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Introduction:

harry potter
* * * * *


Releasing the wand for what he promised would be only moments, he continued sawing at his bindings, slowly, rhythmically, trying to gain precious centimeters of mobility...

He was armed, and the realization had numbed him, his next move horribly elusive.

With the rhythmic sawing of the shard, his mind fell curiously blank for the first time in what felt millennia.

His gaze fell upon her as she moved, shoving herself up from where she lay on the floor, arms shaking fiercely, be it from shock or the pain he knew she daily bore, he did not know.

"Kaylens." He whispered softly, grasping for something, anything familiar in the horror that was his life.

She fell into place besides him, so close, her bloodied sleeve nearly brushing against his skin. She was blocking Dolohov's view of what he was doing, he knew it without even asking, for her eyes swept the room as those of the hunted would.

She was being as cautious as him, despite the slight sway to her stature.

Snap.

Another thread of the rope broke free, it's release masked by her sudden, purposeful coughing.

Her head fell forward, her coughs lingering long enough to seem genuine, and her golden, tangled locks came cascading down, falling over her eyes, veiling her expression from all but him. To his eyes each shimmering strand, glinting in the dull afternoon glow, as well as her watery orbs, remained visible, as well as her bound wrists, white and torn from where she had frantically pulled, struggling for release in Dolohov's arms.

The bastard would never again lay a finger upon her.

He would never again lay a finger upon anyone.

Harry Potter had a few dark spells he was quite eager to try out.

Snap.

"How much longer do you think it'll be till he finishes questioning the village Antonin?"

Dolohov sneered. "Ludovic you are trying my patience as much as the half-blood and these..." The dark gaze of the man scanned the room, taking in the few conscious students and the two patrons bound and lined against the walls. "These spares."

"But what if the ministry...."

Dolohov kicked the floor, sending shattered glass skittering across Dean's fallen form. "We will be here and gone before those fools catch wind of this. Besides, these things are delicate matters..."

Questioning? His ears listened, silently taking it all in. Besides him Kalliandra appeared to be doing the same, while Luna shifted the glass shards on the floor around with her feet.

Bagman seemed besides himself with questions. Harry mentally egged him on to be loose lipped.

"Perhaps we could stun them all and take them back ourselves?"

Dolohov scowled in his direction. "He will not be needing all of them. And you would do well to keep your mouth shut from now on or I will shut it for you."

The discussion ended.

It was then that he heard it.

"You..."

Only he had heard her whispered accusation, for it could be nothing else. The sheer revulsion in that one, whispered word left nothing to question.

Her eyes had moved from Dolohov, drifting into the background beyond, liquid fire boiling beyond their depths. Lifting his own he followed her gaze to where Ludo Bagman stood, pouring himself another fidgety drink.

He turned his confusion upon her, noticing her chest's rhythmic rising as her breaths came quicker, deeper, faster...

Golden eyes flickered shut, a pained expression falling across her.

"How sorry were you?" She breathed to herself, only barely, for the hatred saturating her soft tones was not lost upon him.

It was chilling.

His own boiling blood froze as he studied her, taking advantage of the lull in activities.

"Kaylens." He whispered, almost pleadingly.

Her hateful gaze burned right through him, straight to Bagman.

"Kaylens please..."

Her eyes fell shut, her fists opening and closing on thin air. "You're bleeding Potter, are you alright?" She whispered shakily.

Gently brushing his arm against her own, he waited for some sign that she was alright.

Minutes passed, before delicate eyelids flickered open, her eyes alight with an aberrant glow.

"Good." She murmured. "Because I can only give you a moment."

His mouth flapped wordlessly, shocked at the transformation before him.

Where his skin lightly touched her own, an unnatural tingling had begun.
* * * * *


The energy reverberating from him drew her nearer, an eternity passing before she was able to forcibly draw away.

His confusion radiated in startling quantities, but he would understand soon enough.

They would all understand...

She would not stray near him again, for her world was moving unnaturally slow, as if the events occurring around her were illusory, fleeting images from horrible dreams that would surely vanish with a waft of merciful consciousness.

Only no such merciful breeze came.

Her bound hands rose from her lap, tracing the tender line of her jaw, feeling her cooling skin. Somewhere, amidst the fighting, she had fallen, shoved away by Dean. The dried smear of blood along her cheek gave evidence to that.

She could feel the heat radiating from Dean's limp form.

He was alive...

Hermione...

The small girl's fingers had curled around fallen chunks of her bloodied, uprooted hair, as if the resolute Gryffindor had wanted something to hold onto, something solid and tangible to prove the afflictions had been real.

They had...

Her eyes fell willfully shut once more, immersing herself in the peaceful oblivion of darkness, where no demons save her own reigned.

The memories of a resurrected night, long due revenge, beckoned.

A limp hand lay splayed across the front corridor...Blood trickling onto the wooden porch boards...

"God forgive me..." She breathed, the palpable chill filling her lungs.

She had made her decision.

The chilling rain pelted down, something dark mixing with the muddy water licking at her nose...

The tingling began softly, like a light feather playing across her skin, traversing it's way upwards, inwards...

It was their blood swirling within the puddle....Sean's blank eyes staring back...

It was rolling in discrete waves, operating by it's own indiscernible rules, pulsating from the living, evaporating from the dead.

A boyish face appeared above her, sympathy in his oceanic eyes. "I'm awfully sorry about this kid..."

His voice had echoed through that night, and again this day.

He had stood idly by once, and was again.

She squeezed her eyes shut ever tighter, involuntarily shudders traveling through her, the heady pressure in the very air building, pulsating in uncontrolled waves outwards.

The world was taking on a hotter quality, every nerve burning with fiery intensity as she began reaching, feeling...

The acrid presence of Ludovic Bagman filled her, and she began drawing.

Her intent was to kill.
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A/N: Please forgive the author's note, but I believe a proper thank you is in order.

Thank you for making this story the Number One Favorite Story on the site, for making me the Number One Favorite Author on the site, for making this the 7th most read story in the site's history when it has been out for less than a year, and for making this the story with the Most Reviews Ever.

I honestly can't express how shocked I was to see that. I truly feel that I do not deserve such an honor, because having read many of the other stories on this site, I feel that my writing pales in comparison to the wealth of talent displayed by others such as njill22, Edward Ollivander, The Dark Lord Nedved, KawaiiAce2003, IchigoPan, Violet Gryfindor, Timeturner, BitterEpiphany, Ginny Weasely, Arios, Cocoapuffshooter, Winky, and too many others to name.

I have the best readers in the world. I truly do.


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Photograph couresty of the previously mentioned public domain website. Accreditations can be found via my personal website.
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"Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely changed and transformed from one form to another."
~ First Law of Thermodynamics ~

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Chapter 21 ~ Amongst Us ~ Part 1


It was as it was before, the feeling.

She did not fear, could not, for it was her very nature.

Her cells were multiplying with frightening measure. She could almost feel them, enticing her breath to come in sharp, pained gasps. The gentle tickling of prior, the feel of static lightly traversing across her skin, had been long since vanquished, replaced by fiery tendrils of unchecked energy weaving steadily through her, searing across her very skin like fiery, unkempt tendrils of hell.

The very atoms of her cells were moving in unnatural ways.

Pained eyes flickered open upon the world, reflecting the light as only she could see it. For the golden mist swirled throughout the room in thick, stifling electron clouds, sending fiery chills searing through the hollow shell of what she had once been.

The particles danced, shining from all that was alive, emitting softly from all that was dead, as energy must do. The human eye had always been blind to the subtler forms of it's majestic ballet, but it was a dance to which she was privy.

It was her curse.

She did not fear it, nor did she embrace it as she so ought. She simply breathed, allowing the palpable chill to fill her lungs, cooling her lips as it passed.

His presence filled her.

The hot particles upon the once barely discernerable breeze vibrated, the golden mists forming tightly from her to him, flowing in a closed circuit between them, her will unconsciously directing the charged particles to dance within the rhythm of her domain.

Fiery cold, soothing pain... Such were the sensations of electrocution, and all it's conflicting ambiance.

An ambiance that beckoned, heeding her call as she pulled, drawing it from him, taking it upon herself without heed for consequence.

Besides her, drawing her concerted concentration from the impenetrable world of her mind, she noticed Potter stirring, taking advantage of the small distraction her spent energy afforded them.

Ludovic...

She could have chosen to attack the other Death Eater, but it had to be him.

Ludovic, as the other had called him, had stood idly by, watching them butcher her family with barely a grimace.

He had not lifted a finger.

"I'm awfully sorry about this kid..."

He would regret it. They all would. She would see to it.

But Ludovic first.

Potter's arms were moving now. She could feel it despite her closed eyes, as surely as she felt Ludovic's own sapping strength.

She pulled Ludovic's strength of life into herself, as she had done twice before, robbing him. The energy driving his heart pounded frantically, pulling from her, recoiling like a frightened child until she finally had him in her grasp.

Smothering that fire of resisting life for as long as she could, she silently cried in pain, feeling Ludovic do the same.

The soft sound of a body falling lifelessly upon the debris strewn floor met her even before the backlash did.

Everything that had occurred, had taken place within a poorly closed circuit. Now the white hot thread of energy, the one that had vibrated so thickly between them, finally snapped.

The electricity flew from his fallen form to her own kneeling one, leaving her no choice save to absorb it's sudden release with a twisted sense of satisfaction.

Her eyes flicked open as the force of it hit her, revealing sparkling, cloudy hues of golden light dancing around her, fading away as the shroud of unconsciousness fell ever closer.

Besides her Potter was moving... Standing... Shouting... All of this registered instinctively within, as she finally succumbed to the alluring darkness, beckoning with rest.
* * * * *


"Stick with the pack, go astray and we will kill you ourselves. Brethren or not."

The pack leader's words reverberated inside the wolf's pounding skull, distracting it from the pungent scents tempting it's olfactory senses, the townsmen's cruor teasing the pack, stimulating their bloodlust's desire.

Yet the pack controlled it, tramping as one across the periphery of what had once been the epitome of quaintness, before spreading out, fringing across the outskirts of the forest, taking cover in the forest's shadows. Here the pack would fight back the stragglers, catching any who sought to flee Hogsmeade before their task was complete.

The wolf pawed the ground with overt savagery, the animal's furor at being deprived it's quarry apparent to the elder accompanying it. A menacing growl calmed it, forcing the words of the pack into it's aching mind, for the tempting allure of the townsmen's blood, located just within the walls of Hogsmeade, was causing the canine to lose itself.

It needed to feed.

The accompanied wolf, driven nearly mad with desire, sniffed deeply, huffing the coarse bristles of it's snout away angrily. The hirsuteness of the beast's hide was coated in the fleshy cruor that had coursed freely from it's torn pelt, the fresh tears of it's transformation still apparent, for a werewolf was quick to transform, yet slow to heal.

Voldemort would fix that.

The knowledge drifted through the animalistic savagery plaguing the wolf's mind, forcing it to remember who it was, why it was here, what it's job truly was beyond the desire brought about by the feigned hunt.

He was Remus Lupin, friend of those within the town's walls, the walls sheltering beneath the very tree boughs he and the other werewolves hid below.

He was there to discover Voldemort's intent, his plans, his faults.

The creature Riddle was intelligent in a way he could only dream of, for where generations of healers had failed in discerning the mechanisms of lyncanthropy, Voldemort had succeeded, and harnessed it's cruel power into something he could fully exploit.

When they had stood poised on the brink of Hogsmeade, seemingly ready to attack, he had been surprised. For their orders were not to kill, maim, or injure the town's inhabitants in any way. They were merely to form a guard around the town's circumference, ensuring that all wizarding occupants remained within it's walls for a time.

And when that time was over, they were to be gone, fleeing into the forest where a portkey would await their return to the Parisian catacombs.

The reason for this peculiar Death Eater activity was unbeknownst to him. He could not fathom why.

But all his suppositions vanished as the scent of blood wafted upon a stale breeze.

His bloodlust was wholly returned, the teeth of the other creature of the night, the elder, digging into his pelt, the only thing preventing him from running into town to hunt his quarry.
* * * * *


The thick cloud was barely discernable, yet it pulsated around him, bearing down, stifling him as if an electric shock were coursing threw him.

He felt numb, unable to move, let alone think, properly. His head spun in a not unfamiliar way, and despite this, Harry knew where he had felt the same sensation.

Grimmauld Place.

"I can only give you a moment"

It was her. She had whispered those words only seconds before. She had done it before, and she was doing it again, and though he did not know how, every fiber of him knew it to be true.

Kalliandra was doing this.

She could only give him a moment... A moment of distraction. A single chance to take them out.

He knew what he had to do.

The heady pressure increasing around him, over-powering any sure sense of equilibrium, he forced his arms to obey, grasping his wand in a barely concealed move as Dolohov's drugged eyes fixed upon Ludo Bagman's form, as the former Ministry Official disappeared behind the bar, clutching his chest.

Harry spared the man no pity, all his energy fixated on the soul task of catapulting to his feet, then twisting until the wand so precariously gripped within his bound hands was pointed towards the remaining Death Eater.

"Delirium Modente!" He gasped, his last shreds of energy spent as he set the curse free.

The dark curse.

A Death Eater deserved nothing less.

He never did see Dolohov's eyes as the last fledglings of sanity were stolen, but the curse left Dolohov's large frame withering upon the ground, hands clutching desperately, tearing thick, bloodied chunks of hair from his scalp.

The heady pressure lifted as suddenly as it had come, the cloudy form vanishing with a breath, and Harry fell to his knees, breathing deeply, watching in grim satisfaction as one by one, memory after memory, fled from Dolohov's twisted, scarred mind.

The Death Eater would be unable to recall even his own name once the curse had run it's course.

Harry had finally learnt the joys of cruelty upon one's enemy.

It was several moments before he realized that while the others were stirring, Kaylens was not.
* * * * *


"Mr. President... Your wife and daughter are amongst the missing...

The car door slammed behind him, his daughter's small form curled up on the passenger side's floor, whimpering, begging for Mum...

Marie...

Fumbling for the key's with his frozen hands, his mind was assaulted. Every ungodly memory of the past weeks, of his life, slammed into his consciousness one, by one, by one.

Only the whimpering of his little girl kept him sane. He needed to stay strong for her.

The hospital doors slid open, the glass paneling revealing his haggard reflection. At the end of the guarded hall, lined with security, awaited the morgue.

Identification of the body was necessary.

"Tonksie...Tonksie...Daddy where's Tonksie?!"

Emily's hysterical crying drew his eyes through the rain coated windshield to where Tonks stood, a look of pure consternation on her normally warm face. She darted, arm out, presumably clutching the wand he could not see.

What affected him, what jolted him, what sent his foot pressing upon the gas peddle, the wheels spinning, skidding in the watery gravel, was the sense of pure, unadulterated despair that overcame him as he watched her slip in the mud, falling....

She landed in the grass, her back to the Earth, arms stretched upwards in front of her soaked body, shaking so violently that he could see it through the rain's thick onslaught. It seemed as if she were supporting a burden of incredible weight, one that would bear down upon her if she faltered, one that would crush her and then come for them if she failed.

The mortician gestured to the nearest gurney, his heart lurching as he approached.

He already knew. He had seen their revival attempts at the home they had taken him to. He had seen the bluish tint to her once lively lips...

Yet having seen her... Knowing what was to come...

The tires spun in the gravel, screeching forward as he neared her. She had to get in. They were not leaving without her.

Without warning, without a single sign, the car lurched violently, halting as a resonating thud reverberated throughout the hood of the vehicle.

The thunderous sound startled him more than his daughter's cries, more than the sound of his cartilage breaking as his nose collided with the steering wheel, for a large dent had formed in the hood, the glass of the windshield cracking, splintering out until a network of spider webs formed across it...

As the sterile sheet was pulled back, he knew none of it could prepare one for seeing the lifeless body of the love of their life for a second time.

The first time had nearly killed him...

A lock of her auburn hair fell loose, his hand smoothing it back...

Something invisible had collided with their car....

The feel of blood trickling down his face, falling upon his white knuckled hands, which remained firmly clutched around the cold, black steering wheel, had drawn him back.

As did Tonks' weak cries from where she lay, scrambling in the mud like a terrified animal seeking escape.

"Emily stay here!" He commanded, tossing the door open, bracing himself for the rain and despair he somehow knew to be coming.

The pelting rain was the blessing, for it kept him conscious, re-vitalizing him with it's icy furor as the despair attempted to drown him. He staggered, reaching for her, for Tonks.

She was scrambling to her feet, slipping in the mud, crawling backwards towards him, fending he and Emily from whatever it was only she could see.

Her other arm was flailing, her whole face changing, moving in ways a face should not move...

He reached her, grasping her firmly to steady both he and her. "Kenneth...." She screamed angrily, choking on the thick downpour. "Kenneth get away..."

"Not without you!" He shouted into the wind, the rain slapping against him. His arms looped beneath her, hauling her with him, sliding her across the grass as her wand arm remained steadfastly out, preventing him from completely lifting her suddenly limp as a doll form.

Only her arms remained rigid, for she was refusing to move them, not even for an instant to stand...

Bent over her pulled her with him, scrambling backwards, finally falling onto the side of the car, it's headlights blazing a brilliant path of light into the darkening, storm-shrouded day.

As he weakly tried to stand, yanking on the rear door of the vehicle, shoving Tonks' protesting form inside while she held her wand out, he finally saw it.

There, in the beam of light from the car's headlights...

A huge, looming shadow, flanked by many, many more, were surrounding them.

Yet the source of the shadows, he could not see.

The palpable chill in the air only grew until the frost upon the window's splintering turned to ice.

It was only then that it dawned upon him why Tonks would not lower her wand.
* * * * *


He froze.

Harry Potter, a true Gryffindor, completely, undeniably, froze. The shock of everything sinking in, preventing him from taking anything into account, save for what lay right before him.

"Kaylens..." He mouthed soundlessly, frightened by the pale pallor caressing her damp skin.

There were other patrons scattered, unconscious or worse across the pub, yet she was the closest.

Hastily he murmured the spell to loosen the remaining bindings, wiggling his blood encrusted hands until the ropes slid to the glass strewn floor. He dropped to his knees, reaching to brush her blood stained locks aside, when a shaken, yet commanding voice, halted him.

Kneeling besides her, Harry stared slack jawed as Ronald Weasley spoke, clambering to his feet, a dark bruise encircling the side of his face.

"Harry. Move. Away. From. That. Thing." He repeated, a threatening air creeping into the barely uttered command. "Move away, before it wakes."

Harry blinked stupidly, not fully processing Ron's words. All he knew was that Ron was not dead. Ginny's curse had not worked. And now a pair of icy blue eyes were fixated upon Kaylens as if she were Voldemort himself.

Fortunately for Harry, Luna was not nearly as thrown by Ron's sudden return to the realm of the living.

"Why hello Ronald. I was wondering when you'd stop pretending."

Ron's eyes flickered to Luna's for the briefest of seconds, before his wand shot out, fixated upon his quarry.

"So how long have you been awake Ronald?" She continued airily, rising to her feet in one fluid motion. Her bound hands began fiddling with her soil strewn hair, brushing it back curiously, as if it were a mere pest to be dealt with.

Ron's bruised face contorted into a scowl at this. "Long enough." He responded warily.

Luna was moving to where Ron still stood, staring at Kaylens as if she were Lucifer incarnate. "Well Ronald, would you mind undoing these for me?" She articulated, extending her wrists to him expectantly. "Harry's the only other one with a wand and he seems a bit preoccupied."

Ron's gaze never left his target, his wand flicking to Luna's outstretched arms without a glance, sending her tight ropes coiling free.

Luna smiled happily, flexing her wrists testingly at eye level, as Ron took a step forward.

"I'll ask you one more time Harry." He muttered menacingly. "Get. Away. From. The. Grim."

Harry's confusion regarding Ron's sudden appearance was routed by the serious expression across the redhead's freckled face. At a loss for explanations, he turned back to the girl before him, laying his hand upon her brow, feeling her cool skin beneath his own as Ron's poisonous stare burrowed into him.

"Harry she's a Grim. A Living Grim. Get the hell away from...."

He scarcely heard Ron's baritones, for a gentle tingling was radiating onto him, running across his open palm where his skin fell onto her own, as if small bits of static electricity were passing between them.

His fingers trailed down her face, a soft moan escaping her lips, drawing her shallow breaths into stark contrastation with his own.

Forgetting Ron's words, his eye's drifted from her to where Dean lay, sprawled beneath an overturned table that Luna was up-righting. "We need to get help..." Along the walls the scant others present were watching with bated breaths. "We need to get out of here before..."

"First you need to get away from the Grim Harry!" Ron nearly bellowed, wand arm shaking violently. "You might not know what she is, but you saw what she did!"

Hermione let out a muffled protest, and Ron's eyes flickered for a moment to where she sat, propped up, wide-eyed and staring.

It was the chance Harry needed. He did not know what had happened to Ron, but certainly his friend meant Kaylens harm. He was deluded. Grim's were omens of death. A living, breathing, sentient being could not be one.

He quickly placed himself between them, his own blood stained wand out, directly in Ron's furious face.

"Ron look, we don't have time for this. There are other Death Eaters in town and we don't have time..."

"We can't leave that thing lying around." Ron challenged, raising his own wand until it was eye level, directed at his scar. "I wouldn't have believed it myself had I not seen it. But leave a Living Grim lying around and it will kill you later."

"Ron stop it!" Hermione shouted, slightly hysterical as Luna knelt, freeing her and Neville's bindings.

Behind him another unhappy murmur rose from Kaylens unconscious form.

Luna now hovered over a quietly muttering Dolohov, sending thick ropes coiling around his arms and legs. And as Harry watched her, he noticed one of the non-student patrons inching away from where they stood, her frightened face fixated on Kaylens as well.

His eyes narrowed. "Would someone kindly tell me what's going on here?"

"But she can't be... He thinks she a Reach but she can't be...." Hermione stated weakly, her small form barely supported by Neville.

Harry's eyes did not leave Ron's for a second. "A Reach? And to me that means...."

"An energy shifter." Neville supplied. "That... That t-thing that just happened...." The Gryffindor attempted to wave, nearly dropping Hermione in the process. "That thing with the air... It was e-energy... They can draw on it when they need to..."

"When the need to kill people." Ron finished angrily. "I'd bet my broom Bagman is dead, Harry. That thing..." He indicated, gesturing violently with his wand. "Did it!"

"And she also quite possibly saved our lives." Neville sighed frustratedly. "She gave Harry the distraction he needed to take Dolohov out."

"She could have killed us all Neville!" Ron shouted, mercifully unheard upon the street as Luna's silencing charms were cast upon the windows and doors.

"But, she, didn't!" Neville shot back, setting Hermione down in one of the few chairs that had escaped unscathed.

Ron's resolve only grew. "Harry, she's not human." He declared. "She's not even a witch! All she is, is an energy draining leech that would kill her own mother if she had the chance! That's why they call them Living Grims! Whoever comes in contact with one dies! Meeting one is like seeing your own..."

"Death?" Harry supplied angrily, finally losing it. His head hurt. Ron being alive, Kaylens whatever it was they thought she was... It was simply too much to process. "Ron if she had wanted to kill us, don't you think she already would have?"

Ron's expression faltered, long enough for Harry to know that the truth of his words had sunk in.

"But she can't be a Reach..." Hermione was continuing on, sounding pained at the lack of certainty. "Remember History of Magic, the unusual species unit? You know with Veelas and Vampires? Things like that? We covered Reaches, and a Reach can't do Magic! They simply can't.... And I've seen her do magic in class..."

Ron snorted, a smug expression crossing his face. "A pre-magicked wand. Don't you see? We've never seen her do anything beyond basic, first year spells now have we?"

Harry's mind churned, searching for something to refute the statement, but when it came down to it, he had only seen her levitate Professor Gai and stun someone....

In Dumbledore's office she hadn't even reached for her wand.... She hadn't even tried to defend herself....

My God...

"Look..." He said shakily. "Just don't touch her. Leave her be, at least until we figure a way out of this mess."

Ron's hardened expression did not soften, but his wand arm fell "Fine. But remember who's idea this was Harry. Grim's are supposed to be killed on sight. So you can deal with the Ministry. Not. Me."

Killed on sight....

A sickening feeling rose within his chest at the words. They couldn't... The Ministry wouldn't....

Yet looking at Ron's expressionless face, he knew it to be true. Mr. Weasley worked at the Ministry. Ron had grown up in the wizarding world. Ron knew all of it's prejudices, even agreed with some. Hell, Ron had been afraid of Lupin upon first finding out hadn't he?

"A Grim... A Living Grim... Amongst Us.... Amongst us again..."

The whimpering of the woman, who was still attempting to slide away, reached his ears.

The sound of her frightened ramblings made him realize just what he was dealing with.

Kaylens had killed someone... His eyes flew to where Bagman had fallen, only to watch Ron traverse his way there, as if in slow motion, bending down, taking a pulse...

Ron's hate filled gaze, directed at the girl on the floor, was all the confirmation he needed.

Bagman was dead.

My God she really did...

He swallowed the cold truth, turning to look upon her.

Golden eyes were staring back, a frightened expression across her pale, tear stained face.
* * * * *


The car door slammed behind him, the rain having left the leather interior drenched with pooling rain droplets, and as his foot met the gas, he marveled at how the barely conscious Auror still held her wand high, aimed out the window, quietly muttering about a man named Lupie.

"Daddy... Dada...."

Something was boiling within him, something worse than fear as he shifted into reverse, slamming on the gas so hard the subsequent tire squeal left Emily screeching.

Tonks was leaning between the front seats, aiming her wand through the ever widening crack in the windshield, screaming as he stabbed violently at the defroster.

Somehow, amidst it all, his brain was still working logically.

Hydroplaning on the slick soil the car spun. Cranking the wheel into the turn the spin slowed until it was under his control, and they were on the road, driving, sobbing, shaking.

He wasn't sure when he finally lost consciousness. He was only sure that they were far beyond the cemetery where his young wife lay.
* * * * *


"Kaylens..." He whispered disbelievingly. Never before had he seen even a trace of such blatant emotion upon her normally complacent features.

Seeing Kaylens torn expression he rounded on Ron.

"You were going to kill her?" He shouted furiously, putting the pieces together. The way Ron had pulled his wand on her, the uncharacteristic, hardened expression...

He stepped backwards, shielding Kaylens with his entire body. "Is that what you planned?" He hissed, voice quivering dangerously. "It's not enough that the ministry indoctrinates their petty prejudices against everything and everyone through that ridiculous Daily Prophet and it's ridiculous laws, but you were stupid enough to actually consider listening to them weren't you?!"

The red head's expression faltered, and it didn't take long to see why, for Ron's eyes had fallen on the now conscious Kaylens, a look of mingled fright and disgust upon him.

Harry was furious for reasons he could not begin to understand. "What's the matter Ron?" He shot out. "You had no problem talking when you were proclaiming her inhuman a few seconds ago, yet now can't answer a simple question. Why is that?"

Ron let out a stutter.

"Sorry, couldn't quite catch that Ron." He nearly growled, glancing to the floor where Kaylens sat, her frightened expression giving way to one of sheer astonishment as their eyes locked.

"It's okay..." He mouthed, incapable of articulating anything else. All he knew was that if she was what they claimed her to be, then it wasn't her fault. She surely had not asked for it, just like he had not asked to have a death sentence hanging over his own head.

Suddenly every hostile action, every cruel word that had passed between them made perfect sense.

The whispered conversation in the bookshop, her anger at having been overheard, her familiarity with Remus, a werewolf, another hated species with laws ruling their kinds lives...

His anger at Ron's actions boiled over.

He leveled his wand once again. "Answer the question Ron."

Ron's eyes, glued to the floor, refused to look up. "I...I hadn't thought that far ahead..."

"Doesn't look like you were thinking at all actually."

"Harry you don't understand what those things are capa..."

"Ronald stop it!"

All eyes darted to the small brunette in the chair.

"Tell me you weren't even considering that." Hermione clipped. "I thought you were too smart to go by what the Ministry says! It's just another petty law..."

"It's not petty Mione! It's for our protectio...."

"Protection from what?" Hermione queried. "Anyone with a wand is dangerous, just because she's different doesn't mean she should be singled out Rona..."

Ron's jaw dropped. "Hermione! She killed Bagman! Did she show any mercy then? Did she?"

Hermione shook her head sadly. "He was a Death Eater. Do you really think he would have shown any to us?"

The red head scoffed. "This is Bagman were talking about..."

"He wouldn't have."

The verbal diatribe between the two teenagers ceased at Kaylens' scarcely uttered words, and as Harry turned he was surprised to find her standing besides him, watery eyes fixated on Ron.

"Ludovic Bagman was his name yes?" It was more of a statement than a question, and he let it remain in the air as he quickly unbound her arms for her.

"Thanks." She breathed, rubbing her arms where the skin had torn, flecks of dark cruor flaking off, floating to the debris strewn floor.

"How could you know that, murderer?" Ron snapped, though for once he scarcely acknowledged it. His consciousness was focused upon her reaction, upon the slight shaking beginning in her left arm, the stiffening of her neck, the balling of her fists...

Her eyes flickered closed, yet not quick enough for him to miss the deep pain residing within them.

"Because Ludovic did not show any mercy to my family." She responded softly, hauntingly. "That is all you need to know."

Ron was babbling about something. He caught the phrase, 'Bagman wasn't a killer,' but suddenly that all seemed so unimportant. For Hermione had asked what spell had actually hit Ron, and he was suddenly wondering that as well.

"Ron this isn't you!" Hermione quelled. "What has gotten into..."

Suddenly Ron's behavior clicked into place as well, and he turned around, scanning the room furiously, taking in each of the unknown patron's faces.

Hermione was right, this wasn't Ron. He may be brash, often speaking without thinking, but Ron was not violent.
Not only were there Death Eaters to deal with on the outside, he realized, ones they would have to deal with eventually, but they now had to deal with internal enemies.

Ones skilled in the Imperious curse...

His eyes landed upon the whimpering woman nearest the door, an unnaturally concerted expression upon her face.
* * * * *


Remorse... Guilt... Satisfaction....

The lifeless sight before her, the one she had so ruthlessly denied the right to live, ought to instill something within her.

Yet it did not.

Weasley's scathing diatribe, intermingling with her own cruelly uttered truths, resonated within the confines of her mind. Her eyelids finally flickered shut, seeking momentary respite as the pungent scent of scorching lumber rose from the dark recesses of her memory, encircling tightly around her.

She had killed, yet it did not feel as it ought. Nothing could have prepared her for the cold feeling of emptiness rotting away inside.

She felt empty inside, nearly undone, and perhaps this man lying lifelessly before her, evidencing her executed revenge, would be enough to shove her over the last crevice into the unreachable claws of cruelty.

For the life of her she could not summon one iota of remorse, for he had stood by during the slaughter, having the power to stop it, yet failing to act.

He was as guilty as those who had committed the crimes themselves.

Yes... She judged him.

The merciful, loving human she had once been was gone. It had been fading since the day the first monster had strode into her home, extinguishing the wicks of life burning upon her brother and grandmother's candles.

It had finally died the night she learnt the truth, for the tragedy in her young life had not been enough. The sick gods governing existence had not yet had their fill of her pain, her grief...

The scent of thick ash once again filled her nostrils, the painful realization that it was her own lifeblood pulling upon the ground, intermingling with her remaining brother's...

The pain her body now felt paled in comparison to the pain of what she had done. The lengths she had gone to survive that night...

The pain pouring unspoken from her lips was silenced as another voice rose up, saturated with the hate she felt burning within herself.

Potter...

"Let him go." He growled angrily. Though it was not his voice that drove her eyes to open, it was the tense feeling of his hand encircling her wrist, tugging her, forcing her to move until she was positioned directly behind him.

The muscles in his arm shook, vibrating with fiery intensity, rattling her own arm as well, yet her questioning gaze fell unnoticed, unseen upon the back of his dark head.

His attention was elsewhere, fixated upon a prematurely gray haired woman sitting nearest to the door.

It took her a moment to realize that the Weasel had already been stunned, and that his induced fury was on her behalf.

"Your idea... Clever really." Potter continued sardonically. "But I'd really love to know why you targeted her." The gesture of his head left no question that it was her to whom he was referring.

Confused she allowed herself to be led forward by Potter, closer to the irritated woman, whose eyes no longer quite met their own. "So..." He continued. "Is it because you're just another brain washed Ministry pawn, or does your leader closely resemble a snake?"

His voice was becoming rather snakelike himself... Or it could be her head, which was still reeling from her previous feat.

"Harry what..." Hermione sounded hesitant, and Kally's own eyes flicked over in time to see Hermione's dark ones flitting from one end of the room to the other, between the woman and Ron, then between Ron and a shattered plant holder.

Suddenly the brown haired girl, clutching her side, was staggering to the Weasel's, scattering broken bottles in her wake.

The woman watched her progress with a foul expression. "Whatever it is that you are insinuating boy, you should know that I am a Ministry official...

Potter let out a barking laugh. "I'm supposed to be impressed by that aren't I?"

"Considering that you are committing a crime by keeping that thing alive..."

"The last time I checked the use of Unforgivables was a crime as well." He countered, slipping his fingers into her own reassuringly. "So why did you use it on a 16 year old Wizard?"

"And as Ministry official, Leanne, surely you know that the use of an Unforgivable on an Underaged Wizard merits a longer sentence in Azkaban." The other patron, looking to be in his mid-thirties chimed in, smiling like the cat that ate the canary.

Potter's acknowledged neither the new conversationist nor the Weasel's sudden ramblings as Hermione brought him back to consciousness.

"Why Amarante, what brings you to England? I thought your belligerent parents would have taught you well enough to stay away."

Amarante waggled his eyebrows in an oddly familiar way. "Well you know Très and I, never too far from trouble."

It suddenly dawned on her that Amarante was a spitting image of Professor Très.

"We should go." Luna called dreamily, her form barely visible from beneath the curtained windows she was peering out of.

"Why?" Potter voiced urgently. "Do you see someone coming?"

"No..." She called, emerging from beneath the drapery. "Just a feeling Harry. I think the Ira's are trying to tell me something..."

"Ira's?" Questioned Leanne incredulously. "You're all mad... I don't know what they teach you at that pathetic school of yours..."

"Hogwarts is not pathetic!" Snapped Neville, his own wand drawn and leveled at the disgusted looking woman.

"Neville's right. Hogwarts is really wonderful." Luna commented. "And Ira's are real." She added as an afterthought.

Amarante appeared greatly amused. "Ah, well at least the students are too put off by my brother's teaching methods are they Leanne."

Leanne scowled, but Amarante wasn't done.

"So let me guess Leanne. You're considering turning her..." He gestured towards where she stood in Potter's protective grip, "in to the Ministry, and were too much of a coward to confront her yourself, which is why you put the red headed, stuttering boy over there under the Imperious. Is that it?"

The woman was beginning to look like a cornered animal. "I have every right to do so! That thing is a monster..."

She internally cringed at the words she knew to be true.

"A monster that should be put down! And as for you!" She hollered, turning to Potter. "Consorting with such a thing! Why I never...."

"You ungrateful wench!" Interrupted Weasley. "They both helped save you're pathetic arse and all you can do is holler at them! How dare you!"

Amarante visibly yawned, and in a heartbeat his wand was out.

"Obliviate!"

The deafening roar of Potter, Luna, and Amarante all attempting to extinguish the woman's memory at once sent the wench's head snapping back into the wall, her eyes dazedly rolling around before unconsciousness took her.

"Well that solves that." Amarante muttered cheerfully, dusting his hands together. "The name's Amarante by the way. I was supposed to be visiting with my brother this weekend but well..." The man shrugged sheepishly, his ear length hair falling into his eyes. "Got knocked out by him instead. Ruddy Imperious wasn't something he could ever throw off very well unfortunately."

She hardly heard the rest of his words, for she had broken away from Potter's grip, dropping besides Dean's unconscious form.
* * * * *


No sooner had Kaylens released his hand than Amarante turned his wand on the remaining conscious patron. "Sorry dear but.... Obliviate!"

Hermione's critical look as Amarante finished putting the patron to sleep was answered with an air of apology.

"Can't leave her free to turn the girl in either now can we?" He pointed out. "No offense but the British Ministry of Magic is a bit outdated in their laws and views. Australia has the decency to leave unusual species alone as long as they are not harming anyone."

Harry nodded his thanks gratefully. Enough had gone wrong today. They could not afford to leave any lose ends lying around.

"Is it unusual that no one here is dead?"

Luna's question was met by five bewildered gazes. Only then did Harry realize that she had not been merely milling around the entire time, but that she had been checking the other patrons to see if they were alright.

Her question did not seem to set well with him, nor Neville apparently.

"Isn't that a good thing?" He asked warily.

Luna's mouth opened, but Ron cut her off. "No Neville...It's not... Think about it, why would Death Eaters even bother attacking if it were not to kill? All of us are alive, and they aren't that incompetent. I thought for sure my number was up when that green curse hit me but it wasn't Avada Kedavra, I can tell you that much."

Hermione elicited an odd noise, but Ron went on. "And think about it. Why didn't they off Harry when they had the chance?" He glanced at him sheepishly. "Er...Sorry mate... But you know what I mean."

He nodded. "It's okay Ron."

Ron nodded, glancing at Kaylens now. "Sorry about earlier Kaylens. I may not like you but I would never..."

"I know." She replied without a glance. It was apparent that her concern was not for herself, but for Dean.

And the expression crossing her face as she peered closely at his ear was disconcerting...

"You're quite right young man." Amarante commented, yanking on his earlobes. "If I could venture a guess I would say that this whole..." He waved a hand around for emphasis. "Debacle was merely a way to distract us from something far more sinister."

Far more sinister...

Harry did not like the sound of those words.

"Whatever their aim was I suggest we leave." Ron was pacing now. "But if Amarante is right then they won't exactly let us walk right out of here..."

Luna's gaze was drifting towards the rear exit. "Our best shot is the woods."

"The Forbidden Forest? Wonderful..." Remarked his red headed friend, looking thoroughly put out.

"No...She's right." Kaylens voice was oddly strained, her brow creased with concern as she continued examining Dean. "If I create a distraction one of us should be able to make it back to the school, Death Eaters or not."

Everyone, with the exception of Luna, looked at her oddly.

"What do you mean by distraction?" Neville asked warily.

"I mean I go out, drawing their attention away from those of you going into the woods." She huffed.

Hermione and Amarante were both shaking their heads.

"I can't condone allowing a teenager to put themselves in harms way." Amarante stated flatly, all trace of lightness gone from his voice.

"If they are not aiming to kill I'll be fine." Kaylens spat icily. "You were so sure of that a minute ago."

The older man's jaw dropped, leaving Harry with an uneasy feeling. "Kaylens I don't...."

She cut him off.

"Look! No one else may be hurt severely but Dean needs help." She said heatedly, gently fingering his ear. "His skull is fractured, and from the looks of it badly."

"How do you know that?" Ron challenged disbelievingly.

Her penetrating stare bored into him. "The human brain is encased in a protective fluid, and if it's fractured badly enough it can ooze out through the auditory cavities..."

"His ear..." Hermione supplied, responding to the confused looks upon his, Ron's, and Luna's faces.

Ron seemed to be having trouble accepting it. "And you're a healer since..."

Her shoulders visibly stiffened, a flash of anger passing within her eyes. "Since I've seen it before Weasley. Now do you want to argue or help your friend?"

The red head threw up his hands. "No need to get testy...."

Harry interrupted them before it could escalate farther. "We have to go. No more time for discussion."

Kaylens nodded, rising from Dean's side. "For once I actually agree with him."

Her voice was firm, steady, a steely glint in her eye as she tore her eyes away from her fallen friend. "He needs help and he needs help soon. We need to move."

"Someone is going to need to stay here." Neville pointed out. "Merlin knows what a Death Eater would do to an unconscious Muggle-born... Not to mention Madame Rosmereta and Lara."

"I'll stay." Came Hermione's voice, earning her a startled look from all parties. She shrugged sadly. "For once I'll admit that I can't do something. My ribs... I'm sure they're broken. There's no way I could outrun anyone right now."

Ron's face became drawn. "Fine. But you're right about one thing Mione. You're in no shape to fend for yourself at the moment. So someone else needs to stay behind."

Harry's eyes flew around the room, taking in the possible volunteers. There were the two patrons, Neville, Kaylens, Ron, and Luna.

"I'll stay." Neville volunteered. "I'm not in as good of shape as the rest of you. I'd have trouble outrunning them as well."

Ron's eyes narrowed onto him approvingly. "And that's something we intend to fix once this is over."

A sly smile crossed Neville's face. "The quicker you get out of here the sooner we can get started."

Ron nodded. "Alright. Hermione, you and Neville take Dean into the girl's restroom. Well prop the back door open so if anyone does come back they'll think we went out through the kitchens."

Harry eyed his friend carefully, admiring the idea. "And the rest of us will go out the men's restroom window. It leads right into the alleyway between here and Dervish and Bangs. Then Luna, Ron, and Kaylens can try to make it back to Hogwarts while Amarante covers me..."

She let out a protest, but a wave of his hand silenced her. "You're not going. End of discussion."

"I should create the distraction." Amarante countered.

"No." Harry replied, shaking his head decisively. "We need a distraction, and the bloody Boy-Who-Lived is going to give them one. I doubt the Death Eaters, orders to not kill or not, will be able to resist the chance to have a go at me. Besides, you're the more experienced wizard, so your aim is probably better than mine."

Amarante eyed him apprehensively, before a cheeky grin lit up his eyes. "Well alright then." He said, clapping him on the back. "Death Eater target practice. Looks like you're not going to have all the fun after all there Harry."

As Amarante went to help Luna with the bracing of Dean's neck, and the moving of his imp form, all the while whistling a Muggle show tune, Harry wondered who exactly he had just asked to cover for him.
* * * * *


Her skull ached.

The pinpoints of bright light speckling her vision needed to be sprayed away with a very large hose.

Preferably a power hose.

Groaning she attempted to dislodge herself from the crevice between the back and front seats that her bum had fallen into, the blinding pain in her shoulder letting her know that indeed, it had been dislocated.

Collapsing onto the almost slimy, rain soaked leather of the back seat she took stock of the situation, the tree branch jutting through the front windshield, ending where Emily's head should have rested, had she not been curled into a whimpering ball upon the floor mats.

Thank God Kenneth had forgotten about belting her in.

She had to get them out of there, and was now trying the handle, discovering the door to be wedged shut by another tree, for the car had veered off, bouncing from the ditch into the wooden area keeping pace with the road itself.

Her fingers found the automatic window key, pressing until she realized that it too, was nonfunctional.

She nearly swore, bracing against the opposite door and kicking out, feeling the resistance of the glass and the window curved out, buckling back in against her bruised feet. The grimace of pain was taking over her face, droplets of water from her mousy hair intermingling with her sweaty tear droplets as she continued her violent, desperate onslaught, watching the splintering spider web crawling across the glass...

Cringing she turned away, the splintering of the window giving way to hundreds of glittering shards flying amongst the sparkling lights already within her vision.

The oozing gash in her calf barely registered, distracted as Kenneth's cataleptic form slipped upon the slick wheel till the brunt of his weight bore down upon the horn, the blaring vibrations of it's constant, single noted beep shattering the afternoon silence that until then, had only been broken by the sound of the still groaning engine and the pounding rain.

Reaching over the seat she sent him slouching upon the door, the blood slicked horn falling silent as his weight fell away.

There was no need to allow the sound to attract any unwanted attention, for Dementors could move fast, though a car could move faster. But how long they had been out, how far Kenneth had driven before succumbing to the creature's effects, slumping over the wheel, and how long the creatures had had to make up the distance between...

She did not know the answer to any of these things, and could not afford the price of drawing them near if they had made it to their vicinity.

The President's nose was clearly broken, the cartilage sufficiently contorted to have allowed a free flow of blood from it upon the wheel. Now the clumping cruor could be seen, clustering upon his upper lip as if he had been eating a sadistic lollipop flavored for the vampiric sort.

She had to get them out of here, that much she owed him for saving her.

In the face of half a dozen Dementors Kenneth had managed to maintain his composure, not breaking down as she nearly had, and he had been without the benefit of a protective Patronus.

This Muggle was made of stronger stuff than the most battle hardened of wizards.

Contorting herself as best she could, she slithered out the window, clinging to the rain soaked roof for balance. Her sleeve snagged upon a glass shard embedded within the window frame, and her palm slid from the roof, barely catching against the thin tree trunk responsible for thwarting her previous efforts to open the door, and somehow this steadied her.

One arm dangling limply at her side she clambered to the ground in rain soaked clothing, her onyx boots matching the ever-increasing darkness of the sky.

Then her world lit up, a pair of headlights from the road turning to shine blindingly onto them.

Skidding up the muddy incline she began yelling for the device her Muggle father always carried around, a mobular something or other, but her hasty ascent halted abruptly, shock erupting through her entire being as the car door opened and slammed, a figure stepping into the headlight's beam.

Sirius Black was silhouetted within them.
________________________________________


Recommended Stories of the Week:

Protector of Mankind by IchigoPan Rated: 15+
Strange events from the past affects the present in the life of Alexis Kanno. All she knows about the power running in her veins are that they are her own to control. Little did she know that there are two sides to her abilities.

Fallen Auror by Fallen Auror Rated: Mature
With the fall of Voldemort he was ready to let his dreams come true. However, the serenity did not last for Harry Potter as the Wizarding world plunged into decay by its own greed. Haunted by his mistakes and sickened by the corruption he decided to go it alone. But does he fare any better…

This is perhaps the most unique story that I have thus far encountered in the realm of fanfiction, for it takes place within the distant future, using a Film Noir Genre, while possessing a unique flair for twisting the most despondent of situations into cleverly woven mystiques.
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"No one is truly evil. They simply see things from a different point of view."
~ A.K. Lovell ~

________________________________________

Chapter 22 ~ Amongst Us ~ Part 2


"In the long history of bad ideas, this one is the worst!" Weasley muttered, staring apprehensively down the alley, the threshold of the Forbidden Forest looming menacingly at him.

"Look on the bright side." Potter grunted, releasing his hold on the windowsill, dropping onto the dirt strewn ground. "If there are Death Eaters out there Aragog probably ate them first."

Weasley paled considerably, contrasting with the warms hues cast about the alley by the sun's dying light. The year was growing late, and the early hour of the setting sun would perhaps aid he and Luna on their task of remaining unseen in the forest's shadows.

Or at least Kalliandra hoped so.

Luna's striped orange and black socks appeared out the restroom window, and she dropped from the sill to the dusty ground, landing rather elegantly despite the large cloud of dust rising around her. Spying this the girl smiled, squatting down to spray a fine stream of water from the tip of her wand, right onto a sizeable dirt pile.

Her brow wrinkled curiously at this, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips as Luna plunged her hands into the murky concoction, stirring it around as if it were pudding.

"Hey gang, it's clear... The roof." Amarante hissed from his precarious position atop two trash cans. "Give me two minutes and then I'll be ready to cover you."

"Kaylens?" His calloused hand fell onto her arm, a determined expression on his face. "You're going with Luna and Ron."

The way he stated it left no room for question, but plenty for argument, her fiery eyes telling him pointedly that she was not about to acquiesce his request so easily.

"Please, no arguments." He added, as a gust of wind tunneling down the alley sent his unruly hair into his eyes. The way his nose wrinkled in annoyance as he shoved it away, disentangling it from his glasses, was almost laughable.

But there was nothing laughable about a perfectly healthy person wanting to risk their life when someone of no consequence was available.

Someone like her...

She sighed exhaustedly, her muscles filled with the dull ache of her earlier overextension. If only doing such things was less painful...

"At least tell me why you want to go alone." She whispered, so low that the Weasel would be unable to hear.

His humorless expression became further strained. "Because I'm a better piece of bait than anyone else here Kaylens, and I don't want anyone else getting hurt. Voldemort's quarrel is with me, not you."

He was wrong though, her incredulous expression heightening the effect of her softly hissed words. "His quarrel is with everyone, not just you. You're a naive fool to think otherwise."

He smiled strangely. "Trust me." He whispered, pulling on her arm until she was forced to step closer, his hardened face hovering above her own. "It is, and I don't expect you to understand it. Just accept it, and don't argue."

"Always speaking in riddles..." She murmured, a trace of sarcasm filtering through. "But there's one thing you haven't realized, but you have more to lose than I if they are aiming to kill."

A ghost of anxiety flickered within his eyes. "Why would you say that?"

"Because regardless of whatever quarrel you may have with him, unlike you, they've already taken everything from me." Her pained gaze fell to the ground, for she was loath to let him glimpse the cascade of emotions swirling dangerously close to the surface.

"There is nothing left for me to lose." She finished, feeling his fingers tensing upon her.

"You still have your life."

"No Potter..." She murmured sadly. "Not even that for much longer."

Reaching up she removed his hand, the veiled meaning of her words affecting him in a way she could not notice.

"Besides Potter." She added, forcing a smile. "I can't let you have all the fun now can I?"

Strained were the lines of his mouth.

"Plus..." She continued, spotting the increasing lines of his frown. "You shouldn't go alone. You can get all chauvinistic on me later, but right now I am coming with you."

A slight cough drew their attention to the Weasel's blatant annoyance. "Just let the dimwit do what she wants Harry. If she wants to get killed let her, but we need to go."

Her eyes narrowed onto the red head, but her short retort was cut off by Potter.

"I'm fighting a losing battle here aren't I?"

Her resolute expression remained her response to this statement.

"Then we stick together." He said seriously, drilling his gaze into her own as if it would help drill the information in a bit better.

He then turned to Weasley. "You and Luna stick together too."

"Aye, aye Captain." He grumbled, rolling his eyes. "Like I would want to walk around in the monster infested forest alone anywa..."

His voice fell dead, for Luna had just stood up, her face completely covered in mud. "Actually Ronald I can move faster by myself." She informed bluntly.

Upon seeing this Kally gave up on fighting back an amused smile.

Potter on the other hand was shaking his head, looking as displeased as Weasley. "No Luna, you could be seen and..."

"I've been invisible for over four years." Luna retorted without shame. "One more day isn't asking too much."

Oblivious to the despondent quality of her own words, Luna, the nonplused witch, resumed her attack on Weasley's face, insisting that blending in with the Woodsiemores would help him to evade Stubby Boardman and his band.

As Weasley twisted and turned, trying to evade her attempts, Amarante appeared overhead, dangling precariously over the roof's edge. Nodding his approval at Luna's methods, he threw Potter and her a glance. "Won you over did she? Well I'm ready to cover whenever you're both ready to go."

Disappearing over the edge with a grin far too wide for the situation, Luna managed to streak a smear of dark mud across the red head's vibrant hair. Weasley's frantic attempts to wipe it away only served to further embed it, lessening the tone of his hair.

"Leave it."

The Weasel shot her a look of pure malice.

"Red's the first color the human eye sees Weasley." She responded calmly, ignoring his scowl. "Not exactly a natural color for the forest either, so dulling it increases your chances of not being spotted."

Luna grinned widely, happy someone agreed, and stepped back to survey Weasley critically. Giving a sharp nod she pronounced him ready, flouncing away without another word.

"Ruddy nutters..." Weasley muttered, smearing his cheeks with his sleeve, stalking off down the alley.

"Hey Ron..."

Weasley halted, turning to glower at Potter as well.

"Red's not one of the colors Aragog can see." He said cheekily.

"Bugger off Harry."

Weasley's sharp clip hanging upon the air, the git set off towards the forest at a much slower, less jubilant pace than the one Luna had set.

Potter seemed to deflate, sighing defeatedly.

She would spare him her sympathies and thoughts on exactly how worthwhile the Weasel's opinions were worth, silently following him to where the alley opened up onto the main road, where they hovered awkwardly, eyeing each other nervously.

"Any marvelous plans for distracting them?" She intoned softly.

Eyes blinking like a newly awakened infant, he nodded.

"Shall I guess or did you plan on just being reckless?" Her slight smile softened the impact of her words, earning her a bemused head shake.

"If reckless is what you want..."

Without preamble Potter stepped out into the road, whistling loudly, like a tightly wound atom bomb about to go off.
* * * * *


Surely if she had a shred of intelligence she would stay put.

He had never had any intention of allowing her to accompany him, and now, as he stood in the middle of the road traveling through the heart of Hogsmeade, whistling and twirling his wand, he was pleasantly pleased to see her staying put.

Good.

The characteristic squeak of poorly oiled hinges echoed across the road, two cloaked men, hoods down, emerging from the Apothecary.

He smiled deviantly.

"Fancy seeing you here!" He called cheerfully. "I fancied a talk with that spineless snake of a master of yours. Any idea of where I can find him?"

Tick.

Colorful leaves flew by, swirling upon the breeze, dipping down to graze the dirt before the updraft reclaimed them, stealing them away.

Tock.

Quietly in the alley, Kaylens began cursing his name, an oddly amused grin creeping farther onto his face at her obvious indignation.

Tick.

Through the Apothecary storefront there was movement. The Death Eaters were clearly keeping everyone indoors, and he took note of this.

But why?

Tock.

The shrouded figures stared at him, and he stared back.

Only he was at least smiling.

"Amarante your aim better be damn good..." He mumbled in low undertones, eyes casting about for an escape route. He had been so preoccupied with getting rid of Kaylens, keeping everyone but himself safe, that he had forgotten that one key detail.

After all, there was no point in two idiots getting hurt, so his own, suddenly very moronic seeming self being blasted to bits would suit him just fine.

That was until Amarante took things into his own hands.

Behind the two villains erupted a fiery blaze, a single blinding flash rising out of the compost directly behind them, the detonation igniting the leaf strewn timber on the composts surface so that fiery tendrils flared inches from the Death Eater's billowing, windswept cloaks.

The distracted Death Eaters whorled, their attention caught by the sound of the blast, but not before the wind could fling the rising embers to a fresh source of cottony fuel. An inferno in it's infancy ignited upon the shroud of the devil's hem, the flames greedily devouring the woman's dark fabric quicker than human comprehension could process.

The woman's skin was already burning before the other had the sense to knock her to the ground, kicking loose dirt onto her to smoother the ravenous flames, leaving him momentarily forgotten.

And he bolted.

Leaving behind the characteristic crackling of the kindling leaves, Harry sprinted, bolting for the shelter of the farthest alley, in the opposite direction from where Luna and Ron had gone.

The pursuit began, as one set of pounding footsteps hitting the cobblestone took chase behind him, a shout rising up followed by the red flash of the most common of stunning spells.

Amarante had been right, if the Death Eaters had been given orders to kill surely that jet of light would have stemmed from an uttered Unforgivable.

Two meters to go and another Death Eater emerged from the very alley he had been running for, blocking his path altogether, pinning him in between the two armed men right as the sun disappeared behind gray storm clouds.

Shadows fell across Hogsmeade's center road, another flash of bright red light brightening the scene as he stood helplessly between the two malefactors, wand raised in preparation to only be taken unconscious or dead.

The stunner hit the roof near the edge of the alley, sending pieces of thatch flying free while the metallic grate of the quaint shop's gutter filled the air, the long piece of aluminum breaking free to swing, flinging dirty, leaf strewn water upon all of them before it's pointy edge connected sickeningly with the newly emerged Death Eater.

The man was knocked powerfully to the ground, a large gash running the length of his back, and spells and curses suddenly being shot towards the alley Kaylens stood in.

Kaylens had sent the stunner, and yet another Death Eater was now pursuing her.

Stuttering in his step for only a moment he threw away the thought of going to her aid, for his own new friend had caught him around the throat, throwing him to the ground.

Before he even had a chance to defend himself another spell from Amarante hit the Death Eater hovering above him, sending the man flying to land next to the one the gutter had taken out. Scrambling Harry was on his feet again, reclaiming his wand to disappear into what he hoped to be a now unoccupied alley.

All the alleys of Hogsmeade were identical, the same brick or stone walls lining the sides of the buildings framing them, the same trash bins and empty crates, the same litter strewn soil, and the same magical filth.

One could hide for hours within them, weaving in and out of where they jutted into the Forbidden forest, which the tiny village was nestled within, and this was exactly what he intended to do.

He intended to give a good chase, distracting at least a few Death Eaters from his two friends fleeing to the castle for help.

He had known he was fast upon a broom, but never before had he found himself in a sprint for his life. All he knew was that his recent growth spurt had lengthened his legs enough to keep a pace ahead of his pursuer, but his endurance...

He couldn't count on it outlasting what could be a highly trained Death Eater, let alone on being able to outrun and outmaneuver all of the flung curses.

Bolting straight down the alley, the curses meant for him reverberating off the crates, he reached it's end, rounding the corner, nearly loosing his footing in the loose muck and grime as he flattened himself to the rear wall of what smelled distinctly like Madame Puddifoots.

Wand drawn he waited until the adrenaline fueled Death Eater rounded after him, only to meet the hard elbow to the face that Harry delivered. The yelling man's wand fell from his grip, and a quick stunner ended the man's conscious awareness of the acute pain.

Quickly he drug the body into the forest, depositing it behind a thick thorny brush, bound and silenced. Stunners were not meant to keep one knocked out indefinitely, so even if the man came to now any shouts for help would be unheard.

It was there, crouched behind the foliage, that he heard the approaching footfalls. Thanking Merlin that he had been concealed he attempted to get a glimpse, only catching sight of an indiscernible dark cloak.

A Death Eater...

Without a clear shot he patiently waited until they were close enough to spring his trap, and spring it he did.

Lunging out he grabbed the slightly smaller figure, spinning them around, his wand to their throat as they fell together against the rough brick wall of the building. "Not a sound." He hissed menacingly, mindful and unnerved by the person's lack of a struggle.

The deep golden tress flitting in the wind, dislodged from beneath her hood in the altercation, froze his lips mid-hex, as did the clearly recognizable, highly incensed huff of air.

"Damn't Potter..." She spat, somehow twisting around to face him despite the constant grip he held on her torso.

"Damn't me?" He hissed incredulously. "Damn yourself! I could have hexed you!"

"Yeah well if you hex me you'll have no one to bother once we get out of here." She snapped back, casting a surreptitious glance the way she had come. "I saw you get chased back here and managed to get across the road unseen I think..."

"You think? Bloody hell Kaylens just lead them right towards us!"

Her champagne colored eyes narrowed, golden flecks burning dangerously. "I believe getting their attention was the point, was it not?"

"I was wondering where your sarcasm went." He mumbled, the harsh thumping of his heart fueled by the realization that he had nearly used a dark curse on her.

"It came back the second you lied about doing this together Potter! You lied! And to think, I actually was starting to believe that you actually were sorry about earlier..."

"Right up until you introduced me to the finer points of Butterbeer..." He countered, his hands dropping to her waist, his head falling back against the bricks.

"Speaking of that take this." She hissed, shoving the broken off shard of a Butterbeer bottle into his hand. "I nicked it from the pub."

He frowned, looking at it's reflective surface. "Gee thanks. I'll just reflect the next curse sent my way with it."

"Funny, didn't seem that nonfunctional to the Death Eater I sliced."

His eyes widened. "You did what?!"

"He caught my arm and was trying to hex me!" She snapped indignantly, their whispered conversation growing dangerously loud. "It's not like I killed him... Thought crossed my mind though..."

He stared for a second in shock at her words before finally managing to force his vocal cords to again, vibrate.

"Then I'm glad you had it." He muttered, slipping the glass shard into the pocket of his cloak. "Because if anyone is going to hex you it's going to be me, not some Death Eater with an attitude."

"Sod off."

"Gladly."

Yet neither moved, content to glare.

"And you didn't answer me about that stunt back there Potter." She whispered. "You just left me! I thought we were supposed to stick together!"

Frowning, her sudden reversion back to hostility made sense to him. "Ah... So that's why you're mad."

She merely scowled, fists visibly clenching, his own eyes unable to meet her own.

"Kaylens, I've already done enough to you. I couldn't justify leading you into harms way...." He replied morosely, a defeated sigh escaping his lips.

When his eyes finally rose to meet hers, he found them flickering uncertainly, her fists no longer clenched, but lightly relaxing where his hands held her steady.

"Look..." He whispered gently, all previous annoyance vanishing. "For the moment can we just call a truce? Stop the bickering for a bit?"

She tossed her head back, allowing her hood to fall free, releasing her mane of tangled locks that a slew of leaves had somehow wormed their way into.

"Okay." Her intonation tinged with apprehensive. "But if you ever pull a stunt like that again..."

A small smile tugged at the edges of his lips, his hand clamping over her mouth, effectively silencing her protestations. "It worked didn't it?"

"Hmph."

"And while we're on the subject of stunts..." He continued, eyes peering over her head, deep into the tangled coppices where the Death Eater's body lay. "Would you care to explain how you wound up in a Death Eater's cloak? You nearly had an Unforgiveable thrown at you."

Beneath his palm the feel of her laugher tickled his skin, the realization striking him perhaps harder than the mischievous glint in her eyes.

He had never before seen her look mischievous, but it suited her well, as did her light laughter.

"Please tell me there's not..." He trailed off, unable to finish the sentence.

"A stunned Death Eater in nothing but..." She too trailed off, clamping down on her lower lip as laughter shook her. "I-I figured it was a s-suitable punishment for trying to h-hex me..."

Yet again the girl had completely surprised him, a sudden horrible realization striking him.

"Remind me to never incense you again."

She inclined an eyebrow skeptically. "Somehow I doubt you'll be able to accomplish that feat."

"Then I'll steal your wand."

Instantly all humor faded, an uneasy expression he did not prefer replacing it.

"I'm sorry." He apologized quickly, lowering his voice. "It's just I thought you couldn't..."

"Do anything without it?" She finished for him.

Meekly he nodded.

She frowned sadly, "Pretty much. Three months... Three months of practice and the only bloody thing I can honestly do on my own is stun..."

For some reason his hand found it's way to her hood, pulling it over her head once again. Her phrase forgotten she observed him curiously, as he unconsciously began tucking her hair beneath it.

"Best not to let anyone recognize you then." He spoke softly, slower than normal, an unnatural, unexplainable protectiveness overcoming him. "And besides, it would be a shame to not leech all of the use you can get out of this lovely fashion statement you acquired."

"You're thinking they won't attack me if they see me in this."

He nodded quickly, eliciting a softening of her previously strained expression.

"We'll you're right." She provided. "That's how I got across the road to you. I walked right past two of them."

"Clever Kaylens, who would have thought." He chided, smiling at the slight smile he saw forming again. It was funny how he could incense her one moment and make her smile the next, all the while with Death Eaters hovering dangerously close. Somehow the thought of this brought a pleasant sensation he was not eager to lose, despite his inability to define it.

She stared at him, features bathed in the gray shadows of her hood, mouth slightly open as if caught off guard. "You know I can't decide if I should take that as a compliment or not."

He grinned, "Take it as whatever you want, just don't steal my trousers."

She visibly shuddered. "Trust me, I left those on him."

"Good. Because frankly, if you had messed with a Death Eater's trousers, to extract revenge or not, I think I may have had to wipe your memory clean for your own good."

She looked positively appalled, her intended retort forever remaining unspoken, for at that moment the light wrinkling of leaves underfoot froze them both, Harry's hand instinctively gripping his wand as he mouthed for her to go.

She was already moving, only dragging him with her, his wrist in a firm vice grip as if he were her captive. Keeping close to the magically erected edifices of commerce they kept to the shadows, knowing that her dark hood would merit a second glance before any attack would be made upon them.

Like a labyrinth the next alley's egress appeared, but a swift shake of her head cautioned him to run past it's opening with her, avoiding whatever perceived dangers lay down it. And so they walked, traversing the winding outskirts of Hogsmeade's commercial properties, until the second to last alley was encountered.

Peering down it's empty stretch they entered, the stench hitting them only after.

Foul excrement and feces, bile and refuse, all of it assaulted their senses without apology, as if it's source was freshly released.

It wasn't until his foot had knocked hard into the body that he realized it's source.

The dull red hair, the characteristic freckles...

The lifeless face of Seamus Finnigan stared up at him.

For one agonizing moment he froze, muscles failing to obey his commands, nerves failing to fire, heart stuttering.

"No..."

His mind denied it even before his strangled vocalization. Seamus couldn't be dead. He couldn't.

Though there was no denying the blank, open eyed stare of the Irish boy staring forever up into the heavens, just as there was no way of getting around the stench, for eventually the loss of control of a corpse's muscular system allows for the release of such foul things.

Recognizing the soiled soil around his dorm mate, it occurred to him that Seamus had been dead for quite some time.

Someone's hand wrapped around his own, squeezing gently.

"Come on. We can't do anything for him." A soft voice whispered, her request heeded only as she applied pressure to him, pulling him up from the dent his knees had left in the dirt. At some point he had fallen there, besides the second student to meet the fate his parents had.

In that moment everything changed.

He had been wrong. How stupid was he, believing for even a moment that the Death Eaters would hesitate to kill...

How many more bodies lay lifelessly sprawled upon the ground this cold day?

A slow burning, ominous rage began to simmer.

"There!"

The Death Eater's voice rang out from the opposite end of the alley, echoing down it's length, echoing louder and louder, mirroring the intense animosity rising louder and louder within him.

Merlin only knew how long they had been standing there, observed and unaware, allowing Seamus' lifeless body to distract them from saving their own lives.

Saving....

Deep within the depths of his ailing conscious, all concern for the sparing of life of anyone in the tunic of the Dark Lord fled, and his upturned wand unleashed the most powerful stunner he could muster, as less effective stunning spells streamed steadily from Kaylens cherry wooded wand besides him.

They couldn't remain exposed in the open like this, mere sitting ducks...

Driving his shoulder into hers, knocking her to the side, they tumbled behind a metal bin. Kaylens swore besides him, grabbing her shoulder in clear pain, but there was no time to think on it.

CLANG!

CLANG! CLANG!

The onslaught of curses were pounding against the bin, rattling the thick metal as if it were mere tin foil, a corner of the bin already melting over...

CLANG!

His wand smacked hard against their temporary blockade, strengthening it with a shielding charm Hermione had taught him. There was no noticeable reaction, but the Death Eater's stunning spells now bounced from it as if they were mere pebbles, no longer clanging as if they were small boulders.

Glancing at Kaylens their eyes connected, the silent question of if they were each okay passing and answered before both their wands, her's however insufficient, re-turned upon their assailants.

She wedged her wand in the minuscule gap between the bin and the brick wall, blasting stunners in a straight path along it, actually hitting home as one of the men pressed himself against the wall in an attempt to avoid Harry's cast hex.

That Death Eater fell groaning and disoriented to the ground, yet the pale faced man was clearly still conscious. The wrinkling of Kaylens' nose evidenced her displeasure at this, since the other Death Eater was no longer in their line of sight.

It took a second for Harry to realize that the only other spot to shelter behind at that end of the alley lay directly beneath another gutter.

Flashing Kaylens a deviant grin he aimed, the oddly silent sound of the spell striking overpowered by the ear splitting sound of the now dangling gutter dragging across the brick siding like a pendulum.

"That was my idea." She hissed above the racket.

The gutter finally broke free from it's precarious hold upon the thatched roof, landing directly atop where the other assailant had lain in wait.

The man's screams reverberated down the alley with sickening clarity.

"Complaining?" He asked smugly.

Shaking her head she scowled. "You still owe me one."

"Fair enough."

Unfortuantely the refreshing sound of the Death Eater's screams were attracting notice, because no sooner had that pair of goons been taken care of than the sound of another pair of footsteps sprinting across the leaves resounded. Only this time the person was coming from the back allies.

Sharing a glance with Kaylens all pretenses at humor once again left, both mutually acknowledged that their retreat could not occur in that direction, and together they took off down the length of the alley, passing the disoriented Death Eaters just before the alley ended, pouring them out onto the wide expanse of Hogsmeade's main thoroughfare.

Marching down the leaf littered road was the fourth Death Eater that they had either heard or encountered in the spanse of less than a minute.

Bolting across the cobblestone road, passing this new champion of cruelty, Kaylens fell into step behind Harry, her wand leveled at him as if she were the one in pursuit, effectively blocking the newly appeared Death Eater from firing anything at him for risk of hitting a comrade in arms.

The tactic worked, for the Death Eater was already swearing in frustration as he reached another alley across the road.

This alley was dark, darker than any of the previous ones they had been down, for the boughs of the surrounding forest hung overhead it, bathing the buildings in refreshing shade during the summer, preventing the snow from accumulating on the roofs in winter, and providing a haven for all those seeking to conduct business of the illicit variety.

The alley was bathed in sinister shadows, but he had always liked the dark, and did not hesitate to turn down it, the pounding of their pursuers resonating in the breezy air behind them. Diving behind a group of haphazardly dumped trash bins the realization that Kaylens was no longer with him struck hard.

How had she fallen behind...

She rounded the corner, wand gone and the hood of her pilfered Death Eater cloak torn off, with the pale one's hand shooting out after her, catching her arm in a vicious grip.

He saw all of this through the trash bins, eyes widening at the malignant look shining beneath the pursuer's hood.

"You!" Snarled the man. "I killed you! How can yo..."

A loud howl broke from the goon's throat, the shadows darkening the alley having dulled the flash of the broken glass in her hand. Now the shard shone, reflecting the deep ruby red that could only stem from an artery.

The man's arm was spurting.

She whorled in her assailant's grasp, slashing his arm until the vice grip broke, sprinting down the long alley.

The Death Eater's wand was already firing after her, the hastily incanted shielding charm dying on Harry's lips as the dark light connected with her, sending her tumbling forward, scattering the leaves littering the alley's walkway in her wake.

Her tumultuous fall terminated directly in front of where he lay in wait, and wait he did, posed in a crouch, ready to spring...

"Broussard what have you done!?" Another figure wearing the symbolic shroud of the devil himself rounded the corner, shouting furiously. "Our orders were not to kill! He's not going to be pleas..."

"She's supposed to be dead! I killed her!" Broussard's voice was tinged with hysteria, the spurting in his arm ceasing as the healing spell he had cast took effect.

Pale Broussard strode forward, arm's shaking, wand leveled at Kaylen's now coughing form.

The prickling of welling blood welled within Harry's hand, such was his grip upon his own glass shard.

"I'm ending this." Broussard hissed dangerously, Harry silently counting his steps.

One.

Two.

One more...

Broussard passed the gap between the bins, and he sprang from the shadows, throwing his arm around the tall man's neck, slashing savagely as he yanked away, falling to the ground besides Kaylens, the hot squirt of blood splashing them both as Broussard's severed carotid collapsed.

Rolling to his back, 11 inches of Holly already cocked and aimed, the killing curse flew at the other man.

The thud of the Death Eater's body hitting the ground, the cessation of the other's desperate gurgling, brought him no joy.

Only satisfaction.

His attention jolted from the carnage to where she lay besides him, clutching her chest, the soft lines of her eyes screwed up in pain.

"You know Potter..." She gasped, chest heaving as if restrained. "I h-hate...when yo...you're right."

"Right? Right about what?" He asked, arms shaking, the disjointed caliber of her speech chilling him. "Kaylens are you..."

"About...n-not being...taking care of...myself..." Her voice faded, a hacking cough resuming.

"Damn't..." He hissed, casting a furtive glance at their surroundings, hating the undeniable vulnerability of their present situation. Two stiffs and an injured comrade.

The foul odor was already rising from the fresh carcasses...

"Hey..." He whispered, forcing the panic from his voice as he smoothed away her wind strewn hair. "I'm going to move you okay?"

She nodded weakly, and he felt her hands curling around the folds of his cloak, grasping onto him for support as he lifted her away from the fallen Death Eater, hauling her across the blood stained dirt into the shadowy recess he had been sheltering in before.

Setting her down, supported only by his arms, he brushed her golden hair aside. “What were you hit with?” His urgency was barely concealed, his eyes searching her countenance and body for any sign, anything at all, to indicate what possible curse could be running it's course within her.

"I… d-don’t know…"

The adrenaline of earlier fell away, ceasing to fuel him any longer, the first fledglings of fright creeping into him at her faltering words.

She appeared unnaturally deprived of breath. "Kaylens…"

"H-harry…" Her scarcely uttered words left her looking strained. "It h-hurts…"

His insides froze, breath catching within his throat as he eased her to lay upon the ground. "What hurts?"
The sound of his low, urgent voice terrified him nearly as much as the stiffening of her slender arms beneath his hold.

"Crushing…" She gasped. "Can’t… Breath…" Her lips parted as if trying to speak further, emitting only a gasp, her fists coiling tightly around the folds of his cloak.

Crushing... His mind sought frenzically through his scanty repertoire of dark curses, limited only to the texts he had borrowed from Dumbledore’s collection.

…some are capable of crushing the air from it’s victim’s lungs….

"Verpletterend adem…" He whispered, the horrible realization pressing down upon him like a Hypogriff.

She had been hit with a crushing hex, and it would slowly drive the air from her lungs, killing her...

Her breathing was shallow, coming in short, quick bursts of hyperventilation, her chest barely rising…

"Kaylens…" He murmured. "Stay calm okay? You need to relax…."

Weakly she nodded, her paling complexion striking evidence to her pressing need for air.

The counter curse…. It relieved the crushing hex…

A choked whimper distracted him, drawing him to the distracting pallor of her skin.

"Kaylens please…" He pleaded desperately, knowing he was losing her, yet helpless as her eyes took on a glossy quality, flickering aimlessly. "Focus on me." He whispered, tilting her face until she was looking upon him in the dark light. "Look at me okay? Please…"

She was shaking now, her face growing cool to the touch, mouth flapping wordlessly…

"Come on Kaylens! Talk to me! Please!" He hissed frantically, feeling her body stiffening besides him, her hands, once clutching onto him so tightly, releasing his cloak, reaching to grasp blindly at her slender throat…

"No!" He voiced unconsciously, capturing her hand within the confines of his own. "Breath for me… Just breath…"

Her free arm rose, frantically clawing, clutching onto him, flailing weakly as he fought to calm her.

"Stop! Kaylens please …" He continued pleading, knowing she would not comply, though her oxygen was depleting, her last reserves were being used to fight him irrationally. "Don't fight me..."

Her hands began clawing frantically, her back arching up from the dirt strewn ground as panic tore through her.

Precious seconds were being lost… He had to keep her from fighting him as he worked.

He caught her arms, capturing them in the strong grip normally reserved for the struggling Snitch alone. His forearms strained against her, his decision made as he swung his leg over her waist, straddling her, forcing her fragile wrists down into the rough grime of the alley, pinning them beneath his knees. Her hips rose, pressing into him, against him, but his hands were now freed.

His mind roamed quickly, desperately, searching through the counter curses, seeking and falling upon one he was unsure of, though there was no time left for hesitation.

"Stay with me please…" He whispered shakily, unbuttoning her cloak, allowing it to fall free, revealing the fleecy wool of a well worn sweater.

His hands found their way to her chest, pressing upon either side to hover above where her lungs lay, his wand carefully gripped between. Her hair lay splayed haphazardly around her head, her tangled mane not concealing the sweat trickling upon her damp brow, nor the dampness soaking her exposed skin above her collar line.

Her grip upon his trouser legs was loosening, her rigid hands growing limp as her chest’s heaving grew indiscernible, arousing far more than panic within him.

Her body was no longer writhing beneath his own, her eyes flickering shut...

"Please let this work…" He pleaded, his softly uttered request beseeching her to hold on.

Closing his eyes he allowed the tip of his wand to tilt down, touching her skin, damp with perspiration, just above her collar line. His hands remained upon her chest, all concentration contorted into the effort of relieving the pressure upon her.

"Sterk Ademendum..." He finally whispered, hoping against hope enough of his will was behind it, for the crushing hex's counter curse was reliant upon strength of will, much like the Unforgiveables.

Wandless magic coupled with force of will...

He had never before attempted such a feat.

The gentle blue mist poured from his hands, cascading across her like an opaque fog, seeping into her skin, before finally fading from sight.

His hand sought hers, finding her, clutching onto her tightly, running his thumb across her chilly skin, a silent mantra pouring from his lips. "Please Kaylens… Come on…" He implored, silently beseeching the gods to spare her strength enough to last as the counter curse ran it’s course.

He was murmuring desperately, caressing her cheek, for her head had lolled to the side to rest in his hand.

He was watching her, searching for something, anything, to indicate success.

“Just hang on…” He pleaded, eyes falling closed in despair. They had lost someone already. No one else… “Just a little longer… Stay with me…”

The slight shuddering of her body beneath him, so slight he feared it a product of the wind, drew his eyes open once more.

Her lips were parting, a shallow breath being drawn between them.

His heart thudded, for her fingers still remained limp within the confines of his own.

“Come on Kaylens… One more time…”

This time her chest rose, ever so slightly, as if the pressure upon it were slowly being released by a cruelly slow force.

His hand traced along her neck, feeling for the gentle throbbing within it, finding her pulse beating weakly…

Gulping hard, his hand returned to her face, gently turning her head until the scarce sunlight of the alley fell upon it. Her airway would not be restricted. Tres had taught them that much, for it was easiest to breath when the chin was directly in line with the chest.

It seemed another eternity passed, but she was breathing, shallowly, but it was something. His fingers grazed her cheeks, ensuring that her head remained in place as her chest began rising with more and more regularity, each gasp of replenishing life air fueling her alertness.

Her eyes flickered slightly, the small sign betraying him, his body unconsciously shaking in relief as he felt her hand squeezing back gently against his own.

"Kaylens..." He murmured breathlessly, only now exhaling the breath he had been unconsciously holding.

Feebly she nodded, lips parted as her breath came ever more steadily. Long moments passed, his eyes glued upon her, watching the color returning slowly to her features. First the unnatural tinge to her lips fading, light pink replacing ghostly gray, then the vague warmth to her skin rising slowly along her cheekbones.

"H-harry..." His name came from between her parted lips, the ghost of a sound escaping on a whispered breath.

"Shh... Don't say a word." He hushed, running his sleeve across her damp brow, waiting for the hitching of her breath to once again fall under control.

No acknowledgment was necessary save for the tightening of her hand around his, the tapping upon his leg conveying how his knee still uncomfortably rested upon her other arm.

A light, amused smile escaped him at the realization. "You needed to sit up anyway." He whispered, sliding down and off her legs, recollecting her into his arms. Gathering her against his chest he allowed her slender form to collapse against him, her leaf strewn hair tickling his nose as he gratefully breathed her earthy scent in.

"Thank God." He murmured, burying his face into her hair, clinging to her still shaking form. "I was so scared the counter curse wouldn't work..."

Weak fingers clung loosely to him, her soft panting his only response. Unconsciously he found his hands tangling in her hair, combing through her tangled tresses, giving in to his burning urge to touch, to feel her presence directly beneath his hands.

Somehow, the feel of her chest heaving against him relieved him in a way that just the sight of her breathing could not.

"Thanks..." Her welcomed breath was tracing across his neck, increasing the involuntary quivering of his own muscles.

"That's one you owe me now..." He informed her, his fingers catching around a bright auburn leaf, carefully extracting it from behind her ear.

He felt a small tremor course through her. "You're still counting?" She whispered, the hint of a smile upon her tone.

She had tones...

He clung to her tighter, unsure of his sudden need for physical contact. "Have to stay ahead of you somehow..." He muttered lightly, relishing the way her chest rose against his in light laughter.

"Back to bickering then..." Came her breathless response.

He nodded, turning her face until her hazy eyes peered into his own. "I guess so." He murmured, studying her. "But we're still in a bit of a predicament. Do you think you can stand?"

She smiled wanly. "I'm exhausted, not immobilized."

He returned her smile warmly, pressing his forehead against her own. "Good." He murmured, his nose rubbing against her own. "Because I'm not carrying you."

"Like I would let you."

He chuckled softly at the light rasp to her voice, a light object breaking free from his neck at that moment, falling onto their intertwined laps.

In the preceding scuffle the Kunnskap must have snapped, for the miniature pensive had fallen, landing on Kaylens' outstretched legs, it's chain dangling onto his own.

Kaylens' fingers wrapped around it, a bemused expression tracing her features. "Never pictured you as one for necklaces..."

He scowled, taking the chain between his own fingers, fully intending to reclaim his property, when the intense snapping of twigs and crackling of leaves, as if a sudden scuffle in a fall pile had been engaged, rose up from the forest.

Thump.

The forest only an alley's length away from where they sat.

Thump.

His fist clenched around his wand, concealing it between them. He wanted to move, but he knew she was in too a fragile state to move quickly enough.

Another sound met his ears.

Growling...

Tumbling into the alley were two fully grown werewolves, one's fangs firmly imbedded into the hide of the other, hauling it away while the other struggled savagely against it.

His eyes, as were hers, were riveted to the desperate struggle before them, only now he was acting, hauling her to her feet, not bothering to wonder why there were werewolves in the day, with one acting protectively, rather than savagely.

There was not enough time.

The savage beast broke free, tearing down the alley for them, the other snarling in it's wake, thundering after it.

As it lunged for the kill, a hex to fling silver particles emerged from his wand to meet it, and Harry had just enough time to feel the sharp pull behind his belly button, comprehending that it came from the Kunnskap, still clutched between he and Kaylens hands.

Only after they landed, entangled in one another, did it occurred to him that the Kunnskap had doubled as an emergency portkey, only activated during mortal peril.

Dumbledore you clever man.

Thank Merlin Kaylens had been holding on as well.
________________________________________


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For every young boy there comes a time when your choices define the man you are going to be. For Sirius Black, this time has come. Travel with Sirius through the horrors of his family life to his one chance at real love…a story that will change your view of the most infamous Black we know.

Parallel by Deemarie Rated: 15+
In the wake of Voldemort's defeat there are some things left unsaid to those we hold dear. For Harry Potter this held true, because it's hard to find the strength to say the words when the red-headed girl in question is screaming into one's face, professing her desire to never see him again. Of course there are worse things than hearing the replaying of such words while hospitalized and healing, after all, one could be in Ginny Weasley's position, who was just informed that the man she screamed at until his collapse would soon be living with them.
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"Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it."
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~

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Chapter 23 ~ Ghosts of the Past


It was sickening... The way the dull warmth encompassed him, bewitching him, making him a slave to the cruel comfort it provided as it crept across his deadened skin like thousands of slithering serpents, their tongue like lashings reawakening his numbed cellular capacities with frightening vigor.

Until the nauseating warmth had found him, he had been nonfunctional, his systems systematically shutting down, one by one, heedless of his subconscious' frantic protestations.

Such was the effect of severe head injuries...

Now he was only dimly aware of the harsh sounds reverberating through the room, and the voice, inexplicable in dialect and tongue, it's only comprehensible feature a grating hiss, filling his senses.

The little man pounding upon the interior of his skull with his rather large sledgehammer banged with frenzied desperation, his mind crying out painfully for it to all end. Yet the pain had been his only constant, his only sanity to the madness that was now his existence.

Dean Thomas sought release, his eyes blearily opening to witness a hellish glory, one to which his private pain paled in comparison. No amount of dark splotches clouding his vision could obscure the sight before him, nor the serpent slithering across his numbed legs, pinning his body to the cold, uncomfortable tiled floor.

The vestiges of hind limbs protruding from the serpent's body, like small spurs, were dragging across his calves with suffocating force, it's sheer width freezing his blood that miraculously still ran, no longer pooling upon the floor around his bandaged skull.

The convulsing struck hard and suddenly, his body lurching beneath the serpent's weight unsuccessfully, the turn of his head his only salvation, saving him from drowning within the expelled contents of his own stomach.

The hissing again... The pressure was leaving, his body finally able to roll free upon the crimson slicked floor in his dizzying haze.

He fell right into the man, the dark length of cloak swaying against his face, Hermione's choked gargles registering within his mind.

With the trepidation of one who has never been through hell, his dark eyes rose, fixating upon Hermione's normally articulate lips, as the serpents large length exerted it's suffocating force around her small frame, coiling in tighter and tighter concentric circles around her gasping body...

The deep browned scales trailed away from her distressed body, covering everything in sight, the very floor appearing alive with the serpent's slightest movement, it's length impossible to discern due to the sheer vastness of it's intercoiling...

His eyes fell upon Amarante's unconscious body, upon the snake dragging over and across Neville's chest....

A powerful force clenched around his chin, and against his will the sorcery forced his neck to tilt back, his vertebras crunching together, dangerously close to snapping as he stared at the creature commanding his very will.

Deadened, slit like eyes met him.
* * * * *


The hunt was on.

The wolf's nails shredded the fallen leaves, it's claws digging into the mud soaked forest floor, wet clumps of grass scattering in it's wake. The only sound breaking the still death of the little traveled forest the harsh pounding of the small packs feet.

The others were spreading out, winding amidst the trees with the inborn agility known only to hunters.

The scent of live flesh had been detected upon the crisp breeze snaking through the village only moments before, and now the pack was on the hunt, searching for the escaped soul.

No humans were to leave the village.

None alive....

They were to be protected within it's walls, but once the borders had been breached, everything changed.

The wolf would not again stray from the growled orders of the elder. The searing warmth welling from it's wounds, issuing from where the elder had fought against him, depriving him of the tantalizing taste of the two fresh specimens was severe reminder of what happened to the disobedient.

Now it's taste had been thoroughly satiated upon the rich flesh of the fallen, leaving the wolf to revel in the stringy tissue caught between it's incisors, torn from the fresh corpses that had lain in pools of their own barely coagulated fluids.

The tormenting taste had been satisfying, yet it only served to renew it's thirsty desperation for live quarry.

The last pair had evaded it, leaving it to feast upon the newly deceased. It knew this, for blood coagulated firmly within mere minutes, and no clotting had passed along the wolf's tongue as it had feasted, it's tongue so deluded by the taste, deluded by the thirst it had so yearned for...

The wounds the wolf had sustained against the elder, fighting for it's quarry, were trivial in comparison to it's now satisfied hunger, for the blood of the dead stiffened the fur lining it's snout, it's tongue lapping at it, yearning for just one more taste...

It was then that the wolf spotted it's new quarry, a flash of red penetrating it's retinas from atop the human's head. The elder's guttural growls signified it too had spotted the prey, it's growls urging the wolf's mitts to pound in a faster rhythm, a deep snarl issuing from it's own throat, penetrating the late afternoon silence.

No humans were to escape the village... None alive...

For it they were not within the wards when the spell commenced.... Then they were as good as dead anyway.

The elder leapt, it's first thrust of fangs deftly dodged as the prey spun around the base of a trunk, it's evasive maneuver effective.

The elder was sent skidding across the slippery leaves, and the novice wolf's indignation resonated cruelly within the forest, it's growl heard by all near.

Stalking through the leaves the wolf hunted, rearing upon it's haunches as the human leapt in the air, clawing at a low hung bough.

It was a single flash of the human's hair that caused the wolf's hesitation.

Familiarity...

The human hung precariously, gangly feet swinging in a long arc, it's wand hand free and aiming as the elder sprung again, not dodging the bright light emitting from the human's wand in time.

As the elder fell to the forest floor, howling as if hell itself had clawed at it's very soul, all familiarity was forgotten. The wolf became entirely savage, giving into it's carnal desires once again as it leapt in defense, fangs bared...

The human's foot connected harshly with it's long skull, but not before it's teeth had sunk into the man's flesh, it's gene altering phages passing into the bloodstream of the now screaming human.

The man would not be human for long.

Together they crashed to the forest floor, the human's wand breaking from it's grasp, disappearing amongst the broken branches strewn across the earth.

It was then, as the wolf leapt upon the downed adversary, it's claws digging into it's quarry's chest, that the gnawing familiarity within it's mind clamped down hard.

He had bitten a human...

A sickening feeling rose up within the wolf.

The man's freckled face was screwed up in pain, yet the man's confusion regarding the wolf's hesitation to finish him off was clearly reflected within the blue depths of the human's eyes.

The wolf's stomach churned, the thoroughly quenched taste finally allowing it to reclaim it's mind, and the elder was limping towards them both, snarling menacingly.

The elder's savage intent was clear.

Sliding from the man's chest, the wolf turned on the elder, conveying the necessity to not kill this particular quarry.

Moments later the writhing body of the red headed man was being drug across the splintering ground of the Forbidden Forest, back into the ghost town of Hogsmeade.

The man that had fought against the carnal savagery of his darker side, had finally lost. The evidence of his failed battle lay in the unconscious form of the red headed student that he had dumped on the outskirts of town.

What the wolf did not know, was that the unnatural chill passing over him was the final incantation being cast upon the village, and all within it.

Phase one was nearing completion.
* * * * *


"Now that you have joined us..."

The creature spoke with derision, the sudden pressure upon his face releasing, sending his head snapping into the floor with catapulted force.

The crunching of his jarred nose, nor his pained groans, was paid no mind.

"The pain you are feeling shall recede in time Mr. Thomas." Voldemort hissed. "It is only natural after such injury. Your skull was in need of immediate attention."

Lifting his head, barely capable of eliciting a muscular response from his arms, his sleeve drew up, wiping the fresh blood from his face.

The movement was disagreeable, the furious retching of his torso indicative as further contents of his stomach expelled across the floor.

Voldemort merely raised the dark hem of his cloak, avoiding the putrid stench puddling dangerously close to his unsoiled robes.

"I am afraid..." It hissed, "That my methods have rather unpleasant side effects, which you are presently experiencing."

His skull pounded, the poisonous words filtering in, his heart pounding against his ribcage as the vilest of villains kneeled before where he lay sprawled like an infant, face down in his own mess.

Again his head fell under the control of sorcery, turning to stare the inhuman creature in the eye.

There he found no warmth, only lethal persuasion.

"I trust I have your understanding in that."

Dean did not nod, he could not, yet his head bobbed in response, his jawbone striking the floor with each successive drop.

"Ah... Good." Voldemort derided. "I do so value obedience Mr. Thomas, it was a trait your father lacked. How curious that it would pass to his precious son."

Dean's loathsome expression morphed into something far more bitter, his angry gaze glaring recklessly at the creature grinning rather amusedly.

"But of course... You wouldn't have known would you?"

The man with the sledgehammer pounded relentlessly, threatening to crack his barely healed skull, but the vein throbbing within his neck pulsated with furious intensity.

"What would you know about my father?" He spat, blood colored spittle running down his lip.

Voldemort's wand waved lazily, the pungent mess dissipating from the floor as the creature squatted down, eyeing him with an air of superiority. "Everything Mr. Thomas. Everything."

He swallowed hard, choking back another wave of sheer revulsion, Hermione's weak breathing ringing within his ears. How could this monster know anything of his father, when he, himself, did not?

"Oh yes..." Voldemort continued, eyes glinting. "Your father was powerful, but treacherous.... In the end, his refusal to obey orders was not something that could be tolerated."

Dean was shaken. His father... The one person he had so assiduously sought to find... Yet not one fact, not one whisper, had been imparted onto him from his otherwise loving mother.

There had been no contact since birth. It was the only knowledge he bore asides from the dark anger, the hollow feeling of abandonment that he harbored below his jovial exterior.

And now the vilest of creatures was telling him what his mother had been unable to.

His father had been a wizard. He was not Muggleborn after all, and yet, this new knowledge changed nothing, save to fuel his anger.

"What did you do to him?" He practically growled, raising as best he could from the floor, ignoring the snake's threatening hissing.

The creature's pale lips tightened in a cruel line. "What was necessary. Once he met that filthy Muggle mother of yours he could no longer be trusted."

Understanding crossed Dean's face, the knowledge of what had happened sinking in.

The red eyed beast merely nodded. "Oh yes... You know now. He tried to run, to spare you and your mother the fate he had in store, yet in the end we found him." The slit like eyes narrowed further, disappearing into his skull. "We always find them."

"You killed him..." He was shaking, fists curling into tight balls, Hermione's protestations ringing in his ears, yet miraculously unheard.

"He chose his own fate, foolishly leaving our cause in pursuit of family." Voldemort stood, pacing, the snake slithering to allow his master room to move. "If I had been wiser, I would have realized the importance of such things to fools, but now..."

The red eyed, bipedal snake turned on his heel, staring him down. "Now Mr. Thomas, I do. For fools shall risk their lives for such things, however irrational it is."

His eyes drifted past the snake of a man, fixating upon Hermione. Her dark, exhausted eyes held his, holding the look of defiance, even as a flick of the serpent's muscular tail sent her small form slumping against the wall, her features contorted in sheer agony.

"Nagini that is enough."

The reptile's head, perilously close to Hermione's, turned slowly to regard her master, her diamond plated tail flicking lazily near Neville's feet.

Such was the serpents length that even stretching the length of the restroom, coiling and winding through the stalls, that there was enough scaly surface left over to wind tightly around Hermione, binding the girl effectively.

A forked tongue slid out, Voldemort's grating, hissing words filling the air with the extension of it's dagger like teeth, a milky fluid exuding from them until a small drop fell to the floor.

Splat.

The reality of the toxins within that small drop struck him harder than the blow that had fractured his skull, for it would take only a single order from Voldemort, and the serpent would strike.

She could kill them all, and Voldemort would never have to lift a finger.

As if reading his thoughts, Voldemort flicked a long, pale finger towards Hermione, and he swore to God the serpent actually grinned.
* * * * *


Beneath the folds of her worn sweater, the subtle chill of the dew stained, muddied ground seeped in. The crinkling of half dried leaves beneath her, and the glittering light streaming through the forest canopy, it's dull warmth caressing her cheeks, all urged Kalliandra to stir upon the familiar forest floor.

Her hazy eyes flitted open, afternoon light spilling into them, revealing the moss covered ground that stretched endlessly outward, broken only by the countless trees rising up from it's surface. Drawing a deep, strained breath, she relaxed into the earth, her body conforming around the small rocks and twigs, and the shimmering, fallen leaves that lay in chaotic order around she and the messy haired man that had crashed to the earth with her.

The light breeze strewing golden strands haphazardly across her face, tickling her nose, was disregarded in light of the relief exploding through her. The numbness of before, the horrific, paralytic sensation of seeing the wolf's fangs poised and bared as Potter had thrown himself between she and the creature...

All her fear was forgotten, for the reassuring warmth of his arm, laying across her waist, was finally seeping in.

He was okay... That damnable, overbearing, poster boy of idiocy was with her.

She was beginning to lose count of the utterly brash things he had done in her presence, but the feel of him stirring sent her informal count right out the window.

His legs were moving, further entangling with her own, and for once she found she did not mind.

A breath of relief escaped her lips, a choked laugh falling from his own. His face turned in the dirt, falling inches from her own, his dazed eyes reflecting the surprise filtering through both their veins.

He had thrown himself in front of death's blade once again, to protect her...

The bastard was alright...

She flung her arms around him, ignoring the stiffening of his body, clinging to him as if doing so would vanquish the frightening reality of what his idiocy had nearly cost.

He was shaking... The realization that she cared was something for which she was ill prepared, but the feeling of his arms instinctually gathering around her, clinging back with equal desperation, drove the suddenly inconsequential fear from her mind.

They were no longer upon the ground, for his fists were tangling in her sweater, clutching her needingly. His arms were clumsily gathering her against his chest, pulling her closer, and she obliged, falling against him till her face was buried in the tangled folds of his cloak, the rhythmic rising of his chest reassuring her of his safety.

His safety... The brash fool... She would hex him if she only could...

She too was trembling, the unwelcome sensation enticing her arms to wind tighter around his neck. He responded with equal fever, pulling her onto his curled up legs as he leaned back, their awkward, backwards descent halting only as his back connected with the trunk of a tree, it's rough bark scraping beneath her hands which burrowed within his untamable hair, his own rising to intertwine in her own.

The relief flooding through her was unnerving, her silence bought only by the stunned astonishment coursing through her as his face tilted down, falling to burrow within the tousled tresses winding past her shoulders.

It was too much for her. After blocking so much out for so very long... One like her wasn't meant to feel, yet the relief flowing through her was undeniable. Everything was undeniable, yet she would deny it for as long as she could, and his calloused fingers running along her neck, trailing across her face as it fell, burying into his neck, were testing her reserves.

Damn him... Damn him and his recklessness. Damn him and his self righteous protectiveness. She wasn't supposed to be concerned about anyone, yet now she was.

His cloak was catching in the weathered bark of the tree, she could feel it as he shifted beneath her, the tightening of his arms silently conveying his desire for her to not move. She gratefully remained, breathing him in as he adjusted, the salty scent lingering upon his collar overwhelming her senses almost maddeningly in the meantime.

She could no longer see a thing asides from him, the king of idiocy, yet insanely it was all she needed.

"Damn you Potter..." She whispered falteringly. For once in her life her words were failing to speak her mind, the quality of her voice betraying it instead.

A solitary hand remained intertwined in her soft locks, brushing them away from her veiled face, one by one.

"That's the second time you've done that...." She breathed shakily, not content to let his brashness go so easily. "What the hell were you thinking..."

"Actually...." He whispered, the tip of his nose caressing her cheek, his head tilting against her own so his breath traced along her skin. "I wasn't."

Despite herself, her soft laughter was there, enticing his arms to wind even tighter around her slender form. "You're an idiot Potter..." She whispered, her light admonishment tracing across his neck, the shaking of his arms fiercely felt as a hand fell to her waist.

His hand found her chin, cupping it, forcing her face to turn to his own. "So..." He murmured, forest colored eyes conveying his conflictions. "A thank you wouldn't be coming anytime soon then?"

She shook her head, willing her eyes to shut, yet feeling their failure. "Not a chance."

A sad smile graced his face. "So nothing has changed."

Again her voice was catching. "Pr-precisely."

His entire expression faltered, his forest colored eyes betraying a sad hint of amusement. "Stuttering Kaylens..." He whispered, hand sliding from her chin, tracing her cheekbone. "First annoying, then clever, then stuttering... How much do you expect me to take?"

Her gaze held his, the severe weight of the sadness in his own seeping through to her. "How much can you?" She softly questioned.

His throat rose rhythmically, his swallow not fully masking the choked sound emitting from his throat. "Not a lot..." He whispered truthfully, pulling her towards him until they again clung to one another.

In the empty forest, far from where Seamus had fallen, far from the overwhelmed Hogsmeade, and far from Hogwarts, they clung to the only comfort they had.

Each other.
* * * * *


Hermione was gone.

Gone...

He had taken her, the snake smacking her beaten face into the wall, and there had been no amount of knowledge or bravery that could prevent it from happening.

There were times when sheer knowledge failed in the face of the upper hand, and Dean now knew this, for Hermione Granger, cleverest witch of their year, had fallen prey to the python that had clamped it's teeth through her clothing, dragging her from the room and into the village's streets.

The monster wasn't killing her, he was keeping her.

And there was nothing he could do about it.

Dean's dark eyes fixated upon the monster, hating him with renewed passion, for until this moment he had been miraculously sheltered from the villain's treachery.

Or at least he had thought so.

"My father was not a Death Eater." He spat dangerously, realizing the futileness of protestation, yet not caring.

Voldemort practically smiled, "The biggest mistake one can make is in failing to believe the truth, when it is dangled right in front of them."

Turning to him the creature continued, it's thick accentuation betraying the speech of one ill suited to the language of man.

His kind preferred their own speech, the speech of those that slithered upon their bellies.

"You my boy, are not Muggleborn." Voldemort hissed, fixing his glare upon him. "Your thoughts may be tainted, but your blood is pure."

He shook his head vigorously, "No, not according to you, because my mother's blood runs through my veins." Voldemort's face was narrowing in disgust, and Dean took his time annunciating his next words. "Her filthy, Muggle stained, blood."

The creature's tone was deathly quiet, "Your father was a pureblood, as are you. There is nothing left to consider on the matter."

Dean could only stare, hating the unquestioning look upon the creatures face.

"Your thoughts have been tainted Mr. Thomas. Indeed... they have. Yet once you know the truth, you'll come to realize exactly who has tainted them."

Paralyzing fear flowed through him, preventing him from saying a word of dissent as Voldemort's dictation continued.

"I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that I desire your death for your filthy maternal parentage, yet you are wrong."

No he wasn't.... Dean knew enough to know that, yet the creature continued, heedless of the disbelieving look within his eyes.

"I ask you, would I have saved your life, healed your skull, if I were truly an enemy?" Voldemort's searching gaze roamed over him, penetrating far deeper than his outer layer of skin, for he could almost hear the villain's thoughts resonating within his mind.

"You feel it don't you Mr. Thomas." He leaned forward, eagerness written across his face. "You can feel your fear dissipating. You know I am not your enemy, you know how I crave you as an ally."

Dean Thomas stared into the face of evil, unwilling to believe the words pouring from the serpent's mouth, his own only able to form a single word through the penetrating persuasion ringing through his mind.

"Why?"

"Because you are powerful, as was your treacherous father." Voldemort replied, circling his kneeling form. "And because you're alone. Alone as we all are. I can feel how strongly you desire to see the truth, the truth as I once saw it."

The monster's words were no longer discernible from his own, at least not to him. He could no longer tear his eyes from Voldemort's, such was the power reverberating there.

"Make a choice my child. Make your choice and I shall free you from this prison."

"No prison...There's no..."

"Oh but there is. You like so many before you just fail to see it. Yet tell me, why do the powerful hide from the filthy Muggles when we should rule? The Muggles, weak as they are, have imprisoned us into our shrouds of secrecy."

Dean could not remove his eyes from the man, his jumbled words making little sense.

"For... For their safety..."

"NO!" The serpent's roar nearly destroyed him, sending him crumbling pathetically to the floor.

It was then that the eye contact was broken. It was then that the Legilimency, the persuasive power of suggestion that Voldemort had mastered, ended.

"We hide from them for our own safety! Muggles would kill our kind without a second glance if only presented with the opportunity!"

The entire room shook as a stall door slammed in the creature's anger.

"It is my job to see to it that that never happens. The preservation of our species is at stake, and it is us against them Mr. Thomas! The sooner you see it the safer you shall be!"

For reasons he could barely begin to comprehend, Dean eyes remained rigidly upon the floor. "W-why are you telling me this?"

"Because your mind has not been made up. Because you may not be stupid enough as is that vile Mudblood Nagini is taking care of. Because I need eyes and ears to aid in the preservation of our species, and I think you are intelligent enough to understand the impotency of those foolish enough to stand besides that old fool that calls himself your Headmaster!"

Voldemort again surprised him, dropping to the floor in front of him, the neat folds of the creature's robes lost upon the dirty tile.

"We are at war Mr. Thomas, and soon you will be forced to choose a side. Today I have sought to ensure that those strong enough to do so know the truth. Now look at me!"

Again the invisible force forced his head upwards, the red eyes boring into his soul.

"Make your choice."
* * * * *


She shuddered, for it could not be stopped. No matter how tightly Tonks shut her eyes, the image of his flying body plagued her.

Sirius.

If only he were here, truly sitting before her as another ghost of her past presently was.

Only the ghost she desired to again see was far beyond her reach, lying in wait, beyond a veil that mere mortals could not penetrate. The price of accessing the mysteries Sirius was now privy to was one she was not yet willing to pay.

Not when Emily and Kenneth were gone, taken, just as she had been.

She had again, failed.

"An Auror risks their life everyday Nymphadora, but the frequency and brashness with which you throw yours around is far too frightening! Now tell me, do you intentionally choose the hopeless assignments or do you just have a knack for finding them?"

Kingsley's admonishments rung within her skull, her eyes barely focusing upon her captor, who sat upon the rich upholstery, calmly twirling Chardonnay within his crystalline goblet, urging her to indulge in one of her own.

She was far too intelligent to accept the alluring temptation that still sat, untouched, upon the mahogany table. A small ring of perspiration was darkening the rich wood where the goblet rested.

Lowering the ornate crystal ware from his lips, the ghost of Regulus Black examined her, alive and well.

"It's a shame we never got to know each other as children Nymphadora." His cultured voice informed. "Had we, then you might just realize that I am indeed trying to be hospitable, not poison you."

She swallowed nervously, the beating her skull had taken in the car crash had been further amplified by Regulus' stunner.

Such had been the price of her hesitation, the mistake of her misidentification.

"Forgive me for not trusting someone who felt the need to disarm me." She replied tartly, the absence of her wand weighing heavily upon her psyche.

Regulus' thin lips upturned into a strained smile. "Surely you must understand that I cannot fully trust you Nymphadora. I remember how hell bent you had once been on becoming an Auror, and now..." His eyes fell to the Ministry of Magic crest gracing her lapel. "It appears you have succeeded. I could not very well have your self-righteous side stunning me before we had a chance to...catch up."

Her dark eyes narrowed, all characteristic warmth long since fled. "Old times it is then Regulus. So tell me, how was it, killing Muggles at your masters bidding? I bet it wa..."

"Correction," He interrupted, taking a long, calculating sip of the deep red fluid. "I have only killed one Muggle, be it indirectly."

"I'm sure." She spat. "I bet you were disappointed your homicidal career failed to last longer. After all, you spent your whole life idolizing those cloaked in black wonders, but barely lasted a week amongst your precious Death Eaters."

Regulus stood, her narrowed eyes following his path to the end of the study.

"So what happened Reggie? Couldn't play with the big boys and girls when it came down to it? Weren't strong enough?"

His pale countenance peered above the goblet's rim unflinchingly. "You should not speak of things you know naught about."

"Oh but I know plenty Reggie. I may have been just a child when you left to join them but I knew enough."

"Then you would know how ill advised it is to speak of this so openly. And it is Regulus, I believe I told you to drop the Reggie name when you were four."

"Drop my given name and I'll learn to annunciate your full one."

An inclined eyebrow was her response, yet she paid it no mind. The pounding of her head was fading, and her eyes were already roaming across the room, regaining her bearings.

"If you are searching for your friends," Regulus' voice broke in observantly, "You will be glad to know they are fine. Their injuries were a bit more severe than your own, but they are presently in the guest suite, receiving some well needed rest."

Her confused expression fell onto him. "Why did you bring us here Regulus?"

He shrugged impassively, placing his wine glass onto the small table. "Clearly help was needed, and you were in no condition to provide it."

"That's not what I meant."

"I know it. You're wondering why your prejudicial cousin has risen from the grave, and instead of leaving your tainted self and your Muggle friends to rot in that ditch you had wound up in, helped you."

She eyed him crudely. "Well I was wondering why your corpse looked so undesiccated ."

Regulus threw his head back, a dry laugh escaping his throat, echoing off the dark paneling. "Ah... I was wondering when we would get to that."

Long minutes passed, the only sign of it's passage being the telltale ringing of the grandfather clock in the corner, as it struck upon yet another indiscernible hour of the night.

She must have been unconscious for hours before awakening upon the couch.

"You willingly helped Muggles. Why?"

He eyed her disdainfully. "I will admit, I harbored them no love, at a time. But you'd be surprised what living with them for sixteen years does to curtail one's distaste."

"So that's what you've been doing? Living as a Muggle?"

"In a manner of speaking."

She groaned, never allowing her eyes to leave her miraculously risen cousin. "For once, a straight answer Regulus."

He laughed hollowly, drumming his fingers across the small table. "The Death Eaters attempted to kill me Nymphadora, and I was a marked Death Eater to the Ministry."

He stood abruptly, her untrusting gaze following his path to the end of the study. "The Muggle world, ironically enough, was my only option for safety." He continued, stopping in front of a large, decorative mirror, his hands tussling his slicked hair. "I started again there."

"Regulus, there was a body. Your body."

He calmly re-adjusted a particularly out of place strand. One would never know, just by looking at the two, that they were discussing what a world had widely regarded as a celebrated death.

The death of a Death Eater had once been a widely rejoiced event.

"I was tipped off that my defection had angered certain...members. I fled barely in time, and when they finally found me, the plan to ensure my survival had already been set into motion."

From her spot upon the settee, she watched as his eyes studied his reflection, as if trying to decide if he liked what he saw beneath the surface...

"I had proffered a vial of Polyjuice potion, just enough to ensure the transformation of a single person. A single unfortunate soul..."

Her blood ran cold at his equally frozen words, for the ghost of the past that stood, staring at his own reflection, appeared to be coming undone.

"They finally found me a few days later on a Muggle avenue... I knew I had no more time to run, but that so long as I was on a busy street, I would remain safe. They would not dare attack in front of so many witnesses..."

His gaze fell from the mirror, his fingers running blindly across the highly wrought iron of it's frame.

"The nearest person to convince had been a destitute in rags." He ground out. "Once they had drunk the potion, I disapparated."

A distinct tightening of her chest froze her. He had not... He could not...

"I can only assume what happened next, since my body was found."

Her arms were shaking. Another death... Another innocent that had been killed by one who had deserved a fate worse than death... Another innocent who's loss would forever go unnoticed..

"You sacrificed an innocent person to save your own skin..." She whispered haltingly.

His fists tightened around the edge of the mirror, his gaze avoiding his own reflection. "I know. But I did what was necessary. My life was of more value than the street urchins."

The horror within her chest was close to exploding. "A-a child? You k-killed a child..."

"Children are so oft gullible. You of all people, having been one yourself, should know this. They are so much more trusting..."

"Who are you to make that choice?" She cried chokingly.

"The urchin did not know the things about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named that I did."

"And I suppose you expect me to believe that you were going to come forward with that information?"

His deadened expression deepened. "If self preservation demanded it I would have."

She shook her head disbelievingly, her fingers wrapping around the cushions she sat upon. "You're a monster...."

He turned on her, "I was, but unlike you the things I grew to do were never my choice. Don't delude yourself into thinking otherwise."

"You always have a choice!"

"No Nymphadora. Purebloods do not always have a choice. My mother and father taught me that..."

"You can't blame them for your choices Regulus..."

"Then who should I blame? Unlike you I was taught to hate."

She shook, choking back a sob. "Sirius was able to make his own..."

He laughed bitterly. "Sirius was always the strong one, the rebellious one. But never for a second did he try to help me Nymphadora. Never delude yourself into thinking I could have chosen the path he did."

He spun away, facing the wall. "The second I donned the Slytherin crest he lumped me in with the rest of our cursed family. They were all I had." He finished hollowly.

"You should be in Azkaban."

"You're probably right, but that is not the reality."

"You're a self confessed murderer." She replied. "It should be."

"Still living in the sheltered world of your childhood are we? You never could accept the cold realities of the world, not with your mummy and daddy sheltering you as they were, encouraging your idealistic fantasies..."

"Better than Pureblooded homicidal mania."

His head fell. "Yes... It was homicidal wasn't it. As was I..."

"As a Muggle you'd be amazed at the high paying jobs that one can achieve if only they possess the proper persuasion." His long fingers caressed the worn wood of his wand, it's blunt end emerging from the pocket of his overcoat.

Her narrowed eyes followed his path to the end of the study. "You threatened them...."

"No, I confounded them." He responded irritably. "By the time I was done I had them believing I had the proper qualifications, the proper schooling, the best references..." He returned to the mirror, studying his reflection. "I was doing them a favor really. I am much better at my job than any of those Muggle nutters that profess to be my colleagues. Scalpels indeed..."

"Scalpels?" She repeated dully, the word's reference ringing true.

He nodded curtly. "Yes Nymphadora, I am a healer, or a doctor so to speak."

"Being a healer requires years of study Regulus!" She practically screamed. "You mean to tell me you confounded actual doctors into believing you were..."

"One of them, yes Nymphadora. That's exactly what I did."

"How can you just fall into that?" Her voice quivered with suppressed rage, her brain frantically turning over the new information, attempting to process it unsuccessfully.

"Sort of. Obviously memory charms were often used, particularly in my early years. But I practiced it until I got it right."

"You used human beings as guinea pigs..." The shrillness to her voice had reached a crescendo.

He shrugged. "It was no worse than the treatment they had been getting from my so-called colleagues."

"But guinea pigs!? You could have killed someone Regulus!"

"I never did Nymphadora. Instead I saved them, many of them..." He spoke with conviction, turning to her, his face as calm as ever despite the clear belief in his eyes.

Until then, his eyes had retained the look of the dead. Until right then, Tonks would have believed that his soul was as dead as his body had been rumored to be.

Until then she had not realized what his hasty risks had meant.

"Many of them would have died had it not been for my magic Nymphadora, the magic they lack, the magic the Ministry selfishly keeps to themselves..."

She swallowed hard, grasping for the words. "That's how you helped Emily and Kenneth..."

He nodded, his steely gaze boring into her own. "Yes. The girl was in bad shape, a collapsed lung. It had been punctured by a broken rip. I can only assume she sustained it from the impact of the crash."

The severity of the situation fell upon her just then.

Emily Bothan could have died, and it had taken a reformed Death Eater to save her.

And he had.

Suddenly Regulus Black's resemblance to Sirius ran more than skin deep, for suddenly she was able to see something good in his soul.

As if reading her thoughts he spoke. "Speaking of my estranged world, how is that dear brother of mine? Back in Azkaban I suppose?" He gestured to a copy of the paper that lay on the small stand beneath the mirror. "I saw his picture in the paper a few years back."

She tore her eyes from him for the first time since awakening. There was no longer a reason to eye him suspiciously.

"He's dead Regulus."

Unable to see him, the clearly strained voice told her enough. "How?" He whispered falteringly.

It was a single word.

Just one.

"Bellatrix."

She noticeably jerked as his fists pounded down, grinding into the wooden stand he had turned back to. "I believe it's time I returned." He whispered dangerously, ignorant or uncaring of how his bloodied knuckles stained the expensive wood. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may have been gone for years, but I doubt his true aims have changed."

Was he forgetting his own situation...

"Regulus, you're a known Death Eater. The second the Ministry finds out you're alive they'll imprison you without trial."

The silence was scarcely penetrable by his next words. "I'll be needing to speak to the Minister of Magic in a closed location then. I will not go to prison." His voice shook, "I cannot. Not until the truest monster is gone..."

"I'll do you one better. "Albus Dumbledore."

Regulus Black nodded resolutely. "Good. It's about time I saw how truly great that man supposedly is."
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Just for the record, Hermione is not dead. That shall be explained later on. ^^

Thank you to Ichigo Pan for the wonderful drawing of Kalliandra.

Discussion Group Update: For those of you who have not found out about this yet, a reader, Arjun, was kind enough to set up a reader discussion group regarding the Eclipse of the Sky saga. It's basically an area where readers can get to know one another, discuss theories about various fanfictions, debate characterizations, create polls, discuss plot holes, view reader illustrations (there are 59 images currently posted at this time in the group), or discuss their own fanfictions, while helping each other in the writing process of stories.

I also will be posting deleted scenes for the discussion group to view. Right now there is a 1900 word humorous segment between Ron and Hermione posted, and coming soon there will be a meeting between Harry and Cho Chang. If you want to join this group the directions to do so are on my freewebs homepage. Just follow the link at the top of my HPFF homepage and it will take you to it. I also let people know how chapters are progressing and answer questions on there as well.

Recommended Stories of the Week:

Everything About You by Njhill22 Rated: Mature Genre: Humor/Angst
Summary: Had Ron been a good friend, he would have Avada Kedavra-ed him as soon as he had found out. Even pacifist Hermione could have done him in and things would have been better for the lot of them. But no... His so called friends had been unable to save him from the one person he could not trust: Himself. He, Harry James Potter, was undeniably a moron, because only a moron would continue such a liaison with pug faced Pansy Parkinson. It was a damn shame the woman was such a good shag, otherwise he'd have no excuse for not offing himself immediately. A Harry Potter/Pansy Parkinson pairing, with the cynicism that only njhill22 can provide.

Torn and Broken Hearts: The Prophecy of a Millennia by KawaiiAce2003 Rated: 15+ Genre: Mixed
Summary: A Millennia. A being so powerful that Voldemort himself seeks to possess her. But as the Millennia makes friends and enemies in most unlikely of places, her preordained future could possibly tear her away from the one she is truly meant to be with.
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2 comments

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