Red October, Echo, Blackout, Memories, Reborn, Vengeance, Graven Image
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The Last Words
Things went unexpectedly well.
"Mister Weasley," Bill was stopped in his office, cloak half-wound over his robed shoulders. His old and repurposed Head Boy badge was howling softly on the desk with Hogwarts' alarm, but he looked up at Mister Kirkland standing in the doorway. Specifically Mister Daniel Kirkland, the Scottish one.
"You have astonishingly bad timing," Bill said, and Mister Kirkland chuckled dryly, gesturing for Bill to sit down again.
"We need to have a talk."
"It can wait, there's an emergency at the school."
"I'm aware of that, but we need to have a talk just the same, sir."
"It can wait!"
"No, human, it can't." Until you've been addressed like that, in that tone, with that strange, strange, strange word thrown at you, it's hard to describe. 'Human', the species. Not, 'sir', the gender. Not 'Mister' the title, not 'William' the name. 'Human'.
Very eerie and, in fact, worth listening to.
Feliciano Vargas died, maybe.
Heart stop, heart start, too fast for a death. Just a shock, a jolt, and punishing blow. So maybe he hadn't died yet. Or maybe he just hadn't stayed dead. Like everyone else touched by the rampaging undead that had lingered like a curse inside Hogwarts for five long years, Feliciano was tormented, but not killed, by the Revenant of Angelique Rosetti.
And who else's soul could it have been? She'd wrapped Feliciano in her terrible blue flames, teeth ripping into his young body, and then she'd broken down and surged over and into him, through him, become one with him. She'd possessed him completely, a malevolent cancer that was slowly, but certainly, killing him.
He kept thrashing, teeth locked and spittle frothing at his mouth. His eyes had rolled back in his head like a terrible seizure that wouldn't let go, and he'd thrice nearly bashed his head on the stone floors if not for young Arthur's bracing hands. Kicking and choking, the blue sparking off fingernails and the bulging blue veins creeping around his mouth and eyes. His fingers were tangled tightly in the silver chain of his rosary, bruising the knuckles with their vice-like grip.
For Harry it was already far too much to take in, to understand from so many people how everything had gone so terribly wrong. Hogwarts was rippling with hysteria and it was everything they could do to manage the injured, although blessedly most who had been touched by the Revenant had come through it with only that terror to deal with, not the flesh-rending trauma of the few she'd truly harmed.
By Harry's count, the most grievous cases were of course Feliciano Vargas, Arthur Kirkland, Professor Erikson, and Neville. Transport to Saint Mungo's was too dangerous to attempt and so the aurors cordoned off the infirmary. It fell to Harry and Victoire and even Draco Malfoy to manage as best they could with who could go where and was allowed to see what.
Neville had been left barely breathing on the library floor, but once in the infirmary the Aurors and Draco were able to stabilize and restrain him- just in case. Librarian Carswick had been there for the entire fight, he'd seen everything from Neville's brazen and violent attack on Erikson to the Revenant's appearance from his own broken body. The way the creature had blown down every person it touched, but had forced both Erikson briefly to unconciousness and Arthur Kirkland to just scream…
The Revenant had been inside of Neville, possessing him- for how long? And then he'd attacked first. Neville had started this, somehow. Neville was responsible. Neville, whose face had been burned and his ribs skewered by Gryffindor's Sword. Neville who'd been at the heart of this mess the whole time and no one had known. Neville.
The younger professor was also brought to the infirmary, barely awake and needing to be hovered and drawn along by Pansy Parkinson, who had clearly told off the Aurors Harry would have preferred for the escort. Erikson was wreathed in a terrible curse that Neville must have hit him with- but he'd been hurt so badly in the fight that Harry couldn't place the spell. His shoulder and arm were burnt, the skin a bleeding blister. His leg was shattered at the knee, and he could barely speak but for the gold threads like fish hooks piercing his cheeks and choking his throat.
Carswick swore up and down he'd been struck with Cruciatus and one look at Erikson made Harry believe it too despite the horrible dread it filled him with. The man was shaking just with the effort to breathe and yet he resisted the help he needed to make it to a bed and rest. He refused- kept sitting up, speaking through swollen lips and the bruises forming across his face. It was such a horror to see James' mentor stuck through with pins. Where he'd learned these things, Harry knew could be answered by the War, but why he'd ever use them again was… too much. It was too much to think about.
But Harry couldn't be with Neville or Erikson right now. He and Dennis Creevey were waiting at the infirmary doors for- them.
The last word Harry had from Victoire was that amidst the trauma of the possession young Feliciano's heart was likely to give out at any moment. His mind and spirit were being worn ragged from the Revenant's devouring touch. His age was the only reason she and Malfoy haven't already performed the ritual to exercise the malevolent spirit: the procedure could kill him, his family needed to be here. They had to at least know what was happening.
Right now, the only person Vargas had with him was Kirkland, and Harry knew what a mistake that had been to allow. The boy didn't need to see how the rest of this came to an end. He'd suffered enough just being there when Dennis had caught Feliciano's falling body before crashing into the floor.
It was a mistake, but it came with its own reasons. Harry had the Younger Arthur Kirkland partially restrained for the emergency march through the school to the Infirmary. Partially, because he'd frantically zapped one of Harry's Aurors with a particularly nasty spell when the wizard had tried to pry the boy off his suffering friend's body.
The further attempts to remove him had resulted in furious swearing, several brutal kicks and punches, and his own bizarre outburst of:
"Touch me again and you'll suffer, human!"
The uncanny phrase came with such a vicious tone of voice that even Harry had been forced to stop in the heat of the moment and look at the boy again. His partial restraint was being asked to turn over his wand if he wished to go with them, and Mister Kirkland had turned the oak rod over without a word more. The waiting left them all tight-lipped and agonized but what more could they do? He knew this pain, and he knew there was no protecting Mister Kirkland from it.
"Eyes up," Dennis grunted next to him, and Harry did just that so he could meet the trio were walking quickly toward them past the line of protective Aurors. Lovino Vargas, the haughty Italian Warlock, was wrapped in a black cloak held shut down his front, and flanking him were the infamous Daniel Kirkland and, to Harry's subtle discomfort, was Bill. It was so bloody awkward seeing Bill always walking around with the Kirklands, and today was not the time for it.
But Harry put that aside right now, bringing Vargas into the hospital wing proper and explaining about the exorcism. Of course, the arsehole claimed he already knew what happened, despite not being there, and how it happened, even though that was impossible. He didn't even have the decency to look panicked or worried about his brother and so he was damned lucky Hermione wasn't there to make him reconsider his unruffled attitude.
"Thank you, but there's no need for an exorcism." That- Harry didn't just hear him say that.
"Are you mad?" But Dennis did.
"I know it sounds bad," Vargas actually owned his attitude for once but Harry was caught between listening to him and getting very, very angry. "But this entire mess is finally over with, and I'm not going to risk any further harm coming to Angelique Rosetti's soul. I'm taking my brother home and we will resolve this issue ourselves."
"You are mad!" Creevey was shocked, and Bill raised his voice just to get his attention. Luckily, Harry was already ignoring both of them.
"That thing is killing your brother!" He argued. "It's eating him from the inside out! You're not taking him anywhere, not so long as he's in this kind of danger."
"If you could act without my consent then you already would have," Vargas' eyes weren't completely focused, like he was distracted by something and not at all dealing with his brother's life! "Thank you for worrying about this, but Feliciano and I already agree: he needs help, but no exorcism."
"You haven't even seen him yet!" How could he talk about agreements when the boy inside has been in so much pain he could barely breathe, let alone talk to anyone?
"Then let me see him," Vargas said, eyes briefly focusing on Harry.
"And while you two sort out Feliciano's situation," Daniel Kirkland spoke up from behind Vargas. "Deputy Creevey, you'll be taking Mister Weasley and I to see Longbottom, and then right after to the son of a bitch what did this to him." What-?
"You'll do neither of those things," Harry said, shocked, because Kirkland had absolutely no reason for being here aside from his friendship with the Vargases- what was he on about?
"I shall." He was angry? And around his fingers- those threads, those delicate golden…?
"Sir," Dennis interrupted. "You're going to leave Professor Erikson alone."
"I shall not." The anger was right there, not even hidden. "He violated the most important clause in the entire sodding treaty, so if that Norwegian bastard thinks he's getting off these islands without surrendering my pound of flesh he'll have another thing coming!"
"What are you on about?" Dennis demanded, because he wasn't making any sense, not a damned word of it. Pound of flesh? Treaty? What clause?
"I'm going to see my brother," Vargas gave his words to the air instead of them, and then he was walking past Harry.
"You're not taking him anywhere!" Harry blurted out and then had to follow the mad man. "He needs to get that creature out of his body and you're going to let the mediwizards coming from Saint Mungo's do their best to save him."
Vargas just huffed at him and kept walking, a petulant and irritating dismissal that made Harry choke up on his own rising anger. How dare he-!?
"Vargas!" So Harry followed him, and would stop him for sure.
The only thing Draco was certain of anymore was just how terribly he would fight for Feliciano Vargas's life.
The boy was seizing, bruising his fingers and already having dislocated one by the sight of it, clutching that silver chain he always wore until Draco thought the links would pop. He was thrashing so hard on the bed where they'd laid him but until the seizing stopped the only way to contain him was just to make sure he didn't throw himself off the cot or bite off his own tongue. Holding him down or restraining him would only make everything worse.
"Mister Kirkland, you can't stay here." The other thing making everything that much harder to bear was Arthur. The boy would not leave, though he had the sense to stay away from the bed and avoid touching his stricken friend. The prefect took a deep and shaken breath before setting his shoulders.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I won't leave." His green eyes were sunken and Draco knew he'd been blown down and badly affected by the Revenant's touch, but neither of them had time right now to address what it all meant. He was so pale that the freckles on his cheeks stood out starkly, and Draco rather thought he looked strikingly like his namesake.
"Arthur." No, not even his first name would make the boy budge. He'd already lost one friend to the venom and terror of the forests' spiders, now he was losing another one to the Revenant that had torn a blazing path through their forsaken and clearly cursed school. "You're a Prefect, you should go find Scorpius and the other Slytherins and keep the house calm."
"With all due respect, Professor." He stood there with his hands behind his back, spine straight and chin forward, far more put together than a fifteen year old had any right to be. "My first obligation is to be here with him."
A strangled silence passed between them but Draco let it go. He had to focus on the task at hand and forcibly removing Kirkland from the curtained work space would not help anyone.
Vargas' spasms did not respond to aromas or balms or even potions tipped down his tight and convulsing throat. He was more likely to choke on them but Draco had so few options that it became necessary, with Victoire's help, to force the medicines down. It was all futile: his body was reacting to the very deliberate attack on itself by the Revenant, and there was no way for them to hush or calm the evil out of the boy without more powerful help.
"Vargas!" The shout announced Lovino Vargas before he brushed aside the curtain blocking Feliciano from view. He stepped inside and the curtain had barely settled behind him before Potter came blustering through like a raging bull. His face was flushed and his black hair flying about even more crazed than usual, glasses askew before he shoved them back on his own face properly.
"You're not taking him!" Potter yelled again, and Lovino was straight-backed and ice cold as he ignored the Auror, nodded to Draco, and spared Arthur only a glance before approaching his brother's suffering body.
Now, Draco had always considered his relationship with the elder Vargas to be a decent one, albeit a bit distant and awkward given the difference in age and culture. He understood that Lovino did not enjoy socializing beyond his immediate circle if he could help it, but he'd made the effort for Feliciano and Scorpius' sake. Draco banked on that now:
"Your brother needs help," He said, coming to stand just behind the younger wizard, but close enough to see his face still. "He can't fight this on his own. I trust the Aurors have told you what happened?"
"He won't listen!" Harry yelled and Draco lifted one hand behind Vargas' back to ask for calm. Just a little calm, just for right now.
Lovino was looking only at his brother, his cloak hanging closed down his front as his green eyes watched the thrashing and spitting from the suffering boy on the bed. But as he gazed down at him, Draco saw the focus and attention in his eyes slowly peter out. He was drawn far, far away by something else, some thought or idea or memory that clouded his mind and stole him off into the mists. Draco took a deep breath and, rather than shout at him as he was sure Potter had done all the way here, he waited.
He waited until, finally, Vargas roused himself and looked aside at Kirkland, for whom he had the most cryptic announcement:
"Erikson attacked a British citizen." He said this and Arthur froze, looking immediately uncomfortable. "Go. Deal with him and your brother, Italy's interests in these matters are at an end."
"I don't know what you're talking about-"
"Don't play stupid with me, Arthur," Lovino bit back harshly. "But if you actually don't get it: we have the Revenant contained, my brother is the vessel, and we're leaving with her. This doesn't concern me anymore." And with that last part he pushed a hand out from between the black edges of his cloak and his fingers were circled and strung with pale gold threads. He flexed and rubbed them together, then looked at Draco and gestured with the same hand. "Can you see this?"
"Of course I can."
"Erikson's covered in those threads," Harry said in an accusing voice. "I thought it was something Neville did to him- why are they on you too?"
"Threads, huh?" Vargas said, looking at his hand and twisting it back and forth before losing interest and sighing. "Well whatever, I have no interest in the treaty and who broke what anymore. I'm only interested in going home."
"If he dies in transport she'll just fly off again," Arthur blurted out, and whatever Draco had thought to say about treaties or secrets fled from him. "You'd be better off dealing with it here." He didn't- just the way he said it and the words Arthur chose, how he tipped his chin up, tucked his hands behind him. He looked exactly like Arthur Senior. He sounded like him. It was heartbreaking but also alarming, like a bell Draco could only half-hear in the night.
Lovino took a slow breath, still encircled by his cloak, and regarded Kirkland with a slow and steady gaze. Behind Vargas, Draco could see Potter steadily growing bigger and rounder like a stray cat preparing to go utterly ballistic. He wished they were standing closer just so Draco could kick him. When Lovino spoke, he was brisk:
"If I do that then I will have to abandon all pretenses," he said, his accent clipping the words. He didn't sound like he was speaking to a child. Draco couldn't tell which of them was mirroring the other but the warlock had his shoulders squared and his chin tilted in much the same way as the student. "Are you prepared for that? Are you willing?"
The strange challenge hit Kirkland in the gut. The boy buckled, but didn't break, though his eyes fell from Vargas for a moment as he fought to collect himself. It took another breath to bring him back to himself, meeting Vargas's gaze again and then nodding sharply.
"Don't let her escape," he said, stamping out the faint tremble in his voice. "Nothing is more important than that. Nothing." What an ominous thing to say, but Vargas accepted it.
"Good. Good." He dropped his eyes and nodded a few times, reaching up from inside his cloak and using his thread-bound fingers to undo the clasp and remove the heavy garment. He had a deep wine-red doublet on under it, slashed with black, the rest of his outfit matching cleanly and with lines that made him seem both very strong and very capable. The only thing he lacked was a wand at his belt, but he didn't seem to need it as he let go of his cloak and it hovered on its own accord, moving away from him and draping itself across the foot of Feliciano's bed.
"No more pretenses then," Lovino said, rubbing one wrist with both his hands tangled in that web of softly glowing threads. And then- "Now tell me how the fuck this happened!"
His voice shot through the curtains around them and shocked Potter right out of his bluster. Kirkland jumped, eyes wide, and yelled right back.
"Yes you!" Vargas roared, and he came right up on Arthur in a way Draco couldn't abide. He was there at the enraged man's side and had a hand on his arm- forcefully so, but- "You were supposed to protect him! I would never have let him come back if I'd known you would fail him like this! Fail him again! How many times does he have to die before you actually take his safety seriously!"
"Vargas enough!" Draco barked, Potter already on his other side with his wand out and pointed threateningly at the warlock's face.
In front of them, Arthur was rightfully stricken.
"How dare you?" But the words that came from him didn't suit. It wasn't how he should've sounded. "You forget who I am."
"I know exactly who you are!" Vargas spat this time. "You're the one who stole him from me, from his home, and locked him away behind your stupid charm! I felt him today- I felt that breath of familiarity and he was almost back and you sealed him off again!"
"I did not-"
"Don't you dare lie to me!"
Draco and Potter together gave him a hard shove and it was enough to make Vargas stumble back a few steps, the professor and the auror now protecting the student behind them. Lovino didn't make another go at the boy and Draco wanted only for the nerve to actually pull out his wand and match Potter, but it was all too tense, too ready to explode.
"Enough." He said, commanding his voice to be firm. "This is a school in crisis. I don't care what your connection to the Kirklands is, you're not to speak to any of my students like that." To speak and say it was somehow Arthur's duty to protect his classmate- an eerily similar charge Draco had heard Erikson complain about from James Potter. Students, children, their only obligation was to be protected.
"You're still going to explain yourself," Lovino hissed, firing between Draco and Harry and winding them both up even further. If only Arthur's answer hadn't been so bizarre:
"Erikson was injured and I went looking for him." How on earth could he have known something like that, let alone acted on it? "I got there right as the Revenant struck him down and I'm rather certain the charm was what let me stay present." What charm? What-? "I ran to find Feliciano but right as I did she came bearing down between us and we were separated. There was no contingency, we never thought-"
"Because neither of you ever thought any of this through!" Vargas snapped again but Draco had turned and was looking at the Prefect behind him. Arthur was buckling, eyes cast to the side and his throat closing over and over as he searched for the right words. "You never had an escape plan! No exit strategy! Absolutely no tactical information what-so-ever, because you British Incompetents won't coordinate or cooperate with your own fucking government!"
"That's enough!" Harry shouted, but Vargas was too incensed.
"It is not!" He shouted back at Potter, jabbing a finger at Arthur. "What is he? Who are his family? You have no fucking idea because the Kirklands have taken such a hands-off approach since the nineties that your own minister thinks they're out to destroy the society they exist only to protect!"
"We-" Arthur tried.
"You've hamstrung this investigation with in-fighting from the beginning!" Vargas roared at him, and Draco just traded a daft look with Harry before they both had to let him yell. The awful truth around these strange people was finally crawling out into the light. "Feliciano couldn't coordinate with our Aurors because they have to work with yours, and this stupid game hinged on no one knowing that you two were not fucking human!"
Arthur's shoulders seized up but then his eyes immediately closed, a shattered breath whispering over his lips before he gave a shiver and dropped the tension. His eyes stared at the floor and Draco saw the defeat on his face, the words still resounding terribly in his ears.
Arthur Kirkland and Feliciano Vargas were not human.
So what, and who, were they?
Soren was in pain.
Stinging. Burning. Peeling pain. He'd fallen so fast into the web of his alliances that the tethers had slashed him like razor wire. Guilty actions made the skin chafe and joints seize. Forsworn obligation scorched his tongue, made his eyes burn, refused to let him breathe.
He'd been in pain before that anyways. His shoulder had been burnt by aggressive magic, the skin left blistered and bleeding. His leg had snapped at the knee, a brutal and miserable wound that sent pain ripping from ankle to hip and back again.
And he'd died.
Briefly, but so very cleanly., Soren had been killed and Norway had violently restored him. Feeling that split so suddenly between the body and the conscious expanse of his identity had been a whirlwind of confusion and fear as the searing penance of the treaty had sunk into him. He'd fallen into complete darkness and absolute cold, no light or sound or warmth to reach him, and then before his blood had even stopped or the last of his breath had rattled away- up again, awake, blind, and tortured.
He had Longbottom's blood on both his figurative and literal hands. He'd felt the infectious burn of his broken vow drag him to the fallen wizard's body so he could fight with him one more time. Anything to stem the blood from the sword lancing his chest, anything to make sure his heart kept beating and the attack on him remained just that: an attack, not a death.
Self-defense was something he could argue in the aftermath but in that moment and as far as Soren had been concerned: the treaty had been violated and he was deeply and immediately culpable. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw it. He could feel the words etching into his skin, hear the way they echoed between breaths.
The Kingdom of Norway hereby pledges to uphold the safety and security of all Hogwarts students and staff, within the limits of physical prowess and immediate ability.
Over and over again.
The Kingdom of Norway hereby pledges to uphold the safety and security of all Hogwarts students and staff, within-
There was no escaping (The Kingdom of Norway) something like this. (hereby pledges to uphold) It was under his skin and burning through his veins, the injustice and brazen disregard for (the safety and security of all) The Kingdom of Norway hereby within
the limits of physical prowess and immediate abilityhis own freely and knowingly given 'd broken (Hogwarts students and staff, within) a treaty signed in (the limits of physical) goodfaith. He had never intended to betray it, never plotted (prowess and immediate) a way to escape wasn't double-cross (ability. The Kingdom) or a political maneuver.
This affliction, this fever- it had always served a historic purpose. It revealed double-crosses, it exposed treachery and treason against a monarch or the interests of the nation. Courtiers, lords, factions, politicians, corporations, companies, and vigilantes all could and frankly often would disregard treaties and accords between nations, with the scope of their infraction showed itself to their country in sometimes subtle, sometimes not, ways. It would then fall to Soren himself to weigh in on a matter: to defend the breach, to argue against unfair conditions, to rake and dismiss the wrong-doers, to at least know that his authority had been flouted from within so he could have the chance to do something about it in-house before his masters or enemies came knocking.
But Soren himself had committed the act this time, and he was shaking and half-deaf from the twisting, constricting, burning pains.
"Professor!" And he had no choice but to suffer through it. Every joint in his body felt inflamed, his throat raw from a chafing obligation. He could have sworn his fingers had swollen, and he wanted to lay like the dead instead of moving or being moved by Aurors through this deathtrap school, but he had no say in the matter and no voice to raise about it.
Because nothing had ended with Longbottom, it had only grown so much worse in those few seconds where Soren had been briefly dead. Revenant. Possession. Murder. He'd hung on just long enough to feel more wix come running to take the burden of Longbottom's life out of his burning hands, and then Soren had simply fallen to his back and focused on nothing but breathing through the pain. Adrenaline had dragged him this far but his resurrected body needed time and rest to bring itself back under control.
"Soren- Soren." They only moved him after he fell like that. He felt a hand grasp his while magic wound under his body and lifted him up. The hand gripped very tightly and he knew the woman's voice but couldn't concentrate on it over the roaring expanse of storm and sea in his blood and the diplomatic crisis wailing in his head. "Soren Erikson, you will not die!"
What a quaint demand, but he'd already done that today. Who would say something so bold to him, in such a sharp voice? Parkinson? Fancy seeing her here.
Soren didn't know how coherent he really was, or was trying to be. The only thing he remembered saying was telling them not to heal him as he was brought someplace quiet. He knew it was quiet because he didn't hear voices, and the sound of heeled shoes clacking on the stones became clear enough for him to focus on.
"…!?" And then they healed him.
He felt it through his arm first and struggled to blink away the blinding shards of his broken word. He felt the cloying pain tear slowly down from shoulder to elbow as the magic meant to entice skin to knit back together enraged the muscle below and inflamed it. The limb spasmed and went unforgivably cold, hands he didn't know grasping his swollen fingers and pressing his wrist down onto the bed to keep him from thrashing.
"What kind of curse is this? Get it off him!" No- no more magic, no added humiliation. Soren forced his eyes to clear and then made his body sit up, staring with what he hoped was a burning gaze as the gold-robed Auror whose wand was already tracing down to his broken leg.
"Do not touch me, human." The sound was more breath than voice, his teeth locked and air rattling through his chest as his heart and lungs finished fighting each other. "In hours it will heal. With your meddling, it will take days. Leave. Leave and do not come back without Headmaster Flitwick or Daniel Kirkland." Because he knew who he had to answer to so the pain would stop, and by God he'd do it.
"Have you lost your mind?" The Auror demanded and Soren-
"Are you deaf?" Parkinson answered for him, her tongue sharp enough to cut before he could bite. "He refused healing: you can't touch him if he says no." The only damned law the Wizards shared with their Muggles was that one, then. "And after what you did to his arm, I don't blame him! Go do what he said and bring the Headmaster here." They didn't move. "Go!"
The Auror was offended and confused, but at the second bark they finally turned away and blew out past the curtains surrounding the infirmary cot where Soren was sitting. His heart was drumming hard in his chest. The anger was a weak defense from the hysteria of the treaty, but he clung to it, swallowing as much air as he could around the cuts and wires riddling his lungs. He was still burning, but at least now he was awake.
And he was here with Pansy, who was still holding down his wrist, with no explanation for the former and only a vague sense of human empathy for the latter. When Soren felt the stress constrict a bit too far down his broken leg his breath hitched and held painfully for a few seconds. It took until he could take the next one in slowly before he felt her actually squeezing his hand properly- like she was trying to help him through it.
"That was stupid of you," she said in a short, sharp voice. It was far enough at odds with her gesture that Soren turned his head to look at her. Her face was frosted and she nudged her chin up like a challenge. "The staff know you're not quite human, but just casually tossing that out to the Aurors is going to get you questioned. Idiot."
"I'm in-" his voice jammed and he didn't like that very much. "-too much pain to be casual, Professor."
"Yes, I can see that!" She scolded, still holding his hand but now gesturing to the rest of him with the other. "Nevermind what Longbottom did to you, what is all this?"
Someone had cut away the sleeve on his burnt arm, showing the swollen red limb in its miserable glory. The burns themselves might have been closed, but they'd left behind deep purple blotches of skin that was piling up like a painful callous down his bicep. Soren just had to accept it for what it was, and be thankful they'd stopped before trying the fuse the bones of his knee into some monstrous amalgamation. It took a few more shallow breaths before he could explain:
"My kind can't be healed by-"
"Not that!" Parkinson interrupted, and he gasped a little as she lifted the hand she was still holding, irritating the swollen arm above it and shaking his fingers at him. "These! This, all of it."
"It's a hand, Parkinson."
"Why do I bother with you?" She said in a rush. "Acting like you can't see all of this."
"All of what?" He asked again, in no condition right now to keep his tone even. Parkinson looked at him for a hard moment and then frowned at him, waiting. Very well, she could glower and grumble all she wanted, Soren didn't have an answer for her cryptic words.
"You can't see them?" She finally asked, and he shook his head because it was easier than speaking.
She didn't explain anything and they both distracted themselves with adjusting the bed. Of course it wasn't as simple as a muggle hospital bed which could bend and rise to accommodate the patient, but the wooden rods in the undercarriage did move with a wand-wave, and there were enough pillows nearby for Soren to recline in semi-comfort, eyes closed and trying to breathe normally.
It was only a matter of time before Scotland or Wales arrived, or maybe England himself if he'd removed his charm and felt the full effects of the treaty infraction. Soren whispered a curse on himself for signing an agreement whose opening clause had been the protection of others over his own safety. He'd stabbed a teacher and somehow unleashed a Revenant on the school, so now he needed time to think his way very carefully out of this mess. If he wasn't ready when his allies arrived, he'd be out of this investigation and on a plane out of the United Kingdom before nightfall.
And yes, that really would have been the worst outcome for him. Between the losses and humiliations he'd already suffered for Frigga, his guardian, and twice now his life, leaving Hogwarts with this business still hanging would fill him with nothing but regret and frustration for years to come. No, he had to stay. He would not leave.
"They're threads." He opened his eyes at her voice, surprised that Parkinson had found a stool for herself to sit on rather than storm off like a dower thundercloud. She was sitting pristinely, back straight, hands folded over her wand in her lap. "They go all around you- most of them going right through like you've been stuck full of pins. You've even got a few going through your eyes and mouth, nevermind the ones choking your throat. That's probably why you can't breathe."
"…Probably," he allowed.
"You can't see them? They're glowing."
"I can't see them but I know why you can." She stared him down for a few moments, unrelenting until he told her. "You're a witch. You're more in-tune with these things than a muggle could be, and I'm closer to a muggle than a wizard anyways. There's no reason for me to see them, and under normal circumstances I wouldn't feel it like this anyways."
"What are normal circumstances?" She had a lot more to say and plenty of opinions to give, but settled on this one. Now how much was Soren supposed to tell her? He didn't know.
"I make an agreement and someone under my protection breaks it." That seemed the simplest way to break it down. "It warns me of a reckoning. It puts a burn under my skin so I'll do everything in my power to correct the mistake before I have to defend myself." This troubled her.
"Defend yourself from who?"
"From me." So much for resting. Soren looked and saw Scotland stepping through the curtains, his long blue coat closed down his front, a long black cane in his hand as he stood at his full height and looked down his nose at Soren.
"No-! No, none of that talk." And then right on his heels pushing through came Dennis Creevey, who had a worn-out look on his face. The last person to come through the door was Bill Weasley, who said nothing. "I won't have it, Mister Kirkland."
"Stand up," Scotland ordered, eyes only for Soren as he held his cane parallel to the floor, adjusting his grip over and over so the head of it spun like a tennis racket. "This is your reckoning."
"Is he dead?" Soren asked, and didn't move.
"I said stand up!" There was the shout, the lit temper and the fraying control. The humans harped and hushed him, scandalized by his anger as Creevey stumbled over himself and Parkinson rose to her feet. Behind all of them, Weasley swallowed dryly and watched them awkwardly.
Soren sat up and swung his legs over the edge, testing the strength of his good leg. The muscles ruptured and twisted in his broken knee were tight and trying to pull themselves and the bones back into alignment, but it was a slow and ugly process that had barely begun.
"And give that back, you bastard." Scotland swore at him and Soren paused without standing, looking at the other nation who was staring at the bed now. When he looked, he didn't understand what he saw.
There was a sword on the bed that Soren didn't remember bringing here. Its silver blade was marked with delicate lines and its ruby-crusted hilt glittering every time the light across its deep jewels shifted. The end bore a red stain and Soren felt a nauseous sense of caution bubble in his gut. He could have sworn he'd left the sword in the library and it was the last thing he wanted with him now.
"It was never mine." He said, picking up the blade as instructed.
"What are you-? No! Stay in bed," Parkinson scolded him, grabbing his arm as Soren brought himself up onto his good leg, watching Scotland watch him move. "Ignore him and rest, you're hurting."
"I won't heal until this is settled," he told her, "You said it yourself: it's choking me."
"It's his magic?" She hissed, but her pull wasn't enough to make him look at her.
"Our magic." Soren corrected. He worked his hand carefully down the sword until he could hold it out to Scotland by the blade, offering him the hilt. "Your sword."
"Gryffindor's sword," Scotland took the blade and held it straight up, Longbottom's dried blood hanging over their heads, the two nations holding eye-contact in case either one backed down first. "You tried to kill Neville Longbottom with Gryffindor's own God-damned sword."
"I tried to stop a murderer from rampaging through this school," Soren bit back, and Scotland let the blade come down flat on his shoulder for the back-talk, then pressed the cutting edge to his throat until Soren had to tilt his jaw enough to make sure the blade didn't sink and cut him by accident. Parkinson sucked in a breath but before she could speak Bill Weasley had grabbed her arm and was pulling her away from him. Soren did not flinch.
"Think before you act, Scotsman."
"I should kill you where you stand," the host nation warned.
"You have no right to threaten that," Soren challenged. "You had a mad-man throwing forbidden curses and housing a demonic force in his own heart. You have no right to take that out on me." And expect Norway to take an insult like that lying down. "I did my job."
"You had a castle full of soldiers who would have done it for you."
"None of whom are mine." A restriction Soren had agreed to, of course, but one that had left him undefended. His safety had been his own concern and he had acted on it when sufficiently threatened. "And any of whom could have been killed in the attempt." Just like Soren had.
"So that's your angle then, is it?" Scotland stepped a little closer to him, making the sword's edge slide up until it was resting diagonally against Soren's throat. The temper bubbling up in him was making it impossible for Soren to stand so still. "You strike down the civilian to spare the soldier the blood? What do you take me for?"
"He attacked me in a library full of children: I fought back to neutralize him."
"He was restrained and you ran him through!"
"That thing was coming out of him and I did the only thing I could!"
"Liar!" Scotland pulled the sword away and swung it at the floor.
"Coward!" Soren shouted back, and he felt, finally, the burning and screaming in his skin start to fade. He could almost hear the broken accord mending itself. "In seven months I've come closer to solving this mystery than you have in six years! Six! How dare you raise a sword against me when I've defended more lives and shed more blood than any of you!" And then- and then his temper snapped.
"Where have you been?" Soren yelled, and somewhere between the curtains he heard someone else yelling too. "Hiding like a fox in a hole since day one, refusing to do anything to bring your Ministry or your Aurors together to actually help and bring this situation under control! You muzzle me! Make me play these stupid cat-and-mouse games with your government and then think you can lord it over and punish me when people get hurt! How dare you!"
He felt such a rage welling up in him, the threads Parkinson had described snapping one by one and releasing him from their painful hold. His heart was beating fierce and strong and when Scotland's eyes broke away from him Soren's injuries were the only reason he didn't advance on the other nation. But that didn't mean Soren wasn't going to humiliate him the way Scotland deserved.
"You move like a glacier with fire bearing down on your people," Soren hissed at him through clenched teeth. "Your Headmaster knows nothing, your deputies know nothing, your aurors, their commanders, none of them know anything. It should never have taken six years for someone to figure out where that Revenant was hiding." Six, because there had been those months between the first murders and Italy and England's initial arrival at Hogwarts. "But it did. And I was the trigger. And I was the victim. And I was the victor! Look at me!"
Scotland's jaw was clenched, shoulders square but he'd already looked away: he'd already conceded to Soren and Norway wasn't going to let him leave this room with any illusions about the outcome. The burning was gone. The twisting, itching pains had left him. His mind was clear and the buzzing of broken words had calmed down to nothing.
A staff member had been directly harmed by his actions, yes, but Soren had done it to attack the actual threat that had presented itself. He was absolved. Even if the letter of the law had been violated, the spirit of the agreement held. He couldn't ask for better than that.
So Scotland looked at him. He put on a brave façade but he was rapidly withdrawing, his tongue caged behind his teeth where it belonged. Soren chose his final comment very carefully:
"The words you are looking for, my friend," he softly uttered, "are thank you."
Scotland was stone-faced and it was his turn to barely breathe. Soren didn't have enough left in him to care if it was anger or embarrassment keeping him quiet, he was satisfied just watching Scotland take longer and longer to try and come up with anything worth saying.
"…I want you out of my school."
"Prepare your final report then," Soren countered, knowing he asked the impossible. "Wrap it up completely. Leave nothing out. Have it on my desk and I'll be on my way." And at the pace of the British magical bureaucracy? Soren would be here for months yet. "Get your house in order before you try telling me what to do again."
An angry bruise coloured Scotland's face for a moment, but he didn't offer a rebuttal. He didn't have one. There was nothing the other nation could, in fact, say. So Norway said it for him:
"You may go."
So Scotland left with Weasley and Soren sat back down. He could breathe and let his anger go, and when Pansy and Dennis came to his side to start with their own questions and demands, he knew not to snap at them because he had earned the scrutiny. So he weathered it and wondered why Gryffindor's sword was back at his side, between the blankets, exactly the way he'd found it.