Shadow Wielders: Revamped
Disclaimer: I swear to you, these characters jumped down my throat and took over my fingers when I wrote this chapter. I own nothing, literally and figuratively. Though I do own the seven HP books and the Pyramid of Light movie, if that counts…. Also, I am not a martial artist in any sense of the word. The most I am likely to be able to do, is break your nose with my fist if I'm lucky. Don't take my word, that any move mentioned in this chapter, or in any hereafter, actually work.
Harry looked around the American town curiously.
"Never been to America, Harry?" Ryou asked, smiling at him in a way that the Gryffindor had never seen from the older Wielder. Like nothing bothered him and the world was at peace, if only for the time being. Harry couldn't be sure, but he wondered, in the back of his mind, if this is the way that the other hikari looked at Bakura.
"Never been outside of Europe." Harry answered, smiling back shakily, in the face of such open emotion.
"That sucks." Marik said from behind the two, his eyes on their surroundings, not on the two hikaris.
If Ryou had lightened up, being away from Hogwarts, Marik had tensed even further than was normal, in Harry's opinion.
Harry glanced worriedly at Ryou, silently asking for an explanation.
The other hikari smiled wryly. "While this isn't the first time that a yami has left his hikari in the hands of another, it never gets easy for them, trying to live up to the trust being placed on them." The older boy answered. "We have found, that even after everything we've seen and done in the world, a hikari never loses their innocence. And that innocence and our, apparently innate, beauty call to all the wrong types of people in the world."
Harry frowned. "What does that mean? All the wrong people?"
"People who want to use you, Harry. People who enjoy watching pretty things break." Marik answered. "Rapists and bullies."
Harry shifted, suddenly uneasy with this new knowledge, being so far away from anything that he knew and understood. He cleared his throat, more for something to do, than because he needed it. "So…where are we going?"
"Lunch, than to Industrial Illusions." Ryou said, grinning. "Which is why we dragged you away from your food in the Great Hall."
Harry gave him a half hearted smirk. Marik clapped him on the shoulder, smiling darkly. "Lighten up and enjoy yourself, kid. I won't let anyone hurt you, promise." The blond looked over at the white-haired hikari. "Where to for lunch, Ryou?"
"I want seafood." Ryou answered brightly.
Marik rolled his eyes. "Fine. Lead the way."
Ryou winked at Harry and grabbed the hikari by the hand, pulling him down the street through the crowd of afternoon lunch seekers.
What neither of the older Wielders told Harry, was that as they left the shadowed overhang that had hidden their arrival from prying eyes, they both felt the malicious eyes watching them.
Something unpleasant, had entered the usually protected city of San Francisco.
-Be careful, Ryou.- Marik said privately.
##I can feel them.## Ryou said coolly. ##But I will be damned if they are going to keep me from enjoying my day away from the dark clouds of Hogwarts and the crap weather of England.##
Marik chuckled to himself. Despite how desired the hikaris were, and how much stress it put on their yamis to trust another with them, their lighter halves all had an unbreakable will of their own.
It was part of what attracted their darker halves to them.
And of course, the innocence as well.
Unaware of the conversation between the two Wielders, at least for the moment, Harry was trying to do as Ryou had said, and enjoy the city.
"So, how long are we staying here?"
"At least until four. It'll take until then to build up the power to get us back to Hogwarts. A jump of this magnitude, even with the boost from Yami, is tiring. And we'll need to get back under our own power." Ryou answered.
"That leaves us with four or five hours, to show you around San Fran. The only city in America, under the protection of the Shadow Wielders."
"Cool." Harry said, grinning.
Ryou pushed open the door to the restaurant, and breezed through, shouting something in another language to the back room.
"Chinese." Marik whispered in the younger boy's ear, making Harry jump. "We've all been around long enough, that we all speak at the very least, four languages. All in addition to the necessary Egyptian and Japanese we were born with, and the most common language in the world now, English."
"That's…wicked." Harry murmured, glancing around the small restaurant.
"Tell me what you see." Marik said quietly, leaning against the counter and looking around. "And then I'll tell you what I see."
Harry looked again, trying to see anything that looked out of place. "Nothing. Is there anything to see?"
Marik smirked and nudged him with his shoulder. "The couple in the corner. Vampires. You can tell, if nothing else, because they've got ten glasses on the table and still no food. Vampires don't need, or want it, to live. They're searching for something. Their eyes don't stay in one place for very long and they rarely look at one another for longer than three or four seconds."
He nodded to a man in the far corner, watching the people through the window. Harry curled his nose a bit, imagining what he probably smelled like, based on his filth covered skin and clothes. "He's an informant. And a damn good one. When he put on his disguise this morning, he forgot his manicured fingernails. He works for Pegasus and the Elementals."
"Is this…a demon haunt?"
"Mmhm." Marik hummed, glancing up at Ryou. "Glamours are widely used here, because no one notices the demonic magic. There's an open gate to the Makkai about seven or eight hundred kilometers outside of Los Angelos and this place is practically covered in Shadow Magic."
"What about the vampires?" Harry asked, glancing at the couple. "Aren't they…dangerous?"
"Look at the back of the male's right hand," Marik said.
Harry had to stare at it for a long moment, before he spotted the ornate 'L' with a red rose entwined around it, apparently tattooed to the skin on the back of the male vampire's hand. "What is it?"
"A mourning mark." Ryou answered, speaking for the first time since Marik had begun his 'test'. "The 'L' tells you who they're mourning, and the rose is a sign of respect and/or mourning. What you want to focus on, however, is the 'L', on this mark."
Harry remembered, vaguely, an image of the Millennium Circle and an 'L', flashing through his mind.
"Lorenzo." The Gryffindor breathed. "They're mourning Lorenzo."
Ryou nodded. "It means that they either followed Lorenzo, or they at the very least respected him. No enemy of ours, will ever willingly bear the mourning mark of Lorenzo's clan."
Harry opened his mouth to ask why Zane never wore one, but he was interrupted, by the arrival of a man with brown eyes and hair to match it. When he spoke, Harry couldn't place the accent, nor why it sounded so familiar to him.
"Ryou. This way."
Ryou smiled his thanks, and the man flinched under Marik's gaze, quickly turning away and leading them to a booth not far from the informant Marik had pointed out to Harry.
Once they were seated, and the man moved away from them, Marik relaxed ever so slightly, against the seat beside Harry.
"Who is he?" Harry asked, he figured Marik would be protective of him and Ryou, but the blond yami seemed almost…hostile to the waiter.
"He's a demon sympathizer." Ryou answered, looking mildly amused at Marik's actions. "He hit on Malik once."
"That…explains a lot, actually." Harry said, grinning.
Marik tilted his head back, snorting. "Bastard deserved what he got."
"He was only flirting!"
"With my hikari!"
Ryou sighed hopelessly, glaring across the table at Marik, who only shrugged.
Marik tilted his head to the side, not deeming it necessary to lift his head off its comfy perch, and rose a brow at the apparently very hyper teenager that skipped up next to him.
"Yuffie! Stop scaring my fucking customers!"
"Shut up, Cid! If anyone's going to scare away the customers, its you and your swearing!"
Cid, the cashier on the opposite side of the counter from where the three Wielders had entered, stood up and dragged the girl into the back room, muttering about sugar highs and pathetic ninja.
There was a loud squeal that definitely didn't come from Cid, a splash, several curse words that did come from Cid, though Harry only recognized half of them, and then Marik started laughing.
Harry could only stare wide eyed at the doorway that the two employees had slipped through. "What the hell?"
Ryou smiled, not at all looking apologetic. "Yuffie's a bit…."
"Weird. But she's fun." Marik finished, grinning.
"One of the last true ninja on the planet." Ryou answered over the yami. "The last time we were here, the only Chinese native, was John, the man that Marik attempted to fry with his eyes earlier. Nearly everyone else here, is Japanese native." He glared at Marik. "None of that makes Yuffie weird."
Marik smirked slowly. "Does Bakura have competition?"
"Not a chance." Ryou snarled.
Harry could only shake his head, blinking when Yuffie finally walked out, soaking wet. He was glad that her clothes had been wrung out, so they weren't clinging to her too indecently, nor was she dripping nearly as much water, or whatever she'd been dunked in, all over the floor.
"Can I help you?" Yuffie asked tightly, making Harry shrink back against the wall, in an effort to make himself scarce.
"Yuffie?" Ryou asked. "Are you alright?"
Yuffie gave a beast like growl that made the tables around them fall silent. And the dirty informant quickly made himself scarce. The two vampires across from them were staring.
Marik, feeling Harry tense beside him, sat up slowly from his relaxed position.
Ryou narrowed his eyes on Harry, before glancing over at the dark Wielder. "Shit." he muttered.
"Yuffie. I suggest you apologize." Marik warned. "We both know what happened to the last waiter that was rude to Bakura's friends."
Yuffie glared over her shoulder at Cid, who stood in the doorway wringing out his apron of excess liquid, for several long moments, before she turned to look back at Ryou and bowed apologetically.
"Sorry, Ryou. I'm just angry that someone dumped me in a vat of dirty dish water. I suppose the fact that he didn't get away unscathed either is good enough retribution."
Marik mimed gagging, and shook his head. "That's gross."
Cid scowled around the toothpick that seemed to be glued to the man's lips.
"It's alright, Yuffie. No harm done." Ryou glanced at Harry, who flinched slightly under his far too knowing gaze. "For the most part."
"Oh! A new one!"
Marik stiffened. "New what?" he asked gruffly. Ryou was gripping the salt shaker unnecessarily tight.
"Friend, of course! I never see the eight of you with anyone else. You finally brought a new friend here!"
Ryou and Marik both relaxed and Harry shifted uneasily. The two older Wielders sighed. "Yuffie. We just don't give a crap about making new friends like you do." Marik smirked.
Yuffie snorted. "I'm sure." she huffed. "Now," she picked up the pen she'd dropped on the table when she'd been dragged away. "What can I get for you?"
Bakura lazily flipped through another book on the breeds of Asian dragons, only twisting his head when Yami and Yugi walked into the room.
"What's up?" The thief asked.
"Still nothing?" Yugi asked in return, dropping onto the dark tan, almost brown couch across from the yami, trying to ignore how out of place it looked in the Room of Shadows.
"I've been through nine books on American dragons, four on Australian, seven on Canadian, twelve on European, and six on Asian." Bakura said, sighing heavily as he slammed the book closed and rubbed his eyes. "And I've still got nothing."
"Seriously?" Yami asked, frowning as leaned over the couch back beside his hikari.
Bakura glared at him, gesturing to the pile of books he'd apparently tossed on the floor beside his chair, too lazy to take the time to move them somewhere other than the table in front of him. "What do you think?"
Yami smirked and opened his mouth. "Well-"
"Yami!" Yugi frowned. "Leave the poor man alone."
"Demon, Hell, Divanterian, Shadow, Dark, Light, and Heaven."
"Wow. That's a lot of dragons."
"Yeah." Bakura muttered. "I'm ready to stab myself in the hand for not asking Priest about it. He'd, if nothing else, be able to cross some of these off."
"Probably." Yami agreed. "Want some help?"
"Wouldn't mind it." The thief answered, dropping the book in his hand to the floor and pulling another off the table as the pharaoh vaulted the couch to sit beside his lover.
Yugi curled up against his lover, picking a random book off the covered coffee table onto his lap. "Okay then."
Yami, however, took out the paper with the unusual inscription from the Chamber of Secrets on it.
"That thing still bothering you?" Yugi asked, glancing at it as he flipped through the table of context, introduction, and other useless pages.
"Yes." The darker Wielder answered distractedly. "What the hell does it mean?"
"The fuck are we supposed to know?" Bakura asked.
Yami stuck his tongue out at him.
Harry frowned at Ryou. "You want me to what?"
"Exactly what I said."
"But I thought-" Harry trailed off, looking up at the tall building, then at Marik, as if waiting for the yami to counter Ryou's plans.
"Don't worry, Harry. I won't be far from either of you. But Pegasus has the power to protect you, the same as I do. He's just…lost his darker half. With this in mind, Ryou needs me more than you do. It was hindsight that we sent one yami to protect two hikaris and I'm sorry we're practically leaving you in an unfamiliar city with an unfamiliar ally."
Harry flinched, the words driving home just how dependant the new hikari had become on the presence of others. I've been up against Voldemort three times. I can handle meeting an eccentric old man.
-If you run into trouble, Phoenix, you can call on either of us and we'll be there before you can say the Dark Lord's true name.- Marik whispered, putting a hand on Harry's shoulder.
Harry took several deep breaths and relaxed, resolving to stop acting like a child.
Ryou pulled the child into a tight hug to whisper in his ear. "No matter what, Harry, even with just Pegasus up there, be careful."
Harry nodded shakily and the two Wielders disappeared back into the crowd, though he was sure he could still feel Marik's gaze on his back.
Regardless, the two had left Harry to walk through the doors of Industrial Illusions alone.
#I have a bad feeling about this.#
-So do I. But he was clear about wanting to meet with Harry alone for a few minutes, and it gives us time to deal with this other issue.-Marik soothed.
Ryou snorted. #The stupid winged horse is a crackpot, Guardian. Would you leave Keeper alone with him?#
#Bad analogy. Your hikari can handle himself. My point is, Harry has little defense if the demented artist decides to try something.#
-We'll just have to trust him, Healer. Like we trust the Thief King. And like you all trust me.-
Ryou sighed, knowing he wasn't going to win this argument. He sent his magic out in a wave, waiting for it to bounce back off of Harry's and his jaw tightened when he felt how truly uneasy the other hikari was. #I still don't like this.#
-We have to deal, Healer. Focus on our other problem.-
#Why are we even going after him? Kadaj is Elemental business. He's not a Dark Summoner and he's not our responsibility.#
-Admit it. You want to know why he's been following us around since we got here, too. You want to know how he knew we'd be here in the first place.-
#…. Fine. But you keep a close fucking eye on Phoenix, or I will filet your ass with Dark Necrofear, understand?#
-Yeah, Healer. I got it.- Marik chuckled.
Ryou and Marik abandoned the street in front of Industrial Illusions' headquarters, positive that Harry was steadily working his way up to Pegasus' top floor office and was as safe as he was going to get away from the others, under the protection of the former Item Holder.
It was almost too easy to scale the side of a small shop and begin jumping from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of the flash of silver hair that they knew was their prey.
Kadaj was Blaise's oldest cousin, and was more often then not, seen in the presence of the current demon power hunter, Blaise and Chaz's father Sephiroth. It was well known that the silverette was worse off in the mental department than Marik ever had been, definitely the craziest of Sephiroth's three semi-unknown nephews.
The two used the term 'unknown' in the lightest of manners. To their knowledge, Blaise alone was unaware that he and his brother even had another relative outside of their power hungry father.
Yami and Marik had stumbled upon the information by coincidence. Jess had sent them to help Lady Dark, the Elemental Leader, research the death of a young man who had lost his soul along with two thirds of his body.
As it turned out, the murder had been committed by Kadaj and his two brothers. A hungry demon had come across the man's soul before it had a chance to move on and had eaten it. Yami and Marik were virtually unneeded, but they were there when Chaz found out about his cousins.
Jess reported that her friend's boyfriend had been pissed for months.
#Is your ass even paying attention?# Ryou asked cuttingly.
Marik tore his mind from the past and put it firmly in the present, narrowing his eyes on the silver haired man as he suddenly stopped and turned to smirk at the two Wielders.
#Something's not right.#
-He's baiting us. He knew damn well I'd follow him for answers.- Marik agreed.
Ryou came to a stop on the edge of a rooftop about three buildings over from Kadaj's 'resting' place, but the yami leaped the distance without a problem, staring at the crazy man across from him.
"Ishtar!" Kadaj called, grinning insanely.
"You've baited me all the way the fuck up here, now what do we do?" Marik asked, twisting the end of the Millennium Rod slightly, freeing the dagger hidden there, though he didn't draw it just yet.
#I think…we've missed something very important, Guardian.# Ryou said suddenly, turning to look back at the towering building that housed Harry and Pegasus.
-What's going through your mind?-
#You said…Kadaj had two brothers, yes? What are the odds that he would be here alone, when he barely escaped when the three of them went up against the four of you in Germany?#
Marik stilled, before a vicious snarl was torn from his throat. "Kadaj, what have you done?"
"It wasn't much. The old man you're so fond of wasn't there when we went to visit."
Ryou pulled the Shadows around himself and pulled himself towards Harry's aura.
Marik swore colorfully in every language he knew.
So much for a simple trip to the city.
Harry walked slowly past the creepily smiling secretaries and to the elevator.
Something about this place, felt wrong and once the door closed, he shivered, stepping the way to the back of the small car.
Closing his eyes, it was instinct alone that had him diving out of the way of the bullet breezing through the still opening doors, the unfamiliar sounds of the gunshot and the ricocheting bullet echoing in his ears.
He bit his lip in an attempt to contain his pain filled scream, watching with almost horrified amazement, as blood welled from the graze. Even muffled, he still thought his scream echoed.
"Poor boy." A voice murmured in his ear.
"The Wielders recruit rather young." Another said, this one was deeper than the other.
Harry felt the first blow and then nothing, falling back on the tried and true method of retreating as far into his mind as possible in order to wait out the beating.
The Gryffindor's attempts to ward off a flashback, were in vain, and instead of slipping into safety, he slipped into the nightmares that were his memories.
Harry scrambled away from the broken vase stammering apologies uselessly.
"How dare you?"
Vernon's fist came down twice on already heavily bruised arms, raised to protect his head from the meaty fists, and Harry bit his lip to keep from screaming.
Harry's mind shied away from the call and the Shadow Creature that stood between him and his attackers flickered, the magician's own will wavering when he was unable to connect with his master.
~Master! You must focus!~
"Hey! Back off, you bullies!"
Ryou stepped through the portal and ducked just in time to avoid the flying shuriken that hurtled through the air. What the fuck is she doing here?
Ryou scanned the area quickly. Yuffie was standing resolutely between Harry, Kria, and Kadaj's two younger brothers, Yazoo and Loz.
Harry himself was curled in the corner of the elevator, Kria, Harry's White Magician, flickering between the Shadow Realm and the 'real' world. He was obviously there by choice and will, not because he was summoned.
"Kria, it's alright now. We'll take care of him." Ryou said just loudly enough to be heard by the Shadow Creature.
~Healer.~ Kria greeted, relieved. ~Something is wrong. He is awake, but he is not aware.~
Ryou sneered, a very out of place expression on his normally soft features, but now was not the time to deal with his suddenly proven suspicions. "I understand. Go back and rest, friend. I'll take care of him."
The White Magician bowed deeply behind Yuffie's back, before he gratefully faded back into the comforting hands of the Shadow Realm.
Ryou stepped back through a second portal, past Yuffie to Harry's side.
"Harry?" The white mage called gently. "Its time to get up, Harry."
Harry whimpered, shifting closer to Ryou's comforting presence. "S-sorry."
"For what, Harry?" Ryou asked, his entire body pulsing out a near solid white aura, shoving Loz and Yazoo away from Yuffie and through the solid oak desk in the middle of the room. "What are you sorry for, young one?"
"B-breaking the v-vase."
Vase? What vase? Ryou thought to himself.
"What's he mumbling about?" Yuffie asked, shifting her stance to provide better defense for the two Wielders.
Growling quietly, Ryou forced himself to think. Harry obviously needed help. He needed to be pulled out of his flashback, but with the very real, very dangerous threat posed by the two power hunters, and Yuffie's dubious loyalty, he needed real help. He needed Marik.
But Marik was almost twelve blocks away and in the middle of a duel with one of the Elementals' primary enemies. To call on him now, could result in the yami making a fatal mistake.
Muttering curses fit for his own yami, Ryou pulled Harry tight to his chest, ready to teleport out of the building.
And was blindsided by a broken piece of wood that sliced through Yuffie's guard and her semi-exposed abdomen, the small stake embedding itself in his shoulder.
"Fuck." He hissed, pulling it free and tossing it to the side. Obviously, he and Harry weren't allowed to leave.
Pity for them he and Bakura both enjoyed rules about as much as they enjoyed getting teeth pulled.
Harry began to thrash in his arms, trying to ward off an attack Ryou couldn't see. "No! Please! I'm sorry!"
Standing, Ryou drew a small dagger from the sheath hidden beneath his long button up shirt. If they wanted to play, so be it.
#Guardian! We need help. This entire trip was an ambush from the start.#
-I'm a bit busy, Healer, the same as you. What the hell would you like me to do about it?- Marik snapped back.
#Then fuck Kadaj, Guardian. Phoenix is having a flashback and they're making damn sure I can't leave here with him. Its your job to keep us as safe as possible, remember? That includes you using the Rod to call for help.# Ryou snapped angrily.
Marik growled distractedly down the link. -When the hell did you become so damn bossy?- The yami asked angrily.
#When I became your fucking healer. Get help. Now. Preferably Pharaoh and Dragon, but Thief wouldn't be unwise either.#
-If I let him leave, Healer, he's going to make a break straight for the two of you, do you understand?-
#I can hold him off, Guardian, but not forever and not for very long. Be swift.#
-Done.- The other muttered darkly.
Marik ducked under the dual-bladed katana Kadaj favored, and tossed a handful of only half stable Shadow Magic at his opponent.
Kadaj flipped backwards to avoid it, and Marik took two steps backwards and dropped off the rooftop, into the Shadows.
On the other side of the city, Marik dropped from thin air to land half crouched, half sitting on the filthy ground of a not very sanitary alley.
The Wielder quickly gained his bearings and shoved the dagger of the Millennium Rod back where it belonged, while focusing on amplifying the link with his Item and, hopefully, connecting to one of the Wielders at Hogwarts.
-Yo, anybody there?-
Yami felt the feather light brush of a Wielder on his mind and froze.
"What's wrong?" Bakura asked, looking up from his book, ready for any kind of distraction from the boredom that was research.
The pharaoh held up a finger to silence the thief and focused on the Puzzle's unifying ability, hoping to amplify its connection to the Rod and force the link open wider. The Puzzles on his and Yugi's chests both began to glow one after the other.
Bakura and Yugi were alert immediately, and Yami could feel Malik in his mind, adding his own magic and his semi-unique connection to Marik to what Yami was using to continue to force open the link from an entire continent away.
-Pharoah! Thank fucking Ra, may he forgive his name usage.-
-What's not wrong? From the start, this entire trip was a set up. Healer's throwing orders around, making me wonder if there's something beyond Phoenix's flashback that's drawing on the doctor in him.-
/Are they with you?/ Yami asked, throwing a warning glance in Bakura's direction.
-Not…really. We ran into problems. Like I said, this was a set up from the get-go. Our friend isn't here. Apparently Kadaj tried to pay him a visit earlier today. When Kadaj started following us around, from where we showed up, mind you, so he not only knew we were coming, he knew where we were going to teleport in, Healer and I grew suspicious and sent Phoenix up to his meeting on his own, believing him to be safe within the halls of a business owned by a former Item Wielder.-
/I take it he wasn't./ Yami pressed.
-No. It didn't occur to me or Healer, until after we'd already caught up with Kadaj, that Yazoo and Loz were missing. Healer went back to I2 to help Phoenix. I don't know the situation there, but Healer is calling for aide, and as he has ruthlessly pointed out, I'm the only yami here and the only one with an Item powerful enough to connect to a mind practically on the other side of the globe.-
/We will be there, if you can buy us another five minutes./
-I can try. I can almost assure you that the moment I left my fight with Kadaj, he made for I2 to help his brothers. And holding this connection isn't easy on my own.-
-Is Sephiroth there, Guardian?- Malik asked, speaking for the first time through the strain of maintaining the long distance link.
-If he's here, he hasn't shown up yet.-
/Hang in there, Guardian. We're coming./
Bakura stared at Yami for a long moment, before he was up and out of his seat, the book dropping to the floor forgotten. "This will be the last time in a long time that I send Ryou anywhere without me." He snarled, practically tearing the door of its hinges. "Send up the damn signal. So we can get the hell out of here."
Yugi shook his head, eyes narrowing in annoyance and anger. "So much for a peaceful day of research." The hikari muttered, flipping over the armrest of the couch he and Yami had been resting on.
Yami snorted. "We really should have known better. A simple letter, is just too normal for Pegasus." The pharaoh stood, his mind brushing the Shadow Realm and tugging.
All around the castle, people gasped, as a large, serpentine red dragon wrapped itself around Hogwarts. Lifting its head, the creature let out a loud, echoing roar.
The call to battle had been sent up.
And the Wielders were helpless but to answer.
The tower that Harry and Draco used for Shadow practice was busier than it had been yet.
Bakura paced restlessly, wanting nothing more than to be by his lovers side.
The Alliance, confused by the signal, had arrived moments after the elder Wielders had, and were being briefed on the situation.
Pansy, Hermione, and Neville were quick to act, pulling Ron and Theo down to the dungeon corridors, where they followed Kuri to the hospital where Yukina was currently putting together anything she could think of that would help Harry and the Wielders when they returned.
Draco was being prepped by Malik for long distance Shadow travel, something that the Wielders had hoped to ease him into, rather than take the long haul and just jump from the middle of Europe to the western side of the United States.
"Bakura, you need to be calm." Yugi muttered to the yami. "Reckless action will only get more people hurt. For all we know, getting all of us to one place, could be part of the trap they set."
Bakura turned sharply on his heel, slamming his fist through the outer wall of the tower. The other hand had grown sharp, black claws that were slowly digging their way through Hogwarts' battlements. The low growl that had been constantly going in his chest erupted into an all out angry snarl at the world at large.
"I know, Bakura. I promise you, when I find Pegasus, Bakura," Yami called, "you are more then welcome to the bastard's intestines. But until then, I need you sharp. You and I are likely the only two yamis still able to fight."
Yugi glanced up at his lover knowingly. "You want me and Draco to stay here."
Yami grimaced. "It would make me very happy." he admitted.
"But you know I won't stay and you need Draco." Yugi said pointedly.
"Yes, but please, don't ask me to be happy about it. Marik and I both know Kadaj and his siblings. We got enough from that one meeting that we knew we never wanted any of them near our hikaris were we to meet up with them again."
"If you don't expect me to fight, then what the hell am I going for?" Draco asked.
"Because Harry will need you. And if we left you here, Yami knows that it would only make the unease you're feeling worse." Malik muttered distractedly. The blond hikari was stringing a bow while he spoke with the Slytherin, an over stuffed quiver of arrows sat at his feet and a long bladed knife lay unsheathed on the battlements beside him.
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Stay close to Harry." Malik answered, lifting the bow to eye level and pulling it back, testing the tautness of the string. "And make sure that nothing touches him. You and he are our weak links at the moment, and if Ryou is right about the flashback, Harry isn't even in the same time period as we are."
"Wonderful." Draco muttered mutinously.
"It could be worse." Yugi pointed out optimistically.
Shadi stepped from the shadows, a bruise still healing along the right side of his neck from where he'd fallen unconscious from the energy drain. "We could be going in blind." The man answered. "Bakura, it is time to lock away your anger. We must leave quickly or there will be nothing left to save."
Yami shifted slightly, glancing over at Malik and Draco. The older blond nodded, pushing off the wall and grabbing his things.
"Whenever Bakura's ready." Malik said.
All eyes on him, Bakura closed his eyes and took several deep, calming breaths before opening them and turning to look at his friends. "Let's go. The sooner we get there, the sooner I can kill someone."
"Gather around." Shadi said to the group as a whole.
Not five minutes after Marik relayed his and Ryou's need for assistance, the tower and Hogwarts, was empty of all Shadow Wielders.
Ryou spun on his heel, grabbing the arm of his assailant and throwing him bodily back into the incredibly abused desk and came nose to barrel with Yazoo's favorite weapon.
"Ryou!" Yuffie yelled.
The hikari really wished she'd shut up, she was growing rather distracting the more she yelled his name.
Chocolate eyes iced over and Ryou smirked. "I really don't think you want to do that, dude." He warned.
Yazoo smirked, and his finger tightened on the trigger. "I really think I do." The insane man answered.
Ryou was moving before the bullet left the chamber, spinning to the side and bringing the back of his fist to smash into the long haired silverette's nose to the best of his ability with the given angle.
Unfortunately, despite being certifiably insane, Yazoo wasn't an idiot. The gun followed the Wielder's movement, and caught him just below the collarbone, making the smaller white haired man stumble slightly, gasping for breath as he forced his heart to continue beating despite the force put behind the blow to it.
Loz was there before he managed to recover his breath, retribution for Ryou's tossing him across the room, punching the Wielder twice in the stomach before roundhouse kicking the smaller man into what was once a very nice set of shelves with Pegasus' trophies on them.
Shakily, and now most definitely bleeding internally, Ryou stood again. He licked at his split lip and winced. He really should know better than that by now.
"I like you, little one." Kadaj said cheerfully, tapping the blade of his katana on his shoulder as he watched Ryou. "Perhaps Uncle will let me keep you."
Yuffie, who's skills obviously laid in stealth and the quiet kill, was struggling to keep Yazoo and Loz occupied long enough for Ryou to get a fourth wind.
Or was it the fifth?
Ryou was really wishing he had more abilities tied to the Shadow Realm.
A small black ball smashing one of the few unbroken windows still in the room, distracted them all well enough, especially Loz, as the short haired silverette stepped back, away from Yuffie and Yazoo, accidentally catching the shadow ball for Kadaj.
The man fell without a sound, eyes vacant.
Marik slid through the broken window without catching any of the glass, knocking what remained of the remarkably still standing desk to the floor.
Both Wielders were panting, and in no shape whatsoever, to put up a decent fight, and Marik had just used what little energy he had to send Loz's soul to the Shadows.
This, was not good.
Kadaj lunged for Ryou, a wordless snarl on his lips and sword ready to plunge deep into the Wielder's jugular.
And then, the floor turned to liquid Shadows.
Shadi rose from the Shadow Realm first, pulling Draco up by the wrist with him, inside the elevator that still held a shivering, but not-quite conscious Harry Potter.
Yami followed less than a millisecond later, the blade of his own sword of choice, a kopis, coming to bear against Kadaj's katana and the pharaoh almost effortlessly pushed him backwards, into Bakura, who wrapped his arm around the man's throat, a low, purring growl echoing in the power hunter's ear.
The thief's black clawed hand grabbed Kadaj's sword hand and squeezed, forcing the katana from nerveless fingers.
Yugi rose up before Yuffie, his normally pleasant amethyst eyes boring a hole in Yazoo's head, a snap kick to the man's knee brought him to the floor before he could even think to dodge it.
Malik merged with his yami, the glamour falling to nothing and revealing his Millennium Eye to the world. Malik's dagger flashed in the light of the revealed Item as he twirled it expectantly between his fingers.
Surprise, had given them an advantage. For the moment, the fight was over.
The floor returned to its normal, bloodstained carpeted state and Ryou sagged against the wall, closing his eyes, ready to pass out.
Malik was the one that stepped up to Kadaj, who wasn't even struggling in Bakura's chokehold. In fact, if the blond had to take a guess, he would say that the power hunter looked rather pleased, despite having lost both the fight and a brother.
"Where is Pegasus?" He asked.
Kadaj smiled. "The winged one took flight before we got here."
Malik glanced back at Yami.
The pharaoh shook his head. The silverette was lying.
"Where is Pegasus, Kadaj? I have no qualms about breaking a finger or two." Malik asked. "You've hurt several of my friends today."
Kadaj only smiled pleasantly. "The winged one is gone."
Yami tilted his head, his eyes narrowing, he didn't answer when Malik looked back at him in question. "He doesn't tell all he knows." he finally said neutrally.
Malik rolled his eyes and turned back to Kadaj, frowning when his prey squealed sharply. Bakura had gotten impatient and shoved two black claws through Kadaj's shoulder, easily up the second knuckle. "Bakura." he muttered, glaring at the thief.
Yuffie spoke up from behind Yugi, who was calmly dropping Yazoo's ammo on the taller man's head, starting with the gun itself. "We really shouldn't stay here. The receptionists would have called the police. They'll be here soon."
Yami frowned. "Very well." he said finally. "Take them with us."
Bakura hissed under his breath. "I want to kill him, Yami. My temper won't hold much longer."
Marik shifted with his hikari, easily adjusting to not being able to see out of the eye that held the Millennium Eye. That Item, was for Malik's use alone. "Give him here, Thief. I'll hold him. Deal with your hikari."
Yami turned to look at Ryou. "Are you alright, Ryou?"
"I'm tired." The healer said quietly. "And I think I've got internal bleeding. At least one cracked rib that I know of. I know I have a cracked sternum."
Bakura turned to glare at Marik. The other yami raised his hands in defense. "I pointed out that he would have to fight all three of them while I got help. He told me that he could handle himself until I got there."
#Take it easy, yami. It was hindsight. Two hikaris and one yami. We should have waited.#
##All of our fault, I suppose….## Bakura said gruffly. ##That doesn't mean I have to like it though.##
#No. And I don't have to like the fact that you're acting like an ass to friends and family, Bakura. Knock it off.#
Bakura grit his teeth and released Kadaj into Marik's 'care', leaving their side to go to Ryou's.
Ryou buried himself in his lover's arms, and finally allowed himself to pass out cold.
Draco leaned against the window of the small seafood restaurant owned by a friend of the hyper pixie girl whom he'd forgotten the name of seconds after being introduced to her, instead focusing on his hikari.
Harry was laying along the bench, encased in the Slytherin's arms and muttering barely comprehensible things under his breath.
Shadi leaned back in the booth beside the one the new Wielders occupied, sitting across from him, was the still combined body of Marik and Malik, though Malik was in control of it at the moment, while his yami slept and recovered the energy he lost.
Bakura had long since gone, taking Ryou back to Hogwarts so Yukina could look him over.
Yami sat on one of the stools, with Yugi on the counter beside him, the lighter running his fingers through the darker's hair.
Despite the relaxed air, the two Puzzle bearers were practically interrogating Yuffie about her presence at Industrial Illusions.
Yuffie, for her part, was practically cowering underneath the counter under the combined forces of Yami and Yugi's glare and Cid's obvious displeasure.
"It's…a long story."
"We've obviously got the time, or we wouldn't be here taking the time out of our day in the first place." Yugi pointed out. "Explain, please, your need to interfere on a Wielder's behalf, though I assure you we are far from ungrateful."
"Cid and I, are part of a small group of people who were able to escape the collapsing world of Divantera. We've spent years looking for the Royals that died the night the Great Shadow came and destroyed everything."
"Royals? Plural? I was under the impression that Princess Hunter had no siblings." Yami said.
"She had a brother." Cid answered. "He died in the palace fire with his parents."
"When I was waiting on them today, I saw Harry's eyes and might have jumped to the conclusion that he was our missing prince." Yuffie said, fidgeting.
"On his eyes?" Yami asked skeptically. "That's pushing it, Yuffie, even by our standards."
"Well, it was his aura too." Yuffie said defensively. "He and Ray have the exact same aura. Though Harry's is a little more…damaged."
"Ray would be the prince, I assume." Yugi said quietly, glancing over at Harry and Draco.
Cid nodded, following Yugi's gaze, catching Draco's ice blue eyes with his own. The warning in them was clear. Neither he, nor Yuffie was going to get any closer to the boy today.
"There is a great deal, we do not know about Hunter and where she came from, my pharaoh. Perhaps this would be a good time to ask?" Shadi asked, speaking his native tongue as he looked around the room.
"Have you found the princess yet?" Yami asked.
Yuffie shook her head, and looked ready to answer, but a new voice, this one from the back room, interrupted her.
"As far as we were aware, Hunter disappeared from our world with Zorc and his army." the man said, stalking through the doorway with a disapproving look in Yuffie's direction.
"Leon, I'm sorry." Yuffie breathed as the man passed her to move around the counter and into the open area.
Malik looked the man over as he came to lean on the table across from them, giving him a clear view of everyone in the room, including his own teammates.
Leon was easily taller than any of the Wielders, all of whom, in appearances, didn't look a day over 19, and would likely never look any different. Shoulder length brown hair and eyes of the same color, the man could have passed as John's older brother. His eyes, however, were ancient. Ancient in the way that Yami's and Marik's and Bakura's were. Eyes on a being that had to grow up far too fast. This man had been born into a war. And the scar across the upper portion of his face only augmented this fact.
But what really drew Malik's attention, was the necklace resting on his chest. Made of, what appeared to be, pure silver, the pendent was in the shape of a lion's head, fangs bared and man flowing as if in the wind, perched on top of what looked like a sword, from the angle the blond was looking at it. The pendent itself couldn't have been more than two or three inches long.
-I think…I may have seen that somewhere before, but where it was…escapes me.-
::It's part of a set of four pendants. They are used to increase spiritual and magical awareness. Most pureblood families would kill to get their hands on the set, if only to prevent muggleborns and squibs from getting their hands on it.::
-Even from inside Malik's head, I can tell that thing is practically shrouded in protective magic. From simple spells I've seen the students at Hogwarts casting, to all out blood wards.- The blond yami added, though he sounded rather distracted. -Hey…Hikari, Leon's aura. Does it feel as familiar to you as it does to me?-
Yugi closed his eyes, inhaling deeply and exhaling the breath gently before he opened his eyes again to the sights and feelings of the spiritual plane.
The very air around them, was a bright, glowing cross of nearly every color in existence. Malik and Marik were a shifting, dark grayish color, signifying their combined emotions and physical being, though if the hikari chose to look hard enough, he could probably pick out the minute colors that belonged with each one.
Shadi was a dim blue-green, fading in and out of existence, one day, Yugi reminded himself, he was going to have to ask the older man about that. Several different colors in the air, were twining themselves around the man, some, a light blueish-green color, were trying to heal the man, while others, a dark reddish color, appeared to be trying to banish him from the spiritual plane and back onto the physical one.
Draco was a light bluish color, overshadowed with a thin layer of yellow, his anxiety over his inability to help his friend was clear. The slightly dark hint to the edges of his spirit, made Yugi smile. He was coming to accept his desire to protect and care for a rival he'd had for almost four years. He was also accepting his role in the Wielders, accepting the inherent magic in him.
Harry was a rolling wheel of color and looking at him for too long continuously made Yugi's head spin. He was changing, that much was certain, and he had more colors in him than anyone else Yugi knew, and he knew a lot of people. The most prominent one, as with most of the hikaris, was the neutral, innocent blue, color of the sky. However, there was a dark shadow over the majority of his being, small dashes of red and areas of his aura that were black, bruised. The boy had been abused, but Yugi had known that before he'd even gotten to know the teenager.
Turning his gaze to the man that he was trying to 'feel out', Yugi eyed Leon's aura with the eye of a master. Reading the spirit of a person, was different, for those who knew what they were seeing, than reading their aura. They were looking deeper into a person, into the parts of them that they couldn't hide. The Wielders never bothered to hide their aura, they were confident in what and who they were, that there was nothing that an outsider could find and use against them.
Aura searching came second nature to most hikaris, and their judgment was unusually sound, when it came to outsiders, but Yugi's abilities ran deeper. He was able to search out the spirit of another person and read it, examine it, and describe it, in most cases. It was why the others trusted his judgment so much. He was that good at reading spirits.
Leon's being was a base of many blues. He was the stable one, the one that every one around him respected and cared for, possibly because he didn't see himself as anything special. He was dashed with purple, however Yugi was almost positive that, given his personality, he didn't see himself as royalty as Yami and Bakura did. This man was wise, and he knew it. Leon only hoped that he could use all he learned to teach those who followed him. But…there was a feeling, not so much a color, of familiarity. Something he had felt before, but he couldn't place it….
Shaking his head, Yugi pulled away from the spirits and back to the real world, not at all surprised at the strange looks Leon, Yuffie, and Cid were giving him. He smiled disarmingly, something Bakura said he was disturbingly good at, and turned to glance at Malik, who raised a brow in question.
/He feels familiar…. I just…for the life of me, can't place where./
::The Defense Against the Dark Arts class.:: Draco muttered distractedly. ::When Thief got blamed for the candle setting fire to the Toad.::
Recognition lit the Wielders' eyes and they all turned to look at Draco, who now looked more asleep than aware.
/That's right. He feels…like our Queen and the shadow from the hallway./
Flames were spreading quickly, from the top floors of the Industrial Illusions building down.
A crowd of worried and curious spectators crowded around the building, some screaming and others trying desperately to fight the heat and pull unconscious employees and the like from the building and into the cleaner air.
Sirens blared up and down the streets and the fire department arrived, though there would be little they would be able to do.
The black cloaked figure in the top floor office was unaffected by the flames. They had started the fire, after all.
They would clean up the mess that the Wielders had made, in an attempt to deal with the figure's problem.
The figure walked through the flames, unaffected by heat and the fire itself seemed to bend away from them, the heel of the cloak appeared to dance in the heat and wind that fueled the fire.
The figure paused at the shattered remains of a once beautiful desk. The figure knelt beside it, a gloved hand extending out beyond the protection granted by the full figured black cloak and made small, barely there gestures. The smoke swirled as the air moved at the being's direction and the wood scattered, revealing the blade a beautiful sword. The blade appeared to be made of smooth crystal, and was sucking the flames, heat, and smoke from the very air itself into the folded, transparent blade.
Another vague gesture, this time a little more forceful, and a rather large piece of the oak desk shoved itself closer to the door, blocking any attempts to get into the room and search for survivors.
As there was no one here, it didn't matter to the figure. They were too focused on the revealed hilt.
Carved of the brightest of ruby, a bird, clearly a phoenix, with its wings closed around the grip, as if diving for the ground, with its beak gripping the blade between the gapping upper and lower halves. Two glowing feathers were dangling from a blackened string-like material, which was clenched between the talons of the ruby bird.
Beneath their hood, the figure smiled.
This was the figure's payback.
The Wielders and their potential allies had fallen nearly silent, the two sides conversing quietly among themselves.
Yugi and Yami had moved to sit opposite Harry and Draco, watching the two of them carefully.
::Isn't there anything you can do to help him, Pharaoh? What happened to the Master of Minds shit?:: Draco asked, almost desperately.
/After my last foray into your hikari's mind, Dragon, I am not quite keen on going in there without help. Contrary to whatever belief you've got, getting ricocheted back into ones own mind against their will, hurts like a bitch./ Yami drawled.
/Dragon, we'd really like to help, but Guardian is out of commission and Thief is in Europe again./
::Why can't you help him? You're his hikari, aren't you?::
/My abilities aren't…mental. I can guard my own mind as well as he can, but his knowledge is his own. I really am sorry./
/Stop being a pain in the ass. He isn't hurt, and he appears to be sleeping peacefully. So long as he has no nightmares and he wakes up within the hour, there is no real reason for me to go trampling through his mind./ Yami said with a note of finality.
::But he's getting warmer, Pharaoh. And I don't mean like a fever type warm. I'm talking he's been dunked in water being brought to a boil warm.::
Malik and Shadi both looked over at Draco, frowning.
As if sensing their gaze, Harry Potter abruptly went up in flames.
Harry groaned quietly, trying to avoid being woken.
:Wha? Go 'way. T'red.:
Someone chuckled. (Phoenix, wake up.)
Slowly, and with a deep groan of annoyance, the Gryffindor slowly forced his eyes open.
He appeared to be in a vaguely familiar, very on fire, office.
The fire was raging around them, but there was no sound. No roar of the flames, or crackle as something else went up in flames and it spread. No creaking as the supports gave and the ceiling caved in to his right.
Sitting up sharply, Harry came face to shadow with the darkness beneath the hood of someone he was sure he'd never met before. If he forced his eyes, he thought he could make out bits of bright, sapphire blue.
"Who are you?" He attempted to ask, though no actual sound came from his lips.
The figure chuckled and stood, totally unaffected by the devastation going on around the two of them. (So. You're Light's new friend, huh. Her new…teammate?)
Harry frowned. By the voice alone, he knew she was female, maybe no older than Jess was, but the cloak left everything to the imagination and he could tell nothing else. Slowly, so as not to draw potentially fatal attention to himself, he slid himself away from the girl.
(You're wary of me.) The girl pointed out. She sounded amused, and perhaps a bit proud. (Smart boy. At least she's not allying herself with idiots.) Harry wasn't sure if he should be insulted or not. (My name is Dark, Phoenix. Lady Dark. Rival, you could say, of your own leader. Don't worry about the mess.) She said, gesturing around her to the fire. (There's no one here to get hurt. I've left them plenty of time to get out of here alive.)
:And…what if they don't get out of here alive?: Harry asked warily.
(Then I will obviously mourn their loss and not make a mistake like assuming humans knew when the hell to run for their lives.) Dark smirked. The hood moved to Harry's left and he got the impression that she was looking at something else in the room.
(You forgot something, the last time you were here, Phoenix. Though I'm actually surprised that it wasn't found sooner, considering the damage that was done to its hiding place when the Wielders rose up to protect you.)
Harry followed the figure's pointed finger to the only part of the room that wasn't being burnt to the ground. A beautifully crafted sword lay on the carpeted floor, surrounded by burning wood and ash of likely already burnt wood.
A familiar song echoed in his head loudly, making him close his eyes and cover his ears, as if to block it out, but the phoenix's song just grew louder. He could feel its annoyance with him in trying to ignore it.
:Is that…the sword?:
(Yes.) Dark answered. (The Sword of the Forgotten Phoenix. My people have looked for it for years and never found it. But…in less than a year, Priest and his hikari managed to pull it out from the dirt. How it ended up in the hands of Maximillion Pegasus, I have no idea.) She shrugged, obviously brushing the thought off. (It calls to you, doesn't it, Phoenix. Its no use to ignore such things. They come to bother you at the most inopportune times….)
Dark sounded like she was reminiscing, but Harry was ignoring her in favor of staring at the sword on the ground. :Why won't it burn?: He asked.
Dark snorted. (Because it's the Sword of the Forgotten Phoenix, kid. There isn't fire hot enough to kill a firebird of that magnificence.) She answered half mockingly, as if he'd asked a stupid question.
Harry should have felt insulted, but instead he crawled towards the sword itself, only half aware of Dark following him. :How did I get here?:
(Easy. I pulled you here.) Dark answered. (How else was I going to get your gift to you? Besides, the perverted old man is bugging the shit out of me about this fucking sword. If handing it over to you as he was supposed to, is what it'll take to shut his ass up, so be it.)
Harry's brow furrowed. :This is…Pegasus' office?:
He could almost swear that Dark was giving him a disbelieving look. (You better be smarter than this when you're not surprised and exhausted, Phoenix, or I'll take back what I said about you being smart.) She waved a hand dismissively when he glared at her, revealing a very fit body dressed entirely in black. (Now, are you going to take the damn thing or not?)
Slowly, hesitantly, Harry reached out to grip the handle of the sword. He yelled out in surprise when the sword glowed bright enough to burn his eyes for several moments even after the glow faded.
When he was able to see again, Harry noticed that the design around the hilt had changed. The wings, once pressed against the body of the phoenix, were now spread in flight and formed the guard. Each, individual wing feather stood out in Harry's eyes and he traced them with his fingers.
:Mine.: He whispered to himself.
Dark smirked behind him. (You bet. Tell you what. A parting gift from me to you: I'll teach you how to hide it.)
Harry looked up at her sharply. :What?:
Dark chuckled. (Easy, kid. It's simple. Even the Wielders use it. They're called pocket realms. Its as simple as envisioning something in your head and imagining it in a small pocket realm that floats around your being. To pull it back out again, you envision it in your hand again.)
The girl demonstrated, extending one of her arms out beyond the cloak. Her hand was encased in a dark energy, that quickly expanded to form a long handled weapon, that curved at the top above her head several feet. Once the glow dissipated, Harry saw that the weapon was a scythe, like in the muggle pictures of the Grim Reaper.
The handle was completely black, but was covered in what appeared to be dark veins that pulsed even as he watched them. The veins stopped where her hand held the weapon and then picked up again once beyond her grip to continue up until they reached the blade. The blade was clean and he knew it would be sharp even though he hadn't touched it, but it surprised him that there were thin, silver streaks running, apparently within the blade itself, like computer circuitry.
As easily as it had been brought to existence, Dark banished it again, making the scythe disappear in a flash of dark lightning.
(Your turn, kid. And I'd hurry before the Pharaoh decides to be nosy.)
Harry concentrated, closing his eyes and picturing a black hole in the world around him, and stuck the hand that contained the sword into it, before pulling his hand free and closing the hole again. When he opened his eyes, Dark, the Sword, and the destroyed office, were all gone.
In its place, was the dungeons of Hogwarts. In the very hospital that he had secretly sworn to himself that he was never going to enter with an injury.
As if summoned the moment Harry opened his eyes, Ryou was in the room with him, checking his heartbeat, his lungs, his eyes. If there was a way to check it, Ryou did it.
Draco leaned against the doorway, watching him.
"How do you feel, Harry?" Ryou asked.
"Really, really confused…." Harry whispered hoarsely. Surprised, he grabbed at his throat, blinking dry eyes. "What's wrong with me?"
"You're suffering from smoke inhilation, Harry." Ryou said tiredly. "You…this is strange, even for us…."
"You caught fire, Potter." Draco said bluntly. "And no one knows how you did it."
Harry closed his eyes, frowning, trying to remember.
"Open your eyes, Harry, we're not through yet." Ryou said sharply.
Harry's eyes snapped open, surprised at the tone of voice. Ryou'd never snapped at him.
"Ryou, maybe you should lie down for a bit." Malik said, squeezing around Draco to pull Ryou away from Harry. "He'll still be here when you wake up and then we can catch up on what he's missed."
:Missed? What's going on?:
::Yami, Marik, and Bakura left to look for Pegasus a little over a week ago. They haven't contacted us yet.::
Draco shifted uneasily. ::Today's…December Third, Harry. You've been unconscious for eleven days….::
Harry looked horrified. :No….:
::Harry? Potter, snap out of it!::
Fingers snapped beneath Harry's nose and he started, looking up at Malik's solemn face. "You better get dressed, Harry. I know I told Ryou that you'd stay in bed, but we've got a lot to make up for. Grab a quick shower and meet me on the tower."
Harry scampered out of bed towards the small shower area adjacent to the room under Draco's watchful eyes.
Five minutes later, Harry leaned against the shower wall, letting the hot water run over his skin.
Was it all a dream?
(…Its as simple as envisioning something in your head and imagining it in a small pocket realm that floats around your being. To pull it back out again, you envision pulling it back into your hand again.)
Harry envisioned the black hole he dreamed putting the Sword of the Phoenix into, and extended his hand, imagining holding the warm hilt in his hand again, the bottom of the wings brushing against his fingers.
He watched as, in the real world, a small sphere of reddish orange light appeared in his extended hand and expanded, like he had seen Dark's scythe do. When the light cleared, the Sword of the Forgotten Phoenix was clenched in his hand.
Startled, Harry dropped it and it clattered on the wet floor, a sharp hiss of steam rising as the sword hit the water on the floor.
::Harry, you alright?::
:Y…yeah. Still a little…confused, I guess.: Harry answered distantly.
Crouching, the brunette reached out for the sword, tentatively, since he had just watched water evaporate underneath it, and he was in no hurry to burn himself. To his surprise, the hilt wasn't hot, rather, it was as warm as it had been the first time he'd touched it.
Like holding a mug of hot chocolate in your hand and the heat of the liquid seeping through the porcelain.
Harry gasped quietly when someone banged on the door.
"Come on Harry. We don't have a lot of time, remember!" Malik called through the door.
"Coming. Be out in a sec!" Harry called back.
The Gryffindor took several deep breaths before he attempted to hide the Sword once more.
Flames engulfed the blade in his hand and the heavy weight in his hand was gone.
"It wasn't a dream…." He breathed.
Once Malik was sure that Harry was actually out of the shower, the blond hikari left the hospital room and shadow teleported to Ravenclaw tower.
Since Harry had been brought back from San Francisco unconscious and the older yamis had left Hogwarts to find Pegasus, it would be an understatement to say that the three older hikaris were worried and stressed.
They were twenty-two days away from Voldemort and Zorc's attack on Hogwarts, and neither of the two new Wielders were ready for battle just yet. Hell, the Hogwarts Alliance was more battle ready that Harry and Draco.
Walking past groups of Ravenclaws practicing spell work, Malik let a small, wry smile escape his morbid mood.
"Alright, Ravenclaws! Breakfast in ten." the prefect called over the common room. With everyone spending extra time in their common room to practice what they were learning during the Alliance meetings, the prefects were invaluable in keeping time and making sure that they never got too carried away and missed a meal. Something that would definitely stand out with Umbridge.
"Harry won't be there." Malik called over from his seat on the stairs, where he made it appear like he'd never left the common room. "Draco and I promised that we'd bring him up to speed on what he missed in the meetings."
The prefect nodded, and Malik was sure that the news would spread soon, that Harry was feeling better. "So he's alright then?"
"He will be." Malik promised.
"How's Ryou?" another student called out, blushing when everyone turned to look at her. "I mean…he's been looking kind of ragged, you know?"
"He's resting. Yugi and I've been harping on him about not getting enough sleep."
The Ravenclaws all nodded and the House meeting moved on. Malik looked across the room and out the window, where he could imagine the gates of Hogwarts being.
Where are you guys?
By lunch, Harry was sweaty, tired, and beaten.
He had resolved not to tell the others about Dark or the Sword of the Forsaken Phoenix just yet, as he wasn't quite sure if he could trust her or not.
Instead, he had pushed that, and most other thoughts aside, in order to push his body to the limits and beyond them.
The only thought he allowed to surface, was 'eleven days'. A reminder of how long he had skimped on practice, and how much he had to make up.
Malik himself had become apathetic half way through, seeing that Harry wasn't going to stop, and they really didn't have the time to baby him at the moment anyways.
Draco himself skipped breakfast, and snuck down to the Chamber of Secrets to help a still mostly exhausted Ryou and Yukina move Snape and the elder Malfoy around.
Yugi released Alastor Moody while he was sleeping. He was unaware of how far he traveled, nor was he aware of just how close to the student body and Dumbledore, he had been the entire time.
As the sun crested in the sky, Harry finally collapsed and was unable to get back up.
Malik stood a few feet away. "You alright?" he asked.
"Kitchens or the Great Hall?"
"Neither. I want to keep going."
Harry struggled to push himself to his feet, but only managed to keep himself sitting up.
Before another word could be said, Shadows swelled around the two Wielders.
The portals dissipated, leaving three very exhausted yamis and an older man with long, white hair that fell over the left half of his face, hiding it from view.
Another two portals heralded the arrival of Yugi and Ryou, who promptly glomped their respective lovers.
Ryou surprised Harry by turning to glare darkly at the stranger. "What the hell took so long?" he snapped.
"Apparently Pegasus trusts very few these days." Bakura snarled tiredly. "We spent a week tracking his ass down, and then it took another two days before we were even in range to attempt teleporting back here."
"I do apologize, Ryou." Pegasus said. "However, Sephiroth and his nephews are more of an enemy that I can afford to make right now."
"Coward." Malik sneered.
"From what I understand, your building went to the shithouse anyways." Marik muttered darkly.
"Maximillion Pegasus." Shadi interjected, appearing, as he was wont to do, from apparently thin air. "Why have you run from those who command and protect you?"
The gathered Wielders stepped aside so Shadi could have an uninterrupted view of the former Item holder.
Pegasus bowed his head, wincing, likely from the tight grip Yami had on his arm. Harry could see a bruise forming from where he sat.
"I do not run, Shadi. I merely wish to stay alive."
Malik hissed something in what Harry was coming to understand was Egyptian, and Marik wrapped an arm tightly around his lover, whispering something in return.
-For a fucking week, this asshole has kept you from us, Guardian. I don't know if you've noticed, but we're a little pressed for time. We don't have time to hunt his pathetic ass down when he decides to play self-preservationist!-
-Shut up, Pharaoh. Maybe you're not getting this, being gone for a week and all. Dragon and Phoenix are notready. The Alliance is more ready for this than they are.-
:I am right here, you know.: Harry felt the need to point out, and all eyes turned to him. :Can we please stop arguing with one another and make some use of what little time we have left?:
Ryou and Yugi smirked slightly, making a half hearted attempt to hide them, but giving up in the end. "We can still shove his undesirable ass in that room we held Cobra in. It should still be warded, and Shadi can stay with him."
Pegasus tensed and then winced, Harry was under the impression that ally or not, Pegasus was not a favorite person right now.
"Yugi?" Yami asked, glancing at his hikari.
"They're right. Both of them. Bring him to Cobra's old room and then meet back here. They've gone over a week without learning anything and now we've got even less time, twenty-two days, to teach them even the basics and the battle uses of Shadow Magic."
Draco, who had been forced to walk up the stairs, pushed off the doorframe and stalked onto the tower. "Let's get started then."
#Where was he?#
##One of his seventy-four fucking islands.## Bakura answered bitterly.
Yami, Bakura, and Marik were trading off, two training and one asleep, so as to both rest and get the most training out of the time left.
#How'd you find him?#
##It was Yami's idea. Even running, the stupid ass has to live in luxury. None of us may be as good as Kaiba was, but we can all hack, some better than others. For me, it was child's play to look up his aliases, considering since Jess found out about his slight on Yugi, Yami, and the Kaiba brothers, and the Items commanded Shadi to keep a closer eye on him, he can't use any of his money without the banks and the like alerting Jess to it.##
#Have you seen her?# Ryou asked, excitedly.
##No. But Mercury showed up at one of our safe houses and left a note literally as we were walking out the door to continue on.## Ryou could feel his lover wrapping a mental arm around him from the tower. ##I'm sorry we worried you. And I'm sorry we didn't contact you.##
Ryou snuggled into his yami's presence. #You're safe. I suppose that's all that matters.#
##You're relatively easy to please, Ry-chan.## Bakura teased.
Ryou gave his yami the mental equivalent of sticking his tongue out at his lover. #Meanie.#
Harry sucked at keeping secrets from the three older yamis.
They were annoyingly observant and it hadn't taken Yami or Bakura long to work out that he was hiding something important from them.
It had taken even less time, for them to work out that he had found the Sword of the Phoenix.
The Gryffindor was surprised however, to find out who Dark really was.
"You really should tell us these things, Harry." Bakura snickered.
Harry glowered up at the yami. "Shut up."
Marik snorted, smirking. "Nice come back, Phoenix."
Harry's scowl deepened. "Jerks." he muttered.
"That's not nice." Bakura pouted. "Maybe we shouldn't tell you than."
"Well, if you'd stop teasing and actually get around to giving out information, maybe I'd start listening to you." Harry countered.
Yami shook his head, smirking. "Harry, Lady Dark is not an enemy." he said. "If anything, she's one of our most loyal allies."
Harry just stared at him, waiting.
"Dark is the leader of the Elementals, dude." Marik smirked. "Jess' 'eternal rival', as someone once put it."
Harry's jaw dropped. "Seriously? Why didn't she just tell me that?"
Bakura shrugged. "Couldn't tell you. It's possible that she just felt like messing with you a little. She's fairly easy going, once you get her off the topic of possible destruction."
"Then she's like a dog with a bone." Marik added. "Of course, most people don't want to be the 'bone', when she gets pissed enough."
Harry lay back on the stone.
Yami crouched by his head. "Show me this sword, Harry."
Harry shook his head. "It's heavy."
Yami raised a brow. "You'll have to get used to it, kid. The Sword is yours now, and you'll need to learn how to use it. Show it to me, and I'll show you what mine looks like."
Bakura and Marik promptly burst into hysterics, rolling on the ground.
Yami closed his eyes, and Harry got the impression that the pharaoh was praying for patience. Or guidance.
"If you two could get your heads out of whatever gutter they've taken refuge in, I'd really like to move this along." Yami drawled, throwing a loose stone at his friends.
Harry shook his head. "You gotta admit, Yami. It did sound kinda hokey."
Marik and Bakura started anew, and even Yami's lips tilted.
"Did you just say 'hokey', Potter?" Draco asked.
Harry smirked up at him and sat up, calling up the black hole he'd stashed the Sword of the Phoenix in. Yami drew back, watching with interest as the sword took shape in the young hikari's hand.
Bakura and Marik sat up to watch as well.
"It's nicely crafted." Bakura noted.
"We'll have to throw in a few more routines for his arms. That thing does look like it could get a bit heavy." Marik added.
"You said you had a sword, Yami." Harry prompted, putting the tip on the ground by his feet and leaning his forehead against the end of the hilt.
Yami rolled his eyes and stood up. With a swift, sharp twist of his wrist, one that likely would have broken the wrist of a human, liquid shadows began to ooze down his arm from apparently the middle of no where, evaporating at his fingertips and taking on a more smoke-like quality. The shadow smoke swirled in the air, before suddenly dropping down and solidifying in the shape of a long, sharp blade about the width of the pharaoh's hand.
What appeared to be reddish, liquid shadows began to fall from the yami's palm and dripped down onto the blade, spreading outwards into a semi-swirl guard, the left side curling down towards the hilt, while the right curled upwards, creating a vague looking 'S', before continuing back up to form the grip.
The liquid solidified into a semi-transparent red-black hilt.
The solidified shadows of the blade, exploded outwards into small wisps, revealing the dark crystal-like blade of the Sword of the Shadow Realm.
After much 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over the two swords, Yami ordered Harry to stand up so he could see what Harry could do.
He had to admit, the Gryffindor did pretty good, for a kid who had, according to Harry, only actually wielded a sword once in the past.
His arms were a little shaky, though that was likely something that came from suddenly holding the weight of a sword, not because he was scared or nervous, and he needed to work a great deal on his foot work, but Yami admitted, by the time he let Harry finally take a break, that Harry was a quick student.
"Your reactions are slow, but that could be because of your inexperience, the amount of energy you've expanded by training your Shadow abilities today, or the smoke you've inhaled." Yami commented, banishing the Shadow Sword back to the Shadow Realm, and gesturing for Harry to do the same with the Phoenix Sword.
The younger Wielder shook out his tingling arms. "I thought by now the smoke would have long since been out of my system."
"Yeah, but going to take your lungs a bit to recover from the exposure. You're already much better off than you could be, trust me." Blaise called from the doorway, where he had sat and begun to stretch, for lack of anything else to do.
/Yami, why don't you spare with him? Blaise is likely to get bored and Harry needs a breather. I can take Harry when he's ready to practice again./ Yugi said. /Besides, you're definitely the better of us when it comes to defending against the elements./
Yami split from his hikari without a word and approached Blaise, gesturing for the boy to stand up.
Blaise caught on quickly, and was on his feet with a grin.
The Elemental and the Wielder stared at one another for several moments, before Blaise got impatient and threw himself at Yami.
The Wielder blocked easily, but slightly surprised at the current of electricity that met his limb, jumping from Blaise to himself. Yami grit his teeth against the shock, and shoved Shadows through his veins to prevent the lightning from traveling through his body towards anything vital.
"Very nice." he complimented.
Blaise was equally surprised at how quickly Yami had countered his attack. "That wasn't bad either. How the hell did you pull that off?"
Yami smirked. "Trade secret." he answered.
Blaise quickly got over it and the two threw themselves heartily into their spar. It wasn't until the two were sitting on the battlements watching Yugi coach Harry threw another simple move with the Phoenix Sword, that Yami finally asked him what was bothering him.
"What's bothering you, Blaise?" he asked in fluent Italian.
Blaise was playing with a small funnel of fire and wind in between his palms, and didn't look at the older man, and it was several seconds before he answered Yami's question, but the pharaoh was patient. "I know you've likely already thought of this, and you've all likely spoken about this at some point, but…something about the way that they knew Harry, Ryou, and Malik weren't going to be here at Hogwarts with the rest of us. That they knew they were going to be in San Francisco on that day. It just…doesn't smell right."
Yami was quiet for a moment, organizing his thoughts. "You're right. We did think about this already. And we're almost positive that there is someone at Hogwarts, watching us and knows what and who we are. What we don't understand, however, is why the person here, would report anything to an enemy of the Elementals. They've rarely ever been a concern to us."
"We try to leave one another's battles alone, right?"
"Yes." Yami agreed. "Because its easier that way. An…unspoken agreement that we will not intrude on your fights or break your rules, if you will do the same for us."
"But you don't seem to care that I'm helping you now." Blaise pointed out. "And this was quite clearly a Wielder matter, demons aside."
Yami crossed his arms, tapping the fingers of his left hand on his right arm. "True. I believe it to be because we have so little choice…. It's a feeling we have, that this is going to be bigger than anything else we've ever encountered, Elemental or Wielder."
"So you take my help because you have little other choice?"
"We take your help because the Elementals are allies, shaky as they are, and because you're good." Yami countered. "Not just because you happen to be the only one here with more power than one can channel through a stick."
Blaise chuckled quietly before Bakura wandered over, a sulking, very bruised Draco following behind him. "Dinner's in fifteen minutes. I would suggest we all clean up and get some food into Potter before his godfather goes canine on us."
Yami stood and mentally called out to his hikari. /Time to eat, love. Better get Harry and Draco into a shower first, though. They're…rather ripe./
Yugi snickered quietly, but obediently began to lead Harry towards Gryffindor tower, so the 'savior' could finally make a public appearance.
Draco followed them out silently, with Ryou, now in control of his shared body, following quickly after him. Yami looked up at the ever circling dragon and resisted the urge to flip the damn thing off.
"No luck?" Blaise asked.
"Not as of yet." Yami answered. "And it's the most annoying thing in the world, not knowing what it is, nor why its bugging me so much."
Blaise laughed. "Well, I'm going to shower. Then I'm going to eat. And then I'm going to bed. Fuck homework."
Yami glanced at the Elemental. "I'm not sure if that's wise or possible."
Blaise flipped him off. "And you say Bakura's mind is in the gutter."
Yami only shrugged enigmatically.
-Dude there's something going on in the kitchen.- Marik broadcasted excitedly. -The hag is getting her ass handed to her by the House Elves!-
Blaise stopped, halfway out the door. ;This, I have to see. Show me, show me, show me!;
/Hold your horses, Cougar. Its coming./ Yami said, snickering.
Umbridge stood in front of the entire house elf staff of Hogwarts, which wasn't all the difficult, since the majority of them swarmed you when you walked through the door, willing to please.
"I want the tables returned to the standard form. This is a private school, not a café."
It was Dobby, that stood defiantly in front of the hundreds of little workers. "This is not for Professor Umbridge to decide. Only Headmaster Dumbledore can change the decoration of the Great Hall."
Umbridge didn't look in the least bit happy with this answer.
Apparently the house elves weren't as accommodating as they led one to believe.
"Those things do not apply to us house elves." Dobby interrupted.
The ministry witch's temper frayed. "You will change them back. I am commanding you to."
"We does not work for you. We works for Professor Dumbledore."
As one, the house elves raised their magic against the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor.
The sharp crack of echoing power, sent the witch through the portrait and out into the hall, where she landed against the wall with a crash.
The portrait slammed itself shut and refused to budge.
The vision went black, as Marik grew bored now that there was no more fighting.
;I'm going to give them all hugs. And cookbooks, one can never go wrong with food.; Blaise said. ;Can't go wrong with a nice pair of socks, either but they'd probably see it as an insult.;
When Harry was called into the Room of Shadows later that night, he was expecting to talk to Pegasus, since Ryou had already said that the man wanted to talk with him privately.
He wasn't expecting to be with a man he'd never met before with another man that he barely knew as his only protection. Dark had called this man a pervert, and he was in absolutely no hurry to meet him without a rather large pole or a thick wall between them.
"I don't know if I want to do this…." Harry said slowly.
"It'll be fine, Harry." Malik reassured him. "Shadi pretty much works for Yami, and Yami has already practically ordered him to keep you safe from whatever Pegasus might try. Pegasus has refused to talk to anyone but you, Harry."
"And that's not odd? For a grown man to want to be alone with a fifteen year old boy?"
Malik blinked, startled at the conclusion that Harry had jumped to. "Well, yeah, it's odd, but not in the way you're thinking. Pegasus is a flamboyant bisexual male, if his attraction to most things with legs is to go by, but he's not into children, I promise." Harry snorted. "As I was saying, Harry, you're not going alone. We refused that part of his request, but Shadi is the only other one that he's agreed to talk around. It's rather usual, actually." the blond lowered his voice. "There's a bet going around that the two have some sordid love affair going on."
Shadi, who was leaning against the wall, threw Malik a glare, and it was clear that the blond hadn't been as quiet about this 'secret knowledge', as he thought himself to be.
"Besides," Malik continued. "Yami's already coached you into opening your doors, and Draco will practically be in the room with you."
Harry started at a random stone. "I still don't want to do this."
Malik groaned, slumping against the wall. "And why the hell not?"
"Because I'm tired, my entire body feels like a wet noodle, and the man in that room is a fucking pervert."
Malik eyed the brunette. "That last part sounded like something that would come out of Dark's mouth. You sure that trip to Pegasus' office was the only time you spoke with her?"
"Positive. Unless I'm having dreams that I don't know about again."
"Unlikely." Malik muttered under his breath in Arabic. "Just get in there." he said, shoving Harry in the direction of the door and Shadi.
"Jerk." Harry muttered mutinously.
::Think of it this way. The sooner you get this over with, the sooner we can all go to bed.::
:The bed part has merit.: Harry said sullenly. :Its where I should be right now. Ryou said so.:
::Don't be pathetic about it, Harry, just get in there, talk to the old man, and let us all go to bed.::
:Prat. You don't have to deal with a potential child molester face to face.:(i)
::I think you're taking that molestation thing far too seriously.:: Draco pointed out.
:Better to be safe than sorry.: Harry muttered insolently, following Shadi into the Room of Shadow will all the enthusiasm of a man on death row.
Harry shrank back, away from Pegasus, unfortunately, Shadi was closing the door behind him, and conveniently blocking the Gryffindor's only exit.
The Egyptian man said something in Arabic, and the white haired man stepped back, giving Harry his space.
"Well," Pegasus said, suddenly a lot less creepy and more normal. "I assume that you've found the sword that was in my desk."
Pegasus turned and walked back to one of the armchairs and picked up a glass of a red liquid Harry assumed to be wine.
The brunette looked back at the turbaned Wielder. Shadi nodded and Harry turned to follow Pegasus further into the room.
"Yes, sir." Harry said slowly.
Pegasus chuckled. "No 'sirs', Harry. By all accounts, I work for you, not the other way around."
Harry sat slowly, glancing back at Shadi, who hadn't moved away from the door and was, by Harry's account, much too far away should something happen.
"I'm sure by now, you've become aware that the Sword was meant to be yours. It responded to you."
"I was told that." Harry answered. "But I still don't understand how."
"There are some things in the world, Harry, that only…like, certain people. The Sword of the Forsaken Phoenix is one of them. Now that it has chosen you, it will reject anyone you command or anyone that it deems unworthy. The tomb in which I found it, also described another sword. A more powerful sword, though it was linked to the discovery of the Forsaken Pheonix Sword."
"The Dragon Sword." Harry guessed.
"Yes." Pegasus confirmed. "But your dark half will need to find that one on his own, as it wasn't with the Phoenix Sword when I found it."
"If this thing rejects anyone that it deems unworthy, how did you get ahold of it in the first place?" Harry asked.
Pegasus looked insulted. "I am worthy, Harry Potter. But I am also only the deliverer. That blade, was not meant to be mine."
"….Does Draco know about the sword?" Harry asked.
"Yes." Shadi answered evenly, though Harry had also never heard the older man speak in anything less than a perfectly calm, even voice. "Seto Kaiba's messenger spoke of it."
"The one that gave him the dragon deck?"
"The very same, I'm sure. Kaiba didn't leave many messengers lying around." Pegasus answered. "Which then brings me to my next point."
Pegasus pulled out a case, intricately decorated with emerald flames sprinkled liberally with glitter, as the case appeared to glint in the dim lighting.
"This was left in my possession, just before young Mokuba Kaiba was attacked. The poor boy was left blind and without memory. He doesn't even know he had a brother." the CEO handed the box to Harry.
Upon closer inspection, the box was covered in small, pencil tip sized emeralds, that from a distance, were small enough to appear to be glitter. It had to be very expensive.
"This is…mine?" Harry asked, looking up at Shadi.
"Yes." The man answered.
Pegasus shot the man a displeased glance and elaborated. "I believe the elder Kaiba left it with his brother, who was then searching out Yugi and his friends."
Shadi shifted by the door and Harry's curiosity got the better of the good manners Vernon beat into him.
"What happened to Yugi's friends?" he asked. "He never talks about them."
"That is not your story to tell, Pegasus. Nor is it your place to ask, Harry Potter." Shadi said. "It is late, Pegasus. If this is everything, Mr. Potter must return to bed."
Pegasus narrowed his eyes on the turbaned Egyptian, but leaned back, swirling his glass. "That is all."
Harry clenched the box tightly, as Shadi led him out of the Room of Shadows.
As he was left semi-alone to return to Gryffindor tower, Malik going to the Ravenclaw dorms and Shadi to the dungeon hospital, Harry found himself missing the challenge of Snape's foreboding form talking down the halls, searching for students out of bed.
The only other one out of bed at this hour, would be Filch, but Harry knew the caretaker's path like the back of his scarred hand. Snape, at least, varied his enough that he was a challenge to avoid, and making any student out after curfew, jittery and nervous. Always looking over their shoulder.
Laying in bed later that night, Harry faced the box given to him.
He hadn't opened it yet, but he already knew what would be inside of it.
He had seen them enough times, hanging off the belts of the Wielders.
Regardless of knowing what it contained, Harry was no more eager to open it than to put his hand in a cage of venomous spiders.
The brunette fell asleep staring at the box that held his deck.
Made before he even stepped foot inside of Hogwarts.
Yugi looked down at the sleeping Gryffindor Wielder.
/Soon, Phoenix. Real soon, we'll work up the guts to tell you how the Wielders came to be./
/Yugi…you know its not wise to make a promise like that./
/It can't hurt like this forever, Yami. It just…can't./
Yami looked over at his lover.
He knew, he just wasn't sure how to tell Yugi.
It was very much possible for this pain to last forever.
That night, no one would get a good nights sleep.
Students and teachers of Hogwarts alike, were woken by an inhuman screech that echoed through the very walls themselves.
And no one fell back to sleep, when they finally quieted three hours later.
i No. Pegasus is not a child molester. Nor is he as much of a pervert as the others are saying he is. However, Harry doesn't know that and he's an impressionable young teenager, who's life has pretty much been turned upside down and inside out..
Cerberus: Minor changes have been made to the last three chapters, corrected spelling and the like. Two major changes in Chapter 19 were made: The first flashback of the Chapter takes place when Jess was 5, not six as I previously wrote, and the last flashback took place when she was 9, not ten. Also, I'm preparing a move of location to a far warmer climate, so as noted, my updates will be sporadic at best and I apologize for it. *bows apologetically*