I'd like (love) to announce that Inheritance is my first completed chaptered story in six years, since my very first fanfiction 'Forest Demon' in 2003. I am proud as anything.
Thank you to all of my wonderful reviewers for all the great feedback and the constructive criticism. Pippin's Socks for poking me along on msn and helping write chapter six and reviewing every chapter! So this is real life, Hermione-sama, Jaden ruth, Bone White Butterfly (read her fic Elfin), sunshinelexi (read her fic Voldemort's Heir), and snaphellos for their lovely, multiple reviews. And everyone who's read Inheritance, because I think the hit count will go over a thousand with the last chapter!
The Occamy is, like the Runespoor, from the mini-book Fantastic Beasts. All the extra connections and origins are made up by me, though. As for it looking like a secretary bird, that's because secretary birds look incredibly cool, not to mention their scientific name is Sagittarius Serpentarius.
I tried to make this chapter self-explanatory so as not to bore you with notes at the end.
The ending itself is…totally open to interpretation, shall we say. : )
I don't own the Harry Potter franchise – I just like to mess with it.
Chapter Seven: The Ring
Marvela advanced angrily, thrashing her wand diagonally down. "Serpensortia!"
Unlike the single snake Draco had conjured in his second year, four hooded cobras exploded into being. Her teacher just raised his own wand, having expected this.
"Oppugno!" commanded his opponent. The serpents struck.
Well…maybe he hadn't expected such a cunning indirect attack that neatly sidestepped the linked-wands issue. Thank the heavens Voldemort had been too proud to think of such a thing. 'Stop! Don't attack me!' shouted Harry in Parseltongue.
Four snakes paused, and the apparent leader looked up at its target quizzically. 'I'm sorry; I don't quite understand your accent. Could you repeat that?'
Whilst he was distracted and his wand lowered, the girl took advantage and fired off an Impedimenta and a Petrificus Totalus. He toppled over very slowly, falling as if through treacle. He'd been thrown off guard and not performed the defensive opening spell that had become his trademark over the years.
Harry Potter lay beaten at the feet of Marvela Slytherin.
The class gasped.
"And now you need to nonverbally un-jinx me," mumbled Professor Potter through gritted teeth. Luckily the second spell hadn't been quite perfect, so he could just about speak. His pupil concentrated for a second and twirled her wand. The hexes released their grip.
"Okay, well done, Ella. That's a massive improvement." He stood up. The room burst into applause. Of course, in his lessons you could never tell if this was aimed at the successful student or just at him, for existing.
Harry clapped his hands together and waited for silence to return. Marvela retreated to her stool and Frieda's praise.
"Now, the next half of the double period will be your weekly dose of Care-of-Magical-Creatures-with-safety-precautions." He felt fully justified in saying this. As much as he loved Hagrid, he'd suffered more than enough at the hands of the half-Giant's 'pets'.
Walking to the side of the classroom, he unveiled a huge, heavy cage with some flair. There were several admiring gasps. Clawing and biting at the metal strips that imprisoned it, was a large bird, which sported a long, thick serpent's tail when it turned round to attack the other side of the crate. It had grown quite a lot in the last week, from a hatchling in an egg the size of a grown man's head, to something that rivalled the larger species of owl.
"Can anybody identify this 'fantastic beast' for me?" asked Harry, hinting heavily.
Three or four hands went up. One was selected. "Is it an Occamy, sir?"
"Well done," agreed the teacher. "And another, Muggle name for an Occamy is a cockatrice. Interestingly, much of Muggle mythology corresponds to wizard world fact. What they don't know, however, is where cockatrices, or Occamies, come from. Who knows?"
"Nowadays, yes, but I'm referring to their magical origins. Who's heard of Herpo the Foul?" There was a tide of groans: clearly this had been the subject of some torturous History of Magic lessons.
"Aww, he's boring;" whinged a Ravenclaw boy. Harry raised an eyebrow and answered with sarcasm. "Oh yes. He only invented 60 ft snakes with incredibly deadly venom that can kill people with their eyes."
"Thing is, right," said the smart-aleck, interested as ever in starting debates; "even if he made something cool, Herpo personally was just a weird old Greek guy that went around putting frogs in strange places." Abstract thought is its own downfall.
"Eggs," corrected another student.
"Eggs or frogs."
It was true. The Defence Against the Dark Arts post was cursed.
The Occamy voiced a strange, hissing shriek, flapping its unfledged wings uselessly. Its plumage and scales were a banded mixture of pure white, jet black and acid green. The eyes were the vivid yellow that haunted several of Harry's memories. When it spotted Marvela it quieted down and cooed. She scowled.
"Occamies," said Harry, ploughing on with his lesson plan; "are actually descended from Basilisks." That caught their attention. "A Basilisk will never have Basilisk offspring, because their rarity and unnatural nature means there is no opportunity to breed. Instead, the offspring of a Basilisk must also be incubated by a toad for thirty days in order for anything to hatch. And funnily enough, the hatchling will then take after its chicken grandmother. The original cockatrices were recorded as having the head and body of a rooster with the tail of a snake. Varieties like this one are dependent on the species of the chicken and the toads, I suppose." Indeed, it looked little like a rooster and more like a secretary bird, with its hooked beak and long crane-like legs.
"What were they?"
Harry cracked an odd smile. "Well a Ukrainian singing toad for this one," Frieda stiffened; "and maybe…a bantam? We have no idea."
"Ella…" muttered the Prefect softly, "where did you find my toad?" Instead of stuttering like she usually did, Marvela laughed. Well that's strange, thought Frieda. She seems really relaxed today. That girl being relaxed was the equivalent of Hermione not doing homework, on purpose. Twice in a row. For Snape.
"After the cockatrice generation, it will hopefully stabilise as an Occamy and begin to lay silver eggs." Marvela brightened considerably. Now that's what I want to hear! "This specimen is very young, so you'll notice the tail is relatively small and much lighter than a real snake. As the Occamy matures, it will gradually lose the power of flight and become too large and heavy to take off. After this point it will slither around on its tail and carry the avian torso off the ground, as the proportions change drastically."
The more enthusiastic and/or suck-up students ooohed and ahhhhhed. The creature in the cage alternated between trying to claw its way out and posing for the crowd.
"Quick recap before you write your notes: the origins of the Occamy are rumoured to be in the experimentations of Herpo the Foul. Before, during and after he succeeded in creating a Basilisk, he managed to make several cockatrices. These are the ancestors of the modern Occamy, who have more striking plumage. The problem at the time was that the cockatrices caused a great deal of trouble for the Grecian population, so they were shipped off to another country, namely India. They feed mainly on other birds and rats."
"That Occamy ate my cat."
Everyone span to stare at the girl who usually shunned all notice. She shrugged. "That's how they found it. Frieda's toad hatched it and they caught it when it was eating Morgan." Her face fell harshly. She loved Morgan and still wasn't convinced a cockatrice was a good enough replacement. But that was the problem (there was always a problem).
The Occamy could only understand and would only obey her, a true Parselmouth. Harry had struggled so much getting through to it that Hagrid and he had decided to unload the responsibility on her. It wasn't big or scary enough (yet) for Hagrid to argue about keeping it for himself. And they didn't seem to care particularly whether she wanted that dubious honour or not. At least it didn't think she was its mother.
She had yet to think of a name for it. If she went with the Chocolate Frog card method again, it would probably end up being called Grindelwald…they didn't even know if it was male or female yet, there not being many Occamy experts outside of India.
Can I train it to deliver my mail? She wondered.
"Where did they find it?!" asked someone excitedly – this was great gossip. Hogwarts is never a dull environment, but neither was there a Voldemort trying to lead a revolution and kill off students in recent years.
Harry intercepted the question before Vixerus could flub it. "At the edge of the Forest, last week."
"Something like that," agreed the Spawn of the Dark Lord evasively, averting her eyes.
They all sat down to lunch, chatting animatedly about Professor Potter's awesome lessons and that Vixerus girl's cat and their amazement that gossip had existed unshared for a whole week, in Hogwarts! Where the rumour mill was powered by two thousand portraits, one hundred House Elves and the odd, you know, ghost before even considering the student population!
The now-famous toad sat by Frieda's plate, behaving for once. It was singing. Somewhat operatically, in a high soprano. "Shh, shhhh, I'm not in the mood for that now. Sing something modern." The toad paused, inflated its throat by about three times, and began to blast out the powerful bass of Smoke on the Water. The Prefect grinned and faced Marvela. "So you're over that crush on Professor Potter now, huh?"
"Huh?" parroted the Heir of Slytherin.
"Don't act surprised," snorted her 'friend'; "why else would you suddenly become totally awful at Dark Arts? It's your best subject!"
"I didn't have a crush on him! Where do you come up with this stuff?"
Frieda smirked and tapped her nose. "I trust my instincts. You've been staring at him all term, and messing up all your spells and homework to get his attention; and occasionally going all - " she posed dramatically and sighed; "- breathless."
The other girl's mind went perfectly blank.
Was that how she'd interpreted the constant panic attacks? "Riiight…" said Marvela, once the horrifying and faintly painful mental image of the illegitimate daughter of a Dark Lord fancying his nemesis and killer Hero Boy With Nerdy Glasses And Kids, Damn It was banished from her mind. "I think I'll go to Divination now."
"Deniiiial ~…" sang the supposed role model for Hogwarts, as the victim ran away.
Despite the whole let-your-mind-go approach that successful clairvoyants took towards Divination, Marvela was one to approach it with totally focused zeal. It had been her philosophy that, if something was going to happen to her, she wanted to see it coming. But as far as she knew she'd never had a single vision more life-changing than you might possibly need to avoid a favour next week.
Walking into the ground floor classroom, she looked around the grassy area and smiled to herself. It felt wonderful to let go of some of the tension. The man she had the most to fear from hadn't hated her, even if it was a result of his uncalled-for searching through her private memories and finding nothing overtly malicious.
There were a few shelves of crystal balls beside the far wall, next to the tea trolley and the textbooks. The centaur had mellowed slightly over time and agreed to teach the lesser, human approaches to scrying alongside his own, grander styles. The rows of glass spheres flashed black and yellow as she made her way over to the teapot. A little startled, she glanced around to see if a wasp or bee had flown past. Finding nothing, she proceeded to make herself a cup of tea, swirling the leaves about and breathing in the warm steam deeply.
She sat by the shallow pool, watching agitated ripples cross its surface without apparent source. When the tea was drunk, the leaves didn't lump together at the bottom, instead forming a brown ring halfway up the side of the cup. She knocked them out onto the lawn. It seemed that she wouldn't even manage a tea reading today.
Another of those long, relaxing sighs breezed out of her. It was nice to be early to Divination. It was even better not to be on Harry's hit list. She just couldn't get over how kind he'd been.
Tipping her head back, she gazed up at the enchanted ceiling for a spot of cloud watching. Of course, the one day she felt nice and tranquil would be the day Scottish weather decided to show how little it cared that it was summer. There was a dramatic thunderstorm playing out above her, though the rain never hit and the classroom's lighting remained bright and calming.
The door creaked open, and Firenze entered. He looked…windswept, to be polite. As he clip-clopped into the chamber, water dripped off his tail, and she noticed that one back hoof was limping quite heavily.
"Have you been out in the Dark Forest, sir?" she asked, standing up. "You didn't run into any danger, did you?"
"No," said the centaur coolly. "I would not be such a fool as to enter my old home on a day when my former herd was near. And most other residents of the Forest I can deal with on my own."
It had been a stupid question to ask a proud being like a centaur. "Oh. Well…" said Marvela, feeling fairly useless; "is something stuck in your hoof? Would you like me to check it quickly, before lesson starts? You look a tad uncomfortable."
Firenze regarded her, absent-mindedly swiping rainwater off his bare arms and flicking his tail. He stamped each hoof in turn to tap the dirt and grit off, but winced as he reached the limping one. "That would be the logical solution," he conceded; "I would rather not have my teaching impaired by a graceless gait."
"Um, ok," said the girl, kneeling down next to the culprit leg. It was a task about as pleasant as scraping the mud off someone else's shoes, combined with the incredibly awkward fact that centaurs do not wear clothes. But she was in a good mood so she felt generous.
Scratching at the groove between the solid edging of the hoof and the softer sole, she managed to dislodge the predicted foreign object with the point of a quill. It flashed as it fell to the ground.
"Oho, we have something interesting here;" she announced, moving away from the horsy rear end as fast as possible. He tested his foot again and seemed satisfied. The impromptu vet was polishing mud off the item with the edge of her robe (which was still tattered from that time in the Chamber of Secrets).
Firenze was almost curious. "What did you find?"
After scrubbing at it a bit longer, Marvela held up a heavy gold ring, embedded with a jet black stone. It was battered but still large enough to fit a man's hand, and the gem was cracked. It felt icy against her palm.
"Who'd lose something this expensive in the Forest?" She automatically went to slide it on her finger.
Firenze looked around the room quickly, seeing dark portents in every direction. He'd heard of that ring before, a long time ago. "Wait," he cried urgently.
Smooth gold connected with pale skin, and the chamber took on a chilled, unearthly atmosphere.
She could hear a strange noise. It made her go numb. Seeking out its source, Marvela walked nervously into the shade of a tree by the pool. Any words that Firenze voiced now faded into the background.
There was a small, child-like figure huddled against the thick roots. Its breath struggled to crawl in and out of labouring lungs, hissing through a raw mouth. Fragile, twig-like arms flailed weakly as the body twitched unnervingly back and forth, side to side. It looked like its skin had been ripped off. She felt nauseous yet couldn't tear herself away. Where had it come from? Why had it suddenly appeared?
Leaning right over the tiny, horrific form now; she met its glaring feral eyes.
They were bloody scarlet, slashed through with slivers of black that stared only into oblivion. She'd seen those eyes before – only in mirrors.
Marvela Slytherin suddenly recalled the many horror stories she'd heard, about Horcruxes, a soul torn asunder seven times and that person who had thrown aside all humanity in the fruitless search for immortality.
As she realised what, or rather who, lay gasping in front of her; Voldemort's burning eyes fell upon her and his maimed face little by little twisted in recognition.
The Resurrection Stone:
Rowling said she would like to believe that a centaur's hoof pushed it into the ground, burying it forever.
-) t h e - e n d (-