13 March 2016

Significant Digits, Chapter Forty-Four: Batter My Heart





Significant Digits, Chapter Forty-Four: Batter My Heart


O royal Hera, of majestic mien, aerial-formed, divine, Zeus' blessed queen, throned in the bosom of cerulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care. The cooling gales they power alone inspires, which nourish life, which every life desires. Mother of showers and winds, from thee alone, producing all things, mortal life is known: all natures share thy temperament divine, and universal sway alone is thine, with sounding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar when shook by thee. Come, blessed Goddess, famed almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.

    -  Orphic Hymn to Hera (trans. Thomas Taylor)


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John Snow Center for Medicine and Tower School of Doubt (The Tower)
May 19th, 1999
The same day

Hermione had only a few seconds to think before someone stepped into the cubicle, past Harry.

It was an older man with a pleasant smile.  He glanced at Harry, but said nothing.  He reached out to put his hand on Hermione’s ankle.

Egeustimentis.”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Hermione existed as a fragment of consciousness, while a strange man walked through her mind.

“And you are Miss Granger,” mused the man.  He stroked the broad fur of one thought, as it wriggled down among its fellows.  “Or shall I call you Hermione?  Maybe when I know you better.”  The thought squirmed away from the man’s touch.

“I am Meldh,” said the man.  “It has become necessary for you to be altered to a certain degree.  All of your friends have been changed thus, including Harry Potter.”  He waded through the thoughts that seethed around him in their furry multitudes, plucking at them here and there.  “Another Muggleborn… and so much like Mr. Potter, himself.  He would be pleased to hear that, I think.  There is no romance, there… more worship than anything else, as though you were a statue on a pedestal.  But it would please him to hear it.”

The mote that was Hermione observed this, distantly.

Meldh touched a tightly-spun wire of dense yellow fog, and it undulated at the contact.  “So much that is interesting, here.”  He flickering his fingers over a series of fog wires, and seized one between two fingers to examine it.  “You think a great deal of your ‘Returned,’ hmm?  We will take them into our organization as well, then.  Great events are in motion, Miss Granger.  Entire armies are moving and preparing, getting ready to crash against each other like great waves.  Nations will fall.  Worlds will end.  We will add your Returned to the ranks of the belligerents… take them off of the map, too.”

The wizard smiled, amiably.  “But first we must make some changes.  One rather important change, laid down upon your brain.”  He picked at a wire, pulled it free, and moved it.  “We begin, Hermione.”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Meldh released Hermione, and smiled amiably.  “There.  All better.”

She looked back at her master.

The world shuddered, as though in pain.

A ripple passed through the small white cubicle in the Tower clinic, through Hermione where she lay, bound, on the bed, and through Harry and Meldh.  It was as though someone had taken hold of reality by the corners, like a bedsheet, and given it a firm snapping shake.

Meldh said nothing, but shot Harry a questioning look, his lips firm.  He stripped back the sleeves of his robes with two rapid movements.  His skin had begun emitting golden light, pleasant in color, but pricklish on the skin, and some manner of green-skinned creature, translucent and smelling of sulfur, had slithered out from beneath Meldh’s clothing to wrap around his waist.  The beast had innumerable jointless legs, like clawed tentacles, and the wide-nosed snout and beady eyes of a great lizard.

Harry looked around, bewildered, sweat on his brow.  His hands were trembling.

“What --” began Hermione, her voice a croak.

“My God,” interrupted Harry, whipping his head around at her.  “You used it, didn’t you, Hermione?”  His voice was rising into an accusing, outraged shout.  “I can’t believe you would be so reckless!  Don’t you realize you’ve put us all in danger?!  You’ve put the whole Tower -- all of England in danger!  Are you insane?!”

“What is it, boy?” cut in Meldh, his voice an uncharacteristic snarl.  His eyes were narrow and dark.

Harry stabbed an accusing finger at Hermione.  “It’s the ultimate power in the universe.  And you have used it.”

Meldh whirled to stare at Hermione, raising his hands in front of him.  His palms seethed with black ichor, boiling forth as he glared threateningly.  The wizard was all alive with anger, bright-edged and sharp, and it was as though he were a different person.  “What have you done?!”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


John Snow Center for Medicine and Tower School of Doubt (The Tower)
January 17th, 1996
Three years ago

Harry set the leather satchel carefully on the table.  “Here it is,” he said.  “Fred says that it was just where the centaurs said it would be.”

“And we’re sure,” Hermione said, staring at the bag, “that it’s not a fake, made into a trap that will turn us into frogs or something?”

“The Headmistress, Moody, Mafalda Hopkirk, and Edgar Erasmus have all independently verified it,” said Harry.  In answer to Hermione’s raised eyebrow, he added, “...shortly before their memories were voluntarily wiped.”

She pursed her lips, and leaned forward across the table, opening the satchel.  She reached inside, and pulled out the Goblet of Fire, also known as the Cup of Dawn.  It was a crude-looking thing with a thick rim and rough base.  There was no fire or glow about it, and to all appearances was nothing more than a poorly-made wooden goblet.

“This is… underwhelming,” Hermione said, frowning.

“That’s the cup of a carpenter,” Harry said, smiling.

“Is it really --” Hermione began, then frowned again.  “Oh, shut up.”

“I worked out the language for the contract,” Harry said, pulling folded parchment out of his pocket.  “They used to use this cup for sporting events and major contracts between magical races, so it’s pretty well-understood.  Hopkirk explained it to me.  It can bind anyone to a contract if their names are placed in it.  Only valid contracts -- binding two or more people, clearly stated terms, only negative consequences, and so on.  But it’s famously impossible to evade the penalty clauses.”

“It doesn’t seem that useful to us, then,” said Hermione, disappointed.  “We don’t need a contract to trust each other.”

“The idea of ‘negative consequences’ is relative,” Harry said.  He shoved the parchment over to her.  “We swear this, and then seal the memories of all of this away.”

The proposed contract was lengthy.

We, the oathbound, hereby make contract that at no point shall we be controlled, possessed, or otherwise ensorceled by the same individual, group of individuals, club, coterie, organization ...  Should we fail to abide by this bargain, whether it be by fault of our own or the deeds of others … shall suffer the immediate and complete dismissal of all enchantments or alterations of mind present on our persons at that time, including but not limited to… as further specified in Appendix XIV …  required loss of memory of all terms and conditions for the contract, as well as loss of memory of the contract itself, as well as the location and status of all agents or objects involved in maintenance of the contract, for the duration of the contract…

It went on.

“You don’t think this is paranoid?” she asked, studying the oath, looking for flaws or loopholes. “I mean, even beyond Alastor levels of paranoia.  There are other ways to use this… there’s an opportunity cost for setting this contingency up.  If we hide this thing and erase it from our memories, then we can’t use it for anything else.  Why not use it to lock in support from signatories to the Treaty?  Or even just use it to keep all our aurors loyal?”

Harry picked up the Goblet of Fire, and studied it.  “Magic is too big.  It’s too unpredictable.  That’s a good thing in a lot of ways, since it means we can’t even begin to guess at the possible limits for humanity in a universe full of magic.  Exploring and colonizing outside of our light cone, reversing entropy…  we can’t rule anything out.  There are thousands of spells, and tens of thousands more that have been forgotten or mostly forgotten.  There are too many possible unknowns.  This might actually not even be paranoid enough… I tried to figure a way for this to work for us individually, but you can’t contract with yourself.”  He put the Goblet back down.  “Yes, we’d pay a price for doing this.  But we have to defend against everything, even the impossible things we don’t know about yet.  Levels and levels.”

Hermione regarded the Goblet of Fire, and nodded, slowly.  “All right.  Although honestly, I’m not sure why all of these sorts of things have such silly names.”


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


John Snow Center for Medicine and Tower School of Doubt (The Tower)
May 19th, 1999
Now

“She has used the Star of Death,” said Harry to Meldh, his voice upset and his face sweaty.  “And now we’re all at risk.  Our very existence in Time is at risk.  Sir, we have to get you someplace safe!”

The Goblet of Fire… our contract, Hermione thought, blinking rapidly.  The memory was there -- the knowledge of the contract was present, as though it had always been lurking just out of her mind’s eye.  We broke the contract, and it has imposed its penalty.  The failsafe worked.  We’re free.  She glanced down at the bands of goblin silver across her legs, her waist, her chest, and each forearm, fixing her in place to a strip of silver on the underside of the cot.  Well, free in a manner of speaking.  Are these restraints for unruly werewolves, or something created just for me?

Meldh pivoted in place, holding one palm towards Hermione and swinging the other towards Harry.  Ichor bubbled from between his fingers.  Where it dripped on the floor, the surface vanished, leaving a series of divots and pocks in the stone.  “The ‘Star of Death?’  There was no hint of such in either of your minds,” declared Meldh, his voice taut with tension and anger.  

Smart man.  When your captured enemy is making implausible claims about secret weapons, he’s almost always lying.  And even when he isn’t, your enemy’s demise will often be the best solution.  Better for your health and your reputation to wipe them out immediately.

He needs fear.  She glanced at the marks left by the black ichor.  Fear of obliteration.  Fear of the unknown.

“It’s coming,” said Hermione.  “And it’s already altered our past -- eating it up from the source.  I think… I think it begins from the first moment of its own existence.  Even our memories of it.  Maybe it… I’m not sure.  I only know that it won’t stop until it has devoured our time.  Yours, mine, and Harry’s.  We’ll be gone.”  She breathed out, heavily, and closed her eyes.  “I’m willing to pay that price.”

“You defy the Lethe Touch,” Meldh observed, coldly.  “I mastered you and I changed you, yet now you are glad of my death.”  He paused.  “There is something at work here that I do not understand.”

Hermione opened her eyes again, and saw the Asiatic wizard staring at her with narrowed eyes.  She remembered lunch with Reg Hig and Per Aavik-Söderlundh-Ellingsen, and the value of a strategic but subtle slip.

“It doesn’t matter what you do,” she replied, her own voice as firm as bedrock.  “I will not stop the Star of Death.”  She raised her voice, pronouncing as clearly and coldly as a mountain stream, “Die.  And be damned.”

He turned to face her, fully.  Just behind him, she saw Harry watching, carefully but silently.  Good.  Don’t oversell it.  The translucent green creature that clung to Meldh’s waist hissed, quietly, and kept its attention on Harry.

Meldh said nothing, either.  He only met her gaze with dark eyes.  She felt a touch on her mind -- the gentlest of probing contact with another’s thoughts.  Barely a whisper of Legilimency: a thin needle of attack so perfectly honed in its intrusive power that it seemed to have physical form.

Hermione didn’t react.  Her training had not overlooked the obvious.  Her mind was a stone her mind was steel her mind was wax her mind was an ox her mind was a child her mind was herself.  

And there was nothing for Meldh to find there but contempt.  Die, and be damned.

Meldh said nothing, but she felt the touch on her mind change.  The whisper-sharp needle of Legilimency vanished and was replaced by something unfamiliar… a draining emptiness that settled down around her thoughts.  It plucked at her from many directions at once, presenting a blankness into which her mind could pour.  It was like the last moments of consciousness before sleep, where a thought could occur, linger on the edges of awareness, and then gently tumble away into the darkness.

But Hermione had an answer for that, too.  She cast thoughts into that darkness, one after the other, flinging them out into the sucking unconsciousness that lay on her thoughts like a blanket.  She hurled memories like weapons, a bulwark of recall that could be offered without loss: the feeling of sunshine on her shoulders as she sat in a field at Powis; the rich ribbons of smell that filled the house when Gran made venison pies; the joyful screams of Granville that shattered the grimness of Azkaban; the click of one chess-piece against another as her father taught her how to castle.

The draining emptiness vanished with that last thought, and she saw a flicker of reaction on Meldh’s face.  Surprise and suspicion.

Hermione never moved her eyes from his.

“Kурва,” Meldh spat at her, his face reddening.  “Very well.  Another Touch.  And I will tear your mind to shreds this time.”

You have to get near me to do that, little man, thought Hermione.

He took a step towards her, reaching out for Hermione’s restrained arm.  The golden light that had been gently emanating from him faded, and the ichor vanished from his palms.

Behind Meldh, Harry drew his wand.

She bucked in place, kicking both legs as hard as she can, straining her stomach, wrenching her arms in place.  The goblin silver didn’t yield even a little.  But she remembered fighting Tineagar in a Tidewater basement -- remembered the value of sacrifice.  Pain is nothing.  Save one life.

Her right arm braced against the restraint, and she twisted it to the side.  It broke with the sharp sound of fracturing bone.  Pain roared like a lion, savaging her.

Meldh, reaching out for her, lurched backwards in surprise.

Harry raised his wand to point at Meldh.  Almost immediately, the green creature wrapped around Meldh’s waist hissed loudly, and lunged at Harry.  He backpedaled, swatting at the creature as it landed on his chest, shrilly hissing and baring its smoking fangs.  Meldh jerked around in shock.

Hermione jerked her arm free, torn hand and forearm still locked in place on the bed, blood pouring out of her like a bolt of crimson fabric.  A scream burst from her.

But the end of her backup wand, the Ultimate Ulna, was exposed amid the splintered ends of her bones.

Lagann.  Stuporfy.”

The Breaking Drill Hex cleared the way, and the Swerving Stunner didn’t even need to swerve: it hit Meldh full in the chest.

The member of the Three didn’t fall.  He staggered, red flickering energy jolting through him.  The green creature on Harry’s chest -- connected somehow?  a sort of magical circuit-breaker? -- whipped its head back and exploded in a shower of phosphorescent green sparks torn through with flickering red.  In the same moment, the Ultimate Ulna also flared green and red, and burnt itself into ashes.  She could smell her own flesh as it burnt.

I’m unarmed, she thought crazily.

Meldh lurched forward towards Hermione, grunting something unintelligible, his face a grimace of rage.  He reached for her.

Desperate, she lashed out with her broken arm.  The splintered bones lashed Meldh across the face, leaving deep scratches along his cheek.  The pain was Fiendfyre on her nerves.

“Hermione!” called Harry, reaching for his dropped wand, eyes wide.

“Hermione,” snarled Meldh, arm outstretched, swaying in place.

“Hermione,” agreed Hermione, and struck once more with her broken arm, and her splintered bones tore like talons through Meldh’s throat.  Blood geysered across her chest and face.

The dying man’s hand came down on her shoulder, his dark eyes bright with anger.  Blood poured onto her from the lacerated meat of Meldh’s throat.  He tried to speak, to cast a spell, but could produce nothing more than a bubbling gurgle and a mouthful of blood.  Meldh grimaced, and his teeth were red.

Stupefy.  Stupefy.  Stupefy!” cast Harry from behind him.  And this time, mortally injured and bereft of his defences, the spells took Meldh.  The member of the Three shivered through with red energy, his muscles locking, and toppled to the ground like a fallen tree.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Oh, All-Nature, Queen, Mother of all things, untiring Mother, exalted, creating, She who tames all, Unmentionable, shining, the Firstborn who quenches everything, who brings the Light! Born of yourself, present everywhere and all-knowing You Blessed One, who makes things grow and rot, Father and Mother of all things, Universal Worker, you who walk forth in an endless maelstrom, conserving, you who uphold yourself through repeated metamorphosis: I pray to you, give me peace!

    -  Orphic Hymn to Demeter (trans. Thomas Taylor)


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


Hermione, shaking, clutched at her injured arm with the other.  It had stopped bleeding already, which was a relief.  She’d been worried that her innate healing ability had been “dismissed” by the Goblet of Fire.

Across the cubicle, Harry was leaning on a chair, wand in hand.  He was shaking, and there was a scorch mark on his cheek.  Hermione supposed that had happened when that green creature had exploded -- taking her wand with it.

She found her voice, finally, glancing from Harry to the frozen Meldh, and then back again.  “The Death Star?”

Harry shrugged, but couldn’t stop a smile from spreading on his face.  It was an odd contrast with his trembling hands and the sweat plastering his hair to his forehead.  “I couldn’t… I couldn’t think of anything else that sounded plausible and scary enough.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know how we…”

His voice trailed off, and he paled.  “Oh, God… everyone else.  The Tower, the entire Tower, is magically bound to serve Meldh.  He got almost everyone, Hermione.  Draco, Moody, Cedric, the aurors, the healers… dozens and dozens of people are still under the effects of that... that… that spell.”

“Get me out of this, first,” Hermione said, slumping back against the bed.  The pain in her arm was fading, finally.

“Buttons thirteen Sangomas,” Harry said, and the restraints opened with a gentle click.  “I’m so sorry about that, I didn’t --”

“No time,” interrupted Hermione, “and anyway, don’t be stupid.  How do we free everyone?”

Harry rubbed his temples, gritting his teeth.  “I don’t know.  There’s a counter-spell, but I stopped him from telling me about it.  For exactly this reason, as a matter of fact.  You cast the spell -- which is Egeustimentis -- and then you say something else.  But I don’t know what.”

Hermione knelt down next to Meldh, and clamped a hand over his neck.  “Get out your medical kit.  Maybe we can wake him up and get the spell out of him, somehow.”

Harry knelt beside her, opening his mokeskin pouch.  “Medical kit,” he told it.  He opened the small white case as soon as it leapt to hand, taking out Haverford’s Marvelous Coagulant and some bandages.  “It’s been weeks, and I only just found out yesterday that we had finally managed to safely get some things out of Bellatrix Black.  You think we can crack this guy in the next few minutes, before someone checks on us?  Without him playing puppeteer again?”

“Point taken,” Hermione allowed.  “But I don’t even have a wand, much less my other stuff, so I don’t know what we’re going to do, otherwise.  Can you manage to stun everyone here by yourself?  Have you been secretly practicing duelling with Cedric or something?” she asked.  She lifted her hand from the injured wizard’s throat.

Harry didn’t answer, just rolled his eyes as he squeezed orange gel onto Meldh’s neck.  The blood pouring out of the wizard’s ragged throat began to slow, and soon stopped.  “Your usual wand is in the meeting room, with the rest of your things.  But I have a back-up wand for you.  It’s actually here in the clinic.  I wanted to keep it especially safe, sealed off even from the rest of the Tower in case of trouble.”  He held out his wand to her.  “Take mine for the moment.”

Hermione took it from him with her uninjured arm.  The wound on the other had closed, but she thought it would be ten or twenty minutes before the arm was usable again.  She examined the raw-looking pink skin of the stump, which throbbed with pain in time to her heartbeat.  She made a face.

“For now, I’ll transfigure Meldh,” Harry said.  “We can’t kill him, since we really might need him to release everyone.  Let me have that back for a moment.”  She handed him back the wand, reluctant despite the obvious necessity.  Harry was not a duelist.

He took the wand and held the tip against the chest of the villain’s stiff body.  Meldh began to shrink and warp in color and shape.  Harry glanced over at her.  “He was really Herpo the Foul, you know.  Inventor of the Horcrux spell.”

Hermione nodded, thoughtfully.  “That makes sense.”  She stood up and went to the curtained entrance to their little white cubicle.  “That spell… it was enslavement.  How long were you like that?  How long has he been here?”

“A couple of days,” Harry said, quietly.  His voice was very small.  “It hurt.  It was like being at war with myself.  Everything in me pushed as hard as it could, but it was like part of my mind had forgotten itself.  Couldn’t help itself.  And it was the most powerful part.”  He stopped speaking for a moment, staring down at the diminishing Meldh with distant, unseeing eyes.  “I worry a lot about addiction.  I think that this was what addiction would feel like.”  Meldh was gone.  In his place was a small white rock.

“Then you’ll have put at least some plans in place in case something like this happened,” said Hermione, firmly.  Stay with me, Harry.  “How long do we have before someone comes to ch--”

Cedric Diggory pulled back the curtain to the cubicle, flanked by a pair of aurors.  He looked startled, opening his mouth to say something.  The aurors behind him were quicker on the uptake, and their wands were already drawn.  They raised them.

Harry still has his wand.  I’ve got nothing -- less than nothing, only one arm.  Need to close the distance.

“Είναι ο ίδιος!” called out Hermione, firmly, walking towards them with a bold and unafraid step.  Her Greek was abysmal, a basic vocabulary put together in haste before the raid on the Cappadocian fortress of Göreme, but that wasn’t important.  They have one overriding priority, the same one that was given me: protect and obey Meldh.  That’s an advantage for me.  And they might be the slower for their internal conflict.

They were too well-trained and experienced, however, for any of that to slow them more than a moment.  She was still out of reach when they recovered from their surprise, deciding that the better part of service was to incapacitate first and ask questions later.  Good for them, that was the right decision.  Even if it’s massively inconvenient at the moment.  The faces of the aurors hardened, and she saw their arms tense again.  Cedric’s eyes widened in alarm, and he snatched for his own wand.

Hermione thrust out her mind with the thought of blue November and the smell of burning leaves, and threw herself forward in an inhumanly powerful tumble.  Her ward of prisms burst into existence, unfolding themselves with a crackle of crystal into a solid wall across the front of the cubicle.

They didn’t fall for the gambit.  The auror to Cedric’s left fired Bertram’s Bolts high and low, while the other tracked her with his wand, casting the Stunning Hex at her moving form.  As Hermione tumbled forward, she heard the prism-barrier shatter and evaporate, and felt the numbing sting of a near miss.

Stupefy!  Stupefy!  Expelliarmus!”  she heard Harry cast, just before her tumble rolled her into the trio of aurors.  She smashed into and through Cedric’s legs with her back, carrying them out from under him.  He fell on top of her, thrashing at her as he struggled to bring his wand to bear on her.

One of the aurors gestured a Roger’s Shield into being in front of himself, almost effortlessly catching Harry’s attacks with the multicolored circle.  The other had his wand pointed at her, his mouth open to curse her.  Cedric was in the way, but that didn’t matter if he was just going to stun her, anyway.  The auror was just too far to reach, and she didn’t have any weapons.  Could she grapple with Cedric and get his wand?

Oh.  Cedric.

She seized one of Cedric’s legs with her good arm.  She had a moment to see him staring at her, horror on his face.  Then she heaved on the leg, hauling it as hard as she could upwards and away from her.  She couldn’t actually lift him off the ground that way -- his leg would have come off if she tried, she thought -- but he swung along the floor like an enormous club, smashing into the threatening auror’s legs.  The two wizards fell into a tangle of injured limbs.

The other auror turned his attentions to her, but it was too late.  She was on her feet like lightning, and dropped him with a light backhand across the side of his skull.  He collapsed, unconscious.

Harry darted forward and stunned the other two.  They froze into immobility, still folded around each other and struggling.  He threw her the wand, and she snatched it out of the air with her good hand.

“Last cubicle on the end,” he said.  “Password is ‘splendour fifty Buick.’ 

Hermione nodded.  “Make sure none of these three are too badly hurt.”

“Go,” Harry said, already reaching for the medical kit.

She leapt over the auror she’d knocked out, into the main corridor of the clinic.  The long row of white cubicles confronted her, screened off with sheets.  She sprinted the length of the corridor in the blink of an eye, arriving at the other end of the general ward at the same moment as a running auror appeared at the door -- Hedley Kwannon.  Kwannon’s wand was already drawn, Hermione saw.

Stupefy!” cast Kwannon and Hermione at the same time.  As she cast, Hermione lunged to the side into one of the cubicles, clawing out with her mind to raise another wall of prismatic crystal.  For her part, Kwannon was unbelievably fast, raising a wall of Azarian Fire and the red mist of Bartolomeo’s Reckoning almost at the same time, and still able to bring her wand back to Pflug position.  The auror’s wards absorbed Hermione’s curse, and Kwannon was ready to cast three Bertram’s Bolts, each a foot apart from the next -- avoiding the lure of the prism ward, and aiming for where her target was actually going.  Hermione felt them sizzle past her, the dull yellow hexes missing her only by the grace of her speed and luck.

Hermione sprang to her feet as Kwannon charged through the door.  Immediately, Kwannon raised more Azarian Fire, and it was again a cover for an attack.  But this time she attacked Hermione’s footing.  “Orbis.”  Hermione felt the stone underfoot soften, sloughing away from under her shoes.  She’s better at chaining and a better shot than me; if I lose my mobility, I’m done, Hermione thought.

Hermione responded the way Alastor had always taught her: once you know your advantages, press them relentlessly.  She sacrificed position and used the stone for her own purposes, charming it into a swirling wall of rock between the two of them.  Then she sprang forward, driving her toes hard into the softening floor.

From the other side of the wall, Hermione heard Kwannon chant the first few syllables of the runes of balance: a delaying action.  Unfortunately for Kwannon, Hermione simply had no time for more of this.

She threw herself shoulder-first into the stone at full speed, and it yielded before her.  She burst through, into a startled Kwannon -- still tracing orange symbols in the air -- and stunned the auror with a crackling red curse.

Panting, Hermione turned to the cubicle on the end.  “Splendour fifty Buick,” she said, holding her shoulder.  

The plain stone of the wall shifted in one spot, slightly and silently.

Hermione stepped over to the stone that moved, and gently pushed it to one side.  It swiveled open on an invisible hinge, exposing a small ledge within the wall.

Resting on the ledge was a wand of elder wood.  She recognized it.  It had once belonged to Albus Dumbledore, before it passed to Lord Voldemort.  He in turn passed it to Harry Potter, who became -- as she understood it -- the rightful owner, by dint of conquest.

Until he was defeated by Bellatrix Black, she realized.  Right before I put my fist through her.

Hermione Granger picked up her wand.


≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡


O Powerful Nike, by men desir'd, with adverse breasts to dreadful fury fir'd,
Thee I invoke, whose might alone can quell contending rage, and molestation fell:
'Tis thine in battle to confer the crown, the victor's prize, the mark of sweet renown;
For thou rul'st all things, Nike divine! And glorious strife, and joyful shouts are thine.
Come, mighty Goddess, and thy suppliant bless, with sparkling eye, elated with success;
May deeds illustrious thy protection claim, and find, led on by thee immortal Fame.

    -  Orphic Hymn to Nike  (trans. Thomas Taylor)



4 comments:

  1. Gotta admit, I didn't see that coming. Maybe I should have, with all the talk of the Goblet being lost, but I didn't.

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  2. I didn't directly see that particular solution coming but ''I Vow Not To Lose, Punish Me By Making Me Win" sounds delightfully Chaos Legion.

    Two George Lucas references in one plot. Author is getting sloppy but it's funny. "Star of Death" my bollocks. XD

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  3. "Lord Foul, I like basilisks and horcruxes, like you. So I'm saying this as your friend. Don't fuck with Potter. he is tediously annoying."

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