregory Goyle so that he could only respond by shouting 'No Vacancy' at everyone, drew a Dark Mark on seven of their classmate's arms when they fell asleep and conjured up what they call the Hufflepuff Marshmallow Man no less than three different times!
"Hermione Granger now insists the answer to every question is 42! Blaise Zabini has begun carrying around a large book with the title Necronomicon Ex Mortuus and claims to be the Dark Lord's stenographer! Neville Longbottom has begun his own 'Little Shop of Horrors' with cuttings from Pomona's private greenhouses and has trained his toad to attack on command! This is- This is- maddness! And it's only their first year!"
As the woman continued to rant, Severus smirked from the back of the room. He was the only teacher who had been relatively exempt from repeated prankings. Everyone thought it was because the group of michief-makers were afraid of him, as the rest of the student body were, and he let them go on thinking that way while privately he reveled in their misery.
That evening, to his horror, he discovered that Harry had decided to start calling him 'kitten' and he was completely helpless to protest.
A crack of thunder cut through the night as lightning illuminated the landscape. All of Hogwarts castle was dark save one window in a high tower which glimmered with dim firelight. A shadowed figure sat hunched over at his desk, fingers laced together and head resting atop them solemnly. His eyes were clouded with thought as he studied the desktop with great intensity. Every so often he muttered to himself softly before falling back into contemplation.
"He's so strong-willed," he muttered. "He defies me at every turn. This can't continue. I have to put a stop to it."
"Yes," came a whispering at the back of his mind. "He must be brought to heel. His power is a gift to the one most capable of controlling its might. You must be the one to break him, tame him, master him, control him, and his power will be yours. Think of the good you could do. Power over life and death. To turn away the cold sleep and resurrect those pure souls who have passed. The boy is merely a vessel. He doesn't know his purpose. He doesn't understand that he exists only to carry this power, to serve the one most worthy. To serve you, your noble purpose. The boy is meaningless. Only his power has importance. He is worthless."
"Worthless," Dumbledore murmured in agreement, his eyes glazed and unseeing.
"Only his power matters," the voice whispered, a phantom hand lovingly placed over his as a warm presence enveloped him in its arms.
"Only the power," he concurred, closing his eyes in contentment and relishing the spectre's embrace.
Warm breath ghosted over his ear as a feminine apparition leaned over him, long strands of shadow falling over her shoulder.
"Control him," she urged, her voice a soft whisper of silk. "Control the power."
"I will, Ariana. I promise. For you."
A malicious smile split the shadow's face, sharp teeth gleaming in the dim light and black flames danced where eyes should have been. Her voice was sweet and gentle as she spoke, a direct contrast to the diabolic phantasm which hovered sinisterly behind the aging wizard with its ghostly arms wrapped possessively around his shoulders.
"I know, my brother. You love me. You'll resurrect me. I know you will."
"Yes, for you. His power, all for you."
Harry was no longer quite as bored as he was before his two and a half month assault upon the innocent and not so innocent Hogwarts denizens, but he was still far from happy with his daily routine. Things had become so boring and he craved a little excitement. Therefore, he was pleasantly surprised, though a little concerned, when Flitwick herded all of Ravenclaw House into the Great Hall early one Saturday morning for a special assembly.
All of Hogwarts was present from the students to the staff and even the ghosts. While the students crowded the tables, up front all of the teachers had varying expressions of worry, anger, confusion and disgust. One glance at Severus showed that the man was clearly enraged and barely controlling his temper. Harry was about to question him through their link, but Dumbledore stood up, gaining everyone's instant attention.
"It has come to my attention," he said, looking out over the sea of curious faces, "that Hogwarts is rather lacking in order and discipline these days. Now, I like a good joke as much as the next person and everyone should be free to express their opinions, but a school is a place for learning, not for chaos. I would feel that I had failed you all should you be unable to acquire a proper education because of the actions of a few. Therefore, I have instituted a few new rules to help us regain order and bring peace to our fine institute.
"One. Students are no longer allowed to stay in classrooms during breaks. They must either return to their common rooms, the Great Hall or other designated areas. Two. Male students under the age of seventeen are not permitted to have hair reaching below their chins. No exceptions. Those with long hair are required to cut it before the end of the day."
Harry's eyes narrowed. He himself had long hair, as did Draco. It was a pureblood tradition for heirs to have long hair. Draco would not take kindly to that. Besides, Lucius liked long hair. Harry would be damned if he'd cut his.
"Three. Female students with hair reaching below their shoulders must tie it back with a black hairpin, hairband or hairclip. No other colours allowed." Lavender Brown looked faint. "Four. There will be no public displays of affection involving physical contact beyond a friendly handshake or brief pat on the back. This includes hugging and handholding."
'I will damn well hug my sister when I please!' Harry thought angrily, already making plans to negate these rules.
"Five. No students are permited to enter a common room not their own unless they are on official business, have a pass written by a member of the staff or are the Head Boy/Girl. Prefects likewise should keep to their own Houses. Six. There will be no jewlery worn on Hogwarts grounds. Exceptions will be made in the form of family rings for those of noble birth who have reached the age of seventeen."
Harry glanced down at his own ring. He had no doubt Dumbledore added the age limit specifically because he was the only student at Hogwarts who was Lord of their family. Several others made outraged noises, as it was their right to wear the symbol of their families, but Dumbledore continued on as if he hadn't heard them.
"Seven. No student is permitted to have painted fingernails. Eight. No student under fifteen years of age will be permitted to wear make-up or concealing products or spells. Females age fifteen or older will be permitted the following: blemish concealers, pink or beige lipcolours. The following will be allowed only on formal events: eyeshadow, powder, rouge."
Several girls promptly broke out into tears.
"Nine. All students must have natural hair colours. Natural colours consist of the following: brown, blonde, black, red. Metamorphmagi must conform to this standard."
Tonks' hair flared brillantly orange in indignation.
"Ten. All meals are to be taken communally in the Great Hall. Breakfast and lunch are mandatory. Dinner is optional, but the student must not wander outside designated areas. They should instead return to their common room. Eleven. No student is permitted to wear open-toed or high heeled shoes with their uniform. Twelve. Only the uniform standard students cap may be worn with the school uniform. No other headwear is allowed. Thirteen. No students are permitted inside the staff's private rooms unless they are of close blood relation and then only in extreme situations.
"Fourteen. Use of foul, obscene or profane language is punishable by detention. Fifteen. During class time, students are not to be in the library without a written pass from a staff member. This includes those who have freetime while others are in class."
Hermione's mouth dropped open in horror. Padma fainted.
"Sixteen. There will be no loitering in the halls. Students found loitering will have points taken. Seventeen. No Quidditch will be played outside of designated areas. Also, no Quidditch equipment, with the exception of personal brooms, will be taken outside of designated areas. Personal brooms may only be removed at the end of the year to be transported home. Eighteen. Staff members have the right to search a student's backpack, purse or bag of any kind without permission if it is outside of their common room. This includes those carried during Hogsmeade weekends.
"From now on, if a student recieves more than three detentions in one month, they will be suspended for a period of one week. Three suspensions in one year will result in permanant expulsion. Hogwarts has no room for hooligans and troublemakers."
Harry frowned. Most of those rules were understandable and even practical at times. However, for a boarding school, they allowed little to no freedom whatsoever and were obscenely strict. Hogwarts was founded to enrich the lives of young witches and wizards, not mold them into little copies of each other. Something would have to be done.
"That's it," Harry said softly but decisively. He didn't know what was wrong with the aging wizard and he really didn't care, but he would not allow this man to rule over his school. Hermione glanced at him with a worried expression, but did nothing as he rose to his feet.
"Mr. Potter," Dumbledore began, "I don't believe you have been given permission to speak."
Ignoring the man's words, Harry spoke clearly with a firm tone for all the room to hear. "Albus Dumbledore, your actions have become more erratic and dictatorial over the past few years than ever before. Your behavior, both in your professional and private life, has left much to be desired. Your are selfish and controlling and do not deserve to have a say in the futures of these children."
Amazingly, Dumbledore shut his mouth. Of course, it may have had something to do with the magic which snapped his jaw shut and robbed him of his voice.
Harry narrowed his eyes and fixed the man with a steely glare. "I have overlooked your unfair and tyrannical treatment of me and those around me so far, but I have had enough. You have lied constantly, stolen people's futures and very lives and attempted to kidnap me more than once. These are not the actions of the good and virtuous man which you hold yourself to be. They are the actions of a criminal. I am hereby removing you as Hogwarts Headmaster and appointing Minerva McGonagall in your place. You will pack your things and be out of this castle by nightfall or I will have you thrown out."
"You don't have the authority," McGonagall said dubiously, well aware of his status as the castle's proper owner.
"I do," Harry assured her.
"You can't," said Sprout, nervously twisting her robes with her hands.
"Watch me," Harry replied.
He then spun around and strode through the doors which opened and then slammed shut behind him of their own volition.
Harry was well aware that he'd let his temper get the better of him, but he wasn't known for being acquiescent and docile. He was the Dark Lord for a reason and he did not like it when others thought to dominate him. It was instinctive to strike out at them, to put them in their place.
The Hogwarts student body may become wary of him, as he certainly wasn't acting like an eleven year old at the moment, and the press would likely hound him for the blatant display of power, but he would deal with it as it came. He didn't need to continue down this path. He'd only played the child in order to reconnect with old friends. Now that he'd done that, he had no problem ending this persona, taking up another or even revealing himself to the world.
Leaving Hogwarts grounds, Harry tracked Lucius down and quickly made him his voice on the Board.
Two hours later, the Hogwarts Board of Governors conveened in an emergency meeting called by Lucius Malfoy on behalf of the Lord of Hogwarts. Albus Dumbledore was officially removed as Hogwarts Headmaster. Minerva McGonagall was offered the position of Headmistress and Fillius Flitwick that of Deputy Headmaster. Both accepted. Fifteen minutes after sunset, Dumbledore was forcibly removed from Hogwarts by the castle itself.
Moss grew on the grey stone walls and debris from the crumbling structure littered the ground, larger rocks having been kicked aside by the few people who still traveled this way. Water trickled down the walls and accumulated in small pools along the path. Once grand carvings with vivid colours had been eroded away, leaving only the faintest impressions on the walls to show that they had ever existed. Side chambers stood open, their doors having long since rotted away in the passage of time. A chill wind whispered through the mostly empty complex, bringing with it the sense of a long night which had yet to end and would continue to endure for many years to come. The presence of the faintly sweet scent of distant flowers was a strange companion in the otherwise lifeless and abandoned monument, lonely testament of an ancient civilization which vanished eons ago, fading out of history to exist solely in the distant memories of the Ancient Ones.
The clicking of boot heels echoed in the silence as a small group of daring individuals strode purposely down the dank halls of the underground palace. Few dared to brave the intimidating halls of the palace of the Night King. It was an endless void, lacking in both magic and life, a blank spot on the otherwise vibrant and pulsing web of the Earth. Protected by the Keeper, it needed no spells or guards to prevent entry. The frigid walls drew energy from those who intruded upon the solitude of the lone inhabitant, sucking away life and magic until their breath froze in their lungs, their hearts stopped, their bodies withered and finally they succumbed, returning to the aether which spawned them.
Stepping gracefully over a puddle, one of the figures drew his cloak tighter around himself to ward off the chill encroaching upon his heart and making his chest clench painfully. Gabriel had never felt such bone-chilling cold in all his life. The cold usually didn't bother him, but this went far beyond a simple low environmental temperature. It was more like the total absence of heat of any kind. It wasn't natural. It felt as if a steel hand had clamped around his torso, digging icy claws into his chest to pierce straight through to his heart. Only the form of his master, striding confidently before him, kept him from turning back or worse, collapsing, giving into the arctic call of oblivion. Long strands of wheat blonde hair swayed back and forth with every step and, rather than submit, he focused on that beacon in the frozen dark.
Jacob had begun to fall almost the moment they set foot within and had been forced to remain behind at the entrance. The young vampire didn't have the control experience brought and was unable to suppress his magic and life energy enough to pass unharmed. He himself managed to suppress it to only a trickle which his master said would be enough if he stayed close to him. Anai, lacking magic, had an easier time of it. As long as she stayed at their master's side, the Keeper's void would not attack her. Only the First were welcome and only they could grant safe passage to others, if they were strong enough to survive.
Their footsteps halted as Malak stopped, pausing momentarily to peer into a large side chamber. Unlike other rooms, here traces of the previous occupants remained. The door had only now begun to rot and had fallen over to lay across the entry. It was inscribed with an intricate carving of what appeared to be some sort of creature with muscular reptilian legs, a dark furred upright body and an almost human face. Large feathered wings outspread in flight took the place of arms and long elegant tailfeathers fanned out behind it. Curving around the figure was an elegant script he could not read.
Beyond, the remnants of furniture filled the room, a large bed being the central item with groupings of backless stone chairs with tattered cushions positioned around it. Several small fireplaces dotted each wall and higher recesses held pools of some strange liquid which ignited as Malak stepped over the door, careful not to damage it further, and into the room. Small blue flames cast an eerie light over what was obviously once a bedchamber. The only item untouched by time was a large painting on a mantle, a family portrait.
What could only be the very same man who now stood in that decaying room was seated next to a young woman with golden curls and dark eyes who smiled gently. A young girl with the most startling blue eyes, her father's eyes, sat next to the woman. Two males, one a grown man and the other just reaching adulthood, stood behind the seated trio.
The ancient vampire paused briefly, gazing upon the painting, before quickly turning and exiting the room. The blue flames snapped out of existence and both Gabriel and Anai hastened to follow as their master stalked quickly down the hall.
Gabriel started as a hand reached back and clasp his own, blessed warmth spreading throughout his body and banishing the chill. He was yanked forward to walk beside Malak, Anai on his other side, and he glanced up at the pale face of his master. The man's expression was carefully blank, his eyes fixed forward, but there was a small, reassuring squeeze on his hand. Of all the Ancients, Malak was usually one of the most emotive. It was disturbing to see him so closed off, but Gabriel assumed memories of long dead loved ones would be upsetting to anyone.
He himself had few of those. His mother had died in childbirth, he had no siblings and he barely remembered his father. His most precious childhood memories, those of family, brought him only happiness. He'd been raised by Anai and, by extension, Malak who had always been around. For many years he'd been too young to understand the difference between him and them, but when he finally realized they weren't human, he didn't care. They were his parents. It was why he now called Anai his mother and Malak his master. Though it was Anai who made him what he was and loved him as a son, it was Malak who had taught him everything he knew.
The three paused as they exited the long dark corridor into a vast chamber filled with water. Floating orbs of light bobbed lazily along the surface of a vast lake, darting here and there, spiraling far up into the air to brush against a high vaulted ceiling before diving back down to skim along the water playfully. Crimson star-shaped blossoms nestled amongst giant lilypads bobbed atop the water on the gentle ripples the orbs created. In the center of the lake, a black stone building sat on a platform raised just above the water. A warm golden glow shone through the open door and illuminated the figure of an old man standing at the edge of the small island as if waiting.
"Who goes?" he called, his voice harsh from disuse and yet echoing powerfully, unnaturally, over the distance between them.
Gabriel stood at his master's side as the man called back calmly, stepping to the edge of the lake.
The old man raise the crooked staff he leaned on and tapped it once resoundingly against the floor. "Well?" he asked impatiently. "What do you want, boy? I haven't an eternity, you know!"
A small amused smile turned Malak's lips upward. "I wish to examine a prophecy."
The old man made curious sort of whine and leaned forward, resting his weight more fully on the staff, long gray hair falling forward over his shoulders. "Which prophecy," he wheezed, "could be of any interest to you? You have seen them all many times. I assure you, they have not changed in the years since you memorized them."
"There is one I have not seen," he answered solemnly. "One which you guard most closely."
"Oh?" the man queried, visibly intrigued. "You think you've found him then?" The patronizing sarcasm was evident in his wizened voice. "You? When so many others, much older and greater than you, have not?"
"I cannot answer that until I am allowed to view it."
A scoff was their answer, the hunched figure turning back to the door and walking away. "If you're so set on it, come on over, but don't expect anything to come of it." He waved a hand dismissively at them before vanishing into the house.
"Come," Malak said gently, motioning the other two onto a boat-sized lilypad. Surprisingly, it held their weight as it began to slowly cross the lake, helped along by the bobbing orbs of light. "No one may cross without his permission and only by this means," he answered upon seeing Gabriel's confused look.
"Master, who is he?" Gabriel asked, looking to where the old man had been standing.
"The Keeper," Anai answered in her characteristic soft voice.
Malak chuckled. "Yes. He is that, and more. He is Anaius, for whom you are named," he explained, glancing fondly at the dark haired woman beside him. "He is the only remaining original First One, charged by the Night King to be the Keeper of the prophecies and guardian of this palace. He exists in a shadowy place in-between our world and the next, unable to pass on until his duty is complete, until the return of our sovereign king."
"King?" Gabriel asked, confused. He had not heard of this before and, judging by her attentive gaze, neither had Anai.
"As you know, the species now known as Vampire is divided many times over. Amongst the Novus, the turned who were once human, there are the magical and the non-magical. You and Anai are examples of these. Then, there are the Natus, those who were born as they are, whether it be of one or two Vampire parents. The Novus are weak, copies of copies of copies, and the blood given them by the Natus has dwindled to almost nothing. They burn in the sun, are allergic to simple things and flee from religious totems. They spread like a disease and rarely survive long, short-lived unless taken in by a Master. Anai is powerful only because it was I, not some common Novus, who turned her. You are strong because you share that blood and have been raised in greatness. Others are not so lucky.
"Those who survive more than five hundred years, be they Novus or Natus, become what are called Masters, those who are capable of breeding and turning others who will be strong. They teach them, nurture them and protect them. They form families, covens, such as ours.
"A Vampire who survives more than one thousand years becomes Vetus, the old ones. They are the wise, respected elders. A Master who has not yet reached this age will always defer to a Vetus. They are the Vampire Lords who preside over large territories, usually with several covens under their authority. Very few Vetus travel extensively and most choose to exercise their power and control over an area. Which is why I sometimes receive odd looks from strangers. They don't understand why I don't do this too. Only a rare few live the requisite five thousand years to be called Ancient Ones. They are the dukes of our feudal system, ruling over all but the First.
"This system, as complex as it is and however well it functions, breeds a great deal of conflict. There are always small wars and feuds occurring between rival groups hoping to push another out and take their place. Even the Ancients have a hard time controlling them all. Since long before the creation of the First, one sovereign king has served to unite and control our aggressive species. The Night King, a vampiric Dark Lord born of magic and chosen to rule.
"Upon the death of the First Race, our king sacrificed himself in the ritual to create my kind, the Cursed. Without his stabilizing force, our people descended into chaos. However, several hundred years after his death, a prophecy was made that foretold his return. Though it will not be the same man, he will serve the same purpose. This prophecy is the most treasured item in the Keeper's collection and it is this I have come to see."
"You think you know who it is?" Gabriel asked cautiously.
"Indeed." Malak smiled almost wistfully. "I remember only a few lines of the prophecy from my master's memory, but it is enough. If the rest does not fit this person, I shall be greatly surprised."
Strangely, it was Anai who answered in a singsong voice. "Eyes of death and hair of night, time unseen be thunder's bite." Stepping off the lilypad and onto the island with the others, she looked up at Malak with smiling, distant eyes.
Patting her hair fondly, he shook his head. "My dear, you are distinctly unsettling at times."
Arcana Tower was alive with activity as a hodgepodge of students struggled to get a little extra practice in before they left for the summer.
The entire first floor of the tower was a large common room with overstuffed furniture, bookshelves full of recreational reading, games both muggle and magical and currently unlit fireplaces dotting each wall. While mostly empty at the moment, a few students lingered here and there. Ron Weasley was sitting in a corner playing chess with a fifth year Ravenclaw, and was beating him soundly much to the older boy's shock. A group of Gryffindor girls were listening to the Wizarding Wireless and chatting quietly among themselves, giggling every so often. An older Slytherin boy had fallen asleep on one of the comfy sofas and his friends were occupying themselves with writing on his face. Gathered around a large central table, a mixed group of Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs and a few Gryffindors were frantically trying to complete their summer work before they even left the castle so they wouldn't have to worry about it during their vacations.
The second floor had been expanded to an extreme degree, allowing space for just about every activity imaginable, and it was here most were to be found. A large, elevated, circular stage took up the center of the room and a group of older students were currently tossing spells back and forth under the watchful eye of Fillius Flitwick. The shelves and tables in the Herbology corner had been cleared out except for a few longterm projects, which Pomona Sprout was dutifully casting preservative and protective charms over. On the opposite side of the room, Hermione was helping a group of fellow first years perfect animating their Quidditch figures. The new Combat and Weapons teacher, Fred Vannes, who was still technically a tutor until next year, was giving extra lessons to some students with a stern McGonagall eyeing his every move.
She wasn't a fan of seeing sharp, pointy objects in the hands of children or teaching them to beat each other up without magic, but she had to admit that the new elective was possibly the only real physical exercise the students were likely to get and was therefore good for them, to an extent. Besides, at least she had been able to talk Harry out of adding Dark Arts to the core curriculum and had gotten her way when it came to adding a few new electives of her choice. She never thought she'd be arguing seriously with an eleven-year-old about what should be taught at Hogwarts, especially an eleven-year-old who could overrule her, but he was surprisingly mature and empathetic to her point of view.
He was understandably dissatisfied with the quality and diversity of the Hogwarts curriculum and she agreed wholeheartedly with the reinstitution of some classes that had been discontinued over time. Many had been dropped because of lack of interest from the students or lack of funding, but most had been the victims of prejudice from those with the reins of power. Even Muggle Studies had been dropped at one time, until outraged muggleborns, who accounted for nearly half the population, had petitioned to bring it back. Hogwarts had the smallest number of classes available for a magical school in all the world and was the only one to not offer some form of the Dark Arts, either as a core class or an elective. Honestly, the school only had such a reputation for execelence because ninty percent of the teachers were masters of their field.
Now, funded by the Founders' own vaults, many of the old classes and several new ones would be available to the students including Alchemy, Domestic and Household Magic, Hereditary Magic, Legal Dark Arts, Healing, Spellcrafting, Languages, Dance, Music, Literature, and even Reading and Writing after she had pointed out that many of the students that hadn't attended school prior to Hogwarts were nearly illiterate.
New staff had already been hired for each of the classes and would begin next year as full teachers. As of now, so close to the end of the year, they were only classified as tutors and offered lessons to students during their free time. A few had their own classrooms already, but most were using the second floor of Arcana Tower.
The tower itself was the personal living quarters of the Lord of Hogwarts and had been sealed off and abandoned until Harry reclaimed it. His chambers were on the fifth floor, but those below he converted into space for all the residents of the castle to intermingle. He'd originally wanted a shared common room for all the students, but there had immediately been an arguement over where it should be. Finally, he'd given up and had each of the House common rooms linked to the first floor of the tower so that they could step through a door and be halfway across the castle. At first, the students had thought to abuse them, trying to get into a common room that wasn't their own through the tower doors, but after the first few times of finding themselves spontaneously in the Entrance Hall, they'd given up.
Minerva and the rest of the staff had volunteered to stay a few extra weeks after the students left to help the new teachers set up their classrooms and would arrive a week early to help them with any last minute problems that would pop up. As Headmistress, she was happy to find herself exempt from the physical moving in going on, but she was not enjoying having to meet with outraged parents and nosy reporters or oversee the more controversial classes in order to assure everyone that there was nothing extraordinarily dangerous about them. No more so than any other class in which children were given potentially deadly weapons and set loose, and really, that's exactly what a wand was in the wrong hands.
Nellie was quite happy that she no longer had to hide in Harry's bed or under his robes all the time. She once again had a room all to herself in the Tower and, after a harrowing scene involving a sleepwalking second year Gryffindor, several flights of stairs and Nellie spontaneously playing the hero, she was regarded as a beloved mascot by all and sundry, much to her surprise. Though, she was still not allowed outside the Tower without Harry. Minerva McGonagall was not one you wanted to startle in the dark, as the snake quickly discovered.
Harry himself now split his time between his private quarters and the Ravenclaw dorms, not wanting to alienate his housemates. Three times a week, Harry would kidnap Lucius and sneak him into his quarters via floo to spend the night cuddled up to him with no one the wiser. In fact, that was exactly what he was doing when a streak of fire cut through the night outside his window followed by a rather pathetic, squeaky roar.
Lucius gawked open-mouthed at the small black dragon that now perched on the open window ledge. It eyed them both suspiciously before letting out what was supposed to be a threatening growl that was more cute than anything. Harry blinked, staring in confusion at the small Norwiegian Ridgeback sitting in his window before finally comprehension dawned on him.
"I knew I forgot something," he said with a snap of his fingers and began moving slowly toward the lost dragon hatchling, trying to appear as unthreatening as possible. The dragon just eyed him warily, hopping from side to side as if looking for the best escape route that didn't involve flying. Its underdeveloped wings were barely capable of keeping it aloft and it was likely tired from its flight to his window. How it got as far as it did was a mystery.
He was just reaching out a hand to gently capture the creature when it spread its wings, leaped into the air and glided past him into the room. Lucius looked like he was about to wet himself when it landed on his knee and dug its talons in to keep balanced.
Harry smiled reassuringly at the blonde who was even paler than normal. "Don't worry. It's just a baby. No more dangerous than a housecat."
Lucius glared as the dragon shifted. "That is no housecat."
Magic easily provided an appropriate-sized, reinforced cage and Harry used his inhuman speed to catch the hatchling, ignoring when it bit him firmly on the thumb, and he locked the disgruntled creature away. It immediately began making heart-renching calls for its mother.
Minerva was surprised beyond belief when Harry decended from his quarters with a small dragon, of all things, in a cage. It was making terrible mewling sounds while nipping at the small hands carrying the cage, Harry having to adjust his grip constantly to keep out of reach of the angry creature's jaws. He already bore at least one battle wound, judging from the blood on his left hand and the blood-soaked handkerchief wrapped around his first three fingers.
"Where-? What-? How did-?" she faltered, unable to decided which question needed asking first. It wasn't everyday, after all, that one saw a dragon, much less in Hogwarts.
Apparantly taking pity on her, Harry smiled. Ignoring as it latched onto his thumb, he held up the cage. "It flew in my window. I think I saw it come from the direction of Hagrid's hut."
Her eyes narrowed as everything fell into place. "Hagrid," she all but growled. "Come along, Mister Potter. I believe I need to have a talk with him and you should get to the infirmary."
Levitating the cage away from him, she turned to the door, shooing curious students out of her path as she walked, Harry following after her.
"I'd like to go with you," he said, trotting along beside her as she strode down the corridors. "I may have a solution for the dragon dilemma, and my hand is fine." At her skeptical glance, he held the injured limb up, displaying quickly healing puncture wounds.
She paled minutely and raised an eyebrow, but quickly turned back to face her destination. "I believe I also need to have a private conversation with you."
Harry smirked. "Looking forward to it."
Hagrid's expression when he answered the door, only to have his pet dragon shoved in his face by an irate headmistress, was comical. His face fell and his mouth worked soundlessly for a moment before he made a grab for the cage, attempting to retreat back inside before she could go on a tirade. Alas, it was to no avail. The stern woman backed him into his cabin and gave him a tongue lashing that had him cowering before her angry might.
Two hours later, a goblin arrived to retrieve Norbert and pay a sobbing Hagrid a handsome sum for Gringotts' newest aquisition. Harry had given him the option of sending it to Charlie in Romania or allowing the goblins to use it to guard their vaults. He had finally, after much begging and pleading to be allowed to keep it, chosen the latter as it allowed him to visit 'his baby' whenever he wanted.
Afterwards, Harry was led by the headmistress to her office and spent the better part of an hour explaining to her his vampiric nature, the fact that he had everything under control and that he trusted her not to make his 'condition' known to others. He wasn't the first non-human being to attend Hogwarts, nor even the first vampire, and things were settled quickly.
Bill wiped the sweat from his brow with a stained handkerchief, silently cursing his work environment. He loved his job, but there were times when he wished he could use something as simple as a cooling charm without having to worry about negative interaction with the curses he was meant to break. Glancing over at his coworker, he envied the Goblin's adaptability. Gorblac, like the rest of his race, while they didn't particularly like dry heat, were at home in both temperature extremes. So long as he stayed out of direct sun, the stalwart creature was just fine working throughout the day to complete their goal.
When he finally called a break for lunch, Bill was happy just to get back to the tent with all of its cooling charms, well stocked icebox and other such amenities. As he ate, he studied the other creature sharing the large tent with him.
He didn't often get to work side-by-side with a Goblin Cursebreaker, but this particular tomb had some rather tricky traps put in place by ancient Goblins that no human had ever been privilaged to learn. Gorblac was nothing short of a genius, even by Goblin terms. He worked quickly and efficently and what would have taken Bill months to do alone, they had done in only a few weeks. By tonight, they would likely be finished and Bill found himself running out of time. He had a certain question he wanted to ask and he'd been working up the courage to since they'd arrived.
He was as well versed in Goblin culture and ettiquete as any human could be and he knew there were some things you just didn't ask. Questioning a Goblin's motive was tantamount to questioning their sanity. Goblin's didn't question each other. They either understood the why's or they trusted that their kin knew what they were doing. Asking why one does something was reserved for superiors questioning underlings or parents and children. That is, from those who are intelligent and established to those who's judgement may not be as sound. Bill was certain his question would be taken as an insult, but he simply had to know.
"Master Gorblac," he saidd, keeping his tone low and respectful. "May I ask you a question?"
He recieved a grunt to the affirmative and the Goblin, finished with his lunch, set the remnants aside, giving him his full attention. Bill was suprised at the gesture of respect. He supposed he must have impressed him in some way.
Tentatively, he began. "Many Dark Lords have come and gone and never has the Goblin Nation taken sides, either with him or against. I am only a human and cannot begin to understand the wisdom of the Goblins, but I am wondering why this one is different and hope that one as wise and powerful as yourself will enlighten me."
To anyone else, his words may have sounded condescending or pretentious, but Goblins liked to be reminded of their superiority. Gorblac grinned, displaying one of the Goblin's most fiercesome weapons.
"The answer, young Weasley, is simple. Power," he replied in his rough, gravely voice. "This Dark Lord could wipe us from the face of the planet with only a thought."
Bill started. Surely he wasn't that powerful. No one was that powerful.
"Dark Lords have come and gone, true. They've united the Dark races, fought wars and brought balance to magic. They been shrewd, intelligent, cruel, strong, compassionate or completely out of their minds. However, there is one thing they have all had in common. Mortality. A limit to their might. Despite the gifts that Magic gave them, they remained mortal wizards and were bound by the same preconceptions and limitations that all other wizards are.
"This young prince is the opposite. Though he may not yet realize it, he is completely unchained and his power infinite. Everything in this world is within his sphere of influence. The only possible limitation to his power is his imagination and his own mind. Even his magical core is of immeasurable size, because the core within his body is not the full extent of his reach. Magic Itself is his true core and should his body be destroyed, he would be reborn as a being of pure magic, even greater than before. He clings to his living form, but even the restrictions he places upon his power, be they intentional or not, mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. Should he desire something with all his being, it will be and there is no stopping it, because there is no stopping Magic."
Pausing, Gorblac took a deep swig of his drink. Setting the now empty cup aside, he stood and headed for the entrance to the tent, pausing to look back at the bewildered human.
"He is a god among ants. Who are we to stand against him? Besides, it is most profitable to be his ally."
With a parting grin, he left Bill to contemplate the things he'd been told.
Platform nine and three quarters, as per usual for the end of the year, was crowded with students saying loud farewells to their friends and impatient families searching though the bedlam for their children, but a good portion of the chaos this year seemed to center around a certain first year.
Daphne had both arms around Harry's shoulders, squeezing tightly and almost sobbing at being seperated from him. "Harry!" she wailed, clutching at him. "I don't want you to go!"
Lisa and Padma were jostling and shoving at each other to hug his waist. "Can we please come over this summer...all summer?" Lisa pleaded, eyes glistening with tears.
Harry just smiled. "I'm sorry, ladies," he said, patting Padma on the head. "I'm afraid I won't be home much this summer. Sirius and I will be traveling abroad. You are invited to my birthday party, of course, and your entire families are invited to the wedding. So, I'll see you then."
Su looked afronted. "What makes you think we want to see you!? I never got to finish that text on human-to-inanimate transfiguration!"
"And I wanted to finish that potion I started!" Mandy declared.
"And I wanted to ride the kelpie!" Padma exclaimed, then blushed as everyone stared at her. "I mean, finish the...uh...book...on...um...yeah."
Harry chuckled while Hermione snickered.
Realization seemed to suddenly dawn in their eyes and all four girls released Harry and spun on Hermione with fire in their eyes. "You!" they all exclaimed at once.
Hermione's eyes widened and she felt the urge to hide behind Harry as the others advanced on her. Being the proud witch she was though, she stood firm as death approached.
"You've got an open invitation to his house!" Lisa declared, poking the other girl lightly in the shoulder. Crossing her arms over her chest, she turned her nose up. "I'm so jealous. Why couldn't Harry have knocked me down last summer? I was in that store too, you know! If he had, I'd be his sister instead of you and have complete and total access to all of those precious books!"
Hermione giggled at the display. Lisa was, at times, almost as melodramatic as Pansy. The only differences were their intellects and the fact that Lisa clung to Harry instead of Draco.
Ah, speak of the devil.
She barely had time to dodge Pansy's flying tackle hug from behind, but the girl was not so easily deterred. She paused briefly, turned on her heel and threw her arms around her reluctant friend. "Oh, Hermione! I missed you so!"
"We saw each other at breakfast," Hermione muttered while squirming to free her arms at least from where they were pinned to her sides.
"Well," Pansy continued, not loosening her grip one bit, "I missed you on the train! I had to sit with my cousin! She kept going on and on about pure blood and kept calling me a blood traitor and...she sat on my chocolate frog! It was horrible! It let out this frightening shrieking croak and and just went limp and melty!" Pausing to consider, she snickered. "It was funny though to see Millicent leap up as though she'd been hit with a stinging hex and then try to climb onto the luggage rack to get away."
Even Hermione had to smile at that.
Alright, so Pansy wasn't quite as bad as she'd originally thought. She was clingy, a chatterbox and Hermione was half convinced the girl was responsible for the Thestral attack on her cousin with the way she seemed to dislike her so fiercely, but she was very loyal and affectionate with her friends. Hermione was even beginning to get used to her constant hugs. However, that didn't mean she liked that tingly feeling in her fingers from the strangle hold the other girl had on her.
Luckily, she had a guardian angel or two.
Theo casually grabbed Pansy by the cloak and pulled her off just as Harry appeared at her side.
Harry's vibrant green eyes had darkened and he scowled. "Pansy," he asked. "Did you say Millicent called you a blood traitor?"
Pansy, apparantly oblivious to Harry's mood, waved her hand dismissively. "Oh don't worry. Daddy will handle it." She smiled then and if Hermione didn't know any better, she'd say it was malicious and knowing. "Daddy handles everything. No one hurts his little girl."
"We are not worthy!!"
"Worthy we are not!!"
Sirius basked in the attention. Remus gave a forced smile and tried to back away. Two sets of identical hands grasped their ankles tightly.
"We are your loyal slaves!!"
"Your slaves we are!!"
The two men exchanged a pointed look, then looked back down at the Red-headed Clones of Satan that had prostrated themselves at their feet and were begging to be stepped on.
"Please! Tread on us with your boots of the Mighty!"
"We pave the road to your World Domination!"
"Tread on us!"
"Tread on us!"
Remus chuckled uncomfortably while Sirius beamed.
"Y'know," Sirius quipped, "instead of just inviting them to the wedding, I think we should have made them ring bearers."
Remus glared and slapped him in the back of the head.