Grazhir :: Crossover :: Kalpa :: 22

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22

Harry felt a little weird sliding into the bed naked, as he had never done so in his mother’s house, but really preferred it when Viktor was sharing with him. On top of that it was weird having Viktor in his bed. The one in the trunk was like a world away in some respects. And remembering what Tom had said he leaned over to adjust his alarm to not wake them so early. The various activities of the day had tired him out and he snuggled up to Viktor, not even thinking about teasing him into anything.

The next thing he knew his alarm was going off and he was sleepily reaching over to silence it. Viktor pressed a kiss to the back of his neck before getting up. They shuffled through morning ablutions, got dressed, and wandered downstairs. It was while he was eating that Harry realized he needed to go back to his room afterward and load up as Tom had asked him to start doing. For that matter, Viktor should do the same, especially if the ring ended up working the way he hoped it would.

As the meal was being cleared away he got up and tugged on Viktor’s sleeve. “Forgot to do something,” he said. “Then we can come down and start digging.”

Tom spared him a glance and nodded, then returned to finishing his tea.

Shortly thereafter they were out back removing turf and setting it aside before digging. The resulting pit was six feet deep and twenty feet square. Tom called for one of his elves and soon enough there was quite a stack of caged animals off to the side. Harry eyed them a bit dubiously, but allowed that there could certainly be a difference in behavior between transfigured and real animals.

Tom released four of them into the enclosure and said, “One round of this first to see how it goes, then, Viktor, we’ll see about that ring.”

They nodded and Harry got out his dragon dagger and readied a healing spell, then jumped in. As soon as he landed and the boars oriented on him he Shouted, “Fiik Lo Sah!” A ghostly copy of himself appeared at the opposite side of the pit, grabbing the attention of the creatures, and allowing him to come up on one from behind and slit its throat before it even knew the danger. Its soul was pulled free to fill one of the many soul gems he carried.

One of the remaining three turned to face him and charged. Harry jumped to the side and turned so his back was to none of them, then flung out his left hand and reanimated the dead boar, which staggered up and charged the two harassing the decoy. The single boar charged again, but Harry was ready for it and slammed the dagger into its chest in an underhand thrust and ripped up, then kicked it away and nailed it with Incinerate.

By then his decoy had faded and the reanimated boar had dissolved into a pile of glimmering ash, so he pivoted and unleashed a Lightning Cloak. The newly dead boar’s soul streamed to him; the corpse was reanimated, staggered up, and charged. While it kept one busy Harry went for the other, trying to keep away from those tusks, but was unfortunately gored in the side as the boar tossed its head. “Gaan Lah Haas!” he Shouted, dancing back a little, then threw a spear of ice at it.

It went down and he turned to the final one, readying and using a healing spell, as the Shout had not drained enough from his target to fully heal him. His reanimated boar dissolved, so he went for the final one with his dagger. A minute later it was dead and he was up another soul. The act of going against multiple, real creatures at once had him breathing a bit heavily from the adrenaline rush, but he was otherwise all right.

A slow clapping had him turning his head to see Valdis and Serana applauding; he blushed. Serana reached down and pulled him from the pit, then clapped him on the back. “Well done.”

“Oh, er, thanks,” he said.

Viktor came up and enfolded him in a hug from behind. “I agree. Well done. And I finally got to see some Shouts.”

He looked to Tom and smiled when he saw approval in the man’s expression. Tom then said, “All right. Harry, rest a minute. Viktor, I’m going to transfigure some beasts for this next test. I want you to kill them with either or both of those two spells.”

Viktor kissed Harry’s head and pulled away. “Okay.”

Tom got rid of the remains in the pit and threw in a handful of rocks, then transfigured them into more boars. Viktor stepped up to the edge and readied Freeze, then started casting. He managed to “kill” one of them before he had to stop and get a potion from his pocket. Harry kept a close watch on his fiancé’s face, noting that Viktor developed an odd expression as he kept on casting.

After the second one reverted he asked, “Can you sense it?”

“Yes, I think I do,” Viktor replied slowly, then knocked back another potion and used Ignite on the next one, pausing much longer between casts to let the spell do the full damage it could.

Once the final one had reverted Harry persisted in advancing his theory. “Try casting Candlelight again.”

Viktor eyed him curiously and nodded. And it worked, to Harry’s great pleasure. Valdis was also smiling in satisfaction.

“The question is,” Tom said, “will that still work if you remove the ring?”

Viktor shrugged and slipped the ring from his finger and tried Candlelight again; it worked.

“So the ring allowed Viktor to gain enough experience with aetherial magicka to open, er, pathways or conduits to that source,” Harry said, “allowing him to be able to utilize the spell books.”

“That’s what I was hoping for,” Valdis said. “Which means your aunt stands a good chance of being able to learn the same way.”

“I guess I know what my evening reading will be for some time,” Viktor joked.

Tom nodded. “Ring back on for now. How long do those books take each?”

“It depends on the level,” Harry replied. “The apprentice level ones are about an hour, not more than two? Longer for higher.”

Tom nodded again. “Very well. Viktor, are you comfortable with the idea of trying in the pit as Harry has done, or would you prefer the way you just did?”

Viktor pursed his lips in thought. “I will go in, but preferably with Harry on standby healing, just in case. It will take me a long time, obviously, to be able to cast magicka with such ease and frequency.”

“Two real ones, then,” Tom said and removed the rocks from the pit, replacing them with two true boars. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Harry moved to the edge and readied healing spells. Viktor took a deep breath, pulled out his dagger, and jumped in even as Freeze illuminated his left hand. He was able to get through both boars with a combination of dagger strikes and magicka without too much trouble; he never signaled for healing. Serana gave him a hand out of the pit.

They spent the rest of the morning alternating turns in the pit, getting used to combat against multiple creatures. For Harry, getting comfortable using magicka and Shouts in combat, and Viktor to use magicka and managing potions under those conditions. Tom eventually called a halt and sent them off to clean up.

During lunch he asked for the ring and turned his attention to Petunia. “We’ve discovered something very interesting, thanks to a suggestion from Valdis.” He went on to explain and Harry watched as his aunt went a bit pale and wide-eyed.

“I couldn’t bring myself to try the book,” she admitted. “But this worked for Viktor? Truly?”

Tom answered her with admirable patience and asked if she would like to try. He handed over the ring a few moments later. “We will start after lunch. Viktor, you’re reading spell books this afternoon. Harry can sort them for you first, then come help out back.”

A half hour later Harry was upstairs sorting through the books, tapping sticky notes on each cover with spell name, school, and level showing, then putting them into piles. “I kind of think if this works for Petunia that he might just duplicate all of them so you can take a set with you for this year. Then again, Petunia can get through a lot in a day and Pelk or another elf can shuttle them back and forth.”

“Whatever works,” Viktor replied.

“Okay, well, I guess go through the first book in each set to at least have a spell for every school. Anything you’ve gotten through set aside for my aunt?”

Viktor nodded and leaned in for a kiss, then said, “You should go before Tom comes looking for you.”

Petunia was a bit dithery about the whole process, but watched carefully as Harry demonstrated both spells, having taken the ring temporarily. She had to sit down after she managed to ready Freeze and they both politely ignored the tears of relief and happiness that fell after she successfully cast the spell.

Once she had her composure back he said, “I want you to, well, listen, I guess. Viktor said he sensed some kind of change in himself. What I’ve always sensed when I’m using this kind of spell is subtle, but once you figure it out keep it in mind. It will tell you both when you’re out of juice and how well you’re progressing in mastery for a school.”

She nodded, brow furrowed, and glanced over at a little table Tom had set up with a number of vials on it. Tom went ahead and tossed a rock into the pit and transfigured it for her to practice against and at least gain enough experience to be able to use the books. It was going to be a long, hard road for her to gain mastery in Destruction and Conjuration, but he assumed his mother would help with the necessary transfiguration.

Tom pushed her for an hour before reclaiming the ring. “Harry, I want you to get your aunt the book for Candlelight to start with.”

“Okay. Do you think the books will need to be copied or. . . ?”

Tom looked away for a moment, then back. “I’ll copy them. Viktor can take a set with him.”

He nodded and went to fetch the book. He saw his aunt in the sitting room when he came back down and gave it to her with a smile, then went to find his cousin. The remainder of the week went much the same and Viktor had managed a number of books by then, as had his aunt. That last evening, as they were lying in bed, a thought occurred to Harry.

“Do you even share a room at school now?”

“. . .No.”

A smile curved his lips.

“I know what you’re thinking and I’m all right with it,” Viktor said, “but you’d be the one explaining it to Dudley and Draco. People will also notice that you aren’t in the usual places at night.”

“True,” he admitted. “Do you think anyone on staff will bother to get involved?”

“So long as we don’t make a huge deal of it, no. But if someone should complain I expect you’ll be ordered back to your dorm room, at the least.”

“But you’re okay with the idea?”

“Very much so.” Viktor moved and rolled Harry onto his back, and kissed him. “I would love to have you with me all year.”

“Mm. I’d love for you to have me right now,” he said hopefully.

“I think that can be arranged,” Viktor said, and kissed him again.

When Draco and Luna arrived for the last week he pulled the two males aside after Luna went off with Petunia. He rolled his eyes up, trying to think how to broach the subject, then said, “So, er, I found out that Viktor has a room to himself at Durmstrang.”

Dudley grinned knowingly. “Lucky.”

“Yeah. About that. . . .” he said, scratching his neck.

“Yes, Harry,” Draco said, “you can skip out on us and bunk with Viktor. We won’t be offended.”

He exhaled in relief and laughed a little. “Well, thanks. Viktor did point out, though, that if someone complained I’d probably be tossed back into our dorm room.”

“Oh,” Dudley said mock sadly, “I guess that means we can’t make your bed disappear. We’ll just have to manage.”

Tom wandered in with Lily and Severus, and Harry did a double-take before rushing over to give his mother a hug, then Severus. “You had a good time, I trust?”

Severus nodded and his mother said, “We had a wonderful time.”

As it turned out they had spent equal time in France and Spain. For some reason that made Harry think that Germany should be on his list. It was a bit strange to read and speak the language fluently and never have visited the country. Of course, he had never been to any number of places.

His mother and stepfather headed upstairs to unpack and weren’t seen again until lunch, after which Petunia pulled her sister away, presumably to jump up and down and squeal and generally make a fuss over her newfound ability without Draco being clued in. Luna probably already knew, but she kept her mouth shut if she did. If nothing else, the addition to her life had wrought an interesting change in his aunt; she carried herself far more confidently, for one.

Movie night turned out to be Ghostbusters, which had Draco in stitches and Luna not far behind. Soon enough, though, they were back at Durmstrang for another year. Viktor was waiting in the entrance hall, which helped, because Harry had no idea where his fiancé’s room was. Dudley and Draco just smirked at them before heading off, and Viktor led him to a section of the castle he was unfamiliar with, then into a suite of rooms.

“Fancy,” he commented, looking around before passing through to the bedroom and parking his trunk.

“Now that you have joined me I would prefer to store the books in your trunk.”

He nodded. “It’d be safer that way, yes,” he said, and expanded the trunk. “Shall we?”

“Mm,” Viktor hummed agreeably, but rather than head down to lunch he pulled Harry close for a lingering kiss. “Okay. Now we go.”

That night, after reacquainting themselves with each other, Viktor said, “What do you think of spending the first week of Yule break in Sofia? A departure from the usual, I know.”

It would mean missing the usual opening of the presents ritual, but that wasn’t really the important part of the holiday. Much like how it had always been Viktor coming to him, this was another opportunity for him to spend time with his in-laws. The fact that they weren’t bonded yet was rather beside the point. He kissed Viktor’s chest lazily and said, “I think it’s fine. I’ll let my mother know of the change. Suppose I should ask Tom to make me a permanent portkey to your parents’ house, too. Can you think of anything your parents would wear daily, possibly, that I could make as gifts?”

Viktor reached up to cover his hand, idly stroking. “Enchanted items, huh?”

“Yes, like the earring I originally gave you, at the least.”

“I don’t know,” Viktor said dubiously. “My mother changes her jewelry constantly to go with what she’s wearing and my father wears nothing in particular of that nature.”

He frowned and nodded, his cheek rubbing against Viktor’s chest.

“We can get some of the particulars out of the way at Yule, for the bonding.”

That made sense, since they would be having it there. “Preferably something small.”

“Agreed. Though we may need to release a photograph. I am more than a little hesitant on that point, because you might come in for harassment once it becomes known we have bonded.”

He wrinkled his nose. He had been surprisingly sheltered from Viktor’s celebrity so far, despite any number of school-aged people having some knowledge of their relationship. “I think I’d want the opinions of my mother and Tom on that one.”

“Understandable,” Viktor said easily. “I can already guess your side of the guest list. I would have my family, of course, and I think perhaps Bergfalk and Poliakoff.”

“No one from your team?”

“Ha. My coach is dying to meet you, but no, not really. I can’t say I’m all that close to any of them except in terms of team play. Maybe Levski.”

Harry snickered. “If your coach is lucky I’ll attend a team practice to see what kind of hell you get put through in comparison to school practices. I guess they all noticed the ring.”

“Oh yes. The very first practice back. You’d think they were all girls with the reaction I got.”

He laughed quietly and snuggled closer.

He did actually attend a practice the next chance he got, when schedules lined up properly. He also brought a book with him, just in case. In deference to him and because of Viktor’s relative strength when it came to apparating great distances, they first portkeyed to the Krum’s backyard and then Viktor side-along apparated him to the stadium.

It was appropriately huge, much like the one used for the World Cup he’d attended. Professional players flew so much faster that a larger stadium was a wise idea. The coach went into raptures once he realized that Viktor had his fiancé with him and eyed Harry up in a way that almost, but not quite, made him feel uncomfortable. A quick look at the man’s mind told him the coach was just blown away that someone had actually managed to snag Krum so early on and really had been dying to meet that person.

Harry was able to greet the man equitably enough, and Viktor’s team mates, and was shortly installed in a seat halfway up at center where the coach was based during practices. When the man spotted Harry’s book he looked surprised and asked about it while the team was still warming up.

“Ah, well, I’m not much of a quidditch fan, really,” he said.

The coach clutched at his heart and stared at him wide-eyed. “Not a quidditch fan?”

“Not really,” he said with a shrug. “But I used to attend half the practices to show support for Viktor and my cousin—they were on the same team. I was curious to see how a practice differed at professional level. I’ve already seen him play at the ’94 World Cup. He was amazing. It’s just a shame Bulgaria lost.” He slumped a little at the memory.

The coach glanced around and then leaned in to whisper, “Between you and me, Viktor is the best player on the team.”

Harry smiled. “I won’t tell.”

The man laughed a bit nervously. “Good. I’d probably be lynched if that got out.”

The practice got underway a few minutes later and Harry could see it wasn’t all that much different from school ones, just a lot more cutthroat in nature. The reserve players were doing their damnedest to outplay the first string and, much like when he watched the World Cup game, it was difficult to actually make sense of the action at times. Even so, things were frequently halted so the coach could fly out and, well, coach.

By the time Viktor fetched him he realized he had not once resorted to his book. Levski was with him and asked, “Well, what do you think?”

“Impressive,” he said. “I kind of get the feeling I’d get motion sickness if I flew around that fast, though.”

Levski laughed, not unkindly. “It’s not for everyone, true. But if you did, you’d probably go for seeker. You’re such a little thing.”

Harry rolled his eyes and sighed.

Viktor snorted. “You should see him fight. He’s not so little then. More like, ‘Oh hell, I’m glad I’m not the target.’ ”

Levski arched a brow and gave Harry another look. “You going for a mastery, too, then?”

“Ah, not in that, no. Potions, actually. Though now I’m wondering. . . .” He looked off to the side, considering. “It might be interesting to brew up certain potions and throw them in a fight. I’ll have to ask my master.”

Levski laughed a bit nervously, no doubt imagining all sorts of horrors.

“We should get going,” Viktor said. “Lunch starts in a few minutes.”

He nodded and said to Levski, “It was nice meeting you.” Shortly thereafter they were back at Durmstrang.

In no time at all it was Yule and they were back at Viktor’s parents’ home. Iskra practically pounced on them after they entered the parlor and ushered them over to one of the sofas. “So, let’s talk about the bonding,” she said.

Viktor blinked and said, “Hello, mother. Yes, we’re fine. How are you and father?”

She waved her hand around. “Welcome home, darlings.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly, then smiled. “Small, not fussy. I don’t want people there who’re only there to see and be seen, so there’s no point in being elaborate.”

She pursed her lips and nodded. “Colours?”

“Blue, green, and silver,” Viktor said.

“So, something vaguely like your mother’s wedding?” she asked Harry.

“Yes. More people, obviously, but essentially.”

“Indoors? Outdoors?”

Viktor shrugged, then said, “Vines in preference to flowers.”

“Clothes?”

Harry grinned at how quickly she was going through various issues. “Not much different than what we were wearing before.”

“Hm. All right. Afternoon? Evening?”

“If you go for evening outside,” said Bisera from the doors, “I could make up some candles for it.”

“Oh, darling, what a lovely idea,” Iskra said.

Harry smiled at Viktor’s sister as she sat next to her mother. “I think I like the idea. If we went for around sunset. . . .”

Viktor was nodding slowly. “It would mean starting late, but I like it, too. Thank you, Bisera.”

She smiled. “It’s not every day my big brother gets bonded. Just let me know about scents and whatnot.”

The rest of the week they were randomly attacked with questions and Viktor promised to get his mother a list of guests as soon as possible, and then they were off to Norway to spend the other week of the break. Tom presented Harry with another portkey for his collection and mentioned that when the time came he would do the warding on their bedroom at the Krum home. He also passed along another handful of languages.

Worrying, however, was the statement that, “It seems those undead I heard about are starting to sound an awful lot like Valdis and Serana’s descriptions of draugr.”

“We have animated, partially-fleshed corpses wandering around possibly using Thu’um?” he asked a bit skeptically.

Tom shook his head. “No mention of Deathlords or Overlords, but that could easily change. They’ve been appearing in areas where the power plants were destroyed.”

“To muggles?” Viktor asked. “Because that would probably send them all off in a screaming panic.”

“Not yet, from what I’m hearing, but something tells me they will eventually.”

“Damn,” he said. “I have to wonder just how much longer before the lid on this goes and blows the Statute of Secrecy all to hell.”

“I think if it gets to that point we’ll have a lot more to worry about than the statute,” Tom said wryly.

A whole lot of communication went by house-elf during the following months, between Harry and Viktor, Iskra, and Lily. Decisions were made, lists of guests were shared, and arrangements were made for the Evans household to visit the Krum household for several weeks. NEWT exams finally came and Harry plowed through them along with Dudley and Draco, and finally they could leave, done with normal schooling. Viktor had finished his mastery work and should be getting confirmation soon.

Draco left first, heading back to England for the time being, but already holding a portkey for the wedding. Harry and Viktor went next, followed by Dudley. Inside Dudley was suitably impressed by the house and easily suffered to be ushered up to the second floor and shown to a bedroom—the one Harry had used previously, actually.

“Just come back a room when you’re ready,” Viktor said. “We’ll leave the door open.”

“All right.” Dudley stepped into the room, pulling his trunk behind him, so they left him to it.

Back at Viktor’s room, now theirs, Harry wheeled his trunk in and parked it off his side of the bed, up against the wall, and expanded it. Dudley showed up a minute later so they headed back down and into the parlor. His family was already there and broke ranks to welcome the three of them in. Bisera was nowhere to be seen, as of yet, but then she usually wasn’t straight off.

Harry had just stepped up with a mind to hug his mother when one of the windows flew open and what looked like a miniature dragon flew in and landed on the back of the nearest sofa. He blinked a few times, thinking he was hallucinating. And then it spoke.

It is time, my son, my chosen,” the creature said, its gaze steady on Harry. “You have done well these years, worked hard, always with an eye toward the future you were only partially warned of. But it is now time for you to be tested, and to take care of an issue from the previous kalpa.”

Off to the side something was forming and it took everything he had to look away from the dragon. ‘Oh god,’ he thought, and then he was frozen in place, fascinated, enthralled, by what he was seeing. It was like some eldritch horror from a Lovecraft novel with a million eyes that bubbled up, popped wetly, and reformed, with a million tentacles to go with it, undulating in a fashion that made his stomach lurch threateningly. In the air around it was a dirty aura of black and grey and brown and yellow—even some green—like a bastardized soup of frog spawn or the stain of tar from countless exhalations of muggle cigarettes.

The only person who seemed to be able to move was Severus, and he stepped back quickly a few times and turned slightly. Harry just knew he was going to use his Dark Mark to send a call to Tom. Indeed, even as the thing grew in size and seemed to take over an entire side of the room, Tom showed up and stopped dead.

Then it spoke, and it was as though someone had recorded speech and slowed it down imperfectly. Sometimes slower, sometimes a bit faster, higher or lower, but all syrupy and thick and very much inhuman. “Akatosh has granted me this favor, dovahkiin,” it spoke, “and your testing shall be to defeat the first, he who has become corrupted and vile.”

Some of the many eyes focused on Lily; she cried out in pain and stumbled. Severus caught her and pulled her close. “It’s broken,” she gasped, “the Secret.”

The dovahkiin should no longer shelter behind its protection,” the thing stated.

Harry almost desperately wished he could back away from that thing, but he was still frozen in place. He felt like he was fading, a little more with each word from it.

Should you emerge from this victorious it will not be without reward,” he was told. “I am Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Lord of Knowledge and Fate. And now, it is time for you to visit my Plane of Oblivion, Apocrypha. But beware, seek not to delve too deeply into the knowledge lest it drive you insane, as it has so many already.”

A large black book appeared in front of him, already open, glowing with a sickly green light, and tentacles reached out from it to grab at him and lift him off the ground. He knew, somehow, even as the room faded and he was slowly becoming aware he was in a different place entirely, that his body was still back in Sofia, in the parlor.

The floor beneath his feet was a combination of sheets of paper or parchment and a lacework of some material that may have been wrought iron—or might be plant matter for all he knew—fashioned into an unyielding almost lace of curves. He was irresistibly reminded of the leaves of a plant or tree, of the delicate tracery of veins. Below that and all around was a foggy body of water. Tentacles rose from it at random and waved or snapped around. The air had that same kind of dirty aura and there were more eyes and tentacles randomly appearing, making his stomach lurch again.

Harry finally got it together, realizing he could be in imminent danger, and pulled out the dragon bow and a quiver loaded with arrows and slung them into place. A sheathed dagger was strapped to his thigh. As he crouched down and was about to ready the bow that apparition appeared again, floating above his head.

Consider this little corner of Apocrypha an opportunity to understand part of what you will be up against,” the thing said. “At the end is a reward, and then you will face the real test. But before you begin I shall give you the first piece of knowledge necessary on the path to defeat the corrupted one.”

He almost fell over in shock as a word slammed into his consciousness: Gol—Earth.

Hermaeus Mora slowly vanished, leaving him alone.

Harry took a deep breath and swung the bow around, then grabbed an arrow.