Act III - Birth Of The Demon
Chapter 5: In Anima
A cold and rusty wind stirred momentarily as Harry appeared with a pop. His gaze wandered over his new surroundings and his face betrayed a flicker of distaste and disappointment. After all the metaphorical description McGonagall had pounded him with, he had expected something bright and rich and surreal. After all, this was the world of spirits.
Instead what he found was a soggy mess.
A burst, desolate, decrepit, soggy mess.
Shattered ruins marred the hillside, looking utterly weathered and unsightly. The stones paving the lanes around him looked pale and scorched white. The weather felt dreary, with not a bit of moisture in the air, yet a slight drizzle kept falling from the heartless sky above. He saw an array of small shops falling into familiar patterns, only they were broken and husky, as if they had been rotten to shreds and then lay forgotten for aeons. If he squinted his eyes, he could see the hazy forms of ghosts in some of the husky remains. As he walked into the main street and took a right turn, he realised exactly why the place felt so eerily familiar.
This was Hogsmeade.
His eyes glanced at the sprawled out courtyard of the shop that had once been Madam Puddifoot's. The fractured chimney belching out thin strips of smoke into the empty sky was the Three Broomsticks, or it used to be, before… this happened. His eyes moved past the other stores. Zonko's. The small office of Quality Quidditch Supplies, looking like an upturned coffin. Madam Ophelia's tea shop. Razed to the ground. A single, fractured pane of glass lay fallen on the ground. Scrivenshafts, round the corner, with the mannequin before it. Empty as the others.
What was he looking at?
Harry spun around, his fingers going for the wand in his robes only to find it missing, as he stared at the familiar, hunchbacked, grey shadow of a man he had encountered so many times in his dreams.
"Boy," grunted the man. "What a greedy little thing you are!" His expression grew distant, pensive. "Blessed to be the vessel of Death, yet cannot walk away from the lure of Samhain."
Harry didn't know what to say to that, so he just shrugged. "Where are we?"
"You tell me."
Harry regarded him quietly for a moment. "This is supposed to be the spirit world. Anima. But it looks like Hogsmeade. Only destroyed."
"Rotten," said Ignotus, as if correcting him.
"As if its very essence has been stolen from it."
Harry gave him a sidelong look and asked warily. "What happened here?"
"As in the Death energy I use? That Death?"
Ignotus looked at him blandly, and then said. "Perhaps."
"How? It's obviously not real, so an illusion? Created to faze me?"
Ighnotus lifted his hand, and made an intricate motion with his long, pale fingers and opened his mouth again, as if singing a note of music. Instead, the sounds of screams emerged, people screaming, places exploding, men, women and children dying, fires burning, buildings falling — the sensations were all there, if somewhat muted and indistinguishable from the real thing.
It was incredibly unnerving.
"What was that?" asked Harry.
"What will be." Ignotus looked at him, and let out a wicked cackle. "Come. Come along. See for yourself."
Scowling, Harry followed him. The path to Hogwarts, if it could be called that, was barely visible and worn away by time and neglect. Still, the pillars flanking on each side of the road were familiar, though the statues that stood upon them had long since fractured or fallen off, or shattered into pieces. Everywhere he looked, he could feel hidden anguish, screaming through the very silence, as if blaming him for everything.
An incredibly realistic illusion.
"This is the Anima, boy," cackled Ignotus. "Everything here is true, and nothing is real. There is no Past, and no Future. The hands of Time do not foray into this place. It just is."
"I thought you were locked in Death's dominion, Ignotus," he said softly. "How come you are here?"
Ignotus cackled again. "You are harbouring a misapprehension, boy. I am not, how did you put it? Here. Remember that you used my Cloak to trespass into Death's domain. Remember that your spirit was taken over, while Death danced within the dark mansion, and I returned you to the way you were. Did you think that such a reconstruction was simple? To extract Death out of a soul it has grasped? A connection was inevitable."
"Great," groaned Harry, inwardly thinking of Voldemort, and his curse scar. "That doesn't explain how you're able to talk to me."
"Are you dull, boy?" snapped Ignotus. "Distance and realms are not a factor in such communication, but the intent to maintain the connection has to be there. If you truly wished me done, I would never be able to speak to you at all. Which implies that despite your words, you do not truthfully desire solitude. Here, at least."
"... Maybe." Harry sighed. "How can I just wish you gone? If a connection exists, then it is maintained by magic and magic is —"
"Intent," said Ignotus. "I was wrong. Not only are you a greedy, impudent brat, you are also an ignorant one. You cling to Magic just as you cling to the power Death offers you, without realising what they truly are. You are pathetic."
Harry didn't respond to the provocations. "Pathetic or not, I'm what my life has made me. I didn't grow up like you did, Ignotus Peverell. I lived ten years of my life with magic-hating muggles, calling myself a Freak. In the last five years of being in the magical world, I have had to constantly survive against forces that wanted me dead. Forgive me if I'm dont' fit in your big shoes."
Ignotus laughed. It was a cruel, grating sound that hurt his ears.
"Weak and pathetic that you are, yet you still amaze me with your shortsightedness. Your need to cover yourself in moral armour is repulsive. You never truly realise what you can do. You witches and wizards, grovelling under false masters of your craft, believing you have become mighty with a pail of water while an entire ocean lies ahead of you."
"Then teach me," said Harry.
"What do you think I have been doing, boy?"
Harry scoffed. "You didn't teach me a thing."
"And how do you know that?"
"How do I…" said Harry. "Ever since I've been seeing you in my dreams, all you've done is talk cryptic."
The man let out a gurgling laugh. "What did you expect, boy? A lecture like your worthless masters?"
"Don't call them worthless—"
"Worthless," repeated Ignotus. "Lectures and wise words aren't how life teaches you, boy, and they say, life is the best teacher of them all. Life does not talk to you, but pushes you around. Each push is life saying, 'Wake up. There's something I want you to learn.' If you listen to it, you progress. If not, life will keep pushing you around. Some give up. Some die. A few learn the lesson and move on. Most quit, and a few like you, fight."
Harry stared at him with a furrowed brow.
"From the very moment you entered Death's domain, I have let you tiny slivers of Death's power. I have given you the freedom to play with it, control it, mould it, make it an extension of your will. Every single time you have made a breakthrough, I have shone light at the path ahead."
"That power could have killed Sirius and Daphne and Fleur many times over."
He shrugged. "All teaching involves an element of risk."
"Yeah?" Harry challenged. "And where has that got me?"
His eyes glinted. "From nothing more than a terrified child, in a mere couple of months, you grew into a weapon to destroy magic. Make no mistake, it was my hand that shaped you."
"That wasn't teaching. You gave me power without telling me how to use it. Teachers don't do that."
"What is teaching but the art of planting and nurturing power?" Ignotus asked. "You wizards prattle on about lonely impulses of delight and the gift of knowledge, and think that teaching is like metalsmithing or healing or telling lies. It is not. It is the dissemination of power unto a new generation and nothing less. For you, the lessons demand real risk in order to attain their true rewards. If you are so worried about losing others, then either sharpen your focus to the point of avoiding all mistakes, or renounce this and become the mediocre wizard you are meant to be."
"Forget the silly parables your wise men have taught you," said Ignotus, his gravelly voice sounding like an old, broken drilling machine in action. "Forget the rules that your close-minded kin wants to bind Magic in. Forget the pathetic restraints on potential that your governments put on you, acting out of their own fear and paranoia. Like Death, Magic follows no rules, bends before nothing, and can corrupt nearly almost anything."
Harry mused over the man's words.
"You said magic is intent."
"And Intent, is everything. Your disarming charm works because your intent to disarm your enemy is stronger than their intent to stay armed. Your killing curse works because your intent to sunder their souls from their bodies overwhelms any and all desire they have to be alive. Intent. Is. Everything. Intent is what pushes the human race forward. It is what bends the wills of those that run abound in the Anima, to become one with those seeking them. Your intent, your will, is what hides entire realities inside your very soul using the Fidelius. It is what forces Family Magic to pervade into the mortal realm and it is what has created gods and goddesses in the past."
"And Death?" asked Harry. "Is that how the Peverells got Death as their Family… craft?" he didn't want to say magic because Ignotus would just laugh at him. "Did they also use Intent to master the powers of Death?"
"I have told you before, boy. Death has no Master, only Vessels. Much like any of those accursed Family Magics. Death is one of the fundamental forces of the Universe, just like Magic is. But yes, even Death bows down before one's intent, if it is strong enough."
Harry was listening, but not quite understanding it. If Intent was all powerful, could he also not just 'intend' for Daphne's malediction to vanish away? No, wait, he could, just that he would have to pit his will against the Black Family Magic itself. But that made him consider something else, something he had learnt last year, but never quite internalised until now.
"The unforgivables…" He murmured. "They are unforgivable not because of what they can do. They are unforgivable because of the intentions needed to actualize them."
"There is much you do not understand, boy. You travel through realms with impunity, uncaring of who or what watches you. You delve into magics that you should hate with the greatest disdain, and take up mantles you ought to destroy. Death is supposed to shatter all threads, but you, boy, are too quick to bind yourself with newer and newer ones."
He's talking about Ananta-Shesha, and Daphne, Harry realised.
"You told me I am at a crossroads. You didn't tell me how to get out of it, or where they lead."
Ignotus made an odd throaty noise.
"You told me I had to choose. Everything. And I am choosing. Everything. Life. Death. Magic. A future. I choose everything."
"And now you know why you stand among these ruins," said Ignotus.
Harry paused thoughtfully. Surely he didn't mean what he thought he did.
"Come," said Ignotus, as if Harry was a dog. "Walk with me, boy."
"Why am I— we here? You didn't answer my question."
"Because of you," said Ignotus. "There are many that tap into the arcane, into the abstruse powers of the Anima. But there are none like you, not anymore. They called me the greatest Necromancer to walk the plains of the living, ignorant of the fact how little the powers of Undeath mean compared to what I wield, what you will wield. One that did not need to evade the clutches of Death, anchoring oneself to trinkets. No, I comprehended the true meaning of UnLife. I did not just bind myself to dead flesh, but shades — rend them asunder and devour them to feed my own power."
Harry wanted to say how that sounded like something Voldemort would do, but then he remembered what Ollivander had told him about his wand and wisely kept silent. That he was ultimately walking the same path as Ignotus, carrying within him a power just as terrifying brought a foreboding feeling in his gut, an uncomfortably familiar sensation that reminded him far too much of the day he had stood in the Dumbledore's office for the first time, talking to him about the 'strange likenesses' between himself and Tom Riddle.
The two wizards (if he could call Ignotus one) walked silently along the Hogwarts lake, which no longer existed as it used completely oblong and shallow, with nothing but a murky darkness that reminded him of the Animagus potion. Even from this distance, he could see that portions of the great castle had collapsed, with giant stones stuck out of the ground like gravestones, both welcoming him and blaming him for their condition.
"If Death did this…" He said, "then why does this place exist here? McGonagall told me that the Anima is the source of all Magic, and this place is…"
"Devoid of it?" Ignotus laughed. "Once again, you listen but you do not understand. The Anima is beyond all Past, Present and Future. It just is. This world around you, is a manifestation of what will happen if you stay at the crossroads. Trust me, everything you want, every dream and nightmare that you long for and fear, lies within this haunted house. Those spirits you seek, you will find them within, as will the true horrors that lie in the depths of your blackened soul."
"My soul isn't blackened—" Harry began, but his words died amidst Ignotus's laughter.
"Lie to me if you will, boy, but do not lie to yourself. You know the power you wield, what it can become, what it can make you. You've thought about what it might be like to bend the world to your will. The things you could have. The people. Some part of you has considered and found joy in the idea of using your abilities to take what you wish. And you are afraid of that joy. So you drive yourself toward martyrdom instead."
"Martyrdom… I'm not—"
"I told you, do not lie," said the man scathingly. "You push yourself forward to understand this power not because you want it for yourself, but because you wish to save that witch's life. As soon as that is accomplished, you wouldn't think twice before leaving her. You would keep the world at arm's length because you are afraid of what will happen if you give in to the power you secretly covet. You are afraid, Harry Potter, and no amount of denial will change that."
Harry stayed silent.
"Your muggle caretakers were correct. You are a freak. Even among wizards, you are alone. You may pretend that you are like them, but you are not. You thought you would get a family, you would find a place where you truly belonged. And yet, despite all you are doing and will do for them, you fear that one day, they will look at you and call you a monster."
"You are afraid, blood of my blood. You are trapped. You are lying to yourself. You pretend to be like any other wizard because you are too terrified to admit that you aren't."
His words felt like blades searing through Harry's skin. They struck at the oldest wound in him, a child's wound that had never fully healed. It hurt hearing those words. It stirred up a depression, a yearning, a feeling of emptiness.
Ignotus met his eyes. "Death can set you free. All you have to do is choose."
"You want me to give up the power of magic and life, and choose Death," said Harry slowly. "Become a necromancer. Become a twisted murdering psychopath like Voldemort."
A strange glint flickered across his features. "Do not be stupid, boy. Necromancy embraces the power of Death, just as magic embraces the power of life. And as magic can be twisted and perverted to cruel and destructive ends, Necromancy can be turned upon its nature as well. Death can be warded off, as I did. Life can be served by that dark power, if one's intent and purpose are strong."
"Like it served you?" Harry asked coldly. "Tied to an old cloak a thousand years after your family's extinction, and trying to convince another to follow your own path?"
Ignotus faced him down for a long and silent second. Then he let out a sigh and said. "I think we have exhausted the possibilities of this conversation."
"On that we agree," said Harry. "Now if you don't mind, I've got a spirit animal to catch."
"You will definitely catch something here, Harry of Peverell," said Ignotus. "We stand at the school's gates. From this point, the journey is yours. Act as you must, but remember, be honest to yourself."
"Count on it," said Harry. He turned around at the empty gates, and then back at Ignotus, only to find him gone. He stood there for a moment, mentally aching and tired and more scared than he ever was before. Then he sighed, shoved his fear aside, and walked past the school gates.
It was time to get what he came for.
The bed rocked violently.
Draco Malfoy took a large gulp of firewhiskey and kept smacking the soft, firm skin as the young woman kept groaning underneath him. Her moans had already faded into the background, as had any pleasure that the Malfoy heir could have gotten from the experience. He was too busy gritting his teeth, gulping more and more firewhiskey as he wrought even more pain upon the young woman to care about her cursing and moaning.
For his world was falling apart.
All his life, his father had told him that he was the future Lord Black, and that he must always remember that despite their Ancient status, the Black family was nothing but a stepping stone for the illustrious Malfoy line. Just one look at his mother was proof enough — daughter of the Blacks, and yet, she was nothing but a trophy, a status symbol for her father to show off. He didn't even touch her, and the two slept in their individual bedrooms. Mother was little but a conduit to Father.
Just like the position of Lord Black was nothing more than a conduit to uplifting House Malfoy.
Another gulp. Another smack. She moaned.
And now, everything was going wrong. And all of that started and ended with one single name.
Draco had been so certain. So secure in his superiority, and then in the space of just a couple of months, he had been firmly disillusioned. Sirius Black had become the new Lord Black, and made Potter his official heir and Regent. Potter had somehow fooled the Wizengamot into thinking he had accomplished something big and tricked his way from being sent to Azkaban. Draco had always looked forward to the day when he'd stand up in the middle of the Wizengamot session, swearing his ascension to Lord Black.
But Potter had destroyed that dream.
Potter had that veela Delacour, who didn't even try to pretend that she wasn't fucking him every night. Draco had seen the short skirts she wore every single time she was seen out of class and hanging around Potter. Draco had so many fantasies about having that veela under his thumb from the moment he had seen her last year. She had featured in his nightly dreams, and it took immense self-control to not stun her, feed her a love potion and have his way with her. Nobody would know. After all, who would care for the word of a succubus against the word of the heir of the Ancient House of Malfoy?
But he hadn't. Because his father had warned him against Moody. That incident with that… transfiguration incident had also shaken him for months on end.
And now, the slut was hanging on Potter's arm.
Draco slapped again, and the girl beneath him let out another moan.
"More…" she claimed.
And then there was Greengrass. The most beautiful girl in Slytherin House. The prim and proper ideal of a pureblood, blonde and elegant, and a perfect fit for the Malfoy family. A pedigree that came from Nobility, which would only be another feather in Draco's hat. Just like his father had married Narcissa Black, Draco would marry Daphne. With two Noble Houses under his belt, nothing would stop him from becoming the most powerful pureblood in Wizarding Britain. Yes, she was frisky and quick with a wand, yes she had never allowed him to so much as touch her improperly, but all those things could be remedied. If nothing else, she had stepped back, and let him use her family's name in the Slytherin Assemblies. At least, she understood her place in the pecking order, like any wife should.
And now… she was Potter's. He had seen her with him all day, sitting on his lap, even demonstrating affection openly, uncaring of who or what saw her. As if she was nothing more than a whore.
That thought made him squeeze his fingers into the supple skin he was grabbing, and the dishevelled girl moaned.
"It hurts…." She said, throwing her head to one side. "But I love it."
"You want to get yourself treated like a whore, Chang? Then go join a whorehouse!"
Cho Chang scowled, and flipped around, all but pushing him back, and glared at him. "I probably should, Malfoy. At least they'd be able to last more than ten seconds."
Draco went purple, and reached for his wand, but Chang was quick to fling it away. His wand fell down the bed and rolled into the floor.
"You bitch!" he snarled, and raised his hand to slap her, but Cho grabbed it midway, and twisted it around, before letting it go. Draco hissed, and grabbed his sprained wrist and began rubbing it softly, glaring at her.
"Mind your tongue before you talk to me, Malfoy," Cho snarled.
"Don't talk like that to me, bitch. I'm a Malfoy and —"
"All you have is a name to hide behind," Cho finished for him. "Yes, you've money, and political power. But that's your father's, not yours. Take that way, what are you? A waste of pureblood sperm."
Draco saw red. "You filthy daughter of a—"
"Choose your next words very carefully, Malfoy," Cho hissed. "Or else you can go back to using your hands." She gave him a cruel smirk. "I heard all about your engagement with Parkinson. She won't let you touch her until marriage, will she? Then again, it was the same with Greengrass, wasn't it? How emasculated does that make you feel, Malfoy, knowing that she left you for Potter and is giving him the time of day? Or perhaps I should say, night?"
The fire within him burned hotter.
"What makes you think you're any better?" Draco asked. "You latched on to Diggory before Potter killed him. And now you're letting me stick it to you, because you want a way out. You're no better than the whores in Knockturn alley."
Both of them glared at each other. The smouldering glare in her eyes was evenly matched by the raging fire burning within him.
And then they feasted.
Cho flung her arms around his neck as his lips descended on hers. Draco deepened the kiss, throwing in every bit of the impotent rage burning within him, at her, and pushed her down upon the bed again. As much as he hated it, she was right. Pansy would not let him touch her like that until marriage, but he only had her blasted father to blame for that. With Greengrass and the Black Lordship slipping out of his hands, even his voice in Slytherin House was becoming less relevant. Rosier and Haywood looked at Greengrass as their next successor, and even Nott and Zabini, traitors that they were, looked ready to shift camp.
The rage in his belly intensified, and his world shrunk down to the feeling of her skin against his. Both of them were brought together by vengeance towards a common target, and had found an unexpected alliance in each other. Chang had the power to make him temporarily forget his sorrows, and lose himself in mindless rutting.
Finally, they separated, with him resting his weight above hers.
"Face it, Chang, I am your only way out. Not even Diggory could make you feel like I do."
She snorted. "Full of yourself, are you? I'll have you know that Cedric treated me with utmost respect."
Malfoy laughed out loud. "Pathetic, wasn't he? All of this, and not even cop a feel?"
Her face darkened. "We were supposed to culminate the night of the Third Task."
Draco laughed. "Get out! Everyone knows you shagged him after the Yule Ball."
Cho frowned. "I… spread that rumour myself. Cedric wanted to follow the old ways. The girls in Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff wouldn't stop asking, so I had to come up with something. Honestly, I should have just gone for Potter when he was mooning at me like a lovestruck idiot."
Draco laughed. "And instead you're spreading your legs for me."
Cho bit her lip. "Only because I fucked up. Sue Li was correct. I was being a retard. I should have gone for Potter and played upon his infatuation. Instead I went against him and fucked everything up. But in my defense, it was Potter who fucked things up. If he didn't get into the tournament, none of this would have happened. I'd have been with Cedric."
"Just like Potter," Draco grunted, grabbing the bottle of firewhiskey again. "Fucking things up for everyone."
"I say we fuck with him."
Draco scowled. "You've got it wrong, Chang. You don't fuck with others, you get fucked. First by Potter and Diggory, then by Pansy's brother and now by me. That's all you're good for."
"You son of a—" she raised a hand, but this time, Draco caught her. "You should've been in Gryffindor, slut. You see, but don't realise. You hear, but you don't listen. Yes, Potter is our common enemy, but an enemy we can't touch, you fool. He isn't the goody-two-shoes you know from last year. He's a monster! He got the entire school to mutiny against Umbridge. He played with all of us, and treated us like we were less than shit. And he's got Greengrass and Delacour hanging over him. And then there's Sirius Black and the Bones bitch as well. My father made it clear. Stay the fuck away from Potter."
Cho smirked. "The monster will soon be bedding Greengrass, Malfoy. If he hasn't already."
Bile rose in his throat. "What's your goddamn point?"
"My point is that we don't attack Potter. Not directly. Look at my last plan. It was a raging success. Potter dropped his chances for the snitch just to save Greengrass."
"That stunt also cost me public humiliation, first at the end of Potter's wand, and then in the House Assembly by Greengrass."
"Yes, yes, I know all about that," Chang waved off dismissively. "We underestimated him. We didn't know what lines he would or wouldn't cross. But we do now, don't we? We've seen his power, and now, we've seen him act politically. For fuck's sake Malfoy, even Professor Umbridge has a better idea of what Potter can do."
Draco looked at her, queasy. "Chang—"
"I'm not asking to do anything directly. Attacking Potter with spells will accomplish nothing. We have to go after those he cares for, and this time, we'll operate from the shadows. Potter cannot retaliate if he doesn't know exactly who's gunning for him. And by the time he realises it, it will be too late. Potter's the reason my plans with Cedric were torn asunder, so now Potter is going to give me the life I deserve. And you can make Greengrass your bitch, just like you deserve."
Draco ran his fingers through his hair. "What do you have in mind?"
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