Chapter 17

The Black Wands

More than a year ago Prince John Paul had stood in the entry of this school, Daiva thrown over one shoulder and his wand brandished in hand. Danuliete had double crossed him, then, and he had dealt out punishment to the entire school. He remembered that night clearly; it was imprinted in has head as though branded there. Children screaming, tables over thrown, party decorations scattered everywhere. He had thrived on the destruction.

The Great Hall looked different now, less festive, with students milling around and most of the staff at the Faculty table. Few noticed the black-robed figures enter at first, though they were definitely out of place. Had some of the older students looked up, they would have recognized Prince immediately. He wore the same cocky, insane grin as last time, his wand held steady. Behind him stood Daiva, his partner, and Danuliete.

He had returned to collect on the bill of injuries done to him here, although he did have ulterior motives. As his servants worked, they needed a diversion. The one he had planned would be enough to distract the entire wizarding world for months.

Suddenly one person looked up, and then another; slowly a hush fell over the congregation. Waves of shock swept through the crowd, confused first years looked around, no one knew quite how to react…

And that’s when the screaming started.

Daiva smiled.

At last something to do.

She shook her long dark hair, flecked now with streaks of white, white inflicted by Azkaban. There was something akin to liveliness and vigor back in her face for the first time in years. People screamed, well why wouldn’t they scream? Daiva liked the reaction she was provoking, and never one to waste time or words when action would serve, she stepped out from behind JP and with a delicate flick of her wrist she muttered an unforgivable incantation. The words flowed like water from her beautiful lips: lips born to utter such words.

And yet she smiled as she said it and deftly flicked her wand into the crowd. It had no particular target; indeed Daiva had no one in mind. It was enough that she was there, alive. The power that surged in her wand lifted her up, made her once more a bit like the Daiva she had lost.

The spell hit a Professor right in the chest, making him fall right to the floor, his body a lifeless pile of skin.

A high pitched shriek emerged from a young first year as the professor who had shielded her fell lifeless to the floor. Her eyes were glued to his stiff form, lying at her feet.

Her cry increased in volume as she moved her gaze to the murderess across the room. It was a stupid thing to do, attract attention, but as hard as she tried she could not stop.

The girl was terrified.

“Very smooth, Daiva.” Prince said dryly, deprived of the first kill. Still, he could not begrudge the woman the blood. Eight years was a long time to last without casting a single curse, not to mention with having Dementors sucking her magic away. He was surprised she managed what she did. Surprised, and strangely pleased. This was the Daiva of old, the one he remembered.

As the idiot Professor fell dead, Prince stepped further into the Hall, secure in his knowledge. Prior experience taught him that here only Danuliete was capable of hurting him. And this time she would not pose a problem. He swept his eyes around, choosing his target. Unlike Daiva, Prince strove for precision.

“Avada Kedavra.” He commanded lazily, flicking his wand. The hysterical girl slumped dead to the floor. Prince cackled and his wand began to heat up, mirroring his excitement.

A picture of terror, he brought his wand up again.

Habba, the old Quidditch Coach, started to weep. Huge blue tears rolled down her nose. Habba hated death and this was all too much for her. First losing her Quidditch hut, then her job, and now this. Habba wished very much she had never ever come up from her hole and her Hinklepuddle friends. She plopped down off the chair at the staff table and hid underneath it. Danuliete had never quite been able to force Habba out of her school, despite the fact that Habba at present had no definable job whatsoever and spent most of the time digging up parts of the school and crying.

Quietly at first, then gradually louder and louder, Habba began to wail a mournful death song. She rocked backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards, singing over and over again:

“Oh eei eee hidle hidle eiee ee
Ye Yei Ye yei smiidle faddle bee!”

The ugly blue thing’s wailing was beginning to give Prince a headache. At first he had not bothered with it, believing it to be less than intelligent and not worth the time it took to curse, but now the thing was getting really annoying.

And come to think of it, he had always enjoyed animal torture…

He muttered a simple spell and the table it sat under exploded, covering everyone in saw dust and splinters. A second later the food that had graced the table submitted to the laws of gravity and came crashing down. Gravy splattered everywhere, pumpkin juice drenched onlookers. A cherry topped cake hit a screaming student, knocking her over. In the middle of it sat the nuisance, balling as though there would be no tomorrow.

For it, there wouldn’t be.

“Avada Kedavra.”

Habba tried to shield herself from the exploding table and all the bits of food and splinters by putting her plump paws over her head and singing even louder, if that were possible. The last thoughts that went though her mind were not fears for her own safety, for she seemed indeed oblivious to any danger to her own person, but about the nasty old man and the poor little bitsy moppets in the hall below.

The spell hit her completely unawares and in mid-song. Habba was not human. She was part Paddamarsh and part Hinklepuddle. The spell did not affect her in the same way whatsoever. True, it was the most deadly of the Unforgivable curses and no living creature could withstand it. But instead of fading out, her life ended in a much more bizarre and dramatic way that was very much like her living of it.

The spell hit Habba right in the middle of her fat round belly and she exploded. Right where she sat rocking back and forth, she spontaneously combusted. Huge chunks of blue Habba flew round the room, pupils, staff and perpetrators alike were splattered with great globules of blue flesh, purple blood, and lurid pink organs. It was a mess.

Perhaps the first movement after the thing exploded was from one of the least likely of sources. From the Hufflepuff table a sobbing second year stood. Tears mixed with the blood and flesh that had sprayed onto her as she took the first steps towards Prince.

It was almost exactly like the year before. And it was every bit as nightmarish.

“I have it,” she whispered. Her normally timid voice needed no increase in volume to be heard; no one was speaking. “I found it.”

And with her self-loathing deepening each moment, she dropped the pocket watch at her master’s feet.

“Pick it up.” Prince commanded, flicking his wand and muttering the Imperious curse. Unable to resist, Aiko bent and lifted the watch, handing it to him. The sobbing brat was so easy to toy with. He flicked his wand again, making her bow down to him. She had no backbone anyway, it made little difference. Indifferently he stepped around her, heel grinding into her hand. He wiped the third object off on his robe sleeve, and then studied it carefully.

It was covered in purple blood, unsurprisingly. Had he known that thing would combust, he might have chosen to smash it into a wall instead. While blood and gore were perfectly all right and rather fitting, he did not approve of the orange entrails that had landed on his robes. The Hufflepuff watch was still ticking, he noted with satisfaction.

It was pitiful really. The way the mere sight of a man could induce so much terror in the hearts of almost every person there. No one would interfere with the eldest servant now; this distraction was more than occupying. The partner watched his fellows cast their death spells over the whimpering life forms that were Danuliete’s students. He would have thought she would have hardened them to her strength, but no. Each student that fell was as weak and powerless as the last.

In the midst of such a throng one face would normally be clear; it was her sort of scene, chaos. But she was not there, not yet anyways. Prince looked at all the faces around the hall, each terrified at the very sight of the four adults, each brandishing their wands. Almost all were scared and she would not be. Confused, annoyed and angry but not scared; she knew three of the four adults there well enough not to be scared. He stood and watched the events before him, she would be here soon enough, when the cries and the pain reached her mind.

Francisco had been following Brooke the entire way throughout all the corridors. But she had continued to run right past the Great Hall; it appeared as if she was heading to Professor Gates’ office, most likely to see if Ren was in there.

But Francisco was curious as to see what was happening in the Great Hall. A group of students were rushing out screaming and saying not to go in. But being the curious one he was, Francisco poked his head into the hall. And what he saw was not something he wanted to.

No, no, no. The despairing, denying mantra ran through Vivienne’s head over and over. No!

She catapulted towards the Hall, already afraid of what she might find, expecting nothing less than devastation. The sight of the common room, shredded with a skill born of desperation, had convinced her that time was short. Aiko was in trouble and Vivi was not about to lose her closest friend. Oh no.

Running helter-skelter, she collided with something solid in her way, sending both it and herself flying beyond the great wooden doors and into the middle of the devastation. Had she been thinking properly, she would have realized it was a very, very stupid move.

At first it was hard to discern anything that was happening in the hall. She bit her lip to hold back a scream, feeling her blood boil as Habba exploded, covering everyone in orange and blue chunks. Had she had time to think about it her stomach might have revolted, but momentarily she was busy. Streaks of purple oozed in her hair, but Vivi didn’t care. She had to find Aiko, because she had seen the destruction in the common room, and that meant that something bad was going to happen. Something bad was already happening. The blood curdling shrieks told her that much.

Panicked students hid behind over-turned table and statues, and stampeded for the doors, though with too many people trying to get out at once, few got far. Vivi scrambled up, jumping off of whatever she had landed on. Hastily glancing down she muttered, “Oh, Cisco.” As he stood up she stood on tip toe, gazing around.

Able to see clearly now, Vivi scanned the Hall. What she saw made her sick. A professor laid prone, a student draped over him, both assumed dead. Near them stood Prince John Paul, the Hitler of the wizarding world…and before him stood Aiko.

“This can’t be happening again,” she murmured, fear suddenly beginning to kick in and overwhelm her. He was going to kill Aiko; he was going to kill them all; Hogwarts was ruined. Danuliete stood there, their only savior, a traitor. Nothing could stop it this time.

Francisco looked at Vivi, and then looked over at Aiko. He knew that Aiko and Vivi were very close friends. It had to be hard to look up at your best friend and see her being controlled by the most feared dark wizard in the wizarding world.

And then there was Danuliete. She was now on Prince’s side; why, he had no idea. It was difficult to comprehend how such a solid prescence could turn traitor, but she had.

Francisco turned to Vivi, “What is Danuliete doing up there, anyway?” he asked her, his eyes still surveying the hall, making sure to watch Prince.

“Betraying us.” Vivi whispered, still horrified. Survival tactics were beginning to set in, and she knew they could not stay here, out in the open. They were prime targets for a casual curse, one that would be the last thing both remembered. She had read about the Unforgivable curses, after last year, and had no desire to be the victim of one.

Yet at the same time, she had to help Aiko. She wanted to smack her, make her wake up, make her help herself. Why did Prince have such power over everyone? Why couldn’t someone stop him? Someone could stop him. And she chose not to.

“We’ve got to move, Cisco.” Vivi said, puncturing her statement by pointing. The commotion was so loud that he might not have heard her, but hand signals were easy enough to understand.

“Now.”

Francisco looked at Vivi, trying to understand what she was saying. He couldn’t understand her and what he heard from her, wasn’t what her hands were saying. So he decided to go with what her hands were saying.

They made a run for it, jumping over the tipped over chairs and tables that were a cause from all the chaos that was happening here in the Great Hall.

Francisco’s heart was pounding, partly because of the excitement of being so close to death (he always was a thrill seeker), and partly because of fear.

He was idiot, after the stories he had heard after last years devastation, he knew the Unforgivable Curses oh so well, and knew there ultimate purpose.

Vivi had cause to suddenly wonder if Cisco was one of those happy-go-lucky, jumps-through-rings-of-fire, live-on-the-edge type of daredevil people as he went off on a mad dash across the Great Hall. She had said they needed to move, not that they needed to run across the open like crazed rabbits. Really.

More cautiously she followed him, keeping a wary eye on events as they progressed. The way Prince and his followers acted, they were not here just to massacre innocents. There was a purpose to their madness, some motive. Something that involved the shimmering object Aiko had handed Prince. Head down, she slid through mashed potatoes, wondering how the house elves would ever manage to clean this up, assuming Hogwarts was still standing. It was the least of her worries, but as she couldn’t comprehend the others, her brain fixated on this one.

Cisco’s dash had taken them closer to Prince. Brilliant, just brilliant. For the moment they were hidden and safe, but previous events showed that he could easily blow up a table, and then were would they be?

From now on, I call the shots, she thought, a little irritated. Maybe he fancied dying, but she didn’t, thank you very much.

“I meant we needed ta move away from Prince.” She hissed, exasperated, once she caught up with Cisco. “I’m not so delusional that I plan ta hex him from here.” In the case of such an event, she imagined four wands would promptly curse into oblivion. Perhaps with that many hexes she would combust, like Habba.

Francisco leaned over to Vivi after jumping behind a table close to Prince, but yet hidden from them all. “What do we do now?” he asked, his voice breathless and full of exhaustion.

“You get out of here.” Professor Gates crouched down beside them. Abandoning all formalities she said, “Francisco, Vivi, get out of here. Get everyone you can down to Hogsmeade. Find Professor Blacknight if you can. Send her here.”

Gates paused slightly, looking darkly at the Hufflepuff girl. “Vivi, do not trust Aiko. She’s under His control. She’s not the Aiko you know.”

Professor Gates’ voice behind Vivi startled her, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Then the Professor’s wisdom hit her, and she nodded. Hogsmeade. They needed Blacknight, they needed to owl the Ministry, they needed help.

“All right, Professor,” Vivi replied, glad someone who knew what they were doing could direct them. Grabbing Cisco, she inched along the wall towards the door.

“Vivi, where are we going?” Cisco asked, inching along beside her and stepping over a pile of wood from the tables. The Great Hall was a complete and utter mess. This was going to be a horrible way to end the year.

“Out the door,” she replied, repressing the urge to roll her eyes as she slipped behind a curtain and opened one of the many back exits out of the hall. Once both were through she paused. It was quiet in the hallway, silent almost, after the room of screaming people. Sounds of terror were muted; it was darker. Slowly her eyes adjusted and she turned to explain.

“Blacknight and Hogsmeade. Blacknight wasn’t in the hall, she must be in the castle somewhere. We’re not goin’ back in the Hall. We need ta tell those students running out ta go ta Hogsmeade. There are secret entrances somewhere…” She trailed off, trying to remember where. She had never been to the famous wizarding town.

She was beginning to shake, wondering how many of the students and faculty were dead, but she shoved that thought aside. Hogsmeade. Blacknight.

“’Kay, Cisco?”

“Yeah, all right,” Cisco agreed. “We’re the passages to Hogsmeade?”

The entrance to Hogsmeade, or in this case, the exit from Hogwarts, was somewhere, she knew. Vivi had overheard a rumor of one behind the portrait of Merlin… third floor maybe? Maybe not. She had thought, Cisco being older, that he would know. This complicated things.

“Dang it. Okay, if you don’t know, Blacknight first. She’s probably in her potions lab.”

Or in the Slytherin commonroom, or the owlery, or one thousand and one other places in Hogwarts.

The more she concentrated on finding Blacknight, the less she concentrated on whether or not Aiko was alive. Vivi remembered, after Aiko first returned from the dungeons, how at night she had woken up screaming. How she looked like a shadow, barely there, afraid of the world, of the people. How everyone had avoided her gaze, and watched her if she went into the common room. But no, Vivi couldn’t think about that now. Couldn’t think about it…

Marcus Darkmoor strode up the corridor towards the two students, his black robes flowing out behind him, a dark, determined look upon his face. “You two. Head for Hogsmeade immediately and send an owl with this note to the Ministry explaining what is going on here.” Glancing first at Francisco, who seemed disoriented, and then at the somewhat more rational girl, he thrust a scroll of parchment with the Hogwarts Seal on it into Vivienne’s hands.

“I have opened a passage from just outside the kitchens below the Great Hall, next to the picture of the bowl of fruit. Follow it and you will enter Hogsmeade in a building near the post office.”

Marcus started to continue past them, but seeing their hesitation barked sternly, “Move! Now!”

Darkmoor had just solved all of their immediate problems, and for once in her life Vivi was grateful to the stern caretaker. He provided some bit of sanity in the situation anyway, and was explicit enough that she knew what he was talking about. Glancing down at the scroll in her hands, she gripped it tighter. The Professors would lead the other students to safety. Now Cisco and she had a different task.

“Gotcha.” She answered, catching Cisco’s eye. “Come on. Hogwarts needs help.” She began to run, spiriting along the corridors towards the kitchens. Though small she was fast, both on her broom and on the ground. This time however, something was driving her. It was the hope that help could arrive… before it was too late.

Francisco followed Vivi, trying his hardest to keep up with the quick girl.

As they made their way up to the kitchens, Francisco had to ask Vivi a question. “What are we going to do?” he asked, trying to sound as calm as he could. “Maybe I should go and look for Blacknight, while you go and do whatever you need to do.” he said, his head hurting from all the screaming he had heard.

Vivi shook her head. “We go ta Hogsmeade.” She replied, firm in her resolve. Only the quivering of her hands showed what she really felt.

Aiko. She’s gonna die. Who next? Are more dead?

“Blacknight can’t miss the noise. She’ll go help. I bet’cha she’s in the Hall now. We have ta warn the Ministry and the rest of Hogsmeade. They need ta get ready for…for Prince.” She was talking quickly, too quickly, providing reasons why they had to leave, why it was the smart decision, never mind who they were leaving behind. They weren’t the heroes. They were a soon to be fifth and third year, not bloody Aurors. They were doing the right thing…but it still felt wrong.

Dead, all dead? Brooke and Donal and Avery. Damn Prince. Damn him!

“It’s the best we can do,” Vivi finished, stepping into the passage to Hogsmeade and jumping down the stairs, two at a time. She nearly slipped on slime, but it was too late to go back. “Lumos.” She whispered, able to see, but uncomforted by the pen-light beam her of wand. Behind her she heard Cisco, and she was relieved at least that she didn’t face this alone.

I will not cry. I will not cry.

Serenity had dressed for the occasion. Even if turning the Ravenclaw common room into nothing more than a pile of rubble had not been part of her plan, this was. She had known it would happen. There were times when Prince could be as surprising as an earthquake (and as devastating), but there were times when you knew instantly what he would do.

Her robes had been discarded somewhere between the Ravenclaw common room and the Great Hall. Now she wore a pair of dragon hide trousers (a birthday present from who else, but her dragon-tamer cousin Chase) and a form-fitting black top. Her eye make-up was darker than normal and she wore no jewelry apart from a small pouch tied around her neck on a piece of leather.

She spotted who she wanted. It was perfect. He would never suspect her. Sprinting over to Gem Taurus, Ren ripped the small pouch from her neck.

“Gem,” she said urgently. There was no time for formalities. No time to remember that Gem was a member of staff and should be addressed accordingly. She pressed the small pouch into the older girl’s hands. “Take this. Hide it. Do anything, I don’t care what, just do it. It’s important, please.”

She disappeared before Gem could question her about the contents of the pouch:

The Ravenclaw coin.

Gem had come into the hall through one of the entrances behind the staff table. She had heard the screaming, the yelling. She ran in, and stopped. She saw the chaos first, then Prince, then Daiva, then Danuliete and finally…Her eyes widened with anger as she spotted the familiar figure of her father, watching the terror around him. She, wand in hand, was just about to go and curse him, kill him for even showing up, when she was stopped.

Serenity was unlike any Serenity Gem had ever seen before. Touchy, paranoid, frantic even. She ran up to her, muttered something to her, pressed the pouch into her hands, and then ran off. Gem frowned, distracted for one moment from the sight of her father. She opened up the pouch and looked inside. A blue light glinted on her face as the Ravenclaw coin fell into her hand. She pocketed it immediately. Prince was after it. The four objects of Hogwarts made the Black Wand, her father had told her the story so many times she felt as if she’d written it.

She looked around, now feeling just a little frantic herself. Where was she? Ah, there.

“Brooke!” She called, though the yell was hardly heard above the chaos. “Brooke!”

Brooke had spotted Ren from the far end of the Transfiguration corridor. She called after her, but Ren seemed wild, distracted, and it was then that Brooke heard the screaming. Terrible, heart rendering screams of terror that cut through the deadly, oppressed air.

Brooke’s heart pounded. It must be. It was happening again. And Ren, gentle Ren, was under his control. Brooke de Black whirled round. She had to be there. Every instinct told her to walk away, to leave, self-preservation was a strong instinct. Yet she could not. She gripped her wand tightly, ever tighter and opened the door to the Great Hall, making sure to keep behind the wood at first, to get a perspective on the situation. The scene did not calm her nerves. But, adrenalin coursing through her veins, she took in the sight. At the front of the Hall she saw him, a smug, arrogant, all too familiar look on his face.

She heard her name called, in Gem’s familiar tone and half turned when she saw, slightly obscured by Prince’s bulk, another slight and slender frame.

It was her mother!

Her mother?

Her mother.

The last time she has seen her, Daiva had been pale and wasted and kidnapped by that… that evil, fiend-like smirking devil.

And now he had brought her back, was delighting, reveling in her torment, parading his kidnap victim in front of her own daughter.

Well, Brooke would see about that. Her mother had suffered enough. Now Brooke was eighteen years old and capable of defending her mother, as she knew her father would do if only he were there. Oh how she longed for her father’s presence at that moment. He would see that JP off in an instant, Brooke felt.

So she left her protected place behind the door and strode out into the centre of the Hall. Foolishly walked straight in front of Prince’s path.

Wand in hand, Brooke lifted her head and looked him straight in the eye.

“Let my mother go, or you’ll be sorry,” she said in a voice that did not shake and she hoped she sounded like she meant it.

“Don’t.”

Serenity stood a few feet behind Brooke, wand in hand. She stared defiantly at Prince, but it wasn’t him she was talking to. It was Brooke.

“Brooke, don’t. Get out of here. Please,” she pleaded. “He won’t… she won’t…” Serenity couldn’t find the words to tell Brooke.

Her voice thick with emotion, she managed to choke out, “She did it, Brooke. She was guilty.”

Brooke did not move. She dared not turn. Never turn your back on a foe she had been taught. Never give them the slightest possibility, or advantage.

Yet she heard the words from behind her and knew them to be Serenity’s. A flicker of something akin to anger leapt into her eyes.

Those words had better not mean what Brooke thought they did. Or if they did, then Serenity Gates was more of a traitor than she had suspected, or was more under Prince’s power than she could have believed.

“Who is guilty?” she said icily, the Danuliete haughty tone evident in her voice.

Prince stared back at Daiva’s brat, meeting her eyes with his own, not bothering to justify the wand she held openly by moving. Brooke was brave, a quality she gained from her mother, fearless even, yet it was this type of reckless courage that would eventually get her killed. Had she not been Daiva’s, he would have done it himself.

Yet she was Daiva’s, a product of the nauseating marriage between a de Black and a Danuliete, something the wizarding tabloids had whispered about for months. The de Blacks were muggle loving Ministry pets, whereas the name Danuliete was sung in the same tune as his name was, or that of his partner. Oh yes. The magical community had been shocked.

And so Brooke stood here, wand pointed, staring him down. “Your mother is.” He answered her, eyes flickering to the fourth servant. “Why don’t you turn around girl?” He asked, then roughly grabbed her shoulders and spun her.

“Look about. The dead Professor? Your mother’s work. All of this, contrived by us, and your mother was not an innocent by-stander. You think I corrupted her?” He asked, hissing now. “No. Your Mother was never innocent. Blood lies on her hands, and she served in Azkaban for it. But she’s out now girl, and you’d better face your heritage. The blood of murderers runs in your veins.”

He sidestepped suddenly, turning her again and shoving her towards Daiva, sending her to the ground. “Tell her it’s true, Daiva.” He spat, knowing the sheer magnitude of such a revelation would be better than any curse for damaging Brooke. She had lived nine and one half years, believing her Mother’s innocence, praying for her release from Azkaban, and later for her escape from Prince. Now Brooke had to face the truth, and it was an ugly truth.

“Tell her.”

Daiva smiled shyly at her daughter. It had been a long time. Tentatively she reached out one hand and touched her shoulder, brushing her fragile hand, soft as feathers and just as light down her jumper.

“Brooke,” she said, “How you have grown. Quite,” Daiva turned her head slightly and surveyed her, “Quite pretty too.” Not as pretty as she herself had been, perhaps was still, she reflected, but a credit to her nevertheless.

Daiva smiled again. “So baby, have you come to join mummy? I knew you would baby.” She leaned in closer and whispered, “They wouldn’t believe me but I knew it would be you baby. The chosen one, hey Brookey.”

Brooke was utterly bewildered, there were far too many things going on, she was moving from fear, to anger, to happiness, to confusion in the time in took for her to turn around.

She had absolutely no clue what her mother was talking about, but she seemed affectionate and Brooke, who had not felt her mother’s arms around her, or even heard her mother’s voice for nine years, had the beginnings of tears in her eyes.

“Course I am with you mum,” she said, “I’ll never let them get to you again. Dad will be so thrilled,” she said wiping her eyes roughly and smiling at her mother, who had returned from the dead.

Daiva beamed at Brooke and companionably tucked her arm into hers. There was a time when she had known what a mother should do, but that was long ago. Daiva had no real conception any more how old Brooke was, or herself for that matter. She thought she might be a little older, but she couldn’t be sure. Still, she seemed a nice girl.

“Watch me!” she said happily and took out her wand. “Watch what Mummy can do Brookey!”

Daiva saw her opportunity and never one to miss it, aimed straight and true for a stupid girl, a student, an obvious target. Asking for it really.

“Avada Kedavra!” screamed Daiva in a commanding tone. It was all over so fast that the girl would never have known what hit her.

“Do you want a go?” Daiva said happily. “Mummy will teach you.”

She hugged a frozen Brooke.

Brooke couldn’t move. Her eyes widened and she felt as if she may never move or speak again.

Then forcing her heavy feet to move she took a step back. One step but it felt like a colossal leap.

She couldn’t take her eyes off her mother’s face. She certainly couldn’t look towards the dead girl. The memory of the body and the flash of green light and the fall replayed itself behind her eyelids. And her mother was smiling, was holding out her hands to her in a playful manner.

Brooke had not seen her mother properly for nine long years, during which time she had seen her family torn apart by scandal and disgrace. Had seen lines appear on her father’s rugged face. He had lost his job as a Ministry Auror, had even been on trial at court; implicated in a possible conspiracy with his wife. She had lived in vacations with her paternal grandparents, whom, though disapproving and utterly contemptuous, could do nothing to prevent their only son from scouring the world, wearing himself out looking for evidence to prove that his beloved wife, his Daiva, was innocent, had been cruelly framed.

And now this.

No,” Brooke said the word forming on her lips and pushing out the sound, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” She clutched at her face and felt it twist and tears rolled furiously down as she started to scream.

While so many things occurred around her, Gem Taurus noticed only one thing: the black eyes that met hers, drawing her into a silent, losing battle.

Gem listened to the words being spoken by Prince. They did not sink in, just floated on the surface, biding their time. Only one phrase stuck in her mind. The blood of murderers runs in your veins He had not been talking of her, it was true, but the phrase applied. Prince had not yet said anything to her, but when he did she felt her part to play in this would all come clear. Her father was here and Brooke’s mother and Prince and Danuliete, together.

She looked at her own father, who was staring back at her with eyes as deeply black as Prince’s. That phrase again rung through her head. She wanted to cut all her veins open so the blood wouldn’t run there any more.

She could not help hearing the shouting, the screaming, the terror all around her. She could hear voices in her head as well as in her ears. Shouting for help, for mercy, weeping for the dead. She wanted to cry, the pain hurt, but she would not cry, not here, not now. She looked to her father once more, and could still feel the pain, mirrored in his eyes.

“Oh my god,” Gem breathed, “I have it, what Prince is looking for. I have it…” The words were meant for her ears only, a audible statement concerning what had come to pass, the position she now found herself in. But Gem was not the onyl one who heard her words. A servant with ill-intent heard her.

The servant had her orders: Serenity is not loyal… follow her, watch her every move, and report your findings to me. Prince had commanded this of the Gryffindor servant in private. What choice was there but to obey? And she had obeyed. She had followed; she had watched. Her eyes had not bothered to leave Serenity. When the Ravenclaw Servant had rushed towards Gem and pressed something in her hand, she had followed.

Only then did Lys go against her orders and follow Gemini Taurus instead. Her senses were locked on the Quidditch teacher and the diversion. They had only made her job easier. Her concentration was wholly on Gem, blocking out the shrieks and screams, though one part of her consciousness still remained fixed on Serenity.

She heard it and walked casually back to the Master.

“Sir, Serenity betrays you. She had the Item. Now she,” her gaze locked onto Gem, “has it. My orders sir?”

Prince curled his lip. The fourth servant had betrayed him. He had suspected, had set his most useful servant to trail her, had threatened and warned. Yet Serenity Gates, in true testament to her Auror parents, had still resisted. Prince raised his wand higher, aiming it at the fourth servant, who stood still at the scene.

“Your orders.” He commanded Lys, eyes locked elsewhere. “Bring me Gem Taurus.” He knew as he said it that Lys could not possibly defeat the Hogwarts graduate, could not bring her by force. Other means would have to be found, but just the lure of her father would prove a most powerful persuasion for the Taurus girl.

As Lys left to fulfill his commanded, he spoke. “I told you not to disobey me.” He drawled, and then flicked his raised wand in Serenity’s direction.

“Avada Kedavra.”

There was a flash of green light, more screams, and then the air began to clear. The Gates girl was still standing, shock written on her face.

Behind her, Chase Gates fell dead.

Serenity didn’t have to look behind her to know who he’d killed. He’d threatened to do it before. To kill everyone she cared about. This time it was her cousin. Chase, who had taken the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position as a favor. Who did not want to be at Hogwarts. Chase.

Serenity couldn’t look at Prince, and instead turned her gaze to his companions. Danuliete stood regarding the whole spectacle calmly while her sister was trying to persuade her to dance. Azkaban hadn’t just claimed years of Daiva’s life; it had claimed her sanity. And then there was Derek Taurus. She had seen pictures of him when Gem had shared a dorm with herself and Brooke.

And now Gem had the coin. And Lys was after Gem.

Doing what she shouldn’t, turning around, she let a curse fly. “Stupefy!” Lys fell to the floor, stunned.

Whirling round, Ren said. “I can’t let you have the coin.”

Gem wouldn’t let anything happen to it. She could trust Gem: she was a Beater— the one who protected you from getting beaten to a bloody pulp by the Bludgers.

But… she’d read something once while researching the Black wand. A prophecy?

Serenity gasped.

A traitor.

That’s when she realized what a monumental mistake she’d made.

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

More than a year ago Prince John Paul had stood in the entry of this school, Daiva thrown over one shoulder and his wand brandished in hand. Danuliete had double crossed him, then, and he had dealt out punishment to the entire school. He remembered that night clearly; it was imprinted in has head as though branded there. Children screaming, tables over thrown, party decorations scattered everywhere. He had thrived on the destruction.

The Great Hall looked different now, less festive, with students milling around and most of the staff at the Faculty table. Few noticed the black-robed figures enter at first, though they were definitely out of place. Had some of the older students looked up, they would have recognized Prince immediately. He wore the same cocky, insane grin as last time, his wand held steady. Behind him stood Daiva, his partner, and Danuliete.

He had returned to collect on the bill of injuries done to him here, although he did have ulterior motives. As his servants worked, they needed a diversion. The one he had planned would be enough to distract the entire wizarding world for months.

Suddenly one person looked up, and then another; slowly a hush fell over the congregation. Waves of shock swept through the crowd, confused first years looked around, no one knew quite how to react…

And that’s when the screaming started.

Daiva smiled.

At last something to do.

She shook her long dark hair, flecked now with streaks of white, white inflicted by Azkaban. There was something akin to liveliness and vigor back in her face for the first time in years. People screamed, well why wouldn’t they scream? Daiva liked the reaction she was provoking, and never one to waste time or words when action would serve, she stepped out from behind JP and with a delicate flick of her wrist she muttered an unforgivable incantation. The words flowed like water from her beautiful lips: lips born to utter such words.

And yet she smiled as she said it and deftly flicked her wand into the crowd. It had no particular target; indeed Daiva had no one in mind. It was enough that she was there, alive. The power that surged in her wand lifted her up, made her once more a bit like the Daiva she had lost.

The spell hit a Professor right in the chest, making him fall right to the floor, his body a lifeless pile of skin.

A high pitched shriek emerged from a young first year as the professor who had shielded her fell lifeless to the floor. Her eyes were glued to his stiff form, lying at her feet.

Her cry increased in volume as she moved her gaze to the murderess across the room. It was a stupid thing to do, attract attention, but as hard as she tried she could not stop.

The girl was terrified.

“Very smooth, Daiva.” Prince said dryly, deprived of the first kill. Still, he could not begrudge the woman the blood. Eight years was a long time to last without casting a single curse, not to mention with having Dementors sucking her magic away. He was surprised she managed what she did. Surprised, and strangely pleased. This was the Daiva of old, the one he remembered.

As the idiot Professor fell dead, Prince stepped further into the Hall, secure in his knowledge. Prior experience taught him that here only Danuliete was capable of hurting him. And this time she would not pose a problem. He swept his eyes around, choosing his target. Unlike Daiva, Prince strove for precision.

“Avada Kedavra.” He commanded lazily, flicking his wand. The hysterical girl slumped dead to the floor. Prince cackled and his wand began to heat up, mirroring his excitement.

A picture of terror, he brought his wand up again.

Habba, the old Quidditch Coach, started to weep. Huge blue tears rolled down her nose. Habba hated death and this was all too much for her. First losing her Quidditch hut, then her job, and now this. Habba wished very much she had never ever come up from her hole and her Hinklepuddle friends. She plopped down off the chair at the staff table and hid underneath it. Danuliete had never quite been able to force Habba out of her school, despite the fact that Habba at present had no definable job whatsoever and spent most of the time digging up parts of the school and crying.

Quietly at first, then gradually louder and louder, Habba began to wail a mournful death song. She rocked backwards and forwards, forwards and backwards, singing over and over again:

“Oh eei eee hidle hidle eiee ee
Ye Yei Ye yei smiidle faddle bee!”

The ugly blue thing’s wailing was beginning to give Prince a headache. At first he had not bothered with it, believing it to be less than intelligent and not worth the time it took to curse, but now the thing was getting really annoying.

And come to think of it, he had always enjoyed animal torture…

He muttered a simple spell and the table it sat under exploded, covering everyone in saw dust and splinters. A second later the food that had graced the table submitted to the laws of gravity and came crashing down. Gravy splattered everywhere, pumpkin juice drenched onlookers. A cherry topped cake hit a screaming student, knocking her over. In the middle of it sat the nuisance, balling as though there would be no tomorrow.

For it, there wouldn’t be.

“Avada Kedavra.”

Habba tried to shield herself from the exploding table and all the bits of food and splinters by putting her plump paws over her head and singing even louder, if that were possible. The last thoughts that went though her mind were not fears for her own safety, for she seemed indeed oblivious to any danger to her own person, but about the nasty old man and the poor little bitsy moppets in the hall below.

The spell hit her completely unawares and in mid-song. Habba was not human. She was part Paddamarsh and part Hinklepuddle. The spell did not affect her in the same way whatsoever. True, it was the most deadly of the Unforgivable curses and no living creature could withstand it. But instead of fading out, her life ended in a much more bizarre and dramatic way that was very much like her living of it.

The spell hit Habba right in the middle of her fat round belly and she exploded. Right where she sat rocking back and forth, she spontaneously combusted. Huge chunks of blue Habba flew round the room, pupils, staff and perpetrators alike were splattered with great globules of blue flesh, purple blood, and lurid pink organs. It was a mess.

Perhaps the first movement after the thing exploded was from one of the least likely of sources. From the Hufflepuff table a sobbing second year stood. Tears mixed with the blood and flesh that had sprayed onto her as she took the first steps towards Prince.

It was almost exactly like the year before. And it was every bit as nightmarish.

“I have it,” she whispered. Her normally timid voice needed no increase in volume to be heard; no one was speaking. “I found it.”

And with her self-loathing deepening each moment, she dropped the pocket watch at her master’s feet.

“Pick it up.” Prince commanded, flicking his wand and muttering the Imperious curse. Unable to resist, Aiko bent and lifted the watch, handing it to him. The sobbing brat was so easy to toy with. He flicked his wand again, making her bow down to him. She had no backbone anyway, it made little difference. Indifferently he stepped around her, heel grinding into her hand. He wiped the third object off on his robe sleeve, and then studied it carefully.

It was covered in purple blood, unsurprisingly. Had he known that thing would combust, he might have chosen to smash it into a wall instead. While blood and gore were perfectly all right and rather fitting, he did not approve of the orange entrails that had landed on his robes. The Hufflepuff watch was still ticking, he noted with satisfaction.

It was pitiful really. The way the mere sight of a man could induce so much terror in the hearts of almost every person there. No one would interfere with the eldest servant now; this distraction was more than occupying. The partner watched his fellows cast their death spells over the whimpering life forms that were Danuliete’s students. He would have thought she would have hardened them to her strength, but no. Each student that fell was as weak and powerless as the last.

In the midst of such a throng one face would normally be clear; it was her sort of scene, chaos. But she was not there, not yet anyways. Prince looked at all the faces around the hall, each terrified at the very sight of the four adults, each brandishing their wands. Almost all were scared and she would not be. Confused, annoyed and angry but not scared; she knew three of the four adults there well enough not to be scared. He stood and watched the events before him, she would be here soon enough, when the cries and the pain reached her mind.

Francisco had been following Brooke the entire way throughout all the corridors. But she had continued to run right past the Great Hall; it appeared as if she was heading to Professor Gates’ office, most likely to see if Ren was in there.

But Francisco was curious as to see what was happening in the Great Hall. A group of students were rushing out screaming and saying not to go in. But being the curious one he was, Francisco poked his head into the hall. And what he saw was not something he wanted to.

No, no, no. The despairing, denying mantra ran through Vivienne’s head over and over. No!

She catapulted towards the Hall, already afraid of what she might find, expecting nothing less than devastation. The sight of the common room, shredded with a skill born of desperation, had convinced her that time was short. Aiko was in trouble and Vivi was not about to lose her closest friend. Oh no.

Running helter-skelter, she collided with something solid in her way, sending both it and herself flying beyond the great wooden doors and into the middle of the devastation. Had she been thinking properly, she would have realized it was a very, very stupid move.

At first it was hard to discern anything that was happening in the hall. She bit her lip to hold back a scream, feeling her blood boil as Habba exploded, covering everyone in orange and blue chunks. Had she had time to think about it her stomach might have revolted, but momentarily she was busy. Streaks of purple oozed in her hair, but Vivi didn’t care. She had to find Aiko, because she had seen the destruction in the common room, and that meant that something bad was going to happen. Something bad was already happening. The blood curdling shrieks told her that much.

Panicked students hid behind over-turned table and statues, and stampeded for the doors, though with too many people trying to get out at once, few got far. Vivi scrambled up, jumping off of whatever she had landed on. Hastily glancing down she muttered, “Oh, Cisco.” As he stood up she stood on tip toe, gazing around.

Able to see clearly now, Vivi scanned the Hall. What she saw made her sick. A professor laid prone, a student draped over him, both assumed dead. Near them stood Prince John Paul, the Hitler of the wizarding world…and before him stood Aiko.

“This can’t be happening again,” she murmured, fear suddenly beginning to kick in and overwhelm her. He was going to kill Aiko; he was going to kill them all; Hogwarts was ruined. Danuliete stood there, their only savior, a traitor. Nothing could stop it this time.

Francisco looked at Vivi, and then looked over at Aiko. He knew that Aiko and Vivi were very close friends. It had to be hard to look up at your best friend and see her being controlled by the most feared dark wizard in the wizarding world.

And then there was Danuliete. She was now on Prince’s side; why, he had no idea. It was difficult to comprehend how such a solid prescence could turn traitor, but she had.

Francisco turned to Vivi, “What is Danuliete doing up there, anyway?” he asked her, his eyes still surveying the hall, making sure to watch Prince.

“Betraying us.” Vivi whispered, still horrified. Survival tactics were beginning to set in, and she knew they could not stay here, out in the open. They were prime targets for a casual curse, one that would be the last thing both remembered. She had read about the Unforgivable curses, after last year, and had no desire to be the victim of one.

Yet at the same time, she had to help Aiko. She wanted to smack her, make her wake up, make her help herself. Why did Prince have such power over everyone? Why couldn’t someone stop him? Someone could stop him. And she chose not to.

“We’ve got to move, Cisco.” Vivi said, puncturing her statement by pointing. The commotion was so loud that he might not have heard her, but hand signals were easy enough to understand.

“Now.”

Francisco looked at Vivi, trying to understand what she was saying. He couldn’t understand her and what he heard from her, wasn’t what her hands were saying. So he decided to go with what her hands were saying.

They made a run for it, jumping over the tipped over chairs and tables that were a cause from all the chaos that was happening here in the Great Hall.

Francisco’s heart was pounding, partly because of the excitement of being so close to death (he always was a thrill seeker), and partly because of fear.

He was idiot, after the stories he had heard after last years devastation, he knew the Unforgivable Curses oh so well, and knew there ultimate purpose.

Vivi had cause to suddenly wonder if Cisco was one of those happy-go-lucky, jumps-through-rings-of-fire, live-on-the-edge type of daredevil people as he went off on a mad dash across the Great Hall. She had said they needed to move, not that they needed to run across the open like crazed rabbits. Really.

More cautiously she followed him, keeping a wary eye on events as they progressed. The way Prince and his followers acted, they were not here just to massacre innocents. There was a purpose to their madness, some motive. Something that involved the shimmering object Aiko had handed Prince. Head down, she slid through mashed potatoes, wondering how the house elves would ever manage to clean this up, assuming Hogwarts was still standing. It was the least of her worries, but as she couldn’t comprehend the others, her brain fixated on this one.

Cisco’s dash had taken them closer to Prince. Brilliant, just brilliant. For the moment they were hidden and safe, but previous events showed that he could easily blow up a table, and then were would they be?

From now on, I call the shots, she thought, a little irritated. Maybe he fancied dying, but she didn’t, thank you very much.

“I meant we needed ta move away from Prince.” She hissed, exasperated, once she caught up with Cisco. “I’m not so delusional that I plan ta hex him from here.” In the case of such an event, she imagined four wands would promptly curse into oblivion. Perhaps with that many hexes she would combust, like Habba.

Francisco leaned over to Vivi after jumping behind a table close to Prince, but yet hidden from them all. “What do we do now?” he asked, his voice breathless and full of exhaustion.

“You get out of here.” Professor Gates crouched down beside them. Abandoning all formalities she said, “Francisco, Vivi, get out of here. Get everyone you can down to Hogsmeade. Find Professor Blacknight if you can. Send her here.”

Gates paused slightly, looking darkly at the Hufflepuff girl. “Vivi, do not trust Aiko. She’s under His control. She’s not the Aiko you know.”

Professor Gates’ voice behind Vivi startled her, and she nearly jumped out of her skin. Then the Professor’s wisdom hit her, and she nodded. Hogsmeade. They needed Blacknight, they needed to owl the Ministry, they needed help.

“All right, Professor,” Vivi replied, glad someone who knew what they were doing could direct them. Grabbing Cisco, she inched along the wall towards the door.

“Vivi, where are we going?” Cisco asked, inching along beside her and stepping over a pile of wood from the tables. The Great Hall was a complete and utter mess. This was going to be a horrible way to end the year.

“Out the door,” she replied, repressing the urge to roll her eyes as she slipped behind a curtain and opened one of the many back exits out of the hall. Once both were through she paused. It was quiet in the hallway, silent almost, after the room of screaming people. Sounds of terror were muted; it was darker. Slowly her eyes adjusted and she turned to explain.

“Blacknight and Hogsmeade. Blacknight wasn’t in the hall, she must be in the castle somewhere. We’re not goin’ back in the Hall. We need ta tell those students running out ta go ta Hogsmeade. There are secret entrances somewhere…” She trailed off, trying to remember where. She had never been to the famous wizarding town.

She was beginning to shake, wondering how many of the students and faculty were dead, but she shoved that thought aside. Hogsmeade. Blacknight.

“’Kay, Cisco?”

“Yeah, all right,” Cisco agreed. “We’re the passages to Hogsmeade?”

The entrance to Hogsmeade, or in this case, the exit from Hogwarts, was somewhere, she knew. Vivi had overheard a rumor of one behind the portrait of Merlin… third floor maybe? Maybe not. She had thought, Cisco being older, that he would know. This complicated things.

“Dang it. Okay, if you don’t know, Blacknight first. She’s probably in her potions lab.”

Or in the Slytherin commonroom, or the owlery, or one thousand and one other places in Hogwarts.

The more she concentrated on finding Blacknight, the less she concentrated on whether or not Aiko was alive. Vivi remembered, after Aiko first returned from the dungeons, how at night she had woken up screaming. How she looked like a shadow, barely there, afraid of the world, of the people. How everyone had avoided her gaze, and watched her if she went into the common room. But no, Vivi couldn’t think about that now. Couldn’t think about it…

Marcus Darkmoor strode up the corridor towards the two students, his black robes flowing out behind him, a dark, determined look upon his face. “You two. Head for Hogsmeade immediately and send an owl with this note to the Ministry explaining what is going on here.” Glancing first at Francisco, who seemed disoriented, and then at the somewhat more rational girl, he thrust a scroll of parchment with the Hogwarts Seal on it into Vivienne’s hands.

“I have opened a passage from just outside the kitchens below the Great Hall, next to the picture of the bowl of fruit. Follow it and you will enter Hogsmeade in a building near the post office.”

Marcus started to continue past them, but seeing their hesitation barked sternly, “Move! Now!”

Darkmoor had just solved all of their immediate problems, and for once in her life Vivi was grateful to the stern caretaker. He provided some bit of sanity in the situation anyway, and was explicit enough that she knew what he was talking about. Glancing down at the scroll in her hands, she gripped it tighter. The Professors would lead the other students to safety. Now Cisco and she had a different task.

“Gotcha.” She answered, catching Cisco’s eye. “Come on. Hogwarts needs help.” She began to run, spiriting along the corridors towards the kitchens. Though small she was fast, both on her broom and on the ground. This time however, something was driving her. It was the hope that help could arrive… before it was too late.

Francisco followed Vivi, trying his hardest to keep up with the quick girl.

As they made their way up to the kitchens, Francisco had to ask Vivi a question. “What are we going to do?” he asked, trying to sound as calm as he could. “Maybe I should go and look for Blacknight, while you go and do whatever you need to do.” he said, his head hurting from all the screaming he had heard.

Vivi shook her head. “We go ta Hogsmeade.” She replied, firm in her resolve. Only the quivering of her hands showed what she really felt.

Aiko. She’s gonna die. Who next? Are more dead?

“Blacknight can’t miss the noise. She’ll go help. I bet’cha she’s in the Hall now. We have ta warn the Ministry and the rest of Hogsmeade. They need ta get ready for…for Prince.” She was talking quickly, too quickly, providing reasons why they had to leave, why it was the smart decision, never mind who they were leaving behind. They weren’t the heroes. They were a soon to be fifth and third year, not bloody Aurors. They were doing the right thing…but it still felt wrong.

Dead, all dead? Brooke and Donal and Avery. Damn Prince. Damn him!

“It’s the best we can do,” Vivi finished, stepping into the passage to Hogsmeade and jumping down the stairs, two at a time. She nearly slipped on slime, but it was too late to go back. “Lumos.” She whispered, able to see, but uncomforted by the pen-light beam her of wand. Behind her she heard Cisco, and she was relieved at least that she didn’t face this alone.

I will not cry. I will not cry.

Serenity had dressed for the occasion. Even if turning the Ravenclaw common room into nothing more than a pile of rubble had not been part of her plan, this was. She had known it would happen. There were times when Prince could be as surprising as an earthquake (and as devastating), but there were times when you knew instantly what he would do.

Her robes had been discarded somewhere between the Ravenclaw common room and the Great Hall. Now she wore a pair of dragon hide trousers (a birthday present from who else, but her dragon-tamer cousin Chase) and a form-fitting black top. Her eye make-up was darker than normal and she wore no jewelry apart from a small pouch tied around her neck on a piece of leather.

She spotted who she wanted. It was perfect. He would never suspect her. Sprinting over to Gem Taurus, Ren ripped the small pouch from her neck.

“Gem,” she said urgently. There was no time for formalities. No time to remember that Gem was a member of staff and should be addressed accordingly. She pressed the small pouch into the older girl’s hands. “Take this. Hide it. Do anything, I don’t care what, just do it. It’s important, please.”

She disappeared before Gem could question her about the contents of the pouch:

The Ravenclaw coin.

Gem had come into the hall through one of the entrances behind the staff table. She had heard the screaming, the yelling. She ran in, and stopped. She saw the chaos first, then Prince, then Daiva, then Danuliete and finally…Her eyes widened with anger as she spotted the familiar figure of her father, watching the terror around him. She, wand in hand, was just about to go and curse him, kill him for even showing up, when she was stopped.

Serenity was unlike any Serenity Gem had ever seen before. Touchy, paranoid, frantic even. She ran up to her, muttered something to her, pressed the pouch into her hands, and then ran off. Gem frowned, distracted for one moment from the sight of her father. She opened up the pouch and looked inside. A blue light glinted on her face as the Ravenclaw coin fell into her hand. She pocketed it immediately. Prince was after it. The four objects of Hogwarts made the Black Wand, her father had told her the story so many times she felt as if she’d written it.

She looked around, now feeling just a little frantic herself. Where was she? Ah, there.

“Brooke!” She called, though the yell was hardly heard above the chaos. “Brooke!”

Brooke had spotted Ren from the far end of the Transfiguration corridor. She called after her, but Ren seemed wild, distracted, and it was then that Brooke heard the screaming. Terrible, heart rendering screams of terror that cut through the deadly, oppressed air.

Brooke’s heart pounded. It must be. It was happening again. And Ren, gentle Ren, was under his control. Brooke de Black whirled round. She had to be there. Every instinct told her to walk away, to leave, self-preservation was a strong instinct. Yet she could not. She gripped her wand tightly, ever tighter and opened the door to the Great Hall, making sure to keep behind the wood at first, to get a perspective on the situation. The scene did not calm her nerves. But, adrenalin coursing through her veins, she took in the sight. At the front of the Hall she saw him, a smug, arrogant, all too familiar look on his face.

She heard her name called, in Gem’s familiar tone and half turned when she saw, slightly obscured by Prince’s bulk, another slight and slender frame.

It was her mother!

Her mother?

Her mother.

The last time she has seen her, Daiva had been pale and wasted and kidnapped by that… that evil, fiend-like smirking devil.

And now he had brought her back, was delighting, reveling in her torment, parading his kidnap victim in front of her own daughter.

Well, Brooke would see about that. Her mother had suffered enough. Now Brooke was eighteen years old and capable of defending her mother, as she knew her father would do if only he were there. Oh how she longed for her father’s presence at that moment. He would see that JP off in an instant, Brooke felt.

So she left her protected place behind the door and strode out into the centre of the Hall. Foolishly walked straight in front of Prince’s path.

Wand in hand, Brooke lifted her head and looked him straight in the eye.

“Let my mother go, or you’ll be sorry,” she said in a voice that did not shake and she hoped she sounded like she meant it.

“Don’t.”

Serenity stood a few feet behind Brooke, wand in hand. She stared defiantly at Prince, but it wasn’t him she was talking to. It was Brooke.

“Brooke, don’t. Get out of here. Please,” she pleaded. “He won’t… she won’t…” Serenity couldn’t find the words to tell Brooke.

Her voice thick with emotion, she managed to choke out, “She did it, Brooke. She was guilty.”

Brooke did not move. She dared not turn. Never turn your back on a foe she had been taught. Never give them the slightest possibility, or advantage.

Yet she heard the words from behind her and knew them to be Serenity’s. A flicker of something akin to anger leapt into her eyes.

Those words had better not mean what Brooke thought they did. Or if they did, then Serenity Gates was more of a traitor than she had suspected, or was more under Prince’s power than she could have believed.

“Who is guilty?” she said icily, the Danuliete haughty tone evident in her voice.

Prince stared back at Daiva’s brat, meeting her eyes with his own, not bothering to justify the wand she held openly by moving. Brooke was brave, a quality she gained from her mother, fearless even, yet it was this type of reckless courage that would eventually get her killed. Had she not been Daiva’s, he would have done it himself.

Yet she was Daiva’s, a product of the nauseating marriage between a de Black and a Danuliete, something the wizarding tabloids had whispered about for months. The de Blacks were muggle loving Ministry pets, whereas the name Danuliete was sung in the same tune as his name was, or that of his partner. Oh yes. The magical community had been shocked.

And so Brooke stood here, wand pointed, staring him down. “Your mother is.” He answered her, eyes flickering to the fourth servant. “Why don’t you turn around girl?” He asked, then roughly grabbed her shoulders and spun her.

“Look about. The dead Professor? Your mother’s work. All of this, contrived by us, and your mother was not an innocent by-stander. You think I corrupted her?” He asked, hissing now. “No. Your Mother was never innocent. Blood lies on her hands, and she served in Azkaban for it. But she’s out now girl, and you’d better face your heritage. The blood of murderers runs in your veins.”

He sidestepped suddenly, turning her again and shoving her towards Daiva, sending her to the ground. “Tell her it’s true, Daiva.” He spat, knowing the sheer magnitude of such a revelation would be better than any curse for damaging Brooke. She had lived nine and one half years, believing her Mother’s innocence, praying for her release from Azkaban, and later for her escape from Prince. Now Brooke had to face the truth, and it was an ugly truth.

“Tell her.”

Daiva smiled shyly at her daughter. It had been a long time. Tentatively she reached out one hand and touched her shoulder, brushing her fragile hand, soft as feathers and just as light down her jumper.

“Brooke,” she said, “How you have grown. Quite,” Daiva turned her head slightly and surveyed her, “Quite pretty too.” Not as pretty as she herself had been, perhaps was still, she reflected, but a credit to her nevertheless.

Daiva smiled again. “So baby, have you come to join mummy? I knew you would baby.” She leaned in closer and whispered, “They wouldn’t believe me but I knew it would be you baby. The chosen one, hey Brookey.”

Brooke was utterly bewildered, there were far too many things going on, she was moving from fear, to anger, to happiness, to confusion in the time in took for her to turn around.

She had absolutely no clue what her mother was talking about, but she seemed affectionate and Brooke, who had not felt her mother’s arms around her, or even heard her mother’s voice for nine years, had the beginnings of tears in her eyes.

“Course I am with you mum,” she said, “I’ll never let them get to you again. Dad will be so thrilled,” she said wiping her eyes roughly and smiling at her mother, who had returned from the dead.

Daiva beamed at Brooke and companionably tucked her arm into hers. There was a time when she had known what a mother should do, but that was long ago. Daiva had no real conception any more how old Brooke was, or herself for that matter. She thought she might be a little older, but she couldn’t be sure. Still, she seemed a nice girl.

“Watch me!” she said happily and took out her wand. “Watch what Mummy can do Brookey!”

Daiva saw her opportunity and never one to miss it, aimed straight and true for a stupid girl, a student, an obvious target. Asking for it really.

“Avada Kedavra!” screamed Daiva in a commanding tone. It was all over so fast that the girl would never have known what hit her.

“Do you want a go?” Daiva said happily. “Mummy will teach you.”

She hugged a frozen Brooke.

Brooke couldn’t move. Her eyes widened and she felt as if she may never move or speak again.

Then forcing her heavy feet to move she took a step back. One step but it felt like a colossal leap.

She couldn’t take her eyes off her mother’s face. She certainly couldn’t look towards the dead girl. The memory of the body and the flash of green light and the fall replayed itself behind her eyelids. And her mother was smiling, was holding out her hands to her in a playful manner.

Brooke had not seen her mother properly for nine long years, during which time she had seen her family torn apart by scandal and disgrace. Had seen lines appear on her father’s rugged face. He had lost his job as a Ministry Auror, had even been on trial at court; implicated in a possible conspiracy with his wife. She had lived in vacations with her paternal grandparents, whom, though disapproving and utterly contemptuous, could do nothing to prevent their only son from scouring the world, wearing himself out looking for evidence to prove that his beloved wife, his Daiva, was innocent, had been cruelly framed.

And now this.

No,” Brooke said the word forming on her lips and pushing out the sound, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” She clutched at her face and felt it twist and tears rolled furiously down as she started to scream.

While so many things occurred around her, Gem Taurus noticed only one thing: the black eyes that met hers, drawing her into a silent, losing battle.

Gem listened to the words being spoken by Prince. They did not sink in, just floated on the surface, biding their time. Only one phrase stuck in her mind. The blood of murderers runs in your veins He had not been talking of her, it was true, but the phrase applied. Prince had not yet said anything to her, but when he did she felt her part to play in this would all come clear. Her father was here and Brooke’s mother and Prince and Danuliete, together.

She looked at her own father, who was staring back at her with eyes as deeply black as Prince’s. That phrase again rung through her head. She wanted to cut all her veins open so the blood wouldn’t run there any more.

She could not help hearing the shouting, the screaming, the terror all around her. She could hear voices in her head as well as in her ears. Shouting for help, for mercy, weeping for the dead. She wanted to cry, the pain hurt, but she would not cry, not here, not now. She looked to her father once more, and could still feel the pain, mirrored in his eyes.

“Oh my god,” Gem breathed, “I have it, what Prince is looking for. I have it…” The words were meant for her ears only, a audible statement concerning what had come to pass, the position she now found herself in. But Gem was not the onyl one who heard her words. A servant with ill-intent heard her.

The servant had her orders: Serenity is not loyal… follow her, watch her every move, and report your findings to me. Prince had commanded this of the Gryffindor servant in private. What choice was there but to obey? And she had obeyed. She had followed; she had watched. Her eyes had not bothered to leave Serenity. When the Ravenclaw Servant had rushed towards Gem and pressed something in her hand, she had followed.

Only then did Lys go against her orders and follow Gemini Taurus instead. Her senses were locked on the Quidditch teacher and the diversion. They had only made her job easier. Her concentration was wholly on Gem, blocking out the shrieks and screams, though one part of her consciousness still remained fixed on Serenity.

She heard it and walked casually back to the Master.

“Sir, Serenity betrays you. She had the Item. Now she,” her gaze locked onto Gem, “has it. My orders sir?”

Prince curled his lip. The fourth servant had betrayed him. He had suspected, had set his most useful servant to trail her, had threatened and warned. Yet Serenity Gates, in true testament to her Auror parents, had still resisted. Prince raised his wand higher, aiming it at the fourth servant, who stood still at the scene.

“Your orders.” He commanded Lys, eyes locked elsewhere. “Bring me Gem Taurus.” He knew as he said it that Lys could not possibly defeat the Hogwarts graduate, could not bring her by force. Other means would have to be found, but just the lure of her father would prove a most powerful persuasion for the Taurus girl.

As Lys left to fulfill his commanded, he spoke. “I told you not to disobey me.” He drawled, and then flicked his raised wand in Serenity’s direction.

“Avada Kedavra.”

There was a flash of green light, more screams, and then the air began to clear. The Gates girl was still standing, shock written on her face.

Behind her, Chase Gates fell dead.

Serenity didn’t have to look behind her to know who he’d killed. He’d threatened to do it before. To kill everyone she cared about. This time it was her cousin. Chase, who had taken the Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position as a favor. Who did not want to be at Hogwarts. Chase.

Serenity couldn’t look at Prince, and instead turned her gaze to his companions. Danuliete stood regarding the whole spectacle calmly while her sister was trying to persuade her to dance. Azkaban hadn’t just claimed years of Daiva’s life; it had claimed her sanity. And then there was Derek Taurus. She had seen pictures of him when Gem had shared a dorm with herself and Brooke.

And now Gem had the coin. And Lys was after Gem.

Doing what she shouldn’t, turning around, she let a curse fly. “Stupefy!” Lys fell to the floor, stunned.

Whirling round, Ren said. “I can’t let you have the coin.”

Gem wouldn’t let anything happen to it. She could trust Gem: she was a Beater— the one who protected you from getting beaten to a bloody pulp by the Bludgers.

But… she’d read something once while researching the Black wand. A prophecy?

Serenity gasped.

A traitor.

That’s when she realized what a monumental mistake she’d made.

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