Chapter Twentyeight ~ Wild Edric

With a sigh, the Potions Master dropped himself on the guardian chair, while ghost Harry placed himself on the stone bench, waiting and feeling exhausted. But he had felt his daddy's hand. Just a moment, but it had been a wonderful feeling and he wanted it back. Badly.

One thing was for sure, with Harry alive or dead, life was an adventure. Severus preferred the child to be alive though. He leaned back in the chair and folded his arms over his chest, with one finger resting on his chin.

How did he get into this mess in the first place? And why had Neville been in his rooms? What had driven the child to break into his potions lab? And his quarters – but it had looked like as if the 'fall' through this door had been an accident, not a purpose. He thought back to what he had seen in the little boy's mind:

Sir Frederick had led the child into the dark alcove on the left side, almost across Harry's room. He had seen Neville sitting on the stony corner piece that was built into the wall, looking at the ghost expectant. Leaning closer to him again, the ghost was telling him the story of how he had met Harry and through an accident, he died.

Liar, Severus thought. He remembered how Sir Frederick had introduced himself to Harry very well. „But you could save him" the ghost had finished his story.

„How could I save someone? I'm not a good wizard." Neville looked shy.

The figure nodded seriously. „But you don't have to be a great wizard for this. There is a flower. If young Harry has one leaf in his mouth, he will come back to life. You just need to get the flower and give it to him."

The young boy looked at the ghost in awe. „I?"

„Yes," the ghost nodded in confidence. „You."

„But how? I'm not a pupil of this school, I don't know my way around, and where would I find this flower? Does it grow in the greenhouses?"

„No. No greenhouse. A teacher found it and took it away. You need to get it back and save Harry's life. But this must stay a secret until you have given him the leaf. Just think you tell everyone and then you can't find the flower. And the teacher who took the flower is bad, he wants Harry dead."

„But then… this is dangerous. What if this professor finds me?" Tipping his head onto one side, he nodded at Neville. „I don't think he'll discover you, if you are careful. Surely, I could find someone else to help Harry." Stepping out a little of the alcove and looking down the hallway, he added „Just think how proud your grandmother would be if you succeed…" The child had interrupted: „All right, I'll do it. Just tell me where I have to go." This blasted ghost and his lies! But why was the flower so important to him? So important that Sir Frederick had lied about everything, only to get it back? And why saving? Harry had died, hasn't he? His Harry laid here – dead. "If young Harry has one leaf in his mouth, he will come back to life. You just need to get the flower and give it to him." The older wizard knew that this was a lie. The roseSeverus could feel the pouch with the flower in it through his clothes – was a killer.

Without giving it an extra thought he pulled out the pouch and emptied it carefully on the palm of his hand. There, that what's left of the dark red rose looked small on his big palm. Two more leafs were on it. He could see the silver shimmer on the insides, giving a mysterious light. Why would the ghost want the flower back? What would he want with it? It should be worthless now, since Harry is dead now. Wasn't that what the ghost had wanted in the first place? Why did Sir Frederick want Harry dead? And why wanted the ghost Harry dead in the first place? Somehow this didn't fit. Something was missing.

Wandlessy he summoned an empty vial, where he dropped the rose into, to look at it from all sides, without needing to touch it. Was this really an ordinary rose? But where did the silvery glimmer come from? His fingers were itching to take the bud in his lab and find out more, take it apart and check it's magic and contents. That was it, this flower held in a strong magic – that must be the reason of it's glowing… Still in thought he placed the vial back where the pouch had been. Looking at the pouch in front of him, he suddenly had an idea. When the rose was so important to the ghost… Looking around carefully, he reached over to Harry and pulled the blood rose out of the pile of flowers off of the child's chest. Gently, he peeled some leafs of the bud, broke it of the stem and with a cunning smile he dropped the rest of the bloom into the pouch and the pouch back in his pocket. The stem still in hand, he laid over to Harry to place it underneath all the flowers, to hide the missing bud. There he also hid the loose leafs. Gently he rearranged the flowers back in place, when he suddenly froze in his movement. There, right in front of him was a small glowing green light, as from a muggle flash light. Neville! He had played a prank on his dead son! With a madly range he dropped the flowers he still had in his hand and almost roughly pulled Harry's shirt up – only to discover the slight glow of the green stone of the amulet. In shock Severus moved his hands back and fell heavily on the chair, his mind going in circles.

Why was the amulet glowing? The amulet had never given a light when he had worn it. Why did it now?

His mother had put protection spells on it, so had he, he had told Harry before, and he remembered the talk he had had with the boy.

So many questions he had no answer for. He laid his elbow next to the child on the table and placed his head in his hand. So many whys.

The room was getting darker, except for the always burning candles in the room. Shortly he wondered why nobody had come into the room to bother him, but at a second thought, he was glad no one came. He enjoyed the time with his Harry alone.

It was as if he could feel the child be with him and when he was very quiet, he could almost hear the child speak to him.

"Daddy." He thought he heard Harry whisper in his ear. "Daddy, I love you." "Yes," he whispered back into the silent room. "I love you too." Carefully he covered his son's chest again and rearranged the flowers gently the way they were before he had discovered the glowing of the amulet.

- . -

Under the stairway up to the Astronomy tower the Bloody Baron was leaning on the curved wall, picking on his fingernails.

Across from him the Grey Lady was talking silently to Headless Nick, who wore his head where it belonged these days. The Fat Friar sat on the second step upwards while Peeves was playing a hopping game in front of his feet.

He had created his own game by using small paint balloons instead of flipping stones. If he was able to hop without stepping on a line, he could use the same balloon again. If not, the balloon would popp and leave a small colourful stain on the stone floor. Of course he stepped on the lines most of the time and the floor was already spotted with yellow, red an green. Now he was working on blue.

"Why can't I just scare him away?" Peeves paused his hopping and looked at the Fat Friar longingly for mischief. "I am the spirit here. There is just not enough room for three."

"Three?" Surprised the Bloody Baron and the Fat Friar were looking up eyeing first the poltergeist and then the Grey Lady.

While Nick stopped speaking with the female ghost and focused on Peeves. "This is serious, Peeves. Stop joking. We must get rid of this... this strange creature. He is not one of us and does absolutely not belong here. Why haven't you just forbid him entering the castle, I don't understand. You have done it before."

"Wait," the Grey Lady waved her hand in a smothering movement to the other ghosts. Then focusing also on Peeves, she asked too, "what do you mean with 'three'? There is just you and the strange one – who is the third?"

The Poltergeist stopped playing all together, but didn't vanish the chalk or the colourful spots of the floor. He dropped the balloon in his hand and with a quiet "poff" it popped onto the floor, leaving a blue spot further away from the others, almost staining the Fat Friars foot. "The little boy, the Potion Masters little boy. He left his body. That's three."

"Oh, no!"

Peeves looked from one to the other without even a tingle of a smile. His fellow ghost's looked surprised and shocked. "Yes. I could share the castle with the little boy but definitely not with that evil spirit. He is a disgrace of all ghosts and our world."

"How did he get here anyway?" The Fat Friar had moved his foot out of the way quickly and shoot Peeves a mean look.

"The poor child." There was a sad tone to the Ravenclaw ghost. "No mother and no father, both dead. And now there is a world between him and his Daddy."

"He came through the boy." Peeves shot the Friar an apologetic look.

"We should save the child." Inspecting his fingernails again the Bloody Baron looked up to the sudden silence. "What?"

"Yeah, we should, shouldn't we," the mischief in the Poltergeists eyes was back.

"And get rid of the evil around here the same way..." Leaving his fingernails be, he grinned towards Peeves.

The Grey Lady sat down next to the Friar on the second step. "No," she said lightly. "I think we should just focus on the child and help him to find his way back here. I know someone who would help his lost little soul. With this, the evil will go on it's own..." She smiled at the baron and had a knowingly twinkle in her eyes.

The Gryffindor ghost had just followed this talk so far, but he knew what to do. He leaned over to the baron and kept his voice very low, as if to be afraid to be overheard. The others watched him carefully.

"Death's Return", he whispered.

- . -

He must have fallen asleep through all his musings. His head laid on his arm, which must have fallen down by weight of his head asleep. Wondering what had wakened him, he wanted to pick up his head. But something let him freeze. Harry hadn't moved – of course not – but the room felt different. Somebody was whispering. He heard it. Carefully he felt for his wand, only to listen to the calm words to his left:

"Listen child, we had a deal. I gave you freedom and peace. You will continue to have peace forever. Here I come to take what's mine in return. You have gotten and now you give back. It's time to pay your debts…"

The Professor slowly turned to look at the ghostly creature dressed in a dark blue velvet robe and trousers a sword hanging down his left leg. It was standing by the child's feet, talking quietly.

"Who are you?" Severus hissed at the shiny figure, scaring it badly, as if he hadn't realized the guardian of little Harry had woken up. Of course he knew who it was – but the ghost didn't know him – yet.

"Uh," was it fear that made the ghost stutter, or was it just surprise? "I guess you could call me his –" he pointed at Harry but looked the potions master right in the eye "- brother."

"His brother?" The wizard looked at the creature up and down, occluding his mind after feeling the lousy try of Legilimens from the ghost and with a mocking voice continued. "A ghost?"

"I'm no ghost!" Came the incensed answer.

"No?" With a sneer he leaned in closer to look at the pointy faced figure standing there with an arched eyebrow. "'Could have fooled me."

"Eh," it was as if Severus mocking had left the ghost's vocabulary. So the wizard kept on talking as if the ghost hadn't said anything at all.

"Well, you must be the one we all have to thank, because we are loosing our sweetheart?" Severus was growling at the glimmering figure now. The ghost moved back a little, and disappeared almost into the wall, giving the surface behind him an odd greyish light.

"Eh, I guess," at least the creature had the guts to look down – as in embarrassment.

"Now," Severus demanded angrily, "let's try it again. Who. Are. You?" For a moment there was just silence.

"Fine," the ghost gave in hesitated. "May I take a seat?" With a happy smile on his face, he sat himself on the stone bench, next to ghost Harry, who moved over quickly, for not being sat on. He had been dosing off a little, dreaming, but now he was back, wide awake to watch his Daddy and Sir Frederick. For a moment he wondered again why the other ghost couldn't see him – but he dismissed the thought, just glad he did not.

The Potions Master had to fight back the urgent to scream in frustration. But he settled and just sneered at the shimmering figure.

"Thank you," the ghost quipped, still in a sunny, happy voice and made himself comfortable by leaning back and folding his legs underneath himself.

"Will you finally start?" Severus spat impatiently at the blasted creature.

Smiling, the ghost slowly laid his sword next to him on the stone bench, where it lighted up it's surroundings and looked up at the potions master innocently. "All right," he folded his almost invisible hands in his lap and looked directly at Severus. "What is it you'd like to know?"

"Your name?" The professor growled through clenched teeth, his shields still intact.

Still smiling, the ghost lifted his hat shortly and let it fall back on his dark brown curls. "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to introduce myself. Sir Frederick van der Steik. Nice to meet you." He answered while folding his hands back into his lap. Looking up at the professor his voice changed as if he was a child when he asked: "And who are you?"

A cold chill went down Severus' spine. He knew instinctive that this ghost in front of him meant harm and he or better his son were in danger. The spy within him calmed him so much that the shiny creature did not feel Severus' mistrust. In this moment he almost thanked the Dark Lord and Dumbledore to be able to control himself as he did. Then he growled at Sir Frederick in his dark teacher's tone. "Professor Snape." He could see that the ghost didn't trust him either. Maybe Sir Frederick realized in this moment that it wasn't so easy after all to get to Harry…

"Professor, uh?" The potions master did not appreciate the ghost's irreverence snickering. Ignoring the comment, he went on. "What is it you want?"

Now the creature grew serious. "I came for my share of the trade." He answered with a hoarse whisper.

But Severus did not let it go. He wanted to know Sir Frederick as much as he could to figure out how to act best and what to do. "What might this be?"

"The child promised me his life, when I get him to go to his parents. He wanted to be where they were. Now, I came to take what's mine." As if in anticipation, the ghost was giggling at him, just like a child which gotten promised a present when behaved well. Which didn't fit well, just because of the ghosts dark brown beard.

Now Severus was gaping, like a fish on land. "You – what?" he asked in disbelieve, not realising his own lack of words.

But instead of repeating the just said words, Sir Frederick tipped his head on one side as if in thought and observed him closely. "Why do you care?" Curiosity was leaking through his voice.

The potions master kept silent for a minute. This wasn't any information he wanted to share, especially with this ghost, without thinking. "I found him in the graveyard." He explained eventually, watching the creature too.

The ghost's mouth turned into a wide grin. "Ooh," now his voice became mocking, "You thought he was homeless."

"Watch it," The older wizard growled, getting into the dangerous sounding whisper his students feared so much.

But it didn't seem to get the same affection as with his students. The shimmering figure was just shaking his head with a smile spread on his face. "You can't threaten me. My position will not change. Within this night, I will become Sir Frederick Harold Potter!" Proudly he now stood up in front of the professor.

The Potions Master felt confused. "Isn't your name Frederick van der Steik?" He left out the ‚Sir' on purpose. Why was there a 'Sir' anyway? What heroic did Frederick do to earn a 'Sir' in the first place?

Still standing the ghost explained with a boring expression in his voice: "It was. I have to trade a life every 197 years. The last time it was a Dutch ship boy. Nobody had wanted him either. I remember him very well. His full name had been Severin Liborius van der Steik. He was somewhat older than this little one…" He kept on talking, but the older wizard did not follow any longer. He was thinking about Severin Liborius. Both names were names in his own family tree, and Severin Francis Prince had written the book about the missing flower.

In his mind he went through his family tree. One of his ancestors name, also a Potions Master, had been Liborius Ignatius Prince. What if that blasted ghost "trade" his death with the life of one of his ancestors? And now he wanted to trade Harry's? He was wondering if he should offer his own life for the sake of Harry's. And that blasted flower…

Interrupting the creature's nonsense he asked with a thoughtful impression: "Where did you get the flower from?"

The ghost shut up immediately and looked at his face as if searching for something. He felt the clumsy brush against his mind again and automatic he pulled his occlumentic shields up tighter. He wouldn't just give the ghost access to his mind. He could feel the creature trying to come in again and also when he dropped out. Without success.

"I know what you came looking for," The wizard gave the ghost a wicked smirk and with a very slow movement, he pulled the pouch out of his robe.

There was a gasp and a shocked look on Sir Frederick's face and the potions master knew that the ghost did not expect him to know anything about or carry the flower at all.

"You…" Inwardly grinning madly he listened to the search of words from the now extreme pale looking creature. "You are the professor!"

Severus ignored that commend. "Tell me," he demanded hoarsely. "The truth, ghost, I warn you." "Y-yes, I'll tell you, j-just don't hurt the flower…"

"You are nowhere to tell me what I can or can not do! Now speak!" The potions master held the pouch a little tighter in front of Sir Frederick's nose.

The shimmering figure became a bit more solid, his shoulders hanging down and it gave him a defeated look. But Severus didn't trust this picture. He didn't loose the tight hold from the pouch at all.

'Can't fool me, ghost,' he thought and gave a grim smile. "Speak," he growled in his darkest whisper. "Or the flower is..." he didn't finish the sentence but knew with this tone of voice, his students would be frozen. But he couldn't help it – he was beyond mad. He was furious.

"My… my name is Frederick Drake…" the ghost was peeping up, trying not to look into the snarling face in front of him.

"I was born 3rd of August of 1535. I grew up on the Medway River in southeast England, where my father was a Puritan naval chaplain. I loved the sea and I always wanted to be on a ship. When I turned 14 my mother died on typhus and father started drinking. With 15 my younger brother Francis and I decided to go to sea and work on a big ship. We never got separated, we never wanted or needed to –" the ghost was quiet for a couple of seconds, as in thought. Then he gave a sigh, sounding sorrowful, and kept on telling: "- we sailed with Sir John Hawkins on a slaving voyage, and then our ships were captured by the Spanish on the coast of Mexico. Those blasted… Sometime around 1570 I guess, we took revenge by raiding Spain's possessions in the Caribbean, and gaining great popularity in England but being regarded as a pirate by the Spanish. Poor Spanish… we became the first English captains to circumnavigate the world. Years later, Queen Elizabeth bowed to popular opinion and knighted Francis on the Golden Hind at Deptford. So there, happy?"

The black dressed wizard watched the ghost through half closed eyes and pushed tighter on the pouch.

"You're missing something." He hissed madly. He could hear the cracking of the fragile blooms in the pouch.

"Stop!" The ghost held up his hands like to shield his body. "Please, don't break what's inside this pouch – I… I still need it," he added in an almost cry.

"Why? Why should I not break it?" Sneering he watched the pale ghost closely. He looked odd as he had lost all the shimmering around him. Now he looked just like any ordinary ghost, a grey whitely figure. Slightly, Severus was wondering what Peeves would do with this cowardly, fake show off. He almost wished for the poltergeist to drop in and wondered in the same time why none of the ghosts in Hogwarts had shown themselves. As if there was something wrong with this one or a danger – but first he had to finish his own business with this creature and he focused back on the topic right in front of him.

"It's… It's… the Flower… the Flower Of… Life." Sir Frederick was whispering, the stutter driving Severus up the wall and with clenched teeth he closed his fist around the pouch, his knuckles showing up white. The hopelessness in the ghost's face at the thought that he'd never get his flower back, gave the eyes a dull look.

"I'll tell you… Queen Elizabeth forgot to knighten me," one tear slipped down the ghost's cheek. "I was so jealous of my brother – Sir Francis. I was supposed to be Sir Frederick! I swore for revenge to Fran and asked him for a duel of death. First he refused but I… I'd pushed him into it. We fought on a field by London. I won and killed Fran. I had the flower, that's why I never died and I got cursed… but I have to find a new life every 197 years, otherwise I go into the fate of abyss – that's where all the ghosts meet, which have nowhere to go…" he started to whisper becoming quieter every minute and the Potion Master had to strain his ears to understand the now shivering ghost. "I'm afraid of the dark. If I can't get another life, I will go into this Nothingness. It's a sort of hell… for ghosts. It's a place where one lands… and suddenly the ground turns to liquid a… and things and creatures will come flying to me and… around me. And some things will try to suck m… me in. The creatures in there don't have souls, and… all the ghost's which have done bad or have strong negative reactions, will go there one day. It is a really, really bad place, and the ghosts in this world are speaking… speaking about it in secret; no one dares of saying it aloud…"

He stopped talking altogether, taking in a big breath, and another one. After a while he stopped shaking too and looked up at the stern wizard again, returning to his almost normal voice, finishing his tale.

"The… the native Indians were killed in the Caribbean and we placed slaves there instead. They worked on huge plantations. When we went for revenge in the Caribbean, I took the Flower of an African shaman that we had taken from Africa before! But before the shaman died, he cursed me."

"What's the curse?"

"You don't… you really don't need to know."

Oh, yes, Severus thought, yes, I really want to know. "I might not," he growled out. "Tell me! I decide if this information is worth the need or not!"

"Please…"

"Don't 'please' me, ghost. Speak!"

"I show you." The ghost laid a finger on Severus' forehead. Because of his heavy shields in his head the ghost could not come in. But suddenly the older wizard found himself on a ship, similar to the one he had dreamed Harry to be on.

An old black skinned man with white hair was standing on a long board to jump overboard. It looked like the whole crew were standing to watch this event happening. He also saw some other black people standing tied in chains not too far away, watching. The man on the board turned to a man with a pointy face, dark brown curled hair and beard, dressed in a dark blue velvet robe and trousers. He must have been the captain of this ship.

"You," he heard the old man say with a strange accent. "You will be sorry for this. I am cursing you for a never ending death and a never to be life. You will have time for 197 years and then you'll have to find someone who will trade. You'll better find one with a strong wish. If not, you will burn. You are the slave. My people will have the freedom, you will never have. Never!" And with that he jumped off the board where he drowned right away.

The water and ship faded and the stone walls of the small room came back in place. Slightly confused the potion master looked around. Had he been in the ghost's mind?

"Please," the ghost whimpered again in front of him. "Please be kind…" "Kind?" He focused back to the creature in front of him and what he had seen. "Have you been kind with any of your victims?" "Please…" The feeling of misery just came over the ghostly captain.

"Give the child back to me."

"I… I can't!" He just looked so pitiful, he knew.

"Then I guess I can't be kind." Severus felt annoyed.

"You… you don't understand. I don't know how." "You can take but can't give?"

"This is my life. The flower is my life. I don't take or give, - I trade." "This seems a bad trade to me. What does the other person get when you steal their life?" Sir Frederick grimaced painfully. The wizard almost had to suppress a smile. What an actor this ghost was! "Pe… ace?" the creature whined.

"Peace?" He couldn't believe his ears. His fingers smashed the rose in the pouch and the ghost cried out pitifully.

"Nobody had wanted this child. He wanted to trade, that's how I found him… and the child wanted to die. I just offered him his wish, and he took it."

Severus felt nerved with this wailing on of that fake creature. But then one thought came to him. "Wait," the quietly weeping ghost looked up again, a flame of hope gleaming in his eyes.

But the Potion's Master wasn't into for a deal. "You said you have to find a new victim every 197 years. How do you know that time is close?"

The hope died and the ghostly captain slumped back. Defeated he pulled a small silver watch on a silver chain out of his shirt, which looked pretty solid for the ghostly figure. Holding it under the wizard's croaky nose, he let it snap open. Three hour glasses were artfully crafted within each other, one bigger one, on the outside, with the numbers not one to twelve but one to 196. Then there was a smaller one in the middle, with numbers from 0 to 358. Then was a third one in the middle that said one to 168. A big fire red hand was showing on a number counted almost zero, some small dots left.

"See... this is urgent. I don't have time to be looking for a new trade. This is mine." "Urgent?" The Professor looked thoughtfully at the left over dots. This was the time left for the evil ghost. Why didn't he trade already? Unless... Looking up he focused once more on the figure in front of him. "Why waiting?" The ghost grinned at him as if he knew there wasn't anything changing the situation. He would get his way.

"He'll be moving over soon. It would be faster with the flower, but..." Sir Frederick shrugged a little but had his grin back in place.

Looking from the odd watch to the ghost and then to Harry and back to the ghost he could only think of one thing. His precious little son is still around. Somewhere.

"So, you're telling me this child isn't dead? He's still alive?"

"Yes," the ghost nodded. "But he'll move over in a day or two. You can't do anything anyway. Why not help me – and him?"

But he got no response. The Potions master seemd far away with his thoughts, again. Sir Frederick felt uneasyness coming up and if dismissed he vanished.

- . -

Severus moved the just heard informations over in his head. The amulet was still glowing, but he could not see any sign of life in this child.

Then he moved forwards and gathered the flowers closer to him, checking each one carefully.

There were a Mermaid's Rose, an Elderberry, Hart Hey, Sinnau, Mary's Root, Sky Key's, Gypsy Flower's, one Ruta and of course the leafs of the blood rose. Somewhere in his mind he heard Harrys fine whisper ask for Daisys.

While he was just sitting there, starring at these flowers in his hands, made something stir deep within him. He just couldn't picture it at this moment.