Chapter 18

Destiny

There was nowhere left to run and Gem knew it. The screaming and death would never escape her mind until what had to be done was done. Her insides shook and she felt as though a swarm of bees had replaced the usual nervous butterflies. She was biting her lip so hard it was bleeding but she didn’t notice it. She saw Lys change course from Serenity to follow her instead, and then report back to Prince for her orders. She wrinkled her nose in disgust at the girl, so willful do to others’ dirty work. She looked at Prince with shaking eyes. She would not go to him, she would not.

A cool breeze washed over her and it suddenly felt as if only she and Prince were in the room, the screaming and shouting could no longer be heard in her mind. It lasted only seconds however and her mind went back to whizzing through the impossible situation she now found herself in.

He would not kill her, she knew that much. Neither Lys, Alex or Aiko could defeat her in a duel so those three servants were useless. Serenity was fighting back and could not be used against her. Prince would not take it in his own hands to bring her to him unless he really wanted what she could give. He knew she would not give in easily, but how easy is not-easy? She could hide it from him? No use, Lys had told him she had it. She could give it back to Serenity? No! No, she didn’t…want to.

Brooke was talking to her mother and it seemed as though she had given up all will to fight and had joined with her. The last tiny bit of hope that Gem had against the Black Wands and the Danuliete’s was gone.

The coin was the only thing stopping Prince from killing everyone in the school. She cared…didn’t she? She remembered swiftly a moment when she had not cared if the entire world was wiped out by her wand; it made her feel slightly sick. Danuliete would not stop him, her father certainly wouldn’t, and Daiva was joining in it seemed. There was nowhere left to run but to him.

Gem took out the coin and held it in the palm of her left hand, her wand hand. It didn’t matter; he wouldn’t curse her holding it. The coin bathed her in a blue light that flickered like flames, playing on her face and in her emerald green eyes. Alone this object was, not altogether useless, but without real power certainly. Joined with the other three which Prince had, they would create a weapon so powerful the Dark Lord himself would cower at the feet of those who owned it. She stopped looking and closed her fingers around the coin.

So many choices and so little time to make the right one. It was horrible.

It was all too much for her to decide. Prince was luring her to him, telling her to obey. Filling her mind with thought of the pleasures of power and of her destruction if she was to refuse. She stood still in the middle of the Hall, coin in hand, and waited for Lys to come to her.

Lys had been close when Serenity’s spell hit and knocked her to the ground. Her head whirled, and try as she might, she couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t move. Around her the world was falling apart. And for a moment after her head hit the floor, something had worked. For a moment she wasn’t under Prince’s control. She thought of flight, or other things. But Prince was stronger than Serenity or any stunning spell. Her mind filled with the images of the Ball, of what he had done to innocent people, and those servants who had disobeyed him. It was enough. He still had his hold. She could not disobey.

Not even a stunning spell could last forever. Lys forced herself to concentrate, to move finger by finger until moving again became natural. Then she stood, slowly, and turned to face Gem. The teacher was standing, waiting. She was making things easy.

That wasn’t right. Lys took out her wand. The thing shook in her hand, so close it was to Power, to its own kind. Lys wasn’t stupid; she knew in a fight between the two Gem would win, but she wasn’t going down easily herself.

Close now, Lys reached out with her free hand and grabbed Gem’s arm, the one opposite the one that held the coin. She locked eyes with the student-turned-teacher.

“You’ve seen what he can do. You know what he will do. You will not die just yet. But others will suffer. Serenity will suffer. Unless you obey.”

Her voice was flat, even, her eyes dark. The words may have been a threat. Or a warning. She gave Gem’s arm a tug. “Come. He waits.”

Alex had kept his head down when the chaos began, but now he saw his chance. A chance to prove his worthiness to Prince. Quietly he sneaked up behind Gem whilst Lys was talking to her. Magic was useful, and powerful too, but sometimes the simplest ways were best. His wand at the ready, he stood close behind Gem, to cut off her escape if she should try to run, ready to grab the coin if the opportunity presented itself…

Lys’s eyes flickered to Alex. He was waiting, and given the chance he would prove himself worthy to stand by Prince’s side. She had no doubt that somewhere in the Slytherin boy’s plan, lightening and death would be involved, even if it were just for fun at the end.

She looked back to Gem, held the older girl’s gaze. Now there were two wands against Gem. Neither had her strength, but both had Prince to back them.

“No escapes. No sudden movements. No heroic efforts. Just walk. And obey. For safety’s sake.” There was a layer of sarcasm at the end of that statement.

Gem shook her head sadly at the two pathetic creatures who had become little more than Prince’s slaves.

“He won’t kill me, Lys. Do you see that man beside him with the dark hair? That’s my father. Prince has plans for me and they don’t include death.” She turned around to Alex, who was standing with his wand.

“Alex, think about what you’re doing there. I could take both of you on at the same time and still beat you both; you may have your element magic but I know what your next move will be.”

The blank faces of cursed children stared back at her. She shook her head again. “Put away your wands, he wants me to come of my own free will.”

She shook her arm free of Lys’s grasp, which was an easy thing to do, and walked ahead of the two servants, towards Prince. He was waiting for her; she had come. Holding the coin tightly in her hand, blue light escaping to reflect on the faces of her and Prince, she looked into his eyes and waited.

Serenity stared at Gem aghast. She wouldn’t, would she? She would.

A single tear rolled down her cheek. “Please, Gem. Don’t do this.” She didn’t beg. This wasn’t the time. She just asked. But it wasn’t enough.

The traitor had shown her face.

Prince locked his eyes on Gem’s, allowing no escape. Gem Taurus had been destined for this from the time she was conceived; her lineage paid their loyalties to the Black Wands. She could not escape such a fate any more than she could escape her own face. Behind him his partner, Derrick Taurus, stirred. He had known all along. While Daiva believed her Brookey would be the one, Derrick had known different.

Gem Taurus was the traitor.

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.

The prophecy was seconds away from being fulfilled by the rightful one. Prince did not have to take the final object, the Ravenclaw coin, from her. She had brought it to him. Silently, he waited.

“Give it to him,” said a harsh, cold voice.

Druscilla Danuliete spoke. For the first time since their entrance into the Great Hall. For the first time since the massacres had begun she was taking an active part and interest in the events that were unfolding before her. She had stood, her facial _expression impossible to read, behind the Black Wands and surveyed the ruination of fifty odd years of her life.

She looked at Gemini Taurus with icy eyes. “Now,” she commanded.

Gem had been willing to give it to him. Right up until that moment she would have gone through with everything. As Danuliete spoke the whole crazy concept of giving a murderer the coin dawned on her. The coin was lying open in the palm of her hand, ready to be given. But she wouldn’t do it! She put the coin in her pocket and looked up again.

“No.” Gem said quietly. The Headmistress made a sound that could have been surprise, but it encouraged Gem none-the-less.

“No!” she said louder, “No, No, NO, NO, NO, NO!” Her voice got louder until she was screaming so everyone could hear. She backed away from Danuliete. “I won’t give it to him. You can’t make me and I won’t. You’ll have to kill me before I do”

It was a brave statement to make in front of four wizards and witches perfectly able to do that on the spot. She wasn’t afraid of dying, she wouldn’t let them kill anyone else, no. She would keep the coin.

For one second anger flashed on Druscilla’s face. But it was soon gone, replaced once more with implacable and icy calm. “Do not be a fool, Gemini Taurus,” she said, a snake’s hiss in her tone. “It is your destiny girl. You cannot escape it. From the moment of your birth we have awaited this day. You are the traitor. You will give him the coin. It is your heritage and you know it. The wand which I gave you is my own. And you have used it. There is no way back, don’t you see, for a girl who has performed the Unforgivable curses. And enjoyed them.”

Druscilla was sure of herself, yet she held the most compelling argument back. It was her own secret, her own shame, and she would only reveal it if all else failed.

“Everyone enjoys power. If you had chosen any other student in this hall they would have done the same.” Gem was practically tripping over herself to back away from them all, but her feet couldn’t move. “I am not a fool. It is not my destiny, I won’t accept that. My father may be a murderer, but my mother was not. I have her blood too, she was a good woman. I won’t follow you while I have her, I won’t!”

Gem was breathing heavily, in and out, aware of a thousand eyes watching her from all directions of the room. She had never talked about her mother before so freely, but she had no choice now. Her mother was the only thing stopping her from joining them. She would not be a traitor.

“Your mother?” said Druscilla. “Your mother?”

And she laughed. Well it was an attempt at laughter, but Druscilla was sorely out of practice. It was a strange high-pitched, rusty sound which crackled and broke.

Then as suddenly as it had started it stopped.

“Then welcome on board, Gemini,” she said, narrowing her eyes to survey the girl. She stared at her for a long, slow moment and then nodded her head.

Druscilla took a deep breath. “I am your mother,” she said.

Gem’s feet were definitely frozen to the floor now; they felt as though they had chains on them surrounded by concrete.

“Liar!” she shouted “No, you’re lying. That’s not true. How dare you say that!” She was screaming and shouting, she wanted to lunge at the woman to strangle her. That was not the truth, it was a lie! She felt tears in the corners of her eyes, but Gem Taurus didn’t cry, she never cried. “Daddy, tell her it isn’t true. Tell me she’s lying. She is lying isn’t she Daddy?”

His eyes and smile were still blank as the truth that had been kept hidden for so long was revealed. It was not the way he would have done, the woman spitting in her face with anger, but now it was done. The waiting was over and the traitor would come to them. He walked over to her, looking at her properly for the first time in years.

“It is the truth, Gemini. Sophia was never your mother. The prophecy is talking of you. You are the traitor.”

He took her shoulder and turned her to face Prince, gesturing to her pocket.

“Now you know the truth, your destiny, and your heritage. We should finish what was started. Give John Paul the coin.”

Stop, she thought. Stop. This is all a horrible mistake, a nightmare. This isn’t happening, this isn’t…

Gem opened her eyes again and there was still people looking at her and Brooke was still screaming in a corner. She was facing Prince. The coin was in her hand. I am not who I thought I was. Both my parents are murderers. This was a lot to take in at once, so she tried to stop thinking, but it didn’t work.

Then it is my destiny. That evil witch is right.

It was yet another horrifying thought.

But I don’t have to follow it, I can escape. I’ve been doing that so far. I could go somewhere and forget I have a family at all. My friends are still here, aren’t they…

She looked around. Brooke was in a corner screaming. Serenity was at the edge of the Hall, trying to conquer Prince’s grasp on her.

My friends are lost. My parents are evil. I have no escape.

She looked into Prince’s eyes, tears welling up in her. She took the coin from her pocket, the blue flame-like light dancing on both their faces. She took one last look at it and placed it in Prince’s outstretched hand.

Prince nodded to Gem and smiled, curling his fingers around the coin, the blue metal cool against his palm.

He had it.

The Final object, the one that had been the most difficult to gain. The other three lay in his magically protected pocket, and he removed them now, holding all up. Each pulsed dimly in the dying light, the color of the house they belonged to radiating from them. Green mixed with scarlet, scarlet with blue, and blue with yellow until the effect wasn’t a separate color but an opalescent sheen. Raising his old wand, Prince snapped it in half.

Long ago Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, and Salazar Slytherin had realized the immense power of the Black Wand. Fearing how it could be turned against them, they picked apart the spells that created it, separating them into four pieces. The pieces had been hidden, one in each house. Only a member of the respective house could remove an object from there. Therefore, for the sake of safety, the most powerful tool the wizarding world had ever known was hidden away, and forgotten…

…forgotten until a group of Dark wizards, called the Black Wands, remembered it. The sole goal of this group turned to finding the Wand, in order to gain the colossal power it held. Ancient magic would have to be evoked in order to resurrect the wand and return it to its former glory, yet the spoils of such an enterprise were legendary. Prince, drunk on the idea of such power, had spent his entire life becoming versed in the secrets of the Wand magic, the spells that created it, and the spells that would bring it back.

Almost inaudibly, Prince began to chant. At first the words made no sense, however as his voice grew louder, those educated in Latin realized what he was saying. It was a long, graphic spell telling of the deeds and conquests of the Black Wand in its free days, so many centuries ago. Prince continued to chant, his voice growing till he was screaming himself hoarse, and everything in the Great Hall went dead silent. Sweat beaded on his brow, and the glowing of the objects sputtered out like candles extinguishing.

Suddenly he stopped.

Yet the sound continued on. The thrum of voices echoed through the Hall, rattling off the stone walls. A false wind, created by excess magic, began to blow, ruffling the curtains and the hair of those still standing. Eventually those voices too died out, and it was completely and utterly silent. Even Brooke’s whimpering could no longer be heard. The silence hung, heavy and oppressive, daring anyone to breath.

The objects floated unaided in the air now, having risen higher as the voices rose. Suspended they twirled, absorbing the light shafts that dared to blaze their way. No more friendly glow was left, there was nothing. All four of the objects were black.

And then they exploded.

Crackling waves of energy swept over the Hall, blinding light filled the air, and amidst it all stood Prince cackling like a manic. Those able to concentrate understood fully the purpose of the intricate ceremony he had just completed, for he held it in his hand.

The Black Wand was his at last.

John Paul had the Black Wand: the most powerful magical instrument in existence.

His old wand lay in pieces at his feet while he reveled in the newfound heights of his power. There was no stopping him now. Even if Danuliete had suddenly decided to act against him she would be no match for him. None of them were.

And so the question hung in the air around them: what happened next?

When the chanting started, Lys shut her eyes. Dark Power echoed from his words, the Items, her own wand. Her vision blurred and as the spell began to take hold she felt sure the magic would tear her apart. Because as much as she enjoyed the rush, she was sickened by what it meant, by what would happen now.

Light flashed before her closed eyelids and the Master’s laughter filled her mind. She opened her eyes. The Black Wand was reformed. Lys tightened her grip on her wand.

As the Prince gloated, Lys looked over to Alex, trying to gauge her fellow servant’s reaction.

When the chanting had started, Alex felt a strange, unpleasant sensation. He felt as if magic was being drawn directly from himself as the Black wand extinguished all light in the room. For the first time, Alex was not thinking of impressing his master. No… he was thinking of how difficult it would be to overthrow him, if it could be done.

As the wand landed in Prince’s hand, his thoughts vanished. There would be no overthrowing him. He would remain the most powerful Dark Wizard for a very long time. It had happened…it had been formed…Alex had done his part, and for the first time, it dawned on him…what would happen to him. Prince was a Dark Wizard. And as he had just proven with his own wand, when he no longer needed something, he disposed of it.

The Hall was a shambles, thrown with rubble from the loose spells, panicked mob, and general maltreatment. Tables and chairs were overthrown, tossed about as though a tornado had come through. Salad coated the walls; torches had fallen over and left ash on the floor. Purple blood streaked all remaining occupants, and orange entrails had been trampled underfoot and ground into the dirt. The candles that normally lit the Hall at this black hour were lightless, their magic sucked away in the great spell that recreated the Black Wand. All of the defense spells were weakened from that, for the Black Wand was infamous for sucking up stray magic like a black hole. It was complete and unreserved devastation…well, almost.

Despite this, Prince John Paul was not through. Coldly he viewed the bodies, their faces frozen forever in grimaces of sudden fear. He swept his gaze over to Daiva, the proud, beautiful, and slightly insane woman he loved once. She was holding her daughter’s hand and leading her around the Hall, exploding things as she waved her wand at them and giggled. Dereke and Gem were off somewhere, adding finishing touches to the destruction. Screams still filled the room, fewer but more desperate.

In Prince’s hand, the Wand smoked, the awful power of it waiting to be unleashed in full. The nature of its maker shaped its properties, so though the wand had once been used for good, it now matched the curdled heart of Prince. He loved the power that radiated from it, as it loved his ability to grant it the freedom it wished for. So long he had waited for this. So long.

With an arrogant smirk Prince brought his wand up for the final time, then swished it down, making a wide circle in the air, as he shouted, “Incendio Magnitudio.” The Wand shuddered in pleasure as a great river of fire poured forth. Prince, laughing insanely, flailed his arm, sending the fire around the Hall. Tables, rugs, and wall-hangings blazed, the smoke beginning to fill the room as an ear rending screech started: the Hogwarts fire alarm. The conflagration grew in size, gnawing at the very stones themselves, trapping students in a blazing vortex. Ash billowed up, the room temperature rose unbearably hot. Though fire guards protected the Hall, nothing could withstand this. The fury flames from the Black Wand very nearly matched those of hell in intensity.

High pitched keening competed with the fire alarm, and at first no one knew what it was. Yet at the sight of a life sized portrait of a lady in red billowing up in smoke and cinders, the answer became apparent. It was the paintings. Within the inferno portraits were caught, their oil canvases flaring. Faces melted from the heat, paint sizzled and turned gray, before all were engulfed. Frantic friars in one painting picked up the hems of their habits and ran, only to be rushed into a corner where all perished. A demon horse galloped through the burning pictures, hooves pounding across charred grass, before it too met its demise.

The last portrait to catch fire was one of a new first year at Hogwarts entering the Hall for the first time. On her face had been a look of wonder and delight, but as the flames claimed her it was one of defeat. The wrath of the fire cremated everything in its path. The flames spread away from the center, burning around Prince and his following. They were rendered untouchable.

The blaze grew, spreading beyond the Hall, down corridors, to the common rooms and classes. The worst event, however, had yet to happen. In the Hall, fire crept up the wall, finding hand holds for its fingers in the stone and mortar. Ever closer it crept to the enchanted ceiling. The flames were reflected in the starry sky, creating a mystical and almost serene picture for anyone who cared to look. Then suddenly and without warning, there came the end…

BOOM

The fire reached the ceiling, and the witch flames reacted with the ancient spells that made up the roof. Dazzling lights ricocheted off, sprouting in the night sky like murderous fireworks. The ceiling itself exploded, leaving the Hall gaping wide. Tinier, sharper crashes followed as the effects of the explosion were felt. Every shard of crystal within a twenty mile radius shattered, magical or not, as did all of the windows.

Moments passed, the terrible crashes leaving even Prince a little apprehensive. Another repercussion followed, bringing with it the debris of the explosion. Little slivers of the sky began to fall like confetti, raining down on Hogwarts. Most landed in the still raging fire, yet a few stars were whisked away by the lazy summer wind, to land on the grounds and in the forest.

The climax had come, and the furious fire began to smolder down in the Hall, having exhausted its supply of fuel. The rest of the school was bearing the damage now, and those left in the fray would probably either die in the flames or suffocate. The once Great Hall trembled, its ceiling gaping open like a hungry mouth. The real night sky shone above now, its innocence tainted by the ghastly events it witnessed. For the most part, the destruction was finished.

Prince lowered the wand. He crossed the charred floor to Daiva and bowed. It was done. Hogwarts had been annihilated, the work of ages destroyed with one simple curse. The act of arson left little to be desired, and a sudden whoosh alerted everyone that the flames had reached the library. He glanced at Druscilla Danuliete as fifty odd years of her life disappeared, yet as usual she showed no emotion. The woman was strong, and proud. Turning back to Daiva, he smiled again.

“And so, it begins.” He said, elegantly, acting as though this was a dinner party he was hosting. There was the rest of the school to destroy, still: greenhouses, the Quidditch Pitch, and other excluded buildings. After that the world followed, the Ministry offices, Hogsmeade…yet the Beginning of the End happened at Hogwarts.

It was a beginning for Prince to be proud of.

Daiva was dancing –wildly, manically she twirled Brooke’s hand as she danced through the flames, which did not touch her but rather seemed to leap and swirl, joining in her dance. Only those of the Wand would survive. All else would burn, Burn, Burn!

Daiva danced the dance of ecstasy, of love and loss, of beauty and sorrow, through the burning hall. When JP came over to her, she gave a low laugh. Azkaban had taken away a lot, but Daiva was still perceptive enough to comprehend the magnitude of their accomplish.

“The fire charms are broken then?” she asked rhetorically and continued. “Then Daiva can have some fun too. Come Brookey!” she giggled and almost defying her thirty eight years, ran like a teenager through the burning, smoldering ruins.

Little trails of fire and smoke followed in her wake. Destruction followed the creators of destruction. Nothing comes of nothing. Nothing ever could. They would make Hogwarts a void. They would pull down the dynasty.

Gem had never had a family, not a real one, not one you could call your family. Now, amidst the destruction and terror of what was once her home away from home, she felt the beginning of something. Something grander, a sort of family. She would never be able to bring herself to call Danuliete mother – it was just too much for now. But Gem did look over, quickly, so that Danuliete did not see the look of wonder. Derek had his arm around Druscilla, a cocky half-smile on his face as he watched Prince destroy Hogwarts. Gem smiled slightly and her eyes blazed with flames. She caught the eyes of those left in the hall and thought one word:

Burn.

Gem looked to Brooke, who was holding her mother’s hand, and revelation struck.. Ever since their younger years they had been too much alike, which was why they could not go five minutes without bickering over something (usually who would win the Quidditch League Cup). Brooke was her cousin. Daiva was her Aunt, though she would probably never call her so. Gem did reach out and touch Brooke’s hand, though, and gave her a smile, a real smile. She was family.

Hogwarts had fallen. One of the few remaining places that Muggles had yet to spoil with low-cost housing estates and shopping centers and multi-storey car parks was now nothing more than a smoldering pile of stones.

And it had taken just one spell.

One spell and everything had fallen. The ceiling had come falling in chunks, making it seem as though the very sky was falling in upon itself. Fires still burned, scorching everything in their path.

Well, not quite everything.

Against all odds, a group of people were still standing. Those who had sided with the power of the wand had been untouched by the witch flames, unlike the bodies of the victims who had been cremated.

And yet, Serenity was still alive. After all, what was a bit of fire to a Lebelle witch? If one was to trace back the Lebelle genealogy far enough, back to when there was no good, there was no evil, there were just power and everything was equal, you would find the first in the line making a pact with fire. What the pact involved was shrouded in mystery – not even the matriarch, Serenity’s Grandmere Lebelle, could answer that question. But now it meant that they had the ability to conjure and control that very element; some with more success than others.

The fire had engulfed Serenity, and she had felt the flames licking at her skin, working their way through her hair. If it were possible, she had tasted them as they tried to burn her.

But she was unscathed. Except… her arms, which had been bare, were now marred by criss-crossed scars, which looked new and red. In a last-ditch attempt to subdue the flames which had surrounded her she had thrust them out, concentrating with everything that she could muster. It hadn’t been enough, and not even the latest magical medicinal advances would be able to remove those scars.

Lifting her head, Serenity’s blue eyes, dulled through exhaustion, lighted on Brooke and her mother who were dancing through the smoldering remains of the Gryffindor table.

“Brooke!” she called, her voice hoarse from the smoke. Shaking erratically, her hand reached into the pocket of her trousers and pulled something out. Summoning her strength, she threw the small, blue object at her friend.

It landed just short of Brooke’s feet.

It was a sapphire. In their first year she, Brooke, and Venus had created it on a Charms fieldtrip. They’d split it into four part, each keeping one with their name engraved on it.

Brooke could scarcely see anything through the dancing flames. She was being twirled faster and faster through them by her mother and the wonder was that they never touched her. Mindlessly, numbly, she saw corpses, shattered bodies, burned remains. Then the ceiling fell. Shards of crystal glass tumbled all around, cutting through all. But none fell on her, or if they did so they landed and became white and soft and light like downy feathers. It was a dream. A real, fantastical, unreal, dream.

Then through the smoke and spiraling flames she saw a familiar face. It was Ren. Wordlessly Ren seemed to be lifting up her arms and throwing something. Seconds later, something struck Brooke. The first thing she had felt in her trance-like state. Dragging her hand away from her mum, she stooped to pick it up. The blue crystal shimmered in her hand. And Brooke remembered a far off day and a far off meadow. A field trip aged eleven. Brooke, Ren, and V. How they had worked. The fun they had had. A world away. Silent tears splashed down Brooke’s face for there was no way back and the way forward was cloudy and dark. She held the crystal close in her hand and from the locket round her own neck pulled out a matching quarter.

And with a Keeper’s sure shot she threw it through the flames to her oldest and dearest friend, whom she was sure at this moment in time that she would never see, ever again, except perhaps in her dreams.

Carefully, Serenity picked up the blue gem, holding it in the palm of her hand.

With a scarred fingertip, she carefully traced the engraved word, before turning her eyes up to her departing friend who was being dragged from what remained of the Great Hall by her mother. Holding back tears, she put it safely into her pocket. Seven years of friendship. All over.

It was certainly one heck of a way to go out with a bang.

Venus locked the exit she had just ushered a group of younger years through. Merlin, this was a mess. She wasn’t overly frightened, it wasn’t in her nature. But she wasn’t stupid enough to go charging after a dark wizard like some morons she saw.

Still, evil, insane or not, Brooke was one of her best friends, as was Serenity. And she wasn’t one to abandon a friendship that had seven years of love and laughter behind it.

She crossed the great hall, oblivious to the flame that licked and burnt her robes, and stood behind Serenity. Venus’ heart dropped when she saw what she was holding.

It was the sapphire that was the symbol of…everything.

Choking back a sob she reached into her sleeve and released her own sapphire from its holder next to her dagger. It dropped into her hand and the next instant she had sent it flying towards Brooke.

“Don’t you do it, Brooke!” she yelled, anger, fear, and loss ringing clear in her voice. “Don’t you dare do it!” But even as she called out against an untold future she knew it was hopeless.

It was ending, and there was nothing she could do about it.

A scarred hand was placed on Venus’s shoulder. “It’s over, V,” Ren whispered. “It’s all… over.” Finally, she managed to let out a strangled sob. “I don’t think she’s coming back.”

The Black Wand was done, lying quietly in Prince’s hand, no longer bursting with energy. Perhaps, like Prince, it was contemplating the majesty of their achievement. Hogwarts, the untouchable school, had fallen. In past wars the school had always been the safe haven, a calm island in the middle of the storm. This time, Hogwarts was only the beginning.

Tucking the wand safely up his sleeve, Prince walked through the ruin, the occasional flame licking at his robe hem. No fire, however, would catch him. Like the rest of his group, Prince was still protected. He sought out Daiva, and motioned to Derek, Danuliete and Gem. Brooke, of course, still followed her Mother like a lost duckling. She seemed in shock, but either way, it didn’t matter. Daiva’s girl would side with them.

“Come Daiva.” Prince said, taking her hand and smiling again. “It is time to leave.”

Bertram de Black had a letter in his hand and a smile on his face. The letter bore on it an official crest and his daughter’s name. He could have owled it to her of course, but after all this time, he desperately wanted to be there at one of the happiest occasions in Brooke’s life. He had missed so many in the last ten years, due to his personal mission to clear his wife’s name. But he knew just how important this letter was, which is why he was hurrying at a great pace towards Hogwarts School. Of course he could have apparated. Could have been there an hour earlier. Only he didn’t know what was happening, and he would forever feel a nagging guilt that he should have, could have, done more.

As he neared the school environs however, after having dismounted the train, he became aware of a sickly aura and a gross black discharge which began to fill the air. With mounting horror he saw that it must be coming from Hogwarts Castle itself.

Bertram’s smile dispersed and his Auror sense took over. At this very moment a letter was winging its way to the Minister of Magic himself. It was posted faithfully from Hogsmeade by Vivienne Moor, but the whole world was still oblivious. Bertram de Black did not know what he would find inside, but he was prepared. He put his letter away, took out his wand and cast a spell of speed. Within two minutes he was at the front door. Or at least what should have been the front door, for it was no longer there.

He stepped into the remains and saw…what there was to see. He saw charred ruins, flames that danced, corpses and then he saw – his wife! “Daiva!” he yelled. “Oh my…Daiva!”

There was a lot more he didn’t see, including the man standing behind her. But in that moment it was the culmination of ten years work and ten year’s loss in a moment. Bertram de Black saw his Daiva.

Daiva didn’t have a heart. But whatever it was which was there in the place where her heart had once rested, made a movement, allowed her to feel something else except for the searing nothingness, for the first time in many years.

Wonderingly, searchingly she turned and looked at the man whom, almost despite herself, she had once loved as dearly as the daughter whose hand she held.

She forgot the rush of the flames, the high of the dance, and moved away from JP towards Bertram without thinking what she was doing.

In some situations it could have been a beautiful moment, a touching family reunion, to be talked abut in years to come, if only someone had had a camera…

But it wasn’t one of those situations and the whole thing had a ghastly, unnerving quality to it.

Daiva and Brooke stood opposite Bertram and they all stared. No one moved and no one spoke. The only noise to be heard was the crackling of the flames as Hogwarts came down around them

“Mum,” said Brooke, breaking the silence. “Dad.”

She positively beamed. It was indeed out of all the horrors of the day, a dream come true. Somehow, some way, it would all be okay.

Being on the sidelines was not a situation John Paul was used to, nor did he particularly enjoy it. This family reunion was sickening. Daiva should have been his; Brooke should have been his heir. Instead Daiva had thrown herself at the feet of that mudblood-loving fool, de Black.

The de Black brat was grinning foolishly, staring like a delusional two-year-old at a candy store. He had come so close, his goal was in sight… and that git had interfered again.

Anger made his blood boil and he lifted his wand. He wouldn’t, couldn’t, let this happen. This time, Bertram de Black would lose everything. Starting with his life.

“Avada Kedavra!”

It took the smallest fraction of the smallest second. The spell leapt from the wand, as if eager to be tested in its capacity for destruction.

In later years it was much debated how much thought was involved in the decision that followed. Whether perhaps Daiva’s mind had been so warped, so altered that she in fact had no clear idea what she was doing at all, or just be chance happened to wander in the wrong direction at the wrong time.

But whether it was, in the end, an act of selfless, blind love or the mark of the insane does not alter events and does not rewrite history.

As the words were cast, Daiva de Black stepped in front of her husband.

And died.

All eyes watched as the single figure dropped to the floor, lifeless. Disbelief registered on the faces of all, including, for a moment, the murderer. It took less than a second for John Paul to realize what he had done… and who was to blame.

“You!” His wand never lowered, and he advanced on the foolish man. It was Bertram’s fault, he had poisoned Daiva’s mind. Prince had her so close to being normal, to being his, and then this man had appeared. The shock of his appearance had undone all the sanity John Paul had forced Daiva to accept. That was why she had stumbled in front of her old lover. It wasn’t as if she actually loved de Black.

Prince paused for an instant as that thought sunk in. She had never loved him, a fact he was willing to overlook for his own satisfaction. Could it be possible, was there a chance—

No!

It couldn’t be, he wouldn’t accept it! But he was no fool. If love was the cause—which it wasn’t—this man before him, this shriveling wreck, had an undoable protection. Love! Curse her! Curse Daiva for dying without telling them why!

Without a sure knowledge he couldn’t risk an attack. But he could not let de Black get away! Every moment that man had stolen from John Paul would be paid for in tears! His love for a dead woman would not stop him from hurting her murderer, the thief who had taken Daiva’s love!

De Black was slowly coming out of his stupor, and quick as a flash Prince reached out and grabbed Brooke’s, no, his daughter’s (for should she not have been his?), arm. He signaled to his companion and his daughter, and back away from de Black. Where was Danuliete? One way or another they were leaving— she could fend for herself.

The group of four gathered, Brooke’s arm still in his clutch. He gave a low growl in de Black’s direction.

And without another sound they were gone. Prince John Paul, Brooke de Black, Derek Taurus, and Gem Taurus vanished.

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