This is it, the final chapter of this story. I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. But don't think there's any rest for us, there are more years to go. I've already posted the first chapter of the next story. Read down to the bottom to get the name.
Thanks to all those who read, and even more thanks to those who reviewed. NaginiFay, I always enjoy it when people like the little funny lines I put in. Estel A Duath, my condolences on your loss, and I pray you never have to feel it again. And to KRP, there are a number of each type of Quicksilver cloak in existence. As for Sidara…well, you'll see.
All the rest of y'all should review, too. And anyone reading this story long after I've finished posting should review as well. I'd love to hear your opinions on it.
As always, my standard warnings. Text in italics is in Azkabaaner and I don't own HP
Chapter 21 – Closer Together
The morning of the student's departure from Hogwarts was bright and warm. Esdras had floated happily over to the Gryffindor table to show off his new feet which he had managed to grow during the night. Aaron had succeeded in delivering the final deployment report and was speaking quietly to Katie in Azkabaaner while Esdras reviewed the documents. "So that was about the time he proposed to her. I told him he was making a terrible mistake and that she didn't love him, but he wouldn't listen to me. It wasn't until he overheard Lara discussing how she was going to use the money that he started to open his eyes."
Katie's voice was shocked. "So he was actually engaged to Lara Sidara? I thought they couldn't stand each other."
Esdras coughed and interrupted. "There was a time when we were…quite friendly. But we were engaged for a month about a century and a half ago. I doubt your grandparents were even born at that time." He gave her a sad smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I had hoped that you would never meet her or even hear about her. I was a different person back when I was seeing Sidara. I'd like to think I've improved on who I was when I was young and stupid."
The mortal nodded softly and took his hand. "I understand. It's just that sometimes I forget that you're so much older than me. But I don't want you to think that you have to hide anything from me." Her voice took on a curious tone. "So what is her position now?"
Esdras sighed. "She's warden of Azkaban prison. She's one of the more important Dementor officers."
Katie looked impressed and, after a quiet second, smiled playfully and winked at Esdras. "So how did she take the break up?"
The Dementor laughed. "Like any gold digger would. She was angrier that she got caught than she was that I was leaving her. After that, Aaron and I took a foreign service tour of duty and worked in Asia for a few decades. There's not much room for promotion there so that's why she's farther up the chain of command these days."
Aaron nodded. "And it's also why we like Asian food." The three shared a laugh together before Aaron sighed and switched back into English, all private subjects having been discussed. "I should probably check on the patrols. Loading up the train is always stressful and confusing. I may just double the patrols."
Esdras shrugged. "We could go either way; I'll leave it your discretion. Make use of the 212th and 1102nd Divisions if you have to. Both of them are Guard certified and should be able to handle making sure everyone gets onto the train safely."
The captain rose and saluted. "Yes, Lord Admiral." He paused for a moment and regarded his friend. "And Esdras, the Oracle has arrived again. She has said that she's ready to perform the ritual whenever you are."
Esdras raised a mortal eyebrow at his friend and quickly looked nervous. "Tell her then that we will meet her immediately on the roof of the Astronomy tower. It is an easily defensible position and will afford us the required amount of privacy."
Aaron again nodded and floated off towards the door. Once he had gone, Esdras rose and extended a hand to Katie. "You heard what he said, the Oracle is ready. If you still want to be closer to me, now is your chance. I won't blame you if you want to back out."
Without hesitation, Katie took his hand. "I've been waiting for this all year. Do you really think I'm going to back out now?"
The Dementor stared deep into her eyes, piercing her very soul. "You may well once you find out what I will have to do."
The beautiful sunny day was even more pronounced at the top of the Astronomy tower. Katie and Esdras had an unobstructed view of the massive First Infantry escorting the Oracle of Azkaban on her way to meet them. Three hundred Dementors strong, the First Infantry was the largest of the Azkaban Infantry units, and rivaled many of the Azkaban Fleets in size.
As the Oracle floated down to the tower, her guards formed a shield, encircling the observation deck and facing outwards. Once they were completely surrounded, the handler released the Oracle and she floated calmly towards the pair. "Hail, mighty Demnin, god of death. Grant forgiveness to my guards, they do tend to go overboard at times, but I love them all as if they were my own sons and daughters."
Esdras and Katie both rose up from where they had knelt. In his Dementor form, Esdras took the small cloakling into his arms. "The great Oracle again mistakes me for my divine ancestor. Yet no forgiveness shall be granted where no offense is made. The protection of the Oracle is paramount, your guards bring honor upon themselves with their actions."
Katie smirked softly as she saw the Dementors within earshot straighten up a bit in pride. She approached the two Dementors and smiled brightly. "Greetings, great Oracle. Aaron had said that you were ready, and that you could bring Esdras and me closer?"
The Oracle, nestled in the Admiral's arms, calmly regarded the mortal for a moment. Finally, Esdras spoke, but Katie knew immediately that he was speaking for the Oracle. "The spells are prepared, but be warned, mortal child, they are incredibly dangerous. They must be applied directly to your soul." Esdras gasped, and Katie could now tell that he was speaking for himself. "I must Kiss you, Katie. I must take your soul for this to happen."
The mortal, for the first time since the prospect of intimacy with her beloved was mentioned, balked. She steeled herself and looked deep into Esdras' hood. "You'll be the one to do it?"
Esdras nodded. "I have to. I perform the Kiss, I perform the spells. The Oracle will guide me. Then, your soul will be returned."
Katie nodded nervously. "What will you do to me?"
The Oracle herself spoke this time; her voice was a small, childlike whisper. "Upon your very soul, the mighty Demnin will place a part of his own soul. In this manner will you never feel the cold, see the dark, or experience the pain of his being close to you."
Esdras smiled. "I won't need the mark thirteen inhibitor spells anymore when I'm around you."
The mortal nodded, deep in thought. When she finally looked at the pair of Dementors again, she was resolute. "Will it hurt?"
The Oracle's voice was sad. "More than you could ever imagine. But the procedure can be reversed at any time, should you no longer desire it. The reversing procedure will hurt Esdras just as much as this will hurt you."
Katie shivered, but put on a brave face. She turned to face Esdras and smiled the best seductive smile she could come up with, knowing that she was facing temporary death. "I don't think we'll have to worry about reversing this, will we? Pucker up, lover boy."
Esdras released the Oracle and glided silently up to Katie. Ritualistically, he drew back his hood, his pure white hair shining in the sun. He took her head in his hands and leaned in slowly. He breathed a whisper before he touched his lips to hers. "I am so sorry."
As his lips touched hers, Katie felt as if she had been hit with a harsh winter wind. All the warmth in her body began to flow from her limbs, and in her fear, she struggled, trying to pry Esdras' hands from her face. Then, the pain came, a horrible, all encompassing pain, emotional and physical all at once. She could remember schoolyard insults, her brother teasing her, her parents angry at her for not cleaning her room, the time she broke her arm playing Quidditch, her grandmother's funeral, everything. The last memory she was left with was, ironically enough, the feeling of betrayal when she had first realized Esdras was a Dementor. Then, there was only darkness.
Esdras sobbed softly as he carefully lowered the stilled mortal form to the ground. Ice decorated his hands where her tears had frozen to his skin. Held within his left hand was a glowing silver crystal, the soul of Katherine Elizabeth Bell. He looked to the Oracle, desperate. "We must hurry. Tell me what to do."
The small floating form hovered just over his shoulder. "My Lord would do well to relax, her body lives and her soul is safe. This procedure must not be rushed." When she was sure he was calm, she continued. "You must extract your own soul first, my Lord."
The Dementor nodded and began to chant the requisite ancient spell. Soon enough a multifaceted, glowing black crystal sprung forth from the center of his cloaked chest. Esdras stared down at the dark crystal; he would be able to survive for only a limited amount of time without his soul…one of the many immortality provisions. "Now what?"
The Oracle glided back and forth, observing the proceedings. "Place the souls together, joining yours at the eighth facet to hers at the third facet."
Esdras carefully oriented the crystals until the desired facets were facing each other and pressed them together. The silver crystal began to glow black and the black began to glow silver. The Oracle wrapped her arms around Esdras' neck and the rightful king began to recite the necessary spell. "Let my darkness be your light, let my coldness be your warmth, and in return let my life be yours. Let your light be my darkness, let your warmth be my coldness, and in return let your life be mine. The gods will see that we are together, together forever."
The souls returned to their original colors, Esdras' glowing black and Katie's glowing silver. The Oracle nodded softly. "It is finished, my Lord. She is immune to your power."
Esdras nodded quickly and hurriedly placed the silver crystal close to Katie's lips. He watched happily as it sank into her mouth and, after a few seconds pause, her eyes opened. She gasped softly at the sight before her. Esdras knelt before her with his soul bared, literally. The black crystal still rested outside his body. She smiled as he took her hand and placed it on the crystal, guiding her to push it slowly back into his chest. The mortal kept her hand resting there for a long while. "I don't feel any different."
The Dementors nodded and Esdras shifted into his mortal form to smile brightly at her. "You won't. That's the beauty of this magic. But I will never be able to chill you, or feed from you, or even Kiss you. You are immune to me."
Katie smirked softly and crawled over to lean into his arms. "I don't think I'll ever be immune to you, Esdras."
The shining red Hogwarts Express billowed steam as the last of the students clambered aboard. Esdras stood on the platform with his five captains. Reaping, Maul, Redoubt, Transom, and Kirin all stood at attention while the admiral gave his final orders. "Aaron, have the Thirteenth Infantry trail the train until it reaches King's Cross, then return back to Azkaban by way of the Ministry Floo connection. The rest of you, see to the continued needs of the civilian population as they begin the return trip to Azkaban. I will regroup with you all on the island for debriefing as soon as I have seen Katie back to Bellmont."
The captains all saluted and responded in chorus. "Yes, Lord Admiral."
Four of them floated off, leaving the Lord Admiral alone with his friend. Aaron Reaping sighed and looked pensively at the train. "Things will not get any easier, Esdras. There are already reports of Death Eater activity in the Yorkshire region. I'm fully prepared to believe that what Harry saw is actually the truth."
Esdras nodded. "Until we know otherwise, what Harry saw is the truth. But I have a feeling we'll know soon enough. If the events of the last war were any indication, Voldemort should begin courting the creatures he thinks he can turn against the mortals. And at the top of his list will be us, and I will be the one he'll come to. All we have to do is wait."
Aaron looked to his friend in shock. "You seem mighty calm about all this."
The rightful king of Azkaban nodded. "We have allied ourselves with the right side. The path will not be easy, but it will lead to victory." His attention was grabbed by a tapping sound and he turned to see Katie waving at him through the window. He smirked before turning back to his friend. "I have to get going. Drinks at Masha Tavern when I get back to the island?"
The captain laughed and nodded, rising up into the air to join his men. "I'll meet you there."
Esdras waved his men off and ran forward to jump onto the train just as it began moving. He climbed aboard and proceeded down the aisle until he came to the cabin which Katie had taken. Surprisingly, she was alone. At his inquisitive raised eyebrow, she merely smiled. "I simply thought we'd test out the Oracle's spell…make sure they really work as well as they're supposed to."
The Dementor could very easily detect the nervousness in her voice as he closed the door and locked it. "On the train? Really now, Katie…"
The lovely mortal glared playfully at him. She rose up from her seat and carefully placed both arms loosely around his neck. "Fine then, call it a fourth challenge, my Triwizard Champion."
Esdras rolled his eyes. "Challenges, challenges, always with the challenges." He sighed dramatically. "Very well, then. What are the rules for this particular challenge?"
Katie smiled and pulled out a single bronze Knut. "It's very simple. Heads, I win. Tails, you lose." Her voice took on a tone that made Esdras shiver, or maybe it was her teeth on his earlobe. "And the winner gets the loser."
THE END of TRIAL OF THE GUARDIAN
But don't worry, Esdras Demnin will be back in…
IN SERVICE OF THE ORDER
The third book in the "Guardian of Azkaban" series.