Hopefully this'll be a good ending to Darkness. Even if the previous cliffhanger was evil...
Upcoming: part four will, most probably, be called 'Mind Games'.
In any case, well done to those of you who can spot classic series references in this one! I could't resist adding a couple.
Already, you can probably find a few lead-ins for the ongoing story.
...long ranting author's note almost over! In any case, enjoy!
"Hello there," the Doctor crooned softly to the shining Fawkes, scratching just under the phoenix's flaming beak.
He wouldn't think about it, he just wouldn't think about it. Hogwarts had fallen around him: the Marauder's Map showed a complete lack of any human life. Vashta-Nerada dominated the corridors.
The teachers were dead; the students were dead. Amy and Rory had lost their lives; as had Dumbledore.
Who knew what had happened to Harry and the others? They were outside the castle, lost.
With the Dementors.
Panting, the Doctor stood up, again looking out the window. The gargoyle wouldn't let him leave the Office; and if he stepped out without Fawkes, the shadows would devour him. And even then, he wouldn't be able to bring back Hogwarts-
No, don't think about that. Work on that later.
The phoenix cawed once again; the Time Lord looked sideways to Fawkes. He ran his eyes over the flame feathers of the bird; and grinned.
Hogwarts was veiled in night. Dawn was far away, and the stars were concealed by cloud. The Dementors were distant, yet the effect lingered. Utter darkness reigned; the perfect haven for the Vashta-Nerada.
The lifeless castle stood there; intact. The shadows had harmed only the lives within. Like a ghost town; undamaged, but empty.
A shining flare burst out of Dumbledore's Office, shattering the window. The Doctor tightly gripped Fawkes' talons, guarded by the light shining from his feathers.
They spiralled down, landing in a courtyard. The Doctor rolled away, panting, grinning, whooping from excitement. Fawkes hopped up, standing again, just beside the Time Lord.
"Well, that was fun," despite the blanket of darkness over Hogwarts, the Doctor still managed to grin. In one hand he clutched the Marauder's Map: which he promptly consulted. There were few Vashta-Nerada in this courtyard. It was safe, mostly.
First things first. The shadows prevented him doing anything.
The TARDIS was still running; quite a way outside Hogwarts, but still there. Set up to banish the cloud; if it ever became day, sunlight would repel the shadow. And in any case, it was safe there, Vashta-Nerada wouldn't be able to get through the doors.
A place to wait. A place to collapse. A place to cry.
The Doctor staggered to his feet, holding out his forearm. Fawkes flapped his wings twice, before landing on the sleeve of the Time Lord's jacket; a few cinders fell from its fiery feathers.
"No ruining the bow tie," the Doctor croaked to Fawkes, deathly serious.
Then he turned, walking through the shadow-infested Hogwarts. Alone. Guarded by phoenix-light, and guided by the Map, the Time Lord was a somewhat pitiful figure. Gone was his normal gusto, his normal hyperactive step. It was replaced by a gait of only slightly more life than the castle around him.
A white ghost hovered towards the Time Lord: the Doctor turned, nodding amiably to the unknown, ghostly woman. She was young; must have died in Hogwarts, in her second year.
"What happened?" she exhaled, breathless, eyes darting around madly. She was garbed in fluttering school robes.
The Doctor closed his eyes for a moment, unbearably regretful; "What House were you in?" he spoke, changing the subject out of an unwillingness to remember the swarming of shadow
"Ravenclaw," she shivered, "Everyone just turned to skeletons. It rushed over us. We-we all died." The ghost winced at the memories.
"You're one of the students," the Doctor bowed his head, afraid to meet her eyes, "I'm sorry. I really am so, so sorry."
"What happened?" the ghost shivered, speaking again, not impatiently, shaking, "Did it…did it happen everywhere? I can't see anyone…" her voice trailed off
"It did," the Doctor croaked. As he said it, speech seemed to become easier. The words were on the air; the death of Hogwarts had been acknowledged.
Silence. The Vashta-Nerada swelled around them; Map showing a greater concentration Fawkes' firelight kept them at bay. And the unaware ghost slowly drifted along with the Doctor's purposeful, yet meaningless footsteps.
"I'm Moira," the ghost murmured eventually, just to fill the silence.
The Doctor nodded, letting Moira know he'd heard. But he said nothing; distracted. Instead, the Time Lord walked on, accompanied only by the shining Fawkes, and the ghostly Moira.
They slowed as they passed the outer wall of Hogwarts. Bones dotted the ground; the fleshless remains of the defenders of Hogwarts. Several seemed to be smaller, the skulls somewhat deformed: house-elves. Clothing lay draped over the bleached bones. Ragged cloth in the case of house-elves, and more elaborate robes in the case of the larger skeletons. Several others, prefects, wore the familiar school uniform.
The Doctor didn't dare look at them. He didn't focus on any of the skeletons. His wasn't willing to know the specifics: for once, he was afraid to know the specific identities of those who lay lifeless around him.
Guilt reigned in his mind. He should have been able to help them, he should have been able to save them. Instead, he'd betrayed Dumbledore's trust, allowed Dementors into the castle…
This may have been his fault.
They moved past the lost guardians of Hogwarts. The shadows had gone into the castle; now the Doctor moved out. It wasn't an easy movement; it felt as if he was surrendering Hogwarts to the Vashta-Nerada.
They were both ghosts. The Doctor walked gracefully, barely noticing the ground beneath his feet. Hogwarts had lost its life. Amy and Rory had died.
And ice clawed at his heart.
The Time Lord stopped where he was; Moira looked sideways at him, confused. Her pale expression turned to fear, as she beheld a black cloak glide closer.
"It was them," she spoke from transparent, white lips: "They were there when we died."
"Not this kind," the Doctor responded, eyes staring at the Dementor, noting grey, mottled fingers behind the cloak.
The fiend neared the Doctor, slowing to a halt approximate one metre away. Silence for a few seconds. Darkness glared beneath the hood.
A harsh hissing emanated from the creature's maw. The Doctor didn't blink once, watching the sable robes. As if daring it to try anything.
"The prisoner has been apprehended," the Dementor hissed, speaking in tones that seemed almost official. "He who aided is punished."
The Doctor tensed imperceptibly. Harry and Sirius.
"What do you mean?" the Doctor demanded. There was an uncharacteristic aggressive edge to his voice.
"They are punished," the Dementor repeated. Beneath the rags, it seemed almost smug.
The Doctor didn't need to ask any more; the Dementor's Kiss. At his side, Moira shivered. Though she couldn't understand the fiend, she heard the venom in its voice.
"Stop this," the Doctor said. An impassable statement.
Silence. The reaper beneath the robe seemed to freeze, unseen eyes watching the Doctor.
"We will not," the Dementor grated once more, nearing the Doctor.
The Time Lord closed his eyes, ready, resigned almost. Moira could only watch; and the shining Fawkes, the only source of light, couldn't help. The Dementor moves to lower its hood, revealing grey, corpse-like flesh to the night air. The soul-stealing maw opened.
The Doctor glared straight into the abyss.
"Not right now," he said simply, a formidable fire burning behind his eyes. The Dementor didn't seem to want to pay attention; the Doctor stiffened, sensing the Dementor feeding on his experiences.
The strangest memory came back to him. It wasn't a particularly happy one, but neither was it sad. Reinette, speaking to him: "A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction."
The Doctor kept his eyes focused on the black wraith, keeping on his feet with lifetimes of endurance, as every single tragedy in his past was dragged up.
Susan, Jenny, Adric, Donna, Rose, Jack, Martha, Brigadier, Samantha, Grace, River, Romana-
The shadows were rushing in, overcoming the ring of light. The Patronus faded; Dumbledore had lost his life. And still, the shadow moved on, a plague, unstoppable, ferocious, devouring.
He tensed; but his eyes were still open. He kept that one tie to reality as the Dementor stole more of his life.
One day, I shall come back, yes, I shall come back. Seven lifetimes that promise haunted him. He could never quite bring himself to do so.
Tense, he swam against the current, darkness pervading the air around him, seeping into his mind and hearts. The Dementor wanted his soul: he could have it.
And everything that came with it.
The Doctor raised his neck, eyes looking directly into the endless maw of the fiend. Unblinking. Unfaltering.
Now I'll never know if I was right. Grandfather! I never would. Rose Tyler, I- I've lived too long. They break my heart. Spoilers. This is me, getting out. I'm not just a Time Lord. I'm the last of the Time Lords.
Now the Doctor was standing there, resolute. It was the Dementor who was shaking; black robes rippling as it shuddered. It began to break away from the Kiss, drifting back; the Doctor kept his glare focused on it, semi-threatening, semi-regretful. The fire within them still burned, yet now it was colder, warmth as opposed to a blaze.
Two seconds of the Kiss had passed.
"What was that?" Moira stuttered, looking after the fleeing darkness.
"It wanted my mind," the Doctor spoke, in a croak, almost regretful. "I let it have it. Every memory, every experience. It couldn't bear one second of my past."
The ghost turned, if possible, even paler: "How do you bear it?"
"Sometimes," the Doctor looked away, again moving for the TARDIS, "Sometimes, I don't think I do."
The Time Lord moved, almost coldly through the night. He felt so- so helpless. The TARDIS was a time machine; but it travelled separately to time, through the vortex. Any use of it would be a change in time; and even when time itself was different, the use of the TARDIS would make things so much worse.
It was a box. A shelter. And the instant he travelled away, things were lost.
Panting, he reached the comforting blue box. He opened it, gesturing the ghostly Moira inside. She followed, pale eyes looking around, awed.
Click. Whoosh. Beep. Clouds dispelled from the console. It felt somehow less dramatic than it should be; it did next to nothing. Vashta-Nerada would be somewhat repelled: so what? The harm was already done.
Still, the Doctor did it; giving the shining Fawkes a chance to dim, as he rested on the console. The Doctor too sat back on a seat; Moira floated beside him.
It was hard to tell how much time had passed.
The Time Lord looked up suddenly. Knock, knock. Someone, something, was beating on the TARDIS door. A steady, disjointed rhythm.
"At least it's not four times," he muttered to himself, standing and moving for the door. Moira floated to his side, tense. Fawkes cawed, watching from the console.
Ready to run, or do whatever the situation demanded, the Doctor placed his hand on the door, and-
In stumbled a ragged Remus Lupin, veiled in the light of dawn and wearing the ragged remains of his robe. Suddenly urgent again, the Doctor cleared another seat, helping the recently-reverted werewolf down. Lupin exhaled, weary.
"What happened to Hogwarts?" Remus said; his first words upon recovering breath.
"A green flash," the Doctor said, with slow, measured breathing. "We were protecting the castle from Vashta-Nerada, everyone cast Lumos in a ring, a barrier around it: I saw from Dumbledore's Office. There was a green flash, the ring broke, and now…" the Doctor hesitated, "The shadows got in. This is all that's left," his voice was little more than a croak.
Silence. Fawkes, Moira, the Doctor and Lupin rested in the TARDIS.
"What happened out there?" the Doctor attempted to strike up a conversation. Moira drifted idly away, unable to help in the exchange
"You should know most of it," Lupin said, running his nails down the side of his neck, scratching a wolfish itch, "Sirius was innocent. We got outside, and there was a full moon: I didn't take my potion last night. Then I woke up."
Moira drifted through the console room, feeling as helpless as the others. She shouldn't be here; she was just a victim of these 'Vashta-Nerada'. Too scared of death to fall completely, now she haunted the world. Useless.
Giving a wispy sigh, she hovered through the TARDIS doors, not even bothering to have them opened. Her insubstantial, grey frame passed through them easily.
The Doctor blinked, before moving to bring her back; Remus grabbed his arm: "She's not in any danger," the teacher murmured.
Lupin knew how she felt. He felt it every month. Part of him died every full moon, and he was helpless to stop the rampage of the wolf. Even after all these years, he wasn't used to it. Every time he recovered, he needed silence, needed quiet: to recall himself.
Moira appeared to need the same. A chance to recover: the chance to grow more used to life as she was.
It was almost an hour before she returned.
When she did, her ghostly hands were shaking; eyes paler, and the normal grey of her incorporeal frame seemed somehow fainter. The Doctor stood, hopping over to her, urgent, worried.
"Harry Potter," she said, simply. Her voice shook: somewhere between disbelieving and plain frightened.
The Doctor leapt over any obstacles, even passing through Moira, and pushed out the TARDIS door. No protective Lumos was needed now; the banishing of cloud let an almost-blinding sunlight descend, illuminating the distant, barren crags of Hogwarts. His eyes scanned the landscape, until he located a tiredly wandering figure, distant, shambling.
He neared the black haired boy; easily identifiable as Harry Potter. Ripped robes garbed his form, glasses had fallen off, lost in the Forest, tiny marks, cuts, were struck along his face, and dirt and grime were smeared all over him. His scar was blackened with dust.
Worst of all though, was his eyes. Wide, unblinking, staring out. Yet there was no life in them: they were there. End. No telltale flicker, no reaction to anything. Just dilated pupils, the darkness encompassing almost the whole of his eyes. Black. Soulless.
"No…" the Doctor exhaled. Nothing more he could say.
The Dementor's Kiss. The stealing of a soul.
"What is it?" Remus hurried over to the Doctor, soon slowing, aghast. "The Dementors are the foulest creature," he said after several silent moments, "But I did not dare think even they'd do this to an innocent."
"We were supposed to avoid this," the Doctor continued to stare into the abyss of Harry's empty eyes. The Time Lord's voice seemed on the verge of a sob: too much had happened. "The books. He saved himself: a Patronus. It was a stag, like his father. He used Hermione's time-turner, to save himself."
A moment of silence.
Then the Doctor leapt into the air, whooping, and giving a bewildered Remus a high-five.
"Part of events!" the Time Lord beamed, "The same playground, so it can't cause a paradox!"
Understanding slowly dawned on Lupin's face.
"Now, where's Hermione?" the Doctor grinned, smile slipping only slightly.
"Lumos Solem!" the shout went out around the whole of Hogwarts.
From the line of the barrier, Percy Weasley covered his eyes with the sleeve of his robe, blocking the blinding light. His wand was raised high in the air, a resplendent star shimmering at the tip.
Darkness tried to near; the light repelled it.
His own spell blended with those of everyone around him. One lone sphere became part of a grand ring, encircling the whole of Hogwarts.
And it held.
A sudden flash of green; Percy turned, keeping his wand shining, to see the brief form of a woman. She had long, tangled hair, arrayed chaotically, and outlining a pale face. She seemed to almost be snarling; and that was all Percy saw. She vanished in a sudden flash of blue.
The Prefect turned around further, the world seeming to move in slow motion. The green flash seemed to be suspended in midair, unmoving, pointed towards the professor Charity Burbage.
Then it exploded, sending green sparks cascading everywhere.
A shining red phoenix rose from the ashes in the air. Fawkes: as bright as ever, having taken the killing curse.
Panting, the Doctor ran past, a long, silver chain around his neck. "Where's Dumbledore?" he looked sideways at Percy, eyes urgent. Relieved, yet with the knowledge things were still unfinished.
Mutely, the head boy raised his free hand, gesturing towards the front of the castle. The Doctor set off at a run.
Dumbledore disapparated with the Doctor: taking them both to the TARDIS. The skies cleared in a whoosh of light; clouds and a great deal of atmospheric interference banished by the little blue box.
The headmaster rejoined the guardians of Hogwarts in their shining circle: to keep the shadows at bay until dawn, while the Doctor ran through the castle, to the headmaster's office.
He stopped for a few moments just outside the Great Hall, to point the sonic screwdriver over at the four hourglasses which stated house point totals. He clicked it once; the green light buzzing for a few seconds. An admirable amount of sapphires clinked down the Ravenclaw vial: for Moira. Gryffindor would still win, but Moira would be close.
He reached the threshold of Dumbledore's Office in little time after that. The gargoyle stared impassively out at him.
"Hello!" the Doctor waved, recounting the password with a grin.
The statue looked down at him, blinking. "I thought you were already inside," it wheedled
"Yeah, small mistake," the Time Lord shrugged, "Can I come in?"
Wordless, the gargoyle allowed him to ascend. Still smiling, he walked into the Office, and paced over to the window at the far end.
"Nice view, huh?" he said sideways, to a certain other Time Lord, who stood next to him, looking out over the castle.
"Yeah," the other-Doctor was smiling. Slowly, he reacted, turning around.
The other-Doctor prodded the Doctor in the chest with one finger, watching the Time Lord sway back, and forwards again.
"Not you again," the other-Doctor sighed. "Is there a Pandorica somewhere in Hogwarts?"
"No," the time-turner-wearing-Doctor shook his head, before frowning: "Well, I don't think so."
"That's one good thing," other-Doctor peered at his counterpart, leering: "Why didn't you tell me to save the fez?"
"I don't know," the Doctor replied, with the exact same, almost forbidding, inflection: "Why didn't you?"
A tense silence. Then both Doctors coughed at once, mutually deciding to continue.
"So…" the other-Doctor began, "What should I do?"
"Use this," the Doctor took off the time-turner, looping it around the other's bow tie; "Go back in time, with Fawkes, and stop the green flash. Then give this back to you, or me, or you, or…" the Doctor's voice trailed off, "I don't think the universe could stand two of us at once."
The Sun rose.
With all the clouds dispelled by the TARDIS, it was hard for any Vashta-Nerada to stay out of cover. Most fled back for the Forest: and the few that didn't were soon forced back by patrols of teachers, guided by Dumbledore and the Marauder's Map.
Several of the Prefects and teachers spent a minute or two in the hospital wing: sunburn was a common ailment ever since he forced away the clouds. The sudden burst of sunlight, with no cloud cover and little no to atmospheric interference, had done mild harm to humans as well as Vashta-Nerada. Thinking ahead however, the Doctor had done his best to block out the more dangerous gamma rays. Sunburn was, mostly, the worst consequence of the ordeal.
The Dementors were due to be taken away by Cornelius Fudge. Dumbledore had been unchanging on that demand. Hopefully they'd go before more clouds could be called.
Harry too rested in the hospital Wing. Sirius Black had been captured, and yet miraculously escaped. On an entirely unrelated note, naturally, Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny (the latter at the Doctor's urging) were celebrating.
The Doctor was pacing down a corridor when a panting house-elf appeared just next to him.
"Come quick sir," it squeaked, hopping up, urgent.
"Ok," the Doctor looked down, "And don't call me sir. I'm the Doctor."
The elf nodded once, skipping up, and lightly touching the Doctor's hand.
All joviality left the Doctor's expression as they apparated at their destination. They were outside, under the bright Sun and atop a grassy hill. Dumbledore lay, unmoving on the ground.
"Pokey saw a Dementor," the house-elf squeaked, presumably referring to itself. "Master Dumbledore called light, and the Dementor did not care s- Doctor. Master called a phoenix: but this happened too."
As best the Time Lord could tell, Dumbledore had met the Dementor; and presuming it to be Vashta-Nerada, had cast Lumos. Then, when it was in truth a genuine Dementor, he had cast a Patronus: just a little too late, and possibly fatigued by the night's magic.
The Doctor knelt down, placing two fingers on the side of the headmaster's head. He closed his eyes.
The house-elf, Pokey, looked around nervously.
"Ariana…" the headmaster murmured weakly: words sounding more like sleep-talk than any conscious speech.
The Doctor withdrew from Dumbledore's mind, taking away his fingers: "Just sleeping," he panted, "Dreaming. He's recovering; he'll be fine."
Then, the Time Lord looked up at Pokey: "Say, do you have a pen and paper?"
A couple of seconds passed; the house-elf vanished with a crack, before reappearing with a roll of parchment and a quill. Nervous, as if expecting judgement, she passed them to the Doctor.
The Time Lord grinned, accepting them. He wrote down a couple of things on the paper, before tucking it into Dumbledore's hand.
If you ever need me, call me.
After that, he'd written down the TARDIS phone number. Hopefully the headmaster could figure out a way to leave Hogwarts, to call. The Doctor nodded down at the sleeping man, respectful. "You'll be fine," he muttered.
"Fine," Dumbledore echoed, still murmuring, asleep.
The Doctor walked away: he didn't do goodbyes. He'd never been able to manage them.
Now to find Amy and Rory, and depart. Not forever though: he instinctively knew that, sometime, he'd return to Hogwarts.