Anna Grayson and The Order of Merlin

The Shroud of Dormancy

The children were quiet as they made their way up the stairs to bed, completely exhausted from the evening’s events. Anna was walking behind the twins as they discussed the last items that needed to be packed before their return to school.

“I can’t believe this time next week we’ll be sitting in class again. Oh — I hope this year is easier than last,” Dowla said to Tencha, bemoaning the thought of another long year away from home.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” her sister said, shaking her head resignedly, “I barely survived last year.”

Damon was following Anna up the steps. “Nice little toast you gave after dinner, Anna. Where did you get it from…Muggle Homes and Gardens?” he said, in a very sarcastic tone.

“Oh, and I suppose you think ‘the most powerful man in the wizarding world’ was really deep?” Anna shot back.

“Well — at least I know to whom to raise my glass and call father,” he said, amused. Passing her, he hopped onto the landing and then turned to face her. “I guess we’ll just have to add another title to your long list: Anna-Muggle-squib-orphan,” he said, with a chortle.

Anna shoved her brother back against the wall as she turned to pass him. “I’m warning you Damon, you’d better shut your mouth. You never know when to stop,” she growled angrily.

“Oh — touchy, aren’t we? Must have hit a nerve,” he said, walking down the hall to his bedroom door. He turned to give a wink of satisfaction to the twins. “Well...Goodnight fellow Graysons. Oh — and you too, Anna,” he said with an ugly grin, peeking back through the gap as he closed his door. The twins turned, looking for Anna’s response.

Anna was fuming. “What are you looking at?” she snapped, in a challenging tone at the twins.

“Nothing…Nothing,” they said, snickering, as they closed the door to their rooms.

Anna entered her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. She trudged over to her dressing table and sat down with a huff. “God, that Damon sure knows how to push my buttons,” she complained in frustration. She looked up into the mirror and was shocked by what she saw staring back. There were lumps of foodstuffs all over her clothes and face. Her hair had every color of pie innards smeared, matted and spattered on and within it. Something else was shining against the side of her head and Anna reached up to pull it out. It was the little red hair clip, which had caused her so much trouble that very morning. It was covered in potatoes and chocolate goop. Anna was amazed.

“You mean to tell me you stayed in place through all of that? Good boy! You have a very stout heart, little one,” she chirped, smiling broadly. The little clip happily snapped open and closed several times at being considered so brave. She set the clip down on the table and watched it bounce upright, shake itself vigorously to remove the mess from between its teeth, and then happily hopped over and dove into an open drawer in Anna’s jewelry box, which quickly jerked closed with a little click.

Anna looked up again at the mess sitting before her in the mirror. “Bath!” she said, determinedly, and she stood and headed for the bathroom.

An hour later, Anna was clean, warm, and deep in her four-poster bed, thinking about the events of the day. “What a night,” she said with a sigh, staring up at the hangings above her head. She considered everything that had happened. It seemed the fight with Veronica that morning had taken place ages ago. Then she remembered her experience in the woods with the girl’s mother, the strange things on the grounds and in the ocean, and then her ghostly visitor before dinner. What did it all mean? She remembered the talk with her father about her mother, and Anna couldn’t help smiling once again. She loved her father very much. Her mind finally stopped to focus on the picture of him being hit by all those pies and his body crashing to the floor. Anna giggled out loud. Her father was such a great man.

She wanted so much to prove herself to him in a way that would make him proud of her. The other children all had their path set for them. They were going off to Castlewood, and as long as they studied hard and did their best, Anna knew their father would be pleased. But how could she contribute? Anna wanted so much to bring honor to the Grayson name…But how? What could a Muggle do? What could a squib do?

Squib. There it was again, that name. It always seemed to come into her mind as the biggest obstacle in her life. But despite her brother’s efforts, she wasn’t going to let him or that name limit her. “I hate you, Damon,” she said, out loud. “I can’t wait for you to go, and then I won’t have to look at that pasty-white face of yours until Christmas!” Anna felt herself sliding away and, remembering how dangerous it was to think about Damon before dropping off to sleep, she rolled over and tried to concentrate on something happy. But she was tired, and her body quickly floated off into a cloud of black mist.

TWO

Swirls of black smoke were swelling and moving toward her mind from behind her eyes, and the faint sound of a bellowed fire began to seep into her consciousness. The heat of the air was suddenly unbearable, and Anna began pushing the blankets off of her now sweating body. Her bed seemed hard and covered with sharp wooden splinters as Anna rolled onto her back. She frowned as she felt something snake around her wrists and ankles…It was pain. Something tight and coarse, like old rope, was moving in to hold her down. Anna opened her eyes and saw what seemed like a damp and darkened stone dungeon around her. She was no longer in her four-poster, but tied by invisible ropes to a hard table. She couldn’t move. She could barely breathe due to the scorching hot and smoky air surrounding her. What is this place? She tried to speak, to yell for help, but the air in the room made her choke and cough. She looked around at the black stone walls around her and could see all of her belongings, her dresser, the table and mirror; they had been moved to this new place while she had been sleeping.

Anna heard a moan, a far off sigh, and then a gurgling whimper, which grew louder and seemed to come from someplace below her feet. She finally looked down and could see an arched door made of heavy planked wood next to her dressing table. There was a smoky red light, like that of a fire from the other side, shining bright around its edges.

Shaking with fear and confusion, Anna tried to get up, but the unseen bindings on her wrists and ankles were too tight. She could feel the pain from the ropes now cutting into her skin. She yelled, hoping somebody, anybody, might hear her.

“What is this place? Daddy!” Anna yelled. “Somebody help me!” But there was no reply. The groaning from the next room was mixed now with sobbing cries, and she could hear a small voice pleading.

“No, please…No…” but a horrible sizzling sound could be heard interrupting the begging victim through the door, and Anna’s own feet suddenly exploded in burning pain. It was as if someone had placed something red hot on the bottoms of her feet. Anna screamed as she thrashed against the ropes, which cut deeper into her skin.

Anna could hear screaming from the next room mixing with her own, a voice beseeching and begging for mercy from some unknown attacker bearing down upon him. The suffering cries were familiar to Anna, but she couldn’t put the face together with the voice pleading for mercy in the room beyond the door. She knew that screaming voice was important to her, but she couldn’t bring herself to understand who it might be. Then she heard a sinister laugh coming from the room, and Anna cringed upon hearing a cruel, malicious voice speak.

“Shut up, you worthless parasite. You don’t know pain…But you soon will; I will see to it that you understand the true ecstasy of pain like never before.” There was a loud CRACK, as if from a heavy whip hitting something hard.

“Aaahhhhhhh,” came another scream, and then a tiny voice pleaded, “have mercy master — mercy.”

CRACK, came the reply, and then another horrible scream.

Anna’s back exploded with pain upon each hideous snap of the whip on its victim. She was writhing, and arching upward on the table, as if feeling each terrible stroke across her own back. She tried desperately to get up, to break the bonds holding her down. She wanted to stop this madness, stop the pain. “STOP IT!” she cried out, but she couldn’t move. She could barely breathe as the agony continued.

CRACK, “Pain,” said the torturer, in a cruel voice that only hinted of the untold brutality to come. CRACK, “Pain!” the thing repeated again, an added weight of vindictiveness was being served with each stroke. CRACK, “PAIN!” screamed the laughing menace at his hapless victim. “I want to hear you beg some more, you filthy, worthless slave. I want to see your blood all over my floor. I want to see you WRITHE!”

CRACK.

Another explosion of pain ripped through Anna’s back, piecing her body as if splitting her in two. She had to stop this. She had to get help. She had to break the bonds holding her down. With all of her strength, Anna wrenched at her bindings, and, willing every bit of power she had left, she slowly began to rise. There was another loud CRACK, and another scream of pain. Anna pulled herself forward, and finally was able to roll over to the floor below the table, her wrists and ankles wet with her own blood. She pushed her body onto her knees, but it felt as if someone was forcing her head back down, trying to press her into the floor again. Anna screamed out, hoping somebody might hear her now that she was closer to the door.

“Stop it!” she yelled. But the torture in the adjoining room continued, and horror in knowing nobody was going to stop it was overwhelming Anna’s senses. She pushed with all the strength in her legs beneath her, and finally found her body standing upright. But there were powerful forces holding on to her, trying to pull her back. She tried to take a step, but something unexpectedly grabbed her by a trailing foot. She looked down in shock to see several hands reaching up through the wooden floorboards, grabbing at her feet and pulling on the hem of her pajamas. She tried to take another step, and another loud CRACK stabbed her soul once more. The screams in the next room were intensifying, now non-stop even between the heavy ripping sounds of the whip.

“Let me go,” Anna screamed frantically, yelling and stomping down at the hands trying to hold her back. “I SAID — LET ME GO!” And all at once, Anna broke free; her body hurled forward and landed hard against the door from where the screams could be heard. She tried to turn the large iron handle, but the heat from the metal burned her hand. The door was locked.

CRACK! There was another scream, and Anna bent rearward grotesquely, her hands flailing against the pain. She began pounding on the door with her fists, and kicking it with her feet. “Leave him alone — please!” she yelled at the unknown attacker on the other side.

CRACK! There were no answers to her pleas. She looked desperately around the room, searching for something, anything, to open the door and stop the assault. Her attention fell upon a pair of heavy scissors on her dresser and she immediately grabbed them up. She jammed the pointed end into the latch of the wooden door and started prying it with all her strength.

CRACK! Another agonizing scream, louder this time, made her ears ring. A knife of pain shot between Anna’s shoulder blades and straight down into the center of her back. She collapsed from the blow. Her eyes were blurred, her ears still throbbing as she staggered to stand again. She saw the scissors lying on the floor, glowing red in the light blooming out from the bottom gap. Picking them up, she flew into the door again, prying angrily at the lock.

Another sharp CRACK was heard from beyond the door, and Anna almost passed out from the pain. She leaned against the wood of the door crying. “Please stop…Please…I’m begging you. Please leave him alone…” she pleaded. “You’re killing him.”

And then she heard the deep terrible voice once again, “Now, slave, you will bare witness to a new level of pain unknown to your kind.” There was a terrible, awful shearing sound from the room on the other side, and the small voice screamed again in appalling torture. Instantly, Anna felt a stabbing blade in her back, a red-hot knife piercing and cutting deep into the middle of her spine. Her head jerked back as she thrashed her hands behind her shoulders, trying to remove the instrument pushing into her. The pressure stopped and another hideous laugh was heard once again.

Anna’s eyes shot forward. Seeing the scissors still jammed in the latch, she snarled with blinding rage as she leapt forward at the tool. She began gouging back and forth desperately at the wood of the door. At last the lock finally sprung open, and she grabbed the edge of the gapped door and angrily threw it back with all her strength.

The sight before Anna’s eyes sickened her, the image so revolting, she immediately turned her head away and almost slammed the door closed again. It was Widwick. His hands were tied to the ceiling, while his body dangled beneath. Ropes from the floor stretched his legs below into a horrible twisted knot of blackened flesh. His head was limp, and there was a choking-acrid smell of smoke rising from the elf’s back. Anna staggered forward and fell into Widwick’s legs; she began tugging desperately at his bindings. She looked up into the creature’s pitiful face hanging above her. His normally bright eyes were swollen and bloody as they slowly opened to look down.

“Pleeeeease, mum. Make it stop,” he begged. “Please…I is sorry…I is…I is a good house…” but his remaining strength finally left him as his head lulled over and settled lifelessly to the side. Anna screamed and yanked wildly at the ropes, desperately trying to release him. Anna heard a terrible, evil laugh to the side, and she quickly spun around to finally face the menace. There was a large raised fire on a brick pedestal, and white-hot coals burning deep within its flames. And there, standing next to the boiling pit, was a cloaked hooded figure, stoking the coals with a metal iron. At the creature’s feet lay a coiled whip, still bloody from its cruel work on Widwick’s back. Anna’s blood was a scalding brew, ready to explode as she limped forward to protect her hanging friend. She was dizzy from pain and the suffocating heat around her.

“You will stop this!” Anna screamed in appalled rage. “You will stop this…Now!”

The cloaked figure stopped pushing at the coals, picked up one of the white-hot instruments, and then slowly turned to face her. The face of the thing was hidden in the deep shadows of its hood as it stepped forward.

“Stop?” the growling voice asked, “but I’m only getting started.” The figure turned and glided to Anna’s left as if to return to its hanging victim. Anna moved to the side, placing herself between Widwick and his torturer. The hooded figure stopped and slowly turned to face her again. “Get out of my way!” the thing demanded, pointing the smoking poker at her face. The ground beneath Anna’s feet shook at his words, and she had to grab Widwick’s legs to steady her balance.

“No!” Anna screamed. “You won’t hurt him anymore. I won’t let you. He’s my elf — he lives in my house,” she said, coughing through the thick smoke. She looked up again at Widwick hanging above her. “He’s my friend,” she said, in a hoarse, yet caring voice. But Anna’s determination was strengthening as her steely graze returned to the foul-cloaked figure before her. “You will stop this. If you come near him again — I’ll kill you!”

The hooded figure gave a mighty laugh, and the ground shook under them again. “You…? You are powerless — you are nothing — you are worse than the vermin you seek to protect. You pretend to be something you are not. You cannot stop me.”

“I will. I won’t let you have him — you’ll have to kill me first,” Anna shrieked, angrily.

The figure rolled his head back and laughed again. “And what a pleasure that will be,” he said, as he raised one hand to lower his smoking black hood. Anna stared in horror at the face of Widwick’s torturer; it was Damon. His orange face glowed bright from the light of the steel in his outstretched hand. His face, still spattered with Widwick’s blood, was gleaming with anticipated delight. “You will wait your turn, little squib. First the fleas…And then the wizard lice,” he said, through his clinched white teeth.

Anna was seething in fury as the shadow of mist began to cloud over her vision again. Her head suddenly exploded in crazed hate as the figure of her brother began to laugh.

“I’m going to kill you!” Anna screamed, and she could see the thing’s eyes widen in shock as she leaped forward at him. She heard a terrible growl, like that of some attacking animal, coming up out of her own throat as she knocked Damon to the floor with a single blow. She could see a massive clawed paw tearing at his body, and the horror now in his face as she looked down into his terrified eyes.

“What are you?” he screamed, his eyes looking at her from the side, too afraid to look upon her fully in the face.

A deep rumble, half human - half animal, burst forth from Anna’s throat, “I — am your death!” she snarled, as she opened her mouth wide. The last thing Anna saw was Damon screaming as her head swooped in and clamped its massive fanged jaws into his face and everything went black with a loud crunch.

THREE

The dream finally ended and Anna’s eyes snapped open, but the blackness surrounding her was making it nearly impossible to see. She was back in her four-poster bed, but she knew immediately there was something terribly wrong. She could feel an agonizing and starving hunger deep within her body moving its way out from her core toward her limbs. Different than the normal grumblings of a missed meal, this was a craving much deeper and all consuming in its nature. It was as if the various parts of her being were crying out together for nourishment, for food. The pain of her need was desperate, nearly uncontrollable. The message was clear; she had to eat, to feed.

Her body began to rise upward, and now she could feel it hovering over the blankets of her bed. The black cloudy mist was surrounding her, making it too dark to see anything within the room. Anna recognized the mist as the same murky blackness she had seen in the woods earlier that day; its dark inky coldness was working to smoother her. She finally saw a faint light coming from under her bedroom door and she instinctually hovered toward its dim glow. She wanted to open the door, but her body didn’t seem to have limbs anymore with which to grasp the knob. She floated up and over the door, desperately looking for a way out, but what would it take to open it?

She felt her body floating within the cold blackness down the walls surrounding the door’s frame to the floor where the light was shining in under its bottom edge. That’s the way out, she thought to herself, as the driving pain of hunger continued to lead her onward. She hovered there, studying the crack, and then easily slid through to the dimly lit hallway on the other side.

She was closer now; she could feel it. Food was very near. She glided within the mist toward the staircase, thinking of the kitchen, but then stopped. For no explainable reason, she knew what she needed wasn’t down the stairs. She slowly turned to look down the dark hallway. There was another weak light coming from under a door just a few yards away.

There! She thought hungrily to herself. Food! She floated across the carpet flat to the floor, and then to the wall and onto the ceiling. Slowly inching her way toward the light, the cold blackness continued to drive her forward, pressing her almost unconsciously into service toward its needs. She finally reached the door and laid herself flat against its wood, her smoke-like form spreading itself to its fullest extent against its paneled surface and walls surrounding it.

Yes — food was there — just inside, she could smell it, almost taste the warm flesh. She swooped down to the bottom of the door once again and moved through the tiny space beneath. The room inside was dark, except for the minute light shining from a small lamp on a table next to the bed. It was there — very close now. The pangs of starvation radiating through her body were getting worse with anticipation as she continued, now almost completely without thought. She reached the end of the bed and glided up one of its legs to the blankets on top.

There, she thought with an irrepressible eagerness pressing her forward. She slowly moved up toward the mound buried within the layers of bedding. She was so close now; she could feel its balmy breath, its heart beating in quiet slumber. As she moved closer, she could see the leading edge of the thing that contained her preceding her gaze. Its satin-like edge rippled and delicately shimmered before her as it reached out and made contact with the mound lying deep under the covers. She could feel the mass beneath her quietly shudder at her cold touch, even through the thick and piled blankets. She continued toward the head and there, finally, she found what her body was starving for — food! She saw the face of the prey she was seeking, quietly sleeping with his mouth open. Anna reached down, and allowed the black shroud that was her body to touch the warm face. The reaction was instantaneous — Damon’s eyes popped open and looked up at her in horror.

“What the?” but he never finished what he was about to say. In an instant, she enveloped him. Damon struggled and fought as hard as he could, but the dark unknown creature attacking him had wrapped tight around his entire body, cutting off his air supply. He was jerking and trying to reach out, grabbing onto whatever he could, but his arms were drawn tight against his body. She had him, and in short order she knew his struggles would weaken. Then she would feed; absorb him totally within the folds of her blackness and into the starving soul begging for the relief that would only come from nourishment such as this. She could see the unknown, unrecognizable face below her struggling, gapping for air.

Sssshhh, Anna tried to say, be still…It will be over soon — there’s no need to struggle. But there were no words; no sound coming from her nonexistent mouth, only the muffled moans now fading beneath her. That’s right, relax; it will be over soon, Damon; and that’s when she realized, it was Damon. It was her own brother she was smothering to death in this terrible icy grip. What was she doing? And as soon as she realized what was happening, the misty clouds surrounding her eyes began to suddenly clear. She could see Damon struggling in front of her. She had to stop; she had to let him go. What am I doing? Then all at once, Damon gasped his first breath of life-sparing oxygen in nearly two minutes. His body began heaving for all the air it could manage.

“It’s okay,” said Anna, still hovering over him. Her voice was beginning to return in a wispy murmur. “You’re all right now,” she said, reassuringly. Damon opened his eyes and looked up in horror.

“ANNA!” he screamed, still gasping to catch his breath. “What are you…? What are you doing? You’re — trying to kill me!”

“No…I was just trying…”

“Get off!” he screamed. Damon placed both of his hands upon Anna’s cold wintry face and shoved her back hard. She flew back, but her body, still enveloped within the misty blackness, stopped in mid-air. Instinct instantly took over again, and she immediately shot back onto Damon’s body, smothering him again. Damon began sucking nothingness, gaping wildly for air, breaking through only intermittently to gasp out a few words.

“Anna…Stop…Stop it…” came his choked appeal, but it was as if Anna had lost her ability to control what she was doing again. The black shroud that was her body had completely taken control, and she seemed lost to influence her own actions. But it seemed the internal struggle between her mind and the thing attacking her brother was making both of them weaker, and Damon was able to keep his hands free of her icy grip. His open mouth was struggling for oxygen as he reached wildly to the sides of the bed, looking for something, anything, to fight his sister off.

He felt his fingers wrapping around the familiar handle of his wand on the bed stand. He raised and pointed the wand at Anna’s face trying to speak, but nothing was heard; without air, he couldn’t form the proper words of the spell. He tried to concentrate on the words in his mind, but his panic was getting in the way. He began stabbing at her image, but his hand passed straight through her icy form, piercing the open space behind her. His eyes were bulging in terror, as he gouged at the face within the terrible mist. He shoved the wand between Anna’s eyes, but there was no reaction to his effort. With a look of horror, Damon began waving his wand through the cloudy face, which did nothing, but to mix and swirl its misty features.

Anna’s view of Damon began to blur. I must stop…Let him go, she thought. Stop it! Immediately her vision began to clear again, and Damon gasped for the air that Anna’s body suddenly allowed to pass through to his face. He looked up and, suddenly seeing her image clearer than before, pointed his wand directly into her face. He wheezed out a faint, “Stupefy…” and red sparks shot from his wand and straight through Anna’s head.

Although she never felt it, the curse passed straight through her cloudy form and into the ceiling above. Large pieces of plaster and wood fell down upon them, breaking her focus just enough for Damon to reach up and shove Anna’s now nearly solid face away from him again. She flew backwards across the foot of the bed toward the wall, but once again, stopped in mid-air before him.

Damon rose up, still coughing and gasping for air. He looked wildly around the room, hunting for Anna in the darkness. “Stupefy! Stupefy! STUPEFY!!” he bellowed, shooting curses into the room. One of the blasts passed straight through Anna’s body again, and smashed into the mirror standing behind her. She could hear voices suddenly coming from the hallway outside. One of the twins was hollering, and now heavy footsteps could be heard thumping outside the door.

“What was that?”

“I’m not sure — it sounded like an explosion.”

“Where did it come from?”

Damon started yelling, “In here…I’m being attacked! Get in here!” he screamed, blasting curses into the room again as Anna’s black formless body slid to the floor at the foot of the bed.

Anna could hear her father’s loud voice yelling in the hallway. She immediately tried to call out to him, Daddy — help me. Pleeasseee…I don’t know what’s happening to me…Help me. But, again, Anna couldn’t form the sounds necessary to be heard.

“That was Damon!” yelled Dowla.

“Yes! Quickly — get out of the way,” blurted her father’s voice. There were more heavy steps running; they were coming closer. The knob to Damon’s door rattled. “It’s locked!”

“Father! Get in here!” Damon screamed, still blindly blasting and cursing the room around him. “Stupefy…Stupefy!” he yelled.

“Stand back!” roared Mister Grayson. There was a loud BOOM, and the door suddenly flew off its hinges in a violent blast. Anna’s father bolted across the threshold, wand raised, his eyes scanning the room’s blackness.

“Damon…Where are you?” he yelled.

“I’m over here. It’s Anna…She’s trying to kill me!” Damon yelled back, standing on his knees. His outstretched hand was gripping his wand, searching for a target in the light now stretching into the room from the open doorway.

“What? What are you saying, boy?” yelled his father. “Turn on the lights!” There was a sharp click, and the room brightened by the light from one of the nightstands.

Mister Grayson saw Damon rising to stand on the bed. “Are you all right?” he yelled. Anna could see her father standing on top of the door laying flat on the floor, his wand pointing into the room above her. Her brother Eric was standing next to him. He too was armed with a wand. Dowla and Tencha moved to step into the room as well, but Mister Grayson stopped them.

“Stay back!” he yelped, waving his free hand behind his back.

“Anna was in here; she was — trying to smoother me!” Damon shrieked, angrily.

“What? Nonsense! Don’t be ridiculous,” said Mister Grayson, sharply. “You say Anna was here? Where is she?”

“I’m telling you — it was her. She’s still in here somewhere,” insisted Damon, still pointing his wand into what looked like an empty room.

“Anna? Are you in here?” called her brother, Eric.

“Where is she?” yelled her father. “Tencha — check her room!” Anna could hear the footsteps of somebody running down the hallway.

“She’s not in her room,” Tencha’s voice yelled back.

Anna tried to speak, but in her current form there were no words.

“Anna!” screamed Mister Grayson. “Where are you? Anna!!”

Here, father, Anna struggled to say, but they couldn’t hear her.

“ANNA!” screamed Mister Grayson loudly again.

I’m here, father; I’m right here! Anna screamed with her mind, praying she might be heard. She tried to calm herself, concentrating on the warmth of all the bodies she could feel gathering in the room above her. It seemed to work, and Anna’s vision began to clear again.

“I’m here, father,” she said, this time in a barely audible tone.

“Did you hear that?” Eric whispered to their father. “Anna — where are you?”

“She’s here! You heard her…I told you she was here,” yelled Damon, who was now standing on the bed, his wand shoulder high at the ready.

“Quiet — son! Let me listen! Anna? Where are you, sweetheart?” Everybody froze waiting for a response.

Anna could see the leading edges of her dark form ripple as she began to rise from the floor.

“Look — there on the floor…What is that?” yelled Dowla, pointing at the misty black form moving at the foot of Damon’s bed. Damon jumped to the floor and ran toward his father, looking down at the mist.

“That’s it! That’s what attacked me! It’s Anna!” Damon yelled, pointing his wand.

“What are you talking about? It looks more like the smoke from one of your curses,” Eric said with a chuckle, stepping forward as if to get a better look.

“STOP!” their stunned father shuddered, his voice filled with fear. “Don’t…move!”

The black mist continued to rise, finally standing fully upright before them.

“LETHIFOLD!” whispered Mister Grayson, pointing with his wand hand.

“KILL IT!” screamed Damon, raising his own wand to strike.

“Wait!” yelled Eric, who was pointing at the living shadow as well.

Anna was floating erect, her cold body starving from a form of hunger she never could have imagined ever existed. She could barely see her family standing in front of her through her own blackness. “Daddy — it’s me. It’s Anna,” she managed to say.

“Oh, my God — look!” screamed Dowla, pointing at the nearly transparent face deep within the folds of the creature’s black shape.

“Anna!” yelled Eric. “It’s got Anna!”

“KILL IT!!!” screamed Damon again.

“WAIT!” bellowed Mister Grayson. “Wait…” he repeated again, softly this time. He took a step forward and stared disbelievingly at his daughter’s nearly black face. “But how…How can this be? Here — in our own home? How could it happen again?” Mister Grayson seemed to be talking to himself as he took in the sight before him. “Anna…Can you hear me? Sweetheart…Can you see me?”

“Yes, father,” said Anna, in a whimpered voice. “Please — what’s happening to me?” She began to cry.

“My God, father, the thing has her; it’s got Anna…What can we do?” Eric asked desperately in a whispered voice, still pointing a shaking wand at the creature.

“Sssshhhhhh, be quiet!” Mister Grayson hissed again, “Anna…Don’t be afraid, honey. Daddy is here...I’m going to help you.”

“Please, daddy…I’m so cold…I’m so hungry…” Anna replied, wispily.

“Okay, sweetheart — I understand. I’ll get you something to eat. Can you see me? Can you move?”

Anna tried to change her position, testing her control; she slowly turned to face what was left of Damon’s mirror behind her. She was horrified by what she saw. Her body was completely gone. Only a tall oval shaped blackness was standing draped before her. The creature looked like a black shroud, covering a dead body standing in the room. And near its top was Anna’s nearly black face staring out through the terrible mist. Anna tried to scream, whirling around to face her family.

“What’s happening to me? What is this? Daddy, what should I do?” she yelled, in a panic.

“I don’t — know, Anna, but daddy is here and I’m going to fix this…I promise…I’m going to help you.”

“Father,” Eric whispered, in a terrified undertone, “if that thing’s already absorbed her — what can we do? What can anybody do?”

“KILL IT!” screamed Damon. He suddenly raised his wand.

BANG! Another red curse shot through the air and right through Anna’s body.

“STOP!” screamed Mister Grayson, snatching the wand out of his son’s hand.

Anna’s vision started to cloud over again. They were attacking her; they were trying to kill her. She had to run; she had to escape. The instincts of the creature were taking over again as she began to crawl up the side of the wall and onto the ceiling. She had to get out; everybody was trying to kill her.

“What’s it doing?” asked Eric, whispering next to his father’s ear.

“I don’t know. I…” but then Mister Grayson suddenly did know; he realized what the creature was planning. “My God…It’s looking for a way out…It’s trying to get away! Anna!” Mister Grayson raised his voice desperately. He knew that if the creature got outside, his daughter might be lost forever.

“Guard the door. Don’t let it get by you,” he yelled at Eric, placing an unsteady hand on his son’s shoulder.

“But how, father? What do I do? How do we stop it?” asked Eric, who grabbed his father’s elbow to keep him from walking away.

“The Patronus Charm; only a patronus has been known to work. But nobody knows if…”

“Father!” whispered Tencha, in a frightened voice. “The window — look!”

They all turned to look across the room, and could suddenly see the glass in Damon’s window was cracked. The blast from one of his many curses had broken the sash and several small holes were now visible through its thin glass. A slight breeze from the outside was softly bellowing the curtains into the room.

“No!” whispered their father. “It must be repaired,” he said, quickly raising his wand, but it was too late. Anna was already moving toward the frame.

“STOP!” yelled Mister Grayson, who stepped quickly across the room toward the fleeing creature. But Anna was already at the window; she could smell the air outside calling to her. She covered the entire windowpane with her shroud-like body, her face looking back into the room behind her. She could see her father moving toward her, his wand outstretched in his hand.

“NO!” he yelled, but Anna, fearing another attack, moved back against the glass. Her smoky form passed easily through the many holes in the window, pushing itself out and into the night. As her dark body melded together again, the creature began to slide down the wall of the house.

Panicking, Mister Grayson blasted the remaining window, its frame, and half the wall away with a desperate flash from his wand. The explosion from his curse sent rock and rubble flying into the yard twenty feet below. He peered over the edge of the building screaming.

“Anna! No — come back. Bring her back! Anna! ANNA!!” He could see the creature sliding down the wall and finally touch down upon the ground; it was heading for the woods.

“You will not take her!!!” he screamed, and in desperation, he pointed his wand and yelled, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” At once, a brilliant light shot out of the end of his wand. It immediately formed itself into a large animal with bright luminous horns. It was a gleaming, dazzling white bull.

The patronus ran down the wall of the manor and across the lawn toward the barely visible creature now gliding across the ground near the entrance to the dark woods. The charging beast reached the Lethifold within seconds and, scooping up the folds of the shroud onto its mighty horns, it tossed the creature back over its massive shoulders behind it. The shadowed Lethifold was thrown into the branches of a large tree, and Anna, frightened, and not realizing what her father was trying to do, immediately moved to escape. She quickly crawled higher into the branches of the tree and around to the back facing the woods. She froze there, hoping the darkness of the tree’s canopy would conceal her. The bull patronus was already heading back to its creator, back to Anna’s father; she was safe. Anna slid down the tree to the warm littered ground, and quickly disappeared into the forest.

Mister Grayson was screaming, “NO! NOOOOO!!! Anna, come back! Don’t take her! Don’t take her from me! No! No! No!!!” The man sank to his knees in utter despair. “Victoria, forgive me! It’s taken her. It’s taken our baby. No!!!” He fell forward against the edge of the enormous hole overlooking the dark grounds of the estate, his cries echoing into the night. “Nooooooooooo!”


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