A SHORT STORY BY ADA KENSINGTON
SUMMARY: A young Slytherin gets more than he bargained for in an experiment gone awry. Rather dark, don’t read if you believe in the innate goodness within every human being. No language, no nudity, no violence but is rated PG-13 for Black Magic (the title should give you an idea of what branch we’re dealing with and the baggage that comes with it) and for general, horrible, unpleasant creepiness. Use your own good sense and discretion, please. Don’t read if you know you’re going to be offended.
CREDITS: Deepest thanks go out to Birgit, who beta read this story. She’s a brilliant beta and makes my rambling writing readable. Thanks, Birgit! ^_^
“Remember, Julius, make sure you draw the circle accurately,” Alexander said breaking the long, industrious silence, as he fixed his cool gaze upon his Slytherin dorm-mate.
His intonation had a faint air of the Balkans, his jet-black hair and sallow complexion providing visual evidence to attest this aural fact. His eyes were grey - as hard and as cold as glass; and when he spoke, his voice was hushed and his hands trembled slightly with suppressed excitement, a feeling that was all too apparent in their small dungeon dormitory. The air was thick with the strong smells of a mixture of camphor, laurel juice and sulphur burning in a cauldron, and their only light came from a single candle.
“I am marking it accurately, Alexander. I am using my wand, like the book said,” Julius retorted, tossing his blonde head petulantly.
Alexander snorted in disbelief and shut the book he had been giving orders from with a snap. His gaze then drifted almost naturally to the other dark-haired young man, who had stepped forward to place the pure white candles upon the five points - the candles that had been so difficult to acquire.
It had been a collective effort to procure them and had eventually proved to be a triumph of planning; of secrecy, subterfuge and sheer Slytherin cunning. It had taken three separate visits to Hogsmeade (Alexander and his twin sister, Messalina; Julius and then Tom) before the eye of suspicion had fallen upon them. After all, there was only one real use for proper, pure-white candles.
The apothecary had contacted Dippet and that night, under Professor Dumbledore’s orders, their dormitories and trunks had been searched. Thankfully, they had not been without warning, for Tom had informed them as soon as he had heard. They had taken the three candles and had hidden them. In the end, Dumbledore had found nothing but he had dealt them a severe blow. Their plans had then progressed more slowly - painfully slowly - and, for a time, had almost ground to a halt.
It had been hard: Julius exasperating over the wasted time and effort; Tom becoming restless, constantly urging for something to be done; Messalina sitting by Commus’ side sulking and sighing and Commus himself brooding all the while in silence. It had been hard - hard, that was, until Commus had made his unlooked-for breakthrough.
Commus, as usual, had been snooping around in the Restricted Section of the library with Tom, and amongst other more everyday finds, had come across a rather interesting volume - the very one he held before him…
Alexander ran a hand over its cracked spine; the green leather binding tattered and worn with age. With Tom and Julius both working away in silence, he walked absently over to where his bed had been pushed against the wall to make room for the circle and sat down, flipping the book open to the pages Commus had marked.
The book Commus had stumbled across was the Monas Hieroglyphica, published in 1563 by one Dr. John Dee, an Slytherin alumnus who had posed as a Muggle to make a living in an age when the wizards were downtrodden and oppressed. In its more commonly read form (common, that was, for Commus’ Advanced Arithmancy classes) it dealt with the intricacies of the ancient art of Numerology. Commus, of course, had read it from cover to cover and had been puzzled to find that not only that there was a copy in the Restricted Section, but also that this one included several extra chapters.
This particular edition, in fact, was no edition - but the original, written in the author’s own hand and including information Dee had obviously thought prudent to keep from the prying eyes of the disgusting, clamouring Muggles he had been forced to serve. In it, Dee had written down spells for drawing a perfect circle and marking the five points; had given instructions on how to make pure-white candles; had recorded the names of every demon and angel he had conversed with, the secrets they had imparted; and, most crucially from their point of view, he offered a tried-and-tested spell that guaranteed a successful summoning.
Almost immediately, Commus had set about the rather time-consuming task of making two pure-white candles to add to the three they had safely hidden: weaving the wick by hand under the midday sun, melting and moulding the wax under the light of the full moon and at the last, exposing the finished product to the darkness of the new moon. Eventually, he had brought them to the dormitory in a state of uncharacteristic elation. The last major obstacle had been overcome and there was nothing that could prevent them from reaching their ultimate goal.
From that moment on, not a second had been wasted. Everyone had acted instantaneously. It was as if the great, sullen shadow of defeat cast by the set-back of Dumbledore’s intrusion had lifted, and all were now free, once again, to drink in the intoxicating freedom of knowledge unrestricted, of power unfettered. Tom, especially, had begun to concentrate all his efforts upon the summoning. He had learned his role with extraordinary swiftness and zeal and had soon encouraged everyone else to follow his example.
Which they had done, unquestioningly.
The recollection irritated Alexander, for it seemed all too apparent that Tom Riddle, the orphan without two Knuts to rub together, was in ascendance. He had been noticing that on more and more frequent occasions, whatever Tom asked, he got; whatever he aspired to, he would succeed in; whatever obstacles were in his way, he would overcome; whatever orders he gave, no matter how mundane, were obeyed without question. It was plain irritating…
Instinctively, his pale eyes sought out Tom, who had responded to the soft rap on the dormitory door and promptly opened it to admit Commus and Messalina. Julius rose to greet them, but Alexander remained sat on his bed. All the candles had been lit, their ghostly flames illuminating the cold, sickle-like grin that had spread over Alexander Malakoff’s thin face.
It was true, he mused as the object of his ire stood a few feet away conversing with Commus, as always: Tom was irritating - plain irritating - and he would have to be stopped.
Setting down Dr Dee’s grimoire upon his bed, he made to join the rest of the group.
“Everything is prepared?” Messalina inquired of Tom, her black curls and proud bearing identical to that of her brother’s.
“Of course,” Tom replied with his strange, half-smile as he fastened his robes underneath his neck.
Messalina nodded gravely and turned to take up her brother’s outstretched hand. “Alexander…”
“Messalina,” he replied, courteously. “You are ready?”
“Good,” he replied, satisfied, before Tom stepped forward and cleared his throat. Alexander fought back a hot wave of anger at this small gesture of superiority - one that had apparently gone unnoticed.
Holding his wand in one hand and the Knife of Art in the other, Tom addressed everyone in the room, his tone a mirror of his singularly, almost disconcertingly calm mien. “Shall we begin?”
Wordlessly, there was a sudden shift in the ranks as everyone took their place, and Alexander at once felt moved to obey, though he despised himself for it.
As the five young Slytherins stood upon the fringes of the circle, for a moment, there was complete silence as each contemplated in their own hearts and minds the nature of what they were about to do. For Alexander, this was a chance to prove that he was just as good, if not better than Tom Riddle. Once again, his eyes were drawn to the handsome young man who was standing on the opposite side of the circle. This time, Tom caught his glance and smiled that enigmatic smile of his. Alexander looked away.
The air was now thick with the fumes of the potion, he could taste it in the back of his throat. The candles, glowing brightly in the gloom, burned with a faint aura of blue. The white chalk circle and the pentagram showed stark against the blackened oak floor. Beside him, Julius raised his wand. It was time…
“By thy mysterious power,” he began, his voice sounding strangely muted, “we put on the armour of salvation in the strength of the Most High…”
“Ancor, Amicar, Amides, Theodonias, Anitor,” the others chanted the arcane names they had learnt by heart, raising their hands in a hieratic gesture.
“We put on the armour of salvation, that our purpose be achieved, O Adonai, through thy mighty power, to whom be honour and glory for ever more,” he finished, more vigorously, as a green light flashed from his wand-tip, briefly illuminating the room before it plunged back into gloom. A warm wind began to stir making the candles flicker ominously. Alexander’s heart began to race. This might actually work…
Then Commus raised his wand and spoke in his low but clear voice from his hooded cowl. “If you do not obey swiftly and without tarrying, we shall damn you to torment for one thousand years in Hell. We constrain you, therefore,” he continued, his tone becoming more assertive, “to appear here in comely human shape, by the most high names of God…”
“Saboth, Radisha, Adonai, Jehovah, Sadai, Messias, Emmanuel…” they chanted rhythmically, louder this time, as their confidence grew and their hearts raced in their chests. Now the heat in the room was blistering and the potion was emitting copious quantities of the fragrant steam, which swirled all around them in great clouds.
“Jesus, who is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,” Commus went on, raising his voice so as to be heard over the noxious, hissing vapours, “that you be justly established in the fire, having no power to reside, habit or abide in this place henceforth: and I require your doom by the virtue of said names, that Michael drive you to the uttermost of the infernal abyss!”
With his final words, a burst of red light issued forth from the tip of his wand, casting their shadowy figures into sharp, scarlet relief. The wind that had stirred with Julius’ incantation grew stronger, making the hems of their robes flutter about their feet. The chalk circle itself began to glow white-hot. Commus had played his part.
Now it was his turn…
Trembling with excitement and sweating with the immense heat, Alexander raised his wand in the air and shouted: “WE INVOKE THE SEVEN SECRET NAMES: ADONAI, PERAI, TETRAGRAMMATON, ANEXNEXETON, INESSENSATOAL, PATHUMATON, ITEMON - COME TO US! COME TO US!”
As he uttered those names, he felt a great surge of power rush through him. It cascaded, dazzling blue in colour, from his wand, and he looked on with a wild spasm of ecstasy as a form stirred in the silvery mist within the circle, where he imagined he could make out a pair of mighty wings. He heard Messalina gasp, but there was no need, for it was not yet substantial. The brief elation passed and quickly gave way to anger. Why hadn’t it taken shape? Why?
The apparition was still roiling in its naked form, resisting vehemently the constraints of the circle. He watched on in horror as he realised that they were going to lose it, when suddenly, Tom tore off his hood, raised his wand and screamed at the top of his lungs over the roaring wind, “AS THY NAME AND SOUL ARE BOUND, CHOKED WITH SULPHOROUS SUBSTANCE, SO IN THE NAME OF JEHOVAH AND BY THE POWER AND DIGNITY OF THE THREE NAMES: TETRAGRAMMATON, ANEXNEXETON, PRIMEMATUM, MAY ALL THESE DRIVE THEE INTO THE LAKE OF FIRE, PREPARED FOR THE DAMNED AND ACCURSED SPIRITS, TO REMAIN THERE UNTIL THE DAY OF WRATH, NO MORE REMEMBERED BEFORE THE FACE OF GOD WHO SHALL COME TO JUDGE THE WHOLE WORLD WITH FIRE AND FLAME!”
Then a blinding flash of white light filled the room, so painfully bright that it forced Alexander to screw his eyes shut, and even then, the after-images - violet, green and blue - danced treacherously before him in the darkness. After a few moments, when he opened his eyes, Tom was standing opposite him, looking like he had just run a mile. His cheeks were flushed and his green eyes glittered dangerously. His mouth was frozen, half-open, in a jubilant grin and the residue from the spell he had cast encircled his black-clad form in an eerie silvery aura.
The wind had subsided. The air was cool and calm. The noxious clouds of steam had all but evaporated, and as Alexander’s vision cleared, he looked towards the circle and gasped.
Before him, stood a figure of indescribable loveliness. Its dark brown hair was glossy and curly. Its flawless skin was colourless as ivory and shimmered with an inner light. It was tall. It was slender. It was clad in purest white. No ornament adorned it. Its hands were clasped in front of it as if in prayer. It was youthful. It was beautiful. Only its eyes, its pale blue eyes, betrayed its age. Those eyes that had seen galaxies congeal from stardust, that had witnessed the dawning and destruction of so many great ages, gazed at each of them in turn and when they met Alexander’s they seemed to smile and say “do not be afraid.” It made him feel like a child. He shivered.
When it spoke, its voice was gentle and kind. It said, “What would you with me, my children?”
“We are not your children. Your children are the filth of the fetid stench pits of hell,” Alexander said haughtily, a little unnerved at its air of innate superiority. This was not how it was supposed to go.
Their captive smiled tolerantly. “Oh but you are my children,” it repeated gently. “All of you. You are all damned…”
It turned suddenly towards Tom and its eyes fixed on him for a lingering moment. Messalina yelped and took a step backward at the unexpected move, but Tom did not flinch, meeting its gaze unfazed, staring into the depths of those ancient eyes. A minute passed in silence in which both Tom and their captive appeared to be unaware of anyone but themselves. Alexander clenched his fists impatiently. When it was apparent that it was not going to release Tom of its own free will and that Tom seemed content to monopolise its attention, Alexander decided to do something about it. Until now, it had always been about Tom - but tonight, it stopped. He was going to take the stand.
“Enough!” he commanded, and the angelic being blinked once and turned back to face him. Its eyes looked upon him with sublime indifference, so much so that his voice faltered when he spoke again. “Y-Your name, demon! What is your name?”
“You bore your comrades with trifles, young wizard,” it replied patiently, smiling sweetly, “but if you wish… My name is Belial.”
Around him, he felt the others stir. He himself was momentarily taken aback.Beside him, he heard Julius’s indignant cry, “But we summoned your Lord! Why has he not come? Are we not deemed important enough to look upon his person? Are our efforts lacking?”
From the circle came a light, silvery laugh that made the hairs upon the back of Alexander’s neck stand on end. “No, child. Your efforts are not lacking, and only the most important are deemed worthy of my counsel.”
“Your counsel?” Julius continued scathingly, “We summoned your Lord and Master!”
“I am my own Lord and Master,” it replied with the air of a long-suffering adult explaining that two plus two equals four to a difficult child, “and I am Lord and Master of all in my dominion.”
For a brief moment, its eyes flickered towards Tom before finding Commus, who had spoken up. “Then where is the Morningstar?”
Belial lowered its head to the floor, its expression hidden, and said calmly, “The Morningstar is gone.”
There was something about its serene impassivity that had started to frighten Alexander, and when Alexander was frightened, he started to get angry. He knew from Dee’s book that it was not practical to lose your patience when conversing with demons, but there was something about this one had really gotten under his skin…
“Gone? Gone where?” he asked, irritated, not sure whether he really wanted to know.
The angel stood motionless for a few moments and by this time, Alexander’s heart was hammering loudly in his chest. Then, it looked up and everyone but Tom started. Its features, still perfect, were contorted into a hideous grin, and it was laughing - laughing that same chilling, delicate laughter…
“The Morningstar is gone!” it repeated happily. “It is gone because I killed it, slaughtered it, butchered it and fed its heart to Mammon…”
“LIES! ALL LIES!” Alexander screamed suddenly, red-faced, his fear beginning to get the better of him, pointing his wand at the angel’s heart. “BELIAL, PRINCE OF DECEIT!”
“Alexander…” he heard Commus’s voice warn before he overrode it.
“SHUT UP, COMMUS!” he snarled, and turned back to Belial, who had fallen silent but was now looking at him with an unsettling new interest. Alexander was trembling. “YOU WILL TELL US THE TRUTH, OR I SHALL MAKE YOU TELL THE TRUTH!” he continued, brandishing his wand.
Belial’s eyes flitted once again towards Tom, who seemed eerily unconcerned about the whole situation. This only served to make Alexander angrier. “I have told you the truth, wizard. The Morningstar is gone, and I am the Lord of Hell.”
“Then if you are so high and mighty, why have you chosen to appear before us?” Alexander hissed. “I saw it! You could have refused us if you wished!”
It was as if Alexander’s comment was too good to resist. Belial whirled around to face him directly for the first time and he whimpered. He tried to cover it up, but he was too late. Belial had heard him and it grinned unpleasantly. “Yes I could have refused you, you are right young wizard,” it whispered almost lovingly. “And I almost did, but when there is a promise of sacrifice - I cannot bring myself to refuse…”
Belial smiled and started towards him. A pair of mighty wings unfolded - black and bat-like - that filled the confines of the circle and obscured all the others from view. Panic clutched coldly at his heart, and he wanted desperately to run, but its terrible cold eyes held him in place. He was shuddering violently and a silent tear trickled unnoticed down one cheek. There was nothing he could do. There was nowhere to run. Why weren’t the others helping him? Couldn’t they see what was going on? It walked slowly, deliberately towards him and then, just as it was about to bear down upon him, it stopped at the very edge of the circle, barely a foot away from him.
Alexander blinked once, twice, and stared down at the floor in disbelief. Then he emitted a strangled snort of relief. The circle, of course! How could he have been so stupid as to fall for it…
“Your deeds are false and hollow, Prince of Deceit,” he laughed scathingly. “While the circle remains, you cannot harm me!”
Yet Belial was still smiling. “While the circle remains, yes…” it said with quiet amusement, as it drew back a leathery wing, and Alexander saw with a chilling horror that which had been hidden from him.
For how long… and why?
His eyes, filling up with tears, darted desperately from left to right. He had to get out. He had to get out. He had to run, find Dumbledore, find anyone. Never mind the others, the thing was after him. The door was just across the room, not far - if he could just…
Frantically, Alexander made a bid for freedom, but something hauled him back by his robes and spun him around. Belial’s eyes filled the whole of his vision, glittering ravenously. He was pleading, crying, thrashing around, desperately trying to break free, but the angel’s terrible laughter echoed mockingly in his ears. The air was freezing and the candles around him flickered and died. The room plunged into darkness and he cried out. Behind him, he heard a sound like the soughing of the trees in a forest upon a windy day; like the rushing of a waterfall; like the beating of mighty wings…
He felt its cold hands upon him and his prolonged, terrified scream rose to an almost inhuman pitch before it was cut off abruptly.
There was a flutter. A little while after - footsteps. The sound of a door being opened then closed.
The rest was silence.
“My name is Commus Augustus Snape…”
They had been giving evidence to the Aurors for over five hours and, at his request, Headmaster Dippet had let them continue their investigation into Alexander Malakoff’s disappearance in the relative comfort of the Slytherin Common Room. Naturally, they had went to have another poke around their dormitory, but they had found nothing. No trace of the circle, the candles, the potion or the missing student remained. All had went according to plan…
“And you are?”
“Julius Thalesis Theodore Nott…”
Julius and Messalina had fled when Belial had first made to seize Alexander. Commus, unfortunately, had an insatiable morbid curiosity and had stayed until the bitter end. He had not counted on that. Though, on the upside, Commus was certainly not stupid. After they had had a little talk, Commus had helped him get rid of most of the evidence. They had straightened out their version of events and both had approached Julius and Messalina separately. It turned out that both believed that they had caused the circle to be broken - as if their absence would have set Belial free, so self-absorbed they both were. That had been very useful indeed and he had no intention of ever enlightening them. So they had all kept quiet and had adhered to his story. Everything was perfectly calculated. The Aurors, the Professors, Old Dippet and even Dumbledore were baffled. As far as everyone was concerned, Alexander Malakoff had disappeared…
‘You are powerful, young wizard. You are destined for greatness. He will try to stop you. He is jealous of your power. You know of whom I speak…’
The angel’s words resonated in his thoughts as clearly as if the speaker itself had been whispering in his ear. Rising from his seat, he left the Common Room behind and descended the stone stairs to his dormitory. He knew that he would be alone - properly alone - for the first time since the summoning. There was one more thing that had to be done. He sat down on his bed and reached underneath to pull out a pair of shiny, black shoes and… a wooden box? Setting the shoes by, he quickly took up the box with both hands and released the catch. He grinned. Inside was a small snake. It was beautiful. Its coils were black, its body sleek and lithe and its eyes the colour of bitter wine.
Behind him, he heard a rustle and then felt the softness of an angel’s curl upon his cheek…
“Her name is Nagini,” a gentle voice whispered in his ear. “My gift to you, Tom Marvolo Riddle. Make sure you take care of her.”
“I will…” he replied, stroking its delicate, wedge-shaped head. It hissed happily.
“Yes… Yes, I rather think you will…” the voice answered approvingly before it left him for the last time.
For a moment, Tom sat there gazing absently at his beautiful familiar, before he shook his head as if forgetting something and picked up his shoes, turning them upside down. It would not do to perform any charm that could be detected, so he would have to remove the last piece of evidence by hand. Reaching for the one of handkerchiefs he kept by his bedside, he wet it in a glass of water that had been left unfinished from the night before and began to clean away the chalk from the soles of his shoes.
Some notes (in case you’re curious as to where I've dug all this stuff up from):
Belial: Father of Lies, Prince of Deceit.
Dictionary of Demons, Fred Gettings, 1988: "In popular demonologies this is the demon who is said to have been created immediately after Lucifer himself; he appears as an angel in a fiery chariot, but his intention is to deceive all, including those who conjure him.
He is one of the seventy-two Spirits of Solomon and, as one of the Enochian Demons, he is described as a 'King, appearing as a beautiful angel ... speaking fair, distributing prefrements ... '"
Milton, Paradise Lost, book II: 'On th' other side up rose Belial, in act more graceful and humane: A fairer person lost not Heav'n; he seemed for dignity composed and high exploit: but all was false and hollow; though his tongue dropped manna, and could make the worse appear better by reason, to perplex and dash maturest counsels: for his thoughts were low; to vice industrious, but to nobler deeds timorous and slothful: yet he pleased the ear, and with persuasive accent thus began...'
Wikipedia.org: 'He distributes senatorships, causes favour of friends and foes, gives excellent familiars, and rules eighty (fifty to other authors, and no mention is made in Pseudomonarchia Daemonum) legions of demons. Offerings, sacrifices and gifts must be made to honour Belial, or he will not answer the truth to what the conjurer demands.'
Dr Dee and the Monas Hieroglyphica:
John Dee (July 13, 1527 – 1608 or 1609) was a noted British mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer, and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He also devoted much of his life to alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy.
Dee straddled the worlds of science and magic. One of the most learned men of his time, he had lectured to crowded halls at the University of Paris when still in his early twenties. He was an ardent promoter of mathematics, a respected astronomer and a leading expert in navigation, having trained many of those who would conduct England's voyages of discovery. At the same time, he immersed himself deeply in Christian angel-magic and Hermetic philosophy, devoting the last third of his life almost exclusively to these pursuits. For Dee, as with many of his contemporaries, these activities were not contradictory, but particular aspects of a consistent world-view. - www.wikipedia.org.
Monas Hieroglyphica: http://www.esotericarchives.com/dee/monad.htm
Thanks again to Birgit, and thanks to everyone bored enough to read my story.