Chapter 17 : Blood in the Water
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Blood in the Water
The rest of the week went by in a blur for Lily. Her first class with her father was uncomfortable at first, for both of them, but once the classes’ questions about the two of them were laid to rest, the lesson was one of the best she had ever had. She always knew her Dad was a remarkable wizard just from watching him work, but she finally got a taste of what he could really be like. He seemed to have some inner sense about Defense that put her previous teacher, back in the states, to shame.
He rattled off a list of the spells they would be studying and how useful they could be. While some of them seemed a little childish, the emphasize he put on the disarming charm and its power quickly got her classmates excited. By the end of the lesson, Harry had them all knocking wands out of each other’s hands. Then there was the homework. Never had some an idea been so much fun.
He gave all of them a scenario in a duel, each one different. Their homework was to come up with ten spells that would help them out and how they could use them effectively. Points would be awarded for most creativity. It was one of the best weeks in her life.
Each morning she would sit with Simon at breakfast and they would talk about anything. His friends welcomed her into their group easily and told her all kinds of gossip about the House and the Professors. Mark and Juliana were avoiding her, but that was alright. She wasn’t ready to forgive them just yet. Once they saw that Simon was just a good guy who wanted to spent some time with her, they would come around.
She studiously avoided telling, or even hinting, to her father that a boy was courting her and had asked her out. If he ever asked her, she would tell him, but she wouldn’t volunteer such news easily. Every other night, before curfew, she would sneak down to this cool room that her Dad had shown her and they would play a game or two of whatever they felt like. She would ask him questions about Defense class, or magic, and he would give her a few pointers or tell her about an interesting book he knew of.
When the Hogsmead weekend came she was understandably nervous, but everything went fine. She had used that tunnel from the previous weekend to meet up with her beloved to be in Honeydukes. A few of the other students they saw gave her curious looks, but no one said anything. What happened in Hogsmead, stayed in Hogsmead. They spent the day shopping around and having a butter beer in cozy little booth. Nothing really exciting, but he was a gentleman and listened politely to everything she said. She tried to get him to talk about his family, but all he would say was that his Dad worked on making new spells and his mother was dead. That solemn announcement curtailed any further inquiries into that subject. She felt like she was floating on air when she collapsed on her bed later that evening. Yes, life had never been better.
Harry on the other hand had ended his first week on a sour note. After the first day everything had spiraled down hill for him. First there was Ginny. They had made plans to go to dinner, but she canceled them at the last moment. She sounded disappointed, but he couldn’t be sure. She said she had an emergency team meeting over something silly, but was bound by contract to attend. They had to reschedule for Sunday. He hopped she wouldn’t avoid that one as well.
Then, there were the constant touches that he kept getting in the hallways or in the Great Hall. He would be walking along when he would suddenly feel the firm grasp of a hand on his bum. When he whirled around to confront the offender he could see no one but students hurrying to their next class or eating their food. It was slowly driving him mad. He knew it had to be one of the seventh years, since it had first happened in that class. Who though, he had no idea.
And last but not least, the end to his miserable week was his last class.
His last class was with the new Goblins that had just started attendance this year. He had forgotten how sour and nasty they could be, even the children. Everything he said, they criticized. Everything he showed them, they doubted. Everything he told them, they scoffed at. They were so dead set on the idea that he wouldn’t give them the same standard of magical education as he did humans, that they were hurting themselves severely.
He was at a loss on how to handle them. If he didn’t make it tough to them within the next couple weeks, before they fell too far behind, he would be forced to go to their parents and explain the situation with them. That had to be avoided though unless there was no other way.
So when the weekend came he was grateful for the chance to sit back and relax. He was looking forward to spending the weekend with Lily, but he wasn’t able to find her that Saturday. He figured she was getting up to mischief with her friends and let her have the weekend to herself.
It was Sunday now and he was just finishing writing up some letters before getting ready for his first real date with Ginny when a knock sounded at his door.
“Come in,” he said while putting a wax seal on the envelope.
“Dad?” Lily said when she stepped into the room. She was out of her Hogwarts robes and was wearing some jeans and a baggy maroon tee-shirt with some worn white sneakers.
“Lily! There you are. I was looking for you yesterday. What were you up to?”
“Oh, nothing, just…stuff with my friend.”
Harry peaked at her strangely over the rim of his glasses and gave a small frown.
“This ‘stuff’, wouldn’t happen to be with a certain young ‘Simon’, now would it?”
Lily gasped and looked ashen. “You…You know?” She was dead. She was soooo dead. He was going to kill her.
“Well it’s kind of hard not to notice when you sit with him every meal and look at him like he was some kind of God.”
Oh, he didn’t know. She was saved! “Oh, well…he’s just a boy.”
“Just a boy?”
“Yeah. Just some boy.”
“I’m not sure, how I feel about this ‘boy’.” He started to tap his fingers on the desk.
“I don’t follow.”
“You’re a little young to be dating, Lily.”
“I’m not dating him!” her voice rose to a high squeak. Harry raised an eye brow and he moved out from behind his desk and towered over her.
“I’ve known you long enough to tell when you’re lying, Lily. Now I don’t mind liking someone and hanging out with him. I don’t mind working on Homework or holding hands in the hallways.”
“But if I find his hands anywhere else besides on yours or if I find out that you two snogged; I promise you, Lily Samantha Potter, I’ll snap you back from him so hard and so fast that you’ll think a tornado just ran over you. Understand?”
“Dad! It’s not like-”
“Do you understand?”
“Yeah. I understand,” she replied sullenly, looking away from him.
“Good. Now I’m happy that you found someone you like. If a bit young. Tell me about him.”
He opened the flood gates with that question. Her sullenness vanished under a torrent of eagerness. She went on and on, gesturing wildly at times, how great and polite and how handsome he was. She insisted that she was in love, much to Harry’s chagrin. When she was finished Harry plastered a false, yet sickly smile on his face.
“Well,” he started and pushed his glasses up a bit, “he sounds like a wonderful bloke. I hope everything works out.”
“You’re the one lying now, Dad.”
“That’s true. I’m not sure how I feel about you declaring your love for a boy when you’re only twelve. I’m not even sure how to handle this. You’re my little girl. I’m only 24. What do I know about helping a girl with a crush?”
“Oh, Daddy. You’re just fine.” She crawled into his lap and threw her arms around his neck.
“All you need to do, when I ask you for something, is say ‘oh course, Lily. Anything you want’ and things will be perfect!”
Harry pulled back and gave her a look. “Oh course, Lily. Anything you want.”
They both laughed for a moment before Lily got off him and moved to her own chair.
“So what do you want to do?” she asked.
“Can’t do anything tonight, sweetheart. I have plans.”
She frowned. “What plans?”
“Well, err. I have a date tonight.” He looked at her from the corner of the eyes to gauge her reaction. Lily was speechless.
“What?” when she finally came to her senses, “a date?”
“Yeah.” He shifted in his chair and absently brushed off a few crumbs from his robes.
“OH. MY. GOD!” Harry jumped a bit and was staring at Lily with concern. “An actual date? As in you. With a woman? Alone? Together?”
“I don’t know why you’re acting all surprised.” he grumbled.
“Hold on. Just to be sure. Is this date like, a date-date? Do you like her? Like kissable like?”
“Lily!” He blushed, but gave her a frown.
“It is! YES! YES! YES!” Lily jumped up on top of the chain and started bouncing up and down thrusting her hands into the air.
“Lily! What’s gotten into you?!”
She complied and hopped down, but she didn’t lose that exuberant grin.
“Wow! This is great! You’re finally gonna start dating. It’s like an early Christmas present.”
“I don’t know what the big deal is. I’ve had plenty of interest from women.”
Lily snorted and tossed her hair. “Yeah, but you always blow them off because you were pinning over…wait. You’re going out with that Ginny girl you always talk about aren’t you?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but yes.”
Lily folded her arms and looked at him critically. “You sure she won’t break your heart?”
“If she does it’s only what I deserve. I broke hers first. Now get out of here. I have to get going soon.”
“You’re going in some tattered school robes?” she was aghast.
Harry frowned and looked himself over. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
“Dad! You can’t take a girl on a first date in that! She’ll think you’re a creep!” She grabbed his hand and started to pull him towards the bedroom.
“Come on, Lily. Is this really necessary? Ginny isn’t the kind of woman to care about a guy’s appearance.”
“Maybe not, but she will care that you took the time to at least look like you care what she thinks of you.” She yanked open his closet and started to rifle through his things.
“Err; I’m not sure I caught that.”
She flashed a brilliant smile over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, Dad. I know what I’m talking about. I’m a girl after all.”
Harry resigned himself to the make over that his daughter had planned for him and just sat on the bed watching her. She wouldn’t let it go. His best bet would be to just ride the wave to the end.
Thirty minutes later, dangerously close to being unforgivably late, a disgruntled and nervous Harry stood in front of the mirror. Lily stood behind him with a Cheshire grin as she eyed him up and down.
“Much better,” she told him.
She had thrown him into a rather nice, but simple outfit. He was wearing dark khaki slacks with some brown loafers. The shoes took a bit of tricky transfiguration on his part (she insisted on them being just so). His shirt was a long sleeve button-up of pine green with a slight sheen to the fabric that danced and changed shades in the differences of light. Lily insisted that it brought out the ‘pretty’ green of his eyes. He wore an elegant, but not gaudy, silver watch with tiny green gemstones framing the face, and a matching necklace that had one of his protective amulets perched against his skin. Lily took the nuances of the simple look to heart and had him open the top three buttons to show the starched white tee-shirt underneath.
Simple, nice, classy. He rather liked it.
“You’re right. Much better,” he told her and brought her around with an arm around her shoulders.
“You have the look, now you just have to wow her with your charming personality and keen wit,” she joked and pinched his side. “I can’t help you with that.”
“I’m sure I’ll think of something. Now off with you. I’m late as it is.”
“You’re Harry Potter. You’re never late. Everyone else is early.”
He laughed. “Don’t let anyone else hear you say that. I’ve spent my life keeping my head from exploding. You’ll ruin whatever reputation I have if you start sprouting nonsense like that.
“Bye, Dad. Good luck and have fun. I want details when I get back.”
“In your dreams.” he said as she walked towards the door.
She looked over her shoulder at him and smirked playfully. “In yours too, I’d guess.”
She was out the door when he blushed.
“Well. I guess it’s time,” he said and walked towards the floo.
Ginny was a wreck. She was standing in front of the mirror with two dresses held up in front of her and about six more pooled at her feet. For the life of her she couldn’t find a dress that she liked.
First she tried a pale yellow sun dress, but it was too chilly outside and the colors weren’t in season. Then she tried a deep red outfit with a low cut top, but that clashed horribly with her hair. She thought about something white, but when she saw it against her skin she threw it away like it was a hot coal. Blue? Nope. Green? She looked like a Christmas tree.
She was finally left with two choices. A black sheer sheath-dress that hugged every curve, but exposed far too much back and cleavage, or a light dinner dress of golden hue that accented her body, but left much to be wondered about to roaming eyes.
“Oh, bollocks. I need to go shopping.”
“Ginny?” she heard Harry’s voice call from the floo area.
“Oh! Shit!” she cried. “He’s too early!”
“I’ll be right there!” she yelled through the door. She looked franticly between the two of them and kept pulling them up in front of her.
“Oh, Merlin, this is gonna be a disaster.” She said and threw away the black skin-hugger and slipped the golden cloth over her skin. She pulled a silver belt, glittered with golden swirls around her waist, and started to fuss with her hair. She fluffed it a bit and let it hang down her shoulders, twisting the ends just a bit to add a slight curl to the tips.
“Well Ginny Weasley, either he’ll run away or jump your bones. Both might be good options at this point.”
She took one last look at her hair and touched it up a bit before flinging a golden shawl around her shoulders and walked into the living room.
“Oh!” she muttered and blinked at Harry. He was…dashing. ‘Who wants to jump who, Ginny?’ she thought as she studied him.
“Wow! Ginny, you look great!” she blushed with pride, but felt a little doubtful at his compliment. She felt like a troll no matter what he said.
“Thanks.” No reason to be rude and doubt his sincerity. “You’re looking pretty scrumptious yourself, stranger. I wonder how I’ll be able to check out other guys with you in my mind all night.”
“Take a nibble anytime you like,” he grinned, “I’ll be your ambrosia.”
She giggled. “Don’t tempt me, Harry.”
“You ready to go?”
“Nope. I didn’t get a kiss from you yet?” She quirked a brow.
Harry stepped closer to her and slowly encircled her waist. Her breathing got shorter and shorter as their lips closed on each other. At the silken touch, a languid ease, born of release and tension, melted away their nerves in an effusion of emotion. This was how it should have been, and hopefully, will always be.
A second, a heartbeat, a tick of time later, his lips left hers and she moaned in yearning; aching for another hair-raising kiss.
“Harry…” she breathed, her voice suddenly husky with want; her eyes lidded and amorous.
“We should go.” he whispered in return; his voice a paradox to his words.
“Screw the date. Take me to bed.”
Harry, with a mountainous amount of will power, stepped back and shook his head. “Gin, we should do this right. I ‘want’ to experience everything that we can. That includes dinners, dancing, apple-tarts and ice cream. Kissing, touching and cherished couch cuddles. I want it all, Ginevra Molly Weasley.”
Ginny placed a hand to her fluttering chest and lowered her eye lids and smiled coyly at him.
“Harry, you’ve become a poet. How’s a girl supposed to keep her wits about her with you saying things like that?”
He reached out and tenderly stroked her flushed cheek.
“How’s a guy supposed to not fall-in-love with you when you’re a dreamscape of perfection?”
“Oh that’s so not fair, Harry Potter.” Her voice was nearly inaudible and her eyes wide and shinning. “How can you say things like that-look at me like that; when all I can do is just stand here? I’ve told myself a hundred times not to fall in love with you again too fast. You’re making that damn impossible; you know that?”
He didn’t know what to say to that so he just stood there touching her cheek.
“Let’s go. I’ve got a rather special night planned.”
Harry was right when he told her he planned a special night. She had never had one quiet like it. In the future, when she would feel down or depressed, scared or flirty, she would think of this night with a fondness that would never lose its edge.
He first apperated them to the international port-key exchange. She was unsure of his plans and they spent the time in line with her throwing endless questions and guesses and him giving vague answers and half shrugs.
“Do you wish to purchase a port-key, or do you already have one pre-ordered?” a heavy-set witch in an outlandish robe that had the flags of a hundred countries displayed in flowing flags across her chest, asked.
“I already have on prearranged.” Harry told her politely.
“One moment.” she checked her list and tapped her wand on a shelf. A moment later a rusty tin can appeared.
“Here you are. One port-key to Sydney, Australia. Please discard the can once you are twenty yards or more away from the arrival point. Thank you for traveling by port-key.”
Ginny looked at Harry with a mixture of excitement and curiosity.
“Sydney?” she asked as he led her to the departure point. He gave a small nod.
“I told you I had a special evening planned for us. Still wanting to spend the night in bed?”
“Oh, Merlin no! Harry how did you know? I’ve always wanted to go there!”
“Hermione told me. I talk to her everyday when I go to check up on Ron. I told her I wanted to take you someplace special for our first date, and she mentioned that you were always fascinate by Sydney. I made a few calls, chucked out a few galleons and v’walla! Sydney, here we come.”
They had arrived in the spacious 2nd floor of a Wizarding inn. The wooden floor was scrubbed and waxed to a glossy amber glow and drapes of lacey white hung at the windows tided back with strips of red velvet.
Harry quickly led her away from the spot and threw the cup into a bin on the other side of the door. They went down a flight of steps into the bustling night patrons of the local Inn. Wizards and witches were crowded around tables and booths and stretched along the smooth wooden bar. Waitresses (an oddity in the Wizarding world) dipped and dived expertly through the meandering crowd to quickly deposit food and drinks to their customers.
Ginny arched an eye-brow when she saw one of the men give a playful slap on the rear of a pretty little blond waitress. To the woman’s credit she scowled at the man and dumped a pitcher on his head, much to the good cheer of himself and his comrades. She half thought despairingly that Harry intended for them to eat here, but true to his gallantry, he led her through the meandering bodies and into the warm night air.
“Its warm here,” she told her date for the evening.
“Well, we are a great deal more south than England is,” he told her.
“I know that. I just didn’t expect it to be this warm at night. Where are we going by the way?”
“You’ll see. Ready for apperation?” He held out his arm. She looked at him suspiciously, but wrapped her own around his. Harry then twisted and pulled them away in the blink of an eye and the rushing pop of wind. When they arrived at their destination Ginny squealed in surprise.
“Harry! You didn’t! Oh Merlin, you did!” She threw her arms around him and planted a big wet kiss on his lips.
The soft sound of crashed waves washed with the loud murmuring of the gathering crowd. In front of them was one of the most fantastic sites in the world. Wizard or Muggle.
“Welcome, Ginny, to the Sydney Opera House.”
Her eyes took in the breath taking site. The smooth shell shaped conches that overlapped the concert stages like billowed sails of white steel. The buildings that were lit like a pair of golden pearls in the star speckled night. The reflections that were cast on the rippling black waters that weaved and shifted with the oceanic tides.
She slipped her hand into his and they snuck into the crowd that was slowly entering the concert hall.
“What are we seeing?” she asked him.
“Something called Le Grand Cirque. It’s an acrobatic show.”
“Heh, you’ll see. Just remember it’s an all muggle performance, no erm…tricks,” he glanced around the crowd.
Twenty minutes later they were seated in the upper stands next to the stage. Harry had spent a great deal of money to get the closest seats he could to the performance. Ginny was eagerly twisting in her seat and constantly asking him questions after question, which he just shrugged and gave vague answers.
Soft music was playing through the reddish-orange interior. Along the walls and ceiling speakers were pointed in strategic locations. Against the far wall, covering the entire length was the Grand Organ. A monstrosity of musical architecture. Hundreds of tall shining pipes reached towards the roof. It was so massive that it would dwarf a Giant. Easily sixty to seventy feet tall. Ginny and Harry just gaped at the thing, till the lights started to dim and the announcer walked out on the stage.
The stage itself held beams and robes and tall spired poles. Swings and cords that reached down from the ceiling and padded shoots to catch anyone that might fall. Ginny eyed them curiously until the announcer finished and the performers came out.
It was a breath-taking sight for Ginny and Harry. The actors were masterful in their stunts. Men and women flew through the air; twisting, turning, tumbling with an artful grace. Painted and costumed clowns dived from high raised platforms to catch swings, only to flip again and clasp with another swinger. Mixed with it all was a terrific humor and comic stunts that made the crowd roar with laughter at the silly antics.
It was a unique and first time experience for the couple, and both of them were on the edge of their seats through every white-knuckled and heart-stopping maneuver.
Afterwards Harry took them to the House’s restaurant. A posh affair of elegance that dripped high society.
“That was amazing,” Ginny remarked as they looked over the menu.
“Yeah. I liked the part where they were chasing each other around through the swings. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to fly through the air like that with no broom. Must be amazing. The thrill, the ground rush.” he just shook his head in wonder.
The waiter came and they made their orders. They went with the baked stuffed chicken and roast lamb, then sat back to chat while they waited for their food.
“So, I haven’t met Lily yet.” she told him.
“That might be a good thing at this point. She’s really developing an attitude. She calms down, then starts up, calms down, and then starts up again. I’m slowly reaching my breaking point.”
“I wasn’t any different when I was young. I just had brothers to blame it on.”
Harry laughed. “Maybe, but with the way things stand at the moment, the stunts she’s pulling could be disastrous. She broke several of the wards around out house to let her friends in. What if the council had been watching? Or one of her friends was under Polyjuice? There are things in my home that would be dangerous in the wrong hands. She just can’t seem to grasp that sooner or alter, when you take risks, you get burned.”
“Sounds like she’s a lot like you.”
“Come on, Harry. You always used to rush head long into things. If you hadn’t have had a knack for solving every little problem that came along, who knows what could have happened.”
“The situations were different, Ginny.” Harry scowled, “I was fighting for my life most the time. I had no choice. I usually approached a professor first, but they either doubted me or moved too slowly.”
“Different situations, same thought process. If you want to reign her in, just think of what you needed when you were her age. Information. You needed to know what was going on. Have you told her about the council or the book?”
“I can’t do that. It’s better if she didn’t know. Sometimes knowing can be dangerous.”
“But in your case, or her’s, not knowing is even more dangerous.”
Harry stared into the deep violet swirls of his wine for a moment and took a sip. “I’m not so sure. My concern is that she might blurt out something vital to one of her friends in passing.”
“You need to have faith in her, Harry. Like you wanted Dumbledore to have faith in you.”
“Maybe you’re right. I’ll think it over. Right now I have to deal with the problem of a blossoming crush she developed on a certain boy.”
“Oh?” Ginny said coyly, “A crush is it? Is he cute?”
“How should I know? I guess he is, if the silly gossip of school girls is anything to go by.”
Ginny chuckled. “Poor Harry. Having to protect his daughter’s innocence from the vile touches of adolescent young men.”
“There better not be any touching or lost innocence or there will be hell to pay,” he growled out.
“She won’t be a little girl forever.”
“I know that, but right now she’s twelve and is far too young to start dating. I’m worried about a broken heart more than anything.”
“Little girls get their hearts broken every day, Harry. Its how we become big girls and learn to spot the scoundrels’ and rogues in later years,” she winked.
He frowned. “Since when have you suddenly become a guru on relationships?”
“I’m not!” she defended herself, “I just know what its like to be a little girl with adults hiding things from her and I know what its like having a crush on the most popular boy in school.”
He blushed at the reference to their early school years.
“I might be asking you a lot of questions then. 'Cause I don’t know a thing about little girls and what they need.”
She reached out and took his hand. “Don’t belittle yourself. From what I’ve heard you’re doing just fine. You’re a single Dad with a lot of pressure and responsibilities. Frankly, Mum says that it’s amazing how well you’ve done so far.”
“How does she know? She’s never even met Lily.”
“Hermione. She told us all about the little confrontation at the hospital. She said you handled it very well. Very…mature, were her exact words. You’ve grown up a lot she said. Very proud, she was.”
“Ah…well,” he stammered before replying, “I just did the best I could. Nothing really.”
“We’ll see. I’ll judge for myself when I meet her. When will that be, by the way?”
“I was thinking maybe around the Christmas Holidays.”
“Why do late?” Ginny frowned.
“Well, I wanted to have some time for…us.”
“…Us?” She was slightly confused by his meaning.
“Yeah. Lily and me are a family thing. I want to make sure that this could go someplace beyond the past. I’m worried that Lily might cling to you like a mother figure. She’s done it before with some other women. I don’t want to put you in that position until me and you are in a firmer position.”
“Oh! Harry! That’s-that’s…very thoughtful of you. Thanks, Christmas and snow it is then.” she smiled and raised her glass. They toasted and sat back as their dinner was served.
It was a pleasant and light meal. They stayed away from any further heavy topics and talked about the better things in their lives. They talked about work, friends, family. Little pieces of comedy from their past or trouble they got into after Hogwarts.
Throughout the meal Ginny noticed that Harry studied everything about her. From how she ate, to the way she played with her hair, to the way she gestured while saying something. The intensity of his scrutiny somewhat unnerved her, but in a good way. He was the only one who had ever cared enough to try to know everything about her. The little things and not only the big things.
Harry on the other hand noticed more. He noticed how Ginny would let a slight flush creep into her cheeks when anything sexual was hinted at. He noticed that her eyes got a slight glassy and wistful look whenever a kid or a baby was mentioned. He gathered that having a baby was very important to her. Something that was a must in any future with her.
He saw how she truly laughed at some jokes and just went along with others. He started to develop a better appreciation for her humor and thoughts, just in this one brief hour over dinner. He didn’t know everything yet. No one could in such a brief time. He would though. He promised himself that if she gave him the chance, he’d know every little nuance and thought that cross that pretty, freckled face of hers.
That same scrutiny let him know when she was ready to go. She kept glancing towards the waiter and the door as if ready to grab the check and go. Harry hoped it was a good sign and not just that she was ready to part his company. When he spotted the waiter near the kitchen door he gave a small nod when they made eye contact. The professional young man walked over and collected the money and tip from Harry.
“Let’s get out of here.” he said and she smiled with a nod.
He took her arm and led her out the doors and through the hallways of the Opera House. Ginny stopped for a moment to buy a souvenir. Harry insisted on paying, but she would hear nothing of it. They strolled outside, hand in hand, taking closer looks at the small museum and displays of some of the first performances at the Concert Hall. Harry finally pulled them aside into a shadowy alcove and apperated the two of them back towards the Inn. There they picked up a return port-key and fled back to England.
They paused briefly for a drink at the Leaky Cauldron, but when some of the people noticed Harry and her together they had to flee or face the reporters. Ending the night on a somewhat sour note, Harry escorted her back to her apartment.
Ginny wrapped her slim arms around his neck and pulled him down for a lingering, tender kiss. When they pulled apart she stroked his chest softly.
“This was the best date I’ve ever had.” she told him in a hushed whisper.
“I’m glad. I wanted it to be special.”
“It was, Harry. It was. You know,” she absently picked something off his cuff. “It’s not over yet. Do you want to come inside?”
Harry’s emerald orbs seemed to blaze mischievously and a wicked little smile played across his lips.
“Miss Weasley. Are you trying to seduce me?”
“Is it working?”
“I’d have to say, yes.”
“Good,” she took his hand and opened the door, “’cause I play to win.”
The door closed behind them.
The gathered around the polished marble table and watched as their leader dipped his wand back in the golden threads of his marvelous robes. The body that lay at his feet was banished far off into the darkness, but where wasn’t important as it was already dead.
“One last loose end remains. Report,” he stated and looked towards his right at a squat figure. A red rune was stitched across the left shoulder. A symbol of his position and duty.”
“He is remarkable in his ability to hide from me. I’ve scoured every hole and hide-out that his kind uses from the Urals to San Juan. He always seems one step ahead of us. I finally ran him to ground in Syria. He is holed up in the Eastern Coven. I could not reach him there. Too large of a force.”
The leader leaned back and tapped his long, elegant fingers across the table.
“Do you think Potter got to him?”
“Most likely, Reverence.” the council member replied. “Every other contact that was close to us seems to have been sullied by his tampering. It makes sense to assume that D’Arthy was as well.”
The gold hood swiveled to a member on his left.
“Thoughts?” the spider asked.
“To say that we are compromised is obvious. We must know the extent however. D’Arthy must be retrieved.” his advisor said.
“Are you all in agreement?”
“Yes, Reverence.” The council replied.
“Very well. According to law I must be the one to take action since he was my contact. A serious lapse in judgment on my part, I admit. Prepare a necromantic ritual of binding. I will be back soon.”
“Do you need aid, Reverence?”
“No. I will level the place and pull the worm out kicking and screaming. Have a meal ready for me on my return. I will need it.”
“Yes, Reverence,” they replied again in unison.
The leader stood up and moved towards the liquid shadow in the corner. Stepping in, he pictured his destination in his mind, and with force of will, sleuthed through the paths of shadow towards his destination.
He always loved this method of travel. It was a delicious sight seeing things from the perspective of the shadows. The grey and white cast to the land. The painful burning of the light and the silky darkness of the exit points. Unique from apperation or a port-key. Not as fast as the former and far smoother than the second, he was the only one in existence who had mastered this long forgotten art. Unless that accursed Potter had managed to unearth that bit of knowledge as well. No matter, he would be dealt with once the book was in their hands.
He saw the Coven ahead as he glided quickly through nothingness. A bastion of darkness, surrounded by the searing light of the desert. He passed through the walls and found a nice dark corridor to materialize in.
He checked himself over to make sure he did not inadvertently drag any M’kiri worms through. He had made that mistake once before and the result had forced him to cast the thing into a volcano to kill it. Unfortunately Mt. Everest was unable to withstand the magic used in its defeat and had erupted. Never give a M’kiri worm the opportunity to bath in the sunlight. One that does quickly grows into a Shadow Dragon. Something akin to a Dragon/Dementor hybrid. A life destroyer on a mass scale that only grows larger and more powerful in the sunlight. A never ending growth of death. M’kiri worms were the gravest danger in Shadow stepping.
Once he was sure he was safe, he checked himself over three more time and then proceeded to survey his surroundings. The strength of death and decay almost made him vomit, but with a flick of his wand a soothing smell invaded his nostrils, easing his discomfort. He cast a few more spells, all silently, and discovered that he wasn’t even close to the heart, where he had hoped he would be. No matter. He could cave the roof away if needed and let the desert sun do most of his work for him. The only danger was of losing D’Arthy in the process.
He protected himself with a simple charm against physical injury and started down the paths at a brisk step. He began to scour the dusty and unused rooms one by one, pausing a couple of times at some coffins or a stone sarcophagus to seal any latent blood drinkers in.
He moved into the main hallway and started down the wide steps deeper and deeper into the earth. So far in close to ten minutes he had been unchallenged. He knew that would change in a moment however. One of the living did not just walk through an ancient stronghold of vampires without them smelling the blood. He could feel the movements behind the walls and along the ceiling, following his every move. The numbers were less than he imagined it seemed. Only perhaps a hundred. This would be easy.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” an American nosferatu stood guard at the massive doors leading towards the Old-one’s chambers.
“A wizard daring to enter uninvited? How brave. How foolish. How…delicious.” the creature licks its pale lips.
“I seek the one known as D’Arthy. Give him to me and I will leave your Coven unmolested. Interfere with me and the results will be most unfortunate for this place.”
“Making threats in your position is unadvised, spell flinger.” a new voice spoke and stepped out from a shadowed corner.
The obscured golden hood looked in the direction to note it was a beautiful young woman of middle-eastern decent. She obviously had some age on her. A couple hundred years at least.
“My position is one of power,” he told her chillingly, “Do not waste immortality by trying to stop me. D’Arthy or die. Those are your choices.”
She sneered hatful. “Drain him!” she commanded.
The one guarding the door leapt at him and five others dropped from the ceiling. It what seemed like a flurry of golden cloth the Leader spun into action. He jumped backwards and at the same time transfigured one of his falling attackers into a thick wooden stake. He captured it with a levitating charm and fired it like a bullet at the rude guard. When it struck it drove the leaping American backwards into the large door where, in an agonized scream of denial, he powdered.
The other four landed in front of him, where he had been standing a moment before and he blasted them away with a powerful explosive curse. One of them, caught in the small inferno, twisted and writhed as he burnt up in the air to disperse into ash. He sensed the woman, who obviously held some rank, moving at super human speeds to flank him from behind. He would need to deal with her one on one. He slashed his wand across the floor and a wall of flame, from corner to corner, leapt up, keeping her away from him momentarily. That would only keep one such as her at bay for a moment.
The remaining three that had dropped from the ceiling to try and kill him now approached cautiously. One finally bolted through the large double doors to call in reinforcements.
“You should give up now, wizard,” one of the duo told him, “We will flood this hall way soon.”
“Excellent,” he replied blandly, “I won’t have to go to the trouble of searching for you all.”
The pair blinked at each other and burst into movement. The zigzagged their way as they crossed the ground towards him. He pointed his wand towards the floor and tapped his foot quickly. A shadowy mass, of snarls and fangs rose up. It had no definition, no form and it needed none. A set of jaws, if you could call them such, rushed, snake like, through the air and caught the one coming in on his left in the vise like grip. His other attacked thought him vulnerable and came in at his right only to rebound off the shimmer wards that kept him from harm. The Leader casually slashed horizontally with his wand and a head rolled away to disintegrate a second later.
He walked over to the last Vampire that was struggling futilely in the grasp of the shadow demon. He gave the mental command and a shower of blood splashed against the torch lit wall. The last body faded away.
“You will pay for that, mortal.”
He turned around to see that the powerful woman had gotten past his wall of flame.
“I will pay for many things one day, madam. But I doubt I will pay for the destruction of a few children. You can easily replace them. You however won’t be so easily replaced. D’Arthy. Give him to me.”
“He is under blood pact. We will not violate the ancient traditions for you, Wizard.” she spat.
“Then you will all die this day.” he replied with a shrug.
She glared at him for a moment and summoned up her powers. She started fade away into a heavy fog and the Leader made his move. A hurricane lake gale smashed into the half-woman/half-fog, interrupted her concentration and ruining the change. She gasped and looked down at herself. The parts of her that had been changed were dispelled by the winds. She was missing great chucks of her body, including her chest. He eyes rolled back into her head and he mouth lolled into a silent scream. Fire burst from her eyes, nose, mouth and nails. In seconds the skin burnt away, then the bones, till she collapsed into yet another pile of ash on the ground.
“Pity,” was all he said and turned back towards the large double doors.
With a probing spell he saw that roughly fifty of their number was waiting for him beyond the doors. Ready to attack once he came through. He couldn’t allow that. He smiled grimly behind the undulating mask of magic that guarded his face. With a small bit of magic he peaked open the large doors. For such a massive metal object they were amazing silent, nothing but a whisper of sound. Impressive.
He felt the horde tense on the other side and pointed his wand through the crack.
“Advosolis!” he yelled in a loud and firm voice. He needed to make this spell as strong as possible.
A burning ball of sunlight erupted from the tip and shot off into the room. A half a second later a thundering detonation of sunlight streamed through the cracks of the door and a chaos of screams and shrieks played like music to his aged ears. He hummed a bit to the tune of agony until the light and the sounds died away. He then pushed open the door and coughed at the dust filled air.
The waved his wand and banished the ash that floated around him till the room was cleared out and only lit that the masses of torches along the walls and the candled chandeliers that were strung from the ceiling. He pointed towards three of the torches and they lifted away from their metal confines to hover over his head. Weapons at the ready in case anything else tried to attack him.
He lightly treed down the steps with the soft patter of his sandaled feet. He walked up towards a large thrown where one creature still remained, nursing its burnt skin as it drank from a comatose young woman. The woman in its jaws jerked once and was tossed away. The Leader watched curiously as the blacked skin peeled away and fell in flakes towards the ground and new creamy skin encased the creature.
Finally, a stunning model of stone cold beauty ran a hand through her long, luxurious, raven black hair and over her heaving breasts and nude body. Her cloths had been burnt away when her skin caught on fire.
“Mortal.” Her voice was a soft crooning sound that sent shivers of delight along his wrinkled spine. A voice of promise. A voice of sensuality that stirred the lions of even his aged body in such a way that he hadn’t felt in decades.
“You have hurt me. Many things I can forgive and ignore. An assault upon me I can not.”
“My deepest apologies ancient one. I checked before hand to see if you were in attendance, but you were hidden from me. Had I known you were here I would have chosen a different method. It was not my intention to harm you.”
Indeed he would have sent something far nastier to kill her/it. Whatever you wanted to call a creature that old.
“Intentions do not matter. Actions do.” She rose up slowly and languidly. Every movement a play in sexuality and desire.
“I pray that we do not have to battle Ancient-One. I only came for one named D’Arthy, who you are holding. I asked for his return and was denied. He had betrayed his word to me and my comrades. I seek justice for this slight in honor.”
“What does one such as I care for the honor of mortals? D’Arthy is my childe. His immortality is far for important than the machinations of a pathetic cult that has been too long in dying.”
He pursed his withered lips. “I see then, Great Lady, that he has even told you about us. I guess it’s decided then.”
“Oh, Yesssss,” she dragged the word out and bared her long viperfish fangs. “Your blood shall be as ambrosia for us. Your death will be long in coming.”
He readied his wand. “A pity. I hate having to slay such a fine specimen. Rest assured I will remember you for centuries hence; once my own immortality is complete.”
Her ravishing visage smiled condescendingly and then she vanished from his sight. As quick as he could he flicked his wand and a wall of force radiated outward from him. Her blurred body struck against the powerful magic and battled for a moment before she broke through, barely paused by the strength of his spell. The pause was all he needed and he took the opportunity to hit her with a slowing jinx. With her speed reduce he would be able to keep up with her now; barely. She still moved almost too fast for the eye to follow.
She closed in on him and laid her hands on him. A burning current raised up her arms as she broke past his wards with pure strength. She hissed in pain and backhanded him away. He tumbled through the air, unhurt, and stopped just before he hit the wall to hover an inch or so over the ground. The old one was inspecting her hands and arm for any damage before she looked back at him.
“Impressive, wizard. Very impressive. I did not thing there were any single magic users that could content with me anymore.”
He said nothing, but used the time to renew his personal wards and strengthen them with a bit of additional nastiness should she touch him again. She snarled at him and raised her head in a highly pitched scream that almost made him drop his wand and cover his ears. Her skin seemed to shiver as something moved underneath.
“Tut-tut,” he said to himself as a massive pair of leathery bat-like wings sprouted from her back, “You’re playing your hand too early; you’ve lost your edge in your vanity.”
It was a soft whisper, but he knew she could hear him. From the corner of his eye he saw his target looking on from an alcove. D’Arthy. In similar nodules all over the place other pale faces were watching the battle with interest. If he could defeat the Coven-Master then any ties D’Arthy would have for protection would vanish and none would challenge his right to the vampire anymore.
In the glance he almost died however as she moved across the space diving them with one great flap of her winds and tried to decapitate him with her dagger-like claws. He hit her with a banishing hex and she flew away from him before wheeling around in the air towards the vaulted ceiling. She perched on one of the chandeliers and watched with ruby red eyes. He wondered what her next play was till he heard the chittering of the rodents.
Rats. Hordes of them came up from the sewer plates on the ground and soon swarmed the entire floor. Thousands of them. He rolled his eyes at the display. Typical. No ingenuity in any of the really ancient monsters. They always tended to grow predictable and redundant. Like there was some book that they followed whenever challenged. No matter. He knew just the thing for the vermin.
He made a show of yawning and pointed his wand towards the ground. A heavy thick mist creped out and blackened like some rotted flesh. More and more seeped along the ground and he stoked it quickly till it covered the ground for meters all around him. The rats ran forward with their endless numbers, but the corrosive gas quickly chewed and ate away at their skin. He looked up towards the old one and tilted his head.
“One last chances my Lady. Hand over D’Arthy or die. One childe is not worth the loss of your immortality.”
She screamed and plunged down on him like a falcon. The three torches that still floated above his head shot out and clubbed her wings hard. The sudden impact twisted her decent and she spiraled past him to smash into the dark, fog covered ground. He pointed towards a wall and with a sharp word pulverized the stone into pile of fist sized rocked. While the ancient regained her feet and fled to nursed her wounds and heal her skin from the acidic properties of his spell, he ran his wand over the pile and transfigured them all into small wooden stakes. With another gentle caress of his magic the hundreds of wooden darts rose into the air and waited his command.
When she hurled herself at him again he sent the small army of weapons forth to do battle. They shot through her at blinding speeds and halted her flight as she shuddered with each impact. Like a fallen angel she fell to the ground, once more into the poisonous mist. He watched and waited as she rose up again, but unable to fly. At her age a simple stakes or twenty couldn’t kill her. Indeed few things could, which is what made them so deadly. He knew a little trick to stop the really ancient ones though. The ones that had been around for a thousand years or more.
“Your death…will be long and painful, whelp,” she hissed. Her voice no long sultry and pleasant.
“As I said. A pity.” An arch of grayish spell fire connected with her wooden riddled body. She screeched like a banshee and tried to stalk towards him, only to find her steps growing sluggish and heavy. She glanced down and screamed her fury as she spotted her legs hardening. Slowly the spell crept upwards as he held the spell on her. Harder and harder she tried to move or break away from the magic, but to no avail.
Almost a full minute later she stood silently in the battle trod room. He ended the acid fog at his feet and walked towards the once ancient Vampire. Now a petrified statue forever more. The bones of the legion of rats crunched under his feet as he inspected the thing. He stared into the dull unblinking eyes before tapping the head lightly. The statue fell apart in a fine sprinkle of powdered marble.
“And another one bites the dust.” he chuckled at his own pun.
He looked around to see that all the other dark creatures had fled, including his wayward contact.
“Accio D’Arthy.” He said calmly and waited. Second later a hurtling body thudded to the ground at his feet. The leader quickly conjured spell chains of a soft lavender hue around the traitor as it begged and cried pitifully.
“Please…please. He made me. He made me. Don’t kill me. Don’t”
“Silence,” he ordered coldly. D’Arthy shut up instantly.
“So. You betray us and then run away. The least you could have done, to gain some reprieve and perhaps your life, would have been to inform us instantly. Instead you make us waste valuable time hunting you down. Time that is being sorely tested of late. We know that where a determined mind is, the chance to defy that mind is slim to none. Had you told us of the problem we would have been angry, but understood and fixed the breech. You would have lived, but would have been severed from us with heavy oaths of bindings.”
He walked towards the heavy thrown in the center of the carnage and sat down, the prisoner being dragged along the ground behind him.
“So,” he continued, “The question now is, what have you said and to whom.”
“It-It was Harry Potter, Lord Irium. He made me. He used powerful magic to force the answers from me.”
A pregnant silence permeated the dank, death filled air.
“How do you know my name?” Irium asked in an infuriated and worried whisper. His hands clutching impulsively at his rune-etched golden robes. D’Arthy hesitated.
“Tell me!” he screamed out with fury.
“Your son! I found out from your son!”
Irium sat back stunned. It was impossible. The possible seeds to his downfall had gone so far back? Decades?
“What did you tell Potter?”
“Everything…he made me tell him everything.” D’Arthy answered in a defeated tone.
Irium stood and screeched in fury before blasting away the corpse of the young human woman in his anger. He then rounded on D’Arthy and paced back and forth, thinking hard. He knew he was supposed to bring the traitor back to the council. He was the Head Priest, but the laws were clear. If they found out that they had been infiltrated so thoroughly, or that he had told the most precious of secrets to his own son, they would terminate him quickly and ruthlessly. He was a tyrant with the rules and laws, but not so much that he would forfeit his own life for them. For the first time in thousands of years the Council of Phyre was poised on the brink of its destiny. In the chronicles of history it would be him that had led them to it. He would be heralded as the greatest, the most powerful. The harbinger of their glory. He wouldn’t allow it to be another member. He couldn’t.
He looked over the fear-filled form of the traitorous vampire.
“Tell me all you know and I wont leave you to the sun. I will give you a clean death of mortality.”
The creature swords poured forth delivering every devastating piece of information that through him, Potter now knew.
Irium returned via a series of apperation points. He was too distraught to try shadow-stepping. He risked losing his way and being devoured by some of the more unwholesome denizens is he had done that.
As ordered, the council had prepared a decent meal for him on his return.
“We are in trouble,” he said as he sat back down at the head of the table.
“Where is D’Arthy, Reverence?”
“Potter showed up and destroyed the wayward contact before I could finish questioning him.”
“Potter?!”, “Did you kill him?”, “Did you get the book?”, “Are you injured?”, “How is this possible?” a bunch of voices over lapped each other, sending him into a spiraling head-ache.
“Silence!” he commanded and the cavern quieted down.
“In answer to you questions; He had a charm on D’Arthy that informed him when he was captured. He showed up and killed the prisoner before I could subdue him. He then fled via an emergency port-key. I did not have time to take proper action. That D’Arthy is dead is not important. What he knew of us and revealed to Potter is.”
“And what would that be, Reverence?” The deceitfully docile tone of his advisor asked quietly and suspiciously.
“He knows of three more of us beyond Eric O’Soule. He also knows of a dozen business fronts that we have used in order to prepare our army of Inferi. It is very possible that he is taking steps to counter it.”
“Can he? Does he have the knowledge or power to stop that part of our plan?”
“Doubtful, but it is possibility that we dare not over look. The upside to this disaster is that Potter is not expecting the numbers we will have amassed by then. He will be too over-whelmed to stop the entire country from falling to the hordes of undead. Remember, the army itself will boost its own numbers from the muggle population.”
“What should we do?”
“Quietly and quickly we shall reinvest in other areas. A shifting of roles and responsibility is needed to counter Potter’s network of information. Some of you may find yourself with decidedly less wealth than before. I apologize, but our goal is above all. We must reorganize to safe-guard what we have left.”
“And you, Reverence?” his advisor said smoothly. “Your little bird brought this down on us. Will you step aside for new leadership?”
“Are you challenging me, Sebastian?”
“Of course not, Reverence. I was just-”
“Because if you were, or anyone else here. I think you will find that I am more than capable of meeting it.”
“Of course, Reverence. My apologies for any insult.”
“It is not an insult,” Irium lied and waved it away, “It is the nature of our operation. None of you would be effective, or part of the Council, if you were not ambitious and intelligent.”
They silenced while he ate his meal to regain his strength. He pondered his friend Sebastian’s words careful while he took bite after bite. It was troubling that his advisor had so quickly become suspicious. He would need to look into it further and keep an eye out for any duplicity. When he was finished he turned towards his friend.
“Make reports on everyone’s’ investments, businesses and duties. Then draw up a plan for reassignment. Try to insure than no one is too critically hampered from their former positions of influence and wealth. It needs to be done as soon as possible.”
“Yes, Reverence,” Sebastian replied with a small bow.
“Caleb, help him out. He will need your keen and analytical mind for this.”
“Yes, Lord Irium.”
He reached up and past the gossamer clouds of gloom that covered his identity and pinched the bridge of his nose. When they all departed he walked towards the cliff face and stared down into the lethal mass of Inferi that waited hundreds of feet below.
The game grew ever more dangerous. He and Potter seemed destined to battle. First though, he would have the battle The Council if they even smelled blood in the water. Anyone of them would give up everything they owned to gain his position. Indeed it was required to. He had nothing, yet everything. He had the entire resources of the council at his disposal, yet nothing of personal value. It was the balance to his position.
A pitiful moan echoed up to him from stone valley.
Blood in the water indeed.