Three months straight without a hitch.
The Lies that Bind
Chapter 12: A Broken Mind and a Broken Dream
It had been a wonderful dream for her, filled with promise and a husband who did has she bid. Reality intruded in the form of a loud noise coming from the entrance way. Daphne quickly donned a robe and retrieved her wand. With light foot falls from bare feet she greeted the racket with her wand lighting the way.
What she found left her speechless. There standing in her entrance way, pale as death, wearing sopping wet, shredded black ropes was a stranger. He had familiar black hair and gripped a broom whose bristles were in disarray. He approached her, eyes lidded with fatigue and pain.
"Stay back." She declared.
"Move." He spoke with a haggard voice. The voice was familiar and she found herself obeying. The man limped past her, leaving a trail of mud, blood, and water as he went. Daphne followed him into the living room, now with a suspicion to his identity. There the man eased himself into a chair, groaning as he did. For a second it looked like he had fallen asleep, but two vibrant green eyes speared her, confirming her thoughts. "Don't just stand there," he muttered weakly, "help me."
She walked forward but stopped. A smirk grew on her face. There was nowhere in the vows that said she had to save his life. She took a step back.
Harry saw her intentions. "Nice try, but I order you to save my life."
She sighed, her elation fading as her duty to him again rested on her shoulders. She approached and vanished away his thick outer robes, leaving him wearing loose pants and shirt. "I see the raid didn't go as planned?"
"No, I lost my mind."
She gave him a startled look. "What?"
"My leg is where I've bled from the most; I had to stab myself." His voice was becoming softer.
She quickly searched the wet garments and her hands came away red. She cut the pants away and found a deep gash leaking fluid. A quick wave sealed it. A sigh of relief came from his lips. "Thank-you."
She rose and shot a spark into the fireplace. It roared to life and Daphne moved his chair closer to it. From there she went to the kitchen and grabbing a few vials. She returned to find him unconscious in the chair, his pulse weak. She slapped him back away, earning her a glare. "Stay awake. You were the one that ordered me to help you."
She made him drink a pain potion and a blood-replenishing potion. Working together they brought some life back into his skin. "I'm not very good at healing medicine. I only know the basics." Which meant how to mend cuts and slashes and apply potions. For the raw burns on his left arm she had no idea. The cuts on his scalp she easily healed, being careful not apply too much pressure; they were not that deep. After that she changed his features back to normal.
There were dozens of bruises on his body, with a rather large one on his back. Accompanying them was a lump on his head. The strangest was the curse that caused the veins on his right arm to look green. That troubled her. She briefly wondered why he had not healed himself, but from his condition he was too exhausted to have tried.
"I need to get you to St. Mungo's," she whispered.
"No." He rasped. "They'd ask too many questions."
"No one." His green eyes met her blue ones. "Get a parchment and quill. I'll need you to write some things down." She left and returned with the items. From there he rattled off a list of potions she would need to get.
"Will you fall asleep while I'm gone?"
He shook his head. "The company I keep won't let me fall asleep." His eyes took on a lost quality that sent shills down her spine.
"I'll hurry back as soon as I can." She departed in a rush.
It took her the better part of an hour to find an apothecary and wake its owner; his rooms were located above the building in the Alley. It took a hundred galleons to get him to cooperate and twenty more for him to hurry. "I don't like hurrying for a pair of legs, but that gold will be incentive enough. You want Freda's Bane?" he asked at one point. "What you going to do with that, clean out a man's veins?"
"Just put it in there." She spoke testily.
Finally, the man had gathered the potions, three obscure enough to make him check his stores in the back. She gave him the gold and left, hoping he would not mention this to anyone. In case he did, she had changed her features.
Upon her return she found the chair empty and the fireplace cold. "H-harry!" She called to the house, but the response she received was silence. She went room to room, carrying the bag full of potions with her, hoping that she would find her fiancé. A part hoped for his death, but she feared more that he had lost his senses.
Then she heard noise from upstairs. Quickly, she hastened to the source. When she heard shouting coming from a lit bathroom at the end of the hall she grew wary. Her steps slowed as she approached the room.
She heard a voice, but no words; just long moments of hissing.
"No! I'm not listening to you anymore!"
Daphne crept closer and saw her fiancé's face in the mirror, anger emblazoned upon it. She wondered who he was talking to, when the face suddenly shifted in emotion. Cruel eyes stared out with a mocking grin. Then Harry began to hiss. For a time it seemed like he was talking to his reflection. At the end of the statement the smile grew.
The face shifted to righteous anger. "No! I know the things I did were my own doing. What I'm afraid is the reason I'm doing them is because of you. That because of you, I can't stop!"
A cruel smile, accompanied by more hissing.
"Of course, I enjoyed it! Those bastards deserved it, but no one else does. No one else deserves it!"
The hissing face returned, the tone reasonable.
Harry's face became conflicted. "Yes, pedophiles and rapists deserve it, but I'll not walk that path just to appease your bloodlust. It's not what I want."
Daphne watched the scene in fear. It seemed Harry was losing an argument with himself.
Again, the cruel smile showed. Again, the tone was reasonable, like a salesmen pitching to a reluctant buyer.
"No." Came a weak reply; Harry's fortitude was waning. "I don't want to keep killing, even if they deserve it. I don't want this." He hung his head for a moment.
The head rose, the cruel smile looking happy. The hissing seemed optimistic.
Harry's face contorted for a moment, until it suddenly calmed. The cruel face returned, but it was no longer grinning. A harsh hissing ensued.
Harry spoke calmly. "Yes, I have figured it out. You're not some darkness born in me from the torture. You're the piece of Voldemort's soul lodged in my head." Daphne's jaw dropped. Harry laughed, long and hard. "This isn't me wanting these things, it's you wanting me to turn into him!"
The cruel face came again, calm and composed. His hissing sounded more practical.
"I'll not meet you in the middle for this. I don't want to hurt anyone else, regardless if they deserve it." He screamed at his reflection. "Your days of dictating my actions are over!"
Composed and calm, he replied with a devious smile. Suddenly, Harry gripped his head with both hands and slammed it against the porcelain sink. He came up back up with his glasses askew. The hissing seemed condescending.
Harry returned, dazed. "You're right, you are getting stronger, but I'm still in control. Every new trick you try, I'll find a counter." Harry again gripped his head but stopped himself. "See?" He laughed. "It's my body!"
For a long moment both faces stared at each other, calm and composed shifting to manic every second. It was the most confusing staring match Daphne had ever witnessed.
Harry spoke once more. "You're the one that's been making me procrastinate on the Horcruxes, aren't you? Don't like to see you're other soul pieces getting destroyed? Don't fret, as soon as I'm better, I'll destroy all that are left. Voldemort will finally die!" Other soul pieces? Daphne thought.
The cruel features returned, angry and livid. The hissing that ensued was vicious and heated.
"Not while I'm in charge you won't." Suddenly, Harry began to grapple with himself. His wand came out and a series of red and green sparks poured from its tip.
Daphne stood breathless, terrified, waiting to see which voice came out dominant. Mania returned to Harry's eyes, and he gave an exultant cry of victory. "I'm Harry Potter! I'm myself!" He shouted at his reflection.
Then pain clouded his features as he struggled with something in his mind. "I've conquered the memories you sneaky bastard. I'm in control again!" With a cry of anger, he slammed his fist into the mirror, fracturing the reflection into dozens of Harrys. He drew back his fist, leaving bloody marks on the glass. "I am in control." He insisted in a quiet voice.
Daphne took a cautious step forward. The dozens of green eyes looked to her; she shivered.
He left the bathroom and faced her. "You heard?" She nodded feebly. "I told you, I lost my mind, but I'm in control again." He walked past her. "C'mon, I feel weak." He continued down the hallway, expecting her to follow.
She hesitated a moment, casting one last glance to the broken mirror, before scurrying to keep pace.
Severus Snape awoke to noise coming from his den. He groaned for a moment, before he recalled the last time someone had visited him in the middle of the night. He quickly gained his feet and retrieved his wand from a blood-warded drawer. He had taken precautions with an insane Harry Potter running about. Especially, since, as of three nights gone, he was one of the last Death Eaters alive.
He crept down the hall, his motions made silent by a quick spell. The shattering of glass in his kitchen said someone was looking through his potions. As he drew near the light, he heard hissing. Parseltongue. That confirmed his suspicions.
He hesitated a moment before brazenly walking in to the kitchen, his wand's tip aglow. "I assume there's a reason why you're pilfering my supplies this late at night…" His voice trailed. There, standing in his kitchen with a potion inches from his lips, was Harry Potter trying kill himself; Snape recognized the potion easily.
He surged forward and knocked the flask from Harry's hands. It hit the ground and shattered. Snape belatedly noted the unbreakable spell on his flasks had faded. "If you'd drank that undiluted you'd have stopped your heart." His tone was harsh.
Harry glared at him. "That's kind of the point."
Snape took a step back, confusion riddling his face. "So you came to my house, just to drink a potion and kill yourself?" He truly is mad. "Couldn't be bothered to buy your own?"
Harry scowled and shouldered his way past the man. Snape held back a scathing retort. To his back he spoke. "I think an explanation is in order."
Harry whirled, his wand now out. "How about this for an explanation? Avada Kadavra!" The sick green light shot forward. Hones reflexes took hold of Snape and his wand moved. The rug in his kitchen flew up to block the spell, catching fire instantly. A beat later he responded with a silent sectumsempra. Harry smiled maniacally as the spell came for him, but his legs gave way at the last moment. He toppled to the floor and the spell went over him, cutting into the wall.
"Damn it!" Harry cursed, gripping his head with both hands.
The older man slowly lowered his wand. "You owe me an explanation, Potter. Why are you trying to kill yourself?"
Harry lay on the ground, a desperate laugh escaping his lips. "To get him to shut up."
Snape walked forward and eyed the downed teen. He saw how tired he appeared. "You're hearing voices?" A result of the torture, no doubt. "I don't think death is the logical way to stop them. I can administer a few potions that will silence them, but you would be better off seeking help from St. Mungo's."
Harry glared at his former teacher's sympathy. "I figured the way I left you last time, you'd be more than thrilled to do me in."
Snape calmly replied. "The thoughts of a juvenile on love are hardly upsetting. What I revealed to you was." He drew a breath. "Despite your actions and words, I still hold to my bond to keep you alive, if I can."
A somber mood fell over Harry. "Your last tribute to my mother."
Snape was surprised by the statement. He spoke in a low voice. "Yes."
Harry sat up, his eyes downcast. "I haven't slept in days, he keeps me awake. Sometimes I'm back in the cellar screaming and begging. Sometimes I'm bathed in blood, drinking it." His voice hardened. "What did Dumbledore tell you about Voldemort's horcruxes?" He looked up.
Snape frowned. "Nothing in depth. He did not like to have all of his secrets hanging from the Dark Lord's arm." The bitterness was apparent in his tone.
"I see. Voldemort made six of them." Snape paled. "And one more." Harry's eyes grew dim. "Me. According to Dumbledore, his soul was so unstable that when he tried to kill me, a piece of his soul broke off and attached itself to mine."
Snape's lips thinned. "I see." He returned to his kitchen and retrieved a glass of water. "So, this soul is the voice you are hearing in your head?"
Harry grinned and nodded. "Kind of funny. The one time a bloke's hearing voices and he's not crazy."
I beg to differ. Snape wisely kept that thought to himself, instead choosing to drink the water. "So killing yourself will destroy it? That is why you are suicidal?"
Harry was on his feet in an instant. "I'm not suicidal!" He drew a breath. "I'm just trying to get the fucker out of my head. Will you help me or not?"
"Right." He put the glass in the sink, using the time to ponder. Harry grew impatient and began to pace. "Did Dumbledore not give you instructions on how to get rid of it?"
Sarcasm lined Harry's response. "Oh yeah, he did. Either, a killing curse kills me and releases the soul, or it just releases the soul. Real clear, right?" The older man chose silence as a reply. "Well?"
"You said there were other horcruxes?"
"Yes. Three are destroyed, while I've still got three more to go. What's your point?"
Snape fell back into his teaching mannerisms. "My point, Potter, is that you are here asking me to kill you in an unknown gambit to rid you of the Dark Lord's soul piece, when you have yet to destroy the others. What happens if you die? Who will destroy the others?"
Harry drew a deep breath, keeping his anger in check. "I guess you will since you seem so interested. I mean, I would have done it myself, but the fucker in my mind had other thoughts!"
Snape narrowed his eyes. "I'm not accusing you of laziness, just lack of forethought. Something I've come to expect from you."
Harry's wand was pointed at him in a flash. "Keep it up Snivelous and I'll rethink why I kept you alive. Right now, I'm at the point where I don't care who kills me, so long as somebody does."
Snape stared at the wand point impassively. "I understand. Allow me to collect a parchment and quill and you can write down the horcrux locations. I'll take up the crusade from there, if this won't work."
"So, you'll kill me?"
"Is that not what I said? Was I too subtle?" Harry growled and tightened his grip on the wand. Snape quickly amended his words. "Yes, I'm agreeing to help you. One moment." He swept from the room and entered his study. After rifling around for a moment, he returned bearing parchment. In a manner of minutes Harry had dictated to him what he knew, and explained Gryffindor's sword as well. "It's under my bed at Grimmauld Place in a box. Just ignore Daphne and get it."
Snape kept a snarky reply about kids and hiding things under their beds to himself.
When the details were worked out, they were ready.
"Drop your wand, Harry. I'd prefer you did not retaliate."
Harry briskly walked forward and placed it in the man's hand. "I can summon it to me wandlessly, so keep a strong hold of it, just in case crazy-Harry gets desperate."
Snape was discomforted by the nickname, but let it pass. "As you say."
"If you want Snivellus, I can close my eyes and make it easier for you." Harry spoke with a smile.
"How will that help me?" Snape said with a drawl.
"Easy, my mum's eyes won't be looking at you, while my dad's face will be grinning." Snape's eyes hardened as an old hatred welled in his heart. Harry smiled and closed his eyes, mouthing 'Snivellus.' Snape cleared his head and aimed his wand. He adjusted his aim in case Harry's other voice tried something with his legs again.
The moment stretched for the two, one hesitating while the other impatient. "Do it, you bastard!" Harry cried.
"Avada Kedavra." Snape intoned.
A bright green light flew from his wand and bore down upon Harry.
As before, the teen's legs gave way, and he toppled to the ground. The killing curse struck him as he fell.
For a long time, there was only the sound of Snape's shallow breathing. He slowly lowered his wand and approached the boy, afraid of the outcome. Had he freed the boy from this harsh world? Or had he cured him of his madness?
He nudged the body with his boot, noting the pale complexion. Had it been that pale when he first came here? He leaned in and felt for a pulse. There was none. Snape grew dizzy, the weight of his action bearing down on him. I have killed your child, Lily, please, forgive me.
Snape lowered his head in quiet solace, only now realizing he had the Chosen-One's body lying dead in his house. It would have to be disposed of. Would he transfigure it? The task was an unpleasantly necessary one. He reached down once more to feel the pallid skin when Harry's eyes shot open, and he drew a sudden breath.
Snape recoiled back in shock, his wand raised defensively.
Harry lay there panting, working moisture back into his mouth.
"Potter?" Snape managed at last.
Harry turned to look at him. "Snape."
"I just had a lovely conversation with Dumbledore. He says not to worry about him and that there is a place in the light waiting for you."
The older man's mouth dropped open. Even after all the things I've done… Harry's abrupt laughter cut off any more hope-filled thoughts. The man scowled and briefly contemplated killing him for good. "Did it work?"
Harry brought a hand to his head and closed his eyes. "I'll kill him." He spoke to the air. He broke into more laughter. Snape took a wary step back. Harry addressed him. "Don't worry, it worked. I was trying to speak in parseltongue." Harry struggled to his feet, but swayed for a moment.
Snape did not bother giving him a hand. "You are sure it is gone?"
Harry frowned at him. "I just died and came back to life. So, yes, I think it worked." He sighed and dropped the sarcasm. "I was in a place with white smoke everywhere and I kept hearing a baby crying." He shuddered. "When I found it, all I saw was a ravaged fetus."
Snape sneered in disgust. The Dark Lord brought that fate onto himself. "You'll be able to handle the horcruxes from here I take it?"
Harry nodded. "It shouldn't be a problem, since I don't have a madman's voice distracting me." Harry walked forward and held out his open palm. Snape placed Harry's holly wand in it. The young man gave his former teacher a level gaze. "Thanks." He paused, seeking the right words. "If you need a favor, I'll do what I can."
Snape doubted there would come a time he would need the boy's help. "Understood. So I shouldn't expect any more threats on my life or midnight visits?"
Harry grinned at the man's dark humor. "No, not unless you become suicidal."
Without any more preamble, Harry turned and walked away, covering himself with his cloak as he left. Snape stood in the dim light of his den for a few minutes, contemplating either returning to his bed or going to his laboratory. In the end, he chose rest.
Daphne woke slowly, the rays of the sun coming through the window, shining upon her pale features. She glanced to her left and saw the bed across from her undisturbed. She sighed. Harry had once again been unable to sleep. That worried her, and her worrying about it worried her. Within a few minutes she was dressed in a loose lavender robe and left the room.
Her fiancé had practically enslaved her and bound her to his will, but as of yet it had not been that bad. She was given liberties and freedoms she did not expect, and he had yet to take any liberties with her. I'm enslaved to the perfect gentlemen. True, his campaign against the Death Eaters and the recent debacle at Azkaban had taken most of his time, but still, she had expected him to take her to bed at least once or twice. She was almost disappointed. She shook her head ruefully and made herself a light breakfast; eggs and toast with pumpkin juice. Harry had once told her muggles drank orange juice, but she found that hard to believe. They're just so tart.
For a time she sat in the dining room, watching the barren walls. They had yet to decorate them, only choosing to remove the offensive paintings. Why Mrs. Weasley had chosen just to clean was beyond her.
She glanced to a corner of the table, where sat a pile of letters addressed to Harry. Most had arrived in the past few days, all filled with worrisome questions. She had already read through them, but her fiancé, wracked with inner demons, had yet to respond. She shook her head, recalling how he had scorned them at first, then cried for their concerns. She brought a hand to her head. "What I am going to do?" she muttered.
Harry was going insane and each day that passed proved he was getting closer and closer to losing it. The first night after he had shattered the mirror, he could not sleep. Even after taking a sleeping-potion the other one inside him refused to let him rest. That night he had paced the house, randomly shouting and destroying objects. The next night he had gone out, and Daphne wondered if he had killed anyone.
The blood on his robes confirmed her suspicions, but the Daily Prophet reported no deaths. It was still filled with talk of the Massacre at Azkaban. Nine Aurors had died and twenty were in St. Mungo's, while the dementors had fled the island looking to feast on more souls. The Ministry was swamped with complaints and reports, trying to bring the dementor population under control. A pamphlet had arrived the other day, declaring she think happy thoughts in order to starve the creatures. The Ministry is filled with idiots.
Harry had only laughed at the situation.
She stood and thumbed through the letters, seeing one from Hermione, Ron, Mrs. Weasley, and even Luna. Ron only asked about playing Quidditch together. Hermione wrote out an emotional one, begging for him to confide in them, saying there was a wall separating them that she wished he would take down. Daphne rolled her eyes at it. Mrs. Weasley asked after Daphne and offered to help with the wedding, and that Harry should come over and have some dinner. The one from Luna was soaked in some acrid smelling potion, which was supposed to help with the frazzles. Odd one that one.
She replaced them with a sigh. "It must be nice to have so many care about you." She sounded wistful, realizing that the only person who cared for her like that was her sister. She was not too sad, considering she thought most of Harry's friends were sappy morons.
A sudden sound from upstairs drew her attention. Removing her wand, she crept up the stairs. It was probably Harry, but that was more the reason to be prepared. She paused at the head of the stairs, listening. She heard a soft whisk coming from the room she had recently cleaned out. Soon, she was peering inside.
Daphne found Harry sitting in a chair staring out the open window. Against the far wall was a shelf filled with little trinkets. Clustered around him were jars lying open and a kit with bristles laying next to it. There were a few soiled cloths lying by his booted feet. In his hands, which he was currently polishing with a clean rag, was a broom. To her untrained eyes it looked like nothing special, but she recognized the design. It was a firebolt.
She stepped into the room. "I thought yours was destroyed in the massacre."
He looked up from his task and eyed her casually. To her relief, there were no signs of madness lurking in his tired eyes. "It was. I went out and bought a used one."
She approached him and studied the broom. "Why?"
He shook his head. "I didn't want to get a brand new one. I wanted one that was broken-in; one I could work on." He hefted it for her to get a closer look. "I bought the worst they had. Somebody really didn't know how to take care of it."
She humored him and gave it a careful perusal. "I see."
He pointed to where the shaft met the bristles. "See the cracks there? It makes cornering hard, takes about fifteen kilometers per hour off the turn. I still need to buy a mender's kit." He gestured to the bristles on the ground. "I wanted to replace the bristles, the ones on here have too much drag, but I just replaced the worst of them."
Daphne blinked, thoroughly impressed by his knowledge. "There's a lot to broom riding, isn't there?"
He nodded sagely. "Yeah. Even the kind of polish you use effects how fast you go. Most people use lemon seed oil with a few enchantments on it. It works good for acceleration and straight shots, plus you only have to apply it once a week. But, I use orange-seed. Keeps the grease from your hands off the handle and is better for turns. You have to reapply it every few days, though. I never minded doing it." His voice grew quiet. "You know, I never had anyone teach me this. Everyone else had their father or uncle show them." He stood and placed the broom on a mount hanging from the wall.
She cleared her throat. "D-do you wish your dad had showed you?"
He tilted his head to the side, seeing his current life reflected in the motley broom. "Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't." His voice lost the sadness and shifted to cynical. "Of course, if I had my father and mother, then Voldemort might well be alive." He turned to her with a smirk. "And I wouldn't have you."
She glanced to the floor, then back up, afraid of what she would find in his eyes. The madness still had not returned. She blew out a sigh of relief. "You're feeling better?"
He nodded and yawned. "Yeah, I'm still really tired, though. I should be in bed."
She paused before speaking, still doubtful. "Is-is it really gone?"
He sighed. "Yes, it's gone." He spoke patiently. "I had Snape kill me." Her eyes widened and he laughed. "It's complicated, but let's just say there's only one person in my head. And that's me."
He laughed bitterly and resumed his seat in the chair. "Don't lie. You hoped it would kill me. I'm sure you would have helped it if you could, if it meant bringing Voldemort back."
She pursed her lips. "I…I never wanted this." Her voice grew in strength as she spoke. "But it's not as bad as I thought it would be. Besides, considering what happened to the other Death Eaters, I think I got lucky." She forced a smile, but her shivering ruined the affect.
He gave her wane grin. "Yeah, you got very lucky."
She looked away. "So, what were you doing with the broom? Giving my idea some thought?"
Harry sighed and looked to the light shining through the window. "Some. I really just needed something to do. I wanted to fix something while I thought. Put the pieces of my life and mind back together, find out what kind of person I am now." His eyes again sought the broom, where the sun reflected off its polished dark wood. The bristles still looked frayed but serviceable.
Daphne heard something in his tone, something akin to loss. Hesitantly, she stepped forward and placed her hand on his shoulder. He looked at her severely, but she weathered the stare. "So what kind of person are you now?"
His features softened. "I'm cynical and bitter. Glad to have so much knowledge, but sad to see what was me now gone. Angry that I can't care about people like I once did, but glad to see through the delusions my friends cling to. I'm satisfied, I destroyed Voldemort's followers, but unsatisfied by what I want in life. It's the price you pay when you don't earn your knowledge through experience." He grew quiet. "I also think that's why the soul manifested itself."
"I'm sorry?" Daphne was confused by the last.
Harry then realized who he was talking to and frowned. She'd not understand in the least, yet… "Dumbledore once told me that love was my greatest weapon. Something Voldemort did not have. I think that's why the soul could never gain any purchase in my mind. But, what Bellatrix did to me," he began to shake. Daphne looked shocked, but her hand tightened on his shoulder. He found his voice again. "It made me lose that love. It's hard to see the world with innocent eyes when you're forced to beg for death."
Daphne made note of his reaction, realizing the trauma of it still afflicted him.
Silence fell like a curtain between them, and each let their thoughts dwell where they may. Daphne felt this was a turning point for them. Where he could put the past behind him, Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and she too could move on, leaving her crushed dreams behind. Yet, there was one immutable fact in this life that she could never escape; she was solely at the mercy of Harry Potter's whims.
Gazing at the man who had sought to restore a derelict broom, she thought her fate had not turned out so bad. "What now?" she asked.
"What now?" He eased back into the chair and spoke in a tired voice. "Now, I learn to live."
a/n: Well this is the end of the line. I can now proudly proclaim to have done something not many can they have done even once: I have completed two works of fanfiction!(Woo!) hehe. Pride aside, I'm happy to have shared this and glad some have enjoyed it. To those interested in the writing process behind the work, there's some explanations on my profile, which may give a greater depth to the story. Your mileage may very on that one, considering the author's works are usually more interesting than their pontificating notes.
I will ask a favor for those reading this. Will you drop a review telling me your final thoughts/concerns you had of the story as a whole? The input would help immensely and would be appreciated. Thanks again for all those that read, and thanks to the criticisms I've received.