Leaving it all behind

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter except a copy of the books. No, the honour belongs to Ms JK Rowling. Nor do I own the game series of Final Fantasy. Squaresoft does, less I be mistaken. I don't own Lord of the Rings, where ideas and names have been used, Tolkien owns that. Other elements have been taken from the Indian religion, I'm not bashing or anything (I am Indian!) but I'm using knowledge that's available to me. I don't own rights to any of the brands mentioned either. I'm just a poor university student.

Summary: Harry knew about the horcruxes when he is faced with betrayal. Fleeing, he enters a new school. If he has to die then he will drag the SOB Voldemort with him. Facing death, Harry leaves it all behind. HPxOMC AU!4567!

Inspiration: Go read Bloody Skies by Toki Mirage. It is simply brilliant! And Miranda Flairgold! Geniuses I tell thee! I bow to them and Ms Rowling! Some magic is inspired by the Final Fantasy games.

Warnings: Slash! Femslash! Kissing, frontage, groping, grinding, rimming, sex, blood play, power play, bondage, BDMS, beastality (We got weres and Draconi), fingering, handjobs, blowjobs and anything else that pops into my mind when I'm writing. I also apologise to the reviewer for not putting a warning before as it says in the summary slash and HPxOMC.

Note: Salus wears his bandana like Captain Jack from Pirates of the Carribean. So like a sweatband thing... XD

Oh, please go and check out this story! It's a CastielSalus fic based off this story! And leave a review if you want more! (Personally, I loved it and it made me squeal in joy. :p)

The end is where we start by May Eve:

www. fanfiction s /6323181/1/ The_End_Is_Where_We_Start

Hey, I would like to say thank you to those that PMed me with regards to that story that seems to have been copied off this. You were right in that most of it was copied and pasted from LiaB and I have PMed the author. I'm waiting on their reply but hopefully I will either be acknowledged as the writer or he/she will take down the story. Just, thank you for the heads up. I don't know whether I'm flattered that my work is copied or disheartened that someone would try and steal something I've put in hours and hours of work.

UnBeta'd. All mistakes are my own.

~0~0~0~

Chapter 7

"When you see my face I hope it gives you Hell"

~All American Rejects, "Gives you Hell"

~0~0~0~

Salus bit back the curse on his lips as he side stepped his Death Magic teacher. Faeli grinned as he persisted, following Salus to his seat.

"Darling, how was your weekend?" the red eyed man purred, leaning against the low desk. Salus froze for a moment at the new nickname, resisting the urge to both blush and curse the demon. "What did you get up to, hmmm?"

"My weekend was boring, Professor. I just did homework, like most students" Salus said neutrally as he tried to recall what the book said about turning down an incubus. Or maybe he should be looking at curses against Incubi. The damn man was still hovering over him, his eyes burning in to his skin. Salus swallowed under the intensity of the red gaze.

There was no doubting that this man was sensual, sexy even, but Salus was not interested. He didn't want to go down that path, and definitely not with a sex demon teacher. All he had to do was keep saying no.

'Should be easy enough,' Salus thought as he continued to ignore Faeli until the incubus walked away to begin the lesson. Red eyes still stared at him hungrily from the front of the room. Salus blushed at thw look. 'Right, easy…'

The class passed rather fast, as they ploughed on through another century worth of History of one of the darkest magics taught. It was rather fascinating to Salus, as the traditional thoughts instilled by the Wizarding World was slowly being chipped away. Death Magic was not necessarily dark in the sense of it being evil. Dark as in it could do harm, yes. But Death Magic was essential to the structure of magic, as death was important to all races. It was something that happened naturally. There were no true immortals; maybe the myths that were Gods and the popular belief that True Demons were immortal. But all races died; some just lived longer than others. But everyone died. And magic was just an emulation of that. Salus, and by extension Harry, was starting to see the world in colour, not just shades of black and white.

It was not a reeling discovery but a small shift in perspective. It left Salus thoughtful but not distracted. He couldn't afford to be distracted. Not at Shakti. There were students out for blood; literally.

At the end of the lesson, Salus swept out of the room, purposefully ignoring the calls for lunch from his teacher. Instead, his hand clutched at the strap of his bag as he walked through the ancient corridors. He walked briskly towards the potions lab.

"Are you that eager to brew potions?" Maxlene comment, startling Salus from his musings as she joined his stride.

He gave her a side look, barely restraining the reflex to curse her. The hybrid merely smiled. Salus shrugged in answer.

"The e-mail from Sin said we were 'babysitting' some Master-level potions today. It means we might be able to talk about the potions project," Salus explained as they dodged what seemed like 3rd years leaving a Charms class.

Maxlene nodded after grimacing at the thought of their horrendous potions project that was set by their sadistic potions teacher. "We are going to have to hit the library tonight. We need to research if any of our idea are actually feasible."

Salus nodded, "Actually, I was reading yesterday when Anya dropped by. She lent me a book that helped our one option. If we take out the Status-Hold potion, the idea if viable if not unstable. Status-Hold was causing all the reactions when we first drafted out the ingredients. She said that in the apprenticeship they are taught the spell, rather than using the potion due to the fact that the potion reacts to everything."

Maxlene looked gleeful, "We can actually start the experimental stage this week if we can stabilize the potion. Salus, this would put us weeks ahead of schedule!"

Salus grinned, "Not to mention, if it works we are practically guaranteed top tier marks."

Once they got to the labs, they greeted a waiting Tor. Maxlene happily filled the werecat in on the new developments of their project with Salus interjecting at times. They were interrupted by the whirlwind that masqueraded at their potions teacher.

"Minions! Good, you're here. Now, you just have to sit and watch these potions. Check every five minutes that they are the same consistency they are now. Not fun, I know but it's a vital part of the brewing. Two days of work will go down the drain if the potion is ruined," Vinno said with a flourish at the black board, "Now, these are the corrective steps should you need to make any changes to the potions, but contact me first! The most important thing is to ensure that the temperature remains constant. Now, I'm off to a mandatory teacher meeting. Toodles!"

The three Shakti students stared a little jaw slacked as their teacher swept out of the room, leaving them with 3 cauldrons of an unknown potion.

"Guess that means we can work on our project," Maxlene said, recovering first. "I mean, he does know that these labs can control the temperature without anyone watching."

Salus nodded, "I think he's playing it safe. We just need to check on them every 5 minutes, so as long as we set an alarm, we should be good to talk."

The potions, it turned out, didn't need much care which meant that for two hours they could work on the project from hell. It helped that the lab held potion books that would normally difficult to find.

"So, if we take out the Status-Hold potion, we can combine Esuna-All-Heal, bezoar, and Daleum we can get a wide-cover healing potion…" Maxlene theorized from the notes and research Tor had painstakingly written out and referenced.

Tor nodded but pointed out, "But, the lithius root from the Esuna and the jardus from the Daleum makes it poisonous when mixed, which defeats the purpose."

Maxlene groaned, "And that was why we needed the Status-Hold potion. Its main ingredient is guis leaves which counteracts and negates the jardus and lithius."

Salus frowned, "Well, according to Anya and the book, guis leaves are fine but it's the combination of the ritsu eyes, asalph wood, netkil liver and salamdrin nails that cause the problems before. So let's look at what are the key ingredients apart from that and find another healing type potion to use instead."

Maxlene sighed, "Logical but that's not a long list of potions. Not to mention we will need to calculate how each ingredient will react with the others and the process of brewing… That's a lot of research and testing."

"Not really," Tor cut in with a thoughtful look, "The pack uses this combination of potions, Skelegrow and Silver-Removal. I think it's patented and the Were-Treatment. It's new and it works. I know it contains guis leaves and none of the other ingredients sound familiar."

Salus stared at him wide eyed, "You're talking about a five potion mix with a spell power up…"

"It will either be brilliant or a disaster…" Maxlene muttered, half in shock.

Tor chuckled dryly, "Let's check first. But it beats checking every viable option that runs into dozens of potions."

"It would be an all-encompassing minor healing potion, from minor cuts to poisons to fractures to silver poisoning…" Salus muttered as he stood and made for the bookcase in the corner of the lab. The potion, because it was new, would not be in any of the textbooks but Vinno kept years' worth of Potions Journals featuring the latest developments in Potion Making. It would be somewhere there. Salus grabbed the last four years' worth and carried it to the table.

"Well," Maxlene sighed as she stared at the pile, "we better get cracking."

Tor had hit gold with the combo potion. It was a near perfect fit for what they had in mind. Unfortunately, their two hours of brewing were up and they had to clear out when Vinno waltzed back into the room, cursing up a storm about administration.

"You're never going to get something this easy ever again. It was only because of the 'emergency' staff meeting," he warned before dismissing them.

"Shall we go to my room?" Maxlene asked, "We have most of the research done, we just need to draw up a brewing and testing plan."

Salus and Tor nodded in agreement. The group had learnt the hard when it came to working in Salus's rooms. Anya had a tendency to drop by at any given time and commandeer most of the table space for her work, or distract them to the point where no work was done. And Tor shared his rooms with his older cousin.

Maxlene's dorm was actually just down the hall from Salus's ones, making he pause for a moment and wonder why they haven't run into each other in that corridor yet. Her rooms, once they entered, was nothing like Salus expected. It was an odd sort of civilization meets nature. She had plants everywhere, all seemingly growing from the floor. Grass lay beneath their feet instead of tiles or carpeting. And yet there was furniture and a kitchen in the middle of what seemed like a forest of sorts.

Gaping, Salus couldn't help but asked, "How? I mean, plants need soil and sunlight?"

Maxlene laughed, "And they get them. The ceiling is actually glass, not charmed. Sunlight is redirected to it. This part of the school is highly demanded because it is one of the few rooms where sunlight reaches. And there is a layer of soil beneath us, kept enriched with potions and fertilizers. It's a tradition for most earth sprites and elves to have rooms like this. We get antsy when we aren't surrounded by some form of nature."

"It's amazing," Salus breathed out as he took in the room. He had thought his room was nice but this was something else.

Tor grinned but said nothing. Instead, he headed over to the table in the living room and pulled out the research they had gathered. "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's get this over with so we can start brewing in the next time we meet."

~0~0~0~

The rest of the week seemed to pass by in a flash, a whirlwind of homework, training and more practical work. He found himself excelling in Healing, despite the stares he still received. Litiso, for all his quirks, was a brilliant Healer and Teacher. Salus had a question, yet always bit it back, whenever he saw the male elf. The man seemed to change his hairstyle almost every time they met, be it in class or outside. Salus burned to know why (and partially how?) the extreme changes in his hair. One day it was long, the next short, the next it was a bob and then it was spiked up. Curiosity had always been a weakness of his, be it as Salus or Harry. But he could never bring himself to ask. It seemed too personal strangely enough.

'Or,' his mind mocked him, 'you just don't want to get caught in a one-on-one conversation with him again. You don't want to be told there isn't a way to save you. You don't want that hope.'

Summons was turning into yet another reminder of how woefully behind he was in comparison to over students. They ploughed on with more theory behind the workings of Materia and MSP. Whilst the others seemed bored with the information, Salus barely managed to keep up in copying it all down. Alcander had reminded them, yet again, that the coming Saturday would be the placement test and that Salus would need to practice on his own time. Whilst Salus had come to master the levels of the elemental Materia, he struggled with the upper levels of the Healing Materia. If he isn't master those, there was no way he would be able to even attempt the non-elemental Materia.

So he kept casting the same spells over and over again before he went to bed at night, hoping that the pathways for the magic would flow better. Healing Materia magic was the trickiest but the control learnt from mastering it would help in controlling the destructive forces of the non-elemental Materia.

Between the torture that was Offensive Magic, Defensive Magic and Anya's 'special' training, Salus found himself wondering if he was being used merely as a punching bag. Or target practice. But the results of the rigorous training were starting to show through. His reflexes were a hair faster. He was learning spells quicker, and in class, he started to actually know the prerequisite spells. Hadrian had taught his a mixture of spells that would come in handy and spells he needed to know for the upcoming classes. What he could not cover in their time together, he gave Salus a list of the spells he would need to know for some of his classes.

When Salus asked how and why he had done it, Hadrian merely shrugged and smiled. "It makes my part easier if you are keeping up in class. It means you can concentrate here. It also helps with the more advanced spells I want to teach you."

In Transfiguration, Salus delved deeper into his mind and magic, slowly unlocking his animagus. He was excited to actually be able to transform into a sable. The creature, from what he researched, was dangerous, deadly and resistant to magic. But more importantly, its ability to travel via shadows is what Salus was really interested in. It would be the perfect back up plan to escape if he could just transform and slip away through a shadow.

However, when Salus woke up on Thursday, he just knew it was going to be one of those days. In Runes, they had a pop test. Usually, Salus wouldn't care because he knew his work, however the section being tested was not something that was taught in the Human Realm. And he hadn't gone over the work from the previous lecture, meaning to revise the whole week worth of work over the weekend. Handing in the test, whilst refusing to meet probing blue eyes of Jullian, Salus knew he would be lucky to pass it. Most of it he had guessed and tried to recall the symbols.

In Offense he was run ragged and he was put against a werewolf in stamina training. They had to compete through the obstacle course Bluemoon had set up. A 10 mile obstacle course that combined running, swimming and at one point, monkey bars and balance beams. Losers had to run it again against each other. Which meant that the slower you were the more times you would have to do the course. Salus did it four times before the lesson ended. And he was to run it again at the next lesson because they would be continuing the little competition. It was yet another instance where it show just how far behind he was in comparison with everyone else. Even physically he was at a disadvantage because he was human.

The day came to head when he took his break with Anya and they went to eat lunch. Lunch itself was good until the end. Like Anya had predicted, Welms challenged him. Actually, Welms tried to kill him and then challenged him.

Salus had felt his magic jerk in warning as it threw up the strongest shield he knew. It was a new one he had just mastered with Hadrian. A red curse, one that Salus was pretty sure broke the person's neck, struck the shield and was absorbed. In that moment, Salus hand found his would-be attacker standing 10 feet away from him, hand stretched out and face twisted in anger. Anya's eyes flashed silver for a split second but she remained seated next to him as Salus stood up.

Facing Welms, Salus bit back a sigh as he said in the coolest voice he could manage, "Yes?"

Her hair was wild as her face turned red at his nonchalance. "You!" she hissed as eyes turned to watch the event unfold, "You damn human! You humiliated me and my family! You worthless wannabe! And you dared to get me expelled from Summoning? I am the next Master Summoner of the Welms family!"

"You attacked me," Salus cut in, "And Alcander made the rules very clear from the beginning. Do not blame me for your mistakes." Salus knew what was coming. He had been preparing the whole week for this moment and it was truly appropriate that his crappy day would turn worse because of this.

Welms cursed in a foreign language before spitting out the challenged, "I challenge you, Salus Moriens, human student of Shakti to a Summoner's duel. For my honour and revenge on that which you have stolen from me. Do you accept or are you a coward?"

"Shit! Salus!" Anya hissed, "A Summoner's duel beings using only Materia, GFs and summons! She's had years to master what you've been studying for a few months! Sneaky little bitch! She knows she can't beat you head on."

Salus shot her a reassuring smile before turning back to Welms, his face cold. "I accept. Since you chose the style of battle, I'll pick the date."

"Any day is fine to beat you," she replied, with a gleam in her eye. She had broken tradition by choosing the style rather than the time. And by choosing a Summoner's duel, she had practically guaranteed herself a victory.

"Next Saturday, at 12? I don't have time on Friday" Salus responded without blinking, in an even tone.

Welms smirked as she nodded in consent. But before she could walk away, Salus left her with one part shot at her ego.

"Just because it's a Summoner's duel don't expect it to end in a victory, Welms.."

Welms froze for a split second before leaving the hall. Salus let out the breath he was holding and sat down.

"Either that was a fantastic bluff, or you've planted a seed of doubt in her confidence or you're better than you mentioned at Summing magic," Anya questioned, "So, which is it?"

Salus was breathing deeply as he tried to calm his magic which was still on edge from the attack. Looking up to meet silver eyes, he couldn't help but grin slightly as he answered, "Honestly? A little of all three I hope."

Anya didn't know whether to laugh or slap him.

Salus shrugged at her gob-smacked expression and reached for his bag. He intended to use the free period to finish his homework, revise the new section in Runes and hopefully get some practice in for Summoning.

~0~0~0~

The chatter stopped the moment Salus entered the room. Rolling his eyes at the obvious nature of his classmates, he took his seat and turned to face them. The room was set up like every other day, save for their missing teacher. Instead, Salus found himself facing down his inquisitive competition. The twins stared at him unabashedly but it was Siene who blurted out the first question.

"Is it true? Did Welms challenged you to a Summoner's Duel?" the Veela blurted out, her face flushed a light rose when she realized what she had done.

Salus could hear the disbelief in her voice, and if Eldric leaned forward any further he would fall out of his chair.

Salus sighed, acutely aware that Alcander seemed to freeze for a moment at the latest gossip. "I knew she would be challenging me at some point," he admitted, "but I didn't expect her to state the type of duel. Anya says although she broke tradition; she didn't break a rule. It's merely frowned upon."

"You're screwed," Elkric said disbelievingly, "that was a dishonorable move from someone who wants to regain her honor. She's had years of instruction and training. You just started learning Summoning this year. No matter how talented you are Moriens, you are screwed."

"I heard she started training with GFs under her father," Eldric added, dark blue eyes looked worried, "Her use of Materia was impeccable too."

Siene cursed, "And by challenging you she's making a point of this whole class, considering she had to leave. Our reputation is at stake!"

Salus stared at them slightly wide-eyed as they dissect the implications of the challenged Welms had issued. He had only worried about the actual battle. He didn't think past the fact that she had grievances against him. He didn't realize it would impact the class and his professor.

'Speaking about professor,' Salus thought as he eyes flashed to Vaan Alcander. The vampire was leaning against his desk watching them. His poker face was firmly intact. 'But he's still here. So that means he wants to say something…'

"I'm pretty good at elemental Materia spells," Salus injected their discussion weakly. Three pairs of eyes turned to stare him down.

"He's got a point," Elkric admitted to the other two before turning to Salus. "In a Summoner's Duel, you may only use Summoning Magic. You're mastery of the elemental Materia was incredible but how much have you learnt? What are you working on now?"

"Um," Salus floundered for a moment. He didn't know if they were trying to be helpful, and if they would retreat into jealousy if he told them of his progress. From the beginning, it seemed like they had been together as one group; they had studied Summoning before whilst he was alone as the newbie.

'If I tell the truth, at least I will get an honest answer,' Salus concluded as his mind whirled around the possibilities.

"I've mastered all the elementary Materia," Salus finally admitted, not missing the shocked looks that befell their faces at the news. "I'm working on the upper level of Healing Materia. I was hoping to start Non-Elemental Materia this weekend or early next week, depending on my grasp of Healing Materia."

"Well," Siene said dryly, "there is no way she knows the upper level non-elemental without mastering GFs. So, if you have truly mastered the elementals, you should be fine. You just need to be faster, smarter and better fighter than her."

"Just that," Salus shot back dryly but he cringed at the fact he was at quite the disadvantage.

"But she might also be using GFs. Materia is nothing compared to a GF," Eldric pointed out.

Somehow it seemed his challenged with Welms turned into a class debate.

"That is not true, Mr Druien," Alcander cut in, commanding the class's attention with his quiet voice. All heads whipped towards the front of the room. "GFs are in essence, an upgrade of Materia. Effective usage of Materia against the weak points of a GF would work. Remember, as a student, Miss Welms would have a long casting time for a GF and in such a state, while she may be protected by the GF she is summoning, she also gains the GFs weaknesses."

The class remained silent as they digested what the vampire had said. It was logical and true. It also gave Salus hope that if Welms pulled out a GF he could still do some damage.

'I just need to hit her hard enough that she withdraws,' Salus thought grimly as he mentally went over his casting time for the highest level elemental Materia. He bit back a groan when he realized what he needed to do. 'I need to be faster that her. And just when I thought I was catching up with work.'

It was Siene who sighed and finally broke the silence. "I don't really mind you, Moriens. Even if your talent at Summoning pisses me off to Kali. But if you need anyone to train with, with Materia I mean, I'm free on Sunday. Just consider it as me ensuring that you don't embarrass our class."

Salus sat stunned for a moment, before he managed to stutter out a "thanks, um, I'll let you know?"

The twins stared at her, then at each other before nodding. "We'll help too. You have to uphold our reputation. Plus, Welms broke the rules. Even if her father is a Master Summoner, that does not mean she get preferential treatment," Eldric snarked.

Vaan Alcander looked bemused by the scene. It was not the first time he had taught that was divided by skill level and jealousy. Nor had it been the first time he had to kick someone out due to a violation of his rules. But it had been the first time to teacher someone as gifted as Salus Moriens.

And it was the first time that he's seen a divided class band together, even if it was to 'protect their reputation'.

'Well,' Vaan mused as his four students left after trading contact information, 'it's true that this course is elitist in almost every sense. But honestly, I think they all just want to get back at Miss Welms for her attitude and annoyance at her actions.'

He paused for a moment, recalling a piece of information that worried him slightly. 'Mr Moriens is unware of just how much power he holds. If Miss Welms pushes him, she's going to get a nasty surprise. I'm going to need to be there for this challenge.'

Salus was still reeling from summons when he was bombarded by questions from Maxlene and Tor. He had walked on auto-pilot to private potions lab. They had cleared the times with Sin, as per their contract.

The two stared at him with expectant faces. Salus sighed, "Yes, Welms challenged me to a Summoner's Duel. It's next Saturday. Yes, she was the one that tried to attack and then was kicked out."

Tor let out a low whistle, "So what are you going to do? I mean, it's a Summoner's duel…"

Salus shrugged, "I hit her before she hits me. I can't back out. Plus, I'm decent at Materia magic so it's not like it's going to be one sided."

"Yeah," Maxlene said quietly, "but her father's a Master Summoner. She's been trained since birth. You just started this year."

Salus rolled his eyes, "We'll see what happens. I have a week to make a game plan. Anyways, let's get cracking on this potion. We need to start the first round of brewing."

Maxlene gave him a hard look but dropped the topic. "Tor and you will start brewing two of the variations we drew up. I'll work at the theoretical formula. Let's see if we can, at least, get a stable part one for this potion."

~0~0~0~

Friday flew by, and not even Faeli could distract Salus from working. He had to finish as much school work as possible so he could train. Hadrian had been lost on how to help with a Summoner's duel. He wasn't a summoner. Instead he helped Salus with casting, giving him moving targets and trying to force him to cast quicker. Hadrian had been shocked speechless when he realized that Salus had mastered all the elemental Materia in less than 6 months.

Ren had pushed him physical; working on his stamina and reaction times. His logic was, "If you keep moving then she can't hit you."

Saturday flew by in the same manner, except Salus paid a little more effort and time to his Charms classwork. He's marks were dangerously low and he couldn't afford for it to drop further.

Anya crashed in his room the whole of Saturday, citing she was avoiding someone who knew how to get into her room. Seeing her pissed off expression behind her armful of files, Salus offered to be cats the charm on her rooms and make her secret keeper. For a split second, she looked shocked and touched, before she pulled back her happy façade. Salus could see she was thinking it over.

"You can stay as long as you like," he offered. It was unnerving to see her visible upset by something or someone. "But I'll need to leave in the afternoon. I have training."

Anya perked up by the word' training', "Who are you training with? It's not your normal day."

"The others from my summons class," Salus replied sheepishly, "They offered to use me as target practice. Something about defending our honour and reputation."

Anya looked surprised, "For free?"

Salus shrugged, "Sort of. I offered potions in return. It wasn't something they needed but it made it an exchange. I'd rather now owe them anything."

Anya hummed in response, before asking the question she wanted to ask in the beginning, "So why are you here? Don't you have class?"

Salus grunted at the reminder at just how far behind he was, "Elevation test. I have self-practice."

Anya said nothing yet she looked at him curiously. The test was a blow to his pride. That no matter how talented he was, he just couldn't compete with the others. He was always two steps behind. It didn't mean anything before but after the jealousy, the looks her received, he kept feeling like he had to prove himself. To whom, Salus wasn't sure. But he hated feeling inadequate.

They worked in relative silence; Anya with her course work and Salus doing his essays. Anya offered to help him with his spell casting but Salus declined. He got the spells, thanks for Hadrian, but he needed to practice them. And time was something he didn't have.

Before he knew it, the alarm went off prompting Salus to make his way to the summons classroom for his 'extra practice'. He gathered his things, mainly a bag full of labelled potions, and made for the door.

Anya was still commandeering his coach and coffee table. She was curled up, dressed in baggy green pants and a black hoodie, reading through a stack of essays, red pen in hand. She had calmed down somewhat but there was an air of hopelessness she seemed to unknowingly give off. Salus didn't know if he could ask what was wrong; no matter how he wanted to. They were friends, of sorts, but Anya was private. Salus knew he knew next to nothing about his 'friend'. Hell, he didn't even know her race.

"There is food in the fridge," Salus said quietly, "if you get hungry. And I stocked up my potions, so help yourself…"

Anya looked up for a moment, and she looked young. She looked younger than her age and it pulled at Salus's heart. This wasn't the Anya he knew. Her eyes were more of a grey than silver.

"Salus," she said, smiling slightly, "thanks."

Salus shook his head, silver hair swaying at the movement, "That's what friends are for." And with that, he took his leave.

Alcander left the room just as Salus entered, nodding in response to his greeting. He said nothing else as he kept walking. Salus steeled his nerves and entered the room. His pride took a beating from the glowing looks on his class mates faces. Obviously the test went well, judging by their smiles. They would be leaving him behind soon.

"Morning," Salus greeted them, stopping their conversation. He stood awkwardly by the door for a split second before entering the room. He dropped his bag on to the table, gesturing to it, "The potions are in there. Help yourself to what you want."

It was Elkric who nodded, while smiling slightly, "Thanks."

Silence fell on them. Before this, they never really interacted beyond gossip and class discussions.

"So," Salus said, not able to stand the silence anymore, "how was the test?"

The three gave him a nervous look, as if disbelieving that he was actually asking.

Siene replied, if slightly hesitant, "Really good actually. We were just discussing it." She gestured to the three of them. Salus bit back at the insecurity.

"That's good right?" he said, slightly despondent. He would be alone in fifth year. "I mean, you all will be moved to sixth year and start learning new stuff."

"You don't mind?" Eldric blurted out. He blushed slightly at his own outburst but pushed on. "I mean…" He floundered for a moment until Elkric cut in,

"What my brother is trying to say," He said coolly, "is that if our situation was reversed, we would not be so, ah, enthusiastic about our class mates moving ahead."

Salus sighed as he shrugged. "It's a blow to my pride," he admitted out loud for the first time. "I mean I thought I did a decent job at trying to catch up while keeping up. But you all have had years of training, and that includes the theory that still sometimes baffles me. I can't catch that up in a few months."

"Oh," Eldric said, slightly startled.

"Still jealous as hell though," Salus added.

Siene snorted at that, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder.

"Please. You realize that you'll have one on one teaching from Alcander. As much as moving up helps us, you get the most help," she admitted. "As much as I hated it, you're ridiculously talented. And the worst part is that you don't even realize it. You learnt, what took me 6 years, in few months. I hate to think how much you'll learn; how much you'll improve when it's just you."

Salus shifted awkwardly as they stared at him. Siene just pointed out the elephant in the room. 'Great, now I have three jealous class mates who are going to spend the next to two hours throwing spells at me.'

"Well," Elkric started, "let's start. We don't have that much time and I have things to do."

Salus spent two hours learning how to recognize when a Materia was being cast on him. The slight shift in the magic around him, the tingle in his own magic. All the signs of when and how he should move. The twins had cast the spells at him, starting with the lowest elementals, while Siene was ready with a healing spell. She was very good with healing Materia. Salus thought she should consider a career in Healing if she didn't want become a Master Summoner.

It took time, but Salus soon learnt. His magic adapted to the new type of attack. His body started to move when he felt the first build-up of magic around him. His magic rushed forward, readying the power for the highest elemental Materia on his fingertips. Ready to counteract any of the spells that might connect. The training with Hadrian and Ren had help. He cast and moved faster. He could chose to dodge, and if he couldn't, Salus could feel the magic touch his. The beginning of a burn, or the chill, or the sharp spike of energy, or the stillness before the waves.

It became easier to counter-cast against those spells. And then he started casting back. He used only the lowest level against the twins, but he was fast. Almost as fast as them.

For the first time since Welms issued the challenged, Salus grinned. He let the part of him that he didn't want to admit existed out. He let the thrill of battle rush through him. The intoxicating feeling of power, fueled more by the looks of wonder and shock on the faces of the twins than the magic coursing through his veins. No, Salus may not be moving up a level, but he was not so far behind as most would think.

Welms is going to get one nasty surprise come Saturday. That was the general consensus after the training session. Salus left feeling good and ready to work of his potions project. The 'duel' against the twins had turned out to be the perfect stress reliever. And in his wake, he left 3 very shocked summoner students.

"I would hate to see what he'll be like in three years," Eldric muttered.

His brother snorted, "If he had the training we did he might have already qualified as a Summoner."

Siene shook her head disbelievingly, "I think I'm beginning to understand what Alcander was going on about. He's… insane! I mean! No one should be able to learn that fast! I'm stuck between awe and jealousy."

~0~0~0~

Salus was feeling better about himself, and his chances. Sunday went by in a flurry of work and training. Their potion project was at a standstill as they struggled to create a brewing instructions that compounded the potions into one without blowing out or turning the potion poisonous. It was a long process of trial and error. They worked effectively despite this, an easy camaraderie between the three of them. Salus would consider them friends of sorts.

Anya had pulled herself out of her funk, even if she never explained what happened. Salus didn't ask but he kept a close eye on her. He guessed that while people cared about the seer, few saw Anya. That was something Salus had been familiar with.

He was finally used to the long hours of work, finding his rhythm at Shakti. By lunch time on Sunday, Salus found himself in slight shock at the fact he had finished all his homework and spell practice, pre-read the next weeks work and revised the last weeks work. He had half a day to work on whatever he wished to. Instead of more training, Salus chose to catch up on some reading, skimming the book on mating. Anya had eyed him but said nothing. Instead of working as he had been since he got to Shakti, he relaxed and slowed down.

The week was a blur. Salus was busy and yet, he wasn't. He went to class, write his tests and did his homework. He worked on his project and trained, both with Materia and spells. Anya was around more, managing to keep Faeli at bay. Vinno had been interested in their project but merely observed from a distance.

The only moment of note was on Saturday morning. He had his solo summons practice as usual. Marks for the test were being released on Tuesday, after being evaluated with their practical mark. Tuesday would be their last lesson as a class of four. Salus had been working on his non-elemental Materia magic. He had pretty much mastered the Healing Materia (finally!) and under the watchful eye of Alcander, he started with Gravity. He pretty much mastered that on quickly, due to his mastery of Water Materia. He upgraded to Gravija and that took a lot more power and control than Salus realized. There was no way he would be able to master these spells as quickly as he did the elemental ones.

At the end of the period, Salus grabbed his bag, eager to get back to his room to get ready for the challenge.

"Mr Moriens," Alcander called out before Salus could leave the room, "a moment please."

Salus stopped and turned, curious at what his teacher would say. He half suspected it was something to do with the elevation test. What came out of Alcanders mouth startled Salus.

"I will be at the challenge, though I will not be taking side," Vaan started, suppressing the chuckle at the sight if his student staring at him jaw slacked. "I felt it prudent to warn you though. I think you do not realize the power you hold on your fingertips, and give the nature of your magic, it will be a possibility.

"Sir?" Salus asked, slightly confused.

"Mr Moriens, when I tested your or MPS at the beginning of the year, you did something extraordinary. You copied my link to Shiva and she accepted you. You summoned her and she accepted you," Alcander explained, dead serious. "You may not realize it, but by definition, you are a Summoner already as you possess the power of Shiva."

Salus looked shock. He hadn't really released that. He had grown used the comforting, cold presence of Shiva.

"Mr Moriens," Vaan said seriously, "should you find yourself backed into a corner, if you are not careful, you may summon Shiva. Though I warn you against this. She may have accepted you but you do not have the training to control her actions. Remember, Shiva is one of the Aeons. Her power is nothing like you've experienced before. As you are now, you are far too inexperienced. "

'Well, shit. I never thought of that,' Salus mused as he felt the stirring of Shiva beneath the surface of his magic, like she was awakening at the call for her. Salus knew, like he knew how his magic will react to an attack, which Shiva would awaken should his magic deem it necessary. The lack of control of his own magic terrified him sometimes.

~0~0~0~

"Ready?" Anya asked, her voice quiet and eyes serious. She had met Salus in his rooms, dressed to impress in her favorite armor, covered by a black and silver open robe. Her hair was pulled back, braided and tied into a bum, sitting amass on the crown of her head. Her eyes seemed dangerous, a change from the cold stance they usually take.

Salus looked at her grimly, feeling the anxiety build in his chest. "As I'll ever be." Salus chose to wear his armor under his open style basilisk robe. It would allow him freedom of movement, and Salus knew he would need to be able to run and dodge if he wanted to survive the duel.

Anya shot him a half smile but said nothing. Salus felt like she knew something but wasn't saying. Part of him wanted to ask Anya what she knew, knowing in his gut that it was it was something she saw, but a part of him didn't want to know.

'What a conundrum,' Salus mused as he locked up his rooms, quietly ensuring that his wands were in his holsters and he wore the protective necklace gifted by the Founders.

Rather, he pushed the thoughts out of his mind, forcing himself to focus on the task at hand: his damned duel with Welms. A duel that Salus was not sure he was going to be the one walking away from. One thing he was sure, though, was that he would go down swinging,

They walked in silence towards the dining hall. There wasn't anything either could say. Anya had no training in Summoning so she couldn't offer any advice, hence she chose to rather leave Salus to his thoughts. It was a pleasant surprise when they ran into a waiting Hadrian and Ren in the corridor leading to the dining hall.

The two waved but said little apart from their good luck wishes. This was a battle Salus would have to fight on his own.

As they entered the dining hall, Anya murmured in the quiet discord that fell, "For a duel, the area at the back of the hall is used. It's shield so most of the spell damage will be stopped."

"Watch at your own risk?" Salus bit back sarcastically which made Anya grin.

"If it's any consolation, this is the first summoner's duel in a quite a while. There will be a crowd."

Salus snorted as they made their way across the hall, "Great, that doesn't make me nervous at all."

"Chill Silver," Ren piped up, "Sometimes I don't think you don't know your own power. This Welms chick is in for a surprise if she thinks this will be a walk over. Strike hard and fast and you'll be fine."

Hadrian said nothing but offered a small encouraging smile. Salus felt his stomach drop. He was anxious, nervous. Hell, he could admit to himself that he was scared. Not of the actual battle itself, but of the outcome. Scenario's whirled around his mind as he tried to think every possible outcome if he lost. He would be seen as weak in the eyes of Shakti students and maybe even teachers. He would be seen as someone to prey on.

Anya would lose standing.

Alcander's teaching may be questioned in gossip.

Salus Moriens would become a target.

And Salus could not allow that. He couldn't afford to show weakness, not at this school where he was weaker than the majority of its students.

Plus, as much as he loath to admit it, his pride would hurt if he lost.

'Agreeing to a summoner's duel, in hindsight,' Salus thought grimly, 'was not a good idea. And I have to keep Shiva under control at all times. Alcander doesn't think I could control her yet.'

And Salus wasn't going to even attempt to use Shiva. Not after Alcander's warning. The vampire knew how skilled Salus was, how unique his magic was and if he still judged Salus's inability to use Shiva, then Salus was going to trust him on that.

The area at the back if the hall was cleared out into an arena style, with a enclosing the circle which marked the shielding ward. There were already students standing at the edge of the markings. Salus could see the different groups and alliances clearly as they clustered together. Welms was on already there, surrounded by people on the far side of the circle. Salus could recognize two of them from Welms' attack.

There was a murmur as Salus stepped to the edge of the circle, flanked by Anya, Ren and Hadrian. It was only then did Salus notice a group that was even a wider berth than most. Four teachers stood together with blank expressions, quietly talking. Salus could feel the stare from Vaan Alcander as purple eyes bore into him. Standing next to Alcander was a woman Salus has never seen before but he did recognize the red stare of one Castiel Faeli. To Salus's surprise, Litiso was there as well. This time, his hair was back to being short and spiked.

Salus didn't know how to react to the presence of the teachers but he did nod in acknowledgement of Alcander's gaze. The vampire nodded back in return but his lips pulled slightly into the ghost of a smile.

"It's time," Anya murmured quietly as stared at Welms. The green haired girl stepped forward confidently. Salus nodded but showed no outward reaction. Out of the corner of his eye, he could make out the familiar figures of the rest of his summoning class. They arrived quietly and stood near the teachers.

'That's rather politically correct,' Salus mused as quickly checked his magic and wands. 'They side with Alcander's decision but not outright with me.'

"Good luck Salus Moriens," Anya said quietly as she placed a hand on his arm. Her eyes were swirling silver beneath her hooded eyelids. She was smirking. "Don't hesitate, don't hold back. Go with your instinct."

Salus faulted for a splitsecond before he retorted, "No prophecies, remember?"

Anya shrugged, her eyes returning to their normal silver sheen, "Just a feeling and some sound advice."

"Yeah right," Salus muttered as he stepped forward, facing Welms.

"I'm going to make you regret even dreaming about becoming a summoner," Welms spat out.

Salus said nothing, reigning in his anger. If there was one thing his life as Harry, and his training with Hadrian had taught him, was that getting angry didn't help in a battle. Instead, he forced his face to remain blank as he blandly asked, "Shall we begin?"

Welms glared at him but stiffly bowed from her waist. Salus suppressed a smirk as he too bowed.

The moment the pair straightened, they released the materia spells they had built up.

Salus's fire clashed against Welms' ice. Salus used that moment to move. If he kept in close combat with Welms then she wouldn't get the opportunity to use GFs; hence the playing field will be equal. There was one other card Salus knew he could play, after actually reading about the rules of a summoner's duel.

Welms hastily threw a Blizzard at Salus as he cast another Firaga. Her Blizzard didn't stand the onslaught of the highest level of fire elemental materia, forcing her to cast a poorly powered Blizzaga, which barely held.

'How short is his casting time?!' Welms wondered as she frantically started casting a chain of materia against the onslaught of third level materia spells Salus was throwing her way. To make matters worse, the blue haired human was dodging her spells. 'Damn, he's fast.'

And with every spell, Salus was inching closer and closer towards his target. While he could often side step and dodge her spells, Welms was a traditionalist. She stood still and relied on her power as a summoner to win the battle.

To those watching, it was seemed like the duel started off with a bang and the quickly drew to a stalemate of rapid casting. And in Salus's case, some fancy footwork to dodge the materia cast at him. Welms, on the other hand, barely moved, relying on her magic to protect. She was trained as a traditional summoner, so this was expected. Salus, on the other hand, was a duelist. It would have been boring except it was the underdog Moriens that was pounding on Welms' defenses. And the girl was barely matching the newcomer's casting and physical speed.

"Is it me or is he casting faster than he did with us?" Anya murmured as her eyes remained fixed on the battle in front of her. She knew she had to pick her words carefully as those around her could hear and the gossip would fly even faster than the spells being cast.

Ren chuckled, it was tinged with disbelief. "He is faster and he's not letting up. He's going to keep pushing until Welms makes a mistake. And then she's going to get hit; hard."

"Oh look," Hadrian cut in in a blank voice, "He's mixing it up. Fire, Ice, Thunder and Water combinations. That's going to hurt."

Anya winced as one of the combo's got threw Welms' defense moments after Hadrian made the comment.

Salus grinned as he kept casting and recasting chains of materia spells. He kept to the highest form of elemental materia, the most powerful spells he knew. The crude spell pounding paid off when his Wateraga spell crushed ice shield Welms had up and the Thundaga spell hit her.

The electricity didn't strike, rather it exploded from an origin point on her chest only to implode, forcing the shock to crash into her body in waves. The force of which, threw her back.

'Now!' Salus thought as he rushed the four steps between him and his opponent. Rather than follow with a poorly charged spell, Salus pulled back his arm, and punched the staggering Welms. The moment his fist withdrew, he let loose a double cast Firaga-Blizzaga spell. The fire part crashed into Welms, forcing a cry of pain from her lips whilst the ice part partly protected Salus from his own flames.

Launching into a physical assault, Salus used the time to heal his wounds from the Blizzaga with a well-placed Cura. Welms tried to counter the physical assault as well as match Salus's spells. She held her defense but that left her no time to cast any healing materia.

"Is that even allowed?" Litiso had to ask as Salus Moriens threw a punch in the middle of a Summoner's Duel.

Alcander blinked before answering slowly. He had to think about the rules of engagement. In a summoner's duel, usually both participants were summoners. It was unusual for someone who was just a student of the art to issue such a challenge. "Yes. It's an old rule. Physical fighting is allowed."

"Judging by the girl's expression," Faeli cackled as he watched the duel with amusement, "either she didn't know or just didn't expect it. Ooh, that's got to hurt." He commented as the girl took a direct hit of a fire materia.

Alcander said nothing in response but noted that Welms was indeed skilled. If he were to judge her merely based on this duel, she was more advanced than any of her ex-classmates in terms of training. Her skill with materia was exemplary but Salus Moriens was a warrior's path student. Fighting and dueling was what he was training to do. His experience and natural talent for it showed as Welms found herself struggling to land a hit as Moriens dodged and countered with a natural grace.

Not that the human was not taking hits. Salus was sporting a nasty burn on his neck from a Thundaga that had connected and he hadn't had the opportunity to heal it yet.

'But if it comes down to endurance,' Vaan mused, 'Moriens would win. His magic reserve is greater than Welms. And she's starting to see that now.'

Welms panted as she moved to avoid the chain Moriens had cast. She was tiring and fast. 'But,' she thought in a panic as she recast her materia, 'He's barely affect! Just how much MPS does this bastard have?!'

'It's now or never,' she thought as she drew on a large portion of what was left of her MPS reserves. She couldn't help but glare at the boy that ruined everything. She hadn't expected to actually need to do this to win.

Using the end of her chain as a distraction, Welms moved away from Salus. Taking a deep breath, she weaved her magic. It was a technique her father had developed. It was like a chain casting but given shape. Multiple Fira materia spells were cast, joining around her to form a dome. It took her almost a year to perfect the Materia Dome Technique.

The timing and location of each materia spell had to be perfect, so it created an illusion of the perfect defense. To find a hole in the materia net, you had to know how to cast the Materia Dome, which no one but the Welms family knew.

Salus jumped back, as the space before him lit up with materia spells. It was nothing like Salus had ever seen before, or even read. It was oddly similar to a charms chain, but it formed a shape. Welms was protected in the middle of the dome of fire.

'Damn,' Salus cursed as he threw ice spell after ice spell at Welms. Each spell hit and fizzled out against the dome. As soon as the ice negated the fire, another Fira spell took its place. It was like a stream if fire; a wall that could not be broken. 'What the hell is thing?'

Purple eyes narrowed at the Fira dome as he commented blandly, "So that is the Materia Dome Technique. Interesting."

Faeli glanced at the vampire, but kept his gaze on the enchanting human. Moriens was trying to overpower the magic chain, and was failing. 'Although, his magic reserves are impressive.'

Faeli took the moment to observe the crowd watching the match, 'Even if he loses, everyone here will take note of just how much power he holds. The fact remains, and everyone knows, that Welms challenged him on a subject he's spent less than 4 months learning. Because she knew that she couldn't win in a fully-fledged duel.'

A sigh caught Faeli's attention, forcing him to look at Vaan Alcander. He waited for an explaination as he caught the vampire's gaze.

"This match is almost over," Vaan explained as he felt the build-up of power, "Welms is using the dome as a shield. She's summoning a GF, one that she's mastered by the looks of things."

Faeli grimaced. GFs were second and third year summoning material. There was no way that Salus knew it yet.

Salus almost groaned out loud when he realize what was happening. Welms didn't have the power to draw out the duel. 'She's summoning a GF. Bitch is buying time behind that thing!'

'It's time!' Fillia Welms grinned as she pushed the last of her reserves into the summon. A GF required ten times the power a third level Materia spell needed. 'This has to work,' she thought desperately. 'I have no MPS left. Hell Fire is the only GF I have control over.'

"Fuck!" Salus swore as the air cackled with energy. A pattern made of fire spread out on the floor as the fire dome died out. Welms was panting but her lips were stretch in a smirk.

"Burn in the Ninth Circle, I summon thee, Guardian Force of Fire, Hell Fire!" she called out, finishing the spell as it drained her magic even further. The fire changed from red to blue as the pattern roared into a life of his own. It grew in height and fused, twisting and shaping into a humanoid figure made of flame. The air was hot and dry.

Blue-green eyes widened in shock and slight horror as he took in the sight. 'This is the power of a GF?' Salus gritted his teeth as he threw a fully powered Blizzaga at the GF. It hit the figure, half-melted and barely doing damage. Instead, Salus earned the ire of the GF whom turn towards him.

"Shit," Salus muttered as he dodged backwards, keeping his eyes on the GF whose power was still building. 'My Blizzaga will barely scrape it!'

The pattern was fading inwards; its power drawing into the GF. Hell Fire would remain until the power ran out or it was dismissed.

'What the fuck am I'm supposed to do now?' Salus swore as he frantically calculated the situation. 'I can't fight it head on and I can't wait this out. How the hell do I take down a GF? What weak points? Fucking Alcander said it had weak points but where?! Shit!'

To buy time, Salus powered and released an ice chain against Hell Fire. 'Summoning doesn't exactly have defense spells. And my offensive materia isn't strong enough…'

"Damn it," Ren swore as ice spell after ice spell hit the flame thing. "He's going to have to concede. I didn't realize the power gap between materia and GFs was so large."

"No," Anya said quietly, "not just yet. He's got one more card up his sleeve." Her eyes were swirling pools of silver as she peeped into all the possible future outcomes.

Hadrian sighed at her but waited for her to continue.

"It's either an ace or a joker; but it all boils down to how different the internal qualities of his magic are."

'Fuck, fuck, fuck!' Salus swore as the chain ended and the GF had minimal damage.

"Concede Moriens," Welms called out from where she stood on shaky knees. "A fully trained summoner would be able to take out a GF with materia but you haven't studied any of the GFs. You wouldn't know because you haven't spent years studying and training!"

Salus almost rolled his eyes at the jealousy in her voice. He had tried, over and over again to make her understand. He may have natural talent but he was nowhere near her level yet. Even Alcander acknowledged the difference.

The blue flame figure turned towards Salus, its golden eyes staring down on him. It was waiting for the command of his master.

Salus sighed. 'I can't win this,' he mentally conceded as he struggled to suppress the rise in his normal magic. It flared at the danger the GF projected. In any other fight, he would win…

It called to him. The icy touch beneath the warmth of his magic that carried the enticing promise of victory.

Salus swallowed, 'How much do I want this victory? Can I trust my control of my magic?'

It took a moment for Salus to decide. He couldn't show weakness. Harry would take the chance. Salus would not. But he was both. Sighing, he looked at Welms. "I didn't want to use this but you leave me no choice."

His magic roared into life, transforming into MSP as Shiva's connection grew in strength. With only a small glance at the expressionless face of Vaan Alcander, Salus mentally apologized to his teacher.

He didn't know the summoning words nor did he know the actual process of how to summon Shiva. But he did it before, and blue eyes narrowed as the drain on his magic increased.

Welms expected Moriens to put up a fight and then concede. What she did not expect was for the power he gathered. It was like he was summoning Diamond Dust, the ice GF.

'There is no way this bastard knows how to summon a GF!' Welms reasoned nervously as his power increased.

The icy power encircled him, swirling in a rapidly increasing pace. It took but a few moments but she was ready.

"Moriens!" Alcander called out, his voice stern and full of warning.

"I can control my magic, Professor," Salus replied as the bond snapped into place and ice formed in front of him. Sensing the being, Hell Fire moved back warily.

The shard of ice cracked and shattered to reveal the 7 foot tall Ice Aeon. Her blue eyes snapped into focus onto the fire figure as a cold smirk pulled her blue lips.

"Shiva!" Salus called out, "Take out Hell Fire!"

"What in the name of Kali is going on?!" someone cried out in the shocked silence. "How the fuck does he have an Aeon?!" Surprisingly it wasn't Welms but Siene.

Welms was frozen on the spot.

Shiva's smirk turned malicious as she righted her right hand above her head. It took less than a second for a spike of ice to form before she threw it at the fire being. It skewered it through the chest, forcing the summon away.

With her opponent gone she turned her gaze to Welms, raising her hand again.

"Enough, Shiva!" Salus shouted as he mentally plunged into his core, ready to cut the connection with the Aeon in an instant. "This battle is over!"

The ice queen stopped as she tilted her gaze to Salus, tilting her head at Welms. The spike of ice was poised to strike.

"You opponent had been defeated. She's mine!" Salus tried again, appealing to Shiva's warrior nature. He didn't know how he knew this he just did. Instead, Salus tightened his hold on the active bond and pulled power away from it. Enough for Shiva to know that he would cut the power in a moment.

Shiva frowned but clenched her hand, The ice spike above her was crushed into small shards of ice that fell to the ground. She turned to Salus and nodded at him, her eyes looking, for just a moment, soft. And then she was gone.

Salus let out a sigh of relief. "Thank Merlin," he muttered as he felt Shiva's connection return to its dormant state.

"I concede…" Welms stuttered out as she stared at him wide-eyed, shaking and trembling. She swallowed, trying to find the strength to stay standing. The power that had stared at her, ready to kill her. There was no way she had anything, at full strength, which could have beaten that Aeon.

"I concede…"

"Mr Moriens," Alcander called out in the somewhat stunned silence, "I believe I warned you against using the Aeon Shiva."

It was a challenge from his teacher. Salus gulped slightly but he met the purple gaze as he inclined his head.

"I may not have mastered her," Salus replied evenly, "But I can control my own magic."

Alcander held his gaze a moment longer before he sighed, pinching the bridged of his nose. "I will see you in class, Mr Moriens. We will discuss your practical training regime, considering your increased affinity."

And with that, the vampire walked away.

"Salus!"

The boy winced slightly at the tone. It was a pissed off Anya. 'Damn…'

"Anya…" Salus started to talk, backing away from the girl stalking towards him.

"Care to explain when you were going to tell me, that you are, in fact, a summoner? After all that training…" the seer continued, her robes flaring with each step.

Salus grimaced for a moment, glancing to the side. There was only one explanation, honestly and Anya would not like it.

"I forgot I had her…"

"MORIENS!"

~0~0~0~

The duel had been the talk of the school for days that followed. The fact the new student had somehow acquired an Aeon was all that the summoning students could talk about. The uproar they raised was something else. When they realized that Alcander would not do anything about it, they took it up with the Summoner's Council.

Alcander was called up to explain how a student of his, a first year at that, possessed the power of Shiva. But nothing came of it, rather the council asked for reports on the progress of one Salus Moriens as his potential was unheard off.

It was rather off putting for the other summoning students to hear that no action would be taken against the newbie and furthermore, he was taking one-on-one instruction from Alcander.

Salus found that he could not have time to worry about the idle gossip. In return, Alcander stepped up the workload, pushing Salus further than ever before. On top of his workload from his other courses, Slaus found all his time taken.

The potions project was coming along nicely as they found the correct order and amounts of ingredients. The potion was working but it lacked the refinement of an efficient potion making process. While Salus and Maxlene hashed out the finer points of the potion, Tor already began researching the next idea to save time despite being a full three weeks ahead of schedule.

Instead, Salus found himself with his term results and three weeks off. He had forgotten about term break.

The human found himself looking slightly lost at his room. He could stay and study at Shakti during the holidays. He had no place to return to in the Human Realm.

"So," Anya finally said, "what are your holiday plans?" The girl had entered his room early but had said nothing while he looked over his marks. He wasn't in danger of failing anything, but some subjects were lower than he would have liked.

Salus turned to look at her, but seeing the mischievous look at on her face, he smirked. Somehow the duel proved to be a turning point in their weird friendship; it drove them closer somehow.

"Nothing much," Salus admitted with a smirk, "got anything interesting planned?"

Silver eyes gleamed. "Just a little of this and a little of that."

'Oh boy…'

~0~0~0~

Post Writing Notes:

I apologise for the late update. I had lost 2 of my notebooks containing parts of the story outline. When I finally found them (bringing my number of notebooks up to 6) I discovered that I have a notebook 7 which contained a large portion of this chapter. Notebook 7 turned out to be a stapled set of papers hidden in my Auditing textbook along with a paper napkin which actually holds the whole Potions Project outline. Go figure. I know, I really need to file my notes better.

Amira D.