Hey, everyone. This is a short one-shot for Qoholeth's Great Malachy O'More challenge. In this challenge, the author receives a short Latin phrase and writes a story from it. These phrases prophesied descriptions of the Popes (starting with Pope Celestine II in 1143), and were concocted by Malachy O'More in the early 12th century. He came up with a phrase for each Pope—mine is associated with Pope Leo X. De Craticula Politiana means 'of the Politian spit' (as in a roasting spit, and Politia being a region of Athens).

I hope you enjoy the story, and I hope you drop me a comment to let me know what you think. This may be the weirdest (or, at least, the most surreal) piece I have on ffnet.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

With love, as always,

Speechwriter


I.

"And in the end," speaks the lion, "we may finally see that which was promised a lie. Equality, and stubbornly-perpetuated folly to match it. A piercing glory, with harrowing stupidity to temper its effect. And, more than anything, a victory that should never have been deemed a victory." The lion closes its great mouth, shaking its head. A silver mist seems to rise from its mane in a halfhearted shimmer, and its eyes are woeful. Mournful. Defeated.

As the ghost of chrome prowls back into dissolution, those who have watched do not dare to breathe. When, eventually, they revive themselves, they scarcely have time to turn and whisper to each other before a second glowing figure rises - the phoenix, whose voice is stirring and musical. "All in time," it says. "For now, hold. For now, rest assured they shall give us reason in due time. All in due time." And then it goes, too, the same way as did the first, and the murmuring swells, a concerto of dissonant voices.


II.

"So sick of all in due time," breathes a dark silhouette, a carp. Its color has faded from silver to lusterless shadow. "So sick of it."

The Patronuses give the shade little more than a scathing glance before returning to their muttering.

"So sick," repeats the carp, and an otter rounds on it.

"Shut up, Myrtle. You should've learned by now to live with the choice you made."

Myrtle flaps its shadow-fins half-heartedly, stirring the blue air. It speaks glumly. "Should. Should have done this. Should have done that. What a word to use."

The otter lifts its lip in disgust, turning back to the Jack Russell terrier. It mutters to the terrier, "It's silly, really—that that's all Myrtle takes out of everything Albus says when he takes the time to come back."

The terrier shifts anxiously. "I don't know, Hermione," it says, "but blimey, I've never seen that happen before. Not ever." It glances over to where the lion faded, where it has left a noticeable gap in the blue that no one wants to fill. "You really think Albus is right? You really think they know what they're doing outside the Yonder?"

But the otter doesn't - can't - meet the terrier's silvery eyes. Hermione coasts through the air on its back, the terrier trotting along beside it. "I don't have all the answers, Ron," it sighs.

"Could've fooled me."


III.

The cat rubs at the markings around its eyes with a paw and jumps in surprise as a lynx swirls back into the Yonder. "Kingsley," sighs the cat, its haunches lowering it back into a sitting position. "News?"

"It's still darkness out there," says Kingsley, its eyes downcast. "I wish we could do more."

A pygmy owl fidgets. "We do only as we're directed."

"Yes, Filius, and we're all aware," says the cat, its words scathing, its gaze harsh. "But if Godric—if Godric and Albus both returned to tell us—it feels like a warning, a prophecy of what will be endured—"

The lynx gives a shake of its head. "Minerva." Its voice is deep and soothing, though its tufted ears twitch in seeming agitation. "We will come through. It's not us we have to worry about; we'll be fine."

"My primary worry is not for us, Kingsley! I'm worried about our wizards! I'm worried about what's happening out there!" The cat raises its tail in agitation, jabbing it sharply in the direction of the departure point. That ghostly arch, where they return to the Virtu, to their wizards. "They depend on us, but they keep forgetting. They keep acting as if nothing could ever bring us—"

But Minerva breaks off. It jerks forward, feeling the call, and sprints towards the departure point, not even glancing back at Filius and Kingsley. As Minerva leaps from the Yonder into the Virtu, Filius exchanges a glance with Kingsley and sighs.

The small owl shakes its head. "I'm worried about our wizards, too."

Kingsley chuckles, settling down to lick at its glossy silver fur. The laugh is an empty sound. "They'll be all right—but I lied. It is us we have to worry about."


IV.

The doe is in the middle of speaking when it vanishes. Not into the departure point. It vanishes altogether, right as it had struck up a conversation with the stag. And the stag stands, now, alone.

The dissipation is not a big to-do. The doe melts into a mist, and the mist is whipped away by the wind, and the wind is curled into other winds and torn. But the stag feels reticence come over it, feels something curl up and moan inside it. "Severus," it says. "Severus."

The word is overheard and passed along as a whisper, like a prayer, an innocent word that means far too much. "Severus." And then everyone knows that Severus Snape is dead.


V.

There are two monkeys, identical to the hair, linked together by the tail. Then the tail of one curls a little tighter, for the tail of the other is no longer there to grip. George is puzzled for a second. It doesn't understand—surely, if Fred—then it, too, must soon be—but no—it remains—yet how—

George cries for what feels like hours, but its silvery eyes cannot make tears. Tears are reserved for those with choice.


VI.

The weasel pops back into the Yonder, gasping. "It's over!" it says. "It's over! It's all over!"

Pairs of eyes flicker away from Arthur in breathless hesitance. Arthur itself turns to face the stag.

For a moment all eyes are on Harry, but it says nothing. It still faces the blank spot in George's tail, still feeling the sickening whirl of the fact that Severus is gone. No—Harry cannot say or do a thing. It turns to the spot where Godric vanished—where Albus followed—and prays for them to come back. Harry prays for them to return and to explain. But its hopes are in vain.

No one seems to notice how lost it looks, though, for every other Patronus has erupted into cheering, lost in happiness, too busy celebrating to realize what it means that they are still there in the Yonder.

Day by day, Patronuses filter themselves from the Yonder, not dissipating, but departing back to their homes, back to their wizards—for good this time, as it should always have been. As, back in the Virtu, more and more reclaim their right and reason to joy, their Patronuses feel the pull, and they rush to the departure point. This is what they've waited for, what they've all waited for.

After months, though, some still wait. Years go. Some will always wait. And they know why they are who they are. They know why their self-selection is so goddamned specific.


MCMXCIX.

Godric and Albus never again return from dissipation. Not to explain. Not even to condemn. Not for anything.

Death Eaters could not call their Patronuses from the Yonder, it was said. They could not even form their animals from the mist. They could not muster up the courage, or the effort, or, indeed, the strength. Yet the presence of even their mist is stifling in the Yonder. To those five-hundred who saw the carnage, the Death Eaters' unapologetic presence will always bloody the victory. They cannot return home, for their wizards have been riddled and corrupted by fear, and that scar may dwindle to near-nothingness, but it will never heal. And while the wizards can call on their Patronuses to banish outward fear, an inward fear will rot a Patronus until it cannot stay.

So the Patronuses wait. They distance themselves, and deny the reason they remain in the Yonder, and they wait for their wizards to move on. They know the gap in the monkey's tail and the doe-shaped hole are wide—worlds too wide to allow them passage to the bodies that were once their homes. But still they wait for the Virtu to call, knowing the summons will never arrive. They know this, so why do they wait? Why do they hope the wounds might heal, the scars might fade, the rage might simmer into stillness?

They must hope, because hope is the only thing to temper their wish for death—the wish for death they bear so their wizards may escape its burden. And all are left hanging, rotating in indecision, wishing for newness to eclipse their anger. Their agony.


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If anyone was curious as to how this related to the title—I figured a massive congregation of people/Patronuses/whatever was relatively Athenian, given their democracy and all that. And they are all helpless, as if bound to a spit by their reliance on the people that have since dissipated—thus the following part of my closing statement: 'left hanging, rotating in indecision.'

The Pope Leo X thing led me to start off with Godric, since I'm an astrology geek.

MXMXCIX is 1999. May 1998 was the Battle of Hogwarts.

And that's that. Reviews are, as always, greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading,

Speechwriter