Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Double Crosser
The two months that passed were possibly the worst of Harry's life. Every day went so slowly it was painful, and yet when he laid down to sleep at night, sometimes he could hardly even remember what happened at all that day. He became little more than a walking body, like an empty shell. His NEWTs suddenly leapt on him halfway through May, and then they were gone again in a whirl. Harry knew only three of his seven exams went well - Potions, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Pure Arts. Even then, he couldn't be entirely confident. He hardly remembered what was on the theory papers at all, and however well he had performed during Pure Arts, the examiner asked him at the end whether he was okay, and said he had a rather dazed look about him. His Charms exam didn't go at all as he'd planned. He stumbled through most of the enchantments, barely managing to get them satisfactory, and he knew he must have missed out at least a quarter of the theory paper. Transfiguration was similar. He messed up on human Transfiguration in his practical exam, and couldn't redeem himself by fixing it. History of Magic could only be described as tragic. He skipped out question after question, wishing that there was even one he could answer simply, without having to think. He managed to jot down very limp answers for most of them, but knew he wouldn't get the marks.
He found that he simply didn't care any more. He started thinking longingly of Azkaban. He no longer imagined it to be a prison, more of a fortress, somewhere to be safe. Some days, Harry had a constant link open with Snape. He sat for hours in the Gryffindor common room, numb from head to foot, just talking with his magical guardian as the heat prickled in his eyes. Whenever Ron or Hermione asked him what was wrong, he just shook his head, and if they pestered, he simply got up and left. He would just sit in Snape's quarters, in the dark. He knew he was pushing his friends away, and they were only trying to help, but he didn't want to drag them down with him. He didn't want them to suffer. Hermione was sure it was just exam stress, and begged him to go to Madam Pomfrey. Ron desperately kept trying to cheer Harry up. Draco told him sternly to snap out of it, and stop being so miserable. Harry's friends even took him down to see Hagrid, and Hagrid tried to talk to him, but it made no difference. Harry heard from Draco that Kainda cried most of the time, terrified she had done something wrong, as Harry hadn't shown her any emotion in weeks. Harry didn't know what to say, or what to do. He didn't want to be alone, but he didn't want people to fuss over him. The only time he ever felt happy was when just one person was there, and they weren't pestering him.
It was a cold night, unusually cold for a June evening. It was about eight o' clock. Kainda was sitting in the Slytherin common room, reading, when Draco came storming in.
"He's doing it again," Draco blustered. "Potter. Just came down this corridor, as I was doing my patrols, and he just wanders into Snape's quarters. Closed the door in my face. What is he playing at?"
Kainda frowned into her book. "Maybe you should stop acting as though he's done something wrong."
Draco pulled off his cloak. "Oh, come on. He's pushing us all away. Hasn't spoken to me in three days. And we try to help him, ask him what's wrong, and he just ignores us and goes to sit in the dark in Snape's quarters."
"He's going through a lot at the moment," said Kainda coldly.
"Yeah? We've all just done our NEWTs too. And you don't see me wandering around the place, tears constantly brimming, moping and shutting myself in empty rooms, do you?"
Kainda closed her book with a snap. She stood up, put her book down, and left the common room, slamming the door on Draco's shout of, "Oh, I see, it's you too now is it?"
She crossed the corridor, and tried the door to Snape's rooms. It was locked. "Harry?" she called quietly. "Harry? It's me. Open up, will you?"
There was a moment's pause, and then the door opened. She stepped in, and closed it. Harry was sitting in front of the fire, gazing into the flames, wrapped in an old blanket. Kainda couldn't see how Draco was so scathing to Harry, acting as though he was purposely being so numb and emotionless. Kainda didn't know what it was that was upsetting Harry, as she didn't ask, knowing he didn't want people to pester him. Silently, she walked over. He nudged up in the armchair, and she sat down next to him.
She put a hand on his shoulder. He closed his eyes.
"Harry..." she said. She could see something inside Harry break down, just for now, as he shifted a little and looked over his shoulder at her. His green eyes were no longer bright and vibrant, but dull and tired. She reached out, and put her arms around him. He stiffened for a moment, and then softened, leaning into her.
They sat like that for at least half an hour, possibly even more. Harry was quiet, though every now and then, dampness would appear on Kainda's shoulder. She never said anything, just held him. Everybody else seemed to harass Harry and badger him to tell them what was wrong, but Kainda knew he would in his own time. He would tell her if he wanted, and if he didn't want to, she wouldn't trouble him by forcing him to.
"Kai...?" Harry said quietly, after so much quiet. "I... I want some help..."
"Oh?" she said.
Harry nodded. He nuzzled against her neck, and closed his eyes. He hadn't talked to anybody about everything yet. Not even Snape knew the whole range of problems he had. He wanted somebody to talk to, so badly it hurt. He prayed Kainda would understand. "What do you see in the corner?" he asked.
He saw her eyes flicker to the corner, and then back at him. "A few chairs... a bookshelf..."
"Is there anybody sitting in the chairs?"
"I... I..." He closed his eyes. "You'll think I'm mad..."
"I won't. What is it?"
"I... I see somebody sitting there. Khepri. He's like a boy. Egyptian. Animal parts. And I don't think anybody in the whole world properly believes that he's there. Everybody thinks I'm lying. Or hallucinating. Or going crazy."
Kainda said nothing. Neither did Harry. He nuzzled gently into her neck, and closed his eyes again. Something about her scent was soothing to him, and he didn't know why he had mentioned Khepri to her. He just wanted to tell somebody. Deep down, he knew she thought he was losing his mind and hallucinating, just like Snape did, but he could at least pretend. He opened one eye, and glanced at the corner. Khepri was sitting there in one of Snape's chairs, grinning at him. Khepri did this whenever Harry was in Snape's quarters. At first, Harry had tried to speak to him. Khepri always replied with the same thing though - "Time's running out..."
"Harry?" said Kainda quietly in his ear.
He cuddled closer. "Yes?"
As she spoke, he recognised her tone of voice. It was the sort of voice that you used with somebody dangerous, who could snap at any moment. Somebody you were ever so slightly afraid of. "Harry... how about we go and see the headmaster? Maybe Khepri will stay here if we do, and he won't bother you anymore."
Harry looked at Khepri. The beast grinned even wider, and shifted in the chair, winking at him. Harry then turned his eyes to Kainda. She was watching him closely. As he looked at her, he made his decision, at long last. It wasn't her words that convinced him, but the expression hidden in her eyes. It was knowing that Kainda was frightened of him like this. He knew now that things were so bad, he had nothing to lose.
"Okay," he whispered. He took off the blanket, not surprised that his fingers were shaking. "I'll go and see him... please, go back to your dormitory. It's nearly lock-out time, and I don't want you to get hurt."
She glanced at him, and held his gaze for a few moments. Eventually she nodded. "Alright... but promise me you'll go and see him..."
"I promise," he said.
She led him out into the corridor, silently. They stopped, halfway between Snape's quarters and the Slytherin portrait hole. She leant forward, and gave him a gentle hug, before turning and walking into the common room quietly. Harry made his way out of the dungeons. He was going to see Dumbledore. And if Dumbledore didn't believe him, and turned him away, then Harry knew it was all over. This was his last hope.
The stone gargoyles were sitting in front of the entrance as usual. Harry felt his numb mind throb with desperation as he realised he didn't know the password.
"Please," he said. "Just open..."
They remained motionless. He tried to move past them, just skip them by, but they shifted to block his way, wherever he went. He tried the names of every food he knew that contained any sugar at all, but none of them would work. Beaten, and defeated once more, he finally just collapsed on the floor and sat there. He knew he must look as pathetic as he felt. Whispers were going round the school now that he was losing his mind. Was he actually going mad? Were they right?
There was the noise of stone grinding against stone from before him. He opened his eyes, just as the moving staircase stopped before him. Dumbledore stood there. "Ah... yes... I had a feeling you would be here soon, Harry..." He reached down, and with surprising strength for such an old man, he helped Harry to his feet. "Come into my office... we need to have a chat, I think... Miss Granger and Mr Weasley came to see me today about you. Said you were in bad spirits."
Nobody had spoken to Harry so calmly and normally in almost two months now. He felt his aching brain refreshed just a tiny bit by Dumbledore's tone. He allowed the headmaster to put him on the moving staircase, and then walked into Dumbledore's office quietly. Dumbledore followed him, and shut the door.
"Now then..." he said. "Have a seat, Harry, make yourself at home."
Harry sat down. He looked up at Dumbledore as the headmaster passed him. The thought that he would at last be telling somebody everything, every single worry and fear that he had, was so relieving to him. Even if Dumbledore didn't believe him, and told him he was a raving lunatic, Harry didn't care. Just the thought of talking, at last...
Dumbledore seated himself behind his desk, and leaned over to Harry, watching him for a few moments. Harry met that bright blue gaze. Dumbledore gave him a little smile. "I believe there are a few things troubling you, Harry... I want you to tell me everything..."
Harry hadn't even begun when a knock on the door rang through the office. Dumbledore got up, but Harry was on his feet first. "I'll get it, Headmaster," he said. He headed over to the door, and pulled it open, hoping it wasn't anybody important.
He didn't have time to get the door even fully open before the person standing outside pushed it roughly. Harry took a step back, wondering what was happening. He realised then, just who it was, but he had no time to react. With a wild hiss and a shriek, the vampire descended onto him, grabbed him, twisting his neck back and bit, hard. Harry screamed and thrashed, trying to escape, shaking in that iron grip. Dumbledore's chair hit the floor as the headmaster leapt up, drawing his wand, running to help. Harry couldn't fight it off. He felt dizzy, blood drenching his robes, soaking him. He couldn't reach his wand. But wait... he knew there was something he could reach. Something he had forgotten about, that somebody gave him, in a time that seemed like a distant memory. He reached into his sleeve.
And next second, the vampire gave a shriek of pain and horror. It released Harry, who fell to the floor, dazed and drained. The vampire staggered, clutching madly at its stomach, making an odd choking noise. It stumbled backwards, and hit the door, sliding down it onto the floor. The dagger that Snape had given Harry for his seventeenth birthday was protruding from the vampire's stomach, glinting in the office light. Harry could feel himself losing consciousness. But he had to know. He moved forward, and grabbed the vampire's hood, pulling it off.
Even in her vampire form, there was no mistaking Madam Ivy. Her hair had turned black, and her eyes were scarlet. Her fanged mouth was open in a silent scream of pain.
Harry only had time to register Dumbledore's hands grabbing him, and his head hitting the floor, before he passed out from shock and blood-loss.
Harry woke up to a feeling of softness and calm. He was cold, and clammy, his skin damp, but he was lying somewhere cosy. Snape's quarters? He remembered a Bludger injury. Was it that? No, more had happened since then... his brain didn't want to work properly. Dumbledore, he remembered. Dumbledore, and the vampire... and Madam Ivy...
He opened his eyes. He was in the hospital wing. He was lying in a bed near the end of the ward, facing the doors. Black screens had been put up, blocking the view of people looking in. How long had he been here? It was very dark, and very quiet. At first, he thought he was alone, until a voice spoke from behind him.
"Ye're awake then."
He frowned, rubbing his eyes, and rolling over. Professor Chetry was sitting next to his bed. "Professor...? Where's Madam Pomfrey?"
"She's nae here," said Chetry quietly.
"Well... where is she?"
"Meetin' wae Dumbledore."
"Oh, okay..." Harry pulled the covers up around his neck. He felt a lot of padding there, bandaging to heal the wound in his throat, from the vampire bite. He looked up at Chetry. "How long have I been unconscious?"
"Two days, and a few hours," said Chetry. He was looking at Harry strangely. "Been waitin' for ye te wake up."
"Um... why?" asked Harry.
Chetry said nothing. He was just watching Harry, with slightly narrowed eyes, as though Harry had done something to offend him.
Feeling distinctly nervous now, Harry tried to ask another question. "What happened to Madam Ivy?"
"She died," said Chetry. "Stabbed. Ye should know that."
"I... I suppose..." said Harry. He fiddled with the blankets. "It's... not that I'm not grateful or anything, but... why are you here?"
Chetry was utterly silent. His eyes were still fixed on Harry. The look on his face was very blank, very neutral for a few moments, before he stood up. He started to roll up the sleeves of the tartan shirt slung over his shoulders. Harry watched him, inching instinctively away. He didn't like this. Something was wrong.
"Why am I here?" said Chetry. He tucked the last sleeve in place. He looked angry now, frustrated, shaking slightly. "I'm here te finish the job Ivy could nae manage."
He reached out, and grabbed Harry around the neck. Harry tried to scream, tensing up, terrified, but Chetry's grip was too firm. Harry struggled, desperately, fighting for air. He couldn't breathe. He grabbed Chetry's hands, trying to pull them off, but Chetry was too strong. He was glaring at Harry with terror and hatred in his eyes. Harry kicked, still trying to scream, and just losing air faster. He was feeling dizzy again. He dug his nails into Chetry's hands, but Chetry wouldn't let go. Harry managed a tiny keening cry, but the professor pushed his thumb hard into Harry's throat, choking him even more, cutting off all air to his lungs. This was it. Done. Finished. Over.
And then the doors to the hospital wing burst open with a bang to wake the dead, the screen was knocked over to the floor, and a furious voice cried, "STUPEFY!!"
The spell struck Chetry in the head. His grip instantly slackened around Harry's throat, and he tilted backwards, staggering. His eyes rolled into his eyes, and then he hit the floor, shaking the walls with his bulk. Harry let out a gasp of dead air, and then gulped some more down, clutching his throat, coughing and hacking desperately. His saviour was rushing the length of the ward, and the moment they reached him, they held him, supporting him.
"Harry. Speak to me."
Harry managed one word, before he fainted again. "Severus..." He fell forwards, slumping against Snape, mind blank once more.
A voice was speaking somewhere very far away, like a distant storm. In the hazy depths of Harry's mind, something recognised it, and he turned his head just a little bit.
"Poppy," the voice said. "Poppy, quickly. He's moving."
His eyes were still shut, too heavy to open, but he managed to speak. It caused immense pain in his throat. "S... S..."
Feet were coming this way. "He shouldn't be awake, not yet. The dosage must have been faulty. Harry, drink this."
Something brushed his lips, opening them, and hot liquid trickled into his mouth. It burnt, terribly, and felt as though it was clotting in his throat. He made a tiny cry of pain.
"I know it hurts," the first voice said. "Go back to sleep, Harry."
Beautiful darkness swept over him again.
Once again, he suddenly became aware of himself, the terrible pain in his head. He had to try again, make sure that he hadn't been dreaming before. "Sss... se..."
"I don't understand. He can't be waking. The dose should last at least another two days. Perhaps there's a problem with the batch, you'll have to make some more."
"I'm not leaving this room. Dumbledore told me to stay here."
The glass was at Harry's lips again, tipping, and he felt too weak to fight it. The burning liquid went down his throat again. It didn't hurt as much this time, but it still hissed, still seemed to block. He felt a hand rest on his forehead, a thumb stroking over his scar, and the feeling of safety that flooded him, before the blackness came again.
Harry stirred again, for a third time. He felt tight around his throat, his lips were dry, and his head felt heavy. His mind felt clearer this time though. He managed to clamp his lips shut, so they couldn't pour more of that foul stuff down his neck. He shifted a little. Somebody sitting next to his bed sighed quietly.
"Harry... go back to sleep..."
He didn't. He shifted closer to that voice, instinctively, knowing that the voice would help him. The cold metal bars of the hospital wing bed pressed against his skin, icy and unfriendly, but the hand that rested on his forehead was warm and gentle. He made a vague noise in the back of his throat as a thumb ran over his scar.
"Come on, Harry. Sleep now. Everything will be explained later."
The glass was at his lips again. This time, he didn't fight it, because he knew the hand giving it to him meant no harm. He fell into blackness once more.
Harry woke, yet again. His mind was clearer still this time. His headache was gone, and though his throat still felt tight and uncomfortable, he was properly awake now. He didn't want to open his eyes just yet. He could sense the brightness that would meet them. He managed a quiet, soft noise, and a hand rested on his forehead in response. Reaching out, he curled his fingers around Snape's wrist, and held on. He didn't want the potion again. He wanted to wake up.
"Nnh," he managed. Snape ran his fingers over Harry's scar, and Harry's grip instantly relaxed. He sank a little into the warmth and softness surrounding him, and eventually, his grip loosened completely on Snape's wrist. His hand fell limply into the sheets. He had never felt quite so drained and weary in all his life, yet the fingers on his scar sent cool, refreshing waves through his mind.
"Shhh..." was all that Snape said, but the single syllable was all the comfort and sympathy Harry needed in the world. He had so much to tell Snape, so many things he desperately wanted help with. Ivy, Chetry, his NEWTs, the letter, Khepri... it was all a whirl of problems. Yet Harry knew he didn't have to say just now. Snape was here, and every trouble could wait until later.
Harry was silent, for almost an hour. He just laid still, concentrating on breathing and the calming feelings spreading through his head as Snape continued to rub a thumb gently over Harry's scar. Nobody forced any more Sleeping Draught into his mouth, and at last, it looked as though Harry was allowed to be awake.
"You... you came... you came back..." Harry whispered. It hurt to talk. It hurt to do anything, except lie still.
"Mm," said Snape quietly. He was silent for a few moments, before he spoke again. "They released me, with the capture of Ivy. I came straight here once I heard what happened." A glass pressed against Harry's lips, and the lights dimmed. "Have a drink. Water."
Harry drunk slowly, letting the liquid just trickle into his mouth and down his throat. After a few gulps, he swallowed, and opened his eyes just a tiny bit. He was in the hospital wing. Snape had extinguished the candles near Harry's bed, so things were a bit gloomier and more soothing, calmer to Harry's mind. Snape was sitting in a chair next to Harry and watching him quietly. As Harry finished drinking, he took the glass away.
"How long have I been asleep for...?" Harry mumbled.
"Not counting the times you have woken up, around a week since Chetry was taken away." Snape put a hand behind Harry's head, and helped him to sit up. "Ivy gave you a very serious injury to the neck, and by throttling you, Chetry reopened it and caused a great deal of damage. Madam Pomfrey needed to give you a potion to repair the damage to your throat, and sleeping pills so you would not have to be awake and endure the pain. For some reason, you kept fighting the dosage."
"I was worried," said Harry quietly. He leant into Snape. "I... I needed you."
Snape said nothing, but the look on his face was good enough for Harry. He smoothed Harry's hair off his forehead, and started to rub his scar again. After a moment, he said, "Mm... you certainly did... I understand that you read the letter Cornelius Fudge sent to Ivy."
Harry nodded. He was too exhausted to feel ashamed or guilty. "You didn't tell me she was after me too."
"Oddly enough, she was not after any of us," said Snape quietly. "She intended to keep up the charade of being from the ministry long enough until she had done what she had to, and then she intended to flee, back to her true master."
Harry closed his eyes. "Voldemort."
"So... she was a Death Eater?"
"No. She was not." Snape offered Harry the glass of water again. "How old do you imagine Madam Ivy was?"
Harry thought. "About... thirty-five."
"No," said Snape. "She is twelve." At the look on Harry's face, he began to explain. "Several years ago, the Dark Lord located one of the few pure vampiric blood lines left in the world. Luckily enough, the family had a young daughter, a very young child. He took her from them, and wiped her memory of all knowledge of her family, then raised her as his own. He named her Arabella Morgana Ivy."
"The little vampire girl," whispered Harry.
Snape nodded. "This summer, the Dark Lord tired off waiting for his pet to grow, so he could breed her with a necromancer and create what he saw as the perfect creature. He injected her with chemicals which normally turn a human into a necromancer, though something went wrong. The girl started to age, very quickly, and it became clear she would not live more than a few years. The Death Eaters saw Voldemort take the girl away, and when he returned, she was gone. They believed he had killed her. In fact, he had given her an important job to do for him. Infiltrate Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and murder Albus Dumbledore. He captured and modified the memories of several senior ministry members, so they believed they had known Ivy all their lives. She joined the ministry. As luck would have it, Fudge was looking for somebody to get into Hogwarts and dispose of myself, Lupin, and you. His most trusted advisors mentioned Ivy, and she was placed into the school. Because of the necromancer chemicals in her blood, I could not pick up the scent of a vampire, and neither could Remus Lupin. He did sense something though, even if subconsciously, and took a great dislike to her even before we discovered the letter."
"But... when Gareth was attacked..." Harry looked up at Snape, confused. "She looked fine. She didn't have fangs or anything when she came out of the library."
"We made a grave mistake in presuming that Gareth Jones had been lying there for a half an hour at most," said Snape. "He was in fact there for far longer. I cannot tell just how long. After Ivy attacked him, she drained some of his blood, cleaned herself, and then headed into the library for an alibi. I found Gareth hours later, panicked, and fled. You then found him, and Ivy appeared, acting as though Gareth must have been attacked very recently. As I arrived on the scene, my appearance was suspicious, and Ivy went un-noticed."
"What about Pansy though?" said Harry. "Ivy couldn't have known the password to the Slytherin common room to get at her."
"This is where Professor Chetry came into the equation," said Snape calmly. "Already one of Voldemort's trusted Death Eaters, he applied for the post of Muggle Studies teacher to keep an eye on Madam Ivy and make sure she was achieving her task. I believe that Kainda Zabini does Muggle Studies. As far as we can tell, she had written the passwords to the Slytherin common room in the back of her diary. Chetry asked to look through it one time to pick a date for the Muggle Studies project to be handed in. He found the password, and passed it onto Ivy. By this time, she had already realised I was a vampire, and that the activity in the school was making me ill and hungry. She waited until she could smell the blood from me feeding, and then rushed into the dungeons, attacked Miss Parkinson, and left you to suspect me for a second time."
"All those dead owls were found in the dungeons though," said Harry. "Why would she attack owls and leave them in the dungeons?"
"Once again, for the suspicion to be shifted onto me," said Snape. "Though by trying to shift more doubt onto me, they made a vital mistake. Ivy noticed that you were fairly close to me, and would protest my innocence. Because you are a reliable student, and people respect you, they knew that the students would believe you when you told them I was not guilty. One night, Ivy slipped into the dungeons before our DMT lessons. When we finished, she attacked, aiming to seriously injure you, and have you taken away. She did not count on my counter-attack. Badly injured, she ran into the dungeons, to an old dis-used fireplace in an abandoned classroom. Chetry was waiting with floo powder to take her away from the scene. Everybody now suspected me, apart from you, though people knew you were hiding something. The school was now suspicious enough for nobody to question my arrest. Ivy hoped that having me removed would lull people into a false sense of security, so she could get to Dumbledore."
"Why did she attack Lupin then?" asked Harry.
"Lupin was becoming deeply suspicious of her," said Snape. "I believe he walked in on a conversation between Ivy and Chetry, the night before he was attacked. Ivy seriously injured him, to prevent him telling people his suspicions."
This was all starting to make sense in Harry's mind. "But... what about the dead vampire that was found in the entrance hall? Where did that come from?"
"That was the result of a foolish communication error," said Snape. "The vampire had been dead for a long time, we believe it was left here from the siege of Hogwarts. It had gotten into the castle, and frightened, hid in the dungeons. Unfortunately, it was locked into a room, and starved. Chetry found the body. Thinking he could help the false sense of security within the castle, he left it in the entrance hall, for people to find. Ivy did not hear of this plan, and stupidly, attacked Lupin just as Chetry was leaving the body. Mass hysteria broke out. People became terrified of multiple vampires within the school. Ivy knew that before long, her rapid aging would become noticable. She decided to kill Dumbledore. Seeing you going to his office one night, she followed you up. However, she wasn't aware of your extra protection... this knife."
He opened up Harry's cupboard, and took out the dagger. It glittered gently in Snape's hands. Harry saw his own reflection in the blade, pale, neck wrapped with padding. He reached out, and touched it gently. "On my birthday... you told me that you would tell me about it, when I was worthy. Am I worthy now...?"
Snape smiled ever so slightly, just a twitch in the corners of his lips. "You are. Very well... this dagger has been passed on through my family, from father to son. Traditionally used on each vampire's Blood Night. If I had a son, it would have been passed onto him, though I don't care for children and the time for me to have them will probably never arise. And so I believe you should have it."
Harry felt very touched. He took the knife gently from Snape, and held it in both hands. "You might have children... someday..."
"Please, Harry..." Snape ran his thumb over Harry's scar again. "There are things that I have come to accept and find replacements for. I have no desire for a family, or children of my own."
Something in the back of Harry's mind stirred a little. He remembered, back in the summer holidays, when they were in Malfoy Manor. He looked up at Snape. "Did you... did you hear anything about Rookwood and Isabis's daughter?"
Snape nodded quietly. He handed Harry the glass of water again. "Yes. Morgan Brianna Rookwood, I believe. Horrible name."
Harry had gone still.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "Yes...?"
"What was her name?"
"Morgan Brianna Rookwood."
"Morgan..." Harry turned to stare at Snape, with wide eyes. "She's got it. She's got the ankh."
"Wrong," came a voice.
They both whirled around. Khepri was curled in an armchair, shaded in shadows. Snape stood up abruptly, and his wand was out. "Show yourself."
Khepri got slowly to his feet, and walked quietly forwards. The moonlight washed over his face in a pearly white stripe, and he raised a single eyebrow to Snape. For one of the first times, there was no hint of a smile on Khepri's face.
Snape's fingers tightened on his wand. "Stay where you are."
"You can see him?" said Harry, staring at Snape.
Khepri was still walking forwards. His eyes were now on Harry. "It's time... too late... it's over." He shook his head. "Why did I come to you?"
"He's got it," said Harry. He felt cold. "Voldemort's got it?"
"Mm-hmm," said Khepri quietly. "I'm here to bring you. And one person to help, of your choice, alive or dead. I have the feeling I know who you'll be choosing."
Harry looked at Snape. Snape's eyes were narrowed. "Potter... what is going on?"
"I told you so," said Harry quietly. "Khepri. Looking for the ankh. When Voldemort gets it, I'm in trouble. He's got it."
Snape said nothing. Harry took his silence to mean what he thought it did.
"Redeem yourself. Come with me," he said quietly.
Snape put his hand on Harry's shoulder. He looked at Khepri, coldly. "Very well."
Khepri nodded. He looked between them solemnly and then away, as he lifted his hands, and traced the outline of a rectangle in the air. His claws left soft pink and blue flames that marked out what was obviously a door. Once it was drawn, Khepri pushed it open. He turned to Snape and Harry, and beckoned. Harry managed to get out of bed, and helped by Snape, he stepped towards the door. He looked through into nothingness. His destiny would be decided, when he stepped through. He glanced up at Snape, who looked down, and then together they walked through, sent whirling into the midsts of time and space.
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