Chapter 16

Will Power

A dark, curly-haired figure padded along the cold stone floor of the Great Hall and plunked down in one of the chairs at the staff table. The sun was just beginning to rise, but Gem was tired already. She had been up practically all night with strange dreams, or rather nightmares. This, combined with the article she read in the newspaper, made it look set to be one of those days. The article read:

TERROR AS DARK ACTIVITY INCREASES

Disgrace falls on the Ministry today, as the previous massacre at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is traced back to the Black Wand Society. Apparently, the Ministry has known of this group’s rising activity for some time, but has not published the news, for fear of inspiring more attacks from the dark forces.

Today the Ministry is accused of withholding information, as well as continuing inadequate measures to contain the Black Wands. The Ministry has not yet identified the leader, or leaders, of the Black Wand Society. Officials continue to work to discover this information.

DEATHS AND DARKNESS

Cruelty and Deception is the name of the Dark Game. Horrific events unfold even now, as the Black Wand Society gains strength. The recent murder of five University graduates, at the hands of the Black Wands, provides proof that the Ministry is losing control…

Gem sighed. She knew who the leaders were. Her father, Derek, was one of them. She sipped some coffee and rubbed her eyes with her hands. Her eyes sparkled green, even early in the morning, and her black curls hung down, framing her face she looked up at the door to the Great Hall.

Brooke padded into the Great Hall, no footwear on her feet and only a flimsy, cream nightshirt covering her. She looked troubled. There was a glazed expression in her eyes as she moved in a dream towards Gem, focusing on her it seemed, singling her out. “Mum?” she asked, reaching out her arms towards Gem in a pleading gesture. “You are here for me?” she asked Gem, a small smile flitting across her face. She sat down on the edge of the table and took a strand of Gem’s hair in her hands.

“Your hair is still black,” she said quietly. “So beautiful. How can I ever live up to you? Teach me, tell me how to be you.”

Then suddenly she leapt up and whirled round.

“No!” she shrieked and started to fend off nothingness around her head, batting her hands wildly.

“Tell them to stop!” she implored Gem.

Gem got up, confused by Brooke’s words, but guessing she was sleep walking. She took Brooke’s hand.

“Brooke, wake up. I’m not Daiva, I’m Gem. Come on Brookie, wake up. It’s me, GemmyPie.”

She shook Brooke slightly, trying to wake up and at the same time trying to stop her from attacking the air.

Brooke threw her arms round Gem and started to cry.

She sort of gasped and hiccupped and gulped, giving Gem a very wet shoulder in the process.

“Don’t… hic… don’t… sniff…don’t leave me again,” she said in a little girl, lost voice, but then she took hold of Gem’s hands, panic rising in her voice once more. “They are coming, aren’t they?” Her eyes grew large and she tried to pull Gem with her out of the Hall.

Brooke clung to Gem’s middle and was sobbing into her shoulder. Gem put one of her hands in Brooke’s and with the other she stroked Brooke’s hair, trying to calm her down.

“Listen Brookey, I’m not going anywhere, alright. I’m not going anywhere. But I’m not Daiva, I’m just Gem. I don’t know who they are, honey.”

She let Brooke take her hand and lead her. It was better to see what her troubles were than just telling her to go away.

Serenity arrived at the entrance of the Great Hall, dark rims around her eyes. It was either tiredness or stress that had caused those.

She had awoken upon hearing Brooke stumble out of bed. Brooke was not the tidiest person in the world (as she had learnt after nearly seven years of living with her), and had fallen over a pile of their collective Quidditch magazines. Seeing Brooke leave the dorm in a sort of daze, Ren had thrown on the first clothes she could find (a pair of jeans and a white blouse) and grabbed a set of robes, before following her.

Seeing Brooke clinging to Gem in the middle of the Great Hall was not a reassuring sign. “What’s going on?” Serenity asked hesitantly.

“I’ve no idea. I think Brooke’s in a living dream or something, sleep walking. She called me Mum. I can’t wake her up; I guess she’ll have to wake herself up.”

All this quick explanation was happening while Brooke was frantically trying to haul Gem out of the Great Hall.

“Don’t trust her,” Brooke whispered frantically in Gem’s ear, as she sped barefoot with Gem in tow out of the Great Hall, banging the great oaken doors open so that they clanged to and fro in their wake. “Don’t trust her. She’s one of them.”

Once in the entrance hall Brooke seemed to lose all her energy and sank listlessly to the cold stone floor, slumping further and further until the strained look departed from her face and she slept.

As Brooke sank almost lifelessly to the floor, Gem sank beside her. She knew Brooke didn’t like the Hospital Wing, almost as much as Gem herself didn’t. Besides, there was nothing physically wrong with Brooke. Gem decided to wait until Brooke woke up, so she wasn’t alone, not fancying the idea of floating her back up to the Ravenclaw common room.

Gem began to wonder who them was. What was Serenity part of? She was a seventh year, but Brooke was seventh year too, so it couldn’t be that. Head Girl? Could be.

Wait…Serenity had been one of those under the control of Prince…that was it! The strange news in the paper, the scary dreams. It all made sense. Gem just hoped that Brooke did not try to go and kill the other three ex-servants in her sleep.

Serenity felt as though a sudden cold wind had struck her, and she shivered, pulling her robes around her. She sat down beside Gem, feeling breathless.

For the last few weeks she’d been having the same dream; storm clouds moving closer and closer to Hogwarts. Shivering again, she had the uneasy feeling that the storm may have finally descended on the school.

“What’s she on about?” she asked in a shaking voice. For some reason, being scared felt like a good idea.

Gem somehow did not think that Ren needed to be told about the newspaper article and Brooke being afraid of the ex-servants just yet. Gem shook her head at Serenity and shrugged.

“Oh, it’s probably nothing. Just a bad dream, perhaps?”

Just a bad dream…

Donal sat on his bed in the third year boy’s dorm and sighed. It was no use; he was going to have to make up with Avery in order to enact revenge on Agatha. It was part of the plan he had hatched with Vivi and Aiko. The two Hufflepuff girls would brew the potion; Donal was to arrange for a place where they could dose Agatha and Avery at the same time. In order to do this, Donal needed to be on speaking terms with Avery.

Anyways, weeks had passed with barely a word between them, and whilst Donal did have other friends and acquaintances around the school, Avery was a) in his house, b) his room mate, and c) still a friend, even if things had changed somewhat recently. He did not know what he would say when Avery came back to the dorm, which he would have to do at some point, but Donal had made up his mind that it needed doing, and so, however painful or distasteful it would be, he would see this through.

After being covered in some horribly bitter white powder, Avery headed for Gryffindor tower to bathe before meeting Agatha in the Great Hall. He did not really expect to see Donal (he was actually hoping he would not), but sure enough the boy was there, on his bed, seeming somewhat nervous but still as spiteful as ever. Or perhaps Donal was not. Avery was not sure; he did have that white powder in his eyes.

“Donal.” Avery muttered snidely, crossing the room and collecting a change of clothes.

Donal took a breath and let it out slowly. This really wasn’t going to be easy.

He turned on his bed to face Avery as the boy crossed the room; Donal, hands clasped in his lap, head bowed a little, sighed. In a soft voice, he spoke. “Avery, we need to talk. And I think I owe you an apology.”

He looked up, wondering how Avery would respond.

Avery nearly dropped the clothes he was holding. Donal was actually admitting how dumb he had acted? (Avery, obviously, had acted dumb himself, but that was beside the point…) Quite curious how the other boy would handle the awkward situation (and kind of wanting to apologize himself, once Donal had done so), Avery sat on his bed, clothes in his lap.

“You do?” he asked simply, trying hard not to show Donal how irky he was feeling at the moment. But, having been around Agatha so much, he was getting better at it. Still, he had a long way to go before he could mask his emotions as expertly as Agatha.

Donal sighed as Avery sat down. “Yeah. I realize now that it wasn’t your fault that Agatha broke up with me. I guess I was being blind to the fact that she made that decision on her own, without any outside influence, and I wanted to blame somebody, anybody except Agatha or myself. I’m still not sure as to her reasons, but I accept that you did not try to coerce her, and that you are not responsible for her breaking up with me. You didn’t ‘steal’ her, she made up her own mind. And for blaming you for everything that went wrong, I’m sorry, and I apologize for my behavior towards you over it.” He extended his hand towards Avery, hoping Avery would accept what he was trying to say, and realise how much it had cost him to admit that this time, the oh-so-brilliantly scheming Talmorra had got it wrong.

“Friends ?” Donal asked, unaware of a slightly pleading look upon his face…

“Not yet…” Avery muttered, ignoring Donal’s outstretched hand. “I owe you an apology too, though I hate to admit it. I’ve been a real jerk lately—you know that—so…er, sorry. I dunno why I changed, but…” He trailed off and looked away from Donal. “Um, yeah…so,” Avery grabbed the other boy’s hand and nodded, “Sure. Friends.”

Donal breathed a huge sigh of relief as Avery shook his hand, and smiled. Not a grin, or a sly smirk, but a genuine full smile, something that he did not do very often. “We’ve been a pair of complete idiots over this you know,” he said with a laugh. “Someone said the only thing that can come between two best friends is a girl. I never believed it before now, but it’s true. No matter what happens, let’s try not to fall out over a girl again!”

“Too true,” Avery said, nodding and smiling at the stupidity of it all. “We were idiots…So how about we keep our love lives a secret?” he suggested, not entirely serious about it, but admitting that it would solve the problem, if only to allow for other problems.

Donal lay back on the bed, happier than he had been in a long time. Now that he and Avery had made up, things were a great deal more bearable. Now he had just one more thing to do.

He sat pondering, ideas buzzing through his brain, examining them, discarding ones that would be of no use, thinking, searching…and then…

“That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Avery! I have a great idea! You’re going to like this, I hope!”

Donal sat up quickly and looked across the room towards his friend, clearly excited about something.

Hearing his name, Avery moved the open Transfiguration text off his face and slowly turned to look at Donal, clearly not sharing Donal’s excitement. Then again, Avery did not have a clue as to what the idiot was cooking up. It had to be either something dangerous, against school rules, annoying to someone else, or all three combined into one horribly nasty plan. Donal was, after all, notorious for his rather creative schemes.

“Yes?” Avery asked calmly, shoving the Transfiguration text further away from him and rolling all the way over to face Donal.

Donal forced himself to remain calm, and to explain himself clearly to Avery. “How would you like to have an intimate dinner with Agatha? Just the two of you, with her favorite things on the menu?” he asked, in a conspiratorial tone.

Had Avery not been lying down, he would have fallen over. Though it was a good idea, Agatha’s favorite foods? Knowing that cultured…er, girl, her favorite foods would be some French crap that Avery could not even dream of eating.

When the time came and he was expected to eat the junk, he would have two options: 1) refuse to eat and make Agatha mad, or 2) eat the crap and most likely throw up, thus, once again, making Agatha mad. Also, Avery and Agatha really could not spend too much time around each other without getting on each other’s nerves. It was probably a good thing they were in different Houses.

Avery laughed and looked up at Donal. “You’ve got to be kidding! Agatha’s favorite foods are probably some fancy crap that I couldn’t possibly stomach. And–well…” He scratched his head for a moment. “Okay, that’s really the only thing I got. But give me one good reason why I should go along with this.”

He sat up and picked his Transfiguration text up off the floor, awaiting Donal’s answer.

Donal frowned. He had not thought that Avery would be that fussy over food, but still, Donal needed to persuade Avery to do this. It was the only way that he would ever be able to get the potion to Agatha. His ex-girlfriend was the new target for revenge; Avery would be a causality of war. The plan was simple really. Set up Avery and Agatha for a nice dinner, have the house elves deliver potion-laced food, and instant revenge. It might even be possible to arrange it on the Quidditch Pitch so that Vivi and Aiko could bear witness to their part.

“Well, it would be a nice thing to do for your girlfriend, she would be delighted with you for thinking of it, and the food…well there’s a number of dishes that could be chosen. Do you like artichoke hearts, lobster, or sea bass?” Donal asked, careful to keep a light tone in his voice.

“Er…sea bass is okay, but I’m not that fond of lobster. Never tried artichoke hearts.” Avery shrugged. “But those seem to be the normal things she’d eat. Wouldn’t you imagine her to be one to eat all that nasty French stuff? That junk you probably eat.” He paused for a moment, remembering Donal’s upbringing. “You’re kinda like Agatha, aren’t you? What kinda junk do you eat?”

Donal shrugged. “I’m used to ‘nasty French junk’ as you put it, but I was brought up with it. But I like ‘normal’ food too, fry-ups and the like. Though I think my favorite would be Porterhouse steak, medium-done, in a red wine sauce.” Donal liked his lips a little as he thought of that. “But anyway, you’d go for sea bass?”

Avery shook his head. Why on earth did she dump him? Donal’s perfect for her.

“Erm, I guess I can deal with that, but I’m not so sure about the other stuff…what else does she like?” Avery asked.

Donal thought for a moment. “Well, I think she’d like champagne cocktail as a starter, fillet of sea bass wrapped in basil leaves, with caviar sauce, and a bitter chocolate soufflé for desert, and an espresso with a cognac chaser. What do you think?” He looked at Avery, wondering how much of that Avery would turn his nose up.

Avery almost died. How could one like such inhuman foods? Champagne? She was fourteen! The sea bass was okay, but caviar? How could anyone eat fish eggs? And bitter chocolate? Why make such a wonderful thing as chocolate bitter?

Then espresso. He would be buzzing for the remainder of the night, and a cognac chaser? More alcohol, ‘eh? He might just have to tell the house elves to make his a virgin. He really was not in the mood to be too tipsy. He had not had any alcohol before and was not sure how he could handle it…along with that expresso…

“Erm… Donal…. Why a bitter chocolate soufflé? Isn’t chocolate supposed to be sweet?” Avery shook his head. “I’m not even gonna comment on the other foods.”

Donal sighed. It was clear that he was going to have to educate Avery in the finer things of life, mainly good food.

“Chocolate can come in many forms. Most people only know of the normal sweet candy kind of chocolate, but originally, the Aztecs used it in a bitter syrup form. Actually it’s quite nice. It is not extremely bitter, more like the way coffee can be bitter. Quite refreshing in a way.” Donal answered.

Donal stood up, and paced slightly as he continued. “The first thing to realize is that with any proper meal, alcohol in some form or other is often served, either mixed within the food, or often as wine served with the meal. It is used to clear the palette, so that one can taste the food fully. A good wine will have its own flavor, but quite subtle and crisp. Champagne is just simply Agatha wanting to show off class, although she does genuinely like it.”

He paused in his pacing and turned to face Avery. “Caviar— well caviar is an acquired taste. It’s quite salty, and not to everyone’s liking. I can eat it, but I’m not that bothered with it. It should be served as a side dish, so if you don’t want any, you just don’t put it on your plate. So you see, if you don’t want something, you don’t have to have it, or you have an alternative.”

“Donal. Just shut up.” Avery muttered, burying his head under a pillow. “I don’t care about the mechanics of good food. I just know food is to be eaten and should taste good.” Again, Donal had a brilliant idea, but the food thing kind of spoiled everything. How could he truly enjoy himself while eating foods so foreign to him?

“Donal.” Avery said, tossing the pillow across the room. “Screw the mechanics. Round up a few house elves and have them force feed me this crap until I like it all…” He shivered, and then continued.

“But have a sweet souffle and non-alcoholic wine. I can’t deal with too much, ya know?”

Donal smiled. Avery had actually thought of the same idea as himself. The only way to get used to it was to try it. “Ok, but you have got to try it yourself, if someone is feeding you, then you will associate that person with the dislike of the food. But we can certainly get some house elves to prepare some things for you to try. How about later this evening?”

“I meant if I refused to eat it they would have to shove it down my throat.” Avery shrugged and stood up. “Sure. But I can’t get a port-key outta here before this evening.”

The History of Magic classroom had changed drastically since he had last been there. Dusk covered desks were scattered around the room; the windows were crusted over with grime. Cob webs garnished the corners, long forgotten by their original inhabitants, who had gone in search of better feeding grounds. Even the house elves had forsaken this cursed room. Though it was not forgotten, it was avoided, a place of memories. No one dared to encroach upon what he had claimed before dying, before being killed by the dragon herself.

When Danuliete killed someone, they tended to stay dead. The curse she had used was an old one, meant for a slow, agonizing end. Excruciating pain had racked his body, nearly unbearable, as shards of glass and barbed wire shredded his flesh. He still bore welted scars that crisscrossed up his arms and across his torso, near his heart. Yet the curse had one cure: true love. That exception had been Danuliete’s undoing. She had believed no one could love him, had believed that no one could love such a monster. She had been wrong.

A sniveling, delusional child had saved him with her doting allegiance and love. He denounced her actions as driven by the want of power. Through nature’s law he owed her nothing. Her sanity had been given; in return she gave him his life. Still he kept her alive, hidden away, her existence relying on his moods. The girl might still be of use, but he never would have brought her here to foil his plans.

Dropping his cloak into an empty chair, he performed several extensive locking and anti-eavesdropping spells, and then pocketed his wand. “Well,” he sneered, black eyes darting around the room. “We. Are. Here.”

Grinning an alligator’s smile, he turned to the two that accompanied him. They were back in this lair of brats for two things only. The objects were vital to his plans, and he would not misjudge. This time, Hogwarts would fall.

Prince John Paul would not fail.

“Well, how right you are, my love, as always,” said his female companion, walking with the feline grace of a cat to JP and caressing his neckline slowly.

He knew it wasn’t real, knew she didn’t love him really, and she didn’t care. It made her feel alive again, after all the years of darkness and despair. That she still had this power over men after all these years. It gave her renewed strength. She loved his power at least and loved what he could give her. She would use him while it suited her ends.

Prince relaxed under Daiva’s touch, allowing her to caress his back and shoulders. She did not love him, but then he did not love her. Once he had, long, long ago, yet since he had traded love for power. The latter was her master, as well, making their alliance well suited. An almost smug expression crossed his face as he wondered if that fool De Black knew the truth of her sentence.

Slipping his arm around her thin waist, he held her to him, stroking her slick black hair, and treasuring what was his. She was his partner in crime, his Dark Queen, his… trophy. She should have been his originally, now she was, and if she ever betrayed him he would inflict worse pain on her than even that of eight years in Azkaban.

She laughed a soft slow laugh. “Indeed how divine it is at last,” she said and with a swish of her wand wiped the dust from a hard oaken chair and transformed it into a plush upholstered armchair. Unlike her sister, luxury had always appealed to her.

Then, as the other two prepared the room and its environs, she sat down, focused her mind, and gradually slipped into another realm.

“Where are you?” she asked, “I’m here, come to see me, come to see me,” she echoed and the response she got was satisfactory. The usual gruff voice, tinged with the love which she recognized as being reserved exclusively for her.

Daiva de Black, or Daiva Danuliete as she had reverted to calling herself, was indeed back. It had taken time, more time than she would care to admit, to repair the damage of Azkaban. Her mind had been wandering, tipping more often than not into the abyss of insanity; eight years incarcerated in such a place had taken their toll. Her hair was still shiny, black and vivid. Her smile flashed relentlessly. Yet there was a certain something in the backs of her eyes that was dead and hollow. It was something that could never be repaired.

The third person in the room was growing restless. He had been waiting all of almost eighteen years for this. He wanted it done quickly; he would not wait much longer.

The old classroom had definitely changed and the presence of his partner could be felt. His partner and that woman who followed him. He leant over the book once more. The prophecy was grave and that woman would think it to be her own daughter who would fulfill it. He thought not.

The hour will come wrapped in fire,
To discover the deepest and darkest desires.
From forth the fatal loins a traitor will come,
From treachery and betrayal it will be done.

It was an old book, extremely old. Those sorts of prophecies came from around the time of Shakespeare himself. He sighed and ran a hand through his short black hair. He turned to speak to his partner who, like always, had that woman wrapped around him.

“This is taking to long, John Paul. When are we going to get started?” His voice came out as an angry, strained, hopeful man, though that was not his intention. He had not seen nor spoken to her since almost eighteen years back. Daiva was calling to her now; this would not be the most favorite meeting of the day.

“Soon,” Prince answered the man, seeming unconcerned. His thoughts never left the plans for Hogwarts, for after Hogwarts, but he rarely let strong emotion show on his face. He looked over the book his accomplice held and nodded slowly. He knew the prophesy word for word, had studied it extensively in the time allotted. Nothing was overlooked.

“She will come. Tonight.” He settled down, displacing daiva and pulling her onto his lap. “Then we may begin.”

There was a time when she would have flinched under that touch. But that was long ago when she was someone else. When she had turned down proposals from JP and accepted the hand of Bertram de Black.

At first those who knew her best had been puzzled at her choice, but later had congratulated her on her far reaching sight and cunning. To marry into the de Black’s, a muggle loving, yet ancient and respected wizarding dynasty, would provide the perfect cover for her work. Who would suspect a de Black or look closely at their activities? No one. Bertram was even a Ministry Auror. It was too perfect, too Daiva-like for words.

And Daiva had accepted their smiles, their congratulations, loving to be the centre of attention, the best, the Queen. She had contradicted none of it, for indeed all of it was true.

And yet there was more… a truth that was buried deep, that Daiva after eight years inside, could not even find within herself. Yet it was there.

Daiva Danuliete had come to Hogwarts in the autumn term and, just as she anticipated, her name had been read out of the Goblet as Triwizard competitor for Durmstrang. For Beauxbatons it was Frederic Corvaisier and for Hogwarts… Bertram de Black. Daiva at seventeen was beautiful and she knew it. She used and abused both her fellow competitors’ obvious admiration for her, taking information given to her with a flashing smile and always the hope of more.

And perhaps the inevitable happened. Daiva won. She had never, indeed, lost anything in her life. And as she was raised aloft, triumphant at the Slytherin table, she caught the eye of Bertram at Ravenclaw. She caught his eye and held his gaze and in that moment for the first time in her life, genuinely felt…something.

At the closing ball, when he, amongst a hoard of others, asked for her company, she said yes. She never intended anything to occur. Knew that JP was interested. Knew that it was an eligible match. But he was so much older than her. Daiva thought of him as quite an old man already. Not a love match, but a match of power and allegiance. And Daiva, out of all the Danuliete sisters, loved power the best.

Yet Bertram de Black was eighteen years old. Tall with slightly floppy dark brown hair and green eyes. He was well built and the way in which he held her in his arms that night, and the way that he looked at her that night…

They were married a year later, against the wishes of both their families. Bertram’s parents, Charles and Elizabeth de Black, tried every power of reasoning with their only son. Brought out charts, forecasts, family books, but to no avail. They never quite forgave him. And were not able to stop the “I told you so”s from forming on their lips when, as far as they were concerned, the inevitable happened.

A year after that, Daiva and Betram had their first and only child, a daughter, much cherished and loved and for a time they were happy. She continued with her own line of work, unbeknown to him, so concealment and lies were ever a part of their marriage. Yet when she looked at his handsome face, her heart turned over and she knew that despite what her friends and family may think, she loved him. Leaving him was the hardest thing she ever did. Yet power was still more important than love.

But all this was buried too deep; it had been lost somewhere in the depths of Azkaban and Daiva now sat down on the sofa with JP, alive in body, but dead in soul.

She smiled vaguely at Prince.

Meanwhile, someone else was coming. Each step she took was heavier than the last, each more reluctant. Her normal brisk stride slowed and she grasped the edge of a banister in her bony hand and breathed in a huge gulp of air. She leaned her gaunt frame against the wall and gritted her teeth. A bond had been made it was true, but this could have been broken. She had done it before, would do it again if it served her own purposes.

But this was more than that. This time there was Daiva. Daiva the youngest, the darling, whom she had mothered from birth as her own. Daiva to whom this strict unbending woman, brittle and harsh to all others, could not say no. Daiva had demanded and Druscilla had given. So it had been and so it was that Druscilla Danuliete was moved to enter the classroom where all her hopes would be broken and her entire career ruined.

Druscilla Danuliete broke through JP’s charm entanglement with a savage sweep of her arm and entered the History of Magic Classroom.

And saw not two people but three. And the smile which had been reserved for Daiva broke, fell and smashed upon the floor as she gazed in absolute horror at the third occupant of the chamber.

The third occupant, not Prince and not Daiva, sighed deeply and turned from the table and the book and looked Druscilla Danuliete in the eyes. Her face fell like a rock from a cliff – not unexpected. He looked at her with a hidden _expression of regret, but remembrance. She had been there for him and vice-versa and out of that comfort had come something that would most likely change the face of the Wizarding World today. This was what he was waiting for.

He cleared his throat and looked the woman in the eyes. “Druscilla, how surprising to see you here again.”

“How,” she started, but the croak in her voice made her stop sharply and she cleared her throat unpleasantly. It had been too long and small talk had never been her specialty.

She adjusted her long black robe on her shoulders and went forward awkwardly into the room to greet Daiva, completely unable to deal with this new and horrifically unexpected turn of events.

Yet, as she bent down to embrace her sister, reclining languidly on a newly created couch, she knew why he was here and his presence confirmed her belief. For once Daiva had got it wrong. And perhaps he was needed. They needed their traitor after all.

She stood, holding her back awkwardly and turned to face JP, the dislike evident in her face.

“So?” she demanded, “What now, oh great one?”

So, he thought.

Druscilla Danuliete herself had finally crawled out of her corner. He absently touched his wand, remembering the pain she had inflicted on him. This was the worm that caused his sudden debacle, whose power he might have feared now except for one thing. That one thing had beaten her, left her defenseless, and would now contribute to her ruin. Revenge was all the sweeter because Druscilla loved her downfall, loved that which allowed him such freedom. She loved Daiva.

Silently he watched her face fall, watched the _expression of his partner. It was an awkward reunion. Prince too cleared his throat as Danuliete broke off, turning to vent her rage on him. Standing up straight, he smiled smugly. He had waited more than a year for this.

“Hello Dru,” he greeted, mimicking the words spoken first upon his prior arrival at Hogwarts. “And you know.” He spoke coldly, looking down at her, a spark of hatred shining in his eyes. This time she would play no games with him. Before Danuliete had been the victor, but comparatively, it would be a small victory. Yet he could not allow himself to gloat too long. The meeting with Danuliete was not for pleasure. He had business to attend to.

“The objects. You are not in a position to break your word.”

Quite. Danuliete wasn’t and they all knew it. Grinding her teeth she looked at this man, this less than a thing and even in her mind, she would not call him Prince. A Prince? Ha. He had a seriously over inflated ego. What had he done that any of them in the room at this moment had not done? What rule made him the leader? This was her territory still for now and there was nothing he could do without her. This knowledge pleased her and allowed her to gaze upon his worn and flaccid face, stretched in a false and leering welcome, with relative, or at least external, calm. Daiva’s choice in men really left a lot to be desired.

But to business. Personal dislike could be sorted… later.

“The Hufflepuff girl is weak and biddable. You should have no problem there. She will deliver. However I think that your choice for Ravenclaw leaves a lot to be desired. The Gates girl is powerful. She has been accepted into a great Auror school.” She paused.

“Naturally the distraction will be caused, our traitor will fulfill her destiny, but the fourth object is…” her eyes flashed, he had got it wrong and Druscilla hated disorganized behavior, “problematic,” she concluded sharply.

As usual Prince had the distinct feeling that Danuliete was underestimating him, though it was a fault he also could lay claim to. So many mistakes had been made on his last visit to Hogwarts. Letting go of Daiva and allowing Druscilla an opportunity to curse him had been the most serious, his undoing. Yet other, smaller ones reared their ugly heads as well. The Ravenclaw girl, for instance.

Prince had chosen each of the servants for a reason, as well each conspirer knew. The Gryffindor girl because of her wand core and because of the aura he felt radiating from her. She had wanted power, had wanted what he could offer her. She would come back easily. The Slytherin boy was the same. He thrived on pain, though his notions of his own abilities were over-inflated. He would have to be taught, yet he too would return.

The other two servants were a different matter. The Hufflepuff child was weak. She had been terrified, and he reveled in her fear. She would bring him the third object. Yet the Ravenclaw girl… he had chosen her for revenge, to ruin her mother. Yet there was something else. Prince had chosen her because she was strong and would be difficult to break. He had no doubts, she would break, and in the meantime… he welcomed a challenge. Once the objects were his she would pay for her disobedience.

“Yes. The Hufflepuff object will be delivered.” Prince repeated as sharply. “As will the Ravenclaw coin. I have not come here to be bested by an upstart student who believes she can resist. She may be powerful, but she is yet untrained.”

“Call them, let me see them,” she challenged him, then as if unamused by this fruitless exchange and underhand enmity, she snapped hastily, “Let there be no more of this. The decision has been made. Come Daiva,” she held out her hand imperiously at her sister, who merely looked at her with a languid smile.

“Very well Cill,” Daiva said and unwinding her long legs she slowly arose from the sofa and walked over to her sister.

“It has been too long,” she said softly and lightly caressed the powerful Yew based wand that lay in her three-quarter cut robe, black but with an edge of silver weave.

Her wand had done damage enough for one lifetime. Ministers had been so easy to charm, it was pitiful. “I am ready,” she said, her hollow eyes turning to JP.

Prince closed his eyes with one curt nodded, obliging the request. For now, he would tolerate Danuliete. Later…well, later was later. Silently he allowed his magic to roam over the school, avoiding the Gryffindor Head’s office. The dark detectors there were spelled not to work, but he saw no need to tempt fate.

Even without his wand, he was powerful enough to be felt in every crevice. Perhaps one of his partners could have matched him in cunning, in games, or in power. One thing made him the leader. It was ambition. Danuliete had thrown her brilliance away on a school that, to all appearances, she hated. Daiva made a mistake and landed herself in a dismal cell that equaled a living hell. The other man waited, merely planning to play his part. Yet Prince, like a spider spinning its web, plotted. He set the trap, ushered the victims toward it, and then claimed the spoils as his own. It was a game he was good at.

All four felt the call. All had felt his presence since he arrived, but had they trusted their intuition? Well, either way. They would be arriving shortly. Few could resist Prince; none except Danuliete openly defied him.

The question was: who would arrive first? Who would resist? And finally, would another object soon be added to his collection?

He smiled, breaking off his concentration. They would come.

The nagging pressure had finally given. Slipping into a state of not-quite-awareness, the seventh year Ravenclaw appeared in the History of Magic classroom less than five minutes after the call had been issued. Eyes rimmed with lack of sleep, Serenity stood in the doorway, the normally conscious part of her mind screaming at her not to enter.

She waited.

After speaking with Donal about the revenge plans in the Great Hall, Aiko had hurried back to the Hufflepuff common room. Avery’s lack of cooperation on the dinner was bound to present a problem. She had to tell Vivs.

Which did little to explain why she found herself staring at the door leading to the History of Magic classroom. There was no reason for her to be down there.

No, she thought, bitterly. There is always a reason. And he is it.

Every fiber of her being told her to leave, to run back upstairs to the common room and get help. She couldn’t let it happen again. Maybe the Headmistress…

The Headmistress!

By some stroke of luck the Headmistress was already there! Pushing past Serenity, she threw herself at the Headmistress, clutching her robes tight. Tears fell harder, though when they had started she didn’t remember. But the sight of their poor, strong Headmistress held captive by the evil Prince, killed any hope she had left.

The second year girl buried her face in the Headmistress’ robes and sobbed.

Druscilla’s face was a picture. The repulsive brat had appeared at the doorway, sniveling as usual, and Druscilla had turned to Daiva in disgust.

Which had been her fatal error. In that moment the snotty child had somehow attached itself to her robes and actually seemed to be blowing her nose on them.

It was too much for Druscilla. Disgust and repulsion on her face, she took her wand, bunged up the child’s nose and stuck its hands together. She then propelled her, none too lightly towards the opposite wall, which she hit with a crunch and then slumped forward.

“Urgh,” was all Druscilla said and, ignoring the brat, she concentrated on a self-cleaning charm for her robes.

Alex had been in the Slytherin Common Room when he had felt… a presence. He knew instantly who it was, of course, there was no mistaking that particular person. He gave a small grin, hidden by the book he was reading, and left without a word to any one else. His Master (or so he liked to think of Prince) was back, and needed him.

Alex quickly made his way to the classroom, knowing without question where Prince was. Prince needed him. He liked that thought.

He entered the room, his wand in his hand just in case, but not raised. Whilst he knew he had Power at his calling, there was no need to give anyone a reason for him to show it… yet.

Prince smiled. It was beginning.

It was late in the evening when the servants exited the History of Magic classroom and returned to the school with their commands.

Aiko could not stop it, not now. It had happened again. They were too far in, too deep, fastened tight on the road to destruction.

Despite all her prayers and wishes, It had returned. He had returned. She had just put aside the past. Students were forgetting who she was and what she did, nasty glares were few and far between (except from the Jerk of course). She no longer woke in the middle of the night, screaming and crying, as she had done that summer. A sense of security had washed over her; she had even focused on trivial things like humiliating Berke.

And then It happened. Or rather, It was going to happen. And this time, there would be no Headmistress to stop it.

There was no need for secrecy, not any more. There were threats on her friends, her family, herself… but she was no fool. They would die anyway.

She almost wished, as she stepped into the common room, that someone else would be there. That they would see the tears and bruises that dotted her face and they would do something, anything to stop her. She didn’t want to obey, but she truly had no choice.

But there was no one there, nothing to present itself as an obstacle. So she continued.

It wasn’t near the fireplace, she had checked there the year before. It wasn’t anywhere near the entrance to the dorms, either, it would be too easy for an innocent bystander to find.

This would take a while.

Hours later she emerged from the rubble that was left of the common room. Frustrated with seemingly leads, and the fear of Him looming ever closer, her initial urgency had transformed into blind panic. In desperation she had taken to tearing up the floor boards and burning them to ashes when they obscured her view. The furniture had been levitated and placed as a secure block in front of all entrances and exits of the common room.

Her search proved fruitless and she had fallen to her knees, scraping them against the stony under-layings. Blood leaked from her knees and fingers, where she had ripped them near to shreds in the process of tearing the room apart.

How long she sat there, weeping, she didn’t know. But slowly she came to the realization that there was a sizzling sound coming from the ground. She leapt to her feet and stared in disbelief as her spilled blood dissolved the stones beneath her.

“A Hufflepuff would never spill their blood willingly,” she realized, and burst into another round of sobs. The search was over; she had to return.

A patch of the floor disappeared completely, leaving behind only a small, ash-colored trinket. Had it been placed against stone it would have been invisible, so intricate were the designs and coloring. Flipping it over she saw small lines revolving the center. Pocket watch in hand, she fled the room, throwing the furniture out of her way as she went.

Each small click made her wince in the irony. The clock had been clicking on for countless years, but it was running out of time.

Everyone was asleep. No one was even awake and a quick spell had ensured that everyone would stay in their current state of consciousness for at least four hours. Of course, everyone had been accounted for before this had been done. If anything had been learnt, it was that power brought privileges.

With no chance of being disturbed, the entrance to the common room had been barricaded, and wards had been put up on the staircases.

It had to be found. If it wasn’t… they were all in danger. After leaving the History of Magic classroom she had regained control of her senses, and as she began to methodically destroy the common room she was completely aware of everything she was doing. It had to be done.

Two hours later she was sat in the middle of the common room, a coin lying on the palm of her hand.

Around her was utter devastation. The portraits on the wall were nothing but charred pieces of canvas and all the chairs were now worthless pieces of material and burnt wood. Floorboards had been ripped from the floor, and were strewn about the ruins of the common room. The fireplace had exploded, the ancient brickwork revealed and more bricks over the ruined floor. A small fire burned where a table had once stood. Looking up, she surveyed the disaster.

And she laughed.

It wasn’t true laughter, but a hysterical, mirthless laughter which would have sent chills down your backbone.

Standing, she pulled her wand from the pocket of her robes and removed the spells that she had cast before silently exiting the common room.

It was going to take a lot more than a cleaning charm to clear up this mess.

Francisco was fast a sleep upstairs in his dormitory. His dreams were silent and dark, but yet filled with colorful images of what he wanted to be in his future. His visions of life after Hogwarts.

The hours past as he continued to sleep, but there was something wrong, he could feel it in his sleep, but couldn’t do anything about it. He was forced to sleep.

After many hours had past, he awoke immediately. He rushed down to the main dorm, only to find a complete mess inside the common room. What could have done this? Or not even what, but who?

Brooke slept fitfully again. Despite terrible fatigue, her rest of late had been disturbed as she dreamed of twisted figures their faces filled with hate and in the midst of it all, her mother, for some inexplicable reason laughing and laughing. The laughter rang in Brooke’s head as she started awake with a jump which shook the very breath in her.

Brooke ran her fingers through her long dark hair and sat upright. It was still not yet dawn, although the first glimmers of light showed their fingertips over the windowsill.

Then she glanced over to Ren. Her bed was neatly made and unruffled. It was a bed that had not been slept in that night. Brooke’s head was still aching and numbly she took one of the bright orange tablets which the medic had prescribed the previous day, and then took a long drink of fresh spring water.

Where Ren could be was uncertain. True, she often stayed up late these days, working or with her mother, but not all night.

Brooke swung her long legs from under the big fluffy duvet and went out onto the top landing to see if perchance Ren had fallen asleep over a book in the common room below.

And was greeted by a sight of utter devastation. A sight of total ruination. All of their beloved possessions, seven years worth of their life had been torn, ripped, shredded, burned.

Brooke let out a cry, then saw that she was not alone. Francisco stood directly below her.

“Cisco?” she whispered loudly, “What the hell…?” she stopped and gesticulated wildly round.

Francisco stared up into Brooke’s eyes. He could tell she was thinking he was the one who did such a terrible thing. But it wasn’t him.

“Brooke!” he said, his mind racing. “I don’t know what happened. I could feel something dark in the common room, but couldn’t awake.” he started his way around the room, cleaning up all the mess.

Brooke’s mind raced. He felt something dark in the common room, she herself was plagued with nightmares coming thick and fast and filling her nights with dread and her days with pain. The common room, their beloved Ravenclaw common room was reduced to rubble and charred wood. And Ren had not been to bed that night.

Brooke swept her hair from her face and rubbed her eyes. It couldn’t be. No, she had seen with her own eyes the damage inflicted. How the shards of wire had cut so deep. Yet the evidence of her own mind and the physical destruction in front of her forced Brooke to face a possibility. The very worst possibility of all.

Yet she may be wrong. She prayed on Merlin’s name that she might be so. But for now she could not alarm anyone. Ren might be with her mother, might be in the library. She must look.

“Nice one Cisco, I am sure it can’t be that bad, surface burns,” she muttered and dashed back to their dorm to fling on some old jeans and a blue jumper. She grabbed a brush, swept it through her hair, pushed her feet in her sneakers and was out of the door and down the stairs in a matter of minutes.

She had to find Serenity.

Francisco watched as Brooke raced up and around the common room. He was confused by the whole thing. He had heard of things like this going on last year, but he hadn’t lived it. Till now.

“Brooke, where are you going? You can’t go out alone, it’s too dangerous, not with what just happened here in the common room,” he said urgently.

He rushed up to his dorm, grabbed a pair of jeans, a shirt, and his wand. He wasn’t leaving the common room without it. Once he had gotten everything he wanted, he made his way back down.

“All right, we can go now. You’re not going out without me. And don’t try to lose me either.”

“It’s fine, no problem Cisco, I am only going to look for Ren, she must be with her mum, I need to go,” Brooke said distractedly, hurrying over the still smoldering remains of the Quidditch board with just a small tear in her eye, which she ashamedly wiped away.

The pain in her head seemed to have buried itself deep behind her eyes and every footfall hurt so much.

Yet Cisco showed no desire to be left behind, but was tagging along behind her.

“Stay here, Cisco,” she said, yet he still didn’t move. “Look I am sure everything’s all right, but well just in case… I am a seventh year, I am not gonna be responsible for you,” she said quite angrily and jumping over a sofa, tipped over to block the door, its springs hanging out, she crawled out of the entrance and ran down the corridor, her wand in her hand. She didn’t look back to see if Cisco was following or not.

Francisco was determined to follow Brooke. She wasn’t going to get away with wandering the corridors alone. He was going to follow her.

With a flick of his wand, the sofa covering the door went flying across the room. And he walked out the common room door, following Brooke to what…he didn’t know.

<!–[if !mso]> <! st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } –>

A dark, curly-haired figure padded along the cold stone floor of the Great Hall and plunked down in one of the chairs at the staff table. The sun was just beginning to rise, but Gem was tired already. She had been up practically all night with strange dreams, or rather nightmares. This, combined with the article she read in the newspaper, made it look set to be one of those days. The article read:

TERROR AS DARK ACTIVITY INCREASES

Disgrace falls on the Ministry today, as the previous massacre at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is traced back to the Black Wand Society. Apparently, the Ministry has known of this group’s rising activity for some time, but has not published the news, for fear of inspiring more attacks from the dark forces.

Today the Ministry is accused of withholding information, as well as continuing inadequate measures to contain the Black Wands. The Ministry has not yet identified the leader, or leaders, of the Black Wand Society. Officials continue to work to discover this information.

DEATHS AND DARKNESS

Cruelty and Deception is the name of the Dark Game. Horrific events unfold even now, as the Black Wand Society gains strength. The recent murder of five University graduates, at the hands of the Black Wands, provides proof that the Ministry is losing control…

Gem sighed. She knew who the leaders were. Her father, Derek, was one of them. She sipped some coffee and rubbed her eyes with her hands. Her eyes sparkled green, even early in the morning, and her black curls hung down, framing her face she looked up at the door to the Great Hall.

Brooke padded into the Great Hall, no footwear on her feet and only a flimsy, cream nightshirt covering her. She looked troubled. There was a glazed expression in her eyes as she moved in a dream towards Gem, focusing on her it seemed, singling her out. “Mum?” she asked, reaching out her arms towards Gem in a pleading gesture. “You are here for me?” she asked Gem, a small smile flitting across her face. She sat down on the edge of the table and took a strand of Gem’s hair in her hands.

“Your hair is still black,” she said quietly. “So beautiful. How can I ever live up to you? Teach me, tell me how to be you.”

Then suddenly she leapt up and whirled round.

“No!” she shrieked and started to fend off nothingness around her head, batting her hands wildly.

“Tell them to stop!” she implored Gem.

Gem got up, confused by Brooke’s words, but guessing she was sleep walking. She took Brooke’s hand.

“Brooke, wake up. I’m not Daiva, I’m Gem. Come on Brookie, wake up. It’s me, GemmyPie.”

She shook Brooke slightly, trying to wake up and at the same time trying to stop her from attacking the air.

Brooke threw her arms round Gem and started to cry.

She sort of gasped and hiccupped and gulped, giving Gem a very wet shoulder in the process.

“Don’t… hic… don’t… sniff…don’t leave me again,” she said in a little girl, lost voice, but then she took hold of Gem’s hands, panic rising in her voice once more. “They are coming, aren’t they?” Her eyes grew large and she tried to pull Gem with her out of the Hall.

Brooke clung to Gem’s middle and was sobbing into her shoulder. Gem put one of her hands in Brooke’s and with the other she stroked Brooke’s hair, trying to calm her down.

“Listen Brookey, I’m not going anywhere, alright. I’m not going anywhere. But I’m not Daiva, I’m just Gem. I don’t know who they are, honey.”

She let Brooke take her hand and lead her. It was better to see what her troubles were than just telling her to go away.

Serenity arrived at the entrance of the Great Hall, dark rims around her eyes. It was either tiredness or stress that had caused those.

She had awoken upon hearing Brooke stumble out of bed. Brooke was not the tidiest person in the world (as she had learnt after nearly seven years of living with her), and had fallen over a pile of their collective Quidditch magazines. Seeing Brooke leave the dorm in a sort of daze, Ren had thrown on the first clothes she could find (a pair of jeans and a white blouse) and grabbed a set of robes, before following her.

Seeing Brooke clinging to Gem in the middle of the Great Hall was not a reassuring sign. “What’s going on?” Serenity asked hesitantly.

“I’ve no idea. I think Brooke’s in a living dream or something, sleep walking. She called me Mum. I can’t wake her up; I guess she’ll have to wake herself up.”

All this quick explanation was happening while Brooke was frantically trying to haul Gem out of the Great Hall.

“Don’t trust her,” Brooke whispered frantically in Gem’s ear, as she sped barefoot with Gem in tow out of the Great Hall, banging the great oaken doors open so that they clanged to and fro in their wake. “Don’t trust her. She’s one of them.”

Once in the entrance hall Brooke seemed to lose all her energy and sank listlessly to the cold stone floor, slumping further and further until the strained look departed from her face and she slept.

As Brooke sank almost lifelessly to the floor, Gem sank beside her. She knew Brooke didn’t like the Hospital Wing, almost as much as Gem herself didn’t. Besides, there was nothing physically wrong with Brooke. Gem decided to wait until Brooke woke up, so she wasn’t alone, not fancying the idea of floating her back up to the Ravenclaw common room.

Gem began to wonder who them was. What was Serenity part of? She was a seventh year, but Brooke was seventh year too, so it couldn’t be that. Head Girl? Could be.

Wait…Serenity had been one of those under the control of Prince…that was it! The strange news in the paper, the scary dreams. It all made sense. Gem just hoped that Brooke did not try to go and kill the other three ex-servants in her sleep.

Serenity felt as though a sudden cold wind had struck her, and she shivered, pulling her robes around her. She sat down beside Gem, feeling breathless.

For the last few weeks she’d been having the same dream; storm clouds moving closer and closer to Hogwarts. Shivering again, she had the uneasy feeling that the storm may have finally descended on the school.

“What’s she on about?” she asked in a shaking voice. For some reason, being scared felt like a good idea.

Gem somehow did not think that Ren needed to be told about the newspaper article and Brooke being afraid of the ex-servants just yet. Gem shook her head at Serenity and shrugged.

“Oh, it’s probably nothing. Just a bad dream, perhaps?”

Just a bad dream…

Donal sat on his bed in the third year boy’s dorm and sighed. It was no use; he was going to have to make up with Avery in order to enact revenge on Agatha. It was part of the plan he had hatched with Vivi and Aiko. The two Hufflepuff girls would brew the potion; Donal was to arrange for a place where they could dose Agatha and Avery at the same time. In order to do this, Donal needed to be on speaking terms with Avery.

Anyways, weeks had passed with barely a word between them, and whilst Donal did have other friends and acquaintances around the school, Avery was a) in his house, b) his room mate, and c) still a friend, even if things had changed somewhat recently. He did not know what he would say when Avery came back to the dorm, which he would have to do at some point, but Donal had made up his mind that it needed doing, and so, however painful or distasteful it would be, he would see this through.

After being covered in some horribly bitter white powder, Avery headed for Gryffindor tower to bathe before meeting Agatha in the Great Hall. He did not really expect to see Donal (he was actually hoping he would not), but sure enough the boy was there, on his bed, seeming somewhat nervous but still as spiteful as ever. Or perhaps Donal was not. Avery was not sure; he did have that white powder in his eyes.

“Donal.” Avery muttered snidely, crossing the room and collecting a change of clothes.

Donal took a breath and let it out slowly. This really wasn’t going to be easy.

He turned on his bed to face Avery as the boy crossed the room; Donal, hands clasped in his lap, head bowed a little, sighed. In a soft voice, he spoke. “Avery, we need to talk. And I think I owe you an apology.”

He looked up, wondering how Avery would respond.

Avery nearly dropped the clothes he was holding. Donal was actually admitting how dumb he had acted? (Avery, obviously, had acted dumb himself, but that was beside the point…) Quite curious how the other boy would handle the awkward situation (and kind of wanting to apologize himself, once Donal had done so), Avery sat on his bed, clothes in his lap.

“You do?” he asked simply, trying hard not to show Donal how irky he was feeling at the moment. But, having been around Agatha so much, he was getting better at it. Still, he had a long way to go before he could mask his emotions as expertly as Agatha.

Donal sighed as Avery sat down. “Yeah. I realize now that it wasn’t your fault that Agatha broke up with me. I guess I was being blind to the fact that she made that decision on her own, without any outside influence, and I wanted to blame somebody, anybody except Agatha or myself. I’m still not sure as to her reasons, but I accept that you did not try to coerce her, and that you are not responsible for her breaking up with me. You didn’t ‘steal’ her, she made up her own mind. And for blaming you for everything that went wrong, I’m sorry, and I apologize for my behavior towards you over it.” He extended his hand towards Avery, hoping Avery would accept what he was trying to say, and realise how much it had cost him to admit that this time, the oh-so-brilliantly scheming Talmorra had got it wrong.

“Friends ?” Donal asked, unaware of a slightly pleading look upon his face…

“Not yet…” Avery muttered, ignoring Donal’s outstretched hand. “I owe you an apology too, though I hate to admit it. I’ve been a real jerk lately—you know that—so…er, sorry. I dunno why I changed, but…” He trailed off and looked away from Donal. “Um, yeah…so,” Avery grabbed the other boy’s hand and nodded, “Sure. Friends.”

Donal breathed a huge sigh of relief as Avery shook his hand, and smiled. Not a grin, or a sly smirk, but a genuine full smile, something that he did not do very often. “We’ve been a pair of complete idiots over this you know,” he said with a laugh. “Someone said the only thing that can come between two best friends is a girl. I never believed it before now, but it’s true. No matter what happens, let’s try not to fall out over a girl again!”

“Too true,” Avery said, nodding and smiling at the stupidity of it all. “We were idiots…So how about we keep our love lives a secret?” he suggested, not entirely serious about it, but admitting that it would solve the problem, if only to allow for other problems.

Donal lay back on the bed, happier than he had been in a long time. Now that he and Avery had made up, things were a great deal more bearable. Now he had just one more thing to do.

He sat pondering, ideas buzzing through his brain, examining them, discarding ones that would be of no use, thinking, searching…and then…

“That’s it!” he exclaimed. “Avery! I have a great idea! You’re going to like this, I hope!”

Donal sat up quickly and looked across the room towards his friend, clearly excited about something.

Hearing his name, Avery moved the open Transfiguration text off his face and slowly turned to look at Donal, clearly not sharing Donal’s excitement. Then again, Avery did not have a clue as to what the idiot was cooking up. It had to be either something dangerous, against school rules, annoying to someone else, or all three combined into one horribly nasty plan. Donal was, after all, notorious for his rather creative schemes.

“Yes?” Avery asked calmly, shoving the Transfiguration text further away from him and rolling all the way over to face Donal.

Donal forced himself to remain calm, and to explain himself clearly to Avery. “How would you like to have an intimate dinner with Agatha? Just the two of you, with her favorite things on the menu?” he asked, in a conspiratorial tone.

Had Avery not been lying down, he would have fallen over. Though it was a good idea, Agatha’s favorite foods? Knowing that cultured…er, girl, her favorite foods would be some French crap that Avery could not even dream of eating.

When the time came and he was expected to eat the junk, he would have two options: 1) refuse to eat and make Agatha mad, or 2) eat the crap and most likely throw up, thus, once again, making Agatha mad. Also, Avery and Agatha really could not spend too much time around each other without getting on each other’s nerves. It was probably a good thing they were in different Houses.

Avery laughed and looked up at Donal. “You’ve got to be kidding! Agatha’s favorite foods are probably some fancy crap that I couldn’t possibly stomach. And–well…” He scratched his head for a moment. “Okay, that’s really the only thing I got. But give me one good reason why I should go along with this.”

He sat up and picked his Transfiguration text up off the floor, awaiting Donal’s answer.

Donal frowned. He had not thought that Avery would be that fussy over food, but still, Donal needed to persuade Avery to do this. It was the only way that he would ever be able to get the potion to Agatha. His ex-girlfriend was the new target for revenge; Avery would be a causality of war. The plan was simple really. Set up Avery and Agatha for a nice dinner, have the house elves deliver potion-laced food, and instant revenge. It might even be possible to arrange it on the Quidditch Pitch so that Vivi and Aiko could bear witness to their part.

“Well, it would be a nice thing to do for your girlfriend, she would be delighted with you for thinking of it, and the food…well there’s a number of dishes that could be chosen. Do you like artichoke hearts, lobster, or sea bass?” Donal asked, careful to keep a light tone in his voice.

“Er…sea bass is okay, but I’m not that fond of lobster. Never tried artichoke hearts.” Avery shrugged. “But those seem to be the normal things she’d eat. Wouldn’t you imagine her to be one to eat all that nasty French stuff? That junk you probably eat.” He paused for a moment, remembering Donal’s upbringing. “You’re kinda like Agatha, aren’t you? What kinda junk do you eat?”

Donal shrugged. “I’m used to ‘nasty French junk’ as you put it, but I was brought up with it. But I like ‘normal’ food too, fry-ups and the like. Though I think my favorite would be Porterhouse steak, medium-done, in a red wine sauce.” Donal liked his lips a little as he thought of that. “But anyway, you’d go for sea bass?”

Avery shook his head. Why on earth did she dump him? Donal’s perfect for her.

“Erm, I guess I can deal with that, but I’m not so sure about the other stuff…what else does she like?” Avery asked.

Donal thought for a moment. “Well, I think she’d like champagne cocktail as a starter, fillet of sea bass wrapped in basil leaves, with caviar sauce, and a bitter chocolate soufflé for desert, and an espresso with a cognac chaser. What do you think?” He looked at Avery, wondering how much of that Avery would turn his nose up.

Avery almost died. How could one like such inhuman foods? Champagne? She was fourteen! The sea bass was okay, but caviar? How could anyone eat fish eggs? And bitter chocolate? Why make such a wonderful thing as chocolate bitter?

Then espresso. He would be buzzing for the remainder of the night, and a cognac chaser? More alcohol, ‘eh? He might just have to tell the house elves to make his a virgin. He really was not in the mood to be too tipsy. He had not had any alcohol before and was not sure how he could handle it…along with that expresso…

“Erm… Donal…. Why a bitter chocolate soufflé? Isn’t chocolate supposed to be sweet?” Avery shook his head. “I’m not even gonna comment on the other foods.”

Donal sighed. It was clear that he was going to have to educate Avery in the finer things of life, mainly good food.

“Chocolate can come in many forms. Most people only know of the normal sweet candy kind of chocolate, but originally, the Aztecs used it in a bitter syrup form. Actually it’s quite nice. It is not extremely bitter, more like the way coffee can be bitter. Quite refreshing in a way.” Donal answered.

Donal stood up, and paced slightly as he continued. “The first thing to realize is that with any proper meal, alcohol in some form or other is often served, either mixed within the food, or often as wine served with the meal. It is used to clear the palette, so that one can taste the food fully. A good wine will have its own flavor, but quite subtle and crisp. Champagne is just simply Agatha wanting to show off class, although she does genuinely like it.”

He paused in his pacing and turned to face Avery. “Caviar— well caviar is an acquired taste. It’s quite salty, and not to everyone’s liking. I can eat it, but I’m not that bothered with it. It should be served as a side dish, so if you don’t want any, you just don’t put it on your plate. So you see, if you don’t want something, you don’t have to have it, or you have an alternative.”

“Donal. Just shut up.” Avery muttered, burying his head under a pillow. “I don’t care about the mechanics of good food. I just know food is to be eaten and should taste good.” Again, Donal had a brilliant idea, but the food thing kind of spoiled everything. How could he truly enjoy himself while eating foods so foreign to him?

“Donal.” Avery said, tossing the pillow across the room. “Screw the mechanics. Round up a few house elves and have them force feed me this crap until I like it all…” He shivered, and then continued.

“But have a sweet souffle and non-alcoholic wine. I can’t deal with too much, ya know?”

Donal smiled. Avery had actually thought of the same idea as himself. The only way to get used to it was to try it. “Ok, but you have got to try it yourself, if someone is feeding you, then you will associate that person with the dislike of the food. But we can certainly get some house elves to prepare some things for you to try. How about later this evening?”

“I meant if I refused to eat it they would have to shove it down my throat.” Avery shrugged and stood up. “Sure. But I can’t get a port-key outta here before this evening.”

The History of Magic classroom had changed drastically since he had last been there. Dusk covered desks were scattered around the room; the windows were crusted over with grime. Cob webs garnished the corners, long forgotten by their original inhabitants, who had gone in search of better feeding grounds. Even the house elves had forsaken this cursed room. Though it was not forgotten, it was avoided, a place of memories. No one dared to encroach upon what he had claimed before dying, before being killed by the dragon herself.

When Danuliete killed someone, they tended to stay dead. The curse she had used was an old one, meant for a slow, agonizing end. Excruciating pain had racked his body, nearly unbearable, as shards of glass and barbed wire shredded his flesh. He still bore welted scars that crisscrossed up his arms and across his torso, near his heart. Yet the curse had one cure: true love. That exception had been Danuliete’s undoing. She had believed no one could love him, had believed that no one could love such a monster. She had been wrong.

A sniveling, delusional child had saved him with her doting allegiance and love. He denounced her actions as driven by the want of power. Through nature’s law he owed her nothing. Her sanity had been given; in return she gave him his life. Still he kept her alive, hidden away, her existence relying on his moods. The girl might still be of use, but he never would have brought her here to foil his plans.

Dropping his cloak into an empty chair, he performed several extensive locking and anti-eavesdropping spells, and then pocketed his wand. “Well,” he sneered, black eyes darting around the room. “We. Are. Here.”

Grinning an alligator’s smile, he turned to the two that accompanied him. They were back in this lair of brats for two things only. The objects were vital to his plans, and he would not misjudge. This time, Hogwarts would fall.

Prince John Paul would not fail.

“Well, how right you are, my love, as always,” said his female companion, walking with the feline grace of a cat to JP and caressing his neckline slowly.

He knew it wasn’t real, knew she didn’t love him really, and she didn’t care. It made her feel alive again, after all the years of darkness and despair. That she still had this power over men after all these years. It gave her renewed strength. She loved his power at least and loved what he could give her. She would use him while it suited her ends.

Prince relaxed under Daiva’s touch, allowing her to caress his back and shoulders. She did not love him, but then he did not love her. Once he had, long, long ago, yet since he had traded love for power. The latter was her master, as well, making their alliance well suited. An almost smug expression crossed his face as he wondered if that fool De Black knew the truth of her sentence.

Slipping his arm around her thin waist, he held her to him, stroking her slick black hair, and treasuring what was his. She was his partner in crime, his Dark Queen, his… trophy. She should have been his originally, now she was, and if she ever betrayed him he would inflict worse pain on her than even that of eight years in Azkaban.

She laughed a soft slow laugh. “Indeed how divine it is at last,” she said and with a swish of her wand wiped the dust from a hard oaken chair and transformed it into a plush upholstered armchair. Unlike her sister, luxury had always appealed to her.

Then, as the other two prepared the room and its environs, she sat down, focused her mind, and gradually slipped into another realm.

“Where are you?” she asked, “I’m here, come to see me, come to see me,” she echoed and the response she got was satisfactory. The usual gruff voice, tinged with the love which she recognized as being reserved exclusively for her.

Daiva de Black, or Daiva Danuliete as she had reverted to calling herself, was indeed back. It had taken time, more time than she would care to admit, to repair the damage of Azkaban. Her mind had been wandering, tipping more often than not into the abyss of insanity; eight years incarcerated in such a place had taken their toll. Her hair was still shiny, black and vivid. Her smile flashed relentlessly. Yet there was a certain something in the backs of her eyes that was dead and hollow. It was something that could never be repaired.

The third person in the room was growing restless. He had been waiting all of almost eighteen years for this. He wanted it done quickly; he would not wait much longer.

The old classroom had definitely changed and the presence of his partner could be felt. His partner and that woman who followed him. He leant over the book once more. The prophecy was grave and that woman would think it to be her own daughter who would fulfill it. He thought not.

The hour will come wrapped in fire,
To discover the deepest and darkest desires.
From forth the fatal loins a traitor will come,
From treachery and betrayal it will be done.

It was an old book, extremely old. Those sorts of prophecies came from around the time of Shakespeare himself. He sighed and ran a hand through his short black hair. He turned to speak to his partner who, like always, had that woman wrapped around him.

“This is taking to long, John Paul. When are we going to get started?” His voice came out as an angry, strained, hopeful man, though that was not his intention. He had not seen nor spoken to her since almost eighteen years back. Daiva was calling to her now; this would not be the most favorite meeting of the day.

“Soon,” Prince answered the man, seeming unconcerned. His thoughts never left the plans for Hogwarts, for after Hogwarts, but he rarely let strong emotion show on his face. He looked over the book his accomplice held and nodded slowly. He knew the prophesy word for word, had studied it extensively in the time allotted. Nothing was overlooked.

“She will come. Tonight.” He settled down, displacing daiva and pulling her onto his lap. “Then we may begin.”

There was a time when she would have flinched under that touch. But that was long ago when she was someone else. When she had turned down proposals from JP and accepted the hand of Bertram de Black.

At first those who knew her best had been puzzled at her choice, but later had congratulated her on her far reaching sight and cunning. To marry into the de Black’s, a muggle loving, yet ancient and respected wizarding dynasty, would provide the perfect cover for her work. Who would suspect a de Black or look closely at their activities? No one. Bertram was even a Ministry Auror. It was too perfect, too Daiva-like for words.

And Daiva had accepted their smiles, their congratulations, loving to be the centre of attention, the best, the Queen. She had contradicted none of it, for indeed all of it was true.

And yet there was more… a truth that was buried deep, that Daiva after eight years inside, could not even find within herself. Yet it was there.

Daiva Danuliete had come to Hogwarts in the autumn term and, just as she anticipated, her name had been read out of the Goblet as Triwizard competitor for Durmstrang. For Beauxbatons it was Frederic Corvaisier and for Hogwarts… Bertram de Black. Daiva at seventeen was beautiful and she knew it. She used and abused both her fellow competitors’ obvious admiration for her, taking information given to her with a flashing smile and always the hope of more.

And perhaps the inevitable happened. Daiva won. She had never, indeed, lost anything in her life. And as she was raised aloft, triumphant at the Slytherin table, she caught the eye of Bertram at Ravenclaw. She caught his eye and held his gaze and in that moment for the first time in her life, genuinely felt…something.

At the closing ball, when he, amongst a hoard of others, asked for her company, she said yes. She never intended anything to occur. Knew that JP was interested. Knew that it was an eligible match. But he was so much older than her. Daiva thought of him as quite an old man already. Not a love match, but a match of power and allegiance. And Daiva, out of all the Danuliete sisters, loved power the best.

Yet Bertram de Black was eighteen years old. Tall with slightly floppy dark brown hair and green eyes. He was well built and the way in which he held her in his arms that night, and the way that he looked at her that night…

They were married a year later, against the wishes of both their families. Bertram’s parents, Charles and Elizabeth de Black, tried every power of reasoning with their only son. Brought out charts, forecasts, family books, but to no avail. They never quite forgave him. And were not able to stop the “I told you so”s from forming on their lips when, as far as they were concerned, the inevitable happened.

A year after that, Daiva and Betram had their first and only child, a daughter, much cherished and loved and for a time they were happy. She continued with her own line of work, unbeknown to him, so concealment and lies were ever a part of their marriage. Yet when she looked at his handsome face, her heart turned over and she knew that despite what her friends and family may think, she loved him. Leaving him was the hardest thing she ever did. Yet power was still more important than love.

But all this was buried too deep; it had been lost somewhere in the depths of Azkaban and Daiva now sat down on the sofa with JP, alive in body, but dead in soul.

She smiled vaguely at Prince.

Meanwhile, someone else was coming. Each step she took was heavier than the last, each more reluctant. Her normal brisk stride slowed and she grasped the edge of a banister in her bony hand and breathed in a huge gulp of air. She leaned her gaunt frame against the wall and gritted her teeth. A bond had been made it was true, but this could have been broken. She had done it before, would do it again if it served her own purposes.

But this was more than that. This time there was Daiva. Daiva the youngest, the darling, whom she had mothered from birth as her own. Daiva to whom this strict unbending woman, brittle and harsh to all others, could not say no. Daiva had demanded and Druscilla had given. So it had been and so it was that Druscilla Danuliete was moved to enter the classroom where all her hopes would be broken and her entire career ruined.

Druscilla Danuliete broke through JP’s charm entanglement with a savage sweep of her arm and entered the History of Magic Classroom.

And saw not two people but three. And the smile which had been reserved for Daiva broke, fell and smashed upon the floor as she gazed in absolute horror at the third occupant of the chamber.

The third occupant, not Prince and not Daiva, sighed deeply and turned from the table and the book and looked Druscilla Danuliete in the eyes. Her face fell like a rock from a cliff – not unexpected. He looked at her with a hidden _expression of regret, but remembrance. She had been there for him and vice-versa and out of that comfort had come something that would most likely change the face of the Wizarding World today. This was what he was waiting for.

He cleared his throat and looked the woman in the eyes. “Druscilla, how surprising to see you here again.”

“How,” she started, but the croak in her voice made her stop sharply and she cleared her throat unpleasantly. It had been too long and small talk had never been her specialty.

She adjusted her long black robe on her shoulders and went forward awkwardly into the room to greet Daiva, completely unable to deal with this new and horrifically unexpected turn of events.

Yet, as she bent down to embrace her sister, reclining languidly on a newly created couch, she knew why he was here and his presence confirmed her belief. For once Daiva had got it wrong. And perhaps he was needed. They needed their traitor after all.

She stood, holding her back awkwardly and turned to face JP, the dislike evident in her face.

“So?” she demanded, “What now, oh great one?”

So, he thought.

Druscilla Danuliete herself had finally crawled out of her corner. He absently touched his wand, remembering the pain she had inflicted on him. This was the worm that caused his sudden debacle, whose power he might have feared now except for one thing. That one thing had beaten her, left her defenseless, and would now contribute to her ruin. Revenge was all the sweeter because Druscilla loved her downfall, loved that which allowed him such freedom. She loved Daiva.

Silently he watched her face fall, watched the _expression of his partner. It was an awkward reunion. Prince too cleared his throat as Danuliete broke off, turning to vent her rage on him. Standing up straight, he smiled smugly. He had waited more than a year for this.

“Hello Dru,” he greeted, mimicking the words spoken first upon his prior arrival at Hogwarts. “And you know.” He spoke coldly, looking down at her, a spark of hatred shining in his eyes. This time she would play no games with him. Before Danuliete had been the victor, but comparatively, it would be a small victory. Yet he could not allow himself to gloat too long. The meeting with Danuliete was not for pleasure. He had business to attend to.

“The objects. You are not in a position to break your word.”

Quite. Danuliete wasn’t and they all knew it. Grinding her teeth she looked at this man, this less than a thing and even in her mind, she would not call him Prince. A Prince? Ha. He had a seriously over inflated ego. What had he done that any of them in the room at this moment had not done? What rule made him the leader? This was her territory still for now and there was nothing he could do without her. This knowledge pleased her and allowed her to gaze upon his worn and flaccid face, stretched in a false and leering welcome, with relative, or at least external, calm. Daiva’s choice in men really left a lot to be desired.

But to business. Personal dislike could be sorted… later.

“The Hufflepuff girl is weak and biddable. You should have no problem there. She will deliver. However I think that your choice for Ravenclaw leaves a lot to be desired. The Gates girl is powerful. She has been accepted into a great Auror school.” She paused.

“Naturally the distraction will be caused, our traitor will fulfill her destiny, but the fourth object is…” her eyes flashed, he had got it wrong and Druscilla hated disorganized behavior, “problematic,” she concluded sharply.

As usual Prince had the distinct feeling that Danuliete was underestimating him, though it was a fault he also could lay claim to. So many mistakes had been made on his last visit to Hogwarts. Letting go of Daiva and allowing Druscilla an opportunity to curse him had been the most serious, his undoing. Yet other, smaller ones reared their ugly heads as well. The Ravenclaw girl, for instance.

Prince had chosen each of the servants for a reason, as well each conspirer knew. The Gryffindor girl because of her wand core and because of the aura he felt radiating from her. She had wanted power, had wanted what he could offer her. She would come back easily. The Slytherin boy was the same. He thrived on pain, though his notions of his own abilities were over-inflated. He would have to be taught, yet he too would return.

The other two servants were a different matter. The Hufflepuff child was weak. She had been terrified, and he reveled in her fear. She would bring him the third object. Yet the Ravenclaw girl… he had chosen her for revenge, to ruin her mother. Yet there was something else. Prince had chosen her because she was strong and would be difficult to break. He had no doubts, she would break, and in the meantime… he welcomed a challenge. Once the objects were his she would pay for her disobedience.

“Yes. The Hufflepuff object will be delivered.” Prince repeated as sharply. “As will the Ravenclaw coin. I have not come here to be bested by an upstart student who believes she can resist. She may be powerful, but she is yet untrained.”

“Call them, let me see them,” she challenged him, then as if unamused by this fruitless exchange and underhand enmity, she snapped hastily, “Let there be no more of this. The decision has been made. Come Daiva,” she held out her hand imperiously at her sister, who merely looked at her with a languid smile.

“Very well Cill,” Daiva said and unwinding her long legs she slowly arose from the sofa and walked over to her sister.

“It has been too long,” she said softly and lightly caressed the powerful Yew based wand that lay in her three-quarter cut robe, black but with an edge of silver weave.

Her wand had done damage enough for one lifetime. Ministers had been so easy to charm, it was pitiful. “I am ready,” she said, her hollow eyes turning to JP.

Prince closed his eyes with one curt nodded, obliging the request. For now, he would tolerate Danuliete. Later…well, later was later. Silently he allowed his magic to roam over the school, avoiding the Gryffindor Head’s office. The dark detectors there were spelled not to work, but he saw no need to tempt fate.

Even without his wand, he was powerful enough to be felt in every crevice. Perhaps one of his partners could have matched him in cunning, in games, or in power. One thing made him the leader. It was ambition. Danuliete had thrown her brilliance away on a school that, to all appearances, she hated. Daiva made a mistake and landed herself in a dismal cell that equaled a living hell. The other man waited, merely planning to play his part. Yet Prince, like a spider spinning its web, plotted. He set the trap, ushered the victims toward it, and then claimed the spoils as his own. It was a game he was good at.

All four felt the call. All had felt his presence since he arrived, but had they trusted their intuition? Well, either way. They would be arriving shortly. Few could resist Prince; none except Danuliete openly defied him.

The question was: who would arrive first? Who would resist? And finally, would another object soon be added to his collection?

He smiled, breaking off his concentration. They would come.

The nagging pressure had finally given. Slipping into a state of not-quite-awareness, the seventh year Ravenclaw appeared in the History of Magic classroom less than five minutes after the call had been issued. Eyes rimmed with lack of sleep, Serenity stood in the doorway, the normally conscious part of her mind screaming at her not to enter.

She waited.

After speaking with Donal about the revenge plans in the Great Hall, Aiko had hurried back to the Hufflepuff common room. Avery’s lack of cooperation on the dinner was bound to present a problem. She had to tell Vivs.

Which did little to explain why she found herself staring at the door leading to the History of Magic classroom. There was no reason for her to be down there.

No, she thought, bitterly. There is always a reason. And he is it.

Every fiber of her being told her to leave, to run back upstairs to the common room and get help. She couldn’t let it happen again. Maybe the Headmistress…

The Headmistress!

By some stroke of luck the Headmistress was already there! Pushing past Serenity, she threw herself at the Headmistress, clutching her robes tight. Tears fell harder, though when they had started she didn’t remember. But the sight of their poor, strong Headmistress held captive by the evil Prince, killed any hope she had left.

The second year girl buried her face in the Headmistress’ robes and sobbed.

Druscilla’s face was a picture. The repulsive brat had appeared at the doorway, sniveling as usual, and Druscilla had turned to Daiva in disgust.

Which had been her fatal error. In that moment the snotty child had somehow attached itself to her robes and actually seemed to be blowing her nose on them.

It was too much for Druscilla. Disgust and repulsion on her face, she took her wand, bunged up the child’s nose and stuck its hands together. She then propelled her, none too lightly towards the opposite wall, which she hit with a crunch and then slumped forward.

“Urgh,” was all Druscilla said and, ignoring the brat, she concentrated on a self-cleaning charm for her robes.

Alex had been in the Slytherin Common Room when he had felt… a presence. He knew instantly who it was, of course, there was no mistaking that particular person. He gave a small grin, hidden by the book he was reading, and left without a word to any one else. His Master (or so he liked to think of Prince) was back, and needed him.

Alex quickly made his way to the classroom, knowing without question where Prince was. Prince needed him. He liked that thought.

He entered the room, his wand in his hand just in case, but not raised. Whilst he knew he had Power at his calling, there was no need to give anyone a reason for him to show it… yet.

Prince smiled. It was beginning.

It was late in the evening when the servants exited the History of Magic classroom and returned to the school with their commands.

Aiko could not stop it, not now. It had happened again. They were too far in, too deep, fastened tight on the road to destruction.

Despite all her prayers and wishes, It had returned. He had returned. She had just put aside the past. Students were forgetting who she was and what she did, nasty glares were few and far between (except from the Jerk of course). She no longer woke in the middle of the night, screaming and crying, as she had done that summer. A sense of security had washed over her; she had even focused on trivial things like humiliating Berke.

And then It happened. Or rather, It was going to happen. And this time, there would be no Headmistress to stop it.

There was no need for secrecy, not any more. There were threats on her friends, her family, herself… but she was no fool. They would die anyway.

She almost wished, as she stepped into the common room, that someone else would be there. That they would see the tears and bruises that dotted her face and they would do something, anything to stop her. She didn’t want to obey, but she truly had no choice.

But there was no one there, nothing to present itself as an obstacle. So she continued.

It wasn’t near the fireplace, she had checked there the year before. It wasn’t anywhere near the entrance to the dorms, either, it would be too easy for an innocent bystander to find.

This would take a while.

Hours later she emerged from the rubble that was left of the common room. Frustrated with seemingly leads, and the fear of Him looming ever closer, her initial urgency had transformed into blind panic. In desperation she had taken to tearing up the floor boards and burning them to ashes when they obscured her view. The furniture had been levitated and placed as a secure block in front of all entrances and exits of the common room.

Her search proved fruitless and she had fallen to her knees, scraping them against the stony under-layings. Blood leaked from her knees and fingers, where she had ripped them near to shreds in the process of tearing the room apart.

How long she sat there, weeping, she didn’t know. But slowly she came to the realization that there was a sizzling sound coming from the ground. She leapt to her feet and stared in disbelief as her spilled blood dissolved the stones beneath her.

“A Hufflepuff would never spill their blood willingly,” she realized, and burst into another round of sobs. The search was over; she had to return.

A patch of the floor disappeared completely, leaving behind only a small, ash-colored trinket. Had it been placed against stone it would have been invisible, so intricate were the designs and coloring. Flipping it over she saw small lines revolving the center. Pocket watch in hand, she fled the room, throwing the furniture out of her way as she went.

Each small click made her wince in the irony. The clock had been clicking on for countless years, but it was running out of time.

Everyone was asleep. No one was even awake and a quick spell had ensured that everyone would stay in their current state of consciousness for at least four hours. Of course, everyone had been accounted for before this had been done. If anything had been learnt, it was that power brought privileges.

With no chance of being disturbed, the entrance to the common room had been barricaded, and wards had been put up on the staircases.

It had to be found. If it wasn’t… they were all in danger. After leaving the History of Magic classroom she had regained control of her senses, and as she began to methodically destroy the common room she was completely aware of everything she was doing. It had to be done.

Two hours later she was sat in the middle of the common room, a coin lying on the palm of her hand.

Around her was utter devastation. The portraits on the wall were nothing but charred pieces of canvas and all the chairs were now worthless pieces of material and burnt wood. Floorboards had been ripped from the floor, and were strewn about the ruins of the common room. The fireplace had exploded, the ancient brickwork revealed and more bricks over the ruined floor. A small fire burned where a table had once stood. Looking up, she surveyed the disaster.

And she laughed.

It wasn’t true laughter, but a hysterical, mirthless laughter which would have sent chills down your backbone.

Standing, she pulled her wand from the pocket of her robes and removed the spells that she had cast before silently exiting the common room.

It was going to take a lot more than a cleaning charm to clear up this mess.

Francisco was fast a sleep upstairs in his dormitory. His dreams were silent and dark, but yet filled with colorful images of what he wanted to be in his future. His visions of life after Hogwarts.

The hours past as he continued to sleep, but there was something wrong, he could feel it in his sleep, but couldn’t do anything about it. He was forced to sleep.

After many hours had past, he awoke immediately. He rushed down to the main dorm, only to find a complete mess inside the common room. What could have done this? Or not even what, but who?

Brooke slept fitfully again. Despite terrible fatigue, her rest of late had been disturbed as she dreamed of twisted figures their faces filled with hate and in the midst of it all, her mother, for some inexplicable reason laughing and laughing. The laughter rang in Brooke’s head as she started awake with a jump which shook the very breath in her.

Brooke ran her fingers through her long dark hair and sat upright. It was still not yet dawn, although the first glimmers of light showed their fingertips over the windowsill.

Then she glanced over to Ren. Her bed was neatly made and unruffled. It was a bed that had not been slept in that night. Brooke’s head was still aching and numbly she took one of the bright orange tablets which the medic had prescribed the previous day, and then took a long drink of fresh spring water.

Where Ren could be was uncertain. True, she often stayed up late these days, working or with her mother, but not all night.

Brooke swung her long legs from under the big fluffy duvet and went out onto the top landing to see if perchance Ren had fallen asleep over a book in the common room below.

And was greeted by a sight of utter devastation. A sight of total ruination. All of their beloved possessions, seven years worth of their life had been torn, ripped, shredded, burned.

Brooke let out a cry, then saw that she was not alone. Francisco stood directly below her.

“Cisco?” she whispered loudly, “What the hell…?” she stopped and gesticulated wildly round.

Francisco stared up into Brooke’s eyes. He could tell she was thinking he was the one who did such a terrible thing. But it wasn’t him.

“Brooke!” he said, his mind racing. “I don’t know what happened. I could feel something dark in the common room, but couldn’t awake.” he started his way around the room, cleaning up all the mess.

Brooke’s mind raced. He felt something dark in the common room, she herself was plagued with nightmares coming thick and fast and filling her nights with dread and her days with pain. The common room, their beloved Ravenclaw common room was reduced to rubble and charred wood. And Ren had not been to bed that night.

Brooke swept her hair from her face and rubbed her eyes. It couldn’t be. No, she had seen with her own eyes the damage inflicted. How the shards of wire had cut so deep. Yet the evidence of her own mind and the physical destruction in front of her forced Brooke to face a possibility. The very worst possibility of all.

Yet she may be wrong. She prayed on Merlin’s name that she might be so. But for now she could not alarm anyone. Ren might be with her mother, might be in the library. She must look.

“Nice one Cisco, I am sure it can’t be that bad, surface burns,” she muttered and dashed back to their dorm to fling on some old jeans and a blue jumper. She grabbed a brush, swept it through her hair, pushed her feet in her sneakers and was out of the door and down the stairs in a matter of minutes.

She had to find Serenity.

Francisco watched as Brooke raced up and around the common room. He was confused by the whole thing. He had heard of things like this going on last year, but he hadn’t lived it. Till now.

“Brooke, where are you going? You can’t go out alone, it’s too dangerous, not with what just happened here in the common room,” he said urgently.

He rushed up to his dorm, grabbed a pair of jeans, a shirt, and his wand. He wasn’t leaving the common room without it. Once he had gotten everything he wanted, he made his way back down.

“All right, we can go now. You’re not going out without me. And don’t try to lose me either.”

“It’s fine, no problem Cisco, I am only going to look for Ren, she must be with her mum, I need to go,” Brooke said distractedly, hurrying over the still smoldering remains of the Quidditch board with just a small tear in her eye, which she ashamedly wiped away.

The pain in her head seemed to have buried itself deep behind her eyes and every footfall hurt so much.

Yet Cisco showed no desire to be left behind, but was tagging along behind her.

“Stay here, Cisco,” she said, yet he still didn’t move. “Look I am sure everything’s all right, but well just in case… I am a seventh year, I am not gonna be responsible for you,” she said quite angrily and jumping over a sofa, tipped over to block the door, its springs hanging out, she crawled out of the entrance and ran down the corridor, her wand in her hand. She didn’t look back to see if Cisco was following or not.

Francisco was determined to follow Brooke. She wasn’t going to get away with wandering the corridors alone. He was going to follow her.

With a flick of his wand, the sofa covering the door went flying across the room. And he walked out the common room door, following Brooke to what…he didn’t know.

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