Chapter 38

“Right this way, Avery.” Professor Mayvero called, glancing over her shoulder. She walked rapidly, weaving her way in between over-hanging plants with ease, despite the dense flora. The thorny brambles and thicker plants seemed to shy away, leaving a path for her to follow, though they did not extend the same grace to Mr. Avery Berke.

“Professor Jacoby has a seventh year student; she’s trying for her Herbology NEWT.” Elionwy continued conversationally, kicking open the back door of the greenhouse. It was less humid outside, and she breathed in deeply before turning to look at her new teaching assistant. “Mira agreed to allow me to borrow her for a day.”

A bright purple vine was winding around Avery’s leg, trying to prevent him from leaving. He gasped at the foreign feeling on his leg and began panicking slightly. Glaring at it, the Professor ahem-ed in much the same way that a principle would to a naughty child. The vine abruptly let go of Avery and he sighed softly, quite relieved the dumb plant had released him. He, after all, had very little luck with plants…

“My apologies,” Elionwy said, “Virginia Creeper, wizarding variety. Only just arrived, hasn’t learned its manners yet.” She smiled brilliantly. It was so nice to have help around the greenhouses. Gardening came naturally to her, and Elionwy enjoyed every minute of it, but the assistance was welcome.

“Help me move this, Avery?” The Professor asked, motioning to what looked like a grape vat filled with soil. It was bewitched to be feather light, but it was bulky all of the same, and needed to be moved into the sun.
“Sure, Professor…” Avery said, grabbing the opposite side of the pot and helping her carry it to a more sunny part of the greenhouse. “Wow…light…” he said to no one in particular, setting it down with a soft thud. “Hmm… If this is a sign of things to come, m’job’ll be easy here…” Avery smirked, casting a random, sideways glance at his shrieking faerie plant. How it was still alive, he didn’t know. Perhaps Elionwy had charmed it to have abnormally long life, or it just had an amazing will to live.

Probably a bit of both, he figured.

Nonetheless, it still carried on, shrieking at the top of its tiny lungs and proposing violence against the plants. Ah…the good ‘ole days… Avery thought, remembering, in vivid detail, the day he’d taught the dumb plant to wish doom upon all the other plant life in the greenhouse (and consequently, but not intentionally, alienated the faerie from the rest of the plants—they didn’t like violence proposed against them.)

Smiling for no real reason, Avery wondered exactly why he’d agreed to be Elionwy’s TA—and, what’s more, why she actually asked him. After all, he was quite possibly her worst Herbology student ever. If to anyone, he was second only to Agatha Swales, who found that sort of work below her. Even Brian had been a better Herbology pupil—not a much better one, but still slightly better.

Yet he’d agreed. Possibly because he liked Elionwy (she’d been his favorite teacher in school, after all) and possibly because he didn’t hate plants…as much…anymore. Might be beneficial to learn a new skill, he figured. Not that there was much use for repotting random plants in a vain attempt to tame them and make them mature so they could, subsequently, be chopped up and tossed into a potion or medicinal salve.

Okay. There was some reason for plants…but tending to them was awfully hard work…

“We can get the lesson together while we wait,” Elionwy continued, snapping Avery out of his reverie. “I’m sure she’ll be here any minute.” She grinned, perhaps a bit too broadly.

Avery was rather curious about who he’d be helping…or, rather, watching. He thought Elionwy would eventually divulge which seventh year was working for her Herbology NEWT. She then, of course, didn’t. Her ambiguity was strange and a bit annoying, but he thought nothing much of it. “‘Ight,” Avery said, sitting down on the ground up against an empty pot, trying to avoid any vines that might decide to strangle him.

Plants, after all, held grudges. They hadn’t quite forgotten his former hatred for them…

“I’m here, Professor.” A clear voice rang out as a smiling girl rounded the corner of the greenhouse. The girl had coal-black hair and gray eyes. She was wearing faded black cotton shorts and a gray tank, with worn, gray dragon hide gloves in one hand. Across her back was a canvas satchel, adapted for outdoor use. Vivienne Moor never left anything to chance, so she had water proofed the bag.

“I brought some—” Vivi stopped mid-sentence, staring. She took a shuddering breath and then spun on her heel, looking at Elionwy instead of Avery Berke. “Some, some shears, for collecting the seeds.” She finished, as composed as possible. “The book said the seed stalks were tough.”

Avery stared at Vivi, mouth wide open. A few possible reasons behind Elionwy’s ambiguity were coming to mind, all of which made him want to rip her throat out and feed it to the rabid plants. Elionwy would die eventually, that much he was sure of.

“Indeed they are.” Professor Mayvero replied, a little fazed. From what she remembered, Avery and Vivi had always been friendly, even sweet on each other at one time. She had thought it would be nice for the two to have a bit of a reunion.

“Avery is my teaching aid,” the Professor said by way of explanation. Maybe Vivienne was just surprised. “I’ve asked him to help you for the afternoon. I need to attend to the Whomping Willow, it’s lost a limb.”

Vivi tensed.

Avery, help me? Off a cliff maybe, she thought.

“I can come back at a different time, Professor,” she whispered, rigidly, “when you’re here. It’s not a problem.”

“Thank you for the offer, Vivi, but I must insist against it. The sun flowers will start sprouting soon, and the seeds have to be collected before tonight,” Professor Elionwy said firmly. “I am sure that the two of you will be fine.” She smiled, pretending to misunderstand the clear signals of animosity between Vivienne and Avery, before disappearing into the Greenhouse. It was a cop-out, but oh well. Elionwy did not want to be there to see the eruption she felt brewing. It could prove to be dangerous for onlookers.

Vivi threw her bag down, disgusted. Speaking to the air, she said, “I can do it myself.”

Avery continued to stare stupidly, blinking from time to time. Things between him and Vivs had gone a bit…awry. They hadn’t talked civilly since…well, the incident…and hadn’t talked at all since he graduated. The last thing each wanted to do was work with the other.

Yet there they were, forced against their wills to work on some tedious Herbology task together.

Taking a deep breath and standing up, Avery walked carefully over to the apparently fuming girl, ready to dodge any suddenly cast hexes, and said, “I know you’re mad. Don’t blame you…” he trailed off, not wanting to mention why she had license to be mad. “But Elionwy said I’m to help you. If you won’t work with me as Avery, at least work with me as your temporary professor figure…” he trailed off again, grabbing some equipment from Elionwy’s cabinet and tossing the items into a bag.

Vivi remained silent, breathing calmly. The anger was there, a solid, fiery wall, but Vivienne would have gladly let it go for apathy. She did not want to hate Avery Berke, because hate was a powerful emotion. Vivi no longer wanted to feel emotion where he was concerned.

Not turning back to face Vivi, Avery continued. “I’ve said all I can say…or all you’ll let me say.” He sighed once more, pretending he had something better to do in the other direction. “Aggie and I are over, though,” he said, yet again, trailing off. He wasn’t keen on reliving that experience. That had been his and Aggie’s second breakup.

That would probably bring Vivi much vindictive joy.

“I know.” Vivi said sharply. Agatha was often the subject of vulgar gossip; this occasion was no exception.

She gripped her wand tightly, turning to look at Avery. As she turned the wand tip pointed directly towards his heart, then flipped up to his neck as she pocketed it. The movement was so absolutely executed that it was impossible to tell whether or not it had been carelessness or a threat. “And I don’t care. The plant I’m tending today is in there.”

Vivi dropped her bag, pointing towards the large vat sitting in the sun. It was huge, and iron, a dead weight that would have been impossible to move without the charms placed on it. The tip of a gigantic seed just barely peeked out from the covering of potting soil.

Deciding to just grin and bear it, Avery put on some gloves, and turned to Vivi. “Let’s just get this over with.”

Bringing out the shears and a burlap bag, Vivi straightened, shoving the bag at Avery. “All right, Professor.” Vivi enunciated clearly, inserting no trace of mockery in the words. “I’ll climb, you catch.”

The words made no sense as Vivi said them, but less than a minute later the meaning was clear. A humongous, green stalk erupted from the vat, shooting up in the blink of an eye. The ground began to tremble, and then shake violently, as roots the size of tree branches forced their way into the ground. Leaves like umbrellas sprouted, and a flower that rivaled the sun blossomed.

The pot had cracked and now lay in pieces around the flower. Vivi stepped around the shards, shimming up the stalk with apparent ease, a feat that should have been impossible, given the condition she had been in after the fall. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous; now-a-days Vivi knew how much she had to be thankful for, although gaining her strength back had been a long, slow process.

Yet even with Vivi climbing as lithe and light as she ever had, the flower was still tall, and it took her a few moments to reach the top, where the seeds were located.

Avery gaped stupidly once more, watching as Vivi climbed up the rapidly growing stalk. He finally understood what she’d meant by “I’ll climb, you catch.” She would pick the seeds and throw them down to him so he could put them in the bag. More correctly, she would pick them, aim for his head, and throw them down as hard as possible so as to concuss him. She would then proceed to levitate his unconscious body into the lake where some slimy lake creature would then feed on his brain…

Vivi reached the top and braced herself against the stalk. Balancing this way easily, having finally lost most of the fear of heights left over from last year, Vivi put the shears to work. The seeds were attached to the flower by a thick base. It was hard work separating them, but the shears were sharp, so it went quickly.

“Heads up!” Vivi yelled, dropping a few seeds. She was careful to drop them as far away from Avery as possible. Beaming him over the head would have been satisfying, but Vivi liked to tell herself that she no longer cared about Avery Berke, and killing him would disprove the theory.

Avery was relieved when no seeds came flying at his head. He wasn’t sure why, but he didn’t question the blessing. He began picking up the seeds, looking up often to avoid one landing on his head. Even if Vivi wasn’t aiming for him, knowing his luck…

Clipping a few more seeds, Vivi slipped into the rhythm of the work, and was able to allow her thoughts to drift. An image of Tanner pooled in her mind, and she sighed.

Tanner. He was tall, with light brown hair and green eyes, a muggle. He was attending college, but at twenty-two, he was almost out, and had been working at the store during the summer. Vivienne had met him there.
Payton was perhaps the kindest man she had ever known, and Vivi had wanted to fall in love with him, at first. He was noble and strong, with a joking side that she liked, and a crooked smile. Mr. and Mrs. Moor loved him, and he loved her.

Vivi sighed again. After a summer of dating him, the only thing that was clear to her was that she no longer knew what she wanted. The only thing she truly desired at this point was to graduate. She cherished Hogwarts, but it held too many harsh memories. It was time to move on.

“Coming down!” she shouted again, dropping another load of seeds. She heard them ping against the hard ground below before she descended.
“Done,” Vivi said, peeling off her gloves. She met Avery’s eyes now, fully in control. Berke…she wouldn’t let him hurt her again. She was stronger than that.

Avery met her gaze, an odd pleading look in his eyes. He didn’t want to seem too pathetic, but she already thought him so. No harm in looking more pathetic, he figured. He blindly reached for the remaining seeds, trying not to break the connection between them, but realizing how dumb he must have looked, he looked away from Vivi and quickly scooped up the seeds.

“Just gotta dice ‘em up. You can help if ya want to, or I can do it,” she shrugged, “Your choice.”

“I’ll help,” he said automatically, grabbing a knife off the counter. He carefully dumped the contents of the bag on the table Vivi was standing at, trying to ensure none would roll off the edge. Abandoning the bag, Avery began cutting the seeds, casting a few not-so-subtle sideways glances at Vivi.

“We’ve been her before, haven’t we…?” he asked quietly, deciding to get the awkwardness over with. “You hating my guts ‘n’ all…”

“I don’t hate your guts,” Vivi said, her tone hard as she picked up a knife from the table, pressing it against the seed to judge sharpness. The seed sliced easily. It was a very sharp knife.

“That would imply that I cared about you at all. And I don’t. I just think you’re a bastard.” Vivi chopped up the seed with the precision of a girl who hoped to get her NEWT in Potions as well. She had done nothing but slice and dice for the past two years, it seemed.

Sliding the seed pieces away, she picked up another seed, repeating the process. “But if I hated your guts, you would know it, because…well, it’s amazing what you can learn form the Restricted Section.” The message was clear: If Avery did not keep his eyes and his hands off of Vivi, she would force him to do so. The girl had taken enough pain. She would endure no more from him.

Avery knew she was ticked…really ticked…. He knew there would be threats and insults and he knew he’d have to endure it. He knew she was right. As much as he hated her talking about him that way, he could do nothing short of enduring it if he hoped to win her back.

“You’re right,” he said once she’d finished, taking a very deep breath. “I am a bastard. A …in’ piece of shit that’s screwed you over royally. I know I messed up. You and my conscience have made that perfectly clear.” He didn’t dare look at her, so he kept chopping the seeds, accidentally reducing a few pieces to pulp. “And I deserve whatever you wanna do to me. Hex me for all I care. I got nothing to lose. I lost you, after all.” He looked at her now, trying to fight back the welled-up tears that were dangerously close to falling.

“Shut up! Avery, shut up!” Vivienne said, slicing a seed so hard that the knife stuck in the table. She wretched it out and slammed it down, standing. Then, slowly, oh-so-slowly, she sat back down. It took a behemoth effort to regain her calm, but regain it she did. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, Avery,” she stated, looking down. Her hair fell into her eyes and she brushed it away angrily. “But lay off.” The seeds were nicely chopped, so she gathered together her things, preparing to leave.

“Leave me alone, ” she threatened, shouldering her pack, sweeping the seeds into a container. “Leave. Me. Alone.”

It was a ploy. Vivi was certain that Avery was trying to break her heart all over again. He was a sadistic, cold-hearted liar, and he had figuratively ripped her in two.

Vivi had almost not survived sixth year, and the pain was still fresh in her memory.

Avery’s tears started falling freely now. All the built up frustration—all the built up anger—was now rising to the surface. He loved her, possibly more than he had ever loved anyone. She was all he had left. He had no parents (either real or adoptive), no extended family, no friends to whom he could turn. His only reason to keep on was Vivi…and he’d lost her.

Why had he yet to ram his wand through his head?

“Fine,” he choked out, not caring to wipe the tears from his face. “Fine. I’ll leave you alone. Just humor me though…” He was shaking now, unable to control himself. “Tell me…what the … did I do? Just …IN’ TELL ME! I WANNA HEAR IT!” Tears began falling more swiftly, if that were at all possible. He began shaking even more violently and had to resort to sitting on the ground to keep from falling over. Once on the ground, he began clawing at his hair and rocking back and forth. “Just tell me…” he repeated, this time voice barely above a whisper. His hands were above his head and he hugged his head to his knees, not wanting—not daring—to look up at her. Voice muffled, he continued. “Tell me how big a piece of shit I am… …in’ hurt me… I know ya wanna…. …in’. Hurt. Me….”

“Ya want to know what you did?” Vivi asked, chest tightening. This was too much. This was absolutely more than she could take. That Avery could act like he was the one who had been injured, who had been hurt, who had had his heart broken…it was too much, damn it!

“Agatha tried to kill me Avery! She hexed my broom! I almost died.” Vivi hurled the words at him, daring Avery to utter one squeak in his defense.

Avery heard what she said, but didn’t quite process the meaning. Not that it would make any difference—even if he had understood her, there was no way he was going to risk talking to her. Not that there was any physical way he could talk…

“I spent months learning to walk again! I almost didn’t play Quidditch this year!” As Vivi was wearing shorts, it was easy to see the scars where splintered bone had rammed through her flesh. She barely noticed them though; the scarring was just a visual representation of the consequences of the “accident.” There were other types of scars too. Flying, which had been her single greatest joy in life, now conjured up images of falling, of whizzing through the air until there was that awful crunch. She thrown up the first time she rode a broom after the fall.

He knew how bad she’d been bloodied up by the fall. He’d seen her in the wing before…well…the incident. And he’d known of her struggles after she resumed consciousness. Yet it had yet to hit home that Agatha was the one who had tried to kill her.

“And you betrayed me. Ya cheated on me with the…the…the bitch who tried to kill me, Avery. That’s what you did,” Vivi snarled, “but then ya knew that when you did it.” She was quaking, but some of her rage had siphoned off with the shouting. She regained a handful of sense, and dropped her voice to a ragged, dangerously low tone.

“I bet it was a great little joke. Hurting the poor ‘Puth,” Vivi accused, “Getting back at little Veruca, little crippled Veruca. You are sick. You are so, so sick,” Vivi finished, in full control now. Rehabilitation, learning to walk again, all of that had taught her how to manage pain, how to twist its arm right back and make it work as a driving force. So it was pain that fueled her actions now. Avery had hurt her. She had loved him, and wounds to the heart heal slowly, if at all.

It took a while for it to sink in, but it eventually did. Agatha…hurt her? She did it? Avery slowly raised his head, ignoring how distorted the tears made Vivi look. “A-Agatha did that?” he asked simply. “I didn’t know…”
He looked momentarily at Vivi’s scars, having a newfound appreciation for them. She hadn’t just fallen off and concussed herself—she was sabotaged by someone who wanted to kill her. Those scars would be an eternal reminder of Agatha’s insatiable cruelty.

Avery continued, talking this time more to himself. “This whole thing was a huge misunderstanding…with Aggie at the helm.”

“Misunderstanding?” Vivi spat, staring at him, “misunderstanding?!” She looked down at him on the ground, shaking with emotion. “Merlin, Avery, you just don’t stop, do you?” she asked, her voice pitching higher, like she was about to cry, “I can’t believe,” she whirled on him, her control shattering completely, her facade torn, “I can’t believe you’re lying about this. As if it wasn’t enough to break my break, not enough to try to kill me…what do you want?”

Avery looked up at Vivi, eyes wide and clouded from the tears. He was shaking his head mindlessly from side to side. “No…” he whispered, voice shaking violently. “I didn’t know it was Agatha… I…I thought…it was an accident…”

He looked away, as if trying to compose himself and trying to understand what the heck had happened for the past year and a half. So Agatha had tried to kill Vivi. So her malice knew no bounds. She couldn’t be bothered with fighting for Avery like a human—she had to kill for him. Even if it had nothing to do with Avery, her hatred for Vivi had grown so much that…
Avery shook his head more vigorously, wondering why he hadn’t realized it before.

And he’s slept with her. That horrid person who had killed to win him back…
Avery leaned over and vomited into a pot filled with soil.

Vivi waited until Avery was finished. She watched him, she watched his face, she did not flinch as he vomited. She stared. But the look she gave him was not one of love, or hope, or dawning understanding.

It was empty.

“Like hell you did,” she whispered softly through her own falling tears, and then spun on her heel and walked, slowly, away.

Avery felt like he was choking. Words were failing and he couldn’t breath.
He just cried as Vivi left. He watched her back as she walked determinedly away, and realized that there was no hope left. He’d lost Vivi when she’d died, but now he was dead to her.

Unless she forgave him because she realized the truth, Avery would be alone, lost, forever. Unless she chose to forgive, he’d never have her back. She’d been his everything, and now everything was walking out of the greenhouse and up to the castle, away from Avery.

Far, far away in the Andes, something shifted. It was a small shift, undetectable by even the most sensitive dark detectors. But Brooke de Black felt it, though she did not know what it meant, and she opened her eyes.

But the world looked the same.

His eyes were on her again, appraising the long lithe lines of her body, slowly sliding over her hair, her shoulders, breasts and downwards. She closed her eyes again.

Somewhere deep there was still a little, very, very little, of the tremendous will power that had once formed Brooke de Black. She had kept him away for this long despite everything.

He often turned the Black Wand on her, mocking her, daring her to disobey, and its heat, radiance and sheer power of evil kept her locked in her own corner and in her own thoughts. Slowly, slowly over the course of the last two years he had broken much of her spirit and trained her will and her abilities to follow where he would lead.  She had not always been a good pupil, not as willing as her friend, her cousin, though it still even now seemed odd to call Gemini Taurus her cousin. But there was only so much rebellion an already broken mind could perform.

It was a most peculiar sensation to be wanted as another woman. To be wanted as her mother. She knew that as she lay on her couch, in the ridiculous flowing robes he forced her to wear at all times, that he was looking not at Brooke but at Daiva Danuliete, twenty years before.

She hated him. With every part of her being she was filled with hatred for this man with whom she must live, with whom she must serve. The man who had killed her mother.

And now, recently, another voice had started to persistently break into her lethargy.  A voice which whispered urgently of a way out, of a way to capture power. Brooke did not want to know, she no longer cared enough to get up off the couch. If she knew that man was dead she would be quite happy to die herself. There was nothing to live for. But still the voice persisted and she knew it was the voice of her cousin Gem.

High up in the Andean mountains, where the peaks touched the stars and birds cawed, was where they hid. Hid.

Gem had watched Prince’s eyes move over Brooke, watched as Brooke closed her own and turned away. She admired her; Brooke didn’t want what she had been taught to believe she wanted. Through the little moments that made her Gem and not the dark Enchantress she had become, she could remember how she and Brooke were always too much like each other for their own good.

Now, it seemed, they were nothing at all like each other. No matter. However different they were now, she would not let Prince do to her what he did to Brooke. There was too much flickered emotion in her to allow it, to allow him.

Her father had not been much of a help, he was hiding elsewhere with his pretty wife. Disgusting. Danuliete was not much use to her either, where ever she was, congratulating herself probably. Gem had tried many times but she could never once bring her self to call Danuliete mother, and even to call Brooke cousin was like calling black white. It was strange, distant, unreal.

Outside on the balcony, the clouds sewing tiny pearls to her clothes, Gem surveyed the surroundings. This was where the might of the dark arts was hiding its tail between its legs, sulking. She turned to look at Brooke, laid out on the couch, broken. Gem padded over to her and kneeled down beside her.

“Brooke” she whispered, “Brooke!”

Brooke did not stir, at least not the way Gem wanted her to. Gem had made her decision. The calling of the wand, the immense adrenaline she felt when it touched her was too much to give up to a man, a man she had once considered a god and now considered a pervert.

“Come on Brooke, I need your help. We have to escape from here. I know you want to.”  It was the memories that did it, the memories that made her smile when she saw Brooke look at her like that. This was going to happen. It really was.

Sometimes Brooke did not know if the voice was inside or outside her mind. But it kept on relentlessly day in day out the same whispered repeated strains. The voice spoke of renewed hope and confidence in a future, of escape, of a new life.

A voice of hope.

Yet Brooke closed her eyes and closed her mind. She knew the voice was Gem’s and she knew what Gem was too. While Brooke had battled, Gem had burnt. While Brooke had defied, Gem had destroyed. Her friend, her so-called-cousin was not to be trusted. She was a killer, natural-born rather than forced. Or at least so Brooke believed, so the evidence of the few torturous years had led her to believe.

She could not trust her.

Yet whom could she trust?  And was there really any way out?

Brooke doubted it. She herself had been over a million plans in the first few months of captivity. He was too strong. He had been one of the most powerful wizards in the world before the wand – and now – impossible – impractical – doomed.

There was no point in anything. Brooke lay down passively to the world. There was no point in anything.

Yet over the days, weeks, months, the passage of time was very blurred and impossible to say, the voice became increasingly urgent and one day it suggested something which made Brooke de Black open her eyes and answer.

“That may just work,” she said.

She felt sick.

“No” snapped Gem as Brooke tried to roll away and block her out, “Listen to me Miss De Black! Things have to happen soon.” She was not going to let this plan fail; not now there was hope for their escape, for their freedom.

For years now she had waited. Waited every day with hope that tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, Prince would finally become the great wizard he had once been and they would actually do something. She had watched as he had demised into a worn out shell of a wizard, lost in his languished desire for Daiva. She did not remember what had happened exactly, just that one moment she was on one side of the fence, next on the other, good, evil. It was such a thin line

There were days when she remembered which day was different from the others, when Gem would want to reach out, touch her other life and other self. She wanted Brooke to open up to her, talk about things they had used to do when they were just friends rather than children of an evil lineage. Today, however, Brooke was just being difficult. She was weak now, too weak to care, to move, to feel, but she kept on resisting what Gem had to get through to her.

“Brooke,” Gem leant in close again, making her listen. “There is only one way we can get out of here, you know that way don’t you.”

No reply. It was true though, there was not a hope in the Kingdom of Hell that he would allow either his star pupil or his star prize to go away and leave him. He was terrible and great, but without Daiva or her daughter Prince was nothing more than a wizard with an itch.

“We could have it you know. You’ve felt it, I’ve felt it. We both want it, Brooke, even if you’re too weak to admit it. Remember the touch of it? The electric?”

Brooke turned away again. Gem sighed. If only she could see her reasons, feel what Gem felt.  Gem had lived on the edge all of her life, she got off on the thrill of being in danger, of defying the odds. To steal it, to have it to herself, to feel the energy rush!

There was only one other thing like that.  The rush of air, the fear of heights, the weightlessness the way you soared through the sky. It could only be a broomstick ride that did that. But this was a thousand times more intense, it rattled her brain, made her dizzy, made her want more and more. There was the small consequence of power, but it was nothing she could not handle. She was strong now and she could have Brooke’s help if she would listen!

“What do you say?”

Prince watched.

He always watched, now. Every breeze, every whisper- he saw it. He listened.

There was something about the power of it that struck a resonating, deep chord in Prince John Paul. It was always there, humming softly, a reminder of what he had, what he held.

The Black Wand.

It was incredible, a force that held him captive far more than he held it. The Wand had consumed all of his power and bound him to it. He wielded it; it wielded him. There was no way to explain the rush, the glory of it, how it magnified his senses until he could not bear the pain, but he wanted that, he wanted to be stronger than any wizard alive, more awe-inspiring than a god; he wanted the capabilities it offered, this was what he had worked for, dreamed for, to be king with his queen, untouchable, perfect, immortal. To rule.

The original dream had been slightly different, true. Before he had any idea of what the Wand was, what it really was, Prince had plotted. Hogwarts would fall first. The British Ministry would follow, the Wizengot, the world. All of that would have could have happened in a year. Daiva, Danuliete, Derek, Brooke, and the Gem would have controlled it all before the anniversary of the birth of the Black Wand. Yes, that had been the plan.

But Daiva had fallen and Prince had united with the Black Wand. Priorities changed. Oh, he would still conquer. It would still fall. Yet before that happened there were goals to accomplish. Prince needed to master the wand; he needed to learn its secrets. In the first few seconds after recreating it he had realized that while the Wand offered limitless power, if he did not understand it, it would destroy him. The raw energy would have filled him to the brim, until there was no more room for it, and then spilled over. So he unlocked the barriers slowly, allowing the magic to filter into his veins until he could absorb it, and stand to take a little more.

He held it all now. Every mystery of the wand was twisted into his flesh and muscle, imbued in his brain and heart. It snaked through him so much that he was less human than wand, a mutant hybrid of flesh and wood. He looked no different; his eyes were still black, his hair as well. He was still proud and cruel, condescending and charming.

They didn’t know. Didn’t realize, and he did not enlightened them. They thought he hid, that he was broken without Daiva, that they were going no where, and that he was a coward. None knew what he was waiting for. The partner and Danuliete drifted off, but he kept the girls. He toyed with Daiva’s brat, broke her. The traitor he taught but the lessons were empty. She would never have use for power. He held it all.

And so he watched. He was ready now, this was no longer time spent in preparation. He could take the world tomorrow. But no, the Wand whispered. No. It was not just time.

He watched and he waited. For what, not even he knew.

“What do you want from me then?” Brooke asked listlessly. “I shouldn’t be overly optimistic if I were you. But we do not exactly have much to lose and the way I see this, the risk is mainly mine, anyway. If you don’t manage this in time, have you actually thought about what happens to me?”  She asked and turned her head slowly to regard Gem. Her dark hollow eyes appraised her and she gave a short sharp laugh.

“No, I guess not,” she said. “But,” she added, “That’s not what interests you is it.”

“Don’t be so sure of yourself.” said Gem harshly as she got to her feet. She paused for a while, listening around. He was not listening, she knew that. One day had unleashed her from her oath of never entering other minds and of never sensing their movements. No, he was not listening. She cast her eye over Brooke. “I have many motives and despite what you may think one of them actually is getting us both out of here alive”

It was true to an extent, despite everything when she finally found Danuliete (that is if the hag had not completely disappeared off the face of the planet) she’d have to have Brooke as a back up, and when it came to the final part of the plan, a second person would make her a lot easier to believe, she had to admit her record with these kinds of things were not exactly brilliant.

“You’re my distraction, cousin dear.” she added the last part on second thought, intent on sarcasm and insult. It seemed Brooke took it.

“But don’t worry about it, it’s easy as pie. I’ll be in and out like a flash and we’ll be heading out of Peru within a matter of seconds”

Yes, thought Brooke, but what if it doesn’t work out like that, what if you aren’t able to get in, or to get out, what if he doesn’t take the bait.

She knew that in all probability Gem was reading her mind any way and she didn’t care, didn’t bother to keep the doubt and disdain out of her wordless thoughts.

What if cousin dear, you are in fact wrong.

It all seemed too easy, too facile when Gem explained it. But Brooke was near the limits of all tolerance and she was bent now to the will of others.

“Tell me when. I shall do it,” she said and flicked her hand away for silence, for a degree of peace.

Spineless, weak, foolish. Gem’s blood boiled as Brooke flicked her hand at her, but on the outside she stayed calm. She had no right to command Brooke. Still, if the plan were to succeed there would be no point in killing her now; that would send the plan into complete ruin.

All right, cousin dear. Wait for it, it’s coming very, very soon.

On the outside, she supposed, the plan looked easy, but when you considered the months of careful planning, of the building of power and of outside friends…No. It had not been easy, but always one to rise to a challenge, she had been on top form. Sneaking away from the hide out, from Prince had been easy. There were messages he needed to send to others through Muggle post, where no official in his right mind would have the inkling to look, and of course they were covered in all sorts of spells.

Then there were the things Gem needed for herself, ingredients and books. She had worked so hard on the small group of her inner circle, the wizards that would form her army and would conquer the world for her empire without question. There had been the endless research into Prince’s defenses, into breaking the spells and twisting the charms he had place in understandable quantities around it. She smiled, a grotesque sort of twist at the edge of her mouth, her sly eyes looking back to Brooke, lying vulnerable on the sofa, as she returned to her place on the Balcony.

You will have to learn Brooke dear, I am never wrong.

Yes, indeed, the world had shifted.

Gemini Taurus was not one to leave things to chance. So while she waited on her weak cousin to follow instructions, she planned other ways to gain the power of the Black Wand. It would be hers, soon.

Her black rimmed, green cat-like eyes flickered in the darkness and mist. They shone like beacons made brighter by the hate that fuelled them. All was silent except for the jungle noises that were comforting in the lonely darkness. The bird that was cawing some way off what not going to live much longer though, if it continued that sound.

Another pair of eyes appeared.  These were grey and cold and exactly what she was waiting for. She felt the heat of his breath against her neck, made colder than usual by the mist, before he spoke to her.

“Must we keep meeting like this?” It was a playful question but not one that meant to be answered. His black hair tickled the side of her face and he bent down to speak to her. She turned as his arms closed around her.

“Once I have it, we can meet in a Palace of gold,” she murmured.  His eyes lost the playfulness and a look appeared on his face that showed less than belief.

If, you mean” he replied. She frowned but tangled one of his black strands around her little finger.

“O, ye of little faith! It’s all arranged darling, don’t worry about a thing” She bent forward and gave him a slight kiss. His eyes moved down on her but stopped half way and he shook his head.

“It’s hard to forget, when someone like him is watching.” She scoffed, but her face returned to her wide-eyed temptress look in a flash.

“Forget about him,” she soothed, purring, “He’s weak, he’s nothing. You however…” She walked her fingers up his arm and ran her palm down a stubbled cheek. He laughed, kissed her and ran a scarred hand through her hair. She stopped him.

“Not tonight, there are things to do. If the second part of the plan doesn’t work…but you know that.”  He nodded. He knew all too well. “Well dear, run along. You have work to do.” He looked at her, bemused. There had been no instructions in the letter save of that to meet her here, at midnight, to talk. Talking was all she ever did; it was him who was out there doing her dirty work. But there was no way he could be angry with her, no way he could resist the emerald eyes.

“Find her. I need to know where she is.”  She said as though he should have known this already. He was wary. Gemini was enough on her own, more than just a handful for him; what an older, more experienced her could do he did not want to find out. Though, he had been assured, she was nothing like her mother. Then again, from past experiences he knew what a very, very, very good liar she could be. She shooed him away with an affection flick of the hand but he did not get far.

“Oh, Marcus!” she called in that voice that left him no choice but to turn and look at her. “Do hurry! I have a feeling something is going to happen very soon!” She smiled at him slyly then disappeared into the mist.

He trudged on, thinking to himself bitterly, You would have that feeling, you’re going to make it happen!

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