Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Hi, I'm finally back! –grins- I hope you like this chapter and that it isn't too boring, but it's kind of a transition chapter, so bear with me. Ah, and I must warn you that this might not be too well written because I certainly noticed that the lack of practice impaired my writing abilities! But anyway, I hope the problem won't last for too long.
And I want to thank everyone who has been reviewing all this time, I appreciate it a lot!
On another note, there's one particular review I would like to answer since I found it very interesting and my reply might be relevant for some readers: you have one thing right, I never show what's happening on the Light side of things! My whole story is written from Orion's point of view, we learn stuff at the same time that he does, so there are plenty of other things happening simultaneously in the story which we don't find out about until Orion does himself. So that's the main difference between my story and the stories of Lightning on the Wave, for example, where the reader sees what's going on with all the characters. In my story, we only know what's going on with Orion. So you're right in saying that my story goes in depth into the Dark side but neglects the Light, and that's because what's happening in the Light side still hasn't affected Orion, but it will. Dumbledore, to name one, is certainly busy throughout the story, though we don't see what he's doing, but when it affects Orion, we will discover it. I must admit that what's going on in the Light side will be much more relevant later, and that's when we'll discover more complexities in the Light, because certainly, the Dark isn't the only side which has powerful wizards and witches and which has its own convoluted plans and designs. The only thing I can tell you is that all of that will eventually be disclosed! But not at once, it will be piece by piece –winks-. And you're right when saying that the Light is also being affected by the muggleborn and muggle influx of blood into their lines, if it continues both Sources would be nullified and only the neutral magic would remain, and surely, the Light should also be concerned about it, as you say, they can also see that their children are powerfully weaker in each passing generation, and even if they never knew of or believed in Slytherin's research, they can see it themselves. All I can say is that there's a reason for their behavior and that they might be doing something about it… I don't know how to explain it without revealing too much, the only thing I can say is that the Light is just as complex as the Dark I've shown, but we don't know about it because Orion hasn't discovered it yet, and also because we still haven't seen a real battle between Light and Dark where we might see that the Light is also powerful, and not only because of their numbers. But that can't be really shown until the wars start, so it will take a while… Um, well, I hope I managed to clarify some stuff, and I hope you keep reading and reviewing, and thanks for telling me all your opinions and ideas, which I found fascinating!
"Your mother was supposed to bear the Potter heir," repeated Morgana quietly, her ethereal features showing tiredness. "And that child would have been matched with the Malfoy heir-"
"Draco," interrupted Orion crisply, leveling her with a stern gaze. "Why with him? Why did you want my mother to carry the Potter heir? My mum was a muggleborn; it doesn't make sense-"
"Yes, she was a mudblood," snapped Mordred, swiftly floating forward to hover inches away from Orion, making his attention focus back on him. "It's because of the neutral magic in her blood that we wanted her to bear a Potter baby."
"My son," interjected Morgana, shooting him a glance which Orion couldn't quite decipher, "let me-"
"No mother, I'll explain it," said Mordred bitingly, his hard gaze never leaving Orion.
Orion frowned at them as his eyes snapped from one to the other; Morgana's ghostly face revealed a hint of resignation and weariness, and she remained quiet while Mordred continued.
"As I'm sure you already know, the Potter line was once dark," said the spirit curtly.
"They came from Ignotus Peverell's line," said Orion, stiffly nodding at him. "I know that Ignotus' line produced two branches: the Gaunts when it mixed with Slytherin's line, and the Potter line, which has mixed with light bloodlines for some centuries."
"Exactly," affirmed Mordred, "and by mixing with light blood, the dark magic in the Potter line diminished throughout the ages. That was why we wanted your mother to bear the Potter heir, because her neutral magic would have significantly weakened the predominating light blood in the Potter line. Furthermore, for a mudblood, your mother was extraordinarily powerful; such rarities like powerful and truly gifted mudbloods occasionally occur, surely as a way to counterbalance the stronger intensity of power in pureblooded light and dark lines."
Orion frowned at him. "So you're telling me that-"
"I'm telling you that we wanted to rescue the dark magic of the Potter line," interrupted Mordred sharply, his ghostly features showing impatience and short-temperedness. "The biological match of your mother with James Potter would have produced the first half-blood child in the Potter line; not a pureblood, surely, but that child would have had weaker light blood than any other Potter before it. And thus, when that child would have been matched with the Malfoy heir, the dark blood of the Malfoy line would have dominated the weaker light blood of the Potter line, resulting in a child with stronger dark magic from both sides, since the dark blood of the Potter line would have been buttressed by the dark, pure blood of the Malfoy line."
"Not to mention, of course," bit out Orion, his hands clenching into fists, "that the 'Malfoy heir' is also a Black."
Mordred darkly smirked at him. "Precisely. We are quite proud to have produced him; the union of two of the most powerful, pureblooded, dark bloodlines-"
"To have produced him?" snapped Orion angrily, narrowing his eyes at him. "Draco is also-"
"An experiment?" cut in Mordred, his smirk widening. "Not quite. Oh, we did have a hand in Narcissa Black's and Lucius Malfoy's union – a little mental push here, another there… though it wasn't too necessary; both their parents were quite eager to see the match realized. Nevertheless, Draco Malfoy was never an experiment, he was a certainty. We knew he would be the heir of two powerful dark bloodlines. Though not powerful enough to be a VA candidate himself, he has the blood in him to produce one, once he has children." His smirk dropped, and he leveled Orion with an angry, narrowed gaze. "That's why we wanted the Potter heir to be matched with him; because their offspring would have been powerful indeed. And your mother ruined that-"
"Did she?" snarled Orion, his temper rising as they broached the crux of the matter. "And was she aware that she 'had' to bear the Potter heir? Did she know about you? I'm certain she didn't. I'm certain you never revealed yourselves to her; that you never asked her what she wanted! And you've already confessed that Slughorn was an Aux Atrum, and I know he erased his memories… So what did you do?! Did you-"
"We did," interjected Morgana quietly.
"Mother!" snapped Mordred angrily, glaring at her. "I told you that-"
"Enough!" she said sharply, smoothly sliding to float in front of Orion, gazing down at him as her features softened marginally. "What you suspect is correct. Along the centuries we've had Aux Atrum taking positions as teachers in most of the schools in the wizarding world. They've always worked for us, detecting valuable young wizards and witches. Valuable not only because of the purity and power of their bloodlines, but also, as in your mother's case, because of some trait or ability. Your mother was powerful and highly intelligent, and the mixing of her blood with the Potter line would have weakened the light Potter blood, thus fortifying the line's dwindling dark magic." She pierced Orion with her eyes as she continued, "That's why we wanted her to bear the Potter heir, not the Black heir. Your father's line was already powerful, pureblooded and dark, and by mixing with muggleborn blood it only served to weaken the dark magic already carried in the main Black line – Cadmus' line, your line. Horace Slughorn obeyed our commands when influencing your mother-"
"What did he do?" demanded Orion through gritted teeth.
Morgana lifted her chin, and replied curtly, "All Aux Atrum who serve as teachers in schools, following our orders, use mind magic on selected students to implant suggestions, desires, urges-"
"To make them fall in love?" snapped Orion angrily.
"No," retorted Morgana sharply. "Strong emotions such as that cannot be implanted; they cannot be faked or created out of nothing. A skilled Master of the Arts of the Mind, as are all the Aux Atrum who work for us by being school teachers, can cast compulsions to make a young witch or wizard have an infatuation for someone, but the implanted emotion isn't deep enough to have effect for too long."
Orion's jaw clenched, and he hissed out, "So Slughorn casted a compulsion on my mother-"
"He did," said Morgana stoically. "As many did long before and after him to countless of others, if it served our purpose of strengthening the dark bloodlines." She clicked her tongue in distaste. "But Slughorn turned out to be quite a disappointment; we have others much more suited than him at present, one in Hogwarts, several in Durmstrang-"
"What?!" snapped Orion angrily, rising to his feet. "You have the Aux Atrum still doing this now?"
Mordred scoffed, and said snidely, "Of course we do. It's the way we've operated for centuries-"
"You're tampering with people's emotions to make them 'produce' the 'offspring' you desire?" bit out Orion irately.
"Don't be stupid, boy," said Mordred disparagingly. "It's better for us to plan the optimal crossings instead of leaving crucial, young wizards and witches to decide for themselves with whom to have children by just following their baser-"
"We don't tamper with emotions," interrupted Morgana sharply, boring her stern gaze into Orion's furious one. "Yes, the Aux Atrum cast compulsions over the minds of selected young wizards and witches, or over their parents, so that the match we desire comes to fruition; but normally it's successful because the interested parties already want those matches to be realized, usually for reasons other than 'love'. In the case of purebloods, the matches we design are carried through because both parties see the convenience of that match, be it because it's a highly convenient union of powerful bloodlines, fortunes, or houses. Most of the times, the compulsions only serve to give them an encouraging 'push'."
"But that wasn't my mother's case," snapped Orion hotly, his eyes narrowing to glare at her.
"It wasn't," said Morgana coolly. "James Potter was in love with your mother and Slughorn simply cast a compulsion on her to break the reticence she had to accept James Potter's pursuit of her-"
"She hated him!" spat Orion angrily. "My father told me that she couldn't bear James Potter, and suddenly everything changed! Suddenly, in seventh year, she started to befriend James Potter, when she was already seeing my father!"
Mordred loudly snorted, and said harshly, "But they kept it a secret, didn't they? No one knew that a Black was dating a mudblood, not even Slughorn found out about it. Can you truly blame us for making her more receptive to James Potter's advances when she was officially unattached? Even if she hadn't been, our design for her match was the best option-"
"Of course I can blame you!" snapped Orion crisply. "My father loved her, and she ended up married to his best friend; he suffered for it! And what about the way my mother felt; she believed to have loved them both, and…"
"I repeat that the compulsion Slughorn cast wouldn't have made her fall in love-"
"I heard you the first time," said Orion sharply, interrupting Morgana as he fiercely rubbed his forehead. "But by messing with her mind in that way, who knows what you caused…"
He trailed off uncertainly, since his anger had suddenly deflated when he remembered what he owed to James Potter; not only had the wizard given his life to protect him, but he had also given him his blood. Moreover, he felt torn between the loyalty that he owed to James Potter and the one he owed to his own father.
Nonetheless, he realized that it was quite pointless to imagine what could have been; for all he knew his mother could have ended up falling in love with Severus Snape if her mind would have been left alone. If she would have never befriended James Potter, he was fairly certain that his mother and Severus wouldn't have broken their friendship…
He sighed and dropped his hand away from his forehead. It was indeed pointless, his mother had loved both his father and James Potter, and he would leave it like that, since he knew that she had been happy, even if she hadn't been aware that her choices hadn't been truly freely taken.
And suddenly, he understood several things which had always plagued him with uncertainties.
"This is why you told me that I was unexpected," he said, glancing up at them, "the first time we met, in the Chamber of Whispers. It was because you thought that I was the son of Sirius Black and a French pureblooded witch, since that was what I told everyone. You didn't expect that Sirius Black's son would be a VA candidate. Moreover, when my identity as Harry Potter was revealed, and thus, when it was known that I was Lily Evans' son, you still didn't expect me to be powerful, because her muggleborn blood should have weakened the dark magic in the Black line."
"Yes," said Morgana, piercing him with a scrutinizing gaze, while a frown spread over her ghostly features. "We're still unsure why you are powerful enough to be a VA candidate when you're the result of the match between…"
Her words fell deaf in Orion's ears as his mind lurched forwards. Something had finally clicked. There were two things the spirits were unaware of: that he carried a piece of Voldemort's soul inside him, and that he had James Potter's blood in him as well.
And at last, he understood that while his mother's neutral blood had weakened the light magic in the Potter line, it had also helped the dark magic in the Potter and Black line to merge more powerfully than it could have ever happened by any other means. Just like the spirits had explained, the Black blood had strengthened the lingering dark magic in the Potter line, since the light Potter magic had been vastly diminished thanks to the influx of strong and powerful muggleborn neutral blood.
Furthermore, it could very well be the case that he had survived the consangri ritual –which was a dark blood spell- because the light magic in his blood was weak, and therefore, it couldn't oppose the dark magic of the ritual. Not to mention that he was Voldemort's horcrux, and therefore, the dark magic he had received when he had been turned into the horcrux had also surely made him more powerful, and thus, helped him survive a ritual with such high mortality rates.
He vaguely wondered if, perhaps, his mother had been aware of any of it…
Nevertheless, one thing became clear to him: in the end, she had broken whatever compulsion had been wrapped around her mind. In the end, she had bore a son to the wizard she had initially loved. And even if some elements of the compulsion had made her decide to do the consangri ritual, so that her son would also be a Potter, what mattered was that she had been the key; she had changed everything...
Abruptly, as that last thought echoed in his mind, he saw the truth. He was indeed the 'result' that the spirits had been waiting for: he was the offspring of Lily Evans, a Potter, and a Black.
He was what the spirits had wanted to create, only that he had come decades earlier than expected.
They had wanted the child of Lily Evans and James Potter to be matched with Draco Malfoy. Instead, it was as if the fates had skipped a step to create him in one quick mix of three bloodlines; even stronger than originally planned since he carried the blood of the main Black bloodline, not the secondary Black line in Draco's blood...
Suddenly, he paled.
"Draco," he said, his voice suddenly turning hoarse as his gaze pierced the spirits. "You told me that you wanted the Potter heir to be matched with Draco Malfoy. I'm not the Potter heir, but I'm the Black heir, and Draco also has Black blood. A crossing between us would yield a child with stronger Black dark blood, and you said that there's an Aux Atrum in Hogwarts-"
"Oh yes," interrupted Mordred, smirking at him while his voice held a hint of cold relish. "That can still be fixed. After all, you assured Vulcan that you're planning on breaking your marital magical bond with Voldemort. And I assume that Grindelwald –in all his riveting disclosures to you- didn't forget to explain the necessity of-"
"What I want to know is if someone has been tampering with Draco's mind!" snarled Orion angrily, advancing towards the spirit, while he instinctively grasped his wand in a tight grip. "This is another reason why you didn't want me to bond with Voldemort, isn't it? Because you were hoping that I would be matched with Draco Malfoy, to create more Vindico candidates for you! I know Narcissa and Lucius wanted to match us together, did you 'help' them with that decision as well?!"
"It wasn't necessary for us to do anything," replied Morgana calmly. "The Malfoys didn't need to be convinced that a match between you and their son was the best option in every regard. As for the boy-"
"He's already 'in love' with you without any assistance on our part," said Mordred scathingly.
Orion stopped himself from flinching as Mordred's snide words resounded in his mind. He had never halted to consider if Draco truly felt something beyond friendship for him. He knew Narcissa believed that Draco felt something more, but he had never wanted to ponder much on it, since he didn't quite know what to do about it.
His friendship with Draco had deepened through the years and he considered him his best friend, along with Calypso. And he could also remember the kiss they had shared long ago, and the lie he had told Draco; it hadn't felt brotherly, at all. On the other hand, it hadn't felt as powerfully consuming and shattering as what he always felt with Voldemort…
He repeatedly shook his head, as if attempting to clear it, and glanced at the spirits; Morgana had a faint smile on her ethereal lips and Mordred was smirking at him knowingly.
Orion glared at them, and spat, "How do I know that you're not affecting me-"
"We can't breach your mind," said Morgana tersely.
"Yes, I know, Gellert told me," snapped Orion irritably, trying to find some explanation for his suddenly confused thoughts. "But –er– how do I know that you haven't ordered that Aux Atrum you have in Hogwarts to cast a compulsion on Draco's mind to make him-"
"We haven't," interrupted Morgana calmly, "there's no need for it. The boy already-"
"Yes, yes," bit out Orion crisply, "but how can I believe a word of what you say? I only trust that you're not tampering with my mind because Gellert assured me that you can't; and I believe him, but I don't trust you! After what you did to my mother, there's nothing I can't believe you capable of doing." He rubbed his forehead in agitation, and demanded curtly, "Who's the Aux Atrum in Hogwarts? I have to know; I don't want anyone messing with my friends-"
Mordred snorted derisively. "You can't honestly expect us to tell you, can you? That person works for us, and one of his or her aims in life is to help you become the Vindico. So that Aux Atrum –or any other, for that matter- isn't an inconvenience or threat to you in any way."
"He's an inconvenience," snapped Orion, "if he's going around mucking with my friends' minds and complicating matters for me."
"It seems to me," said Mordred, smirking at him with a vindictive expression on his face, "that you're complicating matters on your own rather well, if you're not sure what, or should I say, who you want."
Orion squared his shoulders, and said in a grave, quiet voice, "I care for Draco deeply and our friendship can feel messy at times, given what he's going through and my own circumstances, but I know perfectly well who I want. That won't change; no matter your opinion on who would be the 'optimal match' for me."
He pierced Mordred with his eyes, and added sharply, "And there's no need to tell me that I have the responsibility of having an heir with the best possible candidate in order to fortify my bloodline. Never forget who Voldemort is. We can speak openly about this, now that Gellert told me that you know who Voldemort really is: Tom Marvolo Riddle, a Gaunt. As such, he's not only Slytherin's heir but Ignotus Peverell's as well. I'm a Black and Cadmus Peverell's heir, therefore, in our union, we would be rejoining the last two lines left of the Peverell brothers, and they were extremely powerful, weren't they, given that they had the magical capacity to create the Hallows?" He smirked at them with deep satisfaction. "With my bond to Voldemort I have not only followed my own wishes and desires, but I have also created a new line which will be the union of three of the most powerful, dark bloodlines."
"If you have an heir with him," sharply pointed out Morgana, intently scrutinizing him.
"I will," said Orion, his posture suddenly stiffening, since he had conflicting thoughts on the matter after what Grindelwald had revealed to him.
"Will you, indeed?" countered Mordred, narrowing his ghostly eyes at him. "Tell us, how much has Grindelwald explained to you? I expect that you have nagged him to know why you must kill Voldemort. After all, you've nagged us constantly ever since you were informed of that duty."
"Duty?" gritted out Orion through clenched teeth. "It's not a duty. None of the things I have to do to become the VA is a duty; it's a choice, MY choice. Gellert told me. He told me everything. Everything you thought I wasn't prepared to know, but it seems that I am, since I'm here, with you, discussing it."
"You're here because you suspected that Slughorn was an Aux Atrum and you wanted to know what part he had played in your mother's choices," retorted Mordred scathingly. "You came in here counting on defending your dead mother by waving the sword of just retribution at us, judging us to be cruel evildoers and striking us down accordingly." His expression darkened, and he bit out, "But you realized that what we wanted to do was justified, if not, you would have thrown one of your usual temper tantrums. Indeed, you have accepted it with an unparalleled modicum of common sense, for you. You understand that all our decisions are based on the necessity of strengthening Dark Magic. That's what Grindelwald made you realize, isn't it? That in the end, it's not all about you, but about our Magic."
Orion's nostrils flared, and he spat angrily, "Of course that it's easy for you to say all that and to see everything unemotionally and detachedly; after all, it's not you who has to do it, is it? It's not you who has to kill to become more powerful, it's not you who has to endure your own magic relentlessly spurring you further to attempt to become something you might not survive, something that will change you in no foreseeable way, and that if you don't attempt to do it, you face the certainty of slowly losing your mind. You don't have to kill someone you love, you don't have to sacrifice-"
"Sacrifice!" snarled Mordred irately, the ghostly muscles of his jaw throbbing. "You speak to me about sacrifice!"
"Ah, yes," sneered Orion, "you gave up some decades of your natural life in exchange of being in spirit form for eternity." He eyed Mordred's ethereal body, and added sarcastically, "How old were you when you died, forty? What a staggering sacrifice of life!"
"I was twenty-eight," snapped Mordred incensed. "And you will never be able to grasp what true sacrifice means; what I have-"
"Yeah, yeah," said Orion mordantly, successfully masking his surprise at the spirit's death age, "so you lost some decades of life. That's nothing in comparison to what I have to do, and I'm sixteen! If I would accomplish something by offing myself at a young age like you did, then I would rather do that and take the easy path!"
"Easy path?!" hissed out Mordred, glaring at him with contempt. "You think you're the only one who has been forced to make tough decisions for the welfare of our kind? I killed loved ones as well! You think you're the only one who has suffered, when my mother and I-"
"Enough, this is getting us nowhere!" abruptly interrupted Morgana, leveling her son with a quelling gaze.
"No, this is getting us exactly where I wanted," retorted Orion heatedly, glaring at Mordred. "Fine, you tell me that you have killed loved ones and that you've sacrificed much; I'll believe you. But tell me this, were you a VA candidate?"
"No," snapped Mordred with asperity. "At that time we still hadn't found a way to create Him; I couldn't try myself because…" He clamped his mouth shut, and added stiffly, "We didn't know how. We hadn't attained the knowledge necessary to come up with the creation of the Hallows, and thus, we hadn't discovered the possibility of creating a test that would produce the Vindico."
"Exactly, you weren't a VA candidate," said Orion in a steely tone of voice, deciding to let go of the numerous questions that had popped in his mind, knowing they wouldn't be answered. "Therefore, you don't know all that it implies. You didn't feel the pull, as I call it, or maybe you did but surely not as we feel it now." He balled his hands into fists, and continued angrily, "And I say 'we' because there have been several of us that have been forced to sacrifice much in order to attempt to fulfill the goal of producing the Vindico. There have been many VA candidates throughout the centuries, right? And all of them died when they failed the test, and those who didn't, what happened to them?"
"It seems to me that you already know," said Morgana quietly, piercing him with her eyes.
"Yes, those who couldn't attempt to become the VA became Dark Lords," said Orion stiffly. "Gellert told me that you're behind every Dark Lord that has ever existed; that's what failed experiments become, because of the pull."
Morgana nodded, and said curtly, "In absence of the Vindico, there must always be a Dark Lord; a dark wizard powerful enough to lead all others and to advance on the Dark's goals."
Orion gazed at her as his anger rose, the words sounding like a practiced, unapologetic and self-reassuring litany to his ears.
"Funny that you didn't even twitch when I used the word 'experiment'," he said crisply. "Is that truly what we are to you?"
A frown spread over Morgana's ethereal features as she gazed back at him, while saying quietly, "No, you are like a son to me."
Orion scoffed derisively, though when he saw that her expression remained as serious as ever, he dismissively waved a hand.
"I mean it," she said in her eerie, carrying voice.
Orion shot her a glance, but it was completely devoid of any warmth or gratefulness.
"Is there any point to the way you've digressed our discussion?" interjected Mordred acerbically, his tone and posture defensive as he hovered closer to Morgana.
"Yes, there is," replied Orion sharply. "My point is that no matter how much you've sacrificed, it will never remotely sum up to what all the rest of the past and present Vindico candidates have sacrificed. I won't use myself as an example, since I know that you think I'm not worthy of using the word 'sacrifice' to refer to my own experiences," he quipped acidly, "but let's take Gellert for instance, who has spent decades in prison and who has always fought against the pull in order to not lose his mind to insanity. I dare say he has sacrificed quite a lot. And let's take for another example Cadmus, who wasn't a candidate, but who gave his life to create the Resurrection Stone Hallow. And he gave up his life quite literally, since he became a non-human creature, a Dementor, no less!" He pierced Mordred with his eyes, and jeered, "Wouldn't you say that he sacrificed much more than you did? And all because you 'persuaded' him with your compulsions to create the Hallow, using his love for Eloise as a fuel for his obsession, all because you needed the Hallow for your own aims. And what did he get in return? Nothing! Why would he care if the Sources cease to exist when he's a Dementor? Do you really think somewhere in his incoherent, twisted, Dementor-mind he's congratulating himself for creating a Hallow, and thus, someday help some poor sap to become the Vindico? He couldn't care less; the only goal in his life was to bring back Eloise-"
"Those are your examples of sacrifices?" snorted Mordred disparagingly. "I can accept Grindelwald's 'sacrifices' if I must, though he chose to follow his own path independently from ours, so you'll understand if I can't commiserate much with him. But I can't accept Cadmus Peverell as an example when he had the power to do much more with his life than pine after a dead half-blood witch. He was completely egotistical. At least Grindelwald fought to bring Dark back into power… If those are the best you can do…"
"Cadmus had the right to choose what to do with his life!" snapped Orion heatedly.
"No, he didn't," said Morgana quietly. "He had the responsibility of taking interest in something else rather than his own situation in life, and he didn't. He had the power to help dark wizarding kind beyond the creation of the Hallow, but he wasted away the rest of his life by sinking in his own desires, excluding the welfare of anyone else from his concerns. With great power comes great responsibility."
Orion scoffed. "According to whom?"
Mordred narrowed his eyes at him, and demanded angrily, "Are you trying to tell us that you're going to give up on trying to become the Vindico?"
"If I had already decided that," said Orion stiffly, "I wouldn't be here."
"Then why are you still here?" snapped Mordred impatiently. "We answered your questions about Slughorn, what more do you want?"
"Answers," retorted Orion, leveling him with a hard gaze. "As I said before, everything I'll do from now onwards will be my choice. And to make my choice, I need to know everything. I want full disclosure. You didn't give me a complete answer before." He narrowed his eyes, and added in a steely tone of voice, "Tell me what else Slughorn did."
Mordred sighed with angry exasperation. "He casted a mind compulsion web on your mother-"
"Not that!" shouted Orion, fisting his hands. "I already know that. How thick do you think I am? Tell me about Die Experimente, as Grindelwald calls it! Tell me how you're able to distinguish which wizards and witches have to be crossed with which; tell me how is it that Grindelwald knows so much about Slytherin's research discoveries! Even Vagnarov has mentioned them during some Necromancy classes! Tell me how they can know this when they aren't parselmouths, and when you aren't either!"
"Ah," said Mordred with grim satisfaction. "So yet again you want us to confirm your suspicions? Why do you trouble yourself with looking for answers here, if you're able to come up with them on your own?"
Orion clenched his jaw, and said through gritted teeth, "Because I still hoped that you would have told me everything important each time we discussed a matter, instead of just giving me half-answers. We mentioned Slytherin last time, and you didn't say a word about him!"
"We told you that Cadmus had killed him-"
"I told you that, you told me nothing!" snapped Orion hotly. "You always make me say everything but you never give me any information in return. I want to know about the experiments!"
"Why don't you tell us first?" said Morgana calmly, gazing at him expectantly.
Orion groaned, and said waspishly, as he raked his fingers through his hair, "We're going to do it this way again? Fine. You used Slytherin, in the same way you used Cadmus, and Circe knows how many more… You needed someone to discover the way the creation of magic works in the mixing of blood; you needed to know what happened when one kind of wizarding line was crossed with another, and for how long would a type of magic survive several iterated crossings with other types of magic. You needed to know how breeding worked for wizarding kind, in order to understand which bloodlines had to be mixed with which - in order to produce your Vindico."
He pierced his eyes into hers, and said in a steely tone of voice, "Every VA candidate, even myself, are the end-result of centuries of carefully planned crossings between bloodlines, and it was all possible because Slytherin spent his life obsessed to find the rules of how it worked. He became obsessed because you pushed him towards it, in the same way you pushed Cadmus centuries afterwards, when you finally knew how to create a Hallow and you passed the knowledge onto him. Slytherin, instead, had to work from scratch. He had to create endless numbers of complicated potions, parsel-spells, and dark spells in order to conduct his research, and all he got in exchange was such a deep-rooted focus on his aim, that what followed was the need to know how he could live longer in order to conclude his work. It drove him to create the theory behind the creation of horcruxes, and it drove him to search for a Necromancer in order to have some questions answered; it drove him to his death!"
"And why do you suspect that we had something to do with it?" said Morgana impassively.
Orion shot her a tired and defeated glance. "Because the only way for you to know how to conduct successful crossings, and for people like Vagnarov and Grindelwald to know about Slytherin's research conclusions, is for you to have been breaking into Slytherin's mind while he was working, all those centuries ago. If you hadn't, you would have never been able to know what was written in his journals, since none of you are parselmouths. Furthermore, you didn't even blink when I mentioned Slytherin's theories to create horcruxes, when we discussed the ritual you had used to remain in this form. And you knew that the Resurrection Stone had something blocking its powers, so you know it's a horcrux. Moreover, when we discussed Cadmus, you told me that I should thank you, because I have been the recipient of much knowledge discovered by the incitement caused by your 'persuasions'." He gazed at his slowly unclenching fists, and added in a low, bleary voice, "You meant his journals. 'Die Experimente' is nothing more than Slytherin's research applied to the whole pool of wizarding kind; for your own benefit."
"For OUR benefit," interjected Mordred sharply.
"Fine," said Orion, with a shrug of his shoulders, "for the benefit of Dark Magic."
Mordred smirked at him. "I see that Grindelwald did a good job in making you understand what's in play. After all, it seems that it wasn't so bad for him to disclose so much to you."
Orion ignored the comment, and grimly smirked at him, which came out as a dejected, bitter grimace. "Don't you see a pattern? Every one of those of whom you 'touch' in some way, end up mad, dead and soulless, or a dehumanized creature such as a Dementor."
"Do they?" said Mordred nonchalantly. "And in which category does your spouse fit in?"
In a bat of an eyelash, Orion had swiftly wiped out his wand, pressing its sharp point into Mordred's throat, as his other hand tightly wrapped around the back of the spirit's neck, pulling Mordred's ghostly face close to his.
"Ask again, if you dare," hissed out Orion, his face darkly somber while his all-black eyes eerily glowed in fury.
"A fast learner, I see," said Mordred coolly, pointedly glancing at Orion's wand.
Orion briefly gazed at it, and saw that his hands and wand were covered by an dense but infinitely thin black mist. And he understood at once, that unlike last time, he had reacted without a thought to the knowledge that he would be attacking a spirit; unwittingly calling forth his Necromantic powers, so that they allowed his hands and wand to physically touch and harm the spirit.
"I am," he said in a low voice, ragged by the swelling anger that was bursting inside him, regardless of the detached feeling that his Necromantic abilities cast upon him.
He breathed deeply, his wand shaking in anger as he sunk it deeper into Mordred's throat, while he glanced away from him, trying to collect himself.
To his surprise, he saw Morgana staring at him. She had her arms crossed over her chest, simply observing them without any signs of wanting to interrupt. Her expression was closed and undecipherable, almost as if she was watching a boring, uninteresting event, though her eyes were as piercing as usual.
"Come on, boy!" abruptly roared Mordred, violently waving his hand to encompass the domed Crypt. "This is what you came here for; all the rest were preambles. Yes, you might have wanted to know if your mother was part of our breeding designs, but what was really eating you alive was to know if your own beloved spouse was also part of them!"
"Was he?" hissed out Orion, his fingers tightening around the spirits' neck.
Mordred sneered disdainfully, "You need to ask?"
"No," said Orion, deeply inhaling before continuing in a deathly quiet voice, "I know. Not only because Gellert told me, but because everything fits; I understand so much now."
"Do you really?" retorted Mordred composedly, arching an eyebrow.
"Tell me what you did to him," said Orion briskly, jerking his head to a side to fling away an annoying lock of hair. "Tell me why he wasn't powerful enough to be a VA candidate. 1971 to 1978; tell me about Slughorn's part in it." His jaw tightened, and he added stiffly, "Tell me how he was – 'produced'."
"You tell us-"
"No!" snarled Orion heatedly. "This time, YOU tell ME!"
"I will tell you," came Morgana's quiet voice.
Orion snapped his head to a side and saw her unfolding her arms as she slowly flowed to hover a small distance away from them.
"I'll start in the beginning," she said calmly. "During all our lives, including our natural ones, we've been interested in the way different types of blood interact with one another in times of creation. And it became increasingly necessary to understand how it worked in the creation of life; in the creation of our kind." She extended her arms outwards, as if to engulf the whole room, while she continued, "Alas, in our times we didn't have the advanced knowledge in potions and spell-creation in order to research such a complicated and expansive matter. Therefore, we studied it in the simple ways we could, while we tried to gather as much information as possible; information related to bloodlines. We started seeing patterns, of course; patterns in which we could distinguish the possibility that pure lines of the same type of blood became stronger throughout each generation of children. You see, at first, the distinction between Light and Dark magic was believed to be a simple matter of preference and interest. It wasn't known that some wizards had more facility to master dark spells because they carried what we call nowadays 'dark blood'. It was believed to be a matter of taste, not determined by the biological composition of our blood. As it often happens, certain behaviors were regarded and connoted in a negative way. Since Dark magic has always been the rawest and most brutal type of magic, it was inevitably catalogued as something to be feared, since it's mostly spurred by strong, feral emotions, while Light magic represents, if you will, the softer characteristics of nature; not destruction, but creation; not anger, ambition, or lust, but calmness, selflessness, and levelness. Furthermore, the muggles eventually imbued their prejudices and categorizations into our world, deeming that that which was strange and seemingly threatening to them was to be evil, and that which was useful and apparently not harmful, was to be good; most often than not, with the religious connotations of the new doctrines which were springing at the time-"
"What has this to do with Tom?" said Orion impatiently, without losing his hold on Mordred.
"It's pertinent, I assure you," she said serenely. "You have to remember that in our times there was much ignorance, not only in muggle communities, but also in the wizarding world, and these were mixed together, so one's ignorance fed the other. In such way happened, that given that very little was known of why some children were more magically powerful than others, some wizards started to believe that it had to do with the personality traits of the parents. Muggles labeled those who practiced the Dark Arts to be 'evil' or with a certain tendency to violence and strong or wild emotions. Similarly, the same applied to those who practiced what we called then the Light Arts. And such view was inevitably adopted by those wizards and witches who had little else to take reference from. All that wizards could see from one generation to the next, was that children from 'alike' parents were magically stronger."
"To make the story short, once the muggle and wizarding worlds split apart, due to the wars and the period of religious persecution and 'witch-hunt', those views still pervaded in our society, since nothing much had been discovered to lay the foundations of a true research on the matter of blood and power. Therefore, some wizards believed that the children from two 'evil' parents, or better said, violent characters in some aspect or another, would be more powerful than the children from a 'good' person and an 'evil' person. You understand? They wanted to match a dark wizard with a dark witch, but they had no way of knowing what type of blood a magical person had, so their only way to pick them out was based on personality traits."
"Utterly fallacious, we know now, but in that era it was the only thing observable, we had no way to detect what type of blood someone carried. Therefore, those wizarding lines which ambitioned to be more powerful, and you could see cases in both Light and Dark lines, always married with what they thought were their same type of bloodline. But of course, for example, it usually happened that a mild mannered wizard really had dark blood, and a tempered witch really had light blood, so the crossings only served to accumulate the same type of personality traits in one line."
"In the case of those lines which made matches thinking they were always marrying into light families, it happened that the resulting children had a convoluted mix of blood, and the children were usually too mildly mannered, not necessarily because this personality trait could be hereditary, but because they were raised in a family where everyone was similar in character. So those supposedly 'light' children usually ended up being too soft, with no back-bone. On the other hand, the supposedly 'dark' children ended up being foul-tempered and too aggressive."
"Eventually, after centuries of advancing in our own research-" she pointedly pierced her eyes into Orion's "- and thanks to the work of Salazar Slytherin, we were finally able to understand how to detect blood types, and we finally understood how the different types of blood interacted during crossings. Without Slytherin's work, it would have probably taken us a couple of more centuries to arrive to his conclusions. Yes, we used him, but the matter was too important to be left to other less able wizards or witches. He had the mental prowess and magical capacity to accomplish it, and we surreptitiously encouraged him. We never revealed ourselves to him, he never knew of us, but I dare say that we owe him almost everything. Minds like those never appear too often, and when they do, we grasp the chance to use them for the betterment of the magical world. I won't apologize for it. If we had waited any longer, the bloodlines would have been too mixed to be rescued back to the purity they should have had. From the day Slytherin finished his research on blood, we have spent every minute undoing the harm done by ignorance, prejudice, and lack of knowledge."
"I see," said Orion quietly, having already unwittingly released Mordred during her explanation.
"I'm sure you don't, yet," interjected Morgana impassively. "There's much more to this story than I have told you, but I'm afraid now is not the time for it. Someday I'll tell you." Her lips quirked into a small smile. "Or better yet, someday you'll discover it on your own."
"And Tom?" pressed on Orion, feeling a frisson of impatience.
"The Gaunt family was the only branch of Slytherin's line which refused to back down from their old way of deciding the best matches for their line," replied Morgana, pointedly boring her ethereal eyes into his. "According to them, their way of doing it had worked, so they refused to change their method. And being what they thought to be a 'dark' pureblood line, they had always married their children with aggressive and often unstable characters; they still thought that it was a clear indication that the candidate was 'dark'."
Orion deeply sighed and rubbed his forehead. "So the Gaunts always married violent individuals, thinking that it was an observable trait which meant that the individual had powerful dark blood." He snapped his eyes up to her, and said quietly, "I saw Tom's family in a memory, they were not only grotesque but almost animalistic; violent, deranged even."
"They were," said Morgana calmly.
"And you tried to 'fix' it," pointed out Orion.
"We did," she replied, "not with much success. The family's bloodline was too muddled with different types of blood, and I'm afraid, with too many severe negative traits, like insanity and aggressiveness."
"And the way you tried to fix it was the same way you wanted to fix the Potter line," interjected Orion crisply, piercing her with his eyes. "Only that the Gaunts needed a more radical measure; a muggleborn wouldn't have been enough to neutralize some of that blood you deemed to be nocive in the Gaunt bloodline. It had to be a stronger and more corrosive blood; it had to be pure muggle blood."
Morgana thinly smiled at him. "Precisely."
"It was quite a desperate measure for you, wasn't it?" said Orion, his jaw unwittingly tightening. "To make some Aux Atrum cast a compulsion web on that poor witch- the only one barely salvable from that family- and to make her obsess over a worthless muggle, driving her to feed him a love potion." His eyes marginally narrowed. "That muggle was despicable, you should have at least chosen another one; someone who wouldn't have abandoned his pregnant wife, and then care nothing about leaving his child in an orphanage."
"We had our reasons to choose him; his blood was exactly what was needed-"
"You would have never gone to such lengths to 'recover' a bloodline which wasn't powerful. Obviously, you wanted the Gaunts to be as powerful as the joined line of Slytherin and Ignotus Peverell should have been. No matter how much they messed with their bloodline, it's evident, given Voldemort's abilities, that that power was still latent in the line."
"And the muggle helped it come to surface," said Morgana impassively.
"Yes, perhaps he did, but what about Tom?" demanded Orion briskly, his hands clenching into balls. "Why did you leave him in an orphanage? You knew there was a possibility that he would carry much of the power of Slytherin's and Ignotus Peverell's lines. You wanted to produce a VA candidate and you did!"
"Tom never reached the capacity to be a Vindico candidate."
"So you left him to rot in that orphanage!" snarled Orion angrily. "After it was you who chose his useless lump of a father, you didn't own up to what you did to him?!"
Morgana straightened to her full height, and said curtly, "I gave him life and powerful blood. If we hadn't intervened, that witch would have possibly never had any children, and the Gaunt line would have ended."
"Oh, yes, so instead, she ended up miserable after the muggle abandoned her, and then she died when she was still quite young," spat Orion heatedly. "And her son ended up powerful, driven by the same pull which drives the most powerful dark wizards, but not powerful enough for your standards, so you ditched him and never stopped to consider the consequences of your actions." He took a step to be inches away from her, and said acidly, "With great power comes great responsibility, remember? That's what you said, and yet, you don't apply it to yourself. You have the power to dictate lives, yet you don't take responsibility when things don't go your way and when you're dissatisfied with the results. I've always wondered, Morgana, what kind of wizard Voldemort would have been if he had been raised by a proper wizarding family. I guess now I know who to blame; I dare say, it's you and Dumbledore, both. Because both of you knew something about him, but never helped him; Dumbledore –whatever he tells himself- was prejudiced because of Tom's Slytherin's ancestry, and you simply didn't care about him because he wasn't powerful enough to be a VA candidate."
Morgana narrowed her eyes, and said sharply, "Don't compare me to that-"
"To that what?" snapped Orion briskly. "To that Light version of yourself? Narrow-minded, unscrupulous, manipulators of lives, that's what you are. " He brought his face close to hers, and hissed out quietly, "But I wonder, Morgana, what did you have Slughorn do at Hogwarts during the years Tom attended class there? By all means, I know it can't be the same Slughorn did to my mother, so what was it?"
"A second chance," harshly bit out Mordred, interposing himself between them, and glaring down at Orion. "We gave the boy another chance to see if he could grow to become powerful enough."
"Right," said Orion bitingly, "and you did that when he proved himself to be the most brilliant student Hogwarts has ever seen! When at age eleven he was already creating his first dark parsel-spell, without having even read yet Slytherin's books! Without even knowing that he was Slytherin's heir! He had a unique ability, and he learned to use and control it on his own, with no help from anyone else. That's when you realized, that perhaps, you made a mistake in your first assessment of his capabilities, wasn't it? You measured him by one standard, in the same way those foolish wizards of the past measured 'dark blood' by observing personality traits." He scoffed scathingly. "It seems to me that you learned nothing from your past mistakes."
"Ah, but how touching," said Mordred snidely, "you're defending your spouse-"
"I'm defending no one," snapped Orion angrily. "I'm just stating the truth."
"Then let me state another," interjected Morgana sternly. "Tom wasn't the only one who at age eleven was already learning to control and use his unique abilities."
Orion blinked at her, and suddenly chuckled wryly. "You mean my dark powers? How little you know. I might have learned how to use them on my own, but for everything else, I was never alone." He pierced her with his eyes, and smirked. "Since the age of ten, I've always had him."
"What's that supposed to mean?" demanded Mordred sharply, while Morgana gazed at Orion with a scrutinizing gaze and a frown on her face.
Orion's smirk widened. "That's something you don't need to know." All vicious amusement dropped, and he narrowed his eyes at them. "You gave him a second chance, how? What was Slughorn's role in it?"
"Slughorn simply observed the boy," said Morgana coolly. "As in your case, we never aid possible Vindico candidates, they have to rise above themselves on their own."
Orion's eyes narrowed further, and he hissed out, "You lie. Something happened, something you don't want me to know, something which escaped your control. I was told about the Hallows when I was very young, yet, nobody ever told Tom-"
"We could feel it in you," interrupted Morgana sternly. "We wield mind-magic, yet we especially made ourselves keep enough magic to be able to detect someone with the levels of dark magic required to be a VA candidate. We felt it in you that first day in the Chamber of Whispers, and Igor acted before planned on his own volition, but it was a good decision; time was running short. Furthermore, the Aux Atrum know what to look for when trying to discern if a child could be a candidate. Slughorn couldn't detect it in Tom, therefore it was useless, and a risk, to tell him about the Hallows."
"You're lying to me," abruptly blurted out Orion, his intent gaze still scrutinizing her as he took a step away in disgust. "Or better said, you're not telling me the whole truth. Slughorn also did something, didn't he?" He narrowed his eyes at her. "Something he was ashamed of… something which made him erase his own memories of the whole period in which Tom was at Hogwarts…yet keep one sloppily modified memory on purpose…"
His eyes widened and he stared at them in horror, instinctively backing away from them as he felt a surging wave of unadulterated rage and rancor well up in him. He could feel his dark magic inexorably blazing inside him, rising along with his wrath; he could feel black swirls of magic flapping his school robes, and he did his best to try to control it, but his mind was speeding too frenetically with terrible suspicions.
"You wanted another Salazar!" he hissed out, through jaws so clenched that he was certain that they would snap, while his shaking hand tightly grasped his wand by his side. "Perhaps Tom wasn't powerful enough to be able to use our unique kind of dark magic, but he was certainly brilliant enough to match, or surpass, Salazar Slytherin's genius! After all, he is Slytherin's direct heir!"
He gazed at them with wide eyes, as if seeing them for the first time in their horrid reality.
"It wasn't only the pull… What could plant into your mind the obsession of immortality? An immortality never before pursued by anyone, for who would sacrifice so much? But an immortality desired by someone who thinks that one is too few… Because one leaves you too vulnerable to real death… And if Salazar laid the foundations for the creation of one anchor, and his descendants finished the theory to put it in practice, why not make the last heir –an outstandingly brilliant young wizard- find the way to create a sevenfold immortality which allows you to have, over and over again, new bodies, replicas of the original one?" Abruptly, he violently grasped Morgana by her robes, shaking her in fury, as he yelled madly, "ALL FOR WHAT? FOR YOU?!"
"For him!" spat Mordred harshly, aggressively flinging Orion away from his mother. "It was for his immortality!"
Orion staggered backwards as he regained his equilibrium, and he swiftly aimed his wand at them, gazing at them with enraged eyes, all-black pools of darkness.
"We don't need to become immortal," said Morgana coolly, calmly rearranging her ghostly robes.
"The magic of the ritual you underwent ages ago will eventually run out, won't it?" spat Orion, his piercing and scrutinizing gaze never leaving them.
"It will," she said quietly, "but by then our goal must be accomplished. We have no wish to extend our unnatural lives for any longer after the VA arises."
Orion angrily shook his head. "How can I ever again trust anything you say?"
"We have no reason to lie to you," snarled Mordred. "If I had used that wizard to find a way to achieve my own immortality, I would tell you without fearing whatever you might do to us."
"Yes, that's very cocky of you," snapped Orion mordantly, narrowing his eyes at them. "But that doesn't tell me why Slughorn casted a compulsion on Tom to make him discover a way of creating seven horcruxes!" His grip on his wand impossibly tightened, and he yelled furiously, his voice shaking, "HE WAS SIXTEEN! He was only my age when he split his soul for the first time! Have you any idea of what you've done to him?! WHY?!"
"For the Vindico, of course!" spat Mordred caustically. "You know that everything we do is always for that cause!"
"The VA?! I don't understand what that-"
Orion choked on his words, and he gazed at them with wide eyes, feeling a sudden wave of bile churning in his stomach.
"Oh Circe," he exhaled horrified, as he clamped his hand over his mouth and wrapped an arm around his midriff. "Grindelwald is too old, he wouldn't last more than two or three more decades… 'In absence of the Vindico, there must always be a Dark Lord; a dark wizard powerful enough to lead all others and to advance on the Dark's goals.' But that isn't the only reason why you always want a Dark Lord to exist. It's because for a Vindico candidate to be powerful enough to undergo the test, he must kill whatever Dark Lord there is, thus, becoming the recipient of the dead Dark Lord's power! You didn't know how long the next Vindico candidate would take to appear! You hadn't planned for me, you expected to have to wait for several more decades, and by then Grindelwald would have already died of old age… You needed a Dark Lord to last for several decades while you waited for the VA candidate… Since how many wizards are born in a century who are powerful enough to become Dark Lords? Not many, and Tom was the last and youngest one to have been born… You compelled Tom to hunger for immortality, so that he created many horcruxes, so that he was still alive –if you can call that life- when the VA candidate appeared, so that the candidate would have a Dark Lord to kill! YOU MADE HIM OBSESS OVER IMMORTALITY TO SERVE HIM IN A PLATTER TO THE VINDICO CANDIDATE – TO ME!"
Abruptly, he gazed at them with a sudden wave of hope; expecting them to say that he was wrong, but the spirits remained silent. Morgana's face wore a weary and tired expression, while Mordred was simply observing him with impassivity, as if waiting for something to happen.
"It's true?" he choked out, half-disbelievingly. "I'm right?"
Mordred smirked at him. "Well, it seems your powers of deduction are still up to par-"
"NO!" interrupted Orion fiercely, abruptly taking a small leap and clutching the spirit by the collar. "This doesn't work like last time; you can't tell me that it was a test to see if I got it right!"
"It's no test," said Morgana quietly.
"Well, for my part," interjected Mordred, his smirk widening, "I would like to think that I was testing you."
"Or you mad or just plain stupid? Have you lost all sense of reality; are you really this detached?" spat Orion contemptuously. "This is no game! Is it true?"
Mordred quirked an eyebrow, and replied coolly, "It is."
Orion's nostrils flared as he started to breathe heavily, feeling a relentless surge of searing, wrathful magic coursing through his body. He knew he would lose it soon; he would have never expected them to be like…
"Dumbledore," he said slowly, his voice trembling with rage, as he jerkily tightened his grasp on Mordred's collar. "You're even worse than he is, and I didn't believe it was possible. The old man at least has the excuse of being Light and wanting Voldemort, a Dark Lord, dead. But you… you have no excuse… your own kind… your own creation…"
Mordred scoffed. "Don't be so melodramatic, boy-"
"Hasn't he gone through enough? You always speak of sacrifice, and yours wouldn't even compare to Voldemort's," said Orion in a deathly quiet voice. "All he has done has been for himself, he's not the altruistic type, but he has also done it with dark wizarding kind in mind, always. You didn't spend more than a decade as a lost spirit without powers, you didn't butcher your soul seven times; yours is complete! Your sacrifice has been nothing in comparison-"
"What I have done," retorted Mordred incensed, "my powers-"
"Power means nothing!" spat Orion enraged, losing the composure he was trying to maintain. "I'm more powerful than he is, but I know that I would have never risen like he did if I would have been in his circumstances. I would have never survived all what he did! I've always had friends or some loved one with me, he has always been utterly alone!" His lips curled with contempt, and he spat snidely, "And you've always had your momma with you."
"You know nothing of what we've been through!" shrieked Mordred, as Orion's grasp on his collar relentlessly tightened.
"How many more have to suffer for your aims, Mordred, until you are satisfied?" hissed out Orion through clenched teeth.
Mordred smirked at him, countering in a mild tone of voice, "How many more need to die or go mad until you're up to the task of becoming the Vindico, Orion?"
"Right," said Orion briskly, unceremoniously releasing the spirit with an abrupt jerk of his hand, as he took a step away from them to reach the opening of the well-like passage which led out of the Crypt.
"You can't leave yet," said Mordred sharply. "You haven't answered me."
Orion turned his face to look at him, and said coolly, "How many more VA candidates and Dark Lords will die or go mad while I decide if I'll undergo the test?" He shrugged his shoulder with studied indifference. "I don't know, whatever I decide, it will be my choice; it will have nothing to do with either of you."
Morgana deeply frowned at him, hovering forwards. "What are you planning on doing? You can't-"
"Do it alone?" interrupted Orion crisply. "I can and I will."
"Stupid boy, you'll need us in the end," snapped Mordred acerbically. "You don't even know what the test is or what to do with the Hallows."
"Wait!" said Morgana urgently, swiftly floating to block his path. "You'll need our help, you'll need the Aux Atrum's help, and they won't assist you unless-"
"Unless you're with us," spat Mordred.
"Then I won't use their help!" bit out Orion impatiently, taking a step to move around Morgana.
"We still have much to discuss," she said persistently, hovering in front of him. "Let's calm down for a while-"
"I want to leave!" snapped Orion heatedly. "If I stay, I won't remain calm, and by Merlin that I'll hurt you!"
Mordred scoffed snidely. "You're afraid of hurting us, that's why you want to leave?"
Orion darkly smirked at him. "Oh, no, I'm not afraid of hurting you. I simply want to be prepared when I see you next time; because next time, I'll kill you both. Maybe you've lived for too long, but whatever the reason, you've lost perspective; you're more a threat than anything else."
And without glancing at them, or listening to anything else, he swiftly transformed into Firebreath and flew along the passage, as if escaping a dreadful memory he'd rather forget.
It was midnight, and Orion was seated on a plush couch in the empty Hydra common room. He had spent the last hours walking aimlessly through the snowed grounds of Durmstrang, feeling oddly detached while feeling, at the same time, a heavy weight pressing in on him.
His mind had wandered without any direction, just with the restriction of not thinking about anything related to Voldemort and the VA, not feeling prepared to make any decisions.
Ever since leaving the Crypt, he had felt weirdly dejected, as if something he had depended on had suddenly been ripped away from him, and he knew what it was; he had always thought the spirits would help him out in their own peculiar ways.
And now he found himself like a captain without a ship, or a ship without a captain; he didn't exactly know which. He felt both confused and gloomy.
Sometimes, a brief ray of hope had lighten in his mind, thinking that perhaps it had all been a test to see if he had the determination of continuing on his own. But soon afterwards, he had realized that every single word said by the spirits had been truthful; since the spirits had lost much rather than gained, and so had he.
Regardless, he couldn't forget the sudden clarity of mind he had felt when discovering what had been the spirits' plan for Voldemort; what they had done to Tom. It was like seeing terrible enemies in people he had thought to be his allies.
His relationship with them had always been rocky at best, but he would have never suspected them of such cold-bloodedness and cruel ruthlessness. It even surpassed anything Voldemort could have ever done, since in his opinion physical pain was nothing in comparison to having your life dictated by others who didn't have your own best interests in mind. Even Dumbledore paled in comparison.
He remembered that he had thought Voldemort to be evil, when he was young and had met the wizard for the first few times. Then he thought the 'bad' one was Dumbledore, but the spirits certainly took the grand price.
He understood that, perhaps, after more than a millennium of existence, it was to be expected for the spirits to see everything from an unfeeling and detached point of view, but it still didn't excuse all the things they were responsible for… Cadmus, Slytherin, Tom, Tom's mother, his own mother, and who knew how many countless more.
Nevertheless, what mostly intruded in his thoughts wasn't how they had used his mother, but how they had used Voldemort, and above all, the discovery of what he considered his fatal mistake, for he understood now what Slughorn had done.
The old wizard had been culpable in manipulating his mother and Tom, but he had seen –that first and only time he had met Slughorn- that the wizard had truly cared for Lily Evans. And he knew what the gaps in Slughorns' mind meant; the wizard had felt regret over what he had done to his mother and Tom, but he had left a memory in his mind to allow someone to know how to defeat Voldemort.
He was sure that the Slughorn must have done it the day Voldemort killed his mother, since the wizard had been in hiding –from Voldemort, and the spirits as well, he suspected- ever since. Slughorn had surely realized that Tom probably wouldn't have become Voldemort if it wasn't for the compulsion to yearn for immortality, and thus create horcruxes. Slughorn probably deeply regretted his part in the affair.
Even if Slughorn had been an Aux Atrum, the wizard had thought that it was better that the Dark Lord was killed, without mattering what would happen to the Vindico candidate who appeared in a time when there was no Dark Lord to kill. Slughorn, in the end, despite being an Aux Atrum, had gone against the spirits; the wizard hadn't cared about the fate of the VA candidate. Slughorn had probably thought that it was better for the whole mess to end, rather than keep playing at producing Dark Lords and VA candidates.
He could respect that in Slughorn. And he also regretted that he had handed the wizard to Voldemort; that had been his mistake. On the other hand, after what Slughorn had done to Tom, Voldemort also had the right to take revenge, however unknowing Voldemort had been of all the circumstances.
Regardless, Slughorn's death was the first one ever to weight on his conscience.
Now that he was seated in the midst of quietness and shadows, while the rest of Durmstrang castle was asleep, his mind inevitably swirled with all the information he had gained in the last days.
He realized that everything ran in circles; he was who he was because of all the things the spirits had done, and because his mother had inadvertently changed their plans.
He was what the spirits wanted, but they weren't aware of it; he had arrived sooner than planned. He was a Vindico candidate because his mother was able to ignore the compulsion and have a baby with the first wizard she had loved; but it seemed that the compulsion had lingered enough to make her decide to subject him to the consangri ritual, making him a Potter.
Furthermore, he was Voldemort's horcrux because the spirits had ordered Slughorn to cast a compulsion on Tom to make him yearn for immortality, which resulted in his mother's and James Potter's death, and in him being the first human-horcrux of existence. In addition, all that had made Slughorn realize that Voldemort had to be killed, so the wizard kept one memory of the affair so that someone –obviously Dumbledore- would find the memory and use it.
Given that, Dumbledore wanted to destroy the horcruxes, and wanted him to confront Voldemort, so that he and the horcrux would be killed and Voldemort would become mortal.
It was clear that Grindelwald might have told Dumbledore about his powers and the Hallows, but not about the VA, since Dumbledore didn't know that if Voldemort killed him, the wizard would be the recipient of his dark magic.
Moreover, to become the VA he had to kill Grindelwald and Voldemort to be strong enough to survive the test. If he didn't do it, the wars would be prolonged, Grindelwald would eventually go mad, and Voldemort would continue in his path to attain immortality and to kill muggles and muggleborns.
On the other hand, he didn't want to kill either of them, and most particularly, he would never kill Voldemort; even more so now that he knew that the spirits were the ones responsible for the way Voldemort's life had turned out and for making him obsesses over immortality, just to keep him alive long enough for the VA candidate to kill him.
But if he didn't become the VA, regardless of what happened to everyone else, he would slowly fall into madness as well…
Necromancy could help him control the pull, but if he became a Necromancer, what would happen to him? What would happen to his relationship not only with Voldemort but with everyone else he cared for?
And what would happen to the Dark Source if he didn't become the VA and the next candidate took too long to appear? What would happen to his friends if there wasn't a Vindico Atrum to help them during the war?
Orion laughed, a dry, hard laugh of someone coping; someone coping with fate and what the few days had wrought upon his life - someone coping and failing miserably.
He couldn't help it; he felt lost, angered, confused, somber, and most importantly, trapped.
"Orion? Is that you?"
Orion turned towards the soft voice. Calypso climbed down the stairs which led to her dormitory and made her way towards him, taking the couch beside him. She looked tired and miserable, as if she hadn't gotten a wink of sleep for many nights, and as if something was heavily burdening her.
"Are you alright, Scaly?"
He made a move to touch her hand, but Calypso recoiled and looked away. Her eyes had a dejected expression that he had never seen on her before.
She put her hands on her face, and her voice was wobbled in defeat.
"I just… I feel out of sorts today… I…I…"
Orion kept quiet, but his eyes never left his friend. Calypso sighed loudly, and he could see tears running down her hands. He quickly conjured a handkerchief and offered it to her.
She peered at it through the gaps of her fingertips before taking it from his hand. She blew her nose with it before muttering an apology.
"Never mind," said Orion softly, intently looking at her. "Is there something you want to talk about?"
"No," said Calypso quietly, glancing up at him with swollen and teary eyes. "I'm fine. I simply have a lot on my mind. I... er, actually I had something to say to you.." She glanced down at her hands and nervously smoothened her pajama pants. "I won't come to the DA lessons anymore, I need to concentrate on my studies."
Orion frowned at her with concern. "Calypso, what's going on? You've been acting strangely ever since the break in-"
"It has nothing to do with the break in!" she said sharply, her shoulders stiffening.
Orion's frown deepened, and he slowly took her hands, grateful that she didn't squirm away from him this time.
"Is it because of the illusion the Manticore made you experience? You never told me what it was-"
"It's not because of that!" she snapped shrilly, abruptly standing up and turning towards the stairs which led to her dormitory.
"Scaly, please tell me what's happening," said Orion beseechingly, gently placing a hand on her shoulder to turn her around to face him.
"I just want to focus on my life," she said softly, with a tremulous voice. "I want time for myself, I want to concentrate on my studies."
"But you've always said that the DA is important for the war, and the war has always been important to you-"
"It still is!" she said defensively, before glancing down at her feet. "I just need some time apart from everything…"
"Calypso, whatever is troubling you, I can help you. Tell me-"
"No," she said sharply, "I just want to have some time alone."
He gazed at her with deep concern and she shot him a weak smile.
"Orion, please. I'll be alright. You know me, I'm made of a tough material."
"I…" started saying Orion, but he clamped his mouth shut when he looked at her.
She was fatigued. She was weak. She didn't want to argue.
He was going to say that he needed her, that she shouldn't stop attending the DA lessons, that he wanted her to confide in him, that he had much to tell her about, that he needed her opinion about what to do; but he said nothing. Something grave was burdening her and the last thing she needed was for him to unload all his troubles on her. If she wanted time apart to be alone, then he would certainly grant it to her.
He did his best to offer her a reassuring, warm smile, and gently kissed her on the forehead.
"Thanks," she said softly, and quickly turned around and disappeared through the stairs.
Orion gazed at the empty space she had left, and suddenly felt even more despondent than before. Somehow, he felt that he had lost something precious.
After gazing at the empty space for what seemed an eternity, he shook his head away from his morose thoughts, and quickly checked the time.
He should use the time-turner to go back in time three hours in order to see Grindelwald and start their lessons; he had told the wizard that he would be dropping in today. But he couldn't. He had a lot on his mind; he felt he needed to find some direction first. Let Grindelwald believe whatever he wished when he didn't show up, he knew exactly who he needed to see.
He couldn't postpone it any longer, he wanted to see his face, he wanted to talk to him, he wanted to feel him close; it was like a searing urge that had suddenly swelled inside him.
Orion quickly unbuttoned his shirt and gazed at the large scar that crossed his chest. It had healed from his fray with Mordred but it was still of an angry red. Swiftly wiping out his wand, he casted a glamour on it which would last for several hours.
Satisfied with the result, he buttoned up his shirt and pointed his wand to his Black Heir ring, swiftly activating the portkey.
His feet landed on the hard wooden floor of Riddle Manor's study, and he instantly caught sight of Voldemort, who had a deep frown on his face while quickly writing on a long piece of parchment.
The wizard's grand mahogany desk was covered with opened books and several parchments, and in the middle laid the Mayan Stone.
Orion stood quietly observing him; knowing that Voldemort already knew that he was there, but the wizard seemed too focused on finishing his task first.
Voldemort looked tired, burdened, angered, but also very resolved. Orion wondered what the wizard was planning on doing now that Grindelwald was supposedly dead. What would Voldemort's next step be to find the Elder Wand? Did he already suspect that Dumbledore had it?
As he observed him, a warm and fuzzy feeling grew inside him. He couldn't prevent himself from feeling highly content and satisfied that Voldemort was his. No matter how much the spirits had messed in the wizard's life, Voldemort had risen on his own from every adversity. Granted, the wizard had many flaws, but he admired and desired him just the way he was.
And suddenly, that same need as before swelled up in him. He desperately wanted to touch Voldemort, to feel the wizard against him, to somehow find comfort in him; as if any of that could somehow reveal the solution to his problems.
Impatiently, Orion swiftly crossed the room to reach the desk, and he plopped down on some book, just besides where Voldemort was fervently writing on his parchment.
"I'm busy working," said Voldemort, without looking up at him. "Give me some time to finish this."
Orion frowned at him. He understood that after Voldemort saw his plan to obtain information on the Elder Wand from Grindelwald thwarted, the wizard would put all his energies in finding another way, or in studying how to use the Mayan Stone to advance his plans for the war; but he wanted Voldemort, he needed him, now.
"You can finish that later," he said, before he planted one foot on Voldemort's chair and pushed it backwards to have more space.
"Orion," snapped Voldemort angrily, glancing up at him, now that he found himself away from his desk. "I said I was busy-"
Orion swiftly sat on his lap and pressed his lips against Voldemort's, urgently pushing his tongue inside that warm cavern, desperate to feel his taste again.
He didn't quite understand why he was acting that way; he only knew that he was looking for some answers, something to tell him which path he should take, what his decision should be in the matter of becoming the VA and all that it involved.
Never breaking his enforced kiss with Voldemort, he started to quickly unbutton the wizard's robes, but the task became difficult since Voldemort was relentless fighting to break apart.
Orion tightened his legs around the sides of Voldemort's lap and urgently drew down the wizard's pant zipper, wasting no time in grasping the wizard's hardening arousal.
Abruptly, Voldemort tightly grasped Orion's shoulders and forcefully pushed him backwards, wrenching himself away from the kiss.
"What are you doing?" he said sharply, his fingers sinking into Orion's shoulders. "We can do this later. I was working-"
"I want to do it now," interrupted Orion, his voice haggard while he panted heavily.
Voldemort frowned at him, his temper worsening. "Why are you behaving like a-"
Orion didn't allow him time to finish and he aggressively kissed him again, positioning himself to press against Voldemort's erection as he started to massage it insistently.
But everything was happening enforcedly and mechanically, Voldemort pushing against him to peel away and Orion becoming more insistent in his attempts, slowly realizing that everything was turning out wrong.
In a last effort, Voldemort placed a strong hand against Orion's chest and pushed him away, and suddenly Orion hissed as a sharp pain coursed along the scar on his chest.
He quickly broke away from the kiss and disentangled himself from Voldemort, stiffly standing away from him.
"Never mind," he grumbled, looking away from the wizard. "This isn't working. I don't know what I was thinking, this solves nothing."
Orion turned around to leave the room as Voldemort stood up and buttoned up his robes and arranged his trousers.
"Where are you going?" Voldemort demanded, deeply frowning at him. "You can stay and wait until I'm finished, it won't take me too long."
"Fine, alright," said Orion, shrugging his shoulders, without turning around to look at him. "I'll be in the parlor."
And he swiftly walked away from the room, angered at himself and with a bleak mood further glooming and depressing him.
Orion was seated on a plush dark green rug, in the midst of some conjured pillows, gazing at the fire lively blazing in the hearth in front of him.
He had spent all the time absently observing the flames, with a frown on his forehead and his arms tightly wrapped around his legs.
His frown had been deepening with each passing thought. He didn't know what he was doing or what he had tried to attempt with Voldemort. He realized that he probably just wanted Voldemort to take him to escape for a while from his problems, to empty his mind from everything else while just being enraptured in pleasure.
Orion snorted disparagingly; that hadn't turned out well. He had stupidly run to Voldemort, when the wizard could do little to help him, since the man was unaware of too many things.
The decision was his own; he knew that telling Voldemort everything would only complicate matters. Grindelwald had clearly told him that he couldn't tell anything to Voldemort; that Voldemort would only try to get his hands on the Hallows, as any Dark Lord would do.
Moreover, what would he tell Voldemort? Some spirits, Grindelwald –whom I rescued, by the way- and a bunch of other dark wizards called Aux Atrum want me to kill you… or, I have to kill you because the Dark Source is in trouble and I've been 'created' to solve the problem? Or, the only point to your life is to be killed by someone like me? Or, you'll eventually go more insane than you are if I don't do what they want me to do? But I don't want to kill you, so can you help me?
He scoffed and morosely watched the bright, swirling flames.
What would Voldemort do if he knew that by killing him he would have his dark powers? Would the wizard avada' him without a second thought? Was Grindelwald right in thinking that?
Suddenly, he heard a creak from the wooden floors and he craned his neck around. Voldemort was standing a few feet away from him, staring down at him with a deep frown on his handsome features.
"What was that all about?" he asked gravely.
"I don't know," said Orion quietly, gazing up at him. "Are you finished with your work?"
"No," replied Voldemort curtly, taking a seat by Orion's side, looking awkward and uncomfortable as he sat on the rug, like a plebeian would do. "I decided to find out what was troubling you, first."
"Oh," said Orion, wanly smiling at him. "Nothing is troubling me, I'm fine. Were you working on the Mayan Stone?"
"Yes," said Voldemort, intently scrutinizing him, "but don't change subjects. What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," replied Orion, beaming at him. "I just wanted to be with you for a while."
Voldemort's expression darkened and he grabbed Orion's chin, lifting it up, while he said sharply, "Don't lie to me. Something is troubling you, and you disrupted my work, therefore, I want to know the reason for it."
"Is that your way of saying that you care for me," said Orion, impishly grinning at him, "and that you're worried about me?"
"Don't get cute," hissed Voldemort sternly, closely regarding him. "You've discovered something that's burdening you. Tell me and I'll do my best to help you."
Orion sighed and briefly closed his eyes. "There's nothing you can do to help me."
"Look at me," hissed Voldemort quietly.
Orion gazed up at him, stopping himself from nervously squirming as Voldemort intently pierced his crimson eyes into his.
"Tell me what it is," said the wizard in a low hiss.
Orion bit down on his lower lip, before saying slowly, "Remember the time when we discussed to which school I should go, after the affair of the Department of Mysteries?" Voldemort nodded, and he continued, "I insisted that I needed to keep attending Durmstrang-"
"Because you wanted to keep studying Necromancy," said Voldemort, piercing him with his eyes. "And I told you that your attitude reminded me of myself when I was searching for the Chamber of Secrets; when I was focused on discovering something about myself."
"Yes," said Orion quietly, gazing back at him. "And I told you that I was indeed trying to learn something related to me. Well, I finally know – everything."
Voldemort frowned at him, intently scrutinizing him. "But you're not willing to tell me about it."
"I'm not," said Orion steadily.
"You said you would tell me when you found out," said Voldemort sharply, his frown darkening.
"Yes, I did," interjected Orion, "and someday I will. But for now, I rather keep it to myself." He looked at him beseechingly, and said quietly, "Can you grant me that?"
Voldemort studied him in silence for a while, and suddenly smirked at him. "I suppose I can." He smoothly rose up, and said curtly, offering him a hand, "Come, I'll take you to my bedroom."
"I –er– I rather we'd stay here," said Orion uncomfortably. "I just want to sit here with you for a while."
Voldemort quirked an eyebrow, his lips twitching. "You assaulted and molested me, and now you don't want me to take you to my bedroom?"
"Um, yeah, sorry for that," said Orion abashedly, "but I don't feel up to doing anything… well, you know what. I just want to stay here, and rest in silence for a while." He shot him a taunting smile, and patted the rug besides him. "Come, sit by me and I'll conjure some more pillows to give comfort to your aged body."
Voldemort scoffed and eyed the rug with appalled disgust. "You want us to rest on the floor, like animals? Did your stint with Lucius for a guardian do nothing to improve your tastes?"
"Don't be so picky, Tom," said Orion, chuckling while he quickly conjured some more plush pillows. "Resting on a hard floor is good for the back, didn't you know? And it's warm and cozy here, and I don't feel like moving, and if we go to your bedroom we'll be tempted to do something more, and I just want to rest." He patted the rug again, warmly smiling at him. "Come, come..."
"Alright," darkly grumbled Voldemort, with a long-suffering expression on his face as he knelt down and then stretched on the rug, accommodating several pillows to create a make-shift, comfortable resting place. "The things you make me do…"
Orion grinned at him while he settled himself by his side, resting his head on the crook of Voldemort's arm, as Voldemort threw the other arm over him to tug him closer.
Orion contently sighed while closing his eyes and snuggling against Voldemort's warm body. "Nice, isn't it?"
"Hmm," muttered Voldemort noncommittally.
"I was wondering, how are the war-plans advancing?" said Orion quietly, gazing at the play of shadows on the ceiling. "What are the Dark Allies doing at present?"
"Tom?" he murmured softly, when he didn't get a response.
He turned his head to a side to glance at Voldemort, and a small smile tugged the corner of his lips when he saw that the wizard was already deep asleep. It was clear that Voldemort had been exhausted; the wizard always pushed himself too hard in his work.
Orion sighed and gently swept a black lock of hair away from Voldemort's cheek. He gazed back to the ceiling, and closed his eyes, summarily entering a deep slumber as his head slowly rose and fell with the motion of Voldemort's chest.
"To reign supreme, when you become the Vindico, all wizards will need something greater than themselves to look up to and worship, they must be able to touch it, here on Earth. You must be a bastion of strength and power for them."
"They'll shout your name as a battle-cry when they plunge forward to fight for what you represent; they'll willingly die for you, with the reverent whisper of your name in their lips as they yell their last curse and gasp their last breath."
"To have such power over wizarding kind's destiny, you must be affected by nothing. You must be like an imposing marble statue, beautiful, magnificent, untouchable, imperturbable, inspiring awe and worship, and emanating nothing but strength, ruthlessness, and power."
Orion gasped as his mind withdrew from a long series of his usual dreams, and he slowly sat up, as the echoes of Grindelwald's words still resounded in his head.
He tiredly rubbed his eyes. It was as if Grindelwald's words had been etched into his mind; they neatly summarized what he always saw in his dreams, they were so accurately ominous that it was almost scary.
Suddenly, he heard a weird sizzling noise and he jerked his head to a side, and almost jumped in the air when he saw a great, dark snake's head hovering in front of his face.
"Nagini," he breathed out startled, his wide eyes gazing at her.
It was the first time he had ever seen her in person. Voldemort always kept her out of sight. She was magnificent; broad and several feet long, her dark green scales shone beautifully when the light from the fireplace illuminated her.
The snake flicked out her tongue to taste him, and her glowing yellow eyes bore into his, as she said in a low hiss, "You are my master's mate."
Orion quickly side-glanced at Voldemort, seeing him still deep asleep, and he gazed back at her.
"Er, yes, I'm his spouse," he hissed quietly.
"Don't worry about my master waking up and finding us talking together," she said, as she coiled her long tail around herself. "I'm allowed to speak to you now."
Orion's eyes widened further, and he inched his face closer to hers. "Now, he trusts me enough to allow you to show yourself to me."
Nagini made a hissing sound and slowly moved her head up and down, her yellowish eyes regarding him in a way he could only describe as assessing and measuring.
"You will give him hatchlings."
Orion blinked at her; was that an affirmation or a question?
"Yes, perhaps, some years from now."
"My master wants hatchlings. You will give him hatchlings."
"Uh," said Orion nonplussed. "Yeah-"
"I think you will do," she said, before she moved her head forwards and flicked out her tongue again, her eyes intently gazing into his. "Yesss, you will do."
"I will do for what?" said Orion perplexed.
"As my master's mate," hissed Nagini, rearing back her head and uncoiling her tail to placidly slither it along the floor. "You will protect him."
"I, um," said Orion disconcerted. "Yes, I'll-"
"Mates protect each other," she interrupted impatiently. "That's the reason for being mates, to survive better by being together. He protects you, so you have to protect him."
Orion stared at her as she stared back at him, her eyes demanding. He clenched his jaw, and without a further thought, he replied gravely, "Yes, I'll always protect him."
Nagini gazed at him in silence, and suddenly sprung around and started to calmly slither away. "Good."
Orion blinked as she left the room without any further comment. Then he exhaled while he raked his fingers through his hair; that had been the weirdest conversation he had ever had.
He glanced at Voldemort, absently gazing at his sleeping face, observing how the light from the fireplace danced over his handsome and relaxed features.
Suddenly, he glanced up into empty space, his eyes unseeing as his mind was buzzing with an influx of meshed thoughts. But abruptly, all seem to halt, and he chuckled under his breath. He already had his answer.
Orion shook his head in amusement. A snake had given him the answer he had been looking for. After all, it was quite simple, and only a snake could think in such simple terms, making him also consider matters in such way.
'Mates protect each other', and he hadn't doubted for even a fraction of a second when seriously replying that he would protect Voldemort. That was the solution to all his troubles. Everything was reduced to the simple question if he would protect Voldemort, and he would, no matter what. So what the spirits had done, and would do, didn't really matter if he had that crucial point clear.
He knew his alternatives and he could freely make his choices, knowing that at present he knew everything that was relevant. He knew everything involving the VA and the spirits' dealings; he knew how it would happen.
All the uncertainties in his mind seemed to evaporate. He would become the Vindico Atrum, for he had always known in the deepest levels of awareness that he wanted to become it. There were a thousand reasons for it, but for him, what mattered most wasn't the dominance of one Source over the other –that didn't seem tangible enough for him. What mattered most were the lives he could save; the way he could protect his friends and loved ones, the way he could follow the pull with the certainty that others like Voldemort wouldn't suffer longer when being driven by their own pull.
According to Grindelwald, once there was a Vindico, all the others wouldn't feel their pull so acutely, they would be able to live in peace, without being spurred further by their own magic, without being driven into insanity if they failed. And according to Grindelwald, the Vindico would lead the rest, and he would be able to win battles, he would be able to make them brief instead of prolonged.
His path was quite clear; he was no longer under the spirits' influence, he had become a rogue Vindico candidate, but he had Grindelwald to help him out. He was sure that the wizard would celebrate that he was doing things his own way.
Though the Aux Atrum were another matter; he wondered if Vulcan Vagnarov, Roman Komorov, and Romulus Rosier would still help him. He wondered what Sebastien Valois and Titania Tenleyn would do. But he still had his DA and the Elite...
Orion frowned and gazed at the fire, troubled. He no longer had Calypso; she wanted time apart from all that. He deeply sighed and carded his fingers through his hair. It seemed that his list of true friends and confidants was running short.
He had supporters, he had the DA and the Elite, but they were no longer friends. He remembered clearly how they had acted towards him during the day; they had treated him with sudden respect, they hadn't included him in the daily pranks and jokes, they had treated him as their leader, not as one more of the bunch. They saw him differently, ever since Nurmengard. No, he was no longer one of them, he was their leader; that was the way they saw him now, and that was the way he had to behave from now on.
Orion deeply sighed and squared his shoulders. It was fine by him. Calypso was still his best friend, as was Draco; they were simply not his confidants. For some things he still had Severus, Remus, and Gellert; that was enough.
And most importantly of all, he knew what he had to do. Suddenly, he felt different, as if a chapter of his life had ended. He was no longer a confused boy looking for answers about himself and his future. Now, he had all the information, he could make his choices fully informed. He knew what he could become and how to do it, and he had the means for it.
Quickly, he enumerated in his mind the steps he had to take. He would train with Gellert to control all his dark powers and to learn how to duel like the best. He was almost done in his study of Cadmus' journal, so he would free the Resurrection Stone from Voldemort's piece of soul. He would meet the Necromancers Guild and find out what he could get from them; he would evaluate the option of becoming a Necromancer. He would use the Stone and the Guild's help to confront Cadmus and rescue his father's soul; he would finally resurrect his father. He would continue training the DA and the Elite, to turn them into strong and powerful followers. He would help Draco with his task and he would kill Dumbledore, finally obtaining the last Hallow. Then, he would go to Zraven Citadel, undergo the training, and regain the vampires' allegiance, thus increasing the number of his allies and adding them to the DA, the Elite, and Remus and his packs. He would demand to know about the Kraljica Mati and her dealings, and inevitably, he would see Lezander and solve their issues. And then, he would kill Grindelwald and he would confront the spirits to get the information of how to use the Hallows to undergo the test to become the Vindico. And without any doubt, he would kill them afterwards. Finally, he would disclose everything to Voldemort, he would make sure that the wizard had the support of the Dark Allies and his own allies for the imminent wars, and he would undergo the VA test, hoping that he would be powerful enough to survive it.
And then… well, he didn't know what would happen afterwards. Hopefully, he would survive it and come back as something else, but still something human...
Orion shook his head and fisted his hands. He will come back and he will do what he saw in his dreams, just not as an unfeeling, power-crazed wizard. He will lead the armies with Voldemort by his side, and he will attain victories for the Dark as fast as possible and with the least number of casualties. After that, everything else would seem like a piece of cake; he would find a way to build with Voldemort their ideal wizarding world, he would find a way to deal fairly with muggles and muggleborns, and he would find a way to solve the problem concerning the Sources.
A small smile tugged his lips and he exhaled softly. He felt as if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Surely, he had a lot to do, but at least he had finally made his choice, and there was no going back; he knew what he wanted, with a certainty he had never felt before.
Smiling, he turned to his side to gaze at Voldemort, and gently, he slowly trailed a fingertip along the wizard's lower lip, feeling the wizard's warm breath puff out onto his skin. Careful not to wake him up, he slid to stretch along Voldemort's side, slowly winding one arm over the wizard's chest, and he contently sighed as he felt Voldemort's warm body against his.
Closing his eyes, wishing to get some rest, he purged the chittering morass of infinite plans from his mind, systematically reducing his awareness to the simple peacefulness of being. One by one, all thoughts deserted until a single renegade remained, a stalwart tenant resisting his most concerted efforts at eviction. While he was already in the depths of deep slumber, of their own volition, his lips inadvertently moved as if to shape the word, to embrace it with the vital warmth of living breath.
The sequel is already posted on my ffnet author page, and it's called Vindico Atrum.
I decided that the fic was getting too long, so I preferred to cut it in half. Really, I would have never imagined that I would end up writing a fic of more than 800,000 words! I have no idea how that happened, I used to think 100,000 was a lot, and quite impossible for me to write! -shakes head, perplexed-
Anyway, I hope you continue reading it! And I hope you enjoy it, of course -winks-
And thanks to all of you who have read the Black Heir and shared your opinions with me, I greatly appreciate it!