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Phoenix Rising
A Harry Potter RPG
Hera’s Domain 
23rd-Sep-2006 10:46 pm
“Do I dare ask?” Justin huffs, his breath visible in the frigid air. “But are we there yet?”

“I wish,” I mutter, studying the map yet again. I’m searching through the tangle of irregular and jagged lines intersecting at odd angles for the most direct path between where I think we are and the center of the labyrinth. By the steeply sloping ground and glancing down adjacent corridors that lead up into the darkness by steep stairs, I think that it may be a good possibility that this labyrinth has multiple levels. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate well onto a two-dimensional map.

Since we entered through Ideon Andron, it seems like we’ve been walking for eternity, and I hope I’m not getting us lost. Well, walking wouldn’t be quite accurate – we’ve been scrambling and climbing up and down these long corridors which have been magically built on top of the rugged topography of the belly of this old volcano.

“Hey, careful,” says Oliver, pulling Justin away from one of the walls. “Don’t touch them again, Wild Child.”

Justin glances down at his hand which has what looks like mild frost bite from when he touched one of the black flames dancing in the wall earlier.

“I’m fine,” Justin says, covering his hand with the sleeve of his robe. “MLE emergency field healing comes in handy once in a while, even though this isn’t an emergency,” he amends quickly. But I notice that he’s holding his wand in his other hand. "Ron always says I'm a walking emergency, but he's a good one to talk."

Oliver gives him a knowing look and then turns to marks the side of the wall with another large blazing ‘X’ so we can find our way out of this rat’s nest of a maze after we destroy Hera’s Horcrux.

Suddenly, the temperature drops and a cool, sulphuric wind rushes past us as the red flames in the walls are smothered by the black ones. This dampens out the dull, red light that is projected through the walls and makes the shadows in the wall grow as darkness overtakes us. The hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention – I feel like we’re being watched.

“Shhh, don’t move,” I hiss as we all freeze.

“Why does that happen every time Oliver does that?” asks Justin after the black flames and shadows have disappeared and the red tongues of fire are crackling in the walls again. “This place is creeping me out. You guys don't watch enough of the telly. Sometimes the walls are alive. We could be inside of a gigantic creature that put it's mouth over the doorway of one of these corridors so we'd walk right in. On second thought, Oliver, keep marking the walls, and if you think you see tonsils that lead to a gigantic mouth or something, or smell something bad and see an exit, use it!"

Justin watches too much television. Oliver just shakes his head at him and keeps marking our path as Justin tell him the story of Hansel and Gretal and how they were lost and used bread crumbs to try to find their way home.

I swallow past the lump in my throat as I recall some of the details Olga found about Hera. “Uh, Hera supposedly created Dementors from a type of slave phantom … thing,” I begin.

“Slave phantoms?” asks Oliver.

“Yeah, they are lost souls that have been supposedly bound to a place for eternity and left hungry and restless as punishment for … trespassing.” I don’t really want to believe the story, especially now. Justin blanches as I continue, “She freed some of them and then morphed them into Dementors apparently, or at least that’s what Olga found.”

“So these slave phantoms are like pre-Dementors, is that what you’re saying? So they suck out your soul?”

“No, they suck magic.”

Oliver looks worried. Suddenly, Justin whips out his wand and before either of us can do anything he mutters, “Lumos!” Within seconds the cold wind, black flames, wispy shadows, and smell of sulphur are back. As we stand there in the dark not daring to move or do any more magic, one of the shadows curling up from the flickering black fire extends a long, spindly hand out of the wall toward Justin’s wand. There’s a weird sucking sound and thin silvery threads begin to pull out of Justin’s wand tip toward the figure emerging from the wall.

Justin hastily whispers, “NOX!” and pulls back his wand from the hand.

The shadow retracts and then dissipates like smoke as the temperature increases and it becomes lighter. All three of us stand there staring at each other, not daring to speak. Wordlessly, we all seem to have come to the same conclusion: no magic, move fast, and get out of here as quickly as possible.

As I turn to join Oliver and Justin who are already hurrying forward, out of the corner of my eye I catch a pair of shadows flitting across the long corridor behind us. I spin around with my wand out, but find nothing but tall fiery walls stretching up into the darkness and the quiet crackling of flame. I frown and figure that it must be my nerves. However, I can’t help but wonder if some of these phantoms roaming in the walls of the labyrinth have more solids forms. I hope not.
24th-Sep-2006 05:48 am (UTC)
I came here …

… with the intention …

… of playing …

… the Big Bad Wolf …

… but now that I’m here …

… I find …

… I’m out of breath.

“You! Slow down,” I hiss at Avery. I am not sure he has heard me, but I don’t dare to call out loud; I don’t want the boys in front to hear us and turn back to pick a fight. I don’t feel up to one. An invisible burden weighs painfully on my neck, and though my labouring breath forms little clouds in the chill surrounding us, I am in a sweat. It is true that the uneven floor does not exactly make for a comfortable stroll, and we did take a few stairs, but do such trivialities really have to wear me out? I never thought of myself as an athlete, exactly, but I am damned sure that in my own body I would not be suffering quite so much.

Szabo is about Minerva’s age. Goodness knows I never saw her as an old woman, but after today I must change my mind.

Damn this labyrinth. It is frustrating to have to follow a handful of young men like a dog sniffing a trail – I would rather find my own way, but I can’t risk that lot finding the Horcrux first. From Avery’s vague explanations I gather that those idiot boys are out to destroy the artefact; at least, they did just that in Peru. How typical of our corrupt modern times: if you don’t know how to handle a thing, obliterate it. Why not. Iconoclasts, the lot of them.

Avery has come to a halt at a corner; that means I can catch my breath.

“What’s … going … on?” I whisper, leaning my back against the cold wall.

“Come and have a look.” He motions me to come closer. “They’ve reached some kind of gate.”

“Hm. The Horcrux is near, then. – Collus!” I fasten the gossamer thread I have been spinning with my wand to the wall. If this door is also the exit, we will have no difficulty finding our way out again. “Very well. Let me see that gate.”
24th-Sep-2006 05:49 am (UTC)
“I think this is it!” I say, glad more than anything else for the opportunity to get away from those walls with the phantoms. At this point, I think most anything would be better than magic-sucking pre-Dementors phantoms.

Oliver puts his broom down and begins to tap his wand determinedly around the perimeter of the large stone door sitting behind what resembles some sort of gate. Justin and I start to search the door for a door knob or something equally obvious. It’s clear that none of us really want to do any more magic and attract the phantoms again, but after fifteen minutes of grunting and pushing at the door, we’re out of options.

I point my wand directly at the door and say, “Alohomora!

It immediately darkens and beings to grows colder.

“Great, here we go again,” says Justin flatly, moving away from the walls.

Then a silver light erupts from the door and encases the entire corridor in glowing bubble. The phantoms never arrive.

“Maybe this is like the Patronus Charm,” I whisper, my eyes wide. “These things are the precursors to Dementors, maybe a Patronus will work on them.”

Suddenly, there’s a high-pitched giggle and all three of us spin around. A little golden fairy is perched on a flat stone near the door. Its glowing wings beat rapidly as it smiles at us and bats its long gossamer eyelashes. I can’t imagine what something so delicate and friendly looking is doing in a smelly, forsaken place like this.

Then the little fairy opens its mouth wide to reveal rows of long pointed teeth like a piranha. All of us take a step back, startled as the fairy/piranha screeches:

I am a guardian, one of the Hesperides,
Because of me, you will need no keys.

But to enter where you desire to travel,
A riddle you must first unravel.

Beware trespassers, this is a test,
For you will get only one guess.

For if you do not answer well,
Forever here you will be forced to dwell.

I am the sustenace of the dead,
And sacred to Persephone who to Hades she was lead.

The Elysiam Fields is my home,
Where the souls of the foolishly heroic aimlessly roam.

I grow after you expire your last breath.
I am the wine of Living Death.

Then in a puff of golden smoke, the screaming fairy vanishes and all grows quiet.

“Holy Merlin, what a set of pipes,” whistles Oliver.

“That’s nothing compared what Padma is going to do when she finds me,” I say quietly. Then I add in my head, If she’s even going to speak to me ever again.

Justin scratches his head and says, “Let’s just get in there, I don’t fancy staying out here with these phantoms or that Hesperdee fairy monster for longer than we have to.”

We ponder the riddle for a good long while. Finally Oliver says, “Don’t look at me, I was never in Muggle school, and Hogwarts never had Greek Mythology as a subject.”

“I was only in Muggle primary school,” adds Justin holding his hands up and looking at me. “You did a year of Muggle Secondary school. It’s time for all that hard work to finally pay off, mate.” He pushes me toward the door.

“Oy, are you two forgetting that we standing here in a magical labyrinth? And apparently Hera was a bloody Dark Witch? Maybe you should suggest to McGonagall that Hogwarts should start offering Magical Greek Mythology since you’re going to be the new Professor.”

Justin stops and looks thoughtful. “So the answer has to be magical.”

“It’s a thing that grows,” adds Oliver furrowing his brown and leaning on his broom.

After a few more moments of heavy silence, Justin pipes up and asks, “Okay, who got an O in Herbology?”

“Damn, too bad Neville is in Thailand on a beach somewhere,” I lament, paging through the notebook to see if there’s anything about screaming fairies and magical plants. I think that Padma likely earned about a hundred O’s in Herbology, and if she was here we’d probably already be inside. By the strained look on Oliver’s face, maybe he’s thinking the same thing.

“Would you ever have guessed at Hogwarts that you’d ever be wishing for Neville Longbottom’s brain?” snorts Justin as he sits down on a rock.
24th-Sep-2006 05:50 am (UTC)
I close my eyes.

I sacrificed fifteen years of my dear, precious life trying to teach the likes of those three the things a magician absolutely needs. Now cruel fate has me witness how promptly my efforts are forgotten.

My colleagues at Hogwarts used to scold me for my pessimism when it came to teaching. They seemed to think I was somehow exaggerating when I called my students dunderheads and openly proclaimed that most of my hours spent in front of a class were a mere waste of time. But honestly: every single bloody year I picked a first year student and asked them the asphodel-and-wormwood question, because asphodel and wormwood are really bloody classics; and singling out an unsuspecting student is usually a rather efficient way of making sure the class remembers the answer long after the lesson in which they heard it is forgotten. Not so with these idiots, apparently. Dear God, I wasn’t pessimistic enough. Darwin’s laws obviously don’t apply to wizardkind: in the magical world we are subjected to the survival of the stupidest. Those three … specimens … are, I kid you not, invoking the vast intellect and stupendous memory of Neville Longbottom to aid them.

Even Avery frowns. “What on earth are they doing?” he whispers. “Are they really going to name every plant listed in 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi? Surely it’s simple asphodel.”

I snort. “My dear Avery, what we see here is merely a symptom of the total collapse of Western civilisation.”

I don’t think Avery likes Szabo much, but as we stand there, peeking around the corner and observing those three incompetent youngsters guessing and fumbling with that notebook of theirs, we share a quiet moment of fellowship.

Thomas closes his book. “Are we agreed on ‘Poppy’, then?” he asks, and takes out his wand.

Avery yelps; like myself, he realises we will not be given a second chance to answer the riddle. I must act quickly, and with as much discretion as possible.

“Make room,” I order softly. Avery shuffles to the left. I whip out my wand, taking care to use my right hand, and just as Thomas points his at the door, I cast a non-verbal Asphodelos.

“It worked!” Finch-Fletchley is positively jubilant as the door opens slowly.

“Yes, by all means do congratulate yourselves,” I mutter.

“Should we overtake them now?” Avery asks nervously. “If the Horcrux is so near, we don’t want to be late, right?”

“No, let them lead us a while longer,” I reply lazily, rubbing my neck. It still hurts. “We haven’t yet met anything that qualified as a trap, and it would be most odd if there were none. I’d rather not walk into one myself.”

“Neither would I.” He looks in the direction of the gate with distaste. “Hmph. I wish Lucius would run his own errands.”
24th-Sep-2006 05:51 am (UTC)
When the boys have disappeared through the gate, we follow them cautiously. I put a charm on the door to keep it open; we may be in a hurry next time we pass through it.

The sight that meets our eyes once we have crossed the threshold is quite arresting, and unexpected too: after the icy cold and the flame-patterned walls, we find ourselves in a lush, exotic garden. A strange assortment of mismatched plants greets us. Poppies and lotus flowers grow side by side with asphodel and sopohorous at the feet of unusually tall trees. Their overwhelming fragrance hits me like a fist in the face.

“Cover your nose and mouth,” I warn Avery. “These are narcotic.” We pull the hoods of our Death Eater robes over our faces; they come in handy now.

Through the slits in the hood I observe the garden around me warily. Despite the time of night and the trees’ dense canopy there is plenty of light, showing off the lovely, colourful plants and extraordinary creatures that live among them. I notice tiny golden insects crawling over fresh green leaves and the many mouldy tree stumps on the ground, golden birds of paradise wave their glittering tail feathers and sing sweet melodies, and a golden snake slithering around a long branch completes the impression of an artificial garden of Eden. Narrow pathways run like a spider-web through the undergrowth, looking inviting like the rest of the surroundings.

A shiver runs down my spine. There is a false note in the midst of all this beauty. Though I cannot immediately lay my finger on the why of it, the place gives me an uneasy feeling. I spy around, my attention sharpened by suspicion, and that is when I notice them: among the harmless old tree trunks, identical-looking but deadly Snargaluffs lie in wait for unwary walkers; between innocent lilies and roses, flowering Venomous Tentaculae and Wartcap plants have nestled. They are unusually pretty, but no less deadly than the more common varieties. In this garden every danger is hiding behind a pleasant mask.

Avery has started running. “Come on!” he urges me. “If we dawdle any longer, we will lose those chaps from sight!”

I sigh and force Szabo’s old bones into a jogtrot. Soon the annoying tightness that cramps my neck seems to spread out into my chest. What a nuisance – I need to be alert and agile.

Breathing heavily and having to concentrate far too much on putting one foot in front of the other, I almost bump into Avery when he stops in the middle of the path we have been following. “Hide,” he hisses, and pulls me down behind a thorn bush. “I think we have arrived.” He rubs his left arm against his robes, and I can feel it too: our Dark Marks are burning. (In my case, it is the empty spot on Szabo’s forearm where the Dark Mark ought to be – that damned thing is so strong that even the Polyjuice Potion cannot mask its effect completely.) The Dark magic of the Horcrux pulls at us.

In the middle of a vast circular clearing, on the spot where all the spidery paths connect, stands a majestic apple tree. It bears no more than three apples – but what beautiful apples they are – golden, glowing, and the size of grapefruits. There they hang, flaunting themselves, pretending they are just for the taking. Of course they cannot possibly be.

“Shall we?” Avery says, getting up from his crouching position.

“No, wait.” I remove my hood and keep my eyes fixed on my three former students as they leaf through their guidebook. They are debating what to do next. I bet it will be something rash and stupid – such as picking those apples.
24th-Sep-2006 05:56 am (UTC)
Dean, Justin and I stand looking up at the three over large golden apples hanging on a tree limb above us. There plumpness and color make them look very appetizing yet I'd bet a sugar quill to a blood pop that you'd have a giant sized tummy ache if you ate one of those.

I look around the lush garden. There are strange plants and flowers all around us. Looking more closely, I see many leathery-looking flowers with bright red petals. I wonder what they are. Sometimes I wished I had paid more attention to my revisions in school but I never thought I'd need them playing Quidditch. That's what I get for thinking.

There are a bunch of tree stumps all around the tree with the apples. Maybe this tree is like the Whomping Willow and it chopped all the others down with it's limbs.

Dean says there's a reference to only one Horcrux on the map. I don't know what makes them sure it's that apples but it makes sense because they're the only fruit amongst trees and flowers. But there are three of them so that means two are decoys and could be traps.

"So what do we do now? We can't just walk up and pick them. That seems too easy. It's got to be guarded by something," I say, voicing all our thoughts aloud.

"Well I don't know about you two," Justin begins, "but I'm not looking forward to blowing up all three apples with the detonation discs and being knee deep in applesauce and having to eat my way out of here." He pulls the detonation discs from his pockets and looks at them deep in thought. Why did we give Justin, with his kind of luck, explosives?

"Me too, mate," Dean says. "I was just wondering if the shrapnel from exploding apples could kill you much less the tree splinters that will be sprayed for meters." Dean takes a step or two back from the tree. Justin and I quickly follow his lead.

"Well one way or another, we have to get those apples off that tree and destroy them," I say. I hope I sound a lot more confident than I feel about this.

"I wish Padma were here. She was in Egypt and Peru where the other horcruxes were," Dean whispers. I know he's lamenting leaving her now but what's done is done. We have to finish this.

"I guess we'll have to pick them and hope we can deal with the consequences afterwards," Justin says, stepping up to the tree and placing his hand on an apple.

"Wait!" Dean calls out. "Let's all pick them at the same time."

We each nod and step up and place a hand on a different apple. It's a good thing Tav didn't come along or he may not have reached them.

"On the count of three," I say.

Justin nods.

"One," Dean begins, "two." He takes a slight pause and we all hold our breath. "Three!"

We all pick our apple. The apples immediately stop glowing, and we turn with wands at the ready.

Nothing happens.

Justin chuckles and shines his apple on his sleeve. "They say and apple a day keeps the doctor away. I wonder if that goes for big bad nasties too."

We all laugh but it's a nervous laugh that masks our continued guard for something bad to happen.

That's when it happens.

Two figures in death Eater garb steps out in the open.

"Hand over the Horcrux and you will get away from here unharmed," a pale and sickly looking Death Eater says.

24th-Sep-2006 05:57 am (UTC)
I lie and wait among these curious wild blooms and green leafy plants with the Lestrange brothers at my side. My left forearm throbs as it does when in the proximity of powerful Dark objects. The Horcrux is near. Rodolphus and Rabastan exchange dark looks under their Death Eater hoods which we’ve drawn up to conceal ourselves. They are aware of the implications of their Dark Marks speaking to them as well.

A golden beetle scurries up the hem of my cloak. I swiftly crush it with the heel of my boot, only to find that it has left a golden residue that begins to eat through the heavy fabric. Alecto and Amycus have the audacity to snort and snigger at the small flaw that now has rendered this cloak useless.

“Don’t touch anything!” I quietly seethe, and they stifle their noises. Even though they are idiots, I need their appetites for devastation and mayhem to help take care of Thomas, Finch-Fletchley, and Wood so I am rendered free to watch Szabo fold without distraction. I will break him slowly.

From our vantage point on the periphery of the circular stretch of even ground surrounding the large tree, I hear Szabo make his ridiculous demands as he and Avery face down three young wizards who are half their age, more nimble, and – based on our altercation in Peru – much more proficient in duelling then they appear. It’s laughable that Szabo believes that those boys are going to hand over those apples, one of which must be the Horcrux, without a fight.

I peer through the foliage and find all five of them at a stalemate, each of them poised with their wands drawn and pointing at each other’s chests, their attention fully absorbed.

It’s time.
24th-Sep-2006 05:58 am (UTC)
With a nod of my head, Alecto and Amycus leap forward followed quickly by Rudolphus and the puppet Rabastan. There are yells of surprise as the staccato of spell fire erupts and my enemies disperse. Avery ducks behind an olive tree, leaving Szabo alone as Wood and Thomas sprint to opposite side of the glade, shooting spells over their shoulders. To my annoyance, Finch-Fletchley begins employing his infernal Ministry-training in order to divert attention away from Thomas and Wood. This is the same technique he employed in Peru.

It is clear that by the way Alecto and Amycus bounding around and shooting ill-aimed spells obnoxiously at anything that moves, that they are easily excitable and incapable of retaining simple instructions, for their sole task was to detain Wood and his broom. After our last encounter at old Macmillan’s, I want to ensure that Wood is taken care of.

However, it is evident that I must direct Alecto and Amycus yet again. I step forward and command the two bumbling idiots to disable their assigned charge. Thomas yells and begins firing spells in my direction. It seems that he’s rather upset, likely because of young Macmillan’s fate. My, wasn’t that an unfortunate event – it’s a pity that Hampstead Heath did not burn to its foundations like I had intended.

To my satisfaction, Rabastan engages Thomas who spins around, revealing a large apple tucked in his cloak. My Dark Mark pulses – he must carry the Horcrux. He is mine after I entertain myself with Szabo.

Behind me I hear Rodolphus taunting Finch-Flectchley, effectively keeping his attention from his comrades as I scan the scene for my target. Then I spot him. Szabo is making his way from the fray and has managed to navigate his way to the opposite side of the clearing. My mouth turns into a knowing sneer. Coward. I begin to concentrate my magic.

He is about to find cover in the dense underbrush when I descend upon him, my fingers twitching in anticipation.

“Szabo, I daresay you should stay a while longer. Lucius wouldn’t want you foregoing all of the games,” I raise my wand, its smooth wood sliding under my now warm fingertips.

He turns, and to my great satisfaction looks positively ill. Szabo raises his wand and flinches, quickly clutching his chest. He is winded and breathing heavily and his wand grows unsteady as he fights to keep it aloft. It seems age has finally found him, and he did not have the foresight to gather younger, more able and weak-minded wizards and witches to carry out the more physically demanding task such as duelling. He was foolish to rely on Avery who is likely still squatting behind that olive tree like the pathetic and soft mushroom he is.

Suddenly, there’s a blinding flash, an explosion, and a wave of unnatural heat pounds into my back, knocking me forward as my Dark Mark begins to burn. The golden apple tree in the middle of the clearing snaps and crackles angrily as brightly colored flame devours it as Finch-Fletchley darts away.

I yell in rage. And then turn back, fully intent on taking out my frustration on Szabo. No more games! But he has disappeared.

“COWARD!” I yell. “You are not fit to be associated with The Dark League!”
24th-Sep-2006 05:58 am (UTC)
All I can think is that I must get the hell away from Mulciber and his cronies. I feel – I think I am dying. I can barely hold my wand anymore; the pain has reached my shoulders and arms; my chest, my neck, my jaw even feel as if caught in a burning vice. I have no idea what is happening to me. My stomach turns, I am light-headed, I must lie down – but this is neither the time nor the place for it.

When the apple tree suddenly goes on fire and Mulciber is distracted, I scramble for safety and the cover of the trees as quickly as I can. Stumbling, I make my way among the innocent plants and the deadly, dodging, with much effort and sluggishness of movement, vicious Snargaluff vines and poisonous tentacles. Branches whip me and thorns catch in my robes; behind me, the noises of the fight grow weaker.

Clutching my chest, I look over my shoulder to check whether I am being followed. There is no one that I can see. If I die miserably in this wilderness, at least it won’t be at another’s hand.

I clench my teeth, but I can no longer bear the pain of the pangs cutting my side. Panting, I collapse to writhe in the undergrowth and claw at the moist soil. There is yelling and the firing of spells in the distance.

I think I am passing out.
24th-Sep-2006 09:23 am (UTC)
"Oliver, watch out!" I yell as I see a branch of the blazing apple tree teeter and begin to fall. Oliver dive-rolls, narrowly missing it when it crashes to the ground and a Killing Curse from Amycus. At this rate, we’ll be killing each other for the damn Death Eaters!

I cannot tell a lie, it was I who chopped down your apple tree, and killed my friend. I see myself saying before Hera and the statue of Blind Justice.

I realize only now that there is a Befuddlement Charm upon this place. It’s likely the reason we couldn’t figure out the riddle to gain entry here. Oh well, if Justice is blind, she won’t have seen me destroy the apple tree to create a diversion to save us and it’ll be my word against Hera’s.

We have to get out here. I’m way too susceptible to Mind Charms. My mind wanders and I keep reeling it back in.

I can see my friends struggling with confusing thoughts. If we fail to concentrate on the here and now and get lost in the beauty of the lush greens and soft scents that lull our exhausted bodies to want to rest, the Death Eaters will have easy prey.

If I wasn’t so scared that we’d all end up like that llama in Peru from eating a Portkey, I’d just eat the damn apples myself. I don’t even want to bond with the little gold worm that just stuck its head out of the stem let alone some weird Goddess with perpetual PMS! Susan, Lav and Padma are going to be nothing compared with Hera when they find out what we’ve done.

Amycus and Alecto are here and Oliver gets a manic gleam in his eyes but this time at least I’m sure he’s himself and not hell bent on some private mission of Dark Magic that he’s failed to mention. On the other hand, we could sure use some help now, and I’m getting beyond being above the use of questionable spells that lie in the middle of Dark and Light.

This place is like something out of a movie. Tiny little creatures flit everywhere, all of them golden. It’s as though Midas himself was granted his wish properly and everything he touched turned to gold but didn’t take on the cold rigidity of the metal he loved he so much like it did in the story.

Spells and Curses fly all around us and I feel a certain sadness that makes me want to disarm and give up each time I see a leaf fall from a tree or see a flower wilt and die as it’s hit. It’s overwhelming, I feel war-like but at the same time a peace that I know we can’t have here beckons me to rest. I fight it, knowing it’s an enchantment placed here soley for the purposes of security.

I know that there are many enchantments upon this place because at times, someone will stop, in his own world to admire a statue or watch a golden bird flutter above. Oliver especially is mesmerized by a Goldfinch that caresses the top of his head with its tiny wings. He has been taken in by the trap.

"Oi! Oliver! You’re not a Keeper, and that’s not a Snitch!" I yell frantically, fighting my own eyes from following the diversion as Oliver snaps out of it and spins around to trip Amycus who lands heavily, hitting his head on a statue of a philosopher who stares with unseeing eyes down upon him as if pondering.

We are outnumbered and my heart quickens as I catch sight of Rabastan and Rudolphus Lestrange. Rudolphus recognizes me and I stifle my need to yell Hannah and Susan’s names and plunge his heart through with my wand. I can’t make him think of Susan. If he kills us here, he will go after her again. That scene has already played out in my head since Hannah and Susan were attacked.

Susan will be angry with both me and Oliver when she finds out what we’ve done and that we’ve left those we love so dearly behind. But Dean, he’d better go into hiding if the girls find out whose idea it was to come here in the first place without Padma. Padma who would know so much more about this kind of stuff than any of us do! Lavender will be furious! Still I stand by our decision.
24th-Sep-2006 09:23 am (UTC)
The garden is crowded and this is both a blessing and curse. We have many places to hide behind but so does our enemies. A statue I hide behind has its head blown off while I stand cringing but unscathed as he’s at least a foot and half taller than me. A relative of Dean no doubt!

I dive from behind the statue as it is shattered into a million tiny fragments of dust and it’s all I can do not to stop and watch in fascination as the white powder turns to gold in the air and catches the light, the source of which I cannot detect.

My roll to safety behind a garden bench of stone causes my pockets to turn out, the detonation discs we’ve brought here to blow up the Horcruxes scatter everywhere. I cringe, my eyes shut tightly, expecting for all of us, the good, the bad, and the ugly to be blown to bits by the unstable discs, which finally stop rolling, still intact. I breathe again. Still, the job would have been done despite the heavy loss of life. As it stands now, we are losing this fight.

The apple tree has long ago turned to ash and I guess in the absence of its magnificent beauty, the tree stumps in this place become more noticeable. It’s odd to me that anyone who would tend this garden with so much obvious care would leave anything dead here.

Dean moves toward one of the Death Eaters stealthily but from a tree stump next to him, branches shoot from the middle. Dean lets out a strangled cry of alarm and pain. His shirt is covered in tiny dots of blood all over his torso as thorns that stick from the vine pierce his skin,

Oliver sees what has happened and narrowly avoids yet another stump. I rub my eyes. How can we have missed these! Holy- green- thumb- of- Professor- Sprout! What magic is this!? The stumps are everywhere!

Oliver tries to get to Dean but his way is blocked and he thinks wisely to use the stumps as an advantage, shoving Amycus toward one as a vine whips out, narrowly missing the Death Eater. Damn! I leap over a whipping vine that is ankle level to get to Dean as Oliver uses the other stumps as a barricade to shoot from now. It’s a good thing that Dean is a big bloke because I think the stump is trying to eat him!

Dean is wide- eyed and fighting hard. I can tell he doesn’t want to call for help but there’s no way that stump is letting him go. When I reach Dean, I grab the branches without thinking, drawing my hand back immediately in pain. Even my right hand which still has little feeling can detect each tiny, biting, thorn that I pick out of my skin. Little droplets of blood land on the stump and are absorbed into the bark. I swear I can hear a slurping sound and I know Dean heard it too. He ignores the thorns and claws at the vines encircling his chest, starting to gasp for air.
24th-Sep-2006 09:24 am (UTC)
"Reducto!" I yell, and some of the vines fall away. Dean can breathe easier. He lays his head on the ground for a second out of sheer necessity and I think the worst is over when I see one of the stumps that Oliver is hiding behind suddenly realize that he’s there, ripe for the picking. how ironic, a human being picked by a a tree... I wish my thoughts would stop straying and slowing here.

The thorny tendrils of the stump reach for Oliver just as my attention is caught on Dean again when he gasps for air. Once again, Oliver’s speed and agility save him. He unshrinks his broom and rams it into the back of Mulciber’s magical mind. Mulciber’s head lurches forward and I can only hope he’s too damaged to Imperius Curse us or torture us with his mind experiments like he keeps threatening to do.

It figures a brain that big has to be protected by a thick scull! Mulciber has no idea what hit him but he turns around as Oliver dives out of sight again. There is no way we can last. Dean can’t hide and I can’t free him. I’m not leaving him here to be eaten by this stump. I work on his bonds but I know there’s no time.

We’re going to lose. The Horcrux is going to Lucius...

Dean’s eyes go wide and I think it’s from pain until I see him mouth the word no and he fights harder against his bonds, grinding the thorns deeper into his flesh but appearing not notice as he looks past me at...

"Padma!" I exclaim.

I dare not look up as the selfish part of me longs for Susan and the man in me is furious to even see Padma here. There is a moment of confusion on all parts that saves the moment from utter devastation but it’s soon over. The enemy will adjust to the new odds. Lavender, Padma and Susan stand at the edge of the circular clearing, wands at the ready.

"Bones!" Rabastan exclaims as Oliver snaps out his shock and aims at the man, missing as he steps from his spot toward the witches who clearly don’t know he’s coming. I wonder if they are momentarily captivated by the garden like we all were when we first experienced the onslaught of scent and wonder here.

Just as I open my mouth to warn them, I am rewarded for my failed effort by Mulciber’s uttered incantation.

"Reverto!" He yells, his eyebrows in an angry arch. Before I can do anything, I trip on a vine, landing on Dean’s arm. I hear him cry out but it’s as if it’s from far away.

The world seems on fast forward and I lay on my back, feeling fine but I can’t pick my head up. I see flaming red hair streak by in battle and there’s nothing I can do about it. I realize now that my head is now a centimetre from the ground. I’ve been placed in slow motion. My will is my own but time is not. Voices seem distorted and screams are grotesque to the ears under normal circumstances but more so when they are piercing your ears at accelerated speed. Sound should not travel with it’s companion, light. It should keep to it’s rightful place. I can’t help them. I can’t help my wife. Even my eyes won’t let me find that which I wish to look upon even one more time.

I want to scream. Dean is being pulled into the tree stump and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to help him. I realize with horror that my ankle has been snagged and I’m being dragged feet first toward the stump too.

Will death hurt more in slow motion?
24th-Sep-2006 06:02 am (UTC)
"You make this too easy, Bones. Almost as easy as when we killed your little blonde friend.”

Lestrange throws another curse at me and I duck. This isn’t worth it, I’ll get myself killed…

I throw a blasting curse at a statue above his head. It shatters and I see my chance to run back towards Justin and the others.

I come around the corner and see Justin lying there next to Dean and for one horrifying moment I freeze thinking the worst.

“Lassie, get out of the way!” Oliver shouts.

Before I can react, Padma grabs me and pulls me behind her shield as Lestrange comes running at me.

I then notice his crazy brother sending spells at us from the clearing. That bastard! He will not take anyone else from me!

I must have said that out loud because Lavender gets a look of understanding in her eyes and starts aiming curses at Rabastan. He seems to refocus his attack on Lavender as Padma and I try to hold off Rodolphus.

I hear a loud whack! and turn around in time to see Oliver hit Lav’s opponent over the head with his broom.

Two other figures in dark robes that I didn’t see before jump on him and grab his broom before he can go up again. He rolls and Lavender covers him as they exchange spell fire.

Padma lets out a startled sound and I turn to see Dean being pulled toward the Snargaluff and Justin still unable to move. I then hear Mulciber yell, “Give me the Horcrux, Thomas!”

Padma and I start throwing hexes and run towards them, leaving Lavender to try and help Oliver.

Soon Oliver and Lavender have joined us, and we find ourselves cornered. I realize this is not working and if we don’t think of something fast, we’ll be in more trouble than we are.

I suddenly notice a field of leathery-looking flowers with bright red petals and get an idea.

“Those flowers over there are used in magical sedatives, there pollen is very potent,” I whisper to Padma. “A good whiff and it knocks you out.”

“Just like in the Wizard of Oz,” Justin mutters, but his voice comes out super- slow and deep, drawn out and it takes him forever to look at me.

“If only we had a way to hit those flowers, the pollen should knock them out and give us a chance to get out of here,” I press on.

“We can use the disk to blow them up. That would get enough pollen in the air to do that,” Padma says.

I nod remembering them from Peru. Lavender looks puzzled. “They are like bombs that were to blow up the Horcrux,” I say. She nods, and we quickly collect them, tossing some of the disks into the flowers.

“Perfect,” Lavender says before casting a Bubblehead charm on herself.

We get the guys attention and they too cast Bubblehead Charms on themselves. At the last minute, Oliver notices Justin whose eyes are wide as his hand clutching his wand aims towards his face painfully slow. Oliver casts a Bubblehead Charm for him, thankfully.

“Detonare!” we shout.

The discs go off, showering the air with golden sparkly pollen. Padma and Oliver cut the vines holding Dean down and drag him up. The minute the pollen hit the air, it must have had the effect of Finite Incantatum because Justin can move again. I help Justin to his feet and we go running deeper into the garden, not bothering to look back.

Suddenly, I come to halt as I bump into Padma.
24th-Sep-2006 06:05 am (UTC)
I stumble forward as Susan runs into me and almost fall into the edge of the river that has prevented our progress. Dean pulls me back by the arm and I throw my arms around his neck and bury my head against his shoulder, savouring the moment of closeness. My heart is still pounding from the battle and running, but I don’t want to be anywhere but by Dean’s side. I’ll be angry with him when we get home. He takes my head in both hands and kisses me fiercely. My knees melt and I can almost forget where we are for a second.

“I wish you hadn’t come, but I’m glad you’re here… I love you,” he whispers before taking my hand and turning to face the river. It’s crystal clear and I can see straight through to the bottom. The water moves smoothly, and there are golden fish swimming peacefully. The whole thing just looks too calm to be running through the garden. It’s almost eerily calm.

“There’s a boat,” Justin says, nodding towards a boat that appears to be made of bones on the edge of the river. A small part of me would rather continue to fight the Death Eaters than get in that boat.

“Only three of us will fit in that,” Susan points out.

Oliver points to a second boat that is sunk near the shore. “We can get that one.” Dean squeezes my hand before walking down with Oliver, Justin, and Lavender to try to pull the boat to shore. As soon as they touch the water, the river begins to churn and suddenly the peaceful river looks more like wild rapids. The bottom of the river is no longer visible; instead I can only see a bottomless pit. Suddenly corpses begin to emerge from the pit and start to claw their way to the surface. The water is now murky and putrid, the crystal water vision only a memory.

A shiver runs down my spine as I call for Dean to hurry. I climb into the first boat with Dean and Justin while Oliver, Susan, and Lavender climb into the second boat. We each pick up an oar (also made of bone) and slowly begin to make our way across the river. I exchange a glance with Dean and silently mouth ‘I love you.’

The moment is broken as cries come from the side of the garden we left behind. I see two of the Death Eaters come crashing through the garden, yelling the entire way. Apparently the flowers didn’t hit them straight on and they weren’t left sleeping like we hoped. Fortunately, I don’t think there is another boat for them to follow us, but a terrible feeling settles in my chest as more distance is put between us and the second boat.
24th-Sep-2006 06:07 am (UTC)
Slowly, cautiously, I pop my head around the tree behind which I have been hiding. The din of battle seems to have died away, the Lestrange brothers departed; perhaps the coast is clear...

I sneeze. Ugh, I think I’m allergic to those flowers. At least my spot behind the tree and the hood of my Death Eater robes prevented the pollen from having any greater effect than just irritating my sinuses. Amycus and Alecto, on the other hand, lie snoring in the grass. I sneeze again. It serves them right for their excessive zeal.

Where would Szabo be? I saw him stagger away from Mulciber, who seemed positively murderous, so I suppose he did the sensible thing. He didn’t exactly look well, though – I don’t think the old boy was really up to this kind of action. I could go looking for him… If he’s still alive, I’d rather not he blabbed to Lucius about my less than heroic behaviour here, so maybe if I lend him a helping hand he’ll be inclined towards leniency.

“Professor Szabo!” I call out. “Yoohoo! Where are you?”

I tramp around a bit, careful not to leave the pathways. Even a good word from Szabo to Lucius isn’t worth a struggle with one of those horrid Snargaluffs.

“Yoohoooooo! Professor Szaaaabooooo! - Achoo!

Not a sound from him, and no trace either. Hmph. Well, I tried, didn’t I? I think I’m off to my dear, sweet Elke, and if anyone asks, I looked for my boss, strenuously but unfortunately in vain. It is a large garden, after all.

I take the path by which we came and return to the gate. Thanks to Szabo’s little charm it is still open, and the gossamer thread he span while we wandered through the labyrinth leads me back to the outside world. Darling, your Piglet is on his way home!
24th-Sep-2006 06:11 am (UTC)
Let the fool Avery go back for Szabo. They send an ancient shriveled old man to do the work of real men who have been seasoned by the cruelties of Azkaban itself. The river motes surrounding some of the corridors of my home for the last several years, fed by the sea all around the place is a raging white water rapid compared to this pool of tranquility. But I’m no fool, there’s a reason why these thieves don’t swim the short distance to the other side and I’m going to bide my time and figure it out.

I think old Avery’s got the collywobbles. He asked Rabastan to go with him to find Szabo and both Rab and I got a good laugh out of that. We figured the fewer of us that makes it out of here alive, the fewer we’d have to share the spoils of Lucius’ reward with. But then it struck us that we’ve paid any dues that Lucius thinks we owe him.

Lucius is losing his mind according to what we can gather. Fancies he can bring back Narcissa from the hands of Hades. Just thinking that name in my head causes me to shiver and I become keenly aware of why as I chance a glimpse at the people perched precariously on those little boats. the boats are made of human bones!

Well, I fancy differently! I fancy that if I bond with the Horcrux of Hera instead of Lucius, that I will be able to bring back my beautiful Bella. To keep my brother from those same lofty goals, I have assured him that I will bring back Narcissa as well for him once I have killed Lucius of course. That is if he hasn’t wasted away from his pining over the golden haired princess. He sickens me. He would have done well to have spent more time in Azkaban learning the ways of men. Men like me.

The river seems to have picked up its lazy pace and the pathetic creatures in the boats huddled against the images they see as vile, sit as quietly as possible, no doubt scared to death, how ironic, that they will fall overboard.

Allow me to give them a hand.

When I shine my wand light on the boats, I see the boat that is in the rear contains a little gift for me. I chuckle to myself as I share my delightful blessing. Oh, thanks, whatever Greek deity gives me such a powerful sign that today is mine. The red head who eluded me months ago sits in that boat! It is a sign, a sign that the Gods wish for me to join them, that they welcome me with open arms to give me this trinket of a gift sacrifice. So a sacrifice she shall become and so shall they all!

I’ve never been a very superstitious man, but this place reeks of history and demands respect. I can hide it in my heart that I wish to kill these people to gain the Horcrux and make them also my sacrifice to gain favour in the eyes of those who I am about to join. This is my moment, my time. I will strike both boats at once, offering all six souls to whomever will take them. The rotting corpses in the river look keen for company but I do not give to them. They are dedicated to other deities who will guide me through my ritual.

Perhaps Lucius did not ask the favour of his equals and his folly in that matter has left him lusting for more power. But this Horcrux will be mine. True, I will have no equals once I have bonded with the Horcrux of Hera. I do not know if Zeus lives, but if he and the other Gods do, I will act humble at first in their presence. I will become all powerful and gain the knowledge of time and space. All the unfortunates like Orion who grace our skies as past Gods who stare brightly with shining dead eyes upon the Muggles who think them beautiful when they look up, are in fact more tragic than lovely. Lucius will never be a constellation. He will burn up in the atmosphere like a meteor colliding with a sun and going as dark as his heart.

It is time and the red head shall die first for defying me in the first place.
24th-Sep-2006 06:11 am (UTC)
"Wait, the blonde one will be mine first!" Rabastan shouts, alerting those aboard the boats. Azkaban has given him an unnatural appetite.

"Fool!" I thunder, unable to master my control as I feel my face contort with rage. I throw a Stunning Spell at the last minute instead of the killing curse I had intended because if I don’t let Rab have what he wants now, then he may catch on and betray me, taking the Horcrux for himself. I can trust no one.

My anger causes me to miss and Rab has never been the best shot. I decide to stun the blonde and give her to Rab to play with, kill the red head in the name of Voldemort who personally killed her ancestor...(one can never be too careful to pay hommage where it is due...he came back once. All my hoops will be covered.)

Instead it seems we have a hero in our midst. I don’t doubt he could be a Muggle born with his sickening sense of duty of ‘women and children first’. He stands up wide-eyed, the one who was facing us and saw our movements thanks to the ever impetuous Rab and takes the Stunning Spell fully in the chest.

It’s almost comical, his wand still out before him as he crashes into the water which begins to roil and sweep him away from the screaming women in the boat. The screaming is something that must stop. I have endured so many sleepless nights having to endure that sound in Azkaban until finally it was silenced by despair so absolute that no one could ever resurrect the voice.

"Oliver!" yells the blonde and now I realize with pleasure that another Quidditch star is dead. The wizarding masses have lost another hero. I know as a fact, though it does not placate me that if I must give the Horcrux to Lucius after all, that I will still be rewarded for causing public despair among the populace. People being scared to go to Quidditch games and all. It’s not delicious but slightly appetizing.

I aim to silence the frantic women even though I will be robbed of their death throes. But the boats are now both caught up in a rapid and are quickly being swept away from me and around a bend.

An apple bobs to the surface where the valiant Quidditch star who tried to take the hex fell in.

"Noooooo!!! It’s mine!" I grab Rab by the shoulders and warn him that we must get to those in the river or we may lose all of the possible Horcruxes.

"Arresto Momentum!" I aim at the water to tame it’s rapid flow but my magic is absorbed by it and I’m left feeling disinclined to try that again so we resort to running down the banks after the boats like fools. I may have to get rid of Rab. If it wasn’t for the fact that he is my brother, he would have been dead a long time ago.

Oh, how heroic, get a bust ready to make a statue! If it isn’t young Finch-Fletchley who no doubt put the call out to the one who killed my wife. Okay, perhaps Rab hasn’t ruined all. I will kill his new wife today in front of him. When I become a God, I will find Neville Longbottom and he will think Prometheus got off easy for his crimes!

I have pilfered several items from Wormtail’s library. Wormtail and library don’t even fit in the same sentence for all I knew of the man before I was sent to prison but I’m no fool. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, when in Greece, bring your best toga and prepare to sit among the Gods. Granted, most of Wormie’s literature is from Muggles but coupled with wizarding knowledge of the place, I have a fair idea of what I’m doing.

The boats are about to disappear from my view but I see the fool Finch Fletchley perched on the gunnel, ready to jump into the river after his friend who has gone under for the third time and hasn’t resurfaced.

I am about to Imperius Curse the kid to go bobbing for my apple and not his friend but I miss as he dives over the edge and the lone two occupants in the boat try desperately to steady it from the rocking this has caused, coupled with the almost sucking affect the water seems to have on those old bones.

"Get moving, Rab! We have to catch up to the boats. If they don’t drown, we’ll have to kill them to get the Horcruxes before Avery gets back with Szabo!"
24th-Sep-2006 06:19 am (UTC)
Merlin no!

The boat rocks wildly as I attempt to keep my death grip on the side as I frantically search the murky depths for Oliver. Shock has kept me immobile, but I come to my senses almost immediately as the reality of the situation sinks in.

“Oliver!” I am no longer concerned with the Death Eaters on the shore. The only thing that matters to me is finding Oliver. Where did he go? I move to the other side of the boat and see a dark head bobbing in the water. “There he is!”

I then notice we are drifting further and further away from him. My whole body clenches with terror as I watch his face slowly slide under the water. “No!” I can’t lose him now. Not like this! We’ve been through too much to let it all end now! I put my wand in my holster and stand in the still rocking boat with a sense of determination. I prepare to dive into the water when I hear “Justin!” shouted by Dean in the boat in front of me.

I fall to the bottom of the boat when I’m thrown off balance by Susan scrambling to the side of the boat screaming for Justin, her had outstretched. I can see Justin swimming against the current trying to reach the spot where I last saw Oliver before he went under. Dean and Padma are using the oars made out of bones, trying to paddle to reach our boat.

“Justin!” Susan cries out. I can see him struggling to keep afloat and then he disappears under the water. At that point it takes everything in my power to hold onto Susan. She’s practically out of the boat and I’m clutching the end of her jumper, trying to pull her back onto the boat when I’m suddenly in the water.

The boat spins away from us and I hear Dean and Padma yelling at us to hang on. The water is freezing and I start to shake. Susan is paddling around calling out to Justin. I look for Oliver and can’t see anything since the water has blurred my vision. I lift my hand and wipe my eyes, blinking a few times hoping to clear my sight.

Susan is floundering next to me, her cries growing weaker. I see Justin break the surface further upstream before he takes another breath and dives beneath again. Please. Please. Please. I chant in my head. Please let them be all right.

The water consistency seems to have changed. It’s heavy now. Thicker somehow. I struggle toward Susan, hoping that we can keep each other afloat. Dean and Padma’s shouts grow weaker and I’m not sure if they are near enough to us now. I look back to where Oliver and Justin had both disappeared and I feel a pang of loss in my heart. It doesn’t seem very fair for me to die and not be with Oliver when it happens. I wanted to look upon his beautiful face once more before I breathe my last.

It’s not fair.

I feel fingers gripping my ankles and legs. I stare down into the depths and see the faces of rotting corpses staring sightlessly back at me. Their mouths are open and I can hear their moans and thin cries reach my ears. Soon I’ll be one of them. I close my eyes as a single tear slips down my cheek and I wait for the inevitable to happen.

Rough hands grab me and I know it’s time.

24th-Sep-2006 06:20 am (UTC)
Dean pulls Lavender into our boat as Susan grabs hold of the oar that I’m extending to her. Lavender is struggling against Dean, causing our boat to rock back and forth even more than is necessary. She’s yelling about going back for Oliver and fighting to stand up with every ounce of her being. Dean is physically restraining her to keep her from diving out of the boat, trying his hardest to calm her down. The only thing that seems to be working is the physical restraint as Lavender is still in the boat but looks positively murderous.

Once the boat is slightly more stable I focus my attention on getting Susan into the boat. I yell at her to hold on as I lean over the edge to pull her towards me. I wish Dean wasn’t so occupied so he could help me. As I’m pulling her closer, I see something fall out of my robes and into the water.

The return Portkey! I shake my head and ignore our ticket home drifting away. The blokes must have a return Portkey of their own. We’ll just have to make sure not to get separated again so we can all make it home this time.

I’m finally able to pull Susan into the boat. She’s pale and her entire body is shaking. Silence falls over our boat and even Lavender has stopped thrashing about. Everyone is wet, but I think we’re all more weighed down by our heavy hearts. I lost sight of Justin and Oliver in my attempt to get Susan on the boat, and I can’t imagine Susan losing her husband so soon after her wedding. The whole thing reminds me too much of when we lost Ernie. I’m freezing from the water, but I don’t think the water is the reason any of us are shivering.

I exchange a worried look over Susan’s head with Dean. He’s tense, and I know he’s thinking about Ernie as well.

“I should get you all to shore first before I go back into the river to find them,” he determines. He picks up an oar and starts rowing again. I can’t believe he’s going back to leaving us, me, behind. I feel all of my anger from earlier today returning and I’m about to tell him what I think of our plan, regardless of where we are.

“Look!” Lavender exclaims, pointing behind us.

We all turn and see the apple horcrux that Oliver was carrying swirl past us out of reach. Dean makes a move to grab it, but I grab his arm first.

“You’ll just fall in,” I whisper, shaking my head. A skeletal hand emerges from the water and grabs the apple, pulling into the depths of the river. “It’s gone.”
24th-Sep-2006 06:21 am (UTC)
Oliver’s gone under again and I can’t even be sure where he is. Twice now I’ve felt someone’s hand try to grip my shoulders and haul me beside the boat but I pull loose. Instructions about where Oliver was last seen are shouted to me from the boat but I’m being spun around in the ever swirling water so fast that my lefts and rights mean nothing to me now.

I take a deep breath and dive below the surface again, grabbing a hand I’ve found and pulling with all my might, kicking for all I’m worth to the surface. I scream and let go of the hand as a decayed corpse rummages through my pockets and tries to drown me.
I can’t fight this thing. My feet hit bottom and I’m almost out of air. My shirt is ripped off and the pocket of my jeans is torn. Through what I hope is wand light above, I see a faint glimmer of something in the hand of the corpse and I can imagine a smile of relief as it hits me in the face, hurting remarkably a lot for having been thrown in the water.

It’s a Gold Galleon! That’s it, his passage into Hades! These corpses are all here because they couldn’t pay their way into the gates!

I feel like passing out. It’s all I can do not to breathe water involuntarily. My autonomous nervous system is trying to make me breathe against my will. My will is losing.

Just as I crunch my legs up to kick off from the bottom, no buoyancy in my lungs left to help me get to the surface, where even the foul sulphuric air would seem heavenly to me, I spot Oliver. His eyes are wide open but he no longer sees.

"Oliver!" I yell in the water, so shocked I couldn’t help myself. I clamp my hands over my mouth, begging my body to hold off breathing for one more minute. Oliver’s form goes in and off focus but I can see the corpses rifling him for loose change. His pockets are ripped off as coins sink to the bottom with little wisps of sand kicked up as they land. The corpses scrabble them out with their bony fingers, placing any they find into their mouths and swimming away as soon as they have them.

The water is cold. My fingers can barely grip my wand. I think back to what Ron told me about the Irish team at World Cup showering the stadium with fake gold.

"O’doro!" My lips move but it’s all I can do not to let in the water. Fool’s gold showers in fat coin shapes all over the bottom and I finally have time to do a Bubblehead Charm. All I can do for ten seconds is breathe and gasp into the bubble. I kick away the corpses from Oliver, who even in my own wand light is turning blue.

I can’t Enervate him underwater because he may breathe in more and I know his lungs are full so a Bubblehead won’t help him either. I grab my friend and shoot to the surface, every muscle still screaming from deprivation.

When we surface, I can no longer see the boats. We’re alone. Oliver’s head lolls back and I keep yelling his name. I grab his chin, flip him onto his back and head for shore. I had tried to conjure something to float on but there is a magic here that prevents all but the boats of Hades to remain on the surface.
24th-Sep-2006 06:21 am (UTC)
From my lifeguard training when I was sixteen and did a summer job in my Muggle town, I know I have to swim along with the river and not fight it. But we kept getting pulled down and I can barely hold onto Oliver let alone keep myself from slipping under.
I know what this is...We don’t have any more gold to pay our way into Hades where this river flows so we’re being dragged to the bottom just like all the others whose relatives failed to perform the ritual of placing a gold coin into the mouth or on the eyes of the dead to pay their way in to Hades. That or the gold was stolen by grave robbers.

I have no coins left! The only thing I can think of is to yell up the river in the hopes that Susan and the others can hear me.

"You need to put gold into your mouths! Or the boats will sink. That’s why we found that one at the bottom!"

At least maybe I can save them. I can’t save us. If they heard me and put the gold into their mouths, they may not be dragged to the bottom.

Oliver coughs and spews up water into the air only to be replaced by yet more water. I reach up to turn him over for a minute in the hopes that he could cough up more. He’s alive! But we are sucked under at that very moment.

I grasp Oliver under the shoulders and try to swim to the surface against the undertow. His ripped shirt pulls at my ring. My wedding ring! I take off my wedding and engagement rings and place one in Oliver’s mouth and one in my own. I can’t worry about him choking on it now.

As soon as we have our admission to Hades in place, a hefty piece of gold each, we shoot to the surface without effort.

Once I can touch shore, I levitate Oliver out of the water. He is completely stiff and I’m scared to death that he’s gone.

I turn Oliver over onto his side and check his pulse. There isn’t one.

I have to empty his lungs before I can Enervate him. I place my palm against his sternum and press with all the might I have left. Under normal circumstances, this can break ribs but I know I don’t have the strength for that right now anyway.

Oliver’s skin looks almost translucent and his lips are blue tinged with purple.

"Oliver, I don’t know the way out of here and your broom is still here. I’m a lousy flyer, I’ll never get us out of here if you don’t wake up and help me."

"Oliver!" I yell. "Enervate! Please!"
24th-Sep-2006 06:23 am (UTC)
Nothing happens and I know I did the spell right. I grab Oliver, who is taller than me and haul him up onto his knees, trying the Heimlich manoeuver on him. He lurches forward and my ring and tons of water gush out. I hear only one raspy intake of breath, replacing the water and then Oliver goes silent again.

My arms are shaking and I can’t hold him up any longer. I lay him down again and try Cardio Pulminary Resuscitation and Artificial Respiration. I breathe into his mouth and do chest compressions for what seems like forever and I swear I can sense things around me telling me to give up. The ring that Oliver had choked out had landed near the edge of water and a hand had come up to take it just like an old fashioned piggy bank.

Oliver lurches forward suddenly as I lean over to breathe for him again.

"Oh hell no!" he rasps out, his face taking on a touch of colour. I laugh. It’s all I can do. For all the world I want to cry but I just grab Oliver’s cold hand and grip it tightly as he chokes out more water, gasping and spluttering.

"Lavender?" Oliver asks quietly, his eyes closes now as he holds his head. I know how much pain he must be in. His sinuses are likely still filled with water and the pressure is tremendous.

"She’s with Dean, Susan, and Padma," I tell him, but I’m not really sure. I can’t give him any bad news right now. I can’t stand to think the worst.

All I’ve ever been able to conjur is jam jar sized flame that isn’t very warming. There’s no wood here and a Drying Charm and Heating Charm hasn’t helped Oliver stop shaking. I gag as I grab bones and light them up to use as torches and heat. I have to get Oliver warm. Watching him speak with those blue lips is reminding me of Wormtails’s cruel trick when he sent the Chief’s body to my flat, enchanted to speak and move.

"Lavender’s going to have to kiss me for an entire hour to get the image of you over me out of my head. I’m going to need therapy," Oliver says, trying to sit up.

I grab his hand to help him sit and he leans closer to the fire.

"Does that mean you don’t want to snuggle for warmth?" I ask, waggling my eyebrows at him.

"Wild Child, if you weren’t married, I’d worry about you, you know that?" he chatters.

"Speaking of married...look!" I yell happily as Susan, Lavender, Padma and Dean come into view. But it seems they are fairing almost as poorly as we were. We call out from the banks.

Oliver stands up on shaking legs, wobbling as I grab him.
24th-Sep-2006 06:27 am (UTC)
Justin helps steady me as we watch the others making there way to shore in their boat. Please make it.

My whole body is cold and feels like it's in slow motion. I don't know what was in that water but I know it's affecting me strangely. I'm not really seeing the images in front of me. My mind is drifting and concentrating is taking all my energy, but I'm determined to finish this mission and see Lavender out of here safely.

They barely make it to the shore where Justin and I are when Lavender jumps out of the boat and almost knocks me over. I lean toward her and she helps support me as Justin moves over to Susan.

Lavender takes my face in both of her hands and stares into my eyes. I can see the all her emotions in her eyes. I lean down and kiss her gently, trying not to lean to heavily on her.

"You're freezing," she whispers, moving here hands up and down my arms.

"I'll be all right now," I reassure her. I want to tell her so many things but now is not the time. We have to destroy the apples.

That's when I remember the apple. I look to see Dean helping Padma from the boat. Justin and Susan are embraced and sharing a quiet moment with soft whispers.

"Dean, I'm sorry but I lost the apple in the river," I tell him.

"All that matters is that we all get out of here," he says looking at Padma. I know exactly how he feels. I tighten my grip on Lavender. This is not going the way we planned.

"We only have one return Portkey home now because I lost ours in the river too," Padma says.

"At least Susan and I have the remaining two apples," Dean says, patting the apple in his pocket.

"We need to hurry," Justin says, motioning to the other side on the river. The Lestrange brothers are running along the shore and motioning toward the remaining boat with their wands. Not wanting to stick around, we all move away from the river as fast as we can move through the area.

We reach the edge of the garden. We're all surprised to find a number of stone doors that are all open. They lead back into different passages of the labyrinth, but which door do we take?

There's some strange writing on the wall between the doors. Padma steps up and looks at it closely.

"What's it say?" Lavender asks.

Justin shrugs. "I don't know; it's all Greek to me."

"It's not Greek, you idiot," Padma says and Dean snickers. "It's an ancient form of writing. I studied it for a little while but this looks older than anything I've studied." She turns back to the writing and furrows her brow.

Dean steps up to her and she looks at him. "You can do it, Padma. I have faith in you."

"So do we," Susan adds and the rest of us nod in agreement.

Padma smiles and turns back to wall once more. This time there is a more resolute look on her face. "It's that one," she says, pointing to the third door from the right.

No one questions or doubts her. We all move through the door quickly.

We travel down the long dark tunnel. The sides are made of rough jagged rocks and it's shaped in an irregular arch of some kind. I'd hate to see whatever hollowed out these tunnels.

We come out of the tunnel into what feels to be a large open room. The air just feels different. I shiver as another chill passes over me.

Justin trips and the room lights up and we're all bathed in a bright light and we have to shield our eyes as they adjust.

I'm looking to where Justin tripped as my eyes focus. There's nothing there. It must have been a magic ward of some type.

Lavender gasps and I follow her gaze up... and up... and up... Great Godric Gryffindor!

24th-Sep-2006 06:27 am (UTC)
Before us stands Ladon, the 100-headed dragon mentioned in Greek mythology that protects the apples. It is clear from his stance and flames shooting out that he wants them back from Dean and Susan.

One hundred heads against six people. Those are not good odds. That's over sixteen heads a piece. I let go of Lavenders hand and grab my broom from my back. My grip feels loose and slacked but I have to do this.

"What are you doing?" Lavender asks.

"I've always been good at distractions and I've had practice at dodging Bludgers," I say mounting my broom.

Dean and Justin are listening and the plan comes together as if we're all sharing the same brain.

"We can all use confundus charms on the eyes while it's watching you. That's the main charm to use on dragons," Dean says.

"We'll use sticking charms to glue the heads to the walls of the cavern if we have to," Justin adds.

"If we can get to one of those two doors over there," Susan points across the cavern.

I turn and give Lavender a quick kiss. "I'll meet you there." I fly off without giving her a chance to argue with me. I guess that's another thing to add to her list to yell at me for later.

I fly around distracting the dragon for what seems like hours but is only mere minutes. There are many narrow escapes dodging both the dragon and the stray curses sent at the dragon.

I see Susan enter the door on the left and a few minutes Lavender enters into it. Justin stands in front of the door as Dean and Padma make their way through the room. I try to keep the remaining heads occupied doing loops around it. My flying is definitely off with my slowed reactions and reflexes.

Flying low to the ground I notice the dragon is chained around the feet. No wonder he's not very happy.

I make several swipes by with my broom throwing cutting hexes at his chains until one of the feet are free. The dragon roars and shoots fire by my head. His poor feet are probably hurt from being chained so long.

"Oliver, let's go," I hear Dean finally yell. He and Padma are standing on either side of the door, covering with spells at the now very angry dragon. It's trying to lash out in any way possible. Suddenly he jerks and frees his other foot from the heavy chains.

I fly down and through the door. I land beside Lavender and wait for Padma and Dean to come through. Something happens because I see one of the dragon's feet smash into the doorway. There's a rumble and we all duck. Rubble starts falling everywhere as the doorway collapses and is blocked. A sound of heavy thumping footsteps jars the ground and starts to fade in the distance that can only be the dragon heading towards the garden.
24th-Sep-2006 06:29 am (UTC)

The spell snaps out of my wand, but it hardly makes a dent in the mass of rubble blocking the door that Oliver, Justin, Lav, and Susan disappeared behind.

Padma screams and pushes me to the side as a purple spell fire cut through the air, creating a small crater we were just standing. I land heavily and Hera’s apple that I’m carrying in my travelling cloak jabs into my side. I lose my breath. Angry yells echo loudly through the large room.

“Come on!” yells Padma as she scrambles up from where she fell. “They’re coming!”

I glance beyond her to find the Lestrange brothers barrelling down the passageway leading back into the garden. They’re yelling behind them to who I can only assume must be Amycus, Alecto, Mulciber, those two fossil Death Eaters, or a combination thereof.

Crap! They made it across the river!

We sprint back to the blocked entrance as we hear far-off dragon roars and the crashing and cracking of what be trees. Everything begins to shake as the dragon lets lose another thunderous roar. Lose rock begins to tumble around us and I pull Padma closer to the rubble, hoping that any falling boulders will bounce over us.

Padma’s eyes are glossy with fear and she’s breathing heavily. Her dark hair is wet and sticking to her face. I realize that it was wrong of me to think I could’ve prevented her from coming. What will happen will happen, there’s no way to stop the future or circumvent fate (if there is such a thing). The best thing to do is to face the future together.

“Dean! Padma!” Susan and Lavender’s yells percolate through the avalanche of rock. The rubble rumbles with the telltale sound of blasting spells coming from the other side.

Padma points her wand behind me and yells, “Protego!” just as spell fire ricochets off of her shield. Amycus and Alecto, who look slightly groggy and disoriented, have joined the Lestranges. Rodolphus and Rabastan are charging toward us across the room, their Death Eater cloaks flying behind them and their wands drawn.

There’s not enough time to clear away all of this rock!

I yell to Susan and Lavender that we’ll meet them back at the entrance to the cave and Portkey back to Hampstead Heath with them. Grabbing Padma’s hand, I charge through the other unblocked door and back into the semi-darkness of the labyrinth just as Mulciber’s yell of fury reaches our ears.

As his voice echoes down the corridor past us, there is only one thought on my mind: RUN!
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