The wait for this chapter is inexcusable on my part. I will gradually begin my updating spree again, and in the meantime I hope you enjoy this chapter. The job has eased up quite a bit, and I am now finding time to write. Thank you very much for those who have borne the wait, and my apologies to those who were disgusted or bored enough to leave my story behind.
I'll try not to disappoint again as far as update speed is concerned. Also, to those readers who have complained about words/names missing in the initial chapters, please know it wasn't an error on my end. The story formatting on 's end was erroneous, and it was not fixed no matter how I tried to. I will keep attempting to put this right, however.
"Come on, Dolohov. You can certainly do better, man!", taunted Sirius as he traded a fierce succession of spells with Antonin Dolohov, one of Voldemort's top Death Eaters. Dolohov's spells got darker and darker every time his wand fell, but it mattered very little to Sirius. He was dodging them with absolutely no problem, the whites of his eyes obscuring his pupils completely and proclaiming his usage of his special eye technique: the Byakugan. While not as powerful as Harry's eye technique, the Byakugan stood supreme in its perceptive abilities.
"Really, Dolohov?", he asked again, moving aside casually to avoid a trace of purple flame. The spell flashed across the road, cutting through and bringing down an entire line of lamp posts and disappearing into the horizon. "I mean, come on. You were always an uncreative little bitch back at school, and now you're nothing but Voldemort's Rotweiler. Protego Totalum", said Sirius casually, deflecting a blazing ball of fire into the cold concrete.
"Always interfering", hissed Dolohov from behind his mask, causing Sirius to grin. "You've gotten quite a bit stronger after Azkaban, Black. Funny, I thought it was meant to have the opposite effect. Avada Kedavra!"
The dim night was lit up by the bright green of the killing curse, but Sirius casually dodged the spell by sitting down on a chair he conjured just for the purpose. "Dolohov, to be honest with you I didn't really want to come down here. I could have sent a bunch of Aurors to take you down, you know", he said, sighing as he stretched theatrically on his conjured seat in the middle of the deserted road.
Dolohov's wand rose high, and its tip began smoking as the chilly air began to grow ever hotter. Sirius blinked at the man, and the next moment the Death Eater flew backwards as if struck by a giant's hand. Sirius winced as he saw his opponent crash painfully into one of the trees lining the pavement, internally feeling slightly grateful for the wandless magic the Byakugan afforded him. He still had to use his wand for his most powerful spells, but most of the times he could go wandless.
"Wandless magic, Black? You certainly have moved up in the world", snarled Dolohov as he was bound extremely tightly to the tree he had fallen against. "But you are nothing compared to the Dark Lord, though. He will crush you to oblivion despite your party tricks!"
"Too true", Sirius admitted readily. "But I'm more than enough to take down scum like you. I'll leave your snake of a master to my godson, I think. Anyway, there are a few people who want to exact justice upon you. You did kill quite a few of us back in the day", Sirius observed. Before the Death Eater could go into some defiant rant, Sirius knocked him out with a stunner.
"Maximus Peverell's line is still strong as ever I see."
"Hey Croaker, you piece of shit", greeted Sirius, as he turned about to see the wizened face of the ex-Director of the Department of Mysteries. "Yeah, Dolohov wasn't exactly a challenge anymore. He's an extremely good duellist but that doesn't really work against these all-seeing eyes of mine. I see things", said Sirius airily to his old boss. It had been Croaker and Dumbledore that had sanctioned his own imprisonment and conditioning to "bring out into the world" the power of the Peverells.
Croaker waved his wand, and the insensible Dolohov vanished in a burst of blue light.
"Sirius, I want you to do something for me."
"You're actually asking this time, you windbag?", said Sirius with mock incredulity. He made no secret of his hatred for Croaker; he respected the man but hated him like Harry had hated Dumbledore. "You don't want me to snuggle up to you in the night, do you? Now that you've lost your beloved Albus…", he trailed off suggestively, feeling quite vindictive at the pained look that crossed the old schemer's face. It was enough for Sirius, he had seen clearly that his taunt had struck Croaker deeply.
"Sirius, I have no doubt you can reduce me to tears with the perception those eyes give you…but before you do, I want to tell you to look out for Lily Potter. I don't need to tell you this but she has been acting even stranger after she captured Bellatrix", said Croaker tiredly.
"She does have a husband, you old poof, tell him. I'm far from being your toy again", Sirius said contemptuously. It was one thing Harry and he had in common: their grudges against people never really disappeared. "And you actually have the gall to ask me for favours, you useless old bastard?"
"You young people", Croaker sighed, turning his back to Sirius. "You have had hard times but you never realized how much harder it is to stand by decisions. But you will understand eventually, Sirius, and maybe you will even think kindly of me and Albus for all we have put you through. Just keep an eye on Lily for me; she is highly volatile now, I think."
"Deluded old traitor", cursed Sirius as Croaker smoothly disapparated.
"He's right, though. About the Lily part."
"James, thought you'd be listening in", said Sirius curtly, watching his friend cast off his Invisibility cloak. Harry had left it in the Potter Chateau and James had taken possession of it once more…and it was the one thing Sirius could not see through. He moved wordlessly with James, casting repair charms around the damaged street to restore it to normalcy.
"Of course I'd follow you Sirius. I knew you'd want to deal personally with Dolohov for killing Kyra in the first war…whatever happens, I'll have your back", responded James calmly.
Sirius had not heard that name spoken aloud in several years now, except during his time at Azkaban where the Dementors forced him to relive memories of her, multiple times a day. "Thanks man", he forced himself to say, as they fixed the last of the lampposts Dolohov had cut down. A final wave of James' wand caused them all to glow with light, and the street looked to be just as it was before the fight.
"But what was all that about Lily, though?", he continued, suppressing memories of his lost love with the Occlumency and sheer will he had learned the hard way. "I mean, she's been fine all this time. A little out of it I think, after being captured and all but doing well all the same. I heard she held her own with Bellatrix at 's the other day", he remarked, sitting down heavily on one of the benches lining the pavement.
"She was throwing extremely dark magic around like it was water, Sirius. When we were trained, we were specifically told not to use those spells with malicious intent", said James heavily, sitting beside his friend, and folding his cloak around him to ward off the chill in the air.
The Potter's face was twisted with indecision and concern for his wife as he looked into the distance, "We are not even sleeping in the same bed anymore, you know. The mess we made of our son's life is always looming over us, but something changed after Lily's capture. The way she avoids me these days…it leads me to believe she might have been unfaithful to me recently, or fallen out of love with me. It's just a mess, Padfoot, a bloody mess", he bemoaned, running his hands through his already messy hair.
"What did Isabelle think about that?", asked Sirius.
"She believes Lily needs time to reconcile with whatever she might have gone through during her captivity", said James through clenched teeth. "And she's about to run off with that Granger girl and Septima to god knows where. Nick and Perenelle tell me it is an important mission, something that might take a couple of years to complete. Atleast if she were here-"
"Did you consider putting Lily under evaluation by the Department's Legilimens?", interrupted Sirius.
"Padfoot", said James in an offended tone, "I did it thrice, and all three times she was proclaimed to be fine and loyal. I even asked Elliott and he said he really can't see much concerning Lily, the useless charlatan. I'm beginning to think Croaker's right about Lily. Something is very wrong with her", he said, choking at the end with emotion.
"I'll take care of it, Jamesie", said Sirius quietly, patting his quietly sobbing friend on the back. "I'll take leave from my duties, and watch over her for you. You know very little escapes my gaze", he reassured once more, watching James compose himself eventually. His thoughts wandered briefly to Harry, wondering just what on earth the boy was thinking to reject being propositioned by Septima.
"Thanks, Sirius", said James gratefully and Sirius waved it away. The Potter family certainly kept him on his toes, be it Isabelle or Lily, James or Harry, he thought ruefully. He'd had a lot of fun with Harry the past year, but according to Perenelle, Harry wouldn't be back to the Confederate world for a couple of years.
Things were so much clean fun with you around, Harry, he thought, as he looked at the park opposite their seat. No drama. Just fighting and fun, so simple. Reminded me of the old days every time I fought alongside you, he thought nostalgically. He'd never have gone back to working for the Department, but there was no help for it. With Harry gone he needed to get things done, and the Department was a good place to get started.
But once his Godson returned, he'd bid a hearty goodbye to the Department, and to Crazy Croaker…and never look back. But until then he could help out his old friends in their time of need.
"Greetings, Nicodemus Archleone. The Order of the Blackened Denarius is welcome in the home of Lord Voldemort, whether or not it asks entrance", remarked Voldemort dryly, dusting his black silk robes as he stood up to greet the unexpected guest. The shadows in the Malfoy Library shifted around agitatedly, and writhed for a moment to reveal a pale skinned man standing beside Voldemort.
"Lord Voldemort, I was unaware that you had suddenly become a Malfoy", remarked the leader of the Order of the Blackened Denarius, coolly adjusting his tie. "But I come hither on urgent business. Would you be so kind as to fetch your Prophet for me…what was his name? Alastair?"
Voldemort stood still, looking at the handsome Denarian discerningly, while Armaros whispered in his mind to obey. Glancing once Nicodemus' neck to remind the Denarian leader that he knew certain secrets, Voldemort snapped his fingers to summon Alastair with a crack. There were very few humans he harboured wariness for, and Nicodemus Archleone certainly made that list. Even he was unable to dig up much about the man's past, and Armaros refused to tell him thanks to an ancient pact he had made with Anduriel, the fallen hosted within Nicodemus.
"Sir Archleone. I am not certain if what you have in mind will result in what you expect."
Alastair had appeared, clothed in standard Wizarding robes and seemingly expecting his impromptu summoning. Voldemort knew the Dark Prophet was possibly very close to a perfect seer, certainly better than that bumbling old lecher Elliott that the Department so relied on. Despite everything, Voldemort knew to respect Alastair even during the madness he had been afflicted with during the First War.
"My dear Prophet", Nicodemus was saying silkily. "Do not mind me. I need you to see someone for me. I need the present this time, not the future. I am certain you know who it is."
"Harry Peverell, yes", agreed Alastair expressionlessly, and Voldemort's interest was stoked. "Sir Archleone, I have skimmed around him constantly on Lord Voldemort's command, but there is an odd resistance around his fate. I believe he has come into contact with an agent who I have not encountered before."
"Indeed?", asked Voldemort idly, looking at Nicodemus with a raised eyebrow. "Those Knights are quite good at what they do, but against me they are not really much. It cannot be them who is impeding my Prophet's sight. Do you know who it is, Nicodemus?"
"I have a few ideas, Voldemort", replied Nicodemus dryly. "Now would you press for the vision, Prophet? We have need to know of the boy, he is being so well guarded that no agent of ours can track him. It is as if he has vanished off the face of the earth after his fight with Namshiel."
"Proceed, Alastair", Voldemort urged magnanimously as the Prophet looked at him for assent. The time was not ripe for him to go against Nicodemus, oh no. Armaros only chose the one most evolved, the most adept and powerful magicians of entire generations as a host. Voldemort's Fallen had been known among the Denarian Order as notorious for resurfacing every few centuries, working with a host whose mastery of magic was astounding even to those as ancient as they. That reputation stood between him and Nicodemus like a wall; Anduriel was feared by all the Denarians, but Armaros was an enigma to them. An unknown Fallen with motivations usually held aloof from his brethren was perfectly compatible with Voldemort.
Oh, and knowledge, of course; Voldemort had gained knowledge of magics that had put him a couple of centuries ahead of his schedule. He had become strong enough to go toe to toe with both Flamels at once, and not exert himself overly. He regretted the time where he had lost his path and sanity until destroyed at the Potter house, but now he was back and he saw the world clearly once more.
"How is Lartessa taking dear Namshiel's death, Nicodemus?", he queried lightly, filling the silence as they watched Alastair close his eyes. Nicodemus did not even look at him, instead focusing solely on the concentrating prophet. Voldemort smiled in amusement, and shook his head to dispel pleasant memories of him defeating Nicodemus' wife soundly when they had met several years ago at Marrakesh.
"She is quite annoyed, of course. Now we have to begin the troublesome process of regaining Namshiel's Coin from the Knights; pity, they will be on high alert after what I did before killing Shiro Yoshimo", Nicodemus said with a faint smile, still not looking away from where Alastair stood still. Voldemort opened his mouth to reply, but he observed Alastair shaking ever so slightly.
"Wait. It is most important that he pursues this to the very end", said Nicodemus coldly, stopping Voldemort's rising hand with his own. The Dark Lord said nothing, wrenching his hand away from the repulsive touch of Anduriel's host, who Armaros despised above all else. Of course, he too was curious as to what was causing Alastair's increased shaking. The Dark Prophet's convulsions were increasing in intensity steadily, and a wariness stole over both occupants of the library as a faint nimbus of white light covered Alastair.
"Who could be causing this?", questioned Voldemort curiously, leaning forward slightly to observe the phenomenon. Nicodemus made to reply but before he did, Alastair's eyes shot open, as did his mouth.
Voldemort instantly cast a powerful protective charm around himself as the dank library was filled with light, white light that shot out of the Prophet's gaping mouth and eyes. Alastair's screams echoed off the walls, and Voldemort silenced the room as he watched the phenomenon with a detached interest. The light became almost too intense to bear as it shot out of the Prophet's facial orifices, and faded within the next few seconds.
Silence, deep silence filled the room as Voldemort saw his prophet fall to the ground, twitching. Alastair's eye sockets had been burned out completely, but the prophet was thankfully alive. Perhaps he could be of use still. Voldemort waved his wand at the twitching man on the ground, disguising him with a powerful illusion and sending him to 's for treatment.
"I assume, Nicodemus, that you have something of value equal to Alastair to give me", he suggested coolly.
"Oh, I have something greater, Voldemort", replied the Denarian Leader in an amused tone. "Information that will likely prove a great advantage in our push. In a moment you will feel you could sacrifice not one but a dozen prophets to procure what I have just learned."
"Now I am curious, Nicodemus. You must be dying to tell me this secret", hissed the Dark Lord, involuntarily reaching for the Elder Wand that had been wrested from Albus Dumbledore by his scheme with Cowl. The Wand magnified his spellwork in delightful manners, and lent a finesse and flow that even he found highly addicting and impossible to achieve wandlessly. Algor, he thought menacingly, channeling the simple spell through the Elder Wand, and watched as a supposedly fourth-year temperature control charm covered the room with sharp icicles.
Hundreds of them broke off, and smoothly surrounded a still smiling Nicodemus from all directions. "Do proceed, Nicodemus. What could be so earthshaking as for you and your Fallen to enter my House without invitation, deprive me of my Prophet, and throw it to my face? Surely you know better", said Voldemort with mounting anger, and the thick ice covering the walls shattered in an enormous explosion and the icicles too converged on Nicodemus like arrows from a bow.
"Tell me, then", urged Voldemort, as the storm of ice froze just an inch from a perfectly still Nicodemus.
"Prodigious magic as always, Lord Voldemort. I can see why Thorned Namshiel feared you so. In truth, you have surpassed him and his petty tricks…no, you are something different", said Nicodemus calmly, as if he were having tea, and not a whim away from being skewered into ribbons by a deadly storm of sharp ice. "I need you more than I could use Thorned…he was running with Tessa these days, anyway. This is why I am going to tell you my plan."
"Pray tell, Nicodemus", invited Voldemort mockingly.
Nicodemus began to speak.
"Where are the others? They've left already?", asked Harry, rubbing his eyes as he entered the living area of the small apartment he had been brought into after the fight with Namshiel. The Knights of the Cross, or the "lunatics" as Harry had dubbed them in his mind, had revealed themselves to be infuriatingly idealistic. Though they were all from different nations- Michael from the States, Sanya from Russia and Shiro from Japan of all places…he could see them united by an insane zeal to do their own version of "good" to the world.
Overall, he had again ended up with a very eccentric group of people. Dangerous too, as usual. He found himself regretting the fact that he'd not even bid Susan and the others at Chile goodbye; Spending significant amounts of time with people, sharing life and death with them naturally forged a kind of kinship even he couldn't quite harden himself against.
And you missed ogling Susan, of course. Also one last ogle couldn't hurt could it?, Evolette asked him sardonically. I imagine you could recognise her if you just saw her hips, right?
You'll never let me live that down, will you?, he groaned, closing his eyes. She's just really good to look at and my Occlumency cannot subdue those things for some reason. I can't believe you're happy I left there just because of that one thing, he said with growing incredulity as he peeked discreetly at the tides of her mind. All he got was a disdainful sniff and remark in return.
If you react that way to her, I wonder what you would do if it were me, she said haughtily.
Evolette, stop putting ideas in my head. This whole woman stuff is distracting as it is, he beseeched plainly. It really was; he could focus if really necessary, but most of the time his mind was all over the place when he came across a good looking woman. He hated and liked that tendency at the same time- it drove him wild.
A lot had changed since Vector had made that disarming confession to him, that she wanted to be with him that way. In many ways that had messed up his very clear world-view, and had introduced turmoil that he would rather do without. But he couldn't turn it off no matter how much he wanted to.
Please do not attempt that. That would not be fun, Evolette said lightly, causing him to grimace. Opening his eyes, he looked up at the lone occupant of the house: Yoshimo Shiro, the Knight who bore the sword Esperacchius. Supposedly it was also a divine treasure like his own Sword, the only existing perfect counter to his Totsuka Blade. Last night he had learned from the other Knights that Shiro was the most skilled of all of them.
The man was, as described by Michael, was to swordsmanship as Mozart was to music.
"They have their jobs to do, Harry Potter.", replied the old man, coolly sipping his tea. His sword Esperacchius shone gently on his back to Harry's eyes. "By the way, you seem to have a visitor. I do not quite know how she found you, but found you she did. I will leave you two alone to talk, as she requested", said the Knight, making for the door. Before he reached it however, there was a knock upon it.
"They had gone out for a bit while you lay resting. I think they've returned", Shiro said, swiftly opening the door. Harry saw him nod to the visitors, and quietly make his way out into the corridor. His eyes widened as he beheld the visitors.
Speak of the devil, and the devil shall appear, said Evolette snidely in his mind. Harry ignored her as he saw Susan standing with a small smile at the doorway, with two people behind her. It was a man and a woman to be precise, and the woman looked familiar to him. The man looked familiar too, but only about the eyes.
"Susan. Come in", he found himself saying, alternating his looks between all three of his guests. "How did you find me?", he asked, more to keep talking; the way the couple looked at him was very disarming. It was quite like how their daughter had looked at him when he had gone to rescue her in Mexico those months ago.
"Harry, you didn't even say goodbye. Rashid told me you'd be gone for quite some time", murmured Susan as she hugged him tightly. Harry froze, all the thoughts he'd just had of her and those Evolette put in his head with her insinuations coming to the forefront. A jolt from Evolette caused him to wake from his induced stupor, and he hugged Susan back gently…extremely conscious of her well-endowed body.
Yes, I think its time to let go now. You have been hugging a woman nearly twice as old as you for a little too long, Evolette remarked acerbically. Harry blushed slightly at that, and immediately let go of Susan and stepped back once he realized it was true. "Susan, how did you find me?", he blurted, striving to hide his reactions to her.
She frowned at his strange behaviour, and he saw her nostrils twitch. He saw her stare at his chest, and then at his face. And then she smirked at him in a way that made his pulse quicken, and somehow altered her pose so her features would be enhanced. With his Sharingan, he could acutely see the rise and fall of her bust, her flawless skin's rise and fall, her-
Enough. I will not have my descendant fall for some half-Vampire cougar who is not even interested in him.
Harry reeled as Evolette hit him with a blast of clarity. Evolette, why did you do that? I told you not to interfere with my mind! I told you-
You are just now discovering women, Harry, and I realize that can be a thrill. I have felt it within you at times, said Evolette, cutting into his diatribe. Susan reeks of unrequited love and heartbreak to me, and she merely looks for momentary companionship. I would not have you sink into that web, not with anyone. Trust me when I say you should postpone these things until you are mature enough to deal with it.
Are you saying I'm immature?, challenged Harry.
Yes you are, Harry, she replied bluntly. You do not begin to comprehend all that happens between a man and woman yet; yes, I know you know all about the physical part, she said with a sigh at his protesting thoughts, but there is heartbreak and sadness if you do not find the right person.
I just want to-
Not possible, Evolette said shortly, again cutting through his thoughts. Her being was close to his now, and their communion was deeper than it usually was. I know you think you can have her, and still let her go. But it is impossible for those with the Sharingan. Our passions are powerful, and our eyes record moments with extreme clarity. You will always hold attachment for her if you…
If I what?
If you are going to be with her physically, she finished gently. The people you love will make or break you; that is a weakness and strength of Sharingan users. Susan is a mature, complex woman too. I…just want to protect you from heartbreak that usually results from these kind of dalliances.
There was silence for a while, and Harry was sure Susan was wondering why he stood silent with his eyes closed. How do you know this about the Sharingan?, he asked her softly. I thought they were perfect. I thought they made me the strongest.
Evolette chuckled sadly at his deep disappointment. Sharingan magnifies your personality. Everything is extreme with us; hate, suffering, love, pain…this is why your last year has been so agitated. You feel everything tenfold, especially since your Sharingan is extremely evolved.
No power is free, huh?, he thought whimsically. So I'm eventually going to burn out, then?I can't imagine feeling all this forever, for everyone.
Sheer resolve filled him, an emotion that poured forth from Evolette into his being. You won't burn out, Harry; I won't let you. It is one of the reasons I am within you. I fight the nature of your eyes, and keep the hatred away from you. It is one of the duties Maximus and I took upon ourselves towards the end of the war, after Quintus betrayed me. It is my duty protect the true heir of the Sharingan until he can protect himself.
Tears filled his eyes at the mention of that fact, and the pathos of her waiting for nearly a millennium for him suddenly struck him deeply. The longing for Susan disappeared like smoke in the air, and as he opened his eyes and looked at the half-vampire again, he saw nothing more than a friend he had fought beside. I'd forgotten that. Thanks for reminding me, he said softly to Evolette.
You don't owe me-
I owe you more than I can possibly repay, he told her with feeling, and this time he felt her demure acknowledgement. He felt her soul against his on a fundamental level, and the last dregs of his infatuation were banished. Now let's deal with Hermione's parents, he thought grimly, and looked up at his impatiently waiting guests. He raised his hand, and wordlessly spoke the Patronus charm, sending the bright stag galloping away in a blink of an eye.
"Sorry for spacing out", he told them, "I was just resolving something. Well Susan?"
"I am very familiar with your smell, Harry. I was here to check on Alex and Sarah anyway; When Rashid told me you would be gone for some time, I couldn't let you leave without fulfilling my my promise to you. You asked for the Grangers to be delivered to you, and now you have them", Susan said, indicating the Granger couple who were still standing quietly, their eyes never leaving him.
"Thank you for coming, Mr. and ", Harry greeted them quietly, with a short bow. Alex Granger scoffed.
"Potter, my family has been dancing to your whims for quite some time now. Don't pretend to be all courteous and caring, not after what you caused to fall upon us. We've fallen to evil only thanks to you", said the man, adjusting his suit. Sarah Granger said nothing, only calming her husband with a hand to his shoulder. The apartment was of a tense atmosphere, and Harry knew he was accountable for what befell the Grangers at least in some part.
Harry grimaced when called 'Potter', and just caught himself short of correcting their mistake. But first things first: "Susan, where do I send you back?", he asked her. The attractive half-vampire looked at the tired and bitter couple, and then at Harry.
"Back to the house, Harry. We'll move soon enough; The Red Court is vacating that area as well. We're going to follow them", Susan said lightly. "Take care, Alex. Sarah", she told the Grangers with feeling, and hugged them before turning to Harry.
"Take care, Harry."
"You too, Susan."
The air spiralled and twisted about Susan as Harry utilised the Kamui to send her back home. Half vampire or no, she is pleasant on the eyes, he grumbled to Evolette, before turning to Hermione's parents.
"I do not know if you are aware of your daughter's status, Mr. and ", he began, intending to give them the news straight. Bad news was just bad, and sugarcoating it felt like a complete waste of time to him. He saw them perk up at the mention of Hermione, and sighed. By their reactions it was apparent that they did not know. A spark of anger was lit in his mind as he realized they had essentially abandoned their daughter for whatever miseries they were undergoing.
They had more cause than his own parents, but it still rubbed him the wrong way.
"Your daughter was nearly driven mad by what happened to you, Mr. and . She joined a secret division of the Ministry, called the Department of Mysteries, where she was trained as an operative. Then, she went on to participate in the war against the Red Court", he continued speaking oblivious to their growing horror, "where after a series of unfortunate events, she was converted to a half-vampire as well. There you go."
The silence was deafening.
Very well put. I'd kill you if you said that to me about my children, Evolette told him.
I do not like parents who abandon their children, for whatever reason, he replied grimly. His mastery over the Sharingan had advanced considerably over the months, and he almost saw a shadow of Alex Granger moving towards him with considerable speed before it even desk behind him shattered as Alex unsheathed a curved sword from within his voluminous cloak, and brought it down to cleave Harry into two.
"I can see Hermione gets her rational mind from you, ", Harry said politely to the woman, who was standing still with a hand over her face. "Mr. Granger, please stop. You really can't hurt me with such things", he said even more politely to the crazed man, who was swinging wildly at him with the sword. Every swing seemed to pass through him as if cleaving through air, and his Eternal Mangekyo shone red as he utilised his Kamui.
"It's your fault, Potter!"
Hm. He's picked up a few things. I can play for a bit, thought Harry curiously as the man pivoted into the air, twisted and brought the sword down with enough force to cleave him in half. "Inanimatus Conjurus", he said coolly, conjuring a silver sword out of thin air. Sparks rained down on the floor as the two swords met, and Harry's knees buckled slightly as he felt the man's superior strength bear down on him.
This is pointless, sighed Evolette.
No. Words are useless. He needs to vent. I know quite a bit about loss that comes out as rage, thought Harry with a touch of sadness as he observed the man rush at him madly. It was only the Sharingan's predictive capabilities that kept him safe from the man's extremely fast swings and thrusts, and the apartment rang loudly with the occasional clash of the blades.
I imagine you do. The Knight is observing you,likely evaluating your reflexes and skills, Evolette remarked as she recognised Shiro Yoshimo looking impassively at the skirmish unfolding in the apartment.
Harry glanced once at the Knight, who nodded imperceptibly at him. Turning back to his opponent, he blocked a series of rapid strikes without moving an inch from his stance, and bent backwards fluidly to evade a thrust that would have skewered his face. You have become quite athletic, Evolette's voice said lightly as he executed a backflip to kick the sword out of Alex Granger's hand.
Running around American forests fighting vampires does that to you, replied Harry as he landed perfectly on one knee. Before he was set upon by the enraged Granger with bare hands, he used one of the spells Vector had taught him. "Glacio", he whispered, and the air around his opponent hardened to stop him dead in his tracks.
"Magic. You wizards, you are curses upon this world!", yelled Alex Granger as he struggled to walk free.
"Maybe. But I asked Susan to bring you to me so I could reunite you with your daughter. I don't like the kind of parenting you are doing right now, Mr. and ; I know you thought you were keeping your daughter safe by running away, but Hermione does not need to be protected from what besets you now", he said calmly.
"Because she is a Vampire herself? What are we, the Vampire family?", came the sardonic voice of Sarah Granger, but her eyes were filled with deep sorrow.
"No", replied Harry with a lopsided smile. "You are a half-Vampire family, soon to be near zero-Vampire thanks to me. Shiro, I know you said we would be leaving for Italy as soon as we could but I have a few final loose ends to tie."
"Please do, Harry", said Shiro gravely. "You must not go away on a long trip without a proper goodbye. , ", he nodded courteously to them. The Grangers did not quite know what to make of the old Knight, and simply nodded in return, Alex still seething at Harry.
"Let's go, then", Harry said, moving towards the couple who suddenly became very wary. "Oh please. I'm just taking you to Hermione, apparently she's leaving to the other realm in a few days with my sister and the others. You'll want to meet with her before she comes back as an adult", he said gravely, closing the distance between them and grasping their shoulders. Alex looked like he would like nothing more than to thrust the sword in his left hand right into Harry's chest, and be done with the entire matter.
Sarah just watched him with that intent stare he knew so well from her daughter.
"I don't believe we should meet with her just yet", she said in a downcast tone. "I…wouldn't be pleased with my mother if what happened to Hermione had happened to me. Perhaps she should go on that journey you mentioned; maybe it will give us all time to put things in perspective."
"Don't be stupid, ", said Harry with a snort. Of course, a large part of him wanted to see Hermione reunited with her parents. So what if their reunion were to be less than ideal? At least they'd be together and moving towards a better place. It was the least he could do for his best friend. "And don't look at me like that, . You have no idea how little you can do to hurt me", he admonished at the murderous look he was receiving from the male Granger.
"Enough talk. We're going right now to get you back with your daughter", announced Harry firmly, cutting through Sarah's impending talk. Without further ado, he warped space by the power of his eyes and caused his fathomless black reality to swallow them up.
"Neville, are you alright?"
"Oh, Hermione. Hi", said Neville listlessly, as he sat before three beds assembled in some haste for its unconscious occupants. "Lily said they'd be fine, they only got hit really bad by the Vampires. But it was too late for Hestia, they literally tore her apart", he said, hanging his head. The young man seemed moved to tears as Hermione moved cautiously towards him.
She didn't really know who Hestia Jones was, but anyone dying at the Vampires' hands filled her with a terrible anger. But it appeared Neville's rage far overshadowed hers; since gaining the cursed half-Vampire's instincts, she had developed a feel for magic she did not possess before. And those instincts told her Neville was giving magic off just the way the sun gave off heat. It was like being in the presence of Flamels, or Harry for that matter.
She could almost swear that his eyes flashed gold as he looked wildly at her.
"She used to babysit me. I knew her very well. She was almost like an aunt to me….I'm going to destroy them", he said from between clenched teeth. "They killed her right in front of me. I'll kill them all!", he swore, and the air around him warped somewhat and the magic in the air almost became tangible for an instant. It was the kind of righteous rage she'd seen in Harry, before he was broken at Azkaban. She felt a kinship with Neville at that moment- the Red Court had taken something from both of them, and left them to suffer in the wake of their malice.
"After we finish with the Summer Queen, Neville", she said quietly, surprising herself by moving to hug him; it had been ages since she'd done something that normal. Neville looked quite bewildered by the gesture before he slowly responded by putting his arms around her. They stayed so for quite some time, Hermione just lost in the simple comfort of a human touch. The last anyone had hugged her had been her mother; a wave of sorrow ran through her as she remembered her lost parent and she hung on tighter to Neville, who responded with equal fervour.
"Sorry to interrupt, Hermione, but I hardly think your parents want to see you in this kind of action", said a dry voice from behind her. She squeaked and leapt off Neville as if he were a statue of hot iron, blushing profusely as she turned. Neville was most intently looking down at his shoes, only sneaking a glance at Harry and his companions. Hermione opened her mouth to berate Harry, but froze as she saw the ones standing behind him.
"Mum?D-dad?", she stuttered, her hands shaking involuntarily. "Harry? How did you-"
"It doesn't matter, Hermione. They're with you again", said Harry, and she thought she saw a trace of sorrow in his eyes as she stopped listening to him and just hurtled into her parents' arms. Oddly enough, she spied the same spike of sorrow in Neville's expression as he moved away towards the door. She only barely heard Harry as he continued speaking to her, as most of her melancholia fled to be replaced with a deep joy.
"I wanted to see you all one last time before I make my final goodbyes for the next two years. Mrs. and are also invited provided I do not get attacked by a sword", he remarked wryly, and Hermione felt her father wince guiltily at that. She put two and two together, and took a good look at her long lost parents again: and her eyes narrowed…they had been through a great deal as well, it seemed. They had obviously been through as much as her, and her father was wearing a curved sword of all things on his back. They looked fit, and ready for combat as herself.
But they were back.
"Hermione dear, we really need to talk without your obviously well-meaning friend staring over us", said Sarah Granger, looking pointedly at Harry. Hermione looked apologetically at Harry, and nodded; she couldn't wait to be alone with her parents again. Thanks, she mouthed to him with all the feeling she could put behind the word, and the smile she got in return made her see the old, innocent Harry again.
"I'll see you around then, Hermione. I do have some other people to see", said Harry, and disappeared in that twisted apparition that had become his signature. She tentatively disengaged from her parents' fierce hugs, and stepped back to face them. Her mind flashed back to her first day at Diagon Alley, and rushed back to the present, almost dizzy at the utter craziness that had befallen them all in just four years.
"You're right, Mum", she said, conjuring chairs and a table with a muttered spell and wave of her wand. Her instinct for magic had grown tremendously under the Department's conditioning, and Isabelle's mentorship…and the many months of war and death. They had all changed irrevocably, as much as Harry had in certain ways. She shielded the room with multiple privacy spells, and one against eavesdropping.
Her parents looked impressed as the light of the spells flashed around them, bathing the room in a pretty display that had almost become second nature to her over the months. She met their eyes, summoning all the resolve she had learned over the months.
"We really need to talk."
I am sorry you cannot have what she has at the moment, Harry.
Me too, replied Harry after a moment's pause, as he appeared in a rather quaint French beach. Nice place, he observed, his mood becoming decidedly sunnier as he walked the sun-kissed beach. The sea, a crystal clear blue in color, extended to the horizon, and even he took a moment to stare at it. It wasn't as if he had been to too many beaches in his past. But his attention was soon diverted to the several people lounging around everywhere.
To be precise, it was diverted to their state of dress or rather, state of undress.
Did I or did I not tell you of the lofty purpose of those eyes of yours?
Yeah, Evolette. Yes you did. Several times actually, said Harry in an increasingly dazed voice as he switched to Eternal Mangekyo to observe the world in immense detail. It was the very first time he had seen women in such scanty attire…why, one rather buxom beauty was lounging beneath an umbrella, her ample chest bare to the world as she read some obscure Muggle book. Harry gazed at her, transfixed by the flawless skin and alluring proportion she exhibited.
I love France, he declared in that same dazed voice as he looked around to see many in the same state as the buxom woman. I think it's called sunbathing, Dudley was talking to his stupid friends about it. Isabelle can wait, he thought, his eyes going round as the same buxom and topless woman stood, and began walking towards the sea in what was decidedly the most distracting manner ever.
Wow. France. Just…wow, he thought, his eyes glued to her tanned skin, and the interesting way hers hips juggled as she walked. Where was this place all this time? Why didn't I ever-
"Harry, your invisibility spell is frayed at the edges. It's really bad when your attention strays", came a singsong voice from behind him. Harry whirled hurriedly to face Isabelle who was smiling quite wickedly at him. She stood in simple white sweatpants and a T shirt, looking so very muggle that he looked twice. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets as she stepped forward and hugged him gently.
"I didn't know you were coming to visit, brother", she said with a smile as she looked up at him.
"I…wanted to meet with you before I left. And you're all leaving too", he said, disarmed somewhat by the hug. He still wasn't quite used to such things, and in the back of his mind he knew he hadn't quite comprehended the import of having a sister, a sibling. Isabelle was mostly an unknown to him and he thought of her as such. But when he actually faced her the truth of actually having a sibling, a sister who shared his blood hit him so hard it left him somewhat unable to react. His emotions regarding his sister was in a constant flux, stirred even more since he had reconciled with her. He just preferred to shove thoughts of her to the background, where they could stay without causing him to lose focus.
"Yes, we're almost ready to step into the Nevernever", said Isabelle, grabbing his hand and apparating them both to a restaurant some distance away from the shore. "Nicholas has just finished teaching us what he could about the customs and nature of the Summer Court. We are nearly ready", she told him, beckoning for him to sit.
"Right, good for you", said Harry, vaguely curious about the Summer Queen's realm. Evolette had told him the Fae realms were otherworldly and spiritual as nothing he had ever seen before, but he felt no great curiosity to see them. Most of his attention was focused on one thing and one thing only: ascending to the Rinnegan. The knowledge Ivy had given him about its power had made it certain in his mind that the Rinnegan was for him…almost as if he were born to possess it. Everything else but those eyes had become second thoughts, irrelevant thoughts.
The Summer Realm was all but unnecessary to him now that he possessed a microcosm of Titania's lifeforce. Snape is too slippery, there is no way tracking spells I know will work on him…he taught me most of them, he thought, staring at the blue sea while sitting by his sister's side. Evolette, are you sure Shiro's offer is beneficial? I mean, what good will swordsmanship do in the kind of battles I intend to fight? I need-
He wishes to teach you a way of thinking, an attitude, not swordsmanship itself; it will help you acquit yourself to any situation with calmness and fortitude. I know it was hard to listen to me regarding accepting the Knight's offer but you will see the truth of my words soon enough, Evolette replied with certainty. The sword is just a medium, Harry…the Knights are so dangerous in battle not because of those supernatural blades of theirs. They think in a manner that simply cannot be matched by their adversaries.
Yes, you told me about their so-called faith, thought Harry derisively. Sanya is an atheist so how can he have faith?
Faith does not have to be to some particular religious entity, Harry. It is a way of confidence, of self-belief, of being at peace with oneself…I know it sounds quite vague and imprecise, but you will know when you have attained it. I have a feeling you will be far different after your dealings with Rashid are over, she conjectured from far within his mind.
"So how's everyone at home, Isabelle?", he asked lightly, wanting to take his mind off the mystery surrounding Rashid. "Well?", he repeated, looking up at Isabelle who looked slightly taken aback.
"Uh, Father and Sirius are hunting around Britain along with the rest of the order, trying to fight off whatever Voldemort is slowly throwing at them. Mother is off doing whatever she does these days, teaching Neville healing and stuff like that. She seems pretty changed after Snape took her though", she confided, worriedly staring at Harry as if he were about to explode and take the entire beach with him.
"Don't look at me like that, Isabelle", said Harry with a laugh. "I'm really over all that stuff, I don't care too much about them anymore. My problems and aims are far larger than them; Voldemort's apparently out for my head with more enthusiasm than usual, especially after I killed his buddy. And the Order of the Blackened Denarius has also developed a burning interest in me. God only knows what Maeve and Snape are cooking up…good thing I'll be going off the map in a day or so", he remarked distantly, the wind blowing soothingly all around them. It was quite the relaxing place, he thought, once he got past all the distractions it offered.
"Don't forget the Vampires, Harry. Most of the Vampires of all courts want to suck the blood right out of you. Dropping a meteor on an army of them might have had something to do with that", she added wryly after a moment of silence at his diatribe.
"I know. They're all out for my eyes. Bastards, the lot of them. Atleast Dumbledore is out of the equation", grinned Harry.
"I think Professor Flamel killed him. One day he was stable, and the other day he was dead after they visited", said Isabelle quietly.
That brought Harry up short. This was somewhat unexpected to him; after Dumbledore's self-righteous harangues, he had never expected someone on the side of 'the Light' could be so practically ruthless. Uncle Nicholas used to be one of our group, a General of the Confederate Wizards. He is someone who will do anything to win, Harry…always remember that. Not evil, precisely, but he can make the hardest of decisions without losing focus, advised Evolette.
I can't imagine thinking like that for centuries on end, thought Harry, the very concept wearying him just by thinking about it. He wondered why the Flamels wanted to lived so long; the world was hardly a place one would want to live in forever. He turned his mind away from such dangerous thoughts before Evolette could zero-in on them, and looked at Isabelle.
"Isabelle, can you help me find someone…a friend of yours. I owe her an apology, long overdue."
"Who?", she asked, her eyes narrowing at his question.
it's alright, Harry. We have far too many enemies as it is. If you can avoid making more, let us by all means try. This is the right thing to do, Evolette encouraged him. He took a deep breath, and stared at his sister whose expression was changing to one of mistrust and anger it used to be during the early days of their association.
"Fleur Delacour. I need to put as many things right as I can before I leave."
"Meeting with a number of hooded people isn't my idea of a good time, Ebenezar", grumbled Nicholas Flamel as he stepped into the ornate victorian room he had always liked a great deal, but he sadly had no idea of where it was located. He always meant to find out but the Raw Wizards kept blocking him out. He'd been coming to this room ever since Maximus Peverell, his nephew, had formed the first gathering. In his mind he'd just called it 'the gathering'…for that was what it was. Maximus had formed a cabal of extremely influential wizards on both sides of the fence, to co-operate when strife and war tore the two sides of Wizarding legacy apart.
"Nicholas, old man, this wouldn't be much fun without our oldest member. I only wish your lovely wife were here too, and not cleaning up what is left after your descendant's battle with Namshiel", said Ebenezar McCoy in a jolly voice, and Nicholas could almost imagine the man's moustache swinging with his laughter beneath that hood. He tugged at his own hood, annoyed by the need to wear it. The cloaks the members of the gathering wore were highly enchanted, thousands of years ago by Godric Gryffindor.
The sixteen original members had passed it down as a legacy to the newer ones. There were likely no better wards against magical espionage than those that were imbued into their grey cloaks. Wearing the hood made them invisible to most wizards, even the Merlin himself if he looked. We do need our creature comforts, he thought with a smirk, as he sat himself upon a very comfortable gilded chair at the long table.
"Alright, screw the formalities", said Ebenezar, standing up abruptly from his seat at the head of the long table. "We all know why we're here despite meeting after so long. No, we aren't going to reveal our identities to each other. Only Nicholas and I will know all that, for our own safety", he said to the hooded figure that had risen up hopefully.
"Yes", said Nicholas with a touch of smugness as the hopeful fellow sat back down with apparent dejection. He had tried to keep this council alive as much as possible, as it was his old apprentice Maximus' legacy. But he got bored with it after a couple of centuries, and left the governing of it to his Raw Wizarding counterpart and only attended the occasional meeting. Since Ebenezar was the leader now, it was mostly he who was Nicholas and Perenelle's interface to the Gathering.
"Well, what possessed you to call this meeting now of all times, Flamel? The Merlin isn't amused by how things are turning out, and he'll need extra careful handling now", said another hooded figure a few seats to his right.
"Langtry can get his beard in a knot for all I care", said Nicholas derisively, leaning forward to stare the speaker in the hood. Ebenezar snorted in amusement at that. "My concerns are a little more pressing. I'm sending some children into the Fae Realms and hoping they come back as adults. We're going to induct them, and give them the three cloaks of the members we have lost over the years…may they rest in peace."
There was complete silence in the hall.
"Surely you're joking, Flamel."
"Only getting started", said Nicholas with a small grin at the speaker. "Now then, what do all of you know of the fellow that's masquerading as Rashid?"
"Who's to say he's not one of us here?", came the same disgruntled voice.
"Oh, he's not here", said Ebenezar grimly. "He wouldn't join us for the sake of his blasted neutrality. Anyway, I for one know little about this phenomenon you told us about. Who in the world would want to run around as Rashid? What have been this impostor's primary actions, and interactions?"
"He's mostly been moving Harry Peverell around. Nothing too outrageous, actually; in fact things the boy is actually very well off doing", admitted Nicholas. That had galled him a great deal. "The original Rashid was the who made the deal with my descendant. But this impostor is moving around leading Harry into extremely dangerous situations, like the fight with Thorned Namshiel and innumerable fights with Vampires. Even Perenelle couldn't tell this fellow apart from the real Gatekeeper."
"So, there is no telling who this person is and what other guises he can take", mused another deep voice. "Can the boy's Sharingan not see through the deception? I thought those eyes conferred a form of the Third Sight upon the user?"
"Yes they do, and he obviously cannot see through the impostor, you moron", said Ebenezar irritably to the speaker, who was situated to Nicholas's left. A few snorts and chuckles filled the room, and Nicholas laughed openly. The speaker bristled.
"Laugh while you can, Ebenezar. While I have no doubt we can Soulgaze the impostor or use the Sight, the confederates have no such ability. They will have to rely on instinct which makes the boy a large target for skilled impostering", said the annoyed Raw Wizard. Nicholas coughed audibly redirecting the attention to himself.
"The Sharingan is as powerful as our Third Sight. If the impostor can avoid being seen to that finesse, and control his being so perfectly…we can safely assume he is not human. It is simply impossible for a human to change their substance so perfectly. Not even Myrddin Emrys could do such a thing", he declared, and several of the assembled members nodded with gravitas at his statement. To hide from the Third Sight was something remarkable, something extraordinary.
It meant changing the very nature of the fundamental energies of the being, and was far beyond the gross Transfigurations achieved by the Wand wielders. And it scared Nicholas somewhat that an entity capable of such a thing was running around, and manipulating Harry so effortlessly. Not that he objected to the boy training under the Knights of the Cross, but the concept of such a being taking a hand in events made him highly uncomfortable. A variable that made things all the more complicated.
"But if that's true, we are probably dealing with something on at least the scale of the Winter Queen", another hooded man was saying. "If such an entity is directly taking a hand in matters, we have a problem. This being is most likely involving itself after clearing all the considerable strictures and restrictions upon beings of that scale. That is a good place to start deducing its identity."
"Yes", Nicholas smiled. "The impostor's only known interactions have been with Harry Peverell, there may be more but my instinct says no. Obviously its interest is in the Sharingan. I'll be asking my new operatives to the Summer Fae realm to ask Titania about this matter, from us."
"Titania won't talk", said Ebenezar gruffly. "We all know whatever's involved here is beyond even her; even she cannot change what makes her. A Sharingan user is deeply sensitive to magic Fae or otherwise; no, the subject isn't using magic as we know it. It's something else, something I cannot quite understand. It's like it is…manipulating reality itself. Pulling that which makes all this", he indicated the world in general, "and weaving it into patterns in ways I cannot comprehend. That is the only theory I have: the Third Sight sees a good deal of reality; to hide yourself or manipulate how you are seen by the Sight you need to manipulate the fabric of reality itself."
"Even we cannot fight that", remarked a dry voice directly opposite Nicholas at the table. "This agent is taking no pains to hide its trails, as if it is unconcerned of its deception being uncovered. Which makes sense considering what we know of it. It is likely we are permitted to deduce its identity."
"Permitted?", asked Nicholas with a raised brow.
"Yes Flamel. From the communiques you sent us, all this mysterious agent has done is send Peverell around on rescue missions and joining him up with those ridiculous Knights. Hardly the work of a malicious entity…beings of such stature rarely use deception when they directly get involved. They don't need to", said the hooded Wizard gravely.
"He is right, Nicholas", said Ebenezar with furrowed brows. "What else can you tell us about this thing?"
"Elliott tells me Alastair attempted to see Harry, and literally got his eyes burned out. Elliott can't feel Alastair's other sight upon the tides of time for now. It's as if he is gone for the moment", Nicholas replied with a grin. That was especially welcome news; the Dark Prophet had long been a thorn in their sides. To have him neutralised at literally no cost to them was a stroke of good fortune he wasn't going to question.
Apparently, Ebenezar and the others didn't quite share his opinion. Of the dozen Wizards present, the one opposite Nicholas and Ebenezar himself sucked in deep breaths while the others remained silent.
"Nicky, we have a huge problem", said Ebenezar softly, and the opposite Wizard nodded.
"How so?", asked Nicholas, leaning forward with growing seriousness.
"Have you read religious histories, texts?"
Nicholas snorted with contempt. "I stay away from all that nonsense. It brings a whole world of trouble with it, Ebenezar. The total number of times I've gone to Jerusalem has been exactly once; to talk with King Salahuddin about his annoying general who was having too much fun during the crusades", he said.
The silence in the room was resounding.
"What?", he asked the Wizards in a nonplussed voice.
"You really need to stop throwing your age around like that Nicholas. You make us feel like young boys", said Ebenezar pseudo seriously. "Anyway, the Prophet's eyes burning out was a sign of just who it is who has taken a hand in matters. How much do you know about the Archangels?"
This time, there was no silence. The room exploded into excited and impassioned speech, all of them except Nicholas, Ebenezar and the knowledgeable hooded Wizard opposite them were shouting incoherently at everyone else. Nicholas sat stunned, and his hand slowly came up to cover the desperate look on his face. It was one thing to stand against Voldemort and his Denarian cronies, the Fae, the Vampires…he and Perenelle had done all of that before and come out unscathed. But opposing them was impossible.
It was as good as an ant trying to move a mountain, as a fly trying to outpace a Dragon.
"Are you saying that floozy Alastair saw one of the Archangels?", he asked the two calm Wizards before him. The rest were arguing with each other, but Nicholas didn't care if they set fire to the place. Ebenezar opened his mouth to argue, but the other Wizard cut in.
"Oh no", he said with a shake of his head. "If that had happened, the Dark prophet would have likely exploded in a blaze of heavenly light that would have destroyed everything in a considerable range around him. One could wish that was what would have happened…but we can be sure it is not the Archangels themselves who are directly involved", he said with certainty.
"Their subordinates?",asked Nicholas, promise relief creeping upon him, but still wary of a negative answer. If someone had changed the rules and let the Archangels or equivalent beings have a free hand for any amount of time, there was nothing anyone could do.
"One of their allies", Ebenezar corrected, and Nicholas let out an explosive breath of relief. He knew the others understood; the Angels themselves were beings beyond the comprehension of men. The Archangels however were not to be trifled with; he was certain even the Father of Lies and his Fallen would tread extremely carefully when it came to those beings. This was quickly getting far too dangerous.
"This burning out of the vision of errant and Dark Prophets who dared to gaze upon him was the signature of the of one Archangel and one only", came the voice of the one opposite Nicholas. "I have researched this topic deeply as you well know, Nicholas, Ebenezar. It is why I am on this council; no one knows more of this than I."
"Who?", asked Nicholas, creating a bubble of silence around them to materialise. The hollering of the excited wizards was getting ridiculous and annoying to him, and he had the weirdest desire to laugh as they waved about in those hooded cloaks. It was surreal, sitting here and hearing just who had entered late to gatecrash what had mostly been a party of humans and at times the Sidhe.
"Archangel Michael, the Prince of the Heavenly Host, and the First Son of the Almighty. He never involves himself in this manner, ever; the last was during the coming of the Christ himself so he could retrieve the nails of Crucifixion to create the three Swords the Knights wield today…more than two millennia ago. Whatever prompted him to do this is…he wanted all to know just who was taking a hand in Harry Peverell's safety."
"Michael?", asked Nicholas, his hands shaking.
"Michael", confirmed Ebenezar. "But there is good news. From what you tell me, your descendant is being protected not just by the Knights, but by the Prince of the Host's interest. There is no way he can be taken, not by anyone. He is safe."
"What?", asked Nicholas crossly of the knowledgeable opposite-seated Wizard, wishing he could just do away with all this hood nonsense. Not for the first time, he cursed Godric Gryffindor's stupid dress sense. A ring would have done well, but no it had to be those hooded cloaks he so liked. Idiot, he thought of the ancient Founder, and looked back up.
"I wonder who or what caused the Prince to involve like this with the boy. Did your family have any dealings with angels, Flamel?"
The two of them looked curiously at him, and he just shook his head dumbly. He needed to speak with Perenelle as soon as possible…no, he needed to get those children into the Nevernever first. He looked at Ebenezar, then other fellow, and all around at the still agitated Raw Wizards.
"No", he said with a forced smile. "None at all."
"Are you really sure you want to do this, Harry?", asked Isabelle gravely as they apparated into a large estate with rolling meadows. Harry noted that they had appeared right into the estate, meaning the Delacour family considered Isabelle quite trustworthy. Hm, a great deal like the Potter house, this one, he thought, looking at the white castle-like structure that stood in solitary magnificence amongst the meadows.
"Oh, I'm sure. What I did to her was evil", he muttered, grimacing at the thought of what he had forced the two young women to endure at his hands. True, he was quite out of his mind during his fourth year when he had extorted training from Isabelle…but it had still been him. A delicate hand on his shoulder stopped him as he sought to quicken his pace, and he turned around to face his sister.
"It wasn't evil, Harry. You were just lashing out at everything; it was more than understandable after everything you were put through", she told him firmly.
A disbelieving snort was his only answer; the time after Azkaban was slowly coming back to him in a different perspective, a less damned perspective and he found himself getting increasingly horrified by some of his own actions. I must go apologize to Fawkes after, he thought, closing his eyes at the thought of hurting something so pure just to get back at Dumbledore. Only now was he beginning to realized just how deeply the multiple betrayals at and after Azkaban had broken him, and in how many ways they had done so.
But you cannot deny that that path, though distasteful in the extreme, has brought you to a point where you can hold your own with Thorned Namshiel or even Voldemort, Evolette commented, her emotions not quite visible. That too all in the space of a couple of years. Your growth has been nothing less than phenomenal, Harry Peverell. The hate and suffering did their job very well. But it will take something else to mend the evil you wrought during that time.
Harry sighed, agreeing with that. For the first time in his life, he felt a shred of pity for the depths of depravity Dumbledore must have sunk to betray an innocent child so thoroughly.
"I'm not going to argue with you Isabelle. I don't regret what I said and did to Dumbledore or our parents, not in the slightest; but I do regret for the innocents that were caught up in my hate", he said in a somewhat downcast voice. He looked up to see her smiling wistfully and proudly at the same time, looking at him as if she actually knew him, as if they had not been separated all these years. He suddenly found himself the subject of another fierce hug by his older sister, and this time he had the presence of mind to return it.
"You're so strong, Harry", she whispered, and he knew she was not talking about strength in magic or battle. "I cannot imagine being strong enough to be destroyed like you were, and then put myself back together like you have. How do you even live with all the suffering?", she asked him as he gently stepped out of their hug. He could see her desperate curiosity to know him more, but he wouldn't give Evolette away no matter what.
"I just…do", he replied lamely. Avoiding the disbelieving stare he received, he began moving across the rolling meadows of the large estate they had appeared in. She seemed to sense his reluctance to discuss the topic, and just followed him silently. It's curious, why it had to be just you with the Sharingan. Maximus and I both awakened it. There is no reason why your sister didn't awaken it same as you, Evolette remarked idly as they got closer to the Delacours' residence.
She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth?, Harry asked a touch snidely, the resentment for his sister's freedom to make her own choices rearing briefly. Evolette did not reply, and they soon came upon the large glass doors to the mansion, which upon closer inspection had a much more modern feel to it than the typical wizarding Chateau. It was not unlike one of the posh hotels he had once visited as a child, one of the only times Vernon had allowed him to accompany them on a Dursley money-splurge.
"Shouldn't we knock?", asked Harry impatiently, after standing side by side with Isabelle in front of the manor's door.
"We most certainly should not", said Isabelle shaking her head. "My disillusionment charm over us will break if we did, leading to the entire Delacour family bearing down upon us. Fleur's family was quite upset when they pried out of her the reason for her distress during the tournament. You are quite lucky they did not send paid assassins against you", she told him gravely.
Harry couldn't meet her gaze; the evil he had wrought at the beginning shamed him deeply. "What made them decide not to?", he asked with morbid curiosity. Isabelle opened her mouth as if to answer, but another familiar voice cut in.
"That would be me, Harry Potter."
"I'll be leaving now, Harry. You must do this yourself", said Isabelle softly to him, as they turned about to face Fleur Delacour. She nodded solemnly to her friend, who nodded back with equal gravity. Harry watched as his sister disapparated, and turned back to Fleur with no little apprehension. It was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life; he could not look into her eyes, even looking at her face caused in him a mixture of emotions that was almost physically painful.
"Why?", he managed to ask, his throat dry as she approached him. "I almost destroyed your sanity for no reason. You should have-"
"Done nothing. We both know that most hired wands would not be of much use against you", she finished his sentence. She observed him critically, and Harry almost reverted to his normal perception as he observed her reactions in its minute scale. No matter how she behaved, he could divine the truth: she was still very afraid of him, and what he could do to her. He saw it in the minor twitches of her hands, shaking too small to be seen normally. Her heart beat faster and her breathing was accelerated. Her magic was flared, ready to do battle.
They remained in silence, standing opposite each other as Harry tried to find words to explain himself. She seemed content to wait as he stared at the floor, trying to articulate his thoughts. What do I say now, Evolette? There is no apology I can give, nor is there an excuse for my actions, he thought heavily. Evolette did not reply, closing herself off from his mind as if she was afraid to interfere.
"You can…hurt me if you want", he mumbled finally to Fleur, clenching his fists tight enough to draw blood where his nails pierced skin. "You can do to me what I did to you: I will hand you over control of my illusory world for the duration I held you there", he offered, hating himself for potentially putting himself in the power of another. Someone who would gladly hurt him again, cause him great suffering as vengeance. Perhaps I am still not sane. Perhaps I am a masochist as Vector said, he thought whimsically, as he finally dared to look up at Fleur Delacour.
Her face was hard, and her eyes cold. She stepped close to him, looking him directly in the eyes; he saw sheer rage in her countenance as she whispered in his ear, "Do it".
Watch over me, he muttered to Evolette, knowing she heard even if he got no reply.
They faced each other in the world of racing red and white, the intrinsic glow of the world casting pale shadows of them on the ground. Complete fear overtook him as he beheld Fleur staring impassively at him, and that fear escalated as the world did not respond to his emotion. He had given the control up to her for now, and they both knew it.
Being at the receiving end of his most powerful illusion made him so afraid that he was almost petrified. He tried to master the fear, but it was not possible. He knew what torment he could be consigned to here…there was no limit. Azkaban was nothing compared to what could be done in this merciless world.
"So this is how you feel, with an entire world of the mind at your fingertips", said Fleur in an unreadable voce. Harry's hands shook badly and she appeared in front of him; simultaneously, he felt a force pull up his hands roughly and a moment later he was shackled to a post that had appeared from nowhere.
"Do to you what you did to me, you say?", she said from behind him. Harry closed his eyes, preparing for the pain as he saw hundreds of very sharp longswords materialize all around them. No doubt he would take days to recover from this torture.
"Yes", he replied softly to her. "I know you were hurt by me. I know how torment feels. If that burden becomes lighter by doing this", he said, staring at a sword that had aligned itself perfectly with his heart, "then do so."
The sword shot forwards.
Harry opened his eyes, gasping out heavy breaths as his vision swam. Why did you interfere?, he demanded of Evolette. One moment, he was preparing to be torn to shreds in his own illusion and the next moment, said illusion was clumsily shattered. I needed to do this, Evolette. I needed to-
You surprised even me with that offer, Harry. I would have interfered, of course, before the girl even nicked you with your own illusion- but it was not me. It was she who relinquished the control you gave her, Evolette told him distantly. As his vision swam back into focus, he saw Fleur staring steadily at him. He was not standing anymore, instead sitting on a very comfortable leather chair.
"I forgive you. I forgave you the very night you held me in the illusion, when Isabelle told me what happened to you after your third year. If I could siphon away some of the pain you felt then, I am glad I did so", said Fleur softly.
Harry's head snapped up to face her. "W-what?", he stammered, not quite believing what he had heard. Evolette's astonishment was palpable also, and it nearly bordered on a contemptuous derision for the Delacour.
"I…may not have your legendary ocular powers, but I am gifted in my own way", she said, never taking her eyes off his. "Veela feed off emotion, and I am part Veela. Every dozen generations or so, some Veela or their descendants emerge with an unnatural predilection towards the pool of emotions. They are what certain texts label "empathic", and I am one such."
"What?", repeated Harry again, too much in turmoil to say much else. He knew she spoke no lie thanks to close scrutiny with the Mangekyo.
"I understand you", she said. "My ability is a curse, gift, and a source of turmoil to me all at once. I could not hate you for what you did to me, though I badly wanted to. It was extremely confusing; I pitied you deeply for what you had become, in the end."
"You pity me?", he asked sharply. She held his gaze unflinchingly.
"I pity you deeply, Harry Potter. Which is why I refused the repulsive offer you just made me", she said with a distasteful expression. "After all, why would I want to cause pain to someone who knows pain like an old lover or friend? I felt your torment back then, and that leeched away my hate towards you. In fact, I helped Isabelle understand you a great deal."
"I…don't know what to say", said Harry quietly, feeling quite confused and uncomfortable at this. This was certainly not how he expected his conversation with Fleur Delacour to proceed. I cannot read people as deeply as she. I doubt even Sirius can do that, he thought, already thinking of ways he could nullify her use of empathic abilities upon him. Feelings were powerful things, and there was no way he could fake them. I need to make my excuses and leave this place, as soon as possible. The woman is far too intrusive and dangerous, no matter what she pitches to me, he told Evolette apprehensively as he stood up.
"You don't have to say anything. I can imagine what you really want to say", she told him with a hint of amusement. "Of course, I will keep your secret of hosting someone else in your mind.", she added as he hurriedly turned away towards the gates of the property.
He did not stop walking. Of course she would know Evolette's presence in him. That gift is a rare one indeed, Harry. She could be useful, said Evolette as he walked briskly towards the gates and exited the Delacour property. He could feel Fleur's eyes on him all the time, and wondered if he had made a mistake in ever involving himself with the girl. He probably had, but there was no way around it now. He would stay as far away from her as possible.
She could be very useful to me, and also extremely dangerous. She could manipulate absolutely anyone with all the free access she has to the deepest emotions of people; it is almost as if she can Soulgaze without any repercussions! Too dangerous, he replied to Evolette, growing ever more apprehensive of the girl as he considered the implications of what she could do. He above all people would have to stay away from her…his handle over feelings, and his ability to self-introspect were not anything to write home about.
"Did it go well, Harry?"
Harry whirled to face his sister, who was staring at him innocently. "You knew what she is capable of, and you still didn't tell me?", he demanded straightaway.
"Oh", Isabelle muttered, looking away from him. "She told you did she? Sorry I didn't tell you, really. I am not even supposed to have brought you here, let alone allowed you to speak with her. It took me quite a bit of pleading with my friends in the French Ministry to allow it to happen."
"How do you even stay with her?", he asked frankly. "She could be playing you like a marionette on strings, and you'd never know."
Isabelle sighed. "Harry, she could. But she's my friend and I trust that she isn't. That being said, I have long accepted that her actions might be unconsciously influenced by what she can glean with her abilities, and I am willing to take that risk. That is kind of what trust means", she added dryly.
"Yes, well. I always say trust but keep your eyes open", advised Harry seriously. "I…wouldn't want anything to happen to you just because you were blind to danger, all due to some obscure trust you have in her. Anyway", he said, unnecessarily adjusting his robes, "I need to get back to Shiro. We'll disappear for quite some time now, Isabelle. So see you later, then", he said awkwardly, lifting his hand in farewell.
"Are you going to speak to Septima again, after the brilliant way in which you ended things with her? She seems a bit down lately. Haven't seen her for days", she remarked just as he was about to warp away. That question was another confusing one to him, and he honestly considered himself quite cowardly for not speaking to her after all she had done for him. No more running. No more uncertainty, he resolved to himself and to Evolette's approval.
"Where is she?", he asked after a moment, and Isabelle smiled.
"I don't know. But I imagine you could use our charm work to find her if you have to. It would do her a world of good to be at peace after all that happened", she replied, and he sighed.
"Too true. See you later, then,Isabelle. To be precise, see you after a couple years."
"See you in a couple years, Harry", she echoed with a laugh. He was enveloped by yet another hug, and her words resounded loudly in his mind as he disappeared with a warp of air. "Love you, little brother."
The glass of wine dropped from Perenelle's hand, falling to the ground with a shattering of crystal. Nicholas winced at the loss of the ancient swarovski goblet, but his wife seemed to pay it no mind. The newest information he had delivered to Perenelle seemed to be of more importance than he thought, more so than what he was about to tell her of the deductions they had made at the gathering.
"No, that cannot be true, Nicholas. Harry cannot possibly be with Shiro Yoshimo", said Perenelle in a deadly serious tone, shoving the book she was reading back into the library shelf with shaking hands.
"And why not?", asked Nicholas with a raised brow. The Archive's missive had indicated nothing amiss, but that meant nothing as he well knew. If the Archive wanted them to know something they would know it, one way or another. Perhaps this is that way, he thought as he saw Perenelle push her chair away to stand, with a mite more force than strictly necessary.
"Shiro Yoshimo is dead, Nicholas", she said gravely, and his heart nearly stopped at that. "Nicodemus Archleone tortured and killed the old man in a most painful manner; apparently the Knights went to aid Harry Dresden in some or the other issue, and Shiro took it upon himself to rescue Dresden from the Denarians' grasp; he traded himself for the young man."
"What?", spat Nicholas, standing up with the same alarm his wife had just exhibited. Some thought and condolence he spared for the death of the brave Knight, but not so much as the sheer alarm he felt for Harry. "But that means-"
"We need to go, Nicholas. Now, right now. We may have just allowed our descendant to fall into the grasp of some impostor."
"Well, about that", cut in Nicholas gripping her arm before she apparated away. Her eyes widened considerably as he told her of the conclusion he had reached with Ebenezar and the others. "So you see", he continued, "it just means Harry is with someone who is as fanatically altruistic as the Knights, but on a far grander scale. I don't think any harm will come to him, Perenelle. Perhaps we should-"
"No. No more assumptions about his safety, Nicholas", she said firmly, and just dissolved into pale smoke. So headstrong she is. The years haven't mellowed her even a little, thought Nicholas wryly, as he too disapparated after his wife's trail.