Author's Note: Before you read the story, I would like to take the time to thank Gothic Cheshire, who has tirelessly devoted much of her time to the editing of mistakes (both big and small) in this story. Without her help and ever-present support, this would not have been at all possible, and I am extremely grateful to her.
Updates will be regular, since I have already completed it, so there is no chance that it will be left unfinished. Also, for those who do not like reading such pairings, there will be light slash later on in the story. I will post a warning before these chapters begin so that they can be avoided if you wish to do so. Anyway, that's enough from me...I shut up and present you with the first chapter, which I hope you enjoy.
1. The Switchover.
The wind wafted through the trees, dying down to a bare whisper by the time it reached the small clearing in the forest. Figures huddled in a circle, a black line around a pale man in the middle. A protective barrier against any enemy that could unexpectedly breach the protection charms that had been erected. Wands were being grasped beneath thick, heavy cloaks, hopefully not to be used. Eyes alternately shifted nervously or rested upon their leader with adoration, his skin seeming to shine in the inky blackness, a full moon watching over him from above.
He turned away from his messenger, dismissing him with a brush of his hand, uttering not even a word to the terrified youngster who scampered away to stand at the outermost rims of the dark line. His deformed snake like head rose as he sniffed at the sky, a habit that he had picked up from Nagini, his flat nose seeming to search for a trace of any unknown scent, any intruder that could ruin the moment.
He lowered his red rimmed eyes, satisfied, to the rim of devoted Death Eaters before him, glancing at each of them in turn. For some, this inspired courage and pure devotion, while others felt their legs tremble of their own volition, their ears stop hearing. He noted all of this with cold satisfaction, knowing that those gathered before him would remain loyal to the end, whether through fear or genuine wish to serve, he did not care.
They knew that if they did not, they would be punished.
He cleared his throat, feeling his heart pick up its beat to bang out a staccato rhythm born of adrenaline. This was the moment that he had been waiting for, ever since that damned curse had rebounded. This was the moment that would define his victory, name him the ruler over the whole of the Wizarding world.
This was the moment that the Muggles he despised would fear, if they knew that it existed.
"Is everything prepared?" His voice was as cold as the wind that raged outside the forest, and bleak as the night sky. It was a voice in which all hope could drown.
Bellatrix Lestrange stepped enthusiastically forward, the only one to break the chain. "Everything, my Lord."
His eyes narrowed at the other Death Eaters, who shuffled their feet at the memory of the way that everything had been readied. The screams of countless victims died in their ears, although none of them would ever admit to being haunted by such memories. The rare few that relished them, that were truly sympathetic to the Dark Lord's cause, remained still, their eyes shining at the images that raced through their minds. The amusement that they had had readying this spell for their master's use.
"It has been tested thoroughly?"
Bellatrix's eyes danced with the emotion of the moment. "We would wish nothing better for our Lord."
He nodded once, acknowledging her always diligent efforts on his behalf. A servant like her was always useful, especially in times of crisis. Or victory, such as this. Breathing in, he could practically smell the success in the air, the blood that would soon be his.
"I will need three volunteers."
Bellatrix immediately stepped forward, her deranged face showing her absolute adoration for the man that stood before her, her absolute willingness to bow to his every whim. "I would be honoured, my Lord." She ducked her head slightly.
Voldemort relished the moment, feeling the rush of power that always came from such complete and total obedience. No one else moved, and he allowed his eyes to narrow slightly as he glared at one man who stood out from the crowd, his face pale beneath the blond, styled hair. "Lucius, I'm disappointed in you. Don't you want to test your own spell?" His voice adopted a slight menacing tone towards the end of his sentence. If Malfoy had deliberately botched the composition of the spell, he would be sure to suffer the consequences along with his Lord. Although he was a trusted servant, he was taking no chances. Chances had led to his failure.
The man visibly gulped. "Of course, my Lord."
He cocked his head to the side in calm consideration, imagining the unsteady drum of the heart beneath the man's cloaks as he stepped forwards, into the view of all who bore witness. "Is there something that you're not telling me, Lucius?"
"No, my Lord," the man stammered.
The pale head bobbed slightly in what most of his close workers would recognise as a nod. "Good. I would hate to have to punish you... you are very valuable to my services." He lifted his eyes to regard the rest of the crowd. "Who else will join me?"
There was a moment of hesitation, barely noticeable but there nonetheless, as everyone considered the option presented to them. They could join their Master in their attempt to finally penetrate the spells placed around the Potter house, or they could stay. And receive no merit for their help, no protection, no special treatment, for if the endeavour survived and the Dark Lord came to power, he would surely grant them that for such a personal sacrifice.
A young man, enthusiastic to the point of being overly so, and hair windswept, stepped forwards. "I will, my Lord."
The Lord did not even ask his name, since if they failed it would not be useful. "You will be rewarded for your courage."
He glanced pointedly at the crowd beyond him and then turned his back. The Death Eaters who would accompany him upon his self prescribed mission fell into a circle around him, wands raised to protect him should any danger arise after the spell. Raising his own wand in a fluid, practised motion, the cold high voice began to chant methodically, unfazed even as smoke began to swirl around their feet.
As the wind picked up with an inhuman force and penetrated the clearing, the remaining Death Eaters looked around in bewilderment, some even daring to flee into the comforting silence of the forest itself. Those who remained stood rooted to the spot, staring at the vacant space where their master had previously stood.
Nothing of him remained, but that was expected.
Captain Kirk sat slumped in his chair, feeling the boredom of a routine mission weighing heavily upon his shoulders where the burden of paperwork normally resided. His eyes blinked lazily as he regarded the view screen before him, the bright twinkles of light flying past with a rapidity approaching unbelievable, the familiar sight lulling him into a relaxed state that he had not felt in months.
Around him his crew worked diligently, either not feeling or not showing the lack of usefulness that he felt at that moment, busying themselves with mundane tasks. Not for the first time, he envied them. He hated the inactivity, the occasional helplessness that was associated with command. Particularly during those missions that were purely scientific, where his skills were not needed.
The doors whooshed open with their usual hiss, admitting yet another person to the unusually quiet Bridge. As he turned around to face the new arrival, a voice in the back of his mind whispered that this inactivity would not last for long; that it never did. He silenced it ruthlessly, opting instead for a wide smile as he saw that the arrival was Doctor McCoy.
"All quiet down in sick bay?" He asked, his voice gently teasing the older man who had come to a stop at the side of his chair. Together, they turned back to face the view screen.
"Of course," the man drawled sarcastically. "Why else would the Bridge be graced with my presence?"
Kirk chuckled at the routine exchange, marvelling at how little had really changed since he had gained command of the ship. "Are you sure you're not up here to tease Spock?"
McCoy rolled his eyes and leaned forwards slightly, lowering his voice. Kirk could see Chekov and Sulu exchange a smile, glad of the distraction from their work. "Now why would I do that? We both know that he's a lost cause."
"Or perhaps," the Vulcan in question intoned as he stepped up behind McCoy, making the surgeon jump, "it is merely because your attempts are impotent."
"Good Lord Spock! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" The grumbled words were belied by the gentle affection that rested beneath them, too subtle for anyone who did not know him to pick up.
As expected, an eyebrow rose at the challenge. "Of course not Doctor. That was not my intention."
"It never is..."
"Well," Kirk chirped, nodding his head at his left side, where an empty space remained. "Now you know why you always stand on that side."
"Yes...at least there I can see him coming and prepare myself for an attack."
"That, Doctor, would be illogical as any attempt to do so would be futile."
McCoy drew himself up; throwing himself into what had by now become legendary banter. "Oh yeah? You won't be saying that when I-"
"Kyptin!" They were interrupted by a sudden shout from Chekov, which diverted the rest of the attention of the Bridge to where the young Ensign was pointing. "A ghost, sir!"
Kirk's eyes widened in brief surprise as he saw a white figure fade in before him, only to disappear and then come back, slightly stronger than before, accompanied by a circle of three hooded figures. Red rimmed eyes stared into his own, studying him with disdain.
"Fascinating." Spock's voice drifted from his scanner, where he had begun running scans on whatever was materialising on their Bridge, his tone cool and professional.
"The Enterprise is haunted and all he can say is fascinating..." McCoy sniped under his breath.
"Not now Bones," Kirk admonished softly before flicking a button on the arm rest of his chair. "Kirk to Security."
"Security here. Trouble sir?"
"It...appears that way," Kirk murmured, eyes fixated upon the surreal image unfolding before him. "Send a Security detail to the Bridge. We have some unwanted visitors. Kirk out." He barely registered the man's affirmation before flicking the switch once more and turning to face his First Officer. "Spock?"
The Vulcan walked back over to the chair, hands folded behind his back. "They appear to be human, Captain."
"Then...how did they get aboard my ship?"
The dark haired head tilted to the side in a slightly negating fashion of regret. "I do not know, sir."
Kirk returned his gaze to the front of the ship, trying to ignore an uncomfortable feeling that he could not quite place. His limbs were becoming...almost light. As if he was no longer fully attached to his body. Blinking, he stood to address the strangers, and completely missed the brief flicker of concern upon the Vulcan's face. "My name is James T Kirk, commander of this vessel. Who are you and what are you doing aboard my ship?" A direct approach was best, he reasoned, noticing a few glances thrown in his direction at his unusually harsh tone. The silence of space must be getting to me...he thought briefly, feeling slightly light headed.
The pale figure grew slightly more solid, smoke now swirling around his ankles, adding more surreal atmosphere to the already tense and confusing situation. Without warning, Kirk swayed and would have fallen, had it not been for the steely grip around his arm keeping him upright.
"Captain, I strongly recommend that you sit down." The Vulcan's usual strong voice sounded fuzzy and weak, as though it was coming through a thick, almost impenetrable fog.
Next to him, he sensed rather than heard Doctor McCoy stumble, grabbing hold of the chair for support. "Does anyone else see smoke?" The surgeon murmured through the roaring in Kirk's ears.
"Yes," Spock replied, staring around the Bridge and shaking his head slightly. "Most unusual..."he swayed slightly and trailed off.
Sulu was standing up at his station and moving as though to come forward to help them, but Kirk waved him back with an almost limp hand, silencing the man's protests with one look. "No one come close. If this is what I think it is, then I don't want anyone else to be affected. Is that understood?" He saw rather than heard the general murmur of assent.
McCoy stared at him. "What is happening?"
Kirk swallowed against the truth, his vision fading for a moment to be replaced with a wood. "He's replacing us. Spock, is there any way we can stop this?"
The Vulcan shook his head. "I have never encountered such a phenomenon before, Captain. Nevertheless, I believe that if we record the events as they unfold, we may be able to use the information gained to reverse the process."
Chekov must have heard this, because Kirk saw him through the smoke a moment later running to Spock's console and burying his face in the scanner, hurriedly writing down figures.
McCoy had now slumped to his knees. "Whoa..."
Spock gingerly moved around the Captain's chair to help the fallen officer, his own legs wobbly from the alien sensation. "Stay back." He sharply warned as the Security detail arrived. "No one interfere." He gently helped to keep McCoy upright. "Are you injured Doctor?"
"Of course not!" McCoy muttered, slightly disoriented. "I only fell to the floor..." his voice trailed off and he waved his hand in front of his face, grimacing. "The smoke is getting thicker."
Confused glances were exchanged all around the Bridge. "What smoke?" Sulu finally asked.
"You do not see any?" Spock questioned sharply. Sulu shook his head. "Not even surrounding them?" He repeated, nodding his head towards the now more solid looking people who were blinking in surprise.
"Fascinating," Spock exclaimed. "It appears Captain that only those affected by this phenomenon experience the sensation of seeing smoke. This may be a useful reference for the future."
"I could have told you that," McCoy growled.
Kirk turned to see that the security detail remained stood in the doorway, mouths hanging open. Feeling disconnected from his mouth, he began issuing last orders. "Arm phasers, stun only. Shoot to kill only if they threaten the ship and there is no other option."
A Lieutenant in red nodded. "Understood."
"Good," Kirk said, before smoke took his vision completely and he felt himself falling. His body jerked once, and he landed with a loud thump on his hands and knees, twigs shattering beneath his sudden weight. Beside him, he heard the startled exhalations of McCoy and Spock landing, and felt relief that at least he wouldn't be alone in this.
Whatever 'this' was.
Standing up and brushing himself off, he surveyed his surroundings, noticing that they appeared to be in a deserted clearing of a forest, the tree roots large and gnarled, mounds of Earth littering the ground in no apparent order.
"Where are we?"
"That, Doctor, remains to be discovered."
"Great," the Doctor drawled. "Once again we land face first in the muddy puddle of life..."
Kirk could practically hear the eyebrow rise at that comment, although the Vulcan did not deign to answer the surgeon's unusually prosaic phrasing.
"Now what?" McCoy demanded from behind him, and Kirk turned back around to see, to his horror, a giant spider looming silently over his friend.
Eyes going wide and mouth going dry, his voice miraculously managed to sound steady. "We...run away from the impossibly large spider which is about to eat us, if that answers your question."
McCoy blanched, his head twitching in a desire to look over his shoulder to see what was about to attack him, but frozen into place by immeasurable fear. Finally, he appeared to settle on hopeful disbelief. "Come on Jim, this isn't very damn funny! You know I have a phobia of spiders and it doesn't help that you're willing to prey on that every time we go on a mission!"
"Doctor, the Captain is telling the truth. There is currently a rather large arachnid behind you."
"How large?" The Doctor squeaked.
"Large enough," Kirk replied, staring into the creature's eyes which loomed well above his own.
McCoy, having seen how high up the Captain was looking, appeared to break out of his stupor. He became a blur of yelling blue uniform, running away from the creature as fast as his legs could carry him, without even bothering to look behind him. After a brief glance, Captain and First Officer followed his example.
With slightly more professional restraint and dignity, of course.
Large booming sounds followed them mercilessly as they pounded through the forest undergrowth, braving large groups of thorns and even poisonous looking plants rather than face the impossible creature that chased them. Arms flailing and a steady stream of curses pouring from his mouth, McCoy led the retreat, jumping and dodging branches and holes with a skill that had remained, until now, previously undemonstrated. Spock brought up the rear of the group, occasionally putting his superior Vulcan strength to use by hurling a large log in the direction of the spider, which dodged the missiles with terrifying accuracy.
They could almost feel the air as it was pushed aside by the creature's legs as they wove through the dense growth, not even pausing to take stock of the direction that they were taking. A steady, rhythmic thump joined the previous set of footsteps, and McCoy finally risked a look behind, the resulting vision of two murderous looking spiders causing him to trip unceremoniously over a tree root.
"Holy Hell Jim you weren't kidding!" He bellowed as his two comrades picked him up and began running once more. It was a while before he realised that he was facing the wrong way, terror keeping his eyes fixed on the monster before him, legs hurriedly backpedalling and relying upon the guidance of his friends to lead him through the forest. "Let me turn around!" They immediately let go and he carried on running in a reassuringly normal position.
Before they could stop their progress, they found themselves running towards more rustling sounds, not really realising that it might bring more danger until too late. The spider first and foremost on their mind, it was only when they crashed into a large foot shaped object that they began to fully grasp the situation.
"Wait," McCoy gasped, "why does that rock look like a foot?"
"Doctor, it is merely a-"
Something creaked and shifted, sending small boulders crashing onto them.
"What was that?" McCoy squeaked, refusing to look up.
Kirk, who had turned to stare at the noise, gaped. "Bones...I don't know how to tell you this, but..."
"Spit it out, damn it, we're being chased by a giant spider! We don't have all day!"
"It's..." Kirk stuttered, unable to move. "It's...uh...slightly..." he coughed. "Yeah..."
Spock, who had fallen to the floor in the collision, remained on the leafy ground even as Kirk and McCoy bickered. "Fascinating," he muttered, staring into the huge face above his until he felt warm hands roughly trying to pull him to his feet.
"Jim...why are you manhandling Spo-"
"Because," Kirk interrupted urgently, "we need to move!"
"Fascinating," Spock repeated. "It appears that the object we originally considered to be a cliff face is in fact not inanimate."
"You're saying it's ALIVE?" McCoy screeched, finally looking up and coming face to face with the rocky figure of a man, blown completely out of proportion. "Holy-"
"This is no time for swearing," Kirk panted, pulling Spock around the back of the creature. "Bones, get back here!"
McCoy, who stood paralysed between the two mythical creatures, could only stare at Kirk. "Jim, I don't know if you've noticed or not, but hiding behind a giant living rock isn't exactly the safest thing I had in mind!"
"Would you prefer to be eaten by a spider?"
There was little need for consideration. "Point taken," he gasped as he ran over to join his two superior officers, crouched behind the comforting solidity of the being. "But how will it help?"
"I don't know," Kirk admitted. "It seemed like the best option at the time."
The giant spider, which had apparently skidded to a stop along with its newest addition to the chase, appeared to consider the rock ogre with some trepidation. The ogre, for his part, simply raised his large and powerful fists, lunging for the creatures and howling his rage at his dominion being infiltrated.
"He appears to be territorial," Spock observed needlessly.
"No kidding!" McCoy yelled over the noise of the ogre tearing up trees and beginning to hurl them at the spiders.
Kirk, snapping out of his stupor, tapped them both on the shoulder. "This way. We can escape while they're both occupied."
Gingerly they abandoned the battle field and began once more to pick their way through the forest, with much more twitchiness in every movement on the part of the humans. "Well," McCoy began, his voice beginning to border on hysterical. "I'm glad that's over."
Spock's eyebrows rose. "It appears that your statement is premature."
McCoy forced himself to turn around, his jaw dropping at the sight that greeted him next. "Oh. Fantastic." He yelled to the world in general. "Nothing can ever come in just twos, can it? It has to be threes!"
"Be quiet Bones," Kirk snapped, regarding the new creature before them, curiosity mingled with a little fear playing over his features.
"Is that a...unicorn?" McCoy asked; voice incredulous. "This damn place is like Narnia!"
"Highly illogical Doctor as Narnia is a fictitious location."
"And unicorns are fictitious creatures," McCoy countered.
Kirk absently began inching closer to the unicorn, whose horn seemed to glint slightly in the sunlight. The animal froze and turned to regard Kirk with beady, suspicious eyes. "Uh, Jim?" McCoy ventured closer to tap his Captain on the shoulder lightly when he did not respond. "It could be a trap."
Kirk did turn then, a grin plastered firmly on his face. "A trap? Bones, I think you've spent too much time in space. It looks perfectly harmless."
"Did you completely miss the part where we thought this forest was 'completely harmless' until we got chased by a psychotic spider?" The golden haired man continued to inch closer, his hand reaching out. "Spock, back me up here before our Captain gets trampled to death!"
The Vulcan obligingly cleared his throat. "While I do not believe that it is likely that you will get 'trampled to death' by a lone unicorn as the Doctor suggests, I must agree with him and suggest that you do not touch her, Captain."
"Her?" Came the absent reply as the Captain continued to obstinately inch closer.
"Yes. She is also pregnant and therefore may not take kindly to your touching her."
McCoy turned to stare at his companion in disbelief, the Captain momentarily forgotten in his surprise. "You know all that?"
"Vulcan eyes are very astute, Doctor."
"Sorry I asked..."
Kirk had once again tuned out their conversation and was now inches away from touching the horn of the unicorn, who had apparently gone from warily cautious to vicious in the space of a few seconds. He jerked his hands back from furiously gnashing teeth in the nick of time, back stepping furiously until he trod on McCoy's foot.
"I hate to say I told you so, Jim, so I won't say it," McCoy said snarkily as they began hurriedly retreating from the protective female unicorn.
"How gracious of you..."Kirk fairly growled as his uniform shirt got caught once more upon the merciless branches of the forest.
After much swearing, stomping and falling over, they finally emerged, the sunlight dazzling after the near darkness of the seemingly cursed forest. Before them was a sprawling tapestry straight from a magical kingdom; unbelievably green grass swayed gently in the breeze, resting contently beneath a perfectly clear blue sky. The cheerful yellow sun was mirrored in the vast expanses of a lake, its reflection rippling slightly as the air caressed the water. A hut sat to one side of a hill, contrasting the majestic castle which lay beyond it, the peaceful wood defying the sharp turrets, the magical aura of an ancient establishment.
McCoy, ignoring all of this, immediately sank to the ground, relief written plainly on his face. "You know, I could just kiss this grass."
"I would not advise it, Doctor. You do not know what toxins may be in it."
"At least it's not trying to kill us," McCoy snapped back.
Kirk, by contrast, was stretching leisurely and pacing back and forth, clapping his hands clean. "Well," he chirped, "that was close."
McCoy shifted his gaze to him in quiet disbelief. "That's all you can say?" He finally spluttered, voice rising hysterically and face beginning to turn red. "We just got attacked by a psychotic spider, an ogre, and a unicorn...and all you can say is 'that was close'?"
"Technically, Doctor, the ogre did not attack us."
"Don't you start," the surgeon snarled, rounding on the unsuspecting Vulcan.
Kirk shrugged with the casual air of a man used to the doctor's raging tirades. "What else is there to say?"
McCoy proceeded to stare goldfish style at him, lips absent of the usual barbed reply. Slightly unnerved by his friend's atypical lack of retort, Kirk turned to face the ever logical science officer, who was suspiciously busy at brushing foliage off of his clothes. "Mister Spock?" The Vulcan looked up, a slight twitch at the corner of his lips betraying him only slightly as he abandoned his endeavours and folded his hands back in his customary pose, despite his dishevelled state managing to look tightly composed. "What do you think of all this?"
"I find our circumstances to be highly improbable."
"Oh?" McCoy rejoined the conversation suddenly, a faint sting to his tone. "Isn't 'illogical' your usual phrasing Mister Spock?"
"I am permitted an occasional variation of my vocabulary Doctor, despite your protests." An eyebrow rose at the Doctor's answering scowl. "In any case, I do not believe that 'illogical' would suffice, given our current situation."
Chuckling lightly, Kirk placed a reconciliatory arm on each man's shoulder, gently drawing them forwards. "Let's just try to get to that castle. Maybe we can find help there."
"That would seem to be a logical solution to our predicament."
The only response was McCoy's customary eye roll at Vulcan speech patterns and Kirk's amused chuckle as they made their way together across the long, grassy slopes towards a sprawling castle. Passing a wooden dwelling on their way past, McCoy stared and almost stopped walking before appearing to recover and carry on the journey.
"I'm seeing giant creatures everywhere now," he muttered before raising his voice slightly. "Jim, I've changed my mind. This place will drive me insane."
Kirk grinned as they continued walking. "You say that about every strange mission we go on."
"This one's different." McCoy scanned the horizon, expression suspicious. "There's a talking lion out there just waiting to tell us to take the wardrobe back..."
"Highly illogical," Spock immediately dismissed, much to McCoy's apparent chagrin. "As we must return to space, and wardrobes, however useful they may be, cannot fly."
Kirk continued to chuckle under his breath while McCoy took one look at the heavens and sighed. This was going to be a long mission.