Making Good Impressions
I've always had a bit of a thing for magical sentients and Su's the latest semi-leading lady of mine to get that treatment. Fair warning, if you want to look up qílín/qilin/kirin online for more information, the myths morphed radically over the different dynasties and so what you find and think is cool might be nothing like what I'm using for Su. Forewarned is forearmed and all that. Oh, and if you're at all curious about my version of Narcissa Malfoy? Think a lot less Helen McCrory and a lot more Christina Hendricks. After all, contrary to the bad casting in the movies… she's only forty or forty-one at this point. Narcissa isn't a combatant, either; she's a pampered housewife who - at least in this version - moonlights as a fashion designer. She's probably not even going to look her age, and she's certainly not going to look older than the older sister who spent over a decade in Azkaban…
June 16, 2006
The Riddle House
Little Hangleton, Cheshire, England, United Kingdom
"An Old One. Somehow, Potter has gotten his pathetic little hands on an Old One!" Voldemort paced back and forth in his throne room, eyes flashing with anger. "And since I doubt he met her at Hogwarts and she hasn't appeared in any of the memories I have seen when I enter his mind… it means you could have found, released, and used her against Potter while in the Ministry! You could have, but you didn't! And for that you will have to be punished. Crucio
Except when Voldemort whirled and unleashed his spell, it hit the stone floor instead of one of his Death Eaters. A few of those who remained flinched, but none were stupid enough to try and flee. The gaps that littered the ranks of his followers were a keen reminder of what he'd lost tonight. At least thirteen of his Death Eaters: three dead, ten captured. Bellatrix Lestrange, one of his best students and most loyal followers, was dead at the hands of Illyria. The Lestrange brothers, likewise taken from his service. Avery, Crabbe, Dolohov, Gibbon, Jugson, Macnair, Mulciber, Nott, Rookwood, and Yaxley, all captured and imprisoned in Azkaban. Lucius Malfoy? Voldemort wasn't quite sure where he was. He could tell through the man's Dark Mark that he wasn't with those who'd been captured… but he hadn't come when called for this meeting. Injured, perhaps? Which meant that for the time being, he was left with only Snape, the Carrows, Pettigrew, and largely untested recruits. And Fenrir Greyback, who was an uncertain ally at best and likely only good for raids against targets where he wouldn't mind leaving witnesses alive, albeit infected.
Voldemort sighed and wished for a moment that the rituals he'd undergone had left him with human facial features so he could pinch the bridge of his nose or something. This would not do at all. Thankfully, he could rely on the magical creatures such as the giants, werewolves, and dementors for the moment, but he would need to mount an assault on Azkaban soon to retrieve his more experienced followers.
It had all seemed like such a simple and brilliant plan when he'd conceived it: exploit his strange connection with Potter to draw the boy into the Department of Mysteries, and then force him to retrieve the prophecy in exchange for the safety of a captive that didn't actually exist. And yet somehow it had all gone terribly wrong. His forces had been either killed or captured, the prophecy sphere destroyed, and he could no longer pit the light side against itself as he bided his time and grew more powerful.
There was also the matter of Illyria to consider. While he'd delved deep into the darkest of the Dark Arts to prolong his life and enhance his abilities, Voldemort had never really thought to go outside of what the wizarding world had discovered and then forbidden, leaving him with only the barest amounts of knowledge when it came to demons. And so - loathe as he was to admit it - he was woefully unprepared for the prospect of facing a creature such as Illyria. And what if Potter managed to find and release more of them? The boy had taken five followers into the Ministry, and one Old One had forced Voldemort to withdraw. What kind of challenge would five Old Ones present to his forces?
Until he knew what he was facing, Voldemort wasn't entirely sure he wanted to risk meeting Potter on the field of battle again… or that striking at the wizarding world as a whole was a good idea. If the creature could apparate or otherwise move herself across great distances, nowhere was safe. So before he could free his followers from Azkaban or launch a renewed campaign of terror… "Snape. Pettigrew. I want you both to start researching Old Ones. Snape, you are to use Dumbledore's resources; gain access by any means necessary. Pettigrew, use your abilities to sneak into anywhere you might think useful. I want to know more about what I'm facing, where she came from, and where we can get our own. And someone send for Narcissa Malfoy. Let's see if we can cause a bit more mayhem through the Ministry before that useless lump Fudge is thrown out."
June 18, 2006
The Leaky Cauldron
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
♪ Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they're okay. If they don't give me proper credit, I just walk away. ♪ ♪ They can beg and they can plead, but they can't see the light. 'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right. ♪ ♪ 'Cause we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. ♪ ♪ You know that we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. ♪
Her iPod's earbuds safely hidden away beneath her long hair, Narcissa bobbed her head faintly to the beat as she wielded a fork with one hand and her wand with the other, flipping through the Sunday Prophet
as she ate breakfast. She still didn't understand how Tom could manage to throw together a better full English than her house elf, but since she needed to head into the Alley on business anyway… why not take advantage of it? Much to her disappointment, there was nothing decent in the Blablabla
section today and so she flicked her wand, closing the newspaper so she could stare at the front cover.
Sirius was dead. To be honest, Narcissa wasn't entirely sure how she felt about that one. On one hand, she'd barely known him growing up, what with being half a decade his senior and in a different house for the few years they'd attended Hogwarts together. By the time he'd been old enough to not be an annoying little twit at family gatherings, she'd been married and no longer attending them. On the other hand, he had been family and - contrary to what she'd told Lucius the night before - decent people generally were never happy to hear that their blood kin were dead.
But while she lacked an extra hand to use metaphorically for a third argument… there was another side of things to consider. While Narcissa wasn't necessarily happy to hear that Sirius was dead, his passing did open up an interesting new possibility for her going forward, especially with her impending divorce. Because as much fun as Aunt Walburga had found it to blast holes in the family tapestry at Grimmauld Place when people irritated her, the goblins didn't tend to care about that sort of thing. What they did care about? Formal disinheritance, something Uncle Orion and her own father had occasionally done when the situation warranted it. Uncle Alphard in the former's case, and her sister Andy in the latter's. Which meant that with Sirius and Bellatrix dead and Andromeda legally removed from the order of succession… Narcissa slid another forkful of eggs into her mouth before staring at the back of her hand, specifically her left ring finger. The Black family ring would look awfully nice right there, she mused… ♪ Some boys romance, some boys slow dance, that's all right with me. If they can't raise my interest then I have to let them be. ♪ ♪ Some boys try and some boys lie, but I don't let them play. Only boys who save their pennies make my rainy day. ♪ ♪ 'Cause they are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. ♪ ♪ You know that we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl. ♪
June 18, 2006
The Hospital Wing
Hogwarts, Moray, Scotland, United Kingdom
"You know, this article would be a lot easier to stomach if it wasn't all such… tripe." Hermione scowled down at the Sunday Prophet
as if her ire could change the words printed on the page. "Oh, Harry bravely endured ridicule and slander, never changed his story… they don't seem to remember that they were the ones ridiculing and slandering you all this time." Closing the paper and folding it in half, she dropped it onto her lap and looked up at Harry. "Their reporting is still lacking, though. Luna, a demon? Killing the Lestranges and choking Minister Fudge? I think someone at the Prophet
's office has inhaled a few too many ink fumes."
Stifling his initial reaction to Hermione's dismissal, Harry managed to limit his reaction to merely raising his eyebrows curiously. "So you think Fudge has moved on from slandering me to trying to make Luna look bad? And even though he's disgraced, the rest of the Ministry - including the people who will probably be trying to take his job - are all backing him?"
Hermione scoffed and glanced down at the Prophet
again before returning her attention to Harry. "Harry, you're not serious, are you? Luna is possessed by a demon? Ginny and Neville tried to fill us in, but Harry… what happened after you ran off with the prophecy?"
A quick mental check informed him that his bonded was elsewhere on the first floor rather than deep beneath the school at the moment and so rather than answer Hermione, Harry looked around the hospital wing. Not spotting Madam Pomfrey anywhere, he slid off of Hermione's bed and then nodded toward the door. "I could tell you, but I think it'd be faster and easier to just bring you to meet her. Although a word of advice? Call her Illyria. Not Luna."
"Call who Illyria and not Luna?" Ron grunted softly as he slid out of his own bed, looking down at his bare arms and their scars before shrugging. "If she's possessed, isn't it Luna and Illyria?"
Harry snorted as he waved his wand idly, not quite sure what he was doing until a passable imitation of Ron appeared in the empty bed, resting on its side as it snored softly. Hermione let out a squeak as she found herself next to her own duplicate, jumping out of her bed and then pressing her hand to her stomach with a soft groan. "I had to convince Illyria to call her Luna instead of just saying 'the shell'. We never really covered demons in class so I don't really have anything to compare it to but… trust me. For your own safety, call her Illyria."
The others were too busy staring at Harry's silent conjuring to pay attention to his words, and so he just sighed before turning and wandering toward the exit. Either they'd follow his advice or… well, hopefully he could talk Illyria down before she did anything drastic to his friends. Speaking of Illyria, he could feel a general sense of smugness radiating through their bond; presumably she was behind his sudden transfiguration prowess. He wasn't particularly surprised that she could manage such a feat, given that she'd already displayed the ability to speak directly into his mind. His four fellow Gryffindors fell in behind him as he departed Madam Pomfrey's domain, following in silence as they journeyed through the empty halls from the hospital wing to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Pushing the doors open, Harry stepped inside and staggered as he was hit by a burst of tropical air.
"Hello, Ginevra. Hermione. Neville. Ronald." Illyria's voice was close to Luna's real tone; just subtly off enough that those who knew her well would be able to detect something was different. "Your new battle scars are most impressive, Ronald. If this was still the time of my first reign, you would likely be receiving mating proposals from many a female demon."
The others were speechless at the sight that greeted them and it was only because he'd spent most of the morning watching her remodel the bathroom that Harry wasn't as surprised as they were. Illyria had not only torn down all the toilet stalls but leveled the column of stone sinks as well, turning the room into a giant greenhouse. The ceiling had been charmed much like that of the Great Hall, showing the sunny sky overhead, and a ball of glowing yellow light provided light and heat for the myriad species of flora that covered the floor and walls. And back in her multihued catsuit, waving her wand like an orchestra conductor as the remains of the sinks floated and melted into a new shape, was Illyria.
Harry was eagerly awaiting his friends' first reactions to Illyria, and Ron didn't disappoint. Rather than respond to her words, he chose to focus on… "Bloody hell! That can't be Luna's body." His head tipped to the side, eyeing things from a different perspective, and then he shook his head. "There's no way she has an ass like that. I would have noticed." Well, it was nice to know the encounter with the flying brains and unknown curse hadn't changed Ron too much…
"Make another comment about my shell's 'ass', Ronald, and I shall snap your spine so that you can admire your own." One more flick of her wand and a deep purple spell later, the sculpture was finished. Taking a step to her left, Illyria spun and gestured to her creation. "What do you think, Harry? And you should probably take two steps forward so Hermione can hit Ronald without accidentally striking you."
Taking a large step forward, Harry studied Illyria's sculpture and tried to ignore Ron's yelps of pain as Hermione hit him several times. It was… like nothing he'd ever seen. He could pick out a bull-like body, with legs that would have looked more at home on a lion or other large cat, and a long scaly neck and head. Part-bull, part-cat, part-dragon? It obviously wasn't a muggle animal, but Harry couldn't think of a magical creature that fit those criteria. His eyes returned to the sculpture's head, and he added another item to the list: it was part-moose, too, if the impressive rack of antlers was anything to go by. "It's… very odd. What is it?"
Illyria slowly lowered the sculpture to plug the gaping hole in the floor of the bathroom, neatly blocking off access to the Chamber of Secrets. "I've created a guardian for my temple that requires something more complicated than an obscure language to get past. Or were you curious what it was a sculpture of?" Harry nodded. "Oh. A crumple-horned snorkack."
"…and for another thing, Ronald, even if you can't help yourself from staring you should… wait, what?" Hermione tore herself away from scolding Ron, turning and staring at Illyria and her sculpture in disbelief. "Is that something you picked up from Luna, or do you believe in them too? Because I've never seen a single reference to them in any book and so despite Luna's arguments, I really can't find it in me to accept such a thing exists."
Blinking slowly, Illyria gave Hermione the same sort of look that Hermione usually reserved for when Ron said something especially stupid. "Of course I believe in them. I created them." Taking another step toward Harry, she looped one arm around his and pulled Harry through his friends and back toward the door. "You may admire my antechamber if you wish. Harry neglected to remember our impending meeting with the headmaster when he invited you here, and so we must be going. Hermione, Ronald, your duplicates will only last for an hour. I would recommend returning to the hospital wing before they disappear."
Harry sighed; first contact had not gone at all how he wanted. Ron had made a fool of himself, Hermione was mad at Ron and would now have time to build up a list of questions, Ginny was silent but glaring at Illyria for some reason, and Neville… Neville was hanging back near the doorway, watching the scene play out with an odd look on his face. Perhaps at least part of the situation was salvageable? "Neville. You all right?"
Neville nodded. "I need to buy a new wand, and I don't think Gran is going to be too happy when she hears I broke my father's. Madam Pomfrey fixed my nose up right quick; I'm still dealing with an odd twitch now and then, but it could be worse." Considering what had happened to Neville's parents? That was a bit of an understatement in Harry's opinion. After a moment's pause, Neville's eyes flicked from Harry to Illyria and back. "Did she really kill the Lestranges?"
Drawing herself up to her full height, Illyria glared at Neville. "She is standing right here."
After taking a deep breath, Neville did likewise and met her gaze. "Did you kill the Lestranges?"
A flurry of emotions played over Neville's face before settling on one… satisfaction. "Thank you."
Illyria inclined her head slightly. "I did it for my Qwa'ha Xahn, but if you take solace in her death… then you are welcome as well."
June 18, 2006
The Headmaster's Office
Hogwarts, Moray, Scotland, United Kingdom
"…I will not journey to Privet Drive to spend time with Harry's blood relations. And since I am not, he is not. Have I made my point perfectly clear yet or do I need to repeat myself again?"
Harry leaned back in his chair, his hand resting on the small of Illyria's back as he watched her run people far older - and supposedly wiser - than him through the ringer. The two of them were seated on one side of the still-damaged desk in Dumbledore's office with the headmaster, Mad-Eye Moody, Professor McGonagall, and Snape on the opposite side. Although technically Illyria only had to deal with Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Snape; Moody was leaning against the wall and nursing some firewhiskey after asking Illyria to curse him. He'd been curious about her magic, something he was probably regretting about now, Harry mused.
Sighing, Dumbledore popped another lemon drop into his mouth and savored it for a moment before taking up the argument again. "Would you perhaps be willing to part company with him for a short while, then? It is necessary for him to return to his relatives for at least two weeks this summer, after which he is free to go anywhere he likes with you."
"Somehow I doubt that." Harry snorted, brushing against Illyria as he leaned forward and eyed the headmaster disdainfully. "Ever since Voldemort's return, you've forced me to travel with a large guard any time I'm not at Privet Drive or Hogwarts. Every single time. I really don't see you letting me go wandering around the country with just Illyria for company."
Snape sneered at the suggestion, or maybe he was constipated. Harry wasn't precisely sure. "Of course not, you stupid boy. Now that you have won the allegiance of an Old One, the Dark Lord is focusing even more of his attention on you than he was before. Most of the Order's resources are going to have to be repositioned to keep your insignificant hide intact, which will seriously disrupt our ability to mount an effective defense against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
Clutching at his chest dramatically, Harry let out an explosive sigh. "I'm sorry, Snivellus. Perhaps in the future, I can be more considerate when it comes to fighting Voldemort? I promise not to do anything else that will cut down on the time you have available to kiss his pasty ass."
"Harry, you will show your professors respect!"
"So arrogant. So defiant. So much like your mutt of a godfather." Snape leaned forward and put his hands on Dumbledore's desk, glaring at Harry. "Except you don't have a godfather anymore, do you? You got him killed with your childish stupidity."
"Severus, that's enough!"
Hatred rose up inside Harry again, similar to how he'd felt before casting the Cruciatus on Bellatrix but… purer, somehow. He was on his feet in a flash with his wand in his hand and pointed at Snape, but then he froze. Almost like a dementor, he felt the anger drain from him and he fell back into his chair, dimly aware of Illyria sliding off the arm beside him. The Hogwarts uniform she'd shifted into for the trip through the hallways melted away as she drew her own wand and thrust it at Snape in one fluid movement.
The office lit up as a bright red bolt of lightning arced between her wand and Snape, tiny tendrils flickering this way and that. Snape bore the curse with only a grimace for a few seconds and then beads of sweat began appearing on his forehead. Harry heard the others shouting and was dimly aware of spells slamming into Illyria's body, but all he could focus on was Snape. Maybe if Snape had done his job and taught him to protect his mind, Sirius would still be alive…
The bolt thickened a bit and Snape cracked. Screams echoed in the headmaster's office and Harry still refused to look away. After five years of torment, the occlumency lessons, the destruction of the pedestal he put his father on, and Sirius's death… he wanted this. He needed this.
"Enough!" A brilliant burst of white light slammed into Illyria, lifting her off her feet and throwing her backward through the headmaster's office. Her flight ended when she hit the floor of the lower level, rolling twice before skidding to a stop. Her spell disrupted, Snape groaned and dropped to his knees, leaning against the edge of Dumbledore's desk. "That is quite enough of that."
Harry pushed himself to his feet, intending to go check on Illyria, but froze as Snape's wheezing laugh reached his ears. "I told you, Headmaster. I told you. History is repeating itself. Once again you have your Potter and your beast, and this pair is even more dangerous than the last. If you keep them around, it'll only be a matter of time before someone else suffers because of your decision."
Pulling a piece of parchment out of his pocket, Harry turned and slapped it down on Dumbledore's desk. "Do you know how long it took me to convince Illyria to try talking with you instead of just marching in here and making demands? These were going to be her starting positions to compromise from. Now they're the positions. Unless you want me to take a one-way portal to Vahla ha'nesh and leave your damn war behind, that is."
"Am I to understand then that you intend to blackmail the wizarding world now that you know the prophecy and the true extent of your importance?" Not even after the battle at the Ministry had Harry seen Dumbledore look so old and worn-down as he did at that moment. "Is that what things have come to?"
Harry shrugged and turned away, calling back over his shoulder as he descended the stairs to the lower part of the headmaster's office. "Aurors, hit wizards, and muggle soldiers get paid to fight. Consider it signing a contract to hire Illyria and I to fight against Voldemort." He found Illyria slumped in the wreckage of what had formerly been a couch, covered in stuffing and chips of wood. Her catsuit still smoked slightly from the curse that had torn her away from Snape, and Harry gingerly cleaned her off so he could see the extent of the damage. There was only a black burn mark, growing smaller as he watched, and Harry let out a sigh of relief. "Still with me?"
"As weak as Luna's body may be compared to my real one, I haven't fallen so far that a human wizard can kill me." Illyria sat up and rubbed at her chest gingerly. "Although I again find myself caught off-guard by human magic. It is not an experience I like."
Harry nodded and helped Illyria to her feet. "I'm sorry I didn't help you or defend you or anything. I was just caught up in what was happening to Snape and my attention was so focused that I didn't even-"
Rubbing her chest again, Illyria glared over Harry's shoulder at the quartet of adults. "You are forgiven. After all, I do not think you would be able to stand up to an attack like that yet anyway. While you might someday die in service to me, I would prefer you not commit suicide for me."
"As much as I hate to disrupt your moment, Harry… you can't possibly think I'm going to agree to this, do you?" Dumbledore held up the parchment for emphasis, eyes wide. "To be quite honest, at least half of this is outside of my abilities as a headmaster to approve and even if it wasn't…"
Harry just shrugged off Dumbledore's excuses. "After picking through Luna's memories, Illyria's sure it's within your abilities as the head of the Wizengamot as well as someone whose fingers are in every department of the Ministry. I'm inclined to believe her. Since we need some time to plan anyway, I'll convince her to return to the Dursleys with me for exactly two weeks. Apart from that? We're not backing down on any of those things. The war you spent all year trying to bring attention to is coming, Headmaster. Voldemort is back. If you want our help, that's what it's going to cost you."
Looking over at where Moody had finally pulled Snape up off the floor and then over at his pale and eerily silent deputy headmistress, Dumbledore sighed. "Given who you've chosen to ally yourself with, I think that you drastically overestimate how difficult this war will be. But since it seems you leave me little choice… very well. Will you be notifying your family of their summer visitor, or were you intending that job fall to me?"
"I'll handle it myself. And with all due haste, I promise you." Harry smirked; he'd let them know when he was face-to-face with Vernon and Petunia at King's Cross. Oh, this was going to be fun…
Illyria held her hand out and pointed at something on the headmaster's desk, waiting for his nod before summoning the chunk of desk she'd temporarily returned back to her hand. "And to think, I had believed we would need to waste hours in fruitless negotiations with you, Dumbledore. Remind me to curse your professors more often; it is an extremely effective method of obtaining what I require." Snape and McGonagall instinctively flinched backward, quailing at the prospect. "Now come, Harry. Sunday night always means sticky toffee pudding, and I will be most displeased if I do not get to eat some."