Disclaimer: I own nothing of the Harry Potter universe. I don't make money from writing this rubbish that drips from my fingers to the keyboard. Don't sue me, because you'll only be disappointed when you find out how poor I am.
A/N: Welcome back to the new and revised 'Message in a Bottle.' This story has been adapted to take into account The Deathly Hallows… including the 'epitaph…' err, I mean, 'epilogue.' As I've been writing, I've found that a lot more needed to be explained about the future Wizarding and Muggle Worlds in this story, so the setup is a bit more informative and comprehensive and takes up the first two chapters. Hopefully, this story won't be quite as long as my 'Demon' story, but you never know what path my mind may take as I work through this iteration of the Harry Potter universe. The chapters are going to be somewhat shorter than with the 'Demon' story, probably between 3000 - 4000 words each, as compared to 4500 - 7500 words per chapter that was common to 'Demon.' As always, I'm trying to make this story as different as possible from anything else out there. With any amount of luck, I can keep you all both interested and guessing! The first few chapters are going to be quite angsty, (at least, that's what I'm aiming for) but I have plans for future H/Hr fluff, too! I'm planning that the fluffiness will come much quicker than it happened in the 'Demon' story, but who knows? I hope that all of you will enjoy this story, because that is the main reason I write this stuff… not only for myself, but also for you! Sit back, relax, and immerse yourself in this time-bending tale of angst, friendship, betrayal, power, and the love that should have occurred in canon! (Word Count: 3608)
-Junko- (aka - Hotaru/Angry Hermione)
Chapter 1: The Porter Mansion
October 31, 2141 - 11:03 PM
A pair of teenaged boys were walking uneasily along an overgrown dirt road on the outskirts of Ventnor, a community on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England. The boys stopped and looked at each other for a moment, before turning back to look at the group of teenagers who were urging them on behind them.
A laughing voice called from the group, "You mates chickenin' out so soon?" That voice was followed by another, higher pitched voice, "What are you scared of? Afraid that the ghost of 'Ol' Man Porter' will get you?" The group burst out in laughter when one of the girls yelled out, "Look at 'em! They's about ta wet theyselves!"
The two boys looked nervously at each other, and then continued to walk silently down the dark road. One of the boys, who had a mop of longish sandy brown hair and wearing a white tee shirt and a faded pair of jeans that were slightly too small for his slightly portly frame jumped in alarm when a raven cawed out loudly from a nearby branch of one of the many long dead trees that seemed to inhabit the area around the old estate.
The other boy, a tall, thin teenager with dirty blonde hair and light blue-gray eyes shook his head at his friend and said, "Cor, Nigel, don't be so jumpy. It's just an old house. We'll poke around a bit, grab something to prove we were in there, and pop out again."
The shorter boy turned his scared hazel eyes to his friend, "I don' like this, Ian. Not one bit. What abou' ol' man Porter? Getting' snuffed ain't worth being a member of a club o' gits like them. An' it bein' 'alloween ain't too comfortin', neither."
"Nobody's seen that geezer in over thirty years. 'E's probably in the ground already, anyway."
The smaller boy still looked unsure, causing the taller boy to sigh as he said, "Just look at the place. Nobody would live in a dump like that… and Halloween is just another day. You still don't really believe in ghosts and ghoulies, do ya? That's kid stuff!"
Nigel looked through the wrought-iron fence that encircled the Porter estate and sighed nervously. The nearly full moon in the cloudless sky illuminated the old Victorian manor house in the distance. No lights were visible through the scores of windows, many of which were missing panes of glass because of weather, neglect or vandals.
A few minutes later, they found themselves in front of the large, rusting wrought-iron gates of the old Porter estate. They looked at the thick chain that secured the gates closed, fastened together with a huge, antique looking brass padlock that strangely showed no signs of being tarnished.
Ian's eyes scanned the length of the ten-foot tall fence before he hesitantly reached for the lock, but apparently thought better of it and lowered his hand, saying, "There's got to be a way in. Let's follow the fence around."
They walked along the tall fence in silence, keeping their eyes peeled for any breach through the wrought iron bars. The silence of the night was sporadically punctuated by the call of the strange raven, which, if they didn't know better, had appeared to be following their progress around the estate.
After over a half hour of walking, the iron fence came to an end, butting against a high stone wall that stretched out into the ocean, separating the estate's beachfront from the outside world.
Ian walked along the wall towards the beach, studying the rough surface and looking for any place where it might be scalable. He stopped close to the waterline, running his fingers over the weathered wall. Due to decades of exposure to the salty ocean air and the eroding effects of the water, he saw that a lot of the mortar between the stones had crumbled away, creating open cracks in the wall that could be used as toe and hand holds.
With a little effort, Ian managed to scale the wall. Once on top, he reached down and helped Nigel, who had a much more difficult time climbing up the wall than he had. The land on the inside of the wall was much higher than the outside, making it easy for the boys to jump down the few feet to the beach of the estate.
The moment their feet hit the sand, both Nigel and Ian jumped in fright as a loud caw sounded from the raven that was now perched on top of the wall from where they had just jumped. The black bird let out another angry screech and then flew off in the direction of the manor house.
The two boys looked at each other, as if waiting for the other to call the whole thing off. A biting cold wind suddenly swept in from off of the ocean, causing them both to shudder involuntarily. Ian took a deep breath and said, "Well, we've come this far…"
Ian started walking towards the large house with Nigel following slowly behind. It seemed that the nearer they got to the house, the colder and more forceful the wind became. By the time they reached the large, overgrown mass of dried and decaying vegetation that at one time had been a sprawling garden, they were sprinting through the underbrush, anxious to get to shelter of any kind. They rushed up a set of stone steps from the garden to a wide patio. The paver stones were cracked and uneven, causing each of them to stumble more than once before they reached the set of wide French-style glass doors.
When Ian reached for the tarnished brass handles, he was surprised to find that the doors were unlocked. With no small amount of force, the two boys pushed the doors closed against the wind. The moment the doors clicked shut, they were plunged into nearly complete silence, even the eerily wailing gale from outside was barely audible.
They each turned on their hand torches and scanned the room in which they found themselves. Long ago, this must have been a richly furnished grand ballroom, but time and neglect made the huge room look more like an abandoned church. They looked up at the faded and cracked murals that were painted on the vaulted cathedral ceiling. The high windows that lined the walls were nearly opaque with soot and grime. Old, rotted tapestries and ruined portraits lined the once golden walls, which were now blackened with a slimy mildew. The vast hardwood floor was warped and covered with patches of moss and mold. In the looming darkness that was the far end of the room, they could just make out a set of huge oaken doors, presumably leading to the main area of the house.
"Come on, let's find something and get out of here," said Ian as he stepped towards the oak doors.
Nigel nodded and said, "The sooner the better. This place is creepier on the inside than the out. A righ' fine settin' for a 'orror film this 'ouse'd make, t' be sure."
They crossed the creaky, uneven floor, scanning for any trinket they could take to prove to the others that they were actually inside of the old house. Bits of debris lay all over, collapsed chairs, rotted branches, long dead leaves and many small piles of some smelly, unidentifiable matter, but nothing that could be considered anything more than rubbish.
When they reached the doors, Ian turned the ornately engraved brass handle and pulled on the door. A loud creak from the rusty hinges echoed through the vast hall. Instantly, the air was filled with shrill, piercing shrieks, accompanied by the sound of hundreds of flapping, fleshy wings.
"Bats!" yelled Ian, as he realized that the piles of stuff all over the floor were mounds of guano that had fallen from the high rafters. They rushed through the door amidst a cloud of the startled, flying rodent-like creatures, who were desperately swooping around, looking for ports of egress from the old house.
They frantically pulled on the door and it closed with a loud slam that echoed through the manor. Several of the bats that had made it through the doorway before they closed it were buzzing haphazardly around the room, eventually finding an exit through the many missing or broken panes of glass.
They trained their flashlights around the dark room and saw that they were in a large entrance hall. On each side of the door they had just entered through were two wide, curving staircases that ascended to the second floor. Another set of stairs under the staircase on their left descended down into a lower level. The smell of mildew and decay permeated the room, mostly from a wide, rotting old oriental carpet that spanned nearly the entire hall. Two sets of doors on either side of the room led off into rooms unknown, and a wide pair of glass doors straight ahead of them led to what appeared to be a receiving hall, with the massive front doors of the manor on the far side.
"Look around," commanded Ian breathlessly, "there's got to be something here we can use."
Nigel uneasily nodded and began searching through a set of cabinets on the right, while Ian searched a long counter along the left wall that appeared to be a wet bar. They both noticed an old grandfather clock in the corner, obviously broken for many, many years. Most of the numbers were missing from its' face, and both hands hung limply over where the Roman numeral six used to be. Its tarnished brass weights and chains lay on the bottom of the case, and its' pendulum was half-protruding out from the broken glass that had once covered the bottom compartment.
Ian moved behind the bar, searching around the dust covered bottles. He glanced up on the wall over the bar and was surprised to see a very large painting that was relatively untouched by the ravages of exposure and time. The thought briefly crossed his mind to take that painting as proof, but he knew it was much too large to carry out of the old estate.
It wasn't really the condition of the portrait that initially drew his attention, but the subject of it. It was a painting of a room, papered in red velvet, and cheerily warmed by a roaring fireplace in the background that looked so real that it appeared that the flames were actually moving. In the center was a small table on which rested a large jug of wine, a partial loaf of bread, a small fruit bowl, and a plate that contained a wheel of cheese with a knife protruding from it. Right beside the table was an antique, red leather chaise lounge with a strikingly pretty, and very naked, girl lounging upon it holding a crystal goblet of the red wine. She appeared to be in her early to mid twenties, with a thin, lithe body, unusually long, yellow-blonde hair and wide, strikingly beautiful icy-blue eyes. If it weren't for her leg being positioned just right, he would have been able to tell if the carpet matched the drapes. She also held the goblet so that it, and her arm, had strategically covered the important bits of her rather full breasts. Ian stared at the portrait for a long moment, noticing the tarnished brass plaque that was affixed to the bottom of the frame that read, 'Jaana Marie Figg: 1970 -'
Ian turned around and called to Nigel, "Oy, Nige, come have a look at this bird. Must be one of Ol' Man Porter's relatives that… that…"
Nigel turned away from the frustrating cabinet after pulling off one of the handles from a wedged, worm-eaten drawer and looked to see why his friend went abruptly silent. As he walked across the room, he saw Ian was still standing behind the bar, just staring at a large painting of a room with a sofa, table and fireplace.
He looked at the painting for a few moments before asking in a whisper, "What did you say, mate? What bird?"
"The girl," he said with wide eyes and a wavering voice as he pointed at the now unoccupied portrait, "she was lying there on that couch a moment ago, naked as a baby, she was… now she's… not there…" he turned to Nigel, and seeing his friend's suspicious frown, said angrily, "I know I saw her!"
Nigel turned his head away from his friend's piercing glare, where his eyes rested on a dusty bottle of old wine. Picking it up, he said, "'ere, we'll take this. It'll make a fittin' toast to our acceptance into the club, now le's go."
Ian's eyes drifted along the line of bottles. He reached out and grabbed another, muttering, "I'm gonna need more than just one."
Ian walked around the bar and towards the large oak doors, hoping that the bats had all left to go hunting insects for the night. As he passed the front of the bar, he trained his light back to the painting to give it one last look.
Nigel, who was already reaching for the door handle, heard the smashing of a bottle on the floor. He spun around to see the bottle that Ian had been carrying lying broken on the floor in a puddle of spilled wine. Ian's face was pale and his eyes were wide with terror as he stared back at the bar. Nigel looked to where Ian's torch beam pointed and felt his own blood run cold. Sitting on the chaise lounge in the painting was an old man with long gray hair and sporting a white beard that was nearly as long as his hair, just smiling serenely while casually holding a crystal goblet full of wine.
Suddenly, the old grandfather clock in the corner, the one that both boys could have sworn was broken beyond repair just a few minutes before, began loudly chiming, with its' hands both pointing to the roman numeral twelve at the top of the eerily glowing face, announcing that midnight had arrived.
A startled gasp escaped Nigel's throat. He turned and grabbed the handle to the oak door. As he threw his weight on the door, it opened with the loud screeching of the rusted hinges, which seemed to snap Ian out of his shock because he immediately began sprinting towards the door.
As the door swung fully open, Nigel let out a terrified scream as he found himself face to face with a pearly, translucent figure of a young woman. Her shimmering facial features were contorted into a scowl of rage as she opened her mouth and emitted a mournful, banshee-like wail.
Nigel was back-stepping away from the door with his mouth moving in a panicked, silent monologue. Ian skidded to a halt upon seeing the ghost of the girl he had just seen in the large painting a minute before. Both of the teens turned in the direction of the glass doors that led to the front of the manor, desperate to flee from this house of nightmares. They hadn't moved three steps when something materialized right in front of the glass doors. It appeared to be an old, graying bed sheet with elongated holes cut out of it for eyes, and a jagged rip as a mouth just beneath the eyeholes made for a very disturbing sight, especially since there was a red, evil-looking illumination glowing from within the sheet. It was hovering between where the teens stood and the glass doors that led to the front exit and freedom. The floating sheet began moving slowly towards them.
The jagged tear in the sheet opened, emitting a deep, otherworldly voice, "How dare you enter my home… unbidden… unwelcome… Are you here to plunder my treasures? Alas, you'll find no treasure here… only your doom!"
Ian's eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he fell backwards to the floor in a dead faint. Nigel wore a blank, empty expression as he stood motionless, staring at what appeared to be a point on the distant horizon.
The young ghost floated lazily across the room and stood in front of the catatonic boy. She waved her translucent hand in front of the youth's face, but it elicited no response from the boy at all. The ghost sighed and turned to the old man with his pet raven perched on his shoulder who had just emerged from the stairs to the lower chambers.
"We nearly killed these two, you know," she said with the slightest touch of mirth in her voice, "They would have left quick enough. Did you have to use that thing, too?" she asked as she pointed to the ruined bed sheet that was now lying motionless on the dirty floor. Before he could respond, she hastily added, "If you'd only remember to renew the muggle repelling charm every few years like you're supposed to…"
"Enough, Jaana… you know how busy I've been," replied the old man as he reached down and picked up two shards of the broken wine bottle, "and these stupid muggles aren't dead. You'd think that kids these days would have better things to do than break into old houses."
The old man walked up to the catatonic teen and looked into his unfocused eyes. His nose wrinkled as he detected the pungent smell of urine and excrement. With a chuckle, he commented, "Oh, dear. It seems this one had a bit of an accident. Maybe I did overdo it a smidgen. Still, he'll be okay in a few days. A quick modification and he'll be right as rain."
He drew his wand from the sleeve of his robes, pointed it at the teen and muttered, "Adjicius Commoneo."
"I'll let the other one remember what happened. Nobody will believe him anyway, and if they do, then maybe it'll keep his friends away from here."
He tapped each shard of glass with his wand and incanted, "Portus." The bits of jagged glass shuddered in his hand, and after the familiar blue glow subsided, he placed a shard onto the unconscious teen and placed the other into the pocket of the one still standing before tucking his wand back into his sleeve. He turned his head to the raven on his shoulder and, after thanking him for keeping a lookout, sent him out through a broken window and into the night. He turned and slowly walked back to the stairs. Before he made it to the first step, the two teens had disappeared in a fall of colour.
The old man made it halfway to the lower landing when he was stopped by a pointed clearing of Jaana's ethereal throat. He looked up at her standing at the top of the stairs and he asked her exasperatedly, "Well? What now?"
The ghost put her hands on her hips and said in a shrill, bossy voice, "The muggle-repelling charm? Honestly, Harry… if it weren't for me, you'd forget your head if it wasn't attached!"
A pained look flashed in the old man's eyes and a slight frown crossed his lips, which didn't go unnoticed by the ghost. She knew that look… he was thinking of her again. Sometimes Jaana wished that her personality wasn't so eerily similar to his long lost friend.
The old man turned and walked back up the stairs. He stood in the middle of the room, and with a slow, practiced sweeping motion of his hand, he muttered a long phrase in perfect Latin. A glowing blue circle appeared around his feet and quickly expanded outwards in all directions. He held the incantation long enough for the radius to reach just beyond his property, where he flicked his fingers and sealed the ward. With a sad, tired sigh, he returned to the stairs and continued his descent into the lower chambers of the mansion.
He reached the bottom of the stairs and walked past the moldy, deteriorating bric-a-brac that had been in the basement well before he had claimed the house as his own. He stood before a portion of blank wall, which he tapped with his wand causing a doorway to materialize. He deftly stepped through the new doorway into a warm, sparsely furnished antechamber, moderately lit by a fire crackling in a wide fireplace. He walked over to a desk that was positioned near the warmth of the fire and sat heavily down. He picked up his quill, loaded it with ink and began scribbling into the thick book that was resting on the desktop.
After he had written a few lines, his eyes glanced up to the line of magical photographs that adorned the topmost shelf of his desk and rested upon one in particular. The enchantment that allowed the figures in the picture to move had long since faded, but the frozen image that remained was enough to fuel his resolve. The intense gaze of the pair of enlightened brown eyes, framed by the mass of unruly, chestnut-brown hair, was all the motivation he needed. Why couldn't he have seen then what was so clear to him now… now that it was far too late for him to do anything about it? Well, he hoped it wasn't too late, in a sense.
He tore his eyes from the photograph and resumed his work. He couldn't do anything about it directly, but maybe if he had a wake-up call when he needed it most… if he had just been given a timely clue… not just about his romantic life, but of the perils that awaited him that were caused by actions that seemed so trivial… so unimportant at the time…
'Almost done,' he thought to himself as he continued to chronicle his life's story, 'I don't know how much longer I can live with this.'