Ron Weasley sat down in the classroom, thinking. It was quiet here and no one was going to come looking for him. They had just survived another battle and Harry was in the infirmary. It had been a bad one this time, so very bad. It had been close before, but this time he had actually nearly lost everyone he cared about. He couldn't do this anymore, and he couldn't take the tension. It had been much too close.
He pulled a small piece of parchment out of his pocket. During the last bout of research, he had come across this spell. It had to help, it just had to. He pulled his wand as he read the short spell. Nothing happened, but he didn't really expect anything to pop out at him yet. When he got close to something that would help them, it would come. He hoped. He slid off the desk with a sigh, he should probably go check on Harry. Everyone else would be gone by now. He left his safe haven and headed for the infirmary.
It had been two weeks and nothing had popped out at him yet, and Ron was worried that the spell had been a dud. There was talk of another attack coming soon, that the Dark Lord was getting over zealous with wanting to take the school. So he was researching again. He walked into the library, heading for the group's normal table. As he passed by a corridor of the library, a book flew off the shelf and hit the floor.
"No, it can't be," he told himself. He looked around and saw the librarian, Irma Prince, heading for him. "I didn't do it," he told her. Her pursed lips said she didn't believe him, but no one else was in that section. He walked in and picked it up under her hawk-like gaze, bringing it back to her. "A mythology book," he told her. She rolled her eyes and walked away. But he knew that it might have an answer so he checked it out, hiding it in his bag. He'd have time to read it later. Hopefully it had a clear answer, or at least a direction to look in. He sat down beside Hermione, taking his share of the books to look through. "What am I looking for?"
"A small creature," she told him. "It's been seen around the school. It tried to attack Harry last night in the infirmary."
"The little brown thing with teeth?" he asked. She nodded. "Okay." He opened the first book to flip through it.
Up in the Astronomy tower that night, Ron read the mythology book by wand-light. He'd be in deep shit if he was found out of bed, there was a curfew active for the whole school, but he couldn't do this in his tower. Too many nosy people. So here he was, bundled up against the cold coming in through the windows, and reading a subject that he thought was pure fables before. He'd heard of some of these myths before, but he never believed in them. How was this supposed to help? He came to the end of the book just before dawn and found a small parchment taped to the back cover. A summoning spell. Maybe this was what had caused the book to fall? He carefully undid it and read over it. Not too hard. He could find all the ingredients tomorrow during classes, and he had a small knife in his trunk. He looked out the window, watching the sun come up. It was beautiful, and it was going to stop being so pretty if He-Should-Not-Be- Named won. Plus, everyone he cared for would be dead. He'd do anything to keep that from happening. Not his family, or Harry, or Hermione. No one else should have to die. He steeled his reserve. The worst that could happen would be nothing. He could handle those odds. He gathered everything together and let the light go. The dorm doors would be unsealed soon and he needed a shower before class.
As he snuck back, he was very careful that no one saw him. The Marauder's Map was very handy when you wanted to buck the rules. Harry wouldn't mind if he knew. Hopefully.
Ron set everything out, it was all ready. All he had to do was say the incantation, add his blood, and wait. He closed his eyes as he cut his palm, not wanting to see the blood. He hated the sight of blood. He'd seen too much of it since he started school. He heard the blood drip into the cup and opened his eyes, picking up his wand to say the final part. With the last word, a small breeze came through the windows of the tower. "Hello?" he asked softly.
A soft laugh surrounded him, blowing on the breeze.
"Please?" he called. "I really was serious."
A shimmery figure solidified in front of him, becoming a ghost. "Yeah, whaddya want with me?" he asked with a grin.
Ron swallowed. This being could make sure his family lived. "I need help," he said, leaning closer. "I just want it to stop, for no one else to die in this war." The ghost nodded for him to go on. "I don't care what the price is, I'm willing to die so the arsehole doesn't win."
The ghost solidified a little more. "What asshole?" He sat on the floor, crossing his legs indian style. "What do you think I can do to help?"
Ron put the book next to the candle. "I cast a spell to help me find something that would help. This book flew out at me. In it was the spell I just used." He swallowed and looked around. He was probably breaking a *lot* of rules at the moment and his usual luck would get him caught.
"Relax, kid, I sealed the tower when I came in," the ghost told him. "Now, what war?"
"Have you heard about..." he took a deep breath. "Voldemort?" The ghost shook his head. "He's a wizard who's trying to take over the world. He's killing people." Ron swallowed again. "My friends and family are in his way. I know they're next. And I'm willing to do whatever it takes to save them. Even to the point of dying for it. I can't see them die."
The ghost nodded and leaned over, touching Ron's forehead. "Show me." Ron thought of every thing he had heard and read about the Dark Lord. When the ghost pulled back, the sky was lightening. "Okay, I can help," he said. "And the price is simple. I'm who I am, but I need a small piece'a soul to become whole again." Ron paled but nodded. "That's what I need."
"Who are you?" Ron asked quietly.
"You called on me and didn't know who you were calling on?"
Ron nodded. "I'm desperate. There's nothing that'll bloody well stop him and the book had stories about people who could."
The ghost laughed. "Good point." He held out a hand. "I'm Strife, God of Mischief."
Ron's mouth fell open. "Wicked," he breathed.
Strife's grin got naughtier. "Usually," he agreed. "Do you agree to my terms?"
Ron nodded. "Take as much as you need. Why do you need it anyway?"
"See, a few years back, I kinda died. It sucks, but I'm a God again and not solid. So if I get a piece of soul, freely given, then I can regain the breathing stuff." Ron nodded, looking rapt as he listened. "Do you want him dead or just gone?"
"Dead would be great," Ron said happily. "Him and his followers would be even better. But anything you could do would be wonderful. I just can't lose them."
Strife nodded. "I understand. War can be like that. I'll have to ask for formal permission, but I doubt Unc'd mind." He stood up. "You'll see me again, soon. Watch the news, kid." He winked and floated away.
Ron blew out the candle and cleaned up his mess. This was great, there was help coming! His soul wasn't too big of a price to pay. He snuck down to one of the bathrooms, he really had to pee.
Strife appeared next to his Uncle, Ares. "Hey, you heard about this Voldemort guy yet?" he asked.
Ares looked up from his book. "Yeah, and?"
"I got asked ta deal with him."
Ares grunted. "Go for it. I don't favor him, his methods make me sick. He's a pain in Hecate's side too so you might want to talk to her first." He looked down at his book again. "Have fun."
"Oh, I plan on it," Strife said with a smirk. He faded out, going to visit his favorite auntie. She always liked him. "Hey, Auntie Heccy?" he called as he appeared in her temple. She came out of a dark corner, giving him a smile. "Can I toast and roast the Voldemort guy?"
She laughed. "It's good to see you taking up your former hobbies, but why ask me?"
"Because he's one'a yours. Wizard, takin' over the world, pissin' people off. So, can I have him?"
"Let us go see him first," she told him, taking his hand so they could travel together. They landed next to a clearing, watching a group of figures in dark robes with silver masks. "Who are these?"
"Death Eaters, his personal terror squad."
She grimaced. "This is not my way." She watched and read them, coming up with a picture that made her quite upset. She raised a hand, writing a message in the snow. "If you do not follow my ways, beware, for I will enforce my rules," she muttered as she wrote.
In the clearing, the figures stopped to look at the message, then started to scream and curse each other, making each other scream to find out who had written the message.
She laughed. "This is quite fun." She kissed his ghostly cheek. "Have fun, nephew. I have no favor for these idiots." She watched as a new figure appeared, giving it a disgusted look. "And he is not one of mine. I disavow him. He's fair game." She disappeared.
Strife considered this new guy. Part snake by the scales and the red eyes. Pure evil, worse than some of the bad guys he'd ever fought. And he was his to play with. Strife floated up to sit on a tree limb, trying to figure out the perfect torture for this schmuck.
Hecate appeared at a place she favored, startling nearly everyone in the Great Hall. She was nearly forgotten here, but they still followed her ways even though they didn't follow her. She walked among the students, stopping to examine and mark a few of them for her future attention. It was time for her to reassert her balance in the world. She stopped in front of one group, smiling at the redhead. Ah, Strife's caller. She couldn't touch him, but she saw it was for the best of all reasons. His friends, though, they were going to have some trouble. One chosen by fate of birth to fight, and one who would die soon. She would talk to the Fates about the girl so the boy wouldn't get terribly upset. If Strife liked this one that much, the boy getting upset would upset him and that wouldn't do. She walked on, walking up to the head table. The old man up there smiled and nodded at her. "Very nice indeed," she told him, then disappeared.
Dumbledore looked out across the students. "All will be explained to you eventually," he called out. "Eat please." He looked down at Harry, Ron, and Hermione. They would probably need talking to.
Little did he know that Snape had seen the one student who hadn't looked scared at the woman's appearance.
Snape closed the door behind Ron's back and walked around to sit behind his desk. "Tell me," he said smoothly, "why you were the only one not scared at dinner tonight, Mr. Weasley."
Ron shrugged. "I figured she was a ghost." His hands went into his pockets and he played with his wand. "She didn't look scary."
"Indeed?" Snape asked. "Yet she scared almost everyone else."
Ron snorted. "I've seen scarier. I was beside Harry this year, not stuck back at the beginning after solving a problem. After seeing *him*, why should I be scared of a ghost?" He shifted his stance, bouncing slightly. "All she did was look everyone over. It's nothing more than the other ghosts do. And I'm not answering any questions without the head of my house here. I know my rights."
"You have no rights, you are a student," Snape sneered. "You will answer me or you will be expelled. I'm sure I can find *something* to warrant it, what with your participation in the war."
Someone tapped on the door and Dumbledore walked in. "Good," he said with a smile. "Severus, if you would please give us a minute?" Snape walked out, slamming the door behind him. "Ronald Weasley," he said as he sat on the edge of the desk. "What did you do, son? You can tell me and I won't be upset."
Ron swallowed. "I just couldn't stand to see anyone else die," he said quietly, looking down at his feet. "So I cast a spell looking for something to help in the war."
"And you found her?"
Ron looked up at him and shook his head. "Strife came when I called," he admitted.
"Part of my soul so he can be solid again."
Dumbledore smiled and nodded. "That's what I would expect from him. He's been looking for one for a while now." He patted Ron on the shoulder. "Do you know who she was?"
Ron nodded. "I figured it out from the book. She was Hecate." Dumbledore's smile brightened. "Am I in trouble, sir?"
"No. I understand why you did it." He stood up. "Go back to your house and respect the curfew, Mr. Weasley. I'm sure we'll have an answer to your prayers soon enough." He watched as Ron scurried out of the room, and Severus walked back in. "He found the book," he said with a smile. "She's come back to pick her sides."
Snape sneered. "She's just a myth, Albus. If anything, Mr. Weasley was right, she's a ghost."
"If you say so." Dumbledore left him alone.
Severus sat behind his desk and scowled at the walls. Something was going on and he didn't know about it. He didn't like this feeling.
Hecate appeared to the Fates, frowning at them. "You have to kill her?" she asked.
The Fates pulled up the thread she had to be talking about. "It is her time," Atropos told her.
"It will be an easy death," Clotho added.
Hecate frowned. "But the boy called so no one else would die."
"It is not the war, it is her destiny," Clotho explained. "She will become a spirit."
"Ah." Hecate smiled. "Then I will tell him." She examined the thread, then went back to the school, homing in on Strife's mark. She appeared sitting on the end of Ron's bed, carefully pulling the curtains around him so as not to disturb anyone else. She nudged him gently, smiling sadly at him as he woke. "There is one death that I cannot stop," she told him as soon as he was aware.
"My sister?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Not your family, but a friend. The little Granger witch. She will become a ghost," she soothed, reaching out to move some of his hair off his forehead. "She will find her position in life by being able to absorb knowledge."
Ron grimaced. "She's going to haunt the library? I'm sure she'll love it eventually."
She laughed. "She will be allowed to roam. We will attach her to you and your friend, the chosen one." She leaned over and touched her lips to his head. "Do not worry, all will work out fine, young Ron. You will not be one of my chosen, but you will be favored by many." She faded out.
Ron rubbed his eyes, not sure it hadn't been a dream. It was a horrible thought, but he was glad it was her and not Ginny. Or Percy. Or Fred and George. He shook himself and mentally chastised himself for the thoughts. They were bad. He shouldn't think like that. It was the start of the path that Voldemort had went down and he wouldn't be going there. He pulled his sheets up over his head and struggled to go back to sleep.
Strife appeared in front of the meeting, smiling at the Death Eaters and their Lord. "Hey, cool, most of the gang's here." He smiled. "I've been asked ta deal with you shitheads so let's go play a few games." He snapped his fingers, taking them away before they could protest or react. They all landed on a hillside and quickly found out that they had been put onto sides. "Attack," he ordered, shooting both sides with power to make them do what he wanted. Not that any of them wouldn't kill the others, they were power hungry and would gladly kill their fellow friends.
This was a battle that had always bugged him. He had planned his side carefully and they should have won. For some reason, they hadn't, and it was still bugging him. Out of all the battles he had been in, this one kept him up nights wondering why he had lost. He watched as the sides were decimated, wizards and witches falling fast under the hexes cast by the others.
"You forgot the calvary unit," Ares said as he appeared. He waved a hand and a Roman calvary unit appeared on the top side of the hill.
"Hey, no fair," Strife complained. "You kept my calvary unit from coming."
"Yay," Ares said, giving him a fond smile. "Get over it." He watched the carnage. "Good choices," he congratulated. "The sides were evenly balanced. Both sides are ruthless and you're saving energy because they're destroying each other." A cheer went up as Voldemort fell. "Very well done."
Strife grinned at him. "Thanks, Unc." He pointed a finger and the cops of the wizarding world appeared, a whole phalanx of them. "There ya go," he called, becoming semi-visible to those with the Sight. "A prezzie." He faded back out, watching as the aurors got the clue and waded in to stop the fight and arrest the living. They cheered when they found Voldemort alive.
It gave Strife a warm, squishy feeling. Not only had he done a lot of mischief, but he had paved the way for a new power-user to rise, one which he could help. He went to wait for the kid to wake up. It was payment time!
Strife appeared at his newly adoptive parent's table, making them start. "Hey," he said, waving with a goofy grin on his face. "Mom, Dad, how's it shakin'?"
"Um, who are you?" Molly asked carefully.
"Oh, sorry. I'm your new son, Strife." His new father's mouth opened. "I know, a little late for the birth announcement, but hey, it's all good ta me. I'm sorta a nice guy. And I gotta tell ya, you've already got three kids that might as well be mine. You've got another, but she's too intense and it's not chronic enough." He winked at Arthur. "I bet you're wonderin' what's goin' on."
Arthur nodded. "Yes, quite actually. Would you care to explain your comments?"
"Sure!" Strife said, telling them everything. When he had explained their son's part and was kicked back in the chair, he finished with, "So now you've got a great fuckin' A' son in me."
Molly, by force of habit, sprayed soap in his mouth. She blanched when he spluttered. "Oh, I'm sorry. It's a habit because of my sons!" she wailed, expecting to be hurt now. She had heard of him and knew what he was.
Arthur calmly handed over a glass of water. "You must excuse her, she's a mother and it's an automatic reaction."
Strife burped up a bubble and finished rinsing out his mouth. "Hey, it's nicer than my mom woulda done. She'd've smacked me into the wall." He grinned. "Cool! You're a great mom." She smiled weakly. "No big, this time." He winked at her and turned back to Arthur. "So, dad, what can I do around the house?"
"You can go degnome the garden," Molly suggested with a faint smile. It did need to be done, and he had offered.
Strife laughed. "You're so cool. I think I'm gonna like havin' you as adoptive parents. And I'll even tell Ma ta leave you guys alone." He winked and left.
Arthur looked around the kitchen. "I'm looking forward to seeing the paper today," he told his wife. She swatted him. "It is rather interesting."
"You need to have a talk with your son."
He stroked the back of her hand. "I know how he feels, Molly. I didn't want to see you die either," he told her in a near whisper. "I would have done the same if I were him. He doesn't deserve it."
"But part of his soul, Arthur!" she complained.
"It could have been much worse," he reminded her. "We've raised him right, he won't turn dark." He gave her a smile. "How about some more tea, love." She nodded and poured him some.
Hecate appeared on the garden-side of the table, smiling at them, her new dark priest kneeling at her side with his face buried against her stomach. "Very sensible," she told them with a smile. She patted the blond head, making her priest moan. "I did not choose your son for one of mine, though he will be important." She kissed Molly on the cheek. "You have always kept my ways. That's what allowed him to call on us." Molly blushed.
Draco lifted his face away from her side. "Thank you for saving me," he told her, giving her a smile.
"She saved you?" Arthur asked.
Draco looked around, noticing that they weren't in his room anymore. He nodded. "She showed me that what I wanted wasn't to serve someone else and my ambitions were not so very evil after all."
Hecate stroked over his hair again. "I have priests on both sides, he is one of my top dark priests."
"I would gladly turn myself into a child again so I could suckle on you," he vowed. He was in awe of her. She had saved him from a very bad fate, joining his father in dying in prison. She had told him how he could be what he always wanted and no one would ever catch him if he listened and prayed to her. She was more than his personal Goddess, she was the God in his book! He buried his face in her stomach again. If she would let him, he would worship her in every way, with his body, his prayers, his mind, his soul if she asked.
She smiled down at him, hearing his thoughts. "Your prayers are enough for now," she told him quietly. He looked up at her, giving her a smile. "The others we will talk about when you are older, Draco." He purred and went back to nuzzling her stomach. She smiled at the parents again. "There will not be another like Voldemort again, I will see to it. If they had only listened, they wouldn't have been destroyed." She faded out, taking her most ardent worshiper with her.
Molly snickered, Arthur shaking his head. "I wonder if he knows that she has dark priests that do good and good priests that do dark," she gasped. She jumped as a cool arm was wrapped around her shoulder.
"He's still my son," Discord whispered in her ear. "Keep up my training and smack him around some. It'll do him good." She disappeared again.
Arthur shook his head. He really wanted to see the paper now.
Dumbledore stood up front of the gathered students, smiling down at them. "As many of you have heard, the Dark Lord is no more!" he said happily. The students applauded. "Due to some very ....unusual circumstances, no one has to fear for the safety of their family any longer. The remaining Death Eaters are being gathered up as we sit here and by the time you leave next month, everything should go back to normal." That got more applause. "Tonight, we celebrate!" He waved a hand and a feast appeared. "Eat, be merry." He looked at Draco. "Celebrate a new start in life." He sat back down to thunderous applause. He looked over at Ron. Hermione had shown up at breakfast as a ghost, but a happy one. She had won Harry over quickly, and Ron was quite a bit more wild. Or maybe relaxed was the word he wanted. He was joking and laughing quite loudly, stunning his tablemates. But they would get used to it. They were still young. It would all be fine now.