- Chapter 2
Arienne Jacobs found herself
standing in a large room, dimly lit so that only the wall closest to her could
be seen; everything else was covered with shadows.
The chamber itself was made of stone, cold and gray, and was empty except for a
small pillar near the center. A thin shaft of light illuminated the pillar, but
the source was indistinguishable, lost somewhere in the shadows of the
cavernous ceiling. She felt a cold gust of wind ruffle the hem of her cloak,
but saw no openings from which it could come. It was then that she realized
that she'd been there before. Several times.
Her skin prickled slightly at the thought, but she quickly dismissed it when
movement on the pillar drew her attention. Walking cautiously closer over the
smooth marble floor, Arienne's eyes began to adjust to the darkness, and she
saw a slender form curled atop the column. Drawing closer still, she saw that
the pillar was made of white marble, and seemed to emit its own soft glow. That
was not what caused her breath to catch in her throat, however.
Coiled on top of the pillar was a snake, a small one at that, but with ruby
eyes that peered at her, unblinking, from its resting place. She hesitated, not
wanting to go closer, but found herself drawn towards it against her will. Once
she was within arms reach of the snake, it began to move, and slowly lifted its
head so that its eyes were level with her own. Then it spoke to her with a low
voice in a language slurred with sporadic hisses.
"Brave girl. Coming all the
way here by yoursssself, again."
"Where am I?" Her voice was level and she didn't blink as the snake
drew itself taller.
"Maybe ssstupid girl, for not being afraid."
Arienne stared at it defiantly. "Why should I be afraid?" She was
aware that it hadnít answered her first question, but was somehow not
"Everyone'sss afraid today.
Death Eaterssss are everywhere. The sssstench of fear is all over, wizardssss
and Mugglessss alike. Except for you. You do not ssssmell afraid." Its
expression contorted with suspicion. "Why?"
In the silence that followed she
searched her mind for any reason there might be for fear. Something dimly
called to her, but it was too out of reach to recall it. "I have no reason
to be afraid," she said, trying to sound braver than she felt at that
moment. The snake flicked its tongue in and out, but its eyes remained focused
on her, as if examining her, watching carefully for any change in reaction.
"Everyone ssshould be afraid. He'sss coming. Thisss isss only the beginning.
What you ssssee around you will only worsssen assss time passesss. There are differencesss
between bravery and foolishnessss. Do not confuse them, or you will sssuffer."
"Why are you telling me this? Who are you?" Arienne was closer to the
pillar now, involuntarily gripping its ledge with white knuckles.
"You are different from the otherssss," the snake said, as if she
hadn't spoken. "Yessss, I see it now. Yet you try to hide it. Why? Why do humansss
alwaysss try to deny what they are? Why do they deny the giftsss they have been
Despite the fact that it appeared so calm, its voice seemed tainted with anger.
Arienne tried to back away, but the snake's hypnotic gaze held her stationary.
She colored slightly, then said, "I don't know what you're talking about.
I'm not hiding anything."
"You sssee thingsss, don't
you? Thingsss other people can't. But -" it paused. If it had been a human
at that point, she would have sworn it would be smiling. "Yesss, there it iss.
Fear. You are afraid of it. You will not admit it, but it'sss there, and you
A raspy sound from the snake's throat caught her off guard. It sounded vaguely
of sandpaper scratching against stone, but it was presumably the snake's
equivalent of laughter - and it was laughing at her.
"Am I, girl? Or are you just desssperate to keep your secretsss hidden? I
have not seen one like you for a long time. I doubted you even exisssted
anymore. Those who lived and weren't killed by the Dark Lord ssserved Him, but
they were disposed of once the Aurorsss came - not without a fight of courssse...and
lotsss of blood. I thought then that you were all were dead, but perhapsss I
was wrong. That missstake hasss been made before."
The snake drew itself up more rigidly as another thought came to it. "Have
you come from Him? With messagesss? I can kill you faster than your pitiful
human reflexesss can pull you back. I don't smell hisss taint, but you may have
hidden it. I will have no part in hisss war, not that of the passst or that
which comesss. Ssspeak girl, or I'll have no choice."
"If you're referring to -
to He-who-must-not-be-named - I don't serve him." Arienne said, trying to
sound meek, though her insides were burning with anger. She'd spent the past
six years of her life dedicated to quelling any dark activity - to be accused
of actually being affiliated with that group was beyond insulting! But the
snake was poised to strike, and angering it wouldn't help her to leave alive.
"You're telling the truth."
There was no emotion in the snake's words, just a simple statement of fact;
however it visibly relaxed after that. "I alssso believe that you do not
know the extent of the giftsss you've been given, otherwissse you would not be
standing here, wasting time idly." Arienne was about to interrupt hotly
that she was not wasting time, but the snake continued. "Legend runsss
through your veinsss. New and old have mixed themselvesss beneath your flesh
and influence your actionsss. The powersss I ssspeak of could rival the Dark One'sss,
and put and end to thisss suffering...if that isss what you choose."
The snake grew rigid again, and the hissing distorted its words even more.
"What have I to gain in lying? I have not sssought you out. You have come
to me, and thisss isss not the firssst time - though it isss the first time
that you've ssspoken to me. We are not ssso different, you and I, but you will
not admit to that. Ssstubborn girl. If you do not open your mind'sss eyesss,
your ignorant blindnessss will be your death."
Arienne felt another chill as its words settled in. Mind's Eyes? She doubted it
was referring to anything physical. The chamber began to grow colder around
her, and Arienne could see her breath as she exhaled. She tried to warm her arms
by rubbing her hands on her sleeves, but it was to no avail. The snake,
however, seemed unaffected as it peered at her through its glittering ruby
It spoke again through the cold and the thick silence that had set in, yet this
time its voice was softer, and it almost appeared to be speaking to itself.
"We are not ssso different, you and I. Both held at disadvantagesss
because of what we are. I appear to be no more than a snake, so naturally I
serve the Dark One." Bitterness tinged its words and gave them weight.
"And you girl. I will tell you why you are afraid. It's for the very
reason that I am forced to ssstay locked in this forsaken chamber. If humansss
knew I existed, and I fell into the wrong handsss...the Dark One would be the leassst
of your worriesss...though I fear that he, too, searchesss for me. Not all are
ignorant of what once was."
Arienne's face paled in the
light as the snake moved closer, its voice dropping so low that she strained to
hear it. "Whether you choossse to sssee the truth or not is up to you. But
like myself, I'm sssure you will not be able to tolerate ssstaying ignorantly
on the ssside while innocent people die at Hisss handsss. Your..." it
paused almost uncertainly for a moment, then continued, "...mother
would not have ssstood for it."
"You know nothing about my
mother!" Arienne shrieked, surprising herself as well as the snake with
"Yesss," the snake mused after it recovered from her outburst,
"I'm ssssure of it now. You're wrong; I did know your mother. She found
her way to me assss well, and likely sssshe sssshowed you the way, but you do
not remember. You've hidden it all away, everything, into a corner of your
mind, and you're content never to touch it again - or am I wrong?" It
paused, but when it got no reaction, it continued, "Ssshe wasss a talented
woman...ssstubborn, but talented. It'sss sssuch a pity that....she never denied
it, you know, not until the end. She made missstakesss though. Ssshe married, ssshe
had children. Foolishnesss. Those emotionsss made her weak."
"Shut up!" Her tone
was menacing but the snake didn't even pause to acknowledge her words.
"Ssstubborness was indeed a fault of hersss. Ssshe was a proud woman.
Clever in many waysss, but pride made her act stupidly. For a time, ssshe tried
to deny it too, and that denial sssealed her fate. Ssshe would have been ready,
otherwise. Ssshe'd ssstill be-"
"NO!" Arienne lunged at the snake, and took it up into her hands
before it had time to recoil. "You're a liar. You work for Him. You're
just a filthy, rotten-"
"Learn from her mistakesss. Don't let two livesss be in vain."
The snake's voice remained calm as it thrashed in her grip.
"It'sss time for you to leave, but heed what I've sssaid. It'sss your
choice in the end, but do not choossse before you fully understand what hasss
been ssssaid. You will learn more sssoon enough. You will be sssafe for the
time being where you are going, but your decision will have to be made soon.
You and I will meet again."
Before her eyes the chamber began to dissolve, the stone melting as if it were
molten lava flowing down a volcano's side. Just before the blackness overtook
her, the snake disappeared in a puff of smoke, and she felt herself being
thrown forward as the solid ground disappeared from underneath her feet. She
threw her arms out as she was pitched forward, hurtling toward blackness, but
had pulled them up too slowly, and her head connected with something hard.
Groaning as the sound of screeching metal pierced her ears, Arienne Jacobs
gingerly touched her forehead where it had made contact with the hardwood
backing of the train booth. The train gave a sudden lurch, and it nearly rolled
onto its side - but something prevented it from completely turning over. Pain
emanated from her forehead, and her vision swam as she tried to remember where
she was. All she could summon was an image of a snake with ruby eyes lying on a
white pillar, talking about...she nearly choked when the memory surfaced...her
Arienne closed her eyes and tried to take several calming breaths, but the
continual throbbing of her head chased away any sense of peace she managed to
muster. Slowly the haze around her began to clear, though not fully, and her
ears, which had felt as if they'd been stuffed with cotton, began to pick up
sounds outside of her own small groans.
Somewhere through the fogginess she became aware of screams, soft at first, but
growing progressively louder to the point that they seemed to be coming from
right next door to her. Gathering her strength, she tried to pull herself from
what she realized to be a lying position, jammed into the corner of the
compartment. As she stood, she noticed that the train she'd been sitting in was
indeed slanted precariously to the left. She darted a quick look out the window
and nearly gasped when she saw that it was dangling over what appeared to be a
large ravine from which sharp rocks jutted out at all angles. If the train
tottered, it would be smashed to pieces mercilessly on their edges.
Trying to regain her composure and ignore the aching of her head, Arienne
pulled open the door to her cabin and stumbled into the next one. It was full
of children who looked to be no more than 11, and who were dressed in long
black robes. They stared at her fearfully and said nothing until she choked
out, "Was anyone hurt?" It seemed like the right thing to ask. One
girl, a blonde one, with two pigtails held by fluffy pink elastics, pointed to
a crumpled form in the corner. Arienne could only see the shoes from where she
"His arm...he...I think it
might be broken." The girl's voice was a hoarse whisper, and her blue eyes
were wide with fright. Arienne moved as if trying to swim through thick syrup,
and eventually she reached the boy and knelt beside him, attempting to ignore
the arm that was bent unnaturally and covered with bruising and blood.
Something in the back of her mind told her to place her hands on the arm, and
she argued with it silently, saying it would do nothing. The voice persisted,
however, and finally she obliged, clasping his elbow, and instantly she began
to feel warmth moving from her fingers into his cool skin.
He stared fearfully at her
through glazed eyes, but as time passed, they began to clear. Looking down,
Arienne gasped when she saw that his arm was no longer covered with bruises.
She pulled back and watched in wonder and amazement as the boy lifted his arm
carefully and wiggled his fingers. Murmurs broke out from the children who'd
been watching her. She pulled away quickly, only then noticing that she'd been
watched, and stood up unsteadily, self conscious under their scrutinizing eyes.
The boy was still looking at her, too, with shock written in his features.
"Anyone else?" She asked shakily. She was met by vigorous head
shaking, but the same blonde girl spoke up again as Arienne moved to leave.
"The outside doors - they're locked. We're stuck inside." Several of
the children trembled and looked around at each other fearfully. Arienne pulled
her wand out and walked over to the exit. Muttering an unlocking charm, she
tried to open the door but it didn't budge. She tried an unobstruction charm
and a magical unlock charm, both of which proved useless.
Cringing as the pounding in her head heightened, she rested her hand on the door
for a moment, and then wrenched it back with a sharp gasp. The metal felt like
it was burning, but beyond that there was a sickly taint that nearly
overwhelmed her. She couldn't explain it, but she knew that there was a
powerful curse that bound the metal of the door to that of the train. Stumbling
back, clutching her hand, Arienne looked around at the children.
"Stay here, don't move." With that, she left.
She moved half in a trance through the cabins, feeling weariness sit more
heavily on her each time she touched the children of varying ages, the
throbbing of her own head getting progressively worse each time, but the voice
urged her onwards. It seemed natural that she'd do this, and it also felt like
duty. Duty to what? To who? Her thoughts were as incoherent as the
sounds around her. Finally, she reached what appeared to be the last cabin, and
she opened the door to a girl brandishing her wand and a boy cradling another
boy in his arms.
The girl holding the wand had brown hair and wore a slightly panicked
expression as she waved it over the boy's unconscious form. The rise and fall
of chest indicated that he was breathing, but it was shallow. Dimly, in the
back of Arienne's mind, the thought, where is help? formed and
"What now, Hermione?" the red headed boy asked the girl, who was
still twirling her wand and pulling a lock of hair fretfully.
"I'm thinking, Ron!" she snapped, but as she turned to look back at
the unconscious boy, her eyes softened. She smoothed back the black fringe
clinging to the boy's forehead, uncovering a large gash along his hairline. The
girl trembled at the sight of the blood, but gripped her wand tighter.
"There is one I could try," she said slowly, not taking her eyes off
the injured boy. "I read about it in a book once, though I've never done
"Well?" The redhead -
Ron - asked, fighting to hide the panic in his own voice. "Do something! I
don't understand why no one has come help us yet - just, just do
something!" The girl bit her lip and then rolled up her sleeves.
"All right, I'll try. But if it hurts him more -" she paused
hesitantly, then lifted her wand over the dark haired boy's head. Before she
could utter the spell, Arienne found her voice.
"Stop!" she cried, and
even through the haze she felt the weight of the command. The girl's arm
dropped instantly, and both the boy and girl looked up at her, startled.
spat, rushing forward as fatigue set in even heavier. She was unaware of the
red that tinted the girl's cheeks as she watched Arienne indignantly. For
Arienne, it seemed that every movement she made, every word she spoke, was even
more draining than the next, but she was focused on one goal. Slowly lowering
herself down by the dark haired boy, she placed a hand on each side of his
face. She breathed deeply, waiting for the rush of heat, but nothing came.
Arienne was vaguely aware of the two looking at her, but she pushed the thought
out of her mind.
She tried to concentrate, she didn't know on what, but she knew she needed to
help the boy, and somehow this same tactic had worked before. She closed her
eyes in fierce determination, but his breathing became even more ragged than
before. Biting her lip to the point of tasting blood, Arienne tried to focus on
conjuring the heat, trying to save the boy, whose body temperature grew swiftly
colder as seconds passed.
Then she felt it. It was a trickle at first, barely enough to warm the skin
under her fingertips, but it spread. A searing rush flooded through her hands
into the boy, and even though it felt as if pieces of her were taken with it,
Arienne still held on. He needs to live, was the only thought that
presented itself, but it was quickly lost in the ebb and flow of the burning
heat. She held on, feeling it pulsate through her hands, leaving her own body
empty and cold, but heating that of the boy she touched.
She tried to force it, but weariness set in so heavily that she nearly fell
over. Come on, she urged the boy through the tiredness as she felt the
flow of heat begin to weaken. Finally, just as the flow changed to a trickle
once again, the boy's eyes flew open with a gasp. He stared at Arienne for a
moment; his eyes startlingly green and troubled, then turned to the other two
forms hovered over him. At that instant, however, the cabin door burst open
with a shower of sparks, and a tall, dark figure entered the room, though
Arienne's vision had become too blurry to make out any other details.
"What's...what's going on here?" A voice boomed through the haze. For
a moment, no one spoke. Then, Arienne pulled her hands back and tried to get
up, finding her limbs feeling like they'd been made of lead. Struggling to
stand, she was only dimly aware of the figure moving towards her.
Voices rose and fell around her, but nothing penetrated the fog that had
wrapped itself around her body tightly. Nothing said was coherent to her, but
Arienne heard herself trying to explain as she pushed herself off the ground.
She froze when she felt her body lock up involuntarily, refusing to move
further, and gasped as she felt her throat muscles tighten as if invisible
hands were choking her.
Sharp questions swirled around her, but a buzzing was all she could decipher
through the haze. Spasms ricocheted through her body, and pain lanced through
every bone. She wanted to scream but she couldn't move her lips to form the
sound. She struggled to breathe, but weariness overpowered her and she
succumbed to the pain as everything faded to black.