"Attention! Order in the Court! A Verdict has been reached!" The Speaker called. Immediately, the room hushed as Riker Celestial, accompanied now by the fellow heads of the Asmerian Pantheon – Anneliese Celestial, Jason Celestial, Aeron Celestial and Marigan Celestial – took positions standing in a loose circle around Clara's chair.
"Oh no. They wouldn't…" Ghost muttered.
But they would. The Asmerians were notorious for using loopholes in the Multiversity Accords, and they had no qualms about attacking other Ascended Beings. Even the Legions of Heaven, and Anneliese was an Angel. As far as Miracle knew, the only major pantheons the Asmerians hadn't been in conflict with were the Seelie and Unseelie Courts.
Gandalf and Tyrion moved back into the stands and quickly started whispering to the other Travellers. Every person they spoke to immediately rose and made their way towards the exit.
"What's going on?!" Crystal hissed as Tyrion reached them.
"We don't own any of the franchises depicted here," Miracle said.
"We've made a plan, but we'll need to leave. Fast." Yoda, who'd been relatively silent since their arrival in the Circle of the Gods, turned towards the Westerosi.
"Anger people, this decision will."
"A compromise resolution has been reached by a majority council vote!" the Speaker called. The Demons suddenly began shifting in their seats dangerously.
"It has been decided that Miss Clara Hunter of the Order of Ancients, Oracle of the Council of Fire on Earth 125, fiancée to Riker Celestial of the Pantheon of Asmere, is to be relinquished into the custody of the Travellers to undergo a period of Multiversal Repentance, forbidden from using high level ascended power for the period of a single Earth century." Ghost's jaw dropped open, and he wasn't the only one. The entire chamber sat stunned for a good ten seconds. Then the rioting started.
"Quickly! Leave we must!" Ghost couldn't agree more. He grabbed Miracle by the arm, and jerked her towards the exit. The Demon Ambassador was screaming, the Ancients were vanishing in protest, the New Gods were ranting, and a large section of the Ori balcony had exploded. The Asmerians were dragging Clara out the lower exit.
"How did you do it!" Oracle exclaimed to Tyrion.
"We managed to get the Elvish coalition to back our call. They get screwed almost as much as we do at this place, but at least they get a vote. With the Elves came the Inhumans and the Valar…" He was cut off by a giant crack that shook a person to their very bones. Highfather of the New Gods has launched himself at Clara – the New Gods and the Asmerians did not get along – and Riker had punched him through the roof.
Shit just got fucking real.
Act V, Chapter 9: Into the Dark
Jessica and Matt barged into Dumbledore's office first thing the next morning.
"We've got it," Jessica called out as Dumbledore appeared in the most confronting thing she had ever seen. He was wearing a purple onesie with little Chibi Merlin's on the front that proclaimed, "I'm a wizard," in tiny speech bubbles.
"Excellent!" Dumbledore beamed, before disappearing back into a side door. Jessica grabbed the Pensieve out of the cabinet and placed it on the desk. She'd tried to wake Hermione, but their resident genius was completely out of it, probably owing to the Firewhiskey. She inwardly groaned. If only it were that easy for her to get drunk.
Matt poured the vial into the bowl of water and watched as the silky threads of memory swirled within. Dumbledore emerged from the side room dressed far less outlandishly and eagerly strode to the Pensieve.
"This is spectacular news! Well done. But where is Miss Granger…"
"She's hungover. I doubt she'd be able to walk without wincing at the moment, let alone deal with this. We'll fill her in later," Jessica said, and before she could hear his response, she dipped her hand into the water and fell into the same memory they'd witnessed before.
"Sir is it true Professor Merrythought is retiring?"
Matt and Dumbledore landed beside her as Slughorn answered.
"How did you acquire it?"
"The time-tested formula of alcohol and guilt. He won't even remember he gave it to me in the morning," Jessica said, a hint of pride in her voice she couldn't entirely quash
The clock chimed, and Slughorn gasped, "Oh, would you look at that! Quickly boys you better be getting to bed, or Headmaster Dibbet will have us all in detention!" As the boys laughed and filed out of the room, Jessica realised that some of the boys were actually older than Riddle, and yet they all followed his orders to a T. It was creepy.
"Professor, I was wondering if I might ask you something that's been on my mind?" Riddle asked.
"Ask away, my boy. Ask away!"
"I came across something while I was in the Restricted Section of the Library a few days ago, but I haven't had much luck in finding any clarification, so I thought you, as the most knowledgeable teacher at Hogwarts might know about it."
"Fascinating. And what is this mysterious concept that has stumped you?"
"It's called, and I hope I'm pronouncing it right, a Horcrux?"
Jessica was ready for it this time, and when her stomach tied itself into knots, she kept her body perfectly still and maintained complete mental discipline over her mind.
"Well, I suppose it couldn't hurt to give you an overview," Slughorn said carefully. He reached for the bottle, but when he couldn't find it, he seemed to give up, not noticing that Riddle had removed the bottle and restored it to the shelf with a simple flick of his wand under the desk.
"A Horcrux is an anchor for one's soul. You split your soul and hide part of it in an object. Then, even if one's body is attacked or destroyed, the part of your soul that is hidden lives on. In other words, you cannot die."
"And how does one split their soul?" Riddle asked, his intrigue showing on his face by this point.
"I think you already know the answer to that, Tom."
Jessica didn't think the atmosphere of the memory could get any colder, but it certainly felt like it.
"What I don't understand, though – just out of curiosity, of course – wouldn't it make more sense to have more than one Horcrux. Wouldn't it be better, make you stronger, to have your soul in more pieces? I mean, for instance, isn't seven the most powerful magical number…"
"Merlin's beard, Tom…"
But Riddle was not finished.
"And what of the containers? Wouldn't it make more sense for the items to be themselves powerful or significant? Harder to be destroyed, both practically and morally?"
Slughorn looked very disturbed by this point. He had edged slightly away, and his hand was hovering a bit closer to his pocket than before.
"I think you should leave Tom." Riddle's face collapsed into one of rage for a few moments, before reforming into that chilling smile.
"Of course, Professor. Thank you for your help."
The memory dissolved, depositing the trio back in Dumbledore's office.
"That…" Dumbledore started but didn't finish his sentence. Instead, he swept up to his desk and withdrew the Diary and the Ring from the drawer.
"I knew… after Harry and Ginny returned from the Chamber of Secrets that Tom must have done something terrible. I couldn't be sure the Diary had been a Horcrux because of the damage, but I consulted Stephen, and he agreed with me. So, I started searching. Collecting knowledge of Tom Riddle. I learned about his family. The murder of his muggle and magical relations. I learned of his obsessive collection of trophies from his victims. Everything seemed to fit, but I couldn't be sure of any details. No one in recorded history has ever created more than one Horcrux before." Dumbledore slumped in his chair.
"Let's think about it," Matt said, trying to rationalise his way through it all, "Riddle must have created seven Horcruxes, and tied them all too significant objects like he said. The Diary must have been his first, that's why it's the first listed on the letter."
"He must have done it after you began suspecting him of opening the Chamber of Secrets," Jessica continued, "He probably used the murder of Moaning Myrtle to do it too. He wouldn't have had the pull to get anything more important yet, certainly not while he was in Hogwarts, so something that he had created would have to do. You said the ring belonged to Voldemort's mother?"
"Indeed. I recovered it from her home, where it had been hidden by several traps and curses," Dumbledore confirmed, staring at the ring on his desk, "Next on the list was the Locket. Horcrux number three."
"It might have been connected to Slytherin," Jessica guessed, "It had an 'S' embossed on the front and spoke Parseltongue to Harry. There's also the fact that we found it in Grimmauld Place, and the Black family had been in Slytherin for ages by that point."
"Not such a far stretch," Matt agreed, "Then it's the cup. Is there anything special that might distinguish it?"
Jessica gulped. "Yes. It has a badger crest on the front, like the Hufflepuff sigil."
"That makes sense," Dumbledore said, "During my observations of Tom, I discovered that he acquired both a goblet and a locket that match your descriptions from a Hepzibah Smith, whom he killed. The Locket had belonged to Salazar Slytherin, the goblet to Helga Hufflepuff."
"That leaves the Diadem… is there anything of Gryffindor's or Ravenclaws that could…" Matt interrupted before she could finish.
"Ravenclaw's Diadem. It's been lost for centuries. That must be it." Dumbledore nodded.
"I agree. Shortly before he began his reign of terror over the Wizarding World, Tom Riddle returned once more to this castle, intent on gaining a teaching position."
Jessica chocked, "He what?"
"I refused him of course," Dumbledore continued, "But the fact remains that he was inside the castle for some time at the height of his power. It's highly likely he stole something from within…"
"Or hid something somewhere inside," Matt finished.
"Precisely. I have searched the castle many times, but I haven't been able to find anything missing or placed that doesn't belong. Not that I expected too. Voldemort is far too crafty to be discovered that easily."
"Okay. That's Horcruxes one through five accounted for. Six is the Snake. But what about seven?" Jessica asked.
Dumbledore pursed his lips. "The seventh piece would still be inside him. It is that sliver of soul that was discorporated the night he attacked the Potters. Therefore, only after all six anchors are destroyed, can Harry take the fight to Voldemort directly."
"But how can he do that if Voldemort is still powered by the Nether Force?!" Matt exclaimed.
"The Enigma Forces are immensely powerful it is true, and to battle against someone acting as host if not a host yourself is tantamount to suicide, as Voldemort's confrontation with the Dragons is proof of. The Enigma Forces might have different powers, abilities and target hosts, but they each contain the same flaw. They can be dispelled. If the host body dies, for example, the Enigma Force will be compelled to move on. The Force can also be separated or shielded from the host, willingly or by force if the correct methods are used. Fortunately, I know one which I'm certain can work."
"If you can cancel out the Nether Force why haven't you done it already?" Jessica asked.
"Because Voldemort could simply reacquire it. The only way he could have attained it is through the Darkhold. If the Force is dispelled once the Horcruxes are destroyed, and Harry has already engaged him in combat, Tom will have no choice but to fight Harry, with all the enhancements the Firebrand gives. A far fairer fight. And once Tom is dead, the Darkhold can be recovered." Dumbledore closed his hand around the ring.
"Mr Murdock, Miss Jones. I find myself in need of your help. I believe I may have found the location of another Horcrux, and this time I cannot hope to destroy it alone."
Hermione, having received a hangover potion from Gwen, was now standing atop the Dark Tower, one of Hogwarts' numerous towers. The roof of this tower had been destroyed centuries ago, and the Headmaster of the time hadn't bothered to repair it, merely clearing away the rubble and adding a trap door to stop the rain from getting in. It was silent, cold, had an excellent view, and was far away from the rest of the student populous. The perfect place for their experiment into the unknown.
"All set?" Hermione called to Gwen. The older girl was busy conjuring fluffy pillows and putting up cushioning charms so that, if an explosion happened, they wouldn't be splattered into a billion pieces. Of course, the charms wouldn't help if they accidentally erased themselves from existence, but it was mildly comforting to have them in place.
Gwen dropped back to the ground from her previous position balancing precariously atop the wall.
"Yep. Safe as we'll ever be."
Hermione turned back to her machine. Shaped like a radar dish, the Searcher was mounted on a tripod. The dish, made from carbon fibre, was covered in ancient runes, and a huge sapphire was affixed as the focus. The rim of the plate was lined in elder wood. Protruding from the rear of the device, pointing straight up, were two antennae. Ideally, Hermione would have preferred they were Vibranium, but there was no way she could afford that. Attached to the rear of the dish was a small lever with a red nob handle and a series of cables connecting to a typewriter. Next to the typewriter was a magical dicta quill, hovering over a piece of parchment. Just in case.
Seated in a chair – also made of elder wood – directly in front of the Searcher, staring curiously at it with a cocked head, was Luna.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Luna?" Hermione asked, nervously. The blonde girl smiled dreamily and nodded her head twice.
Hermione took a long shuddering breath.
"Practical Test One, searching for the origin point of magic. The test is ready to proceed," she said, activating the recording function on her wand. Gwen held the remote-control emergency stop button in her hand, fingers hovering at the ready. Hermione let out her breath and pushed the lever on the rear of the dish forward.
Immediately, the dish lit up, the runes glowing with ethereal light, and Luna gasped.
"It's working!" Both the dicta quill and the typewriter began tracing a blank line along the page.
"What can you hear?" Hermione exclaimed. Luna squinted at the dish.
"It's like a faint buzzing sound," Luna tried, "Like when the television in the Home is turned on, but it isn't synced to a channel. You know the fuzzy sound it makes?"
"Static?" Gwen said, creasing her brows.
"Which might mean it's a tuning issue," Hermione surmised, "Luna, can you cast a sustained Lumos spell for me" Luna nodded and drew her wand.
"Lumos." Luna's wand tip began to glow slightly, and the lines on the typewriter and quill spiked, before settling marginally higher than they had been before. Hermione beamed.
"It's higher now," Luna said, "more melodic. Like the humming of Mali-Bees."
"Part two then…" Hermione murmured.
"Going to stage two. Activating the flux field… now!" She pulled the lever into the second position, and the next row of runes on the dish lit up. The hairs on Hermione's neck rose up, and her stomach did a backflip in her chest. An odd feeling enveloped them, not dissimilar to being submerged in water.
"Woah…" Luna breathed. She had started to sway in her seat.
"What is it?" Gwen asked from beyond the invisible field. They had calculated how large the shell would extend, ensuring she wouldn't be affected so she could push the emergency stop if things looked ready to go bad.
"It's… I can hear three notes calling out. Two in harmony, one that isn't." Luna extinguished her light. "Two alone."
"Hold it there!" Hermione said. Trying to ignore the odd feeling in her bones and the sluggish way her body was reacting, she twisted the sapphire. The gemstone shimmered in the sunlight, but otherwise, there was no change. Not to be disheartened, Hermione reached underneath the dish and unscrewed one of the bolts slightly. Instantly, the plate began to swivel almost imperceptibly. But as she watched, it became more noticeable. The focus point was trying to angel towards the ground. The dicta quill had begun to write frantically.
"I… I…" Luna hesitated, before her eyes widened in shock, "Ohhh." She dropped her wand to the floor and began to steady her breathing.
Hermione glanced to Gwen, who looked just as confused as she felt. Luna closed her eyes and started humming to herself.
Thunder rumbled across the sky, and Hermione glanced upwards in total confusion. The air, before entirely devoid of clouds, was quickly becoming obscured with by a storm. The ground beneath them began to vibrate, and a sharp 'crack' rang through the air. Hermione's eyes were drawn to the sound, and she held back a strangled cry as she saw the stone of the floor had split, leaving thin, spindly fissures running between Luna and the edge.
"Luna! What's happening?!" Hermione exclaimed as the wind surrounding them began to pick up. It licked at her skin, her hair, but the thickness of the air was growing stronger, her limbs harder to move.
Luna's eyes opened, and Hermione's jaw fell open. The Ravenclaw's irises were gone, replaced by a glowing white light. Her stringy blonde hair began to float behind her, and tiny shavings of stone chipped away from the floor, rising up into the air around her.
Then, in an instant, the pressure on Hermione's body abated. Vanishing as if it had never been. All power returned to her body, and she lurched toward the Searcher. It was smoking something fierce.
Hermione spun back around in time to see Luna's face screw up in anguish as a scream slipped out her lips. The elder wood chair turned to dust, and Luna fell to the floor. The second she hit the stone, her eyes returned to normal, the rumbling stopped, and the storm clouds vanished.
Hermione and Gwen grabbed Luna, pulling her up from the floor.
"Holy shit!" Gwen exclaimed, "I pressed the stop…"
"That was incredible!" Luna exclaimed, colour returning to her cheeks.
She nodded rapidly several times.
"You were right the whole time. Magic doesn't come from our Magical Core. It's just the easiest way we have to access it!" Luna rambled, "There's magic, energy, all around us. It's what I've been hearing the whole time! It's like this Power that's drawn to living things. All living things, not just the things we would interpret as living. The dirt on the ground, the wind in the air, the water in the sea, the fire in the hearth, and the soul in a person. It's all around us, and I could hear everything! Ringing like church bells. And the loudest thing… the loudest thing was the Earth itself, like a giant beacon, or a choir, blasting a constant chord into the night." Hermione's head began spinning as she and Gwen lowered Luna to the ground, leaning her back against the wall.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Hermione asked.
Luna nodded rapidly. "It's a lot to take in at once, you just have to get used to all the input is all. Once you've got the hang of it, you can channel the magic, the Power, into yourself. Or manipulate the energy around something else…" Luna thrust her hand out, and she squinted intently at the stone shavings now covering the ground. Slowly and unsteadily, they began floating off the ground.
"Fuck," Gwen whispered. Luna's jaw began quivering, and she let the shavings fall to the ground.
"It was easier before," she said, now out of breath, "When the machine was on. Easier to connect… to channel. Can we try again?"
"We need to get you to Madame Pomfrey," Hermione said, pulling a resistant Luna to her feet. Luna complained, but when she couldn't keep her feet without leaning on Hermione's shoulder, she acquiesced. While Hermione helped Luna down the trap door, Gwen stepped back to the still smoking Searcher; the papers had disintegrated.
Luna's wand was forgotten on the tower floor.
Jessica leaned against the cold stone wall, smirking as Dumbledore and Matt pulled themselves out of the freezing, water and onto the ledge jutting out from the cliff-face. The ground was covered in slime, and the entrance to the cave was barely more than two metres wide.
"Well, you took your time," she said casually.
Matt rolled his eyes as Dumbledore dried the pair off.
"Not all of us can jump thirty feet," Matt grumbled.
Jessica shrugged, "not my problem."
Dumbledore said nothing, merely lighting his wand and striding into the cave. Jessica and Matt followed him, their own wands at the ready as the cave closed in on them.
"Lovely place to bring a bunch of kids. Don't know why I'd have never thought about it myself," Jessica mused, more to ease the tension than anything else. It was thick in the air, weighing them down almost as much as the stale oxygen, and the damp smell.
They came to a broader section of the cave, and Jessica narrowed her eyes as she realised there was no exit. Dumbledore began to spin in a circle, rotating his wand. Matt walked straight to one of the walls and placed his hand on it.
"There's a secret passage here, and beyond it… something foul." Dumbledore stepped up to the wall as well. He stared at it for a moment, before his mouth twitched up slightly.
"I believe you are right, Mr Murdock." He pointed his wand at the wall, and the faint outline of an archway appeared for a brief moment. Jessica made a note to ask him how he'd done that later. It looked like a handy spell to know. Dumbledore stood there, staring at the wall for two minutes by Jessica's watch, before snapping his fingers.
"Oh, surely not. So crude Tom, so crude."
"What is it?" Jessica asked softly, unwilling to disturb the silence of the cave too much by speaking loudly.
"In order to enter, payment must be made. A payment intended to weaken any intruder," Dumbledore stated, pulling out a small silver knife upon which he pricked his fingertip. He pressed it to the wall, and the stone within the archway vanished without a sound. Dumbledore returned the knife to his robes and pressed on.
Beyond the wall was a giant cavern, far more extensive than the scope of Dumbledore's wand light, but one thing was clear. The cavern was dominated by a great lake, filled with murky and slimy green water. The weirdest thing, however, was that there was another source of light, beyond Dumbledore's wand. An eerie green glow was emitting from something in the middle of the lake, but what it was, Jessica wasn't sure.
"Daredevil, what do you sense?" Matt was wearing the black Kevlar combat armour he'd had made. He said it was easier to fight in, and having seen Matt's tendency to flip and kick targets with his extensive knowledge of martial arts, Jessica believed him. Any edge was a good idea, even if it meant forgoing the Defenders Cloaks and their protection spells and identity concealing powers. Plus, Jessica hadn't missed the fact that he was wearing one of her scarfs over his upper face to hide his identity, so she hadn't complained – though she did wonder where he'd gotten it. She still had no idea what she was going to do about Matt. She was obviously attracted to him, and he was obviously attracted to her, but beyond small displays of affection, and the kiss in the DoM, they hadn't talked about their relationship at all. She knew why of course, she was too scared to bring it up, she just didn't like to admit it.
"Not sure. There's something in the water, but it's faint, and I've never felt anything like it before. There's a spell, like a containment charm, on the water itself – and an easily broken one at that. The foulness is easy to pick though, it's all around us like a wet blanket, and its thickest over there." He pointed to the green glow.
"Then that will be where the Horcrux is," Jessica concluded.
"I quite agree." Dumbledore had moved down to the water's edge and was waving his hand out over the lake surface.
Matt's forehead creased beneath the scarf as he stared at the space below Dumbledore's hand.
"Is… I'm so confused right now," he murmured.
"What?" As soon as the word left her mouth, a green metal chain shot out of the water and into Dumbledore's hand. He tapped it with his wand, and the chain slowly began to pull out of the water, coiling perfectly at the Headmaster's feet. Jessica had to make a conscious effort not to let her mouth fall open.
"How did… I couldn't see it," Matt stuttered in shock.
'That's bad for a dozen different reasons.' Jessica thought, though she didn't voice it. Instead, she fixed her wand on the small boat that was rising up out of the depths. The boat floated without a ripple onto the shore, and Jessica nearly hurled at the sight of two slimy and deteriorated corpses that lay within it. Dumbledore pursed his lips and levitated them out of the boat, before casting the most potent Scorgify Jessica had ever seen.
"It is an old spell, a Slytherin Spell, favoured by Tom. It renders objects, items and potentially people as completely cloaked from all but the naked eye. It obscures all magical tracking, be it through aura, residual magic, or Owl. Much like the Aquarius Rune."
"Slughorn," Matt exclaimed, "he used the same spell in the House when he hid as a couch. Only it didn't hide his heat signature."
"Precisely. You saw through his disguise because a wizard would never think that one's body heat, which can, in fact, be easily regulated or obscured should one know-how, could be used as a means of tracking. It is the most effective way, that I have found at least, of seeing through Disillusionment and Invisibility Cloaks."
"But that doesn't… Oh! I see it. It's colder than the surrounding water, there's a counterspell on the boat that ensures it doesn't trigger whatever trap Voldemort's set on the water." Matt looked very pleased with himself.
"Voldemort is a great wizard it is true," Dumbledore conceded, "But to one who has studied his every move for decades, he is very predictable. The creatures, for I am certain now that they are creatures at the bottom of the lake, will attack any who attempt to traverse the water to reach what is beyond. Unless you use the method Voldemort himself used to cross because what method could be better than one Voldemort himself would think to use? You understand?"
Jessica nodded; she did understand. Voldemort's ego made him predictable.
"I don't think we'll all fit though," Jessica pointed out, "It looks ancient, it won't hold our weight."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I do not think that it is our weight Voldemort cares about, but rather the amount of magical power we have at our disposal. If someone more powerful than Voldemort himself were to attempt to cross, the boat would surely drown us. Though it's true that between us, we would have more magical power at our disposal than Voldemort could have had before his joining with the Nether Force. Fortunately, the Trace still exists on the pair of you, which will shield you from the detection enchantment placed on the boat. Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth, as I learned myself – though gladly before it was too late to amend some of my mistakes." Jessica resisted the urge to bite back with something referencing Harry's torment at the hands of the Dursleys, and instead followed Dumbledore into the boat.
Once the three of them were crouched awkwardly inside, the boat began to glide over the water without prompt, still creating not a single ripple across the glass surface. It wasn't hard to guess where they were going. The green glow they'd seen from the shore was an island. Actually, island might have been giving it too much credit. It was a slab of black obsidian that reached only ten centimetres above the water level. If there were a flood, the rock would instantly be swallowed. There was only one thing on the island, a crystal pedestal with green light trapped within its lattice: the source of the eerie light. But what attracted Jessica's undivided attention, were the numerous waterlogged and decayed bodies floating in the water around the island, especially given that the water completely covered the bodies at all times, in contradiction of every other floating object Jessica could think off. All it took was one good look to know what they were.
"Inferi," Jessica hissed.
"Yes, but I do not think we need to worry about them at the moment," Dumbledore said. Matt and Jessica looked at the old man in terror. Had he lost his marbles?!
"The spell upon the water," he said softly, with the slightest of twinkles in his eye, and Jessica instantly realised what he meant. The enchantment on the water's surface was the trigger for the Inferi to come to life, but also a containment spell to keep them from coming above the water and attacking on their own.
"That's kind of genius actually," Jessica begrudgingly admitted.
"In a twisted and horrific sort of way yes," Dumbledore agreed, "I fear there might be another trigger as well, one more closely connected to the item we seek."
The boat came to a stop beside the island, floating without mooring a centimetre from the obsidian. Dumbledore left first and flicked the ball of light from the tip of his wand into the air without a word. He advanced to the pedestal, and Matt and Jessica followed anxiously behind.
Atop the crystal structure was a basin similar in shape to the pensive, but it was filled to the brim with a luminous green liquid that was impossible to see through.
"It's definitely in there," Matt said, "it's the source of all the foulness in this whole place."
Jessica reached out and touched the surface. The second her hand made contact with it; she was repelled back by a shockwave. She shrieked, and only a lightning-fast spell on Dumbledore's part saved her from flying back into the water.
"Arresto Momentum!" Jessica halted in mid-air, before slowly lowering back down to the ground.
"Thanks," she breathed, dropping her hands to her knees heavy breathing.
"What's in there? All I can see is oily blackness," Matt asked, his face creased into a frown.
Dumbledore waved his wand over the basin, and a ripple pulsed across the surface. His face turned grave.
"It's a potion, and it's preventing us from seeing what lies beneath. But how to get past it…" He waved his wand again, "It cannot be penetrated by hand, Vanished, parted, scooped up or siphoned away. Nor can it be transfigured, charmed or otherwise made to change its nature…" He stepped back and shot a severing charm at the pedestal itself. The spell collided with the crystal, cleaving it in half, but before it could topple over the crack resealed itself.
"And it cannot be accidentally removed or destroyed either…" Dumbledore sighed and twisted his wand in the air, conjuring a goblet of the same crystal as the basin.
"It must be drunk," he deduced.
"Yeah, somehow I don't think that's a spectacular idea," Matt stated dryly.
"Do you have a better one?" Dumbledore asked. Matt scowled.
"He's right," Jessica whispered, coming to the same conclusion. It made all the sense in the world for Voldemort to protect the Horcrux with something no one would ever willingly do. But she also doubted it would kill the drinker.
"It won't kill, Voldemort would want the servant he forced to collect it to survive, or he'd want to question the person who got far enough to drink it in the first place. There will be an alarm on it though. As soon as the water level drops, He'll be on his way."
Dumbledore looked up from his scrutiny of the basin, "If I were to hazard a guess, the potion will be designed to distract the drinker from obtaining the Horcrux within. It might paralyse me, might wipe my memory, inflict terrible pain, or a host of other effects. It is your job to ensure I continue…" But Jessica cut him off, she'd noticed the Professor slip into the first person, and she wasn't having a bar of it.
"Oh no, you aren't." She snatched the goblet from his hand.
"If anyone is drinking this crap it's gonna be me." Matt stepped up to her and grabbed her arm.
"No way in hell. I won't let you." Jessica elbowed him back.
"It's not your choice, It's mine."
"Miss Jones, I'm afraid I have to agree with Mr Murdock…"
"You can shut it too," Jessica snapped. She glared at both of them.
"It has to be me. This thing is as dark as they come. I've been in proximity to Dark Magic all my life, Voldemort tried to turn me into his host body remember? That should give me an increased resistance. If it doesn't, my powers will give me better endurance, a higher pain threshold and faster recovery time. I'm the only logical choice."
"I don't care, I'll do it…"
"Matt…" Jessica said dangerously, and the Ravenclaw stopped talking. He stared at her pleadingly, but the effect was lost considering half his face was covered by her scarf.
Jessica stepped up to the basin, and Dumbledore nodded his head in respect. He stepped back, and Jessica dipped the goblet into the water, filling it to the brim. She raised it to her lips and, thanking whoever, or whatever, was watching over her that the concoction didn't have any smell, drained it in one gulp.
The potion had no texture.
Nothing at all.
She could feel the potion sliding down the back of her throat.
But it didn't feel cool like water, or thick like coffee.
It had no texture.
She took another drink.
The potion had no taste.
Nothing at all.
It was like water, yet unlike it at the same time.
It slid down her throat, just like any other liquid.
But it had no taste.
She took another drink.
The potion had no temperature.
Nothing at all.
It wasn't hot or cold.
It just was.
It had no temperature.
She took another drink.
The potion had no sound.
Nothing at all.
It made no gurgle.
It had no trickle.
She took another drink.
It had no colour.
Nothing at all.
It had a voice.
There was a voice.
She took another drink.
There was colour.
It was bright.
It was red.
She took another drink.
There was sound.
It was everywhere.
A crackling like fire.
The trickling of water.
There were more sounds.
She took another drink.
There was temperature in the air.
It was everywhere.
It was hot, scolding heat.
It was a hand on her cheek.
It was warmth.
She took another drink.
She could taste the water.
It was everywhere.
It was clear and sweet, blissful in relief.
It was fulfilling, cleansing, fresh.
It tasted better than anything she'd had before.
She took another drink.
She reached out her hand and ran her fingers across skin.
It was everywhere.
She could feel the softness of lips.
She could feel the fabric of the cloth around his eyes.
She could feel him.
Jessica blinked owlishly, removing her hand from Matt's face and rubbing her own. She was covered in sweat, and her skin was clammy. But she couldn't spend much time processing it, because standing in the centre of the island was Professor Dumbledore, spinning his wand in circles around his head. Tongues of flame were dancing around them, taking the shape of Wolves, Phoenixes and Dragons as they ripped and torched reanimated corpses, Inferi, to ashes.
"Quickly!" Dumbledore shouted, moving towards the boat as the ring of fire flared around them, crackling with heat and intensity. A wolf construct bit the head off one of the corpses.
Matt pulled Jessica to her feet, but her head was spinning, and her legs wouldn't follow instruction. She was incredibly thirsty, but knew better than to ask now. Instead, she let Matt drape her arm around his shoulders and pull her towards the boat.
"Did…" she coughed solidly for a good minute as Matt guided her into the boat. Dumbledore stepped in last, the wall of fire surrounding the boat, stopping anything from coming up from below.
"Did we get the Horcrux?" She croaked.
"No," Matt exclaimed, brushing a strand of sweat covered hair behind her ear. Jessica's hopes fell straight into the gutter. "Someone got here before us, removed the Horcrux. The one inside was a fake. I was sensing the residual energy, not the original." Matt reached into his pocket and held up a golden locket with an's' engraved into the front.
"Fuck," Jessica whispered before her eyes glazed over, and she knew no more.