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A/N: I plan to keep up the same update schedule for this as I did for HPaDI, so no worries!
Harry Potter and the Breath of Life
"I suppose, that looking back, I can see that I have always been a rather selfish person. A half-blood whelp who wanted much more than he deserved from Fate. I pushed hard against my limitations and when the inspiration struck me, I pushed harder. There was nothing too bold, too forbidden or too impossible for me to accomplish in my self-centered mind. When I caught the attention of one of THEM, a stern looking man with a square jaw and bandages covering his eyes, I thought I had hit the jackpot. He had so much to tell! I was astounded at my good fortune and for once life seemed to be finally falling into place. And then, then he made me promise not to use my new knowledge for projects above my station. Soon after, the Ministry became deeply interested in my studies, recognition at last! I was respected, gained access to the most dark of secrets under the Ministry building, given endless resouces, a dream come true. But then I wondered, where would it all go once old age caught up to me? I asked my patron and so unfolded the history of the universe: the Weave. I could be Chosen, he said, but I would have to fade from the public eye which was as good as dying. Or I could be given immortality and simply continue on forever but challenges with fatal consequences had to be passed first. It seemed impossible but as a scholar and not a fighter, I had the answer. I had only sworn not to elevate myself but if I should create something that then chose to help me out...in essence, confronted with the gods...I cheated." - Thaddeus Burwright, Unspeakable Traitor
Seven may have been a magical number but three was a universal one.
Multiples of threes, such as six, nine and twelve had a certain importance to them. It was August 9th, the ninth lunar month and the ninth day, a full moon and exactly at midnight...not even Mystery could have planned it better. It was a time in which mortal magics were particularly weak to the workings of those immortal and with a large scale event such as this, the less obstacles there were, the better.
And even if she wouldn't admit it, Palquenta needed all the help she could get.
Dressed simply in a plain white dress on the shore of Hogwarts, the platinum-blonde didn't look like anything worth fearing in the shadow of the majestic castle behind her. She had an oval face with soft and delicate features, beautiful in the girl-next-door kind of way with an imperceptible aura of light around her. Had any mortal actually been able to see her, they might have thought her a pureblood witch of some sort or even a half-blood. But she wasn't. Pal, unlike her Opposite, Thanatos the Incarnate of Death, didn't have a single magical bone in her body.
Instead, she was simply the embodiement of Life and Hogwarts was under her jurisdiction.
"Sure, are you," A masculine voice whispered. "That you must do this?"
"Sure of it, I am." she whispered back, vibrant blue eyes staring unceasingly into the waters. "Why, would you stop me?"
With an irritated sigh, a colourfully dressed man in lime green and purple robes with grey bandages wrapped around his eyes faded into sight. "Is there a reason why no one is heeding my warnings anymore?" he grated. "In truth, you are all like spoiled children."
A small smile formed on her face, free of all bitterness or spite that was usually lurking beneath. "Just keeping you on your toes, Truth." He snorted and for a moment her smile grew wider...and then faded. "But really, why are you here?"
"The Forest," he said immediately. "In truth, it has nothing to do with your challenge, would you mark the life within as merely collateral damage?"
Her brow furrowed, but with a nod she agreed. "The lake I will spare as well, declare it."
Truth raised both hands, one in the direction of the Forbidden Forest and the other pointing down to the surface of the lake. "I, Truth, declare the truth be thus: Both the Forbidden Forest and the Merpeople's Lake are exempt from the changes brought on by Life Incarnate."
Pal shifted just enough to see him out the corner of her eye. "So mote it be," she intoned and something old swept out of Truth's hands. The Forest shimmered and the lake pulsed with a silver light.
Scratching his cheek, Truth harrumphed. "Officially, I am to serve you, but unofficially, I know everything." If Palquenta had been able to see his eyes, despite the mock-annoyed tone he had, she would have seen disappointment flashing there. "I cannot say win or lose but I can say this: In truth, it will not turn out, how you want it," he finished seriously.
Pal bit her lip. "I know."
He looked stunned for a moment but then just shrugged his shoulder, sighing. "So long as you know..." The Incarnate of Truth inclined his head, and disappeared.
Palquenta raised her arms upward towards the full moon and cupped her hands as if she was prepared to bring it crashing down to earth, silver was beginning to bleed into her blue eyes. "Life hereby rejects Hogwarts!" She paused, trembling with the strain of holding something powerful back. She could forget all of this, simply sit it out. Wait it out, perhaps even say what she wanted to all these millenia to Thana's smirking face...but than an image flashed in her mind. Of a girl with almost white hair, curled up in a ball sobbing underneath a huge tree...her Tree...and her resolve hardened.
"So. Mote. It. Be!"
Even from outside, one could see the castle get dark as a black mist invaded it, dousing lights and stealing the lingering conscious of the wards, the heart of Hogwarts was now gone. Pal had given it as a gift to four extra-ordinary people and now she was taking it back.
As she faded from the mortal world, work done, the blood curdling cry of a pheonix in pain rang out to the heavens.
And far away in Sweden, Harry Potter cried out in his sleep.
He was dreaming...
Being swept away by an ocean tide...no...this wasn't water...being carried by a whirlpool, spinning now...
Molten silver, but no heat? A sharp flash of green on his right...
Liquid stars? A cry..."Not Harry!"
Where was he? A river of some sort maybe? It had a shore...
A monolith was rising in the distance...a pyramid then as he turned away...an obelisk when he blinked...too many shadows to see properly, and in them far too many faces...
And then a whisper: Come...I have something to show you...
The river spat him out, laying him flat on his back, feeling course black sand beneath his fingers, just staring up...a giant loom appeared, filled with threads of every colour that existed...there was a pattern to it, but he couldn't make it out. A vision of planets and stars flashed before his eyes and he, bizarrely, compared it to feeling a hand on his shoulder.
And then the pattern began to shift...to make sense...and he saw...
Harry was roughly shaken away from his dream. "Go'way," he mumbled sleepily, curling into his pillow that had somehow gotten trapped between his legs, barely registering the tingling of his scar. "Lemme sleep...Mmana?"
Someone exhaled noisily. "Sure," a feminine voice said, sounding strangely relieved. "You can go back to sleep, just...stay out of my head, boy."
A large and open grin, the one only people who weren't paying attention because they were half-asleep could make, crossed Harry's face. "Promise..."
Thana pulled back and watched the boy drift off again with an uneasy smile.
It wasn't the first time Harry had been woken up this way, but every morning he always swore that it would be the last.
"OW! Get off, get off!"
You'd think Thana had never heard of springs, or beds before.
"It's not like I gave you a mortal wound and then let you die, you big baby."
Because every morning since he got to the Ergusson Manor, she would jump on his bed and more often than not, land on him or his legs. And god damn it, he thought she'd be lighter. Maybe if she laid off the ice cream...
"No, but you're breaking my legs, fat ass!" After being plucked on his forehead for the comment, he was able to free his legs and curl them up close to him as they ached. "What do you want now?" he almost whined.
Thana blinked and then tilted her head as she leaned back on her elbows, face scrunching up in slight confusion. "Hey...you wouldn't happen to have a house elf...would you?" she asked lightly, sweeping an arm at his bedroom door as if to indicate something beyond it.
"Huh," she muttered, a slight frown appearing. "Well if it's not yours...then what is it doing here demanding you don't go back to Hogwarts?"
Harry's emerald eyes widened in surprise. "I have...no idea. Hogwarts elf?" She shook her head once. "Ok, I'll be there to see it in a minute." Thana put a bored look on her face, but didn't move from the foot of the bed. The boy could feel warmth spreading up his neck to his cheeks. "Um, I sleep in my boxers." Her right eyebrow twitched upwards.
"And...?" she drawled. "You're still wearing clothes."
"I'm not letting you see me in my underwear!" he hissed, clutching the blankets tighter and face fire engine red. "So get!" He made a shooing motion with his free hand.
She just rolled her eyes at him. "Alright, alright...I'm going..."
Once she closed the door, Harry focused on a mental finger and used it to poke the presence that lived in his head. --What do you want?--
Rise and shine! Cue mental groaing. Come on, you act as if you actually sleep.
--For your information, I do to sleep, dumb butt--
Harry paused in the act of shuffling into a plain black robe incredulously. Dumb butt?
--I, uh-- the sound of a small cough --I don't like swearing...--
Harry dropped the subject and just made his way out of his room in the northern most turrent to the foyer, the room he saw when he first entered the manor. Thana was there, still looking uninterested against the wall and there was this...fanatic looking house elf bouncing up and down on his toes in front of her. Big floppy ears, bulbous eyes that had this scary gleam in them and disgusting clothes on. A toga of some sort made out of used rags, it looked like.
As soon as the elf spotted him, that gleam grew brighter. "Harry Potter, sir?"
--We have a fan elf-- a whisper said dryly.
Harry almost took a step back as Thana's face shifted into one of mild amusement. "Er, yes? Can I help you?"
It seemed to be the wrong thing to say as big fat tears started to shine in the elf's eyes. "Harry Potter is asking if he could help Dobby! Harry Potter, sir, is being kind, not like my master..." The tears suddenly evaporated as the elf's face twisted in horror. It looked frantically around and spotted the mailing desk off to the side. It made it's way towards it but ran into Thana's leg.
"Whoa there, not on the furniture." So it began to beat its head into the floor.
"Bad Dobby! Thunk! Bad, Thunk! bad, bad, Thunk! bad! Dobby is bad elf, Thunk! saying bad things about Master!" Thana and Harry exchanged glances but didn't make a move to stop it.
"If you're just going to punish yourself, you can do that elsewhere you know." Harry said a bit uncomfortably. The elf halted and attempted to straighten itself up.
"Dobby is sorry, but, Harry Potter, sir, must not go to Hogwarts!"
Harry allowed himself an eyebrow quirk. "Why not?"
"Bad things be happening! Harry Potter is great wizard! Must not be hurt!" He couldn't help the arrogant smile that crossed his face at that.
"Dobby...I've been hurt before, but I'm still alive. A little pain won't kill me."
The elf's eyes bugged as he cried out, "Dobby has message!" The elf dug around in his toga, which turned the boy a bit green, and brought out a smooth pebble that immediately attracted Thana's attention. Dobby dropped it and it clattered to the floor with unnaturally metallic pings. It shimmered and an image of a woman in dark green robes, with short tawny hair and red eyes appeared, floating above it.
"I'm sorry to have to resort to this barbaric method of passing a message, Boss," it said in a distant voice. "But there is more to Life's challenge than what it seems at first glance. I would recommend that you don't leave the boy there alone if you place any value on that mortal. I despise you, but when you're miserable, you let us all know it."
Harry just blinked as the magical recording ended. "Was that real?"
Thana nodded, looking distracted by something and the elf put on a watery smile. "See? Harry Potter, sir, must not go!"
The boy rolled his eyes upwards, ignoring the snickers in his head, resisting the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. "No, Dobby, I'm going. You won't change my mind."
The elf's ears dropped. "Then Dobby must do what Dobby must..." The house elf vanished with a pop. Harry looked around, trying to spot a surprise attack but Dobby didn't reappear. He turned to Thana because he just knew she did something.
"Where'd he go?"
"Hmm?" she murmured, not meeting his eyes. "Oh, I just told the wards to kick him out before he could pull anything..."
"Useful, that." She made a noncommital sound in her throat.
She was painting an angel in hell.
Quick, angry strokes brought a figure garbed in crimson stained white to life. Flowing hair, sharp eyebrows, silver eyes and majestic golden wings arcing out to each side of the angel, more than a few feathers missing and rivulets of black running down them. The surroundings were a muddy mixture of puke green, acid yellow, swampy brown and liberal splashes of red. There were barbed chains digging into the legs and wrists, locked into praying a prayer that would never be answered.
It was a picture of agony undeserved and Hel thought it her best work.
"I have the diary." A whisper sounded from behind her, disgusted and sick.
"Good. This is your challenge, have fun with it, will you?" Hel answered easily, putting a few finishing touches on her piece. Some scars. She could tell when Palquenta actually looked at what she was painting because a harsh gasp was the result.
"Who...are you painting?" she asked shakily.
With a final twirl of her brush, Hel looked over it critically.
Welcome back, readers to the next installment. Tell me what you think, better or worse? Excited to find out what's happening or annoyed with me? Review!