Anna Grayson and The Order of Merlin

Truth, Love, and Fangs

The Debate:

To whom thus Michael to our sire said: “Death thou hast seen in his first shape on Man; but many shapes of death, and many are the ways that lead to his grim cave — all dismal, yet to sense more terrible at the entrance than within. John Milton, “Paradise Lost: The Eleventh Book”

TWO

Anna stared at the heavy door before her. In was made of the same planked wood and bands of blackened steel she had seen in her dream before first becoming the Lethifold. The Gallery of Nightmares had cruelly reminded her of this fact. The door had a rounded top and looked old and splintered, giving no indication of the incantations used to keep it in place, or what might be on the other side waiting for her.

Concentrating on the magic she could feel residing within, Anna raised her other hand and placed it in the center of the wood. She could feel herself bonding with it, as a Guardian would to its existence, and they became one. The Sithmaith and the magic intermingled as she passed through, and Anna held her breath, waiting for the terrible pain to slice into her body once more. It didn’t happen. There was a great flash of sunlight, and the brief herbal smell of something she thought might belong in a kitchen.

She stepped into a small room and immediately realized her worst fears were but frail delusions to the misery she now saw. She was at once reminded of something medieval, a place set-aside for the most heavily guarded and dangerous of prisoners. There were chains and manacles hanging empty on the wall, and a slab for a bed levered out of the stone with a jumble of rags for blankets. There were no windows, just the light of two torches on either side of the room, one blue and the other crackling with yellow flame. The light of the torches mingled strangely onto an arched ceiling, creating a cloudy-green mist that swirled slowly in its center. The room was empty.

Anna raised a hand to the wall next to her. “There isn’t anybody in here,” she said, leaning over to glance quickly under the stone bed.

Do not be fooled! It is there, very close to you. There is great danger here, said a little voice in terrified reply.

Anna lowered her hand. “Helloooo…” she whispered. “Is… is there anybody in here?” Nobody answered. Nothing moved except for the strange mist, which continued to slowly swirl above her. And then, as if from a far-off part of the room that didn’t really exist, there came a whispered voice.

“Welcome… my kind.” Anna looked around in surprise. The voice seemed to come from all around her. Her eyes scanned every corner of the room, the walls, the ceiling, and the bed. She couldn’t see anybody.

“Hello? Is somebody there?”

“How did you enter here, my kind?” answered the hidden voice, seductively. “How did you bridge the spells and enchantments that hold us prisoner here?” Anna tried to focus in on the sound. Where was it coming from? She knew she didn’t have time to explain her ambitions; she boldly stepped forward.

“I’m looking for Victoria Grayson. Do you know where I can find her?” Anna said, forcefully. There was a long rattle, a sound like death vibrating from the walls all around her, and then the voice spoke again.

“We have not heard that name in years, and years, and… years…”

“Can you tell me where she is?”

“She is… here.”

Anna looked around. “Where? Where is she? I need to see her. I need to speak to her. Can you…”

“What is this name to you, my kind?” the voice interrupted. Anna was hesitant. She wasn’t sure she wanted to tell this unknown voice Victoria was her mother. Not yet.

“Why do you call me… my kind,” Anna replied, still trying to pinpoint the location of the ghostly voice.

There was another long rattle and then, “We are the same, you and I, my kind. I could sense it as you entered our room.”

“Listen…” Anna was getting impatient, “where is Victoria Gray…?”

“How did you enter here? How is it that you can pass through our door… while we remain trapped within?”

“Where is Victoria?”

There was a pause. “If we send her to you… will you tell us… how you came to be here?”

Anna thought. She would do anything — say anything, if there were a chance she might see her mother.

“Yes,” Anna quickly lied.

“Very… well,” said the voice.

For a moment, nothing happened. Would somebody simply walk in from some unseen door? Would the guards suddenly appear from nowhere and arrest her? Another sickly rattle breathed into the room, and Anna looked up. The large, emerald haze had stopped its swirling circle, and was now creeping across the ceiling away from her. It traveled slowly, almost cautiously, down the wall until it touched the floor where it stopped. The green iridescence in the center pulsated and bloomed, and then it began to change. It formed the outline of a person within its cloudy midst, a shape sculpt from nothingness was becoming more distinct with every passing second. Anna could barely breathe. Her heart was pounding as she watched the mist begin to shrink, taking on form and depth in front of her. As if to make space for the thing’s arrival, Anna found herself drifting backward against the wall, its cold surface surprised her as if someone unexpected had bumped her from behind. Suddenly, a powerful rush of urgent voices exploded inside her head

Danger! Beware, Sithmaith… it is evil! You must leave this place… you… Anna pushed away from the stones to silence them.

From out of the swirling mass a figure carefully stepped forward, and what was left of the mist behind it seemed to evaporate. It was a woman with long red hair and silky, chalk-white skin. She was wearing a nearly perfect dress surprisingly unblemished by the filth within the room. Anna gazed at her in disbelief. She had seen the woman’s face before, in a portrait in her father’s office. It was Victoria Grayson.

“Mother!” Anna gasped, suddenly stepping forward, but the startled woman moved to the side and away from her. Anna stopped with her arms outstretched, reaching longingly for the mother she had dreamed of her entire life.

“What… did you call me?” said Victoria, her face cast in pallid shock. Anna stepped forward again, but the woman slid to the side away from her.

“Mother… it’s me, Anna.” Tears began to well in Anna’s eyes. She couldn’t believe it, but here stood the proof directly in front of her. Her mother, her living-breathing mother, was standing just a few feet away. Victoria straightened.

“What trick is this, my kind? I do not know you. I have never been a mother to anybody.” Anna smiled. She had expected this.

“It’s not a trick. My name is Anna… Anna Grayson. I’m…” she hesitated, “I am… your daughter.”

The image of Victoria frowned. “I have no daughters. No sons. No family. We have been locked away in here, the two of us, longer than I can remember.”

“No, you do have a family!” Anna pleaded. “You have me… and you have a husband. Don’t you remember? My father — your husband — is Boris Grayson.”

“AAARRRGGHHHH!” shrieked Victoria, putting her hands up as if to shield her face from the blinding light of Anna’s words. “Do not speak that name!” she bellowed. “Liar, unspeakable lies!” Anna watched in astonishment as the woman’s face changed from its beautiful picture-image to that of something strangely different. She looked older, her hair changing from silky red to a tangled gray.

“Mother… how did you come to be in this place? Why are you here?” Victoria peered out at her through her fingers and her eyes suddenly turned cold.

“I was put here by the liar! He tricked me and then lied to me. He said he would help me. He said he would take care of me…” Anna tried to speak, but the words would not come. Victoria fell back against the wall, whimpering, speaking only to her memories. “How could you lie to me?” Anna tried to reach out, but her mother recoiled away again.

“Stay away from me.”

“Mother… please, I would never hurt you. I’m your daughter, Anna. Don’t you remember? I was born thirteen years ago. My father was with you in the woods, remember?” Victoria slowly lowered her hands to stare at Anna. “You were pregnant with a child, please… you must remember? You had a baby.”

Victoria looked down and then slowly raised her hands to place them upon her stomach. She ran them smoothly over her front as if remembering something that was once there, but was now missing.

“A… a baby?” she whispered.

“Yes — yes, a baby… do you remember?”

Running her hands gently across her body, Victoria suddenly smiled. “Yessssss…. a baby… my baby…” she said tenderly, and she began to hum very softly as she stroked her front. The humming became louder and Anna recognized the melody. It was the same lullaby she had heard so many times in her recent dreams. Tears began to roll down Anna’s face as she watched her mother smile and coo at the unborn baby she imagined still in her womb.

The humming stopped, and Victoria looked up at Anna. “My baby will be born very soon now,” she said, nodding with a happy smile. Anna wiped her face and smiled back.

“Yes, I know.”

“Yesssss… a brand new baby. I hope it’s a girl,” she said, speaking to Anna as if to a close friend. “We’ve even picked out a name for her. Do you want to know what it is?” Anna nodded. “Her name will be…” Victoria stopped stroking her belly and suddenly looked up. She stared at Anna and then slowly down again at her flattened stomach. Her head jerked up once more. “Anna?”

“Yes, mother…” Anna sobbed. “It’s me. I was that baby. Please… tell me you remember?” The woman straightened to look at her. She stepped forward, frowning, straining to take in every detail of her daughter’s face from a distance. And then, a wave of sudden recognition seemed to slide over her eyes.

“Anna? My… my Anna?”

“Yes, mother… I’m here.” Victoria’s face suddenly lit with happiness. She eagerly stepped forward with her arms outstretched toward Anna who was crying, opening her arms wide to meet her. They were about to touch, to finally embrace, when Victoria unexpectedly stopped and jerked back.

“No!”

“What? What’s the matter? Mother… please… I want to hold you. I want to be with you. I won’t hurt you… mother…”

“Shhhhhh….” Victoria hissed, putting a finger up to her lips and looking around them. “We have to be quiet or… we’ll wake her,” she said, warningly.

“What…? What are you talking about?” Anna mumbled, looking around the room. “There’s nobody here.”

“Shhh! She’s sleeping.”

Anna stared blankly at her mother, lost for words. “She’s sleeping? Who is sleeping? What are you talking…?”

“The evil one…” Victoria replied with a shudder, and Anna’s blood suddenly went cold.

“The… evil one?” Anna gulped, and a terrifying sensation like cold water running down her spine made her shiver. For most of the year, Anna had wondered whom this evil one could be and what it had to do with her birth. How could this thing, whatever it was, be anywhere near them right now? How could it be in the same room with her mother?

“Who is this evil one, mother? Where did she come from?” Victoria’s eyes were darting all over the room. She was visibly frightened, terrified of something unseen. She finally leaned forward as if to tell Anna a secret.

“She’s… a murderer,” her mother whispered.

Suddenly, odd unconnected pieces of the past seemed to slide themselves together to form a terrifying but recognizable picture in Anna’s mind. She looked at her mother.

“Whom did she murder?” she asked, knowing the answer before she spoke.

Victoria looked scared, almost too frightened to reply. She shook her head violently. “I can’t tell you. She would be very angry with me. She said we were both there and she blamed it on me. She said I was the one who did it. But no… she was the one. She was the murderer,” Victoria rattled, in rapid confession. “Shhhhh!” she sounded, putting a finger to her lips and looking around again. Then she looked up and her face contorted itself into a painful, heart-wrenching grimace. “She killed my…” her lips quivered, “my best friend.” And she began to wail loudly.

Anna watched in surprise and then amazement as Victoria’s dress started to ripple and change into something that looked more like a rag upon her body. Her features began to change; she looked much older and grayer than the moment before, her skin fading into a translucent white. Anna stepped forward and tried to reach out, but her mother used the wall to slide away from her.

“Get away! Don’t touch me!” she yelled, and Anna snapped back as Victoria slid down the wall to sit upon the stone floor, cradling her knees.

“She murdered… your friend?” Anna asked. She leaned over her mother, “Do you mean, Leola? You’re talking about Leola Grayson, aren’t you?” Victoria looked at Anna in surprise and then her frightened face slowly bent itself into a grimace once more. Her mouth opened wide for what looked like a silent scream to emerge. The woman’s head lulled back against the stone and her hands reached up to cover her face, and then she released a loud howl of agony that finally confirmed to Anna the unbelievable truth.

“YEEEESSSSSS!!” she wailed. “Yessss…. my poor Leola, my friend. The evil thing killed my best friend.” Anna carefully sat on the floor next to her mother, and watched as the woman fell to the side, crying and beating the floor with her fist.

Anna’s mind was reeling. Maybe this was why her mother was sent to this terrible place. Complicity in a murder would surely bring the harshest punishment the Wizarding world had to offer. But somebody was with her at the time. Who was her accomplice? Her mother continued to sob through her words.

“Leola! I’m so sorry. I tried to stop her, but she was too strong. She’s always been stronger than me.”

Anna leaned in to whisper. “Who is she, mother? Where did the evil one come from?”

Victoria sniffed and lifted herself again to sit. She looked at Anna and wiped her wet face with the tattered remains of her dirty dress. Her hair was now a matted mess, her face old and sunken, but her breathing quickened and rattled as she spoke, her eyes turning wild with fear. “He brought her to me,” she said, in barely a whisper.

“Who did? Who brought her?” asked Anna, trying to make eye contact with her mother whose head was jerking about, making sure nobody could hear them speaking. Finally, Victoria leaned in and raised a finger to beckon her daughter closer, and Anna tilted her ear to listen.

“The Dark… Lord…” Victoria said, with a trembled voice.

Anna snapped back in shock. “The Dark…?” she stumbled, “the Dark Lord? You mean… You-Know-Who… brought this woman to you? How? Why would he do that?” Anna asked, in shocked disbelief. Victoria fell back against the wall and her face seemed to go flat as she heaved a heavy sigh. Her words were cold, shaded in the dull tones of numbness as she started to tell Anna her terrible story.

“The Dark Lord wanted Boris the Muggle-lover dead. Boris’s interactions with the Muggles in the business world angered the Dark Lord — he wanted it stopped. He wanted the whole Grayson family killed as an example to all that his warnings should not be ignored. He tried several times to have it done, but his Death Eaters failed again and again. He-Whose-Name-Is-Never-Spoken grew angry and finally took a personal interest in killing Boris himself. He then formulated a wicked plan.

“He…he…” Victoria broke off, suddenly wrapping her arms as if from a cold breeze pressing in around them. She began to shake violently.

“Go on…” Anna said, “what did he do?” Victoria started to rock back and forth in obvious distress. She looked up at Anna.

“He…” she started to whimper, “… he… took… me,” she finally said, and Anna recoiled in appalled shock. She had the sudden urge to stop her mother from speaking, not wanting to hear what might come next. She knew her heart was seconds away from breaking apart, but she had to know the truth.

“Yes? Mother, go on… it’s all right… what did he do?”

Victoria started to beat her head with her fists. “Pain…” she said, miserably. “So much pain.”

Anna tried to remain composed, focusing on the words and not the agony they were causing her mother to speak.

“Pain? What… do you mean?”

“Unforgivable…pain… the Cruciatus curse… pleeeeeaaaaaassssseeee,” she wailed. “Pleeeasseee, make it end. Make it stop.” Victoria suddenly grabbed the sides of her head, and began to pull her hair with her balled fists. “Paaaaaainnnn… please, God, make it stop. Yes… yes… I’ll do anything. Yes… I’ll do it. Please stop… please.” Victoria was kicking out at the floor in front of her as her eyes rolled back in tortured hallucination. “No… I can’t. I won’t, please don’t make me. I’ll do anything… please. No… not that. I love him – I love him. I can’t… I won’t…. AIEEEEE!!!!” She fell sideways to the floor holding her head, retching in horrified agony. Anna tried to reach out to her, but again her mother wouldn’t let her touch her.

“Get away! Get away from me!” she screamed at Anna. “I won’t do it! Do you hear me? I WON’T!” Her eyes opened wide, as if looking up at an enemy bearing down upon her. “Please… don’t. No more, I’m begging you. No — I can’t. I’d rather die — just kill me, please…. no!” She fell to the floor again and began to jerk and thrash about.

“Mother! Stop it! There’s nobody here, it’s just us…please… VICTORIA! STOP!” Anna finally grabbed her mother and pulled her up straight against the wall. At Anna’s touch, Victoria Grayson suddenly stopped screaming. She sat there staring ahead and the strangest look began to move across her face; and then… she smiled.

“Your hands are warm, child,” she said, almost musically. She raised her hand and placed it on the back of Anna’s wrist; her touch was shockingly cold. And then, very slowly, the woman turned to stare into Anna’s eyes. “Your blood is warm, my kind.”

Anna frowned and the strangest urge to pull away began to steal over her. Her mother’s gaze was deep, loving, almost endless, and Anna felt herself falling into it like the warmest embrace. She knew something was wrong before her mind went blank and her hands fell with a sudden thud to the cold floor.

Get back! Get away… blurted the voices from the stones. Their warning seemed to punch through the haze engulfing Anna’s mind, and she suddenly snapped alert from the swimming trance found in her mother’s eyes. Anna blinked with a start and then quickly scrambled to her feet.

“Don’t go…” Victoria pleaded. “Stay with us, please. Give me your hand, child. Let me hold you. Let your mother take you into her arms… my dear… Anna. Come to me, my sweet.” Anna could feel a powerful force drawing her forward again. She quickly looked away to focus on the door.

“Are… are you saying then… it was… Voldemort who…?”

An ugly hiss spit through her mother’s teeth as she cringed away. “Do not say the Dark Lord’s name!”

Anna scowled at the evil wizard’s memory. “He’s dead! He can’t hurt you now, mother,” she said, sternly.

“But saying his name will awaken her,” Victoria replied, and her tone told Anna the returning fear in her mother’s voice was real. “She is, after all, his devoted servant.”

“You… you mean the evil one?” Anna said, quickly looking around the room again.

“Yesssss,” her mother hissed, slowly rising to stand again. “After the Dark Lord failed to force me to murder the Graysons, he brought her to watch over me, and he let us leave together. I went home again, and she’s been with me ever since.” As her mother stepped forward, her image began to change again. Her face was radiant, her eyes blue as sapphires, and her lips red. Victoria’s hair suddenly looked combed and detailed, her dress clean and unblemished again. Anna frowned.

“What’s happening to you? How can you change your appearance like that?” Her mother seemed to lift herself slightly and almost float across the room toward her.

“I should look my best for visitors. Especially… for my lovely daughter.”

Anna was suddenly fearful. She had gone through hell itself to find this person. She put her entire future and her life on the line to get here, and now some part of her was hesitant. There was a strange look on her mother’s face, and Anna thought she recognized it as one of longing, of something wanted. But it wasn’t anything based on love; certainly… it wasn’t that. No, it was something else, and until Anna understood what was happening she moved to keep her distance.

She tried to focus on her mother’s story. So it was Voldemort all along. Her father already told her Voldemort’s Death Eaters had tried to kill him several times in the past, and now she knew the Dark Lord had kidnapped and tortured her mother into doing it. But something about this tale didn’t ring true in Anna’s mind. Something about it didn’t make sense.

“Mother… I don’t understand… why would You-Know-Who let you go? Did this other woman have some kind of power over you?”

“Yessss,” Victoria said softly, still moving ever so slowly toward her. “She was in continuous contact with the Dark Lord. She wanted to serve him… to please him.”

Anna stepped to the side again to increase her distance. “So what happened after you got home? What did you do then?” Victoria suddenly stopped, and Anna could see her eyes looking around as she tried to think back.

“His servant told me we had to get inside his house. We had to get closer to him.”

“You mean Daddy? I mean… Boris Grayson?”

“The liar!” Victoria hissed, and Anna could see the blue in her mother’s eyes change suddenly to red as her anger bloomed. “Yes… we needed to get closer to him, my oldest — most devoted friend. We grew up together… did you know that? The homes of our parents shared the same hill, and I fell in love with him the moment I first saw him… when we were just children,” she said, and she began to purr, her eyes changing again back to a lovely shade of blue. “But the evil one had a plan, you see. She made me do something she knew would make Boris take us into his home, take us closer into his heart.”

“What… did you do?”

“A little thing, really; nothing of any great importance. We burned down my mother’s house,” Victoria said, with the softest smile turning on her lips.

“You… you what?” Anna whispered, horrified and remembering her nightmare from the night before. Her mind was sent traveling three thousand miles back to her home, up to the cliff-side spot on the other side of Grayson Hill where the smell of burnt wood and brick fell into her brain. Her own mother… “You… burned down the Jennings estate?”

“Yes…” Victoria said softly. “She started the fire, but we both took our turn with the torch. She said it was the only way.” She smiled gleefully. “She was right. Boris took us in immediately, of course. He wouldn’t leave his oldest friend to be homeless. His heart was too kind.”

“So that’s when daddy let you move into the Grayson house?”

“Yessss” said Victoria, floating forward toward Anna again. “Can I hold your hand again, my dear?” Anna was mortified by Victoria’s admissions, but her instincts remained sharp and warned her to keep her distance. She moved aside without responding to her mother’s appeal.

“And… Daddy just let this other woman move in as well?”

“Ohhh… Boris did not know about the other,” Victoria replied, looking around the room again. She placed a finger up to her lips. “Shhhhh. I think I hear her stirring. We mustn’t wake her.” Anna straightened and quickly glanced around to listen. Although she couldn’t hear anything to suggest somebody else was there, Anna thought this other person could just as certainly enter the room as her mother somehow did.

“Okay… we’ll be quiet,” she agreed, and Victoria smiled back gratefully. “So did the other one come with you? Was she still watching you?”

“Oh yes. She was always there, watching… and waiting for the opportunity to strike. And then, the Dark Lord suddenly had a better plan. He wanted to give me something special; a reward for keeping quiet about his wicked servant entering Boris’s house.”

Anna frowned. “He wanted to give you something? What did he give you?”

Victoria took a long, purring breath and then looked at Anna excitedly. “Boris,” she said with a grin. “He wanted me to marry Boris. The Dark Lord knew I always loved him, ever since I was a child… so he wanted to give me a present.” Then Victoria suddenly frowned and looked angry again as her feet seemed to drop a few inches back to the floor. “But I told his servant, no! I didn’t want Boris. I told her… I hated him… that we were never friends.” And just as suddenly, Victoria’s face lifted as her mouth bowed another somber smile. “But they knew my heart well; they knew… I was lying. I had loved him for so long. I couldn’t keep my true feelings hidden from them.”

Her mother gave a little shrug. “But I asked her… ‘How could this be done?’” she continued. “Boris was already married to my best friend… to Leola. They had the children, and they had just named a new baby son…” she paused, as if trying to remember, “…the dragon boy.”

Damon, Anna thought, listening closely to her mother’s every word.

“And that’s when…” Victoria stumbled slightly, “… when she did it.” Her face contorted once more into a painful grimace of agony. She covered her face as she fell back against the wall. “I didn’t want to do it,” she cried. “I told her. I wouldn’t… I couldn’t, but the Dark Lord’s servant threatened me. She told me I would be returned to her master to be punished. I begged her not to…” Anna stared in disbelief at her mother whose every word seemed to bring more pain.

“What… did she do?”

“She said Leola wouldn’t be hurt. She promised me she wouldn’t be hurt… they would take her away and hide her so I could have Boris to myself. She said I could take care of the children, and then Boris and I could have our own babies. She said I could have everything I’ve always wanted. All I had to do…” she stopped.

“Yes…? Go on, mother. What did she want you to do?”

“They wanted me to get Leola outside at night near cliffs. They wanted to capture her there, you see, and fly her away. Fly – fly – fly away,” her mother sang, “like a beautiful little bird… she would fly away to a safe place.” Victoria looked again at Anna who was cringing as she listened.

“When Boris was away, I told my friend I had lost something important to me in the forest behind the estate; I asked her to help me find it. Leola was so kind. We were schoolmates, you know; friends for life,” Victoria explained vaguely. “Of course she would help me. So we left the house and we walked together in the woods by the light of our wands. We were looking for something that was lost… searching for something… that wasn’t really there.”

“Is that when this other woman attacked her?” Anna asked her, looking frightened again. Victoria looked up at the ceiling and then around the room to insure no one was listening.

“Yes. The evil one cursed Leola… making her immobile. I watched her drag her toward the cliff… and she…” Victoria started to howl in pain. “Poor — dear Leola. She was looking at me. Her eyes… dear God, her eyes were staring up at me, and I could see she didn’t understand. I tried to tell his servant to stop. I asked her how they would fly Leola away. She began to scream at me… she ordered me to help get my friend closer to the cliff. I told her I would, but only if she promised not to hurt her.

“Her… eyes…” Victoria moaned painfully again. “Leola’s eyes were staring at me; I could see she was so scared. I told her she wouldn’t be hurt as I helped the evil one to drag her to the edge. I could tell she didn’t understand. And then…” Victoria whimpered, “…and then…”

Anna dropped her head; she suddenly didn’t want to hear the rest. She wanted to leave this awful place, to run as far away as she possibly could. And all at once, Victoria let out a howl of suffering, soul wrenching pain; she covered her head in shame and misery, and then began to claw horrible gashes down the front of her face with her crumbled nails. She screamed Leola’s name in a wail of heartbroken agony.

“HER EYES! I can still see her eyes looking at me as the evil one… pushed her over the cliff.” Victoria let out a ghastly shriek as she fell to the floor once more. Anna rushed over to her and was shocked to see her mother in tattered garments once again, lying curled in a ball on the stone floor. Anna cried with her, lowering herself to soothe and console the woman.

“It wasn’t your fault, mother. It was the Dark Lord’s servant; she forced you to help her,” Anna said, patting the woman gently on the back. “Is that why they put you here? Is that why you were locked in this place?” Anna leaned over her mother and hugged her. “It isn’t fair; she was the one who did it, mother. Her and Voldemort…”

Suddenly, her mother’s head twisted around to face her. “I told you… NOT TO SAY THAT NAME!” she spat, through deadly fangs.

Anna eyes widened in horror as she scrambled backwards to get away. Her mother’s eyes were blood red, her face white as bleached bone. Anna could see hideous black veins pulsating under the clawed scratches in her cheeks as Victoria began to crawl toward her. Anna kicked back to the opposite wall, pressing hard against the stones in terror at the thing coming toward her. The magic was suddenly there, blasting its warning through her brain like a siren.

Get back… run away… the thing is evil. She is kalandomõ, a devourer. A creature – black!

“Get away!” Anna demanded, as she reached into her robes and struggled to pull out her wand. She stretched out her arm and pointed the purple heart shakily at her mother.

“I said, GET BACK!” Victoria hissed loudly as she slowly rose to stand. And just as quickly as they had appeared, the fangs were suddenly gone; replaced by a penetrating smile and a soft purr. Anna arched back against the wall to stand, her wand still shaking in her grip. The magical voices were still howling at her.

Leölés… escape now while you can… it is kalandomõ… lamia… Vampir…Anna was shaking her head and crying in disbelief as she watched the creature in front of her change once again into the beautiful image of her mother, the ugly gashes down her face disappeared and shown with the light of blushed youth.

“I said… get back! I… mean it,” Anna sobbed, extending her arm forward as she bent slightly to wretch. Her head was swimming in shock as the thing moved hypnotically in front of her. How could this be? Anna thought, looking back toward the door. She must have made a mistake. This foul thing couldn’t be her mother. But then… how could she have known all that she had said? It had to be some kind of trick. Anna’s mind was failing to connect the random thoughts whirling in her brain as the thing steadily moved closer.

“Come to me… Anna. Do not be afraid. I would never hurt you…” the creature purred. “I want to be near you, my sweet daughter. Let me hold you.” Once again, Anna could feel the power of the thing drawing her near, enticing her to come closer.

“NO! You’re not my mother!” And then the words finally came out like a sickness moving up her throat. “You’re… you’re a vampire!” The image of her mother started to sway hypnotically side to side, and then, without warning, there was a flash of movement to Anna’s left and the creature was suddenly standing next to her, whispering into her ear.

“Yessss… my sweet…”

Anna screamed; the creature had moved so fast, too fast to see.

“…we are the same, my kind.”

Anna screamed again and jerked away. She ran to the opposite wall, still pointing her wand.

“Shhhh…” Victoria said warningly, “you must be quiet, or you’ll wake the other.”

Through her sobs, Anna’s anger erupted forth. “There is no other!” she yelled. “It’s only ever been you. You’re not Victoria Grayson!”

“Oh, but I am, child; I am. Would you like to hear my tale? I would tell you how it happened, Anna, how I was reborn, if you promise to tell me how it happened to you.”

Comprehension seemed to dawn on Anna just in time. For some insane reason, this creature believed that she, Anna, was also a vampire.

“Tell me then,” Anna demanded – still pointing her wand. “Tell me how this happened to you.” The creature looked at her with a swaying smile.

“Very well,” her mother said softly, stepping to the side. She carried an inviting, but horrifying stare over her shoulder as she moved.

“After the evil one murdered Leola, I took over the Grayson house. The liar Boris was distraught, as were the children by the accident I told them I had witnessed. I said Leola had stumbled at the cliff’s edge that night and dropped her wand before she fell. They were upset at the tragedy of it all, but I cared for them… my lovely new family. I wiped their tears and remained close to Boris. It was easy for me, you see, because I loved him so much.

“A year passed, and eventually the family began to accept me as the manor’s mistress, and Boris finally told me that he loved me. We were married soon afterwards… such a joyous thing. Everybody told me how beautiful I looked in my dress.” At these words, Victoria’s garments suddenly began to shimmer and change into a white-veiled wedding dress. “You see… how beautiful I can be?”

Anna was sobbing loudly. She dropped her wand for a moment to wipe her face with the sleeve of her robes. Victoria took a step forward toward her and Anna jerked her wand up again as her mother purred on.

“After waiting for so long… I finally had my Boris, and it seemed all my dreams had at last come true. I loved him so much in those days. But the other was always there, whispering in my ear, telling me what to say to Boris about the Muggles. She would tell the Dark Lord what Boris was planning, and his Death Eaters would block everything Boris was trying to do. They were working to destroy his work so that nobody would take his place after they killed him.

“After a time, the healers said I was with child.” Anna frowned and looked away, but the vampire seemed to use every distraction to get closer to her. Victoria was lovingly kneading her stomach again. “Our baby grew; Boris was so excited. As the time of the baby’s birth drew near, the entire family and all of our friends… were so happy for us,” she began to hum and whisper gently to her baby again.

Then, without warning, Victoria’s tone abruptly sounded panicked and scared. “But then…the evil one was suddenly fearful.”

“Fearful?” Anna sobbed, almost uncaringly. “What do you mean?”

“The wicked servant could not make contact with her dark master. She tried again and again to reach out to him, but he would not respond. He had disappeared without warning after All Hollow’s Eve. The evil one was worried and reached out to her Lord’s Death Eaters, but found them quickly disappearing, going into hiding. Nobody knew what had happened to their master. He had vanished… he was gone.” Anna recalled the tale of Voldemort’s death right before the time of her own birth.

“So… what did she do?” Anna asked her.

“The murderer was desperate to find her master. She demanded that we use my mother’s kaleidoscope to locate him. The eyes of Verosapt told us the Dark Lord had survived a deadly confrontation with the Potter boy, and was sent in spirit form into hiding in a remote forest in Albania. She insisted that we go to him and devote our lives to his recovery.”

Anna suddenly remembered the night Eric had witnessed this exchange of information with the kaleidoscope in his room. The person lost in the forest… it was Voldemort. They were looking for Voldemort. She looked at her mother, still swaying rhythmically just a few feet away from her.

“So you… you went to Albania?” Anna said distrustfully.

“I didn’t want to go. I was about to have a baby. I told his servant I couldn’t leave Boris. I said the Dark Lord was powerless and lost to his Death Eaters, and I was finally free of him; I would be his slave no more.” Anna felt an unexpected boost of agreement. After everything that had happened to her mother, she at last saw her trying to pull herself out of the clutches of this evil woman.

“What did the evil one do? Did she leave?”

Victoria shook her head. “No. She was very angry with me. She said I had to go with her, that the Dark Lord had bound us together forever and I would never be free of her. She threatened to kill my family. She said she would tell Boris I had murdered Leola.

“But I wasn’t afraid anymore. I told her… I was going to tell Boris about her presence in the house. I knew he was a very powerful wizard, and would find a way to separate us.” \

What was left of Anna’s spirit suddenly fell. While her mother had clearly demonstrated an eagerness to free herself from Voldemort’s servant, whatever happened next had obviously lead to her failure.

“Your threats didn’t work… did they?”

Victoria began to whimper. “No…” she moaned, shaking her head miserably, “… the evil thing would not release me. She wouldn’t leave my family alone to be happy. She was enraged and said her master would punish my disobedience. But I told her — I didn’t care anymore, and I would not let her hurt my husband. Oh… she was so angry.”

Her mother suddenly looked fearful as she whispered, “She had a knife. While we were in the kitchen she grabbed a knife and put it to my baby.” Victoria groaned in agony, putting her hands over her stomach as if to protect it from some unseen assailant. “SHE THREATENED MY UNBORN BABY!” she wailed. “She… she said she would kill the child before it was born…” Victoria sobbed, falling against the wall and then pounding her fist against it angrily. “What could I do? What… could… I do?”

The horror of these words sent Anna’s heart tumbling in sorrow. The image of some evil hag in her own home with a knife to her mother’s pregnant belly sickened her. She shook her head, forgetting for a moment that the creature standing before her was a predator.

“You couldn’t do anything, mother. There was nothing to be done… but… to obey her?” she asked tentatively.

Victoria turned to look at her, surprised by Anna’s sympathy. “You understand, don’t you? You see… I had no choice. I… I couldn’t let her hurt our baby.

“But we could not Disapparate while on the grounds. We had to sneak away, get to the barrier at the gate, and then make our escape from there.” She paused, and then she smiled. “But Boris found me trying to leave the house. He couldn’t understand what I was doing. I told him I had to go away; I said I had something important that I had to do, and I begged him to let me go. We argued. He said he would not allow it…” Victoria sobbed, happily. “He told me he loved me… he told me again and again,” she wept. “He said the baby would be in danger if I left the house. He told me that whatever I had to do… he would have it done. But I wouldn’t listen… I told him I had to go. He didn’t understand… he said he wouldn’t allow it. He would never let me go.” Victoria began to sob.

Anna was apprehensive. “What… happened?”

“That’s when she attacked him!” Victoria said, turning angry. “The evil the Dark Lord had sent to watch over me finally showed herself and attacked my husband.” Anna’s eyes widened in horror as her mother relived the moment. “She used my wand against Boris, and then left him to die on the grounds outside the house.” Victoria made a ragged sigh. “She took me away from my husband, my children… the only home left to me.” And at these words, she began to wail loudly.

Anna let her mother cry without comfort. She couldn’t find the proper words to offer this poor, tortured woman, nothing that would ease her pain. Although she couldn’t comprehend the terrible events that lead to what had happened, Anna could clearly see the results. Her mother was completely mad. But somehow, through all the pain and tears, Victoria Grayson continued her sad tale.

“We traveled together to that awful place where the eyes of Verosapt had said her master was hiding. We walked for days and days without end. Through the dark and cold forests we traveled on and on, with very little sleep or food. I begged her, for the baby’s sake, to let me go home but she wouldn’t listen. She took my wand away from me so I couldn’t escape.

“At times she would leave me and go off searching the woods alone. I could hear her screaming for the Dark Lord, screaming his name… Master… Master where are you? You’re obedient servant is here, Master. I am here to serve you. Where are you? But the Dark Lord would not come to us and, after several days of searching, we finally understood why.” Victoria found a way to smile again. “Boris… had found us. He was in the forest with several others from the Ministry. He was so close; sometimes I could hear them yelling my name in the woods. They were calling to me. Oh… the evil one was so angry. She said she would kill them all. She believed they were keeping her master away from us.

“We kept moving without rest. Then, on our fifth night, I could feel the baby coming; it… was… time for my baby to be born. I fell to the ground unable to continue, but the evil one was without pity. She screamed at me to get up. She said her master was close; she could feel his presence nearby. But I could not go on. She swore at me. She said she would kill the baby after it was born, but I couldn’t stop it from coming.”

“My God…” Anna whispered, as her mother spoke of the moments before her own birth.

“And she was right…” Victoria said, staring up at the ceiling again. “The Dark Lord was very close. I remember looking into the blackness of the trees between my pains… and then suddenly… he was there.”

Anna’s eyes widened. “Who was there? Who was it?”

“A shadow… looking down at me with raging red eyes. I begged him to help me. I told him to call for my husband. I tried to tell him my baby was coming. The shadow lifted me into the air and I could hear the evil one screaming with joy and happiness.”

My Lord… my Master… we have found you at last, she said to the thing holding me in his powerful arms. But she was wrong… it was a trick…”

“A trick? What do you mean?” Anna could see the terror in her mother’s eyes looking straight through her.

“It was not the Dark Lord. It was… a shadow dweller, a phantom of the night, one of the old ones. It was… my kind.”

Anna’s heart wrenched horribly. “Dear… God…” she said under her breath.

“The thing bared its horrible teeth at me. It struck, and I screamed. Ohhhh… the pain…” Victoria sighed, wrapping both hands around her own neck. “I tried to fight the thing off of me… but I didn’t have my wand.” Victoria started to cry. “I didn’t… have… my wand.”

Anna was shaking uncontrollably. She suddenly remembered the dream she had months before, of hunting in the forest and attacking Debbie Dunning in exactly the same way as her mother had just described. The thought sickened her.

Her mother’s breathing quickened. “I could feel the life draining from my body as the creature fed upon me. Realizing its mistake, the evil one at last became my protector and tried to attack the thing killing me. And then… and then…” Victoria’s mouth opened again. Her jaw shook and quivered, as her tears slid down her face to mix with the drool falling to the stone floor.

“MY BABY!” she screamed. “MY UNBORN BABY, IT… IT… STOPPED MOVING! I could feel it dying in my belly. The thing was killing us both.” Victoria started to gasp and wretch. “It was getting hard to breathe. The moon above me was growing dim, he was killing us and I couldn’t stop it. That’s when I knew… I could bear no more. I would die… with my baby… there in the dark woods.” Victoria placed her hands over her stomach and began to hum the lullaby once more. “We will die together, my sweet,” she said mournfully, her mind transported to that moment of dread in the forest.

“I felt my heart begin to flutter, it was almost over. I remembered thinking that I would finally be rid of the evil curse the Dark Lord had placed upon me. But then,” the pace of Victoria story began to speed up, “I heard screaming coming from the woods around us. There was a yell, a flash of red light, and the thing killing us released me. I heard Boris yelling my name as the creature that had just gorged itself on two lives turned to flee. But my husband saw him and became enraged. He wasn’t going to let the thing evade his wrath. With a single wave of his wand, he cut one of the legs out from under the thing’s body, and I heard the creature fall to the ground screaming in pain. It tried to rise again, and Boris, my… dear… sweet… protective husband, blasted a hole straight through the creature’s black heart, and sent it back to the pit from which it came.”

Victoria’s face seemed to grow pale. “I remember the thing falling next to me and watching its demon eyes go dim. And then a cold and horrible presence seemed to pass through my body as it left the creature. Finally… it was dead. My dear, sweet Boris had saved me. My rescuer was by my side once again.

“But I was weak, so very weak. I fell asleep for a time and told myself it was too late, that I would never awaken again.” She paused and then, without warning, Victoria’s body rose a few inches off the floor again.

“But I did awaken… and I rose again as never before in life. I was strong, well, and… I… was hungry.” Victoria was now standing at her full height and swaying again. Like a tall willow blowing in a breeze, she began floating once again toward Anna. “I was starving; uncontrollable – all consuming yearnings that I had never felt before were within me. It was a hunger in the deepest part of my soul, and I could smell the feast of life all around me,” her mother said, breathing deep of the air in the room. “The room I was in was teeming with the scent of prey everywhere. I saw my husband, my lovely-delicious Boris standing at the foot of my bed, holding something in his arms. It was a baby… my baby. I could smell it, taste its tears in my mouth as it howled.

Give it to me, I whispered to him. And then one of the men in the room saw me rising out of the bed and screamed a warning. I immediately set upon him and tasted his delicious blood.”

Anna fell back against the wall and slid into the corner. She suddenly realized Victoria was much too close now. “Get back!” she yelled, pointing her wand at the swaying figure of her mother again.

“Ahhh… only someone as you can imagine it, my daughter, and the rapture of the moment. His blood was sweet in my mouth, his body warm and in my loving grip. But the other men grabbed me, and placed upon me several curses. They bound me tight. The evil one was there as well; she had been captured in the forest with me. I begged Boris to rescue me – to set me free. He said he would help me. He said he wouldn’t let them hurt me. He said he would take care of me.”

Victoria’s voice immediately changed to rage. “LIAR!” she screamed, bitterly. “FOUL LIES; Boris… the liar, my devoted loving husband… never helped me. He sent me here to this foul place and locked me away with the evil one. He left me here to rot with the Dark Lord’s devoted servant.”

Finally there was silence and Anna wept. In all her dreams… nothing could have prepared her for this, at finally seeing her mother and then learning the awful truth about her fate. It was too much to bear. Why did my father lie to me after all these years? Why did he send Victoria to this terrible place? Why would he betray her trust? Why did he betray me? Anna’s mind was buzzing with the images of her father, her mother’s portrait, the dreams of hunting as a vampire in the woods, the starving hunger she only thought was the Lethifold.

Anna realized her mistake too late. For the briefest moment she had let her guard down, and her mind was delayed to recover from its unexpected lapse. In a rush of blurred color the creature was whispering into her ear again.

“So what are we to do, my kind?” Anna yelped and jerked away, completely surprised at the speed at which the thing had moved.

“Stay back!” She yelled, still pointing her wand.

“We can go together and leave the evil one here,” Victoria said, swaying again. There was another rush of color and Victoria was speaking into her other ear. “Tell me… how are we to escape this place?”

Anna screamed again in surprise.

“Sssshhhhhhhhh,” Victoria warned, in her sweetest voice. “I told you to be quiet. I can feel the evil one stirring.”

Anna looked up at the ceiling, for any sign of another presence about to enter the room. The image of her mother stepped back and suddenly faded into the green mist Anna had seen when she first came through the door. The mist spread itself like a fog throughout the room around her, and Anna could hear her mother’s voice whispering maliciously inside her head.

“You’re blood is warm, my kind. How can this be? Have you recently fed? You make me jealous, my sweet. For I have never been allowed to feed properly. I sometimes dream of hunting in the woods, feeding in the ancient ways that our nature demands. What is that like, my kind, to feed on the blood of others? Let us leave this place so I may hear your stories. I did my part, I told you my tale. Now… show me the way out!”

Anna was struggling to remain focused. I have to get out of here, she thought, as she fanned at the mist invading her mind. The fog began to coalesce into a shapeless form standing by her side.

“How did you enter this enchanted prison, child? Please… tell me your secret, so I may leave with you.”

Anna was terrified. She moved slowly to the center of the room within the mist surrounding her, and then turned to place herself between the murky form becoming visible there and the door behind her. She was in trouble. It was going to take time to move to the door and then summon the concentration necessary to pass through the barrier. Without another thought, Anna whirled around and took a step toward the expected door. She looked up and screamed in surprise at finding her mother’s burning red eyes standing in front of her.

“Where are you going? I kept my part of the bargain.” Victoria said angrily, her voice rising as she stepped toward Anna. “You would not… leave me here? You would not betray me like your father!” she threatened, tilting her head to the side as if examining Anna’s intent. “You wouldn’t… lie to me?”

“GET BACK!” Anna yelled, and quickly moved to raise her wand. Victoria caught her by the wrist and then noticed the purple heart in her hand. She frowned.

“This… is… my wand,” Victoria said, angrily. “You stole this wand, didn’t you?” She saw the cross of gold around Anna’s neck, and her eyes narrowed. She snatched the chain off of Anna’s chest with her other hand.

“Thief! Robber of graves! This is my necklace!”

“Nooo,” Anna moaned, trying to break her mother’s grip. “My father gave me these things,” she said, wincing in pain.

“LIAR!” yelled Victoria. “You’re exactly like your father! He said he would take care of me, but he lied. You said you would help me, but you would leave me here. Why? Why would you…?” Victoria froze. Her stare deepened as her nose seemed to flare at the air around them. Her eyes slowly moved to Anna’s wrist locked in her tight grip. She pulled Anna’s hand toward her face and began to look at it closely, pryingly. Her face melted into the beauty of her young once more as her blue eyes turned to stare back at Anna. They were entrancing, deep, endless, and warm. Never breaking her gaze, she pulled Anna’s wrist to her mouth. She closed her eyes and breathed deep, and then moaned longingly. Anna was trembling with fear as her mother suddenly stopped, her nose pushed into the inside of Anna’s wrist.

“You… are not my kind, are you… my dear… sweet… Anna?” Victoria’s eyes suddenly snapped open. They were blood red as her face shot forward. “YOU ARE ALIVE!!” she screeched, barring her horrible fangs. Anna screamed and tried to pull away. She yanked on her wrist to break free of the thing, but the creature was much too powerful. The vampire pushed her against the wall, and opened her jaws wide. She immediately swooped forward toward her daughter’s neck.

“No!” Anna yelled, grabbing the top of Victoria’s hair with her only free hand. She wrenched her mother’s head back, and raised a foot to the creature’s mid-section to hold her away. Locked in this position, Anna could hear her mother giggling with anticipation.

“HA-HA-HA—hee-hee-hee-hee. You should have died with me that night in the forest, Anna. No matter… we shall be together in death again very soon.” She snatched Anna’s other wrist away and pulled her arms to the side against the wall. Her face was hideous, chalk white and filled with inky-black veins. Her tongue was pointed and grotesque; it was flicking and twitching longingly between her fangs and Anna screamed as Victoria lunged forward into her neck. There was a revolting crunching sound, and then pain like nothing Anna had ever felt before. Anna gasped in horror through her mother’s matted hair pressing into her face. Victoria Grayson, her own mother, was trying to kill her.

Familiar voices began to fade in and out of Anna’s brain. Her father’s soft words, “You remind me so much of your mother.” Her brother, Eric: “You look a lot like her… it’s a little eerie.” Flashes of color appeared and exploded before her like fireworks. The painted light began to weave images and pictures of her past, the rolling green walls of falling ocean, Gwen’s laughing face, an angel fighting a dragon, Sarah Bell’s white seer’s eyes, Widwick on her lap sliding down a banister, chess pieces arguing with one another.

And then, through the jumble of rotating images, Anna could hear a distant voice calling out to her, as if trying to get her attention on a crowded street. The call finally broke through the pain and paint of Anna’s mind and rocked forward like a beam of powerful light.

…centrate… you… must concentrate, Sithmaith!

It was the magic within stones behind her. They were yelling at her from the wall pressing into her back.

Concentrate on the power behind you, Guardian!

Anna tried to clear her mind, but the pain… the agony of what her mother was now doing was unbearable. She could hear Victoria drawing hard against her neck and swallowing eagerly.

Sithmaith! You must break away… yelled the now fading voices in the background of her mind.

Anna immediately felt the urgency in their tone falling away. What was once a terrified choir of fear screaming into her ears now seemed weak and feeble; her last solitary whisper of hope dying. She was loosing them, and the frailty of their failing echoes filled her with dread. She tried to dredge up the panic they once sounded, and Anna could feel a spark of consciousness pulsating behind her again. Like a drowning child returning to the surface for one last chance at life, they came back to her and she immediately struggled to link with them.

The vampire was in an all-consuming frenzy. Although her jailers had given her the necessary food and water to live, they only rarely and hesitantly offered the few drops of the cold animal blood to endure the pain of withdraw given her nature. Scarcely adequate to keep her alive, the blood was hours, sometimes days old, leaving the creature to sleep the imperceptible days and nights away, dreaming of the warm blood of victims whose heartbeat she could feel against her lips. But in all of those endless years of suffering slumber, nothing could have prepared her body for what she enjoyed now. The taste of an open wound against her mouth, the blood pouring into her body like a warm spring; it was an orgy of love and relief and engorgement all rolled into a single word. It was ecstasy.

The creature could feel her body warming for the first time in more than a decade, and as the relic of Victoria Grayson heated, she could feel her power and strength returning. And then, without warning, she felt something cold and unexpected pressing into her face. She opened her eyes in shock to find Anna’s body disappearing into the wall of stone behind her. She could feel her fangs scraping against the rock as she tried to pull Anna back.

“NO!” she screamed, releasing Anna’s neck. “You’re mine!” She pulled on Anna’s wrists and wrestled her back into the room. Victoria was laughing. “Heeee — hee-hee… there you are!”

Anna looked up in horror at her mother’s face covered in her blood. The vampire raised Anna’s left hand and sunk her fangs deep into her wrist.

“UGGHN!” Anna gasped in pain as her mother began bending her wrist back; it finally broke with a horrible snap and Anna screamed. Dropping to her knees, Anna suddenly realized the creature had released her wand hand. She raised the purple heart up and pointed its tip into Victoria’s chest.

Impedimenta!” she shrieked. A blast of white light smashed into her mother’s center, and she flew across the room and into the opposite wall.The vampire scrambled to her feet, howling like a wounded animal.

“Stop it!” Anna screamed, pointing her wand at her again. “Don’t make me curse you!” Her wand was shaking uncontrollably in her hand as she cried. The creature snarled as she rose to look at Anna’s blood dripping from its hands.

Anna began to slide across the wall toward the door and wretched at the sight of Victoria licking adoringly at the blood running down her wrists. Her mother suddenly saw Anna moving and stopped; she growled at her and Anna froze. She knew she would never make it to the door before the creature attacked her again.

And then, without warning, the creature began to fall back. Her face immediately changed from that of a predator to one of terrified fear. She quickly fell into the corner of the room, cringing in apparent terror.

“She is awake…” Victoria whispered, her eyes darting into the space around them. “She knows you’re here,” she whimpered. “The servant of the Dark Lord… is coming!” Victoria looked at her again, and to Anna’s surprise her mother began to wave her away. “Quickly — you must leave this place!”

Anna looked around the room suspiciously. Was this a trick, something to get her to drop her guard? She couldn’t see anything to suggest something had changed in the room. There was no swirling mist, there were no voices, nothing different from before. Anna looked at her mother who was now cowering in the corner, her face turned away in fear at the wall. Anna pointed her wand at the creature; she would not be fooled again.

“It won’t work, mother. It was you all along, wasn’t it? There has never been another person in this room with you. It’s always been just you! I was told the first week I arrived in Spellsburg that the evil one was here, somewhere in a prison of its own making. I was told it would destroy me if it knew of my existence. I was told it was in this room. But I only found you! Where is this evil one, mother? Show her to me! Prove to me it wasn’t you all along.”

“Pleeeeaseee… she is coming. You have to go; run away, child!” Victoria whimpered, still shrinking in the corner.

“You can’t show her to me because she doesn’t exist! There is no other, you made it all up. It was all just a bunch of lies to cover your evil deeds. It was you! You… are the evil one!”

“Go! Leave here… before… his servant comes!” Victoria moaned into the corner.

“SHOW HER TO ME!” Anna yelled angrily, stumbling slightly against the wall. She was becoming dizzy from both her wounds, the loss of blood, and rage. “It was you that attacked me just now. It was you that tried to kill me, you that tried to kill my father! IT WAS YOU THAT KILLED LEOLA GRAYSON!”

“NOOOOOOOOOO…” Victoria moaned, “no… no… no…”

Anna put a hand to her neck and looked in shock at the amount of blood she found there. She had to get out of there; she was moments away from passing out, and if she did, Anna knew the creature would certainly finish her off. Slowly, very cautiously, Anna started to back away toward the door behind her. She finally turned to leave, but another voice was heard behind her, a high shrilling voice like a scream without volume.

“Who is this that dares to enter our prison, Victoria?” Stunned, Anna wheeled around and looked about.Nobody else was in the room, nobody she could see; only the sobbing form of her mother shaking, still cringing in the corner.

Anna could hear her mother whispering into the wall. “Go… run away. Run awaaaayyy.” And then she heard the shrilling, demon-like cackle from her dream burst forth into the room once more.

“Who is this child you are warning away from me, Victoria? Why is she here? WHAT HAVE YOU TOLD HER?” The ugly, piercing voice was so loud Anna had to cover her ears. It seemed to stab at her from everywhere in the room, digging into her brain like a knife. Anna backed away against the wall, looking desperately for the source of the sound, but only the gentle sobs of her mother could be heard in the farthest corner.

“She… she is my daughter. She is my Anna,” Victoria whimpered into the wall in reply to the other.

“But you have no daughters…” cackled the voice again.

Anna’s brain tried to triangulate on the spot from where the thing was yowling. It seemed to echo and reverberate off the walls everywhere, but with every word the thing said, Anna began to close in on its hiding place.

“I have been with you for years, Victoria,” the voice continued, “but there have never been any children. No one you would call…” the voice suddenly paused, and then, “…ahhhh… but wait. I do remember a child. A baby… taken from you before we arrived here. That Muggle-lover husband Boris Grayson took it from you, didn’t he? Yessss… I remember now...”

“Yes,” Victoria whispered back. “My baby… Anna. You remember… I said I would name her Anna after she was born? My daughter has grown in her father’s care. She… she has come to visit me.”

“Foolish of the guards to let her enter here without an escort, don’t you think? I see the thing you call a daughter has been wounded. You have been very rude to our guest,” screeched the voice.

Anna’s wand was searching the room like a divining rod, looking to find the voice. It was close, very close to where her mother lay in the corner. It must be a ghost, she thought nervously. Victoria started to rise out of her corner, her face covered in matted-gray hair, still buried in the wall.

“I didn’t mean to hurt my baby,” Victoria sobbed. “I couldn’t… help myself.”

“Oh… you shouldn’t worry about that, Victoria. Daughters always forgive their mothers for most anything. Isn’t that right, my dear,” said the hideous voice to Anna.

“Why don’t you show yourself?” Anna demanded. “Who are you?”

“I? Why… I am the Dark Lord’s most faithful servant, you stupid brat! He is coming, you know. He is coming very soon to rescue us from this foul place.”

“Voldemort is dead!” Anna yelled and, surprising even herself, she thrust her wand forward toward the evil voice, toward her mother.

The voice hissed loudly. “You dare! You dare say my Lord’s name?” it screeched.

Victoria quickly whirled around to glare at Anna and the voice, the horrible shrilling screech, issued forth from her mother’s mouth. “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK MY MASTER’S NAME!” Anna stumbled back tripping over her own robes. The thing was coming toward her again, screaming like a siren into the room. “Keep your nasty Muggle-loving mouth shut!” Anna scrambled back to her feet and thrust her wand forward.

“Get back!”

Victoria stopped, but the ugly voice within her continued. “You will see, you nasty little girl, the Dark Lord will return. Even your stupid mother knows this to be true, don’t you, Victoria?” And then the voice coming out of Victoria’s mouth changed, the expression on her face turning to fright.

“Yes, he is returning…” Victoria whimpered, and then the face turned cold again.

“You see? My Lord will come for us, and then… oh, and then he will reward us for our faithfulness.” Anna retched again, wanting to vomit. The two voices within Victoria began conversing with one another, back and forth, one meek and soft, and the other cold, heartless, and evil.

“Let my daughter go. She is innocent. She only came here to see me…”

“But she represents our reward; can’t you see that, you idiot?”

“Reward? What reward?”

“She is the daughter of the one who sent us here. She is the seed of the betrayer Boris, your dear-sweet husband. You remember Boris don’t you, Victoria? You remember him — I am sure. What was it you used to call him?”

“The… liar!” the thing said, in Victoria’s angered voice.

“Yes… very good. He lied to you, Victoria. He said he would care for you, but he left you here to rot and die, didn’t he? We should kill the child to please our master and fulfill our vengeance.”

“Shut your mouth!” Anna yelled back, pointing her wand again. She had heard enough. “Voldemort is dead. Your master has been dead for thirteen years, and he’s never… NEVER… COMING BACK!” The creature hissed loudly, and Anna thought she heard her mother’s voice filter through the sizzling rage.

“Oh no…”

“HOW DARE YOU SAY MY MASTER’S NAME! If you speak his name again, I’ll have your weakling mother kill you where you stand. And she’ll be more than happy to do it, as you well know already. Killing isn’t new to Victoria; she’s done it before. She is powerless to fight against my will.”

“You were responsible for Leola Grayson’s murder, you and the one who put you inside my mother. You’re a demon trapped in my mother’s body, put there by Him-Whose-Name-Is-Cursed!”

“I was not put here, you ignorant little brat. My master did not take his most devoted follower and place me into this body. No… you see I have always been here. I have been in this body since the day Victoria was born. My master, using his great power and might, allowed me to come forward. He set me free from Victoria’s silly moral bonds. Her values of right and wrong now have no connection to me. I control her actions, she bends to my will, and when my master returns for us he will reward his most faithful…”

“He’s DEAD! Your master is not coming back!” Anna roared angrily.

“Shut your filthy-miserable mouth!” the thing screamed. “You will see; I will prove it to you…” she said, desperately tugging on the tattered sleeve covering one of her mother’s arms. She tore the cloth open, pushed the sleeve back, and thrust her bared forearm forward at Anna. “There! You see? It is my master’s Dark Mark.” Anna looked in shock at the horrible burn on her mother’s arm.

“Only his most faithful servants have it, and it’s been growing darker all this year. Do you realize what that means? HE is growing stronger… he is coming… and he is coming to rescue us,” and she howled in hideous laughter. And then Victoria’s soft voice pushed forward.

“Anna… you must leave this place. Please… leave here.” And then, just as suddenly, her voice changed again.

“NO! She will not escape. You will kill her, Victoria. You will kill her for our master.”

“No… she is my daughter… my baby…”

“Shut up, you fool. She is the daughter of the liar Boris… remember? The one who put you here to perish with me even after all his promises to help you? He lied to you… and he sent his seed in here to lie to you again.”

“No… stop it, I won’t,” Victoria pleaded with the thing inside her head.

“You must! The Dark Lord is coming for us. You know this is true. Do you deny it?”

“Yes… he is… coming.”

“Do you wish our Lord to punish us again?”

“…no…”

“Then do as I say and… KILL HER!”

Victoria’s eyes shot forward blood red, her voice stronger. “Anna, the evil one is so powerful. She’s forcing me to… to...”

“Mother!” Anna yelled. “You must fight her. You must be stronger than her. You have to try.” The figure of Victoria started to sway side to side as the cackling voice started to laugh.

“Mother… oh mother… you’re so strong,” the other voice shrieked mockingly. “She is weak, child. Kill her, Victoria. Do it now!” Victoria’s body began to change again to its most beautiful, most enticing image. Her red hair flowed and blew itself back as if from some non-existent breeze filling the room; her face radiated an aura of loveliness. She began to speak softly to her daughter.

“Come to me, Anna. Come to your mother.”

“Voldemort is DEAD!” Anna screamed, still pointing her wand. Victoria hissed and turned away.

“Kill her… kill her!” screamed the other voice, and in a rush of wind Victoria grabbed Anna by the throat and pushed her back into the wall. Her eyes were blazing like red coals. She spat in Anna’s face as the killer within screamed through her bared fangs. “Filthy seed of a Muggle-lover – take her blood!”

“No!” Anna screamed, kicking out hard, and the two of them fell to the floor together. They rolled over and over until Anna was pinned under her mother’s weight. Victoria’s black tongue was moving in at Anna’s already bloodied neck.

“Please… mother… you can’t… I… I love you!”

At these words the creature froze. She stared disbelievingly down at Anna’s crying, cringing form on the floor beneath her. She rose up and Anna could see her words had finally penetrated some part of what was left of the woman’s soul. Anna slowly raised her hand and placed it on the side of her mother’s face; she stroked it gently through her sobs.

“You poor thing… I understand now. I know what he did to you, mother. But you can fight this… and… you can come back to us. We love you. Daddy still loves you. He told me so.” Anna’s soothing touch seemed to calm the creature back into a quiet purr.

Her head was thrown back. “Kill her!” she screamed, angrily. But as Victoria looked down at her daughter again, her eyes were soft and calm, her voice filled with the deepest sadness.

“No,” she replied decidedly. Victoria then pushed herself away and scrambled back against the opposite wall.

“I WON’T DO IT! I won’t hurt my child again,” she yelled back at the evil one inside her.

“Betrayer! You dare to betray our Lord’s will? He will punish you! He will use his power to…AIEEEE! AAKH!”

The shrieking high-pitched voice was screaming in pain. “What is this?” she said, grabbing its own forearm. She removed her hand and stared, her eyes widening in disbelief at the Dark Mark there upon her skin. Her head then slowly fell back and rolled into an ugly cackle. She then screamed into the room with happy delight, brandishing her arm toward Anna.

“YOU SEE? Do you see Muggle-lover? My master has returned; he is calling his Death Eaters to his side at this very moment! He is BACK,” and Anna looked in horror at the mark on her mother’s arm. Smoking and black, the image of a skull with a tongue like that of a serpent was clearly moving on her pale skin. It rose up on her forearm to hiss loudly at her.

“HE IS BACK! OUR LORD HAS RETURNED!” the evil one howled, as she stood and began to twirl in a small circle and then dance around the center of the room. “He will come for us; he will free us from this prison and reward our loyalty to him.” She stopped and her attention suddenly snapped down at Anna still lying on the floor. “And when he arrives, I will greet him with a gift; the dead body of that Muggle-lover’s daughter. Another dead Grayson will surely make my master smile.” She lunged at Anna, laughing hysterically, but the Guardian was ready.

“Reducto!”

A blast of light hit Victoria square in the chest, sending her crashing into the door behind her. She howled in pain as she scrambled to recover. The vampire and Anna rose together. There was a flash of movement to the right. Anna tried followed, but she was too slow. There was another streak of smeared shadow back to the left, a rush of wind forward, and the vampire was upon her again. Anna screamed and tried to bring her wand around, but it was blocked and slammed back against the wall. The creature opened wide to strike, and Anna closed her eyes knowing she was finished.

And then there was an abrupt and unexpected pause, and Anna could feel the creature’s grip loosened as it pushed away to lean back. Anna cautiously opened her eyes and saw her mother’s head turned away, looking behind her.

She was staring at a floating, white orb that had appeared within the middle of the cell. The temperature of the air began to drop, and Anna could hear the crackling sound of freezing moisture in the stones behind her head. She could see her own breath as a fog moving through her mother’s hair. And then, without warning, Victoria yanked Anna’s body around as a shield between herself and the glowing orb now growing within the room.

“Release her!” came a booming voice from the center of the orb.

What is this?” fumed the evil one behind her.

Anna stared at the orb. Its luminescence and radiating rays of coldness were recognizable even in her weakened state. Anna leaned back to look at the thing holding her from behind.

“You have another visitor,” Anna whispered, unfeelingly.

“Release the Sithmaith… now!” roared the orb again as it bloomed and grew larger, filling the space in the room with its radiance.

The vampire wrenched Anna back, gripping her windpipe tight enough to cut off her air.

“She belongs to me now. I will…” but there was an unexpected flash of blinding light, and a huge head came forward from out of the center of the orb.

“MURDERER!” screamed the face of Leola Grayson just inches away. The vampire pushed Anna into the light and fell backward to the floor.

“NO… you’re dead… DEAD!” screeched the evil one. Anna wheeled around and pointed her wand down at the creature that was cowering and moving away.

“Reducto!” Another blast from the purple heart smashed into the side of the creature’s body.It screamed in pain as it rolled back against the wall. In a flash, it was on its feet again and moving to the left. Anna’s wand followed her until it stopped in front of the door. The vampire crouched low and hissed at Anna through bloody fangs. It moved forward toward her and Anna took aim.

“Reducto!”

Another jet of red light shot at Victoria who immediately ducked. The blast slammed into the door behind her, which exploded into the hallway in a shower of splintered wood and sparks and into the door of another cell opposite.Victoria looked in wonder at the gapping hole in the wall where her prison door once stood and turned to face Anna again. Her face was blazing with excitement.

“We are free!” she screamed, and before Anna could curse her again, Victoria Grayson blew out the hole and into the passageway as a foggy, green mist.

Anna fell back against the wall of the cell and slid to the floor. Bloody, sick, and beaten, she could feel her brain beginning to shut down. She could hear several guards somewhere down the hallway screaming and yelling. There was the sound of wands exploding, streaks of light jetting down the passageway outside the open door, and all the time the voice of the evil one was screaming, “I’m coming Master, I’m coming. HA HA HA HAW HAW HAW!!! We are freeeeee…!”

“What happened!” yelled a guard, lifting his comrade off the floor. The man was scratched and bloody, his crimson robes shredded.

“A… an escape… sound the alarm! We can’t let her get outside,” said the injured man holding a tattered shoulder. A loud horn sounded in the corridor, and the faint scream of a siren could be heard blaring somewhere outside.

“My God!” yelled the man, helping his friend to his feet. He could now see the moaning bodies of several injured guards lying in heaps down the long hallway in front of them.

Several more guards suddenly entered the passageway behind them and one of the sergeants screamed, “Which cell?” The injured guard, leaning on his companion, pointed a shaking wand down the corridor where they could see a door had been blown out of the wall.

The Crimson Guards began marching down the corridor in mass.

“Wands out!” their leader yelled. They were within a few feet of the opening when they heard a voice whispering inside the room. There was a loud CRACK and a flash of white light hitting the now burning door on the opposite side of the hall. They ran to the opening and took defensive positions against the wall outside; two guards high, another low. The leader nodded at the other two men and they all scrambled through the breach, wands at the ready. They rose together, looking around in stunned wonder. For those who had lived in Drogo prison more than a month nothing ever surprised them, but this night would be different. There was blood everywhere they looked, but to their surprise the room was empty.


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