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The Good War

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July 1993


Liz stared blankly at the letters on the page, one finger idly playing at the edge of the paper.

Setting herself up for the summer was no more difficult this year than it had been the previous — if anything, having done all this before and having more practice at this mind control thing, it was only getting easier. She'd chosen a different hotel than the ones she'd stayed in last year and the year before, just in case, but the minds of the staff were no less malleable, she'd slipped into her summer routine like she'd never left.

Including her regular updates to Snape — the day before the train left, he'd called her into his office and reminded her that their little arrangement they'd come to a year ago would last until she ceased living on her own or passed her OWLs, whichever came first. (And also gave her a bunch of calming potions, obviously.) Though, she thought it was possible that if she secured somewhere to live she didn't have to use mind magic to keep it going, he might lay off. That...should be possible in a few weeks, she thought. The Potters must have had a few properties sitting around — they were nobility, after all — but the goblins wouldn't start dealing with her until she was old enough to legally agree to a contract, which was thirteen in the magical world. It was possible she might have her own house to stay in, permanently, that she could do whatever she wanted with, in just a few weeks.

Maybe. She wasn't holding her breath.

The last couple weeks, she'd mostly just been shut up in her room doing her summer homework, getting it out of the way so she could do other things the rest of the holiday. She'd only left the room for meals, and to pick up supplies in Charing (which was but a short bus ride from here). The only other interruption was the occasional owl, from Dorea, Hermione, Daphne — all three invited her to come visit them over the holiday — Susan, Padma, once even from Draco, surprisingly — babbling about recent developments in the Wizengamot and the Ministry, fallout from Weasley being killed under Dumbledore's nose, which Liz did not care about — and a short reminder to not slack off too much from Mark. (Nothing from Snape so far, though, he generally didn't respond to her I'm still alive updates.) The owls were a slight problem, because she wasn't supposed to have animals in here, and also the windows didn't open, but it was a simple matter to transfigure the glass out of the way, cleaning whatever mess they left behind with a couple charms.

It was common knowledge that magic and technology interfered with each other, sometimes explosively, but Liz had learned all the way back during her first summer on her own that this wasn't necessarily true. Active magic did mess with electricity, yes — including blanket wards, which was why nothing electronic worked in places like Hogwarts at all. Cast a powerful enough of a spell on or even near anything with running electricity and it would short out, sometimes messily...but only if the thing was actually turned on at the time. Televisions were more finicky, the picture would flicker a bit in the more magically intense moments during her brewing, and sometimes die in an explosive series of pops when magic was cast in the room, even when it was turned off.

But, fun fact she'd learned, repairing charms worked on electronics just fine — she had to unplug them first, or remove the lightbulb she'd fried or whatever, but it worked. The television was somewhat more difficult, sometimes it took multiple tries to get it right. But it wasn't really a problem. So she could pretty much do whatever she wanted in here, and still have the place back to normal when it was time to leave, with nobody the wiser.

So long as nobody noticed all the owls in here (including her own), but she could probably make that problem go away with mind magic too.

In the couple weeks she'd been here, all the letters she'd gotten, she'd never actually received one that she didn't know who it was from just with a glance at their handwriting. Also, it'd been brought in by a duck, what the hell. (She hadn't even known birds other than owls could carry post.) And she'd certainly never received one so...complicated.

Elizabeth,
It occurs to me that it is unlikely that any of the texts you have access to would be particularly helpful when it comes to practical advice for developing one's skills with subumsation. As I said before (in jest!) consuming a human soul is the sort of thing one must work up to. Even should you have no plans to ever perform that sort of magic — which I would recommend you don't, as there are intendant risks that are truly not worth assuming when other avenues are available to achieve similar results — subsumation is still dangerous to attempt without guidance.
As with many things, one must start small.
I would recommend beginning with the most basic of blood-mediated subsumation. I know you are familiar with the fundamentals of blood magic, so you would know the symbolic meaning behind such an act. (As with many magics, the symbolic is more meaningful than the physical.) The benefit gained from what I will describe here is minimal, but it is also practically impossible to hurt yourself in the attempt, so it's a useful introduction.
Now, as a mind mage, what you must do might feel counter-intuitive, but you shouldn't find it difficult. You would need to find an animal of some kind. For your first attempt, the smaller the better — a rat, perhaps, god knows there are enough of them running about the island. You would then reach for it, the same way you would toward a person's mind, but reach deeper, into the magic of its body. If you are doing it correctly, you will feel it. To me, the proper place smells of grass and honey, feels like that moment your feet first leave the ground lifting off on a broom.
Now, you must surround the life of this creature, so the magic of its body is in direct contact with yours. This is easier if you are physically touching it. Then, you must pull the life out of it and into yourself, and integrate it. Ripping the life out of something is quite difficult, but it is much easier if it dies while it is within your hold, the more quickly the better — a severing charm to lop off its head, perhaps. Its life will then be unmoored, held together only by your hold on it.
From there, it is relatively easy to draw it into yourself. Not into your mind, but into your body. You will be able to feel if you are in the right place here too — to me it feels warm, pleasant tingles running head to toe. It requires a certain awareness of your own body to find the right place, which I find easier to achieve in the nude, but that's not strictly necessary. Integrating it into yourself is a sort of self-delusion, believing that this energy you hold is yours, that it is not a foreign intrusion but a part of yourself. You'll find the body is easily fooled however, it is not difficult. And unlike subumsation of mind or soul, there are no ill consequences should you do it incorrectly — you'll simply lose your grip and it will slip away.
I would recommend practising this method until you have become comfortable with it before moving on to any more complicated acts of subsumation. Should you wish further advice on the topic, you may simply ask.

Good luck,
Tamsyn

Liz had absolutely no idea how to feel about this.

Her initial reaction had been confusion — who the hell would even think to write her something like this? And it did actually sound like good advice...however much she hadn't actually intended to start practising subsumation. The only possibility she could think of was Snape, but the handwriting was all wrong, the tone it was written in somewhat off.

And then she finally noticed the name at the bottom. Which really just made her more confused.

She hadn't exactly anticipated she would ever hear from her mystery intruder again. Tamsyn had done a whole spiel about them being natural allies, and allies did generally talk to each other now and again, but she'd also talked as though they should be enemies, which...well, generally people knew who their enemies were. Liz still didn't know what the fuck was going on with that whole thing, she hadn't come to any clear conclusions since (other than Snape's claim that the wards on their rooms were able to keep out any unauthorised persons was clearly shite). But, thinking about it, Tamsyn had suggested Liz would be hearing from her.

She guessed she'd just been hoping she wouldn't.

Tamsyn just showing up in her supposedly intruder-proof room had been...unpleasant. That Tamsyn hadn't really done anything to her didn't make it any better. She was just...creepy. And intimidating. Liz had not wanted her there, and finding herself unable to make her go away, had been...

Bad. It had been bad.

Also, she was pretty damn sure Tamsyn was behind the petrifications over the course of last year, and also the death of the littlest Weasley. She had no proof of that, obviously, but the timing alone was conspicuous. Weasley meant nothing to her but, assuming she was responsible, Tamsyn had proven she was perfectly willing to straight-out kill little girls, making her that much more intimidating.

Vernon had never gone so far that she'd honestly thought he might kill her. The Dark Lord possessing Quirrell had, but she'd also held an advantage over him in a one-on-one mind magic fight — because he'd been possessing Quirrell, she understood now.

Tamsyn had had her outmatched, easily. She could have done anything to Liz, and there would have been nothing Liz could have done to stop it.

But...

Fingers still playing at the edges of the page, Liz glared down at the name, biting her lip.

She hadn't.

Liz still didn't know how to feel about this whole thing. She certainly didn't want to be stuck in a room alone with her again any time soon, though she could say the same about the Dursleys, Dumbledore, McGonagall...half her professors and some of the prefects, really... Ollivander, he was unnerving. But anyway, the point was, she did not like Tamsyn, even holding this letter was making her feel faintly uneasy.

But it did sound like good advice. Refusing information just because she didn't like the source seemed a very foolish thing to do.

Liz glanced at the post-carrying duck, waiting patiently on the windowsill for a response — seriously, what the fuck was up with that — before reaching for paper and pen.


Did you send me a letter by duck? What?
I didn't expect to ever hear from you again, and honestly, I was happy about that. The only reason I didn't burn it without reading it is because I didn't realise who it was from at first, and the bit about the blood magic was interesting.
As long as you stay wherever you are, and do not appear in my room while I'm sleeping again, I guess I'm fine with this. Don't give me a reason to talk to the Aurors and I won't.
Two problems with your advice I can see. I suppose what you're talking about doesn't seem that complicated, though I'm not sure what you mean by the magic of the body. I guess I'd figure it out by doing it. But you didn't explain what the point of doing this would be. I mean, if I'm absorbing stuff from a rat, we're not talking, like, giving me fucking whiskers or something, are we? Don't see what the goal here is.
Also, where the hell am I supposed to get rats to experiment with? They are quick little buggers, and I think somebody would notice if I went around trying to summon rats in the middle of London.
A duck? Seriously, how?!

Stay away from me,
Liz

Elizabeth,

Yes, I do apologise for the unpleasantness of our first meeting. I hadn't felt I had any other options at the time, and, in my defence, I hadn't anticipated the severity of your discomfort. Perhaps I should have. I doubt I would have reacted much better when I was your age, and I had already been aware of your difficulties — I wouldn't have thought to summon your calming potion otherwise. (On that note, you really should get your friends to practise occlumency.)
I miscalculated, causing you such distress was not my intention. I doubt my saying so will do any good at the moment, but it is the truth. I will avoid doing anything similar in future.
Though I wonder, what would you tell the Aurors about me, should you choose to?
The magic of the body truly is something you must experience for yourself. You'll know it when you find it. And I never did explain the benefits of this sort of subsumation, did I?
To head off some of your more wild speculation, no, you will not be growing whiskers or anything of the like — you could give yourself whiskers if it strikes your fancy, but that would require ritual blood alchemy, a far more involved process. (It certainly isn't something you could do without meaning to.) Blood alchemy is also much more dangerous, and should not even be contemplated without experience in alchemy, healing, and extensive knowledge of human physiology and biochemistry.
In integrating the vitality of another living thing into yourself you are, essentially, increasing your own vitality. What effects this might have varies somewhat, depending on how much you've absorbed. You may find that you have a little more energy, that your mind is just a little sharper. You will heal more quickly, and age more slowly — though by small enough of a margin no one should notice. Also, you will become much more resistant to most forms of disease.
If you keep it up constantly, it is possible you will never fall ill again.
And you must refresh such magics occasionally — this form of subsumation is temporary. The effects will start to fade immediately, though very slowly, over the course of two to four months. I would suggest renewing any temporary blood magics every four to six weeks.
Though, soon enough, I suspect, you will need to renew it once a month. Menstruation tends to have interesting effects on various forms of witchcraft, blood magics in particular are often purged — with the exception of the more persistent curses, of course. For best results, you should perform any temporary blood magics three days after the first appearance of blood, every month.
As to the matter of gathering subjects, have you never used mind magic to communicate with animals before? Their minds are extremely simple and boring, true, but it's a simple matter to bring them under your complete control. If all else fails, you can always stop by a pet shop — telling them you need the mice to feed to a snake or something should deflect suspicion.
Thinking on it, I believe I failed to mention a method to ease the process somewhat. Pulling the life of the subject into yours is much easier if you mix your blood. This can be done with a cut on the mouse or whatever and another on your hand holding it. That does seem unsanitary, though. Instead, you can take a few drops from both it and yourself, and mix them together separately — the effect will be even stronger if you use this mixed blood to draw a glyph for "bridge" or "path" or the like. So long as the blood is still wet it should work.
There are other things you can accomplish, mixing blood in this way. The method I described is very simple, and temporary, but by similar means you can craft a sort of artificial familiar bond, which will endure so long as the talisman anchoring your mixed blood survives. Your authority over the target will be absolute, though their will is not subsumed, so they may still act independently. Through this bond, you may gift them abilities that animal does not have naturally.
Such as the ability to deliver post. The duck's name is Apollo, and he's a sweetheart. And much less conspicuous than a great bloody owl.

Tamsyn

Apology not accepted. Stay away from me.
I'm sure I could think of something to tell the Aurors, if I have to. I have no proof of anything you did, besides breaking into my room. I don't even know if you did the petrifications and killed Weasley. But telling them about you would at least give them a suspect to look for. I can probably do that much without drawing suspicion myself.
I think I've heard of blood alchemy before, it was mentioned to me as a way to remove curse scars. You can use it to change people too?
I wasn't sure I actually wanted to do this blood subsumption thing, but if it'll make it so I can never get ill again I think it's worth trying. How much does it take to do that? Would only one mouse work? What happens if you do a lot? Will doing it too much be bad, or be really obvious or something?
God dammit, why did you have to remind me that periods are a thing? I hate you, Tamsyn.
No, it didn't occur to me to use mind-control superpowers on bloody rats. Now that I'm thinking about it, I did do it with animals before people, but just for practice, once I figured it out I never did it again. I completely forgot it was an option.
The blood magic familiar thing, how exactly do you do that? My owl is annoying sometimes, if I could actually get him to behave with it that'd be nice.

Liz

Elizabeth

I didn't expect you to forgive me, that isn't why I said it. I will respect your wishes on the matter. Besides, I suspect openly visiting you would be unwise at this time.
To sate your curiosity, yes, I am responsible for the petrifications. They will recover, and the venture was even a success — reading of Dumbledore's reputation being dragged through the mud in the papers these last months has been delightful. The feat cannot be repeated, though, as I sacrificed the basilisk I used to do it. That ritual also required a human death, so yes, I did kill young Ginevra Weasley.
I tell you this only because you suspect it anyway, and because you won't be telling the Aurors. If you do, they'll request the memory of our meeting so they have something to identify me from. I doubt you want anybody else to see that — our conversation was rather incriminating for you as well, if you recall.
Blood alchemy is not so much used to remove curse damage, but to replace the tissues that were lost. The procedure you are referring to, the damaged tissues are excised from the body, cut away and incinerated in sanctified flame. A blood alchemist would then grow new tissues in their place, which, while not easy, is actually one of the more straightforward applications of blood alchemy.
More advanced uses include reshaping the body into a form it can't naturally take, or permanently altering a person on a more fundamental level. If you are familiar with the modern muggle idea of genetic engineering, blood alchemy is the magical equivalent, though it has been around for much, much longer. Many of the more striking traits you might have noticed in some mages were introduced to the gene pool in this manner. Some magical abilities were also originally created through blood alchemy — parseltongue is one example, in fact. There are entire races of magical beings who were created in ancient rituals, sometimes literally before the beginning of recorded history.
Supposedly, blood alchemy is much more precise than once it was, due to a more modern understanding of magic and genetics. But it is not new, people have been practising these arts near as long as people have existed.
The amount of life you must subsume to immunise yourself against illness varies dependent on various factors. I cannot say for certain, but for a girl your size you should only require one or two adult rodents every month or so.
The consequences of taking more than that, well, it depends on how much more. Generally, you should see a steady increase in the effects. The only truly negative effects of overdoing it I can think of offhand are persistent euphoria and insomnia, and a small risk of certain blood disorders. However, the slowing of the aging process will become more obvious, and the otherwise pleasant psychological effects do come with a certain impulsivity and loosening of inhibitions. I wouldn't recommend pushing it too far.
I'm not a fan of certain biological processes myself. You might be relieved to know mages have certain advantages dealing with menstruation our non-magical cousins lack — there are even a handful of ways to prevent it entirely. However, most of those are technically sterilisation curses (if temporary in their effects), so come with a number of very serious risks. They are generally performed on adults only, and are considered an extreme option even then.
"Mind-control superpowers"? You are precious, you know that?
Creating a simulated familiar bond through blood is a rather complicated bit of magic. I wouldn't attempt it until you have more experience with runes, blood magic, and ritual. In the meantime, you might consider simply letting your poor owl out to hunt more often.

Tamsyn

Shut up, Tamsyn. When I figured out mind magic I was like nine, I think, and I didn't even know magic existed back then. I had no idea what to call it, just started thinking mind-control superpowers, because it's as good as anything else. I still use it, sometimes, because "legilimency" is a stupid word.
You know you just admitted you killed someone, right? I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do that.
I didn't know they would need the memory from me. Do magic police do that for everything?
(Also, fuck you.)
This blood subsumation stuff slows aging, you said. Does that mean it's possible to stop it completely?
You write very long letters. You're almost as bad as Hermione.

Liz

Elizabeth

I understand Hermione is one of your closest friends, so I choose to take the comparison as a compliment. Despite knowing full well it wasn't intended as one — do choose your words more carefully, unless you wish to have people misinterpreting your intent all the time.
Technically, your "mind-control superpowers" are not legilimency. What you attempted on me that night is a form of enthrallment, mediated through speech. (There are other methods, of course, though I personally haven't any talent for them.) You might have noticed, when you perform this trick you are putting magic into your words alone, and never actually touching the person's mind — it is a form of mind magic, but an indirect one. If you do directly alter a person's thoughts, that is compulsion, which requires legilimency as a first step but is a separate process.
Do keep in mind that enthrallment can be resisted with even elementary occlumency, though the target must realise it is happening to do so. If you're careful, you can influence people without them even noticing. I developed a particular talent with this in my own Hogwarts days. The trick is not to issue commands — though, like yourself, that was my first experience with the art — but to push thoughts and feelings into your words instead. The intent is not to make someone do something, but to subtly influence how they react to whatever you are saying, be it something of importance or inane pleasantries. These can be surface things — entice people pay attention to what you are saying, to think you are clever or funny or interesting. And it can go much deeper than that.
If you are very careful, through hundreds of interactions over the course of years, it is possible to shape the people around you to become whatever you wish them to be. Though I don't recommend attempting to direct people too much — it is a long-term project, difficult to pull off correctly, and can backfire horribly if discovered.
I find it amusing that you doubt my wisdom in admitting that I killed Ginevra, but aren't offended by the murder itself.
No, the "magic police" — the Department of Law Enforcement, and the various offices within — do not take memories for every crime. And "take" is perhaps not the right word — "copy" would better, as the witness will retain the memory themselves. (As you will learn as you progress in your studies of mind magic, this is an important distinction.) However, if a suspect is not already captured, or hasn't been identified with confidence, they will copy the memories of witnesses for confirmation. Sometimes they will also use witness memories to reconstruct the crime, should the precise events be in question for whatever reason.
The copied memories are not used raw, as a person's memory is often flawed, especially when recalling traumatic events. Instead they are used as a focus for divination. When done correctly, this will provide a picture of what happened exactly as it happened, in much more detail than even the witness might have noticed in the moment. From the perspective of the investigators, there is no reason not to use such methods, as they are for all intents and purposes infallible.
For this reason, you should be very careful who you let witness any illegal activity you may engage in. It is best to ensure there are no witnesses at all.
It is possible to halt aging through blood magic, yes, but not through the method I have described. What you are speaking of is called a phylactery. A sample of the mage's blood is put into a device which is enchanted with a whole suite of effects too complex to get into here. If done correctly, the mage will not age a day so long as the device continues to function.
So far as attempts at achieving immortality go, it isn't a bad one. If properly protected, and itself prevented from deteriorating, a phylactery will last pretty much forever. However, the mage is still vulnerable to injury, most poisons, privation. The phylactery can sometimes interfere with intensive healing as well. I know of a sorceress, living in a magical nation that straddles the border between India and Pakistan, who is over fifteen hundred years old — they do work, but they require a certain caution to not let yourself get killed.
Constructing such a thing is far beyond your abilities at the moment, however. Not to mention it would be quite conspicuous should you cease aging at thirteen.

Tamsyn

You're really fucking creepy, Tamsyn.
What would be the point of enthralling people all the time like that? I mean, I can't even imagine wanting to, I don't get it. Sounds like a lot of work for no real reason.
Why should I be offended by you killing Weasley? I didn't even know her.
I get the vague feeling normal people would think that's a weird thing to say, but I'm not even sure why. I mean, it's illegal, and obviously the Weasleys should be angry with you, if they knew. And of course it's just rational to be wary of someone who used a little girl in a sacrificial ritual. I've already told you to stay away from me, I don't see why I should care past that.
That memory divination stuff sounds really neat and at the same time really scary. I didn't know about any of that.
So, divination is actually a thing? Hermione wasn't sure about it, but I figured, if magic can do all kinds of crazy shite, I don't see why seeing the future should be impossible. If it is actually useful, though, I guess it's good I decided to take the class next year.
Of course I'm not going to stop aging right now, Tamsyn, I'm not stupid. I was just asking.

Liz


Liz was ready. She was pretty sure.

It took a little bit longer than she'd expected to get everything she needed to make her first attempt at subsumation. Or, her first attempt she was going to make on purpose, anyway — absorbing that bit of the Dark Lord didn't count, she'd had no bloody clue what she was doing. Not that it really required that much in terms of supplies, but she wasn't going to do anything like this without trying to read up on it first.

Not that the reading did much good. It wasn't like most bookstores were going to tell people how to go about doing sacrificial blood magic (which was what this was, technically). The only hints she really had were from a couple of the books Snape had lent her, and those weren't really that useful. One of the things was that, yeah, people often did ritual magic without any clothes on. Part of this was just tradition, but clothing made by mages often had magic in it, either the material itself or enchantments worked into the cloth, and external magic could sometimes interfere with the more sensitive rituals.

Liz would probably be far too uncomfortable to do it correctly if she were naked, but wearing a muggle-made dress and pants took care of the external magic problem anyway. She didn't think this ritual was sensitive enough for it to matter, but just in case.

And then there was the bit Tamsyn had recommended, drawing a glyph with their mixed blood to make it a little easier, making a kind of bridge for the energy to go across. Liz knew from a different book she'd borrowed from Snape that, if someone was going to be doing runes in blood, getting enough blood to actually write with it could be a pain, so they'd just put a few drops of the blood in ink and write with that. You couldn't use too much ink, or the effect of the blood would be lost, but Liz figured she'd probably end up at, like, quarter blood three-quarters ink, which was fine.

Picking the glyph she'd draw was a little bit harder, since she really hadn't started on runic magic at all yet. After a bit of reading, and grabbing an enchanter's dictionary at Flourish and Blotts and flipping through it for hours, she'd ended up going with an Egyptian hieroglyph meaning travel or carry — the point being that it was carrying the energy from the rabbit into her, which was slightly different from what Tamsyn had said, but made more sense to Liz than writing door or something. Also, the symbol was very simple, could be drawn with only lifting her finger once, so it wouldn't be too difficult to write while also doing the magic part at the same time.

Oh, and she had another rabbit, of course. Tamsyn had said it might take two mice or rats or whatever to be enough, and Liz didn't want to have to do this twice in a row — mostly because it was kind of messy, honestly. A rabbit was still small, smaller than a dog or cat or something (as long as she didn't get one of the huge ones), and they sold them in pet shops, so it'd seemed like a good choice. Another rabbit, because she'd already tried this once and fucked it up somehow.

She'd gone to a different pet shop this time, a little bit further away. Being less conspicuous, and all that.

Also, she'd learned a new spell to kill the rabbit with. The first time, she'd just done what Tamsyn had suggested, cut its head of with a basic cutting charm. She'd tried it sitting in the bathtub — this whole thing was going to be messy, so doing it somewhere with a drain just seemed obvious — and the cutting charm had ended up carving a line in the...whatever bathtubs were made of, Liz wasn't certain. It'd been annoyingly hard to repair, for some reason, she'd even burned out a couple lightbulbs and the hair dryer throwing magic at it. But Liz wanted to make sure the rabbit would properly die (it'd be really annoying if she had to cast it twice), she couldn't just underpower the cutting charm. So she'd needed something else.

A basic dark piercing curse had seemed the best solution. An ordinary piercing curse would work just fine to kill something, except it would also punch a hole through the tub. (She wasn't certain if it would do any damage after piercing the rabbit's skull, but she didn't want to test it.) The curse she found only worked on living things, and would ignore the material the tub was made out of entirely. She'd actually tried casting it against one of her old pairs of pants (and the floor under it) just to check — the bright white spell had sprung from her wand, hit the cotton lying on the bathroom tile, and winked out of existence with no effect at all, cloth and stone unmarked. Perfect.

Also, picking up new hexes and curses was never a bad idea, though this was probably one she should avoid using in dueling club. Apparently the results were kind of messy. It was basic enough of a curse it wasn't against dueling rules, but it was just smart to avoid spells you could accidentally kill someone with.

She didn't think she was forgetting anything. There was nothing left but to just...try it.

Liz glanced to make sure the brown and white rabbit was still waiting where she'd put it in the bathtub — it didn't look like the thing had even moved. She...might have overdone it telling it to behave, a little. She'd been in the Underground, carrying the rabbit in the box the woman at the shop had put it in, and the rabbit kept shuffling around, the weight shifting from one side of the box to the other, very annoying, and Liz... She wasn't certain what she'd done, exactly. Not different from any other compulsion she'd done, really, but animals had very small and simple minds, enough her compulsion might have been "bigger" than the entire mind she'd been shoving it at. She had the feeling she'd done something very strange to the rabbit she hadn't meant to, permanently altering it.

It was kind of lucky she didn't plan on keeping it — the thing was so unnaturally obedient, she suspected it wouldn't even eat if she didn't tell it to.

The tiny little glass bowl, transfigured from the thing that had been holding the bar of soap, and her potions knife were also where they were supposed to be, so yes, good. Liz stepped out of the bathroom quick to make sure the door into the hall was locked (which was silly, it was never not locked), and then came back in, flicked off the lights. There was light coming in from the windows, even with the shades drawn, but it was still very dark in here, Liz moved cautiously to the edge of the bathtub, leaned over to touch her wand to the tile on the wall.

"Lýsist þetta." Liz traced her wand along the tile, leaving a trail of softly glowing blue-white light. Well, she wasn't casting floating light so much as charming the tile itself to glow, gently illuminating the whole room, enough the inside of the shower didn't really have any shadows at all anymore. Once it was more than bright enough to see what she was doing, she cut the spell off, leaving a curving line of luminescent tile behind.

She did like this spell. It wasn't in their Charms textbook, something she'd picked up from one of her other books, she forgot which. The light charms they were taught had to be constantly maintained, while this one would keep going on its own until the spell eventually fell apart — about eight hours, she'd tested it. Longer than she needed, much more than enough to do her messy little ritual.

Liz carefully stepped into the bathtub, pulled the hem of her dress up a little with one hand so it wouldn't catch around her knees, sat down. She winced, the bathtub was cold against her legs, but it wasn't that bad, she'd be fine. Liz was about to reach for the rabbit a bit in front of her, pull it closer, but before she could it turned on its own, coming over to her in a few awkward shuffling steps (rabbits really were made for hopping). In a couple seconds, it stopped again, its side resting against her shins, warm and soft and shivering with its quick little breaths.

...Okay. Yeah, she'd definitely overdone it.

Not really complaining, this would probably be way easier than last time. Very carefully, underpowering the charm as much as she dared, Liz cut into the rabbit's side — it was very shallow, but enough to draw blood, starting to run in a little dribble over the curve of its back leg. There was a twitch of pain, the tiniest flare of dumb, animal fear, but it didn't struggle like the other rabbit had, still sitting there obediently. Convenient. Liz reached for the transfigured bowl, careful not to spill the ink already inside, pressed it against the rabbit's fur, waited for some of the blood to run in.

That was probably enough. Liz put the bowl back, cast a healing charm on the cut, quickly followed by a dispel to get rid of any lingering magic. Taking a thin breath to steady herself, Liz picked up her potions knife, pressed the blade against the side of her left wrist under her thumb. She breathed out, drew a shallow, short cut into her skin, flinching a little. It didn't really hurt, she'd had a whole hell of a lot worse, she just wasn't used to hurting herself like this. She held her hand against the lip of the bowl for a few seconds, watching her blood lazily drip down, before casting a healing charm on this one too, putting rather more effort into it this time.

And then she cast it a second time, and a third just to be sure. The pain of a little cut was different enough it didn't bother her, but the healing process was far too familiar. She'd accidentally cut herself peeling something in Potions back in first year and she'd had a horrible Vernon nightmare the next night, had looked up a healing charm that morning to fix it — she'd rather avoid that kind of unpleasantness if at all possible, thanks.

Following up her healing with another dispel, Liz turned the rabbit around a bit, so its head was facing away from her and toward the drain. She loosely gripped the rabbit around its spine, just over its back legs. And she reached out, blindly, not with her mind but with her magic.

Not that Liz had originally realised they were separate things, she might not have noticed it all if she hadn't spent so much time flying on a broom over the last year. Generally, people interacted with the enchantments on a broom by changing their grip or how they were leaning or sitting on the thing, whatever, but after only a couple lessons in first year Liz had figured out she didn't really need to. She could sort of just poke at the tingling magic in it, not physically but with something else, not doing the signs that were supposed to activate the enchantments but instead stimulating them directly.

At first, she'd thought she was just doing mind magic at it...but after a bit of observation, she noticed all the other people on the quidditch team did it too. She suspected it was something everyone picked up in time, intuitively, their magic learning how to interact with the enchantments on its own. Like muscle memory, sort of. Liz had picked it up very quickly, possibly because of mind magic, but it wasn't actually unique.

Having done a bit more reading over the last year, Liz suspected interacting with things with your magic like this was actually technically soul magic. Which was interesting to think about.

It took Liz a couple times to get it right — she was used to reaching out with her mind toward other minds, it was just instinctive at this point — but after a moment her awareness of the rabbit's simple, shallow feelings muffled a bit. She could still feel it there, its presence a tingling of diffuse sparks, but...she thought this was it. Not that she felt much at all. There wasn't a whole lot of magic in a rabbit, it mostly just felt kind of...warm. And that might just be physical body heat and not a sixth sense thing, it could be hard to tell sometimes.

It was the best she had for the moment, anyway. Might as well get on with it.

With her free hand, Liz reached toward her little bowl. She stuck her finger into the lukewarm liquid, trying not to think about how vaguely gross this was, mixed it around a little bit. That was probably good enough. Keeping her focus on the rabbit, Liz glanced away, let her finger drip for a bit before drawing on the rim of the tub with the blood-ink, the fluid shimmering in her light charm looking more black than red. A little notch, a sort of inverted V, ticking back in another notch; lifting her finger, she drew a second line, long and flat. It sort of looked like a board set on the legs (and tiny feet) of a stick figure — which did sort of make sense, she could see how someone millennia ago would have decided this meant carry.

Once she lifted her finger again, the symbol finished, she started to feel vaguely tingly. Not all at once, it started barely noticeable before quickly growing stronger — it wasn't an unpleasant kind of tingling, exactly, though she wasn't quite sure how to describe it. The first time, she'd assumed the tingling meant it was working, but she'd barely even noticed the life of the first rabbit slipping through her fingers, so it must not have been enough. She'd had the idea, repetition was a very common element in low ritual, maybe it would help to draw the symbol more than once. Three times should do it, three was a good number.

Liz dipped her finger in the bowl again, traced over the symbol, as close to on the lines as she could. As soon as she was done there was... She wasn't certain how to describe that feeling, actually. Like a breeze brushing over her skin, though not tickling at her hair, like missing a step going down the stairs, but without the unpleasant surprise, that instant of lightness but lingering, and... It was odd.

She took a slow breath, and she traced over it again. This time, she definitely felt something — there was a lurch as she lifted her finger, almost like being yanked forward by the hand, or dropping into a sudden dive. But the feeling didn't fade, her stomach jumped up and stayed there, the air around her thin, her breaths coming a little harder, a persistent tingliness settling into her skin, sort of like the elated rush she'd get doing something crazy in the air, though not quite as intense, and everywhere at once.

And she could definitely feel the rabbit now. It was a little ball of hot motion, intense while at once small and soft, sparks slapping at her fingers like the fluttering of a dozen wings. It smelled green — reminding her of quidditch practice in the spring, the sweet, tangy scent of awakening life all over the Valley thick on the air — and something else she couldn't quite put her finger on. Vaguely like blood, but not quite right, much more bitter and metallic than that, but it wasn't quite coppery either, she didn't think.

Okay. Okay, this was working. Focus now...

Liz leaned further into the contact, pushing herself forward, trying to wrap herself around the ball of shivering energy in her hand. It was slow, and awkward. More than once, she nearly reached for the rabbit's mind, just out of force of habit, she grit her teeth and stopped herself, focusing as hard as she could on the odd grassy warmth, exploring every side of it, surrounding it. At some point she started shaking a little, probably gripping the rabbit rather hard, going a little bit light-headed, her heart pounding in her ears, odd little white sparks zigzagging across her vision. Eventually, she thought she had it. Maybe.

There was a flare of instinctive sudden panic from the rabbit as she solidified her hold around it, Liz nearly reached for its mind again before stopping itself. Could it feel this, somehow? That was...odd.

Well, if the rabbit was feeling threatened (somehow), Liz probably had it right. Okay then.

Liz blindly reached for her wand, her fingers feeling numb and distant, as though half-asleep. Finally she found the damn thing, rested it against the back of the hand gripping the rabbit. She made sure the point was right against the back of the rabbit's head, then closed her eyes, fought to focus on casting the spell while also keeping the rabbit surrounded — it was annoyingly difficult, if she hadn't had practice keeping up her mind magic shield while doing other things it'd probably be completely impossible.

With a flare of determined anger, dulled somewhat by her distraction, Liz muttered, "Mutila." Her magic being wrenched over through her wand to power the spell nearly tore it out of her grip, Liz scrambled to keep her hold on the rabbit, even as she felt the spell take, a flash of pale light slipping through her eyelids, a sort of cracking and squelching sound, the pattering of blood striking the surface of the bathtub.

Ugh, she got hit with a little bit of it, a few warm drops landing on her hands and both legs under her knees. Maybe that spell had been just a little too energetic for this...

But she didn't let herself get distracted with that thought, focusing on the rabbit's life still in her grip. The effect was immediate, the magic lightening and loosening, trying to slip through her fingers, to rise like a released balloon, to disperse like her breath on a cold day. Gritting her teeth, her fingers shaking, she clamped down on it before it could get away, the barest couple whisps escaping before she had it trapped again.

Right. Got it. So now she just had to pull it into herself...which she didn't know how to do, really.

Working with minds, she... Well, she had some sense of space (though not the same as normal space), she could tell what direction and how far away someone was. Pushing in compulsions, or plucking at thoughts and memories, it was directional, she had to aim it. This didn't really feel like that. She could tell the ball of energy she had surrounded was a short distance away from her, that she was stretched out to reach it, but beyond that very basic idea she couldn't tell. If she didn't still have her hand on the bloody thing she'd have no idea where the rabbit was.

Maybe she could, just...

The magic of the rabbit's life shouldn't have moved, it should still be in the rabbit. So Liz kind of...imagined it there. Not the way she would feel a mind — she might accidentally slip into mind magic stuff and lose hold — but like a spellglow, magical light radiating from the rabbit. Pulling her magic in, slowly and carefully, she imagined that light moving up into her hand, spreading up and up, leaving the rabbit's body bit by bit and into hers.

She imagined the ball of light moving up, not letting her attention waver, the image smooth and constant. It flickered, she almost lost hold as the light moved into her wrist, a sudden flare of heat burning through her hand, but not really painful. It was weirdly ticklish, actually, like a hundred warm feathers teasing all at once. Once she was certain she was in control again, she kept going, moving up her forearm, around her elbow, the light leaving warmth and an odd sort of tingly feeling in its wake, a persistent thrill that only seemed to build as she pulled it higher, higher.

The light spread through her shoulder, slipping into her chest, and Liz went very dizzy, the world teetering around her. She had to keep her attention on the stolen life, though, so she just let herself slump over. The bathtub must be cold, but she couldn't feel it at all, the magic in her chest making her feel warm, hot, hot enough she thought it should be uncomfortable, even painful, but it wasn't. Intense, yes, but a good kind of intense. Excited, ecstatic tingles spreading through her, like she was pulling off something crazy flying or in dueling practice but everywhere all at once and for much longer than just a couple seconds, she was practically shivering with it.

The ball of imagined light, the life she'd stolen from the rabbit held in the middle of her chest, Liz concentrated, focusing on what she wanted as hard as she could.

This belongs here. It is a part of me.

This is mine.

There was another odd lurch, like missing a stair, as something inside her, something she wasn't fully aware of, seemed to shift around, just a little. That was actually unpleasant, like her organs had decided to crawl over each other, like her ribs were tangling together. Or, as though they were already tangled, something fundamental clenched tight suddenly loosening. It was uncomfortable. But only for a second.

The tingles all over intensified, just for an instant, seeming to stab into her in a single throbbing burst — just for an instant, the somewhat-overwhelming-but-pleasant sensation forced into her awareness every single bit of her body, feeling every square millimetre of her skin all at once (the soft cotton of her pants and dress were almost painfully scratchy)...and, weirdly, even her insides, the shape of her muscles and her organs and everything suddenly something she could feel, even the curve of her bones (mostly in the negative, from the absence of feeling there, the worst of the scars across her chest a similar deadzone), though most of that much more faintly, nowhere near the intensity on the outside — with only a couple exceptions, particularly the inside of her mouth and nose (awkward) and bits stretching up and inward from between her legs (very awkward). Liz couldn't tell how long this hyper-sensitive moment lasted, probably just an instant, hot and sharp and almost painful but not really quite, her breath caught in her throat and every joint locked in—

The tension broke, the lancing heat dissolving into her, Liz let out something that couldn't seem to decide whether it was a sigh or a groan at the ecstatic relief shooting through her. She was left lying in the bathtub shivering, not because it was cold, she still felt pleasantly warm, but out of an inability to not move. It was almost electric, manic energy crackling through her veins, she could almost see it sparking behind her eyes, like she'd had far too much caffeine — or something rather stronger than caffeine, more like. It was almost painful, without really deciding to she got her feet under herself, kicking the dead rabbit a little bit, popped up to standing like a spring released, the motion coming far easier than it normally would, as though her body had become lighter and quicker. She bounced out of the tub, fluttered across the room and—

Nope, she shouldn't leave the bathroom — she had rabbit blood on her, that'd probably be much harder to clean out of the carpet than the tile in here. Liz forced herself to turn away from the door, the bathroom was hardly large enough to move around in much, she ended up pacing around in a little circle, practically dancing on the balls of her feet, her breath coming high and giggly, her chest somehow feeling too full while at once light and fluttery, like she'd swallowed the wind, her head almost spinning, coursing with warm, giddy euphoria, intense enough she could barely see straight...

The whole whatever that all was swiftly diminished, though, after a couple minutes fluttering around and giggling like a crazy person it wasn't nearly so overwhelming anymore. But even after she could breathe properly again, after the darkened bathroom stopped spinning and wobbling around her, after she felt she could actually stand still without her skin jumping off her bones, she still felt warm, an odd, tingling not-tension in her limbs, still barely containing the will to move. She knew somehow, instinctively, that she was stronger and faster than she'd been a moment ago...unless that was just that not-tension that made her feel like it, it wasn't like she'd actually done anything to prove it yet.

And even after things had calmed down a little, she still felt so very awake, it took effort to not bounce in place, her brain practically sizzling with it, her thoughts racing, she'd never felt this good before, ever, she hadn't even known it was possible, and this was amazing, and she wondered how many other neat things you could do with blood-mediated subsumation, and she wondered how long this was going to last, she couldn't do it too often because people might notice eventually and it was illegal, very illegal, which was stupid because this was great (but not really a surprise, because she was a freak and wasn't supposed to feel good about freakish things), and clearly listening to Tamsyn like this was a great idea, no matter how weird and creepy she was, because this was amazingespecially if it meant she would never be ill again, because fuck that, there were probably rabbits in the Forest she could find and use to keep this up constantly, but it was kinda messy though, the blood on her legs was starting to dry, feeling gross and tacky, and she did share a bathroom with the other Slytherin girls, she'd have to be careful to not get caught, or just do it out in the Forest she guessed, though she'd have to bring something to draw on, because she was definitely going to keep doing this no matter what, because this was great, she wondered what would happen if she used a magical animal of some kind, if she'd pick up some of their magic a little or if—

Right, she could think about that later. She should clean up the mess. It took a moment to find her wand, she'd dropped it when she'd gone all dizzy. A quick moment to concentrate — she thought it might have been more difficult, considering how hyperactive her head was right now, but as soon as she tried to focus it was like all that energy turned and came to a razor edge, with an odd almost physical lurch — and cast a vanishing charm on the dead rabbit, its head completely obliterated by the curse she'd used, blood and bits of brain and bone and fur splattered over that end of the shower. (Ew, yeah, overdid it a little.) Her magic crackled down her arm, not feeling more powerful than normal but more intensely focused, more magic more easily drawn into the task, and most of the rabbit just blinked out of existence.

Not all of it, a few bleeding stumps and random bits here and there left behind (ew), but she managed to catch the rest of it with a second vanishing charm. The first time she'd tried this, it'd actually taken several tries to get rid of all the rabbit pieces, clearly this sharp razor-edge focus she was getting now was helping with her spell-casting a bit. (How long would this last?) A third casting took care of the larger bits of the rabbit's head, followed by a couple quick cleaning charms — she didn't catch all the blood, but the rest would just go down the drain while she washed up. A couple more cleaning charms where she'd dripped on the tile, and there, that would do it.

Liz shot off a dispel and the glow in the shower blinked out, reached over to flick on the lights — good, they all came on, she was hoping they would — then set her wand aside next to the sink. And for a moment she just stood there, grinning to herself.

Well. That had been awesome. She was going to go ahead and call her first real attempt at subsumation an unqualified success.

As soon as she got this blood cleaned off her legs, at least, ew...


Tamsyn

Right, point taken, about the enthralment stuff, but I'm still not going to bother. I don't really want anything from people, honestly.
Obviously killing people is illegal, I realise that. Didn't I say something about that? But I still don't really get why I should care, is the thing. I mean, as long as you're not hurting me, or anybody I care about, it doesn't have anything to do with me. If I did think you were going to, I'd find some way I could do something about it, tell the Aurors or Snape or something, but as long as you're over there and not doing anything to me, I don't understand why I should care what you do to other people.
Okay, memory-mediated scrying sounds very neat, actually. Is it possible to make one of these Pensieve things, or would I have to buy one? It sounds like they'd be kind of expensive.
How are Seers supposed to tell if what they're seeing is the correct universe or not? That sounds really annoying.

So, wait, mind mages are often good at divination, but you've never really figured it out yourself?
I just pulled off the blood subsumation thing earlier today, and this is so cool. Really, it's amazing, it's been hours and I'm still a little hyper from it. I was wondering, what happens if you do this with other stuff? I mean, if you take a magical animal of some kind, will you get some of its magic too?

Liz

Elizabeth

I find myself wondering if you actually paid attention to what I wrote. The discomfort most people have with the idea of murder has very little to do with its illegality, silly girl. That may be part of the calculation for some — especially those who plan to commit murder themselves — but their aversion is often an emotional one, not a rational one. People fear death, and so they find the taking of a life abhorrent on an instinctual level, even if it is someone they have no personal connection to.
Though, that it is illegal is also involved, I suppose. The illegality of an action is a concern to the person doing it, of course, in the sense that it carries external consequences, but it is a concern to others as well, though not for the same reasons. In societies like ours with advanced legal codes, the law explicitly defines what behaviour is deviant and deserving of being punished. There is social ostracisation associated with criminality, but not due to the concept of criminality per se, but in the construction of a class of people determined to exist outside what is good and acceptable. One could even argue this construction of otherness, outlining the boundaries of tolerance within a culture, is exactly what law is for.
There are books I could recommend if you wish to learn more about these sort of ideas, but I think it would take far too long to expound upon here. To put it very simply, our modern human society generally considers people who are comfortable murdering another to exist outside of the limits of acceptable human behaviour, so are treated as such. As a person who is not similarly offended by such transgressions, you would also be considered deviant, though of course not to the same degree.
Maybe you will better understand my amusement with your reaction to the death of Ginevra Weasley now.
It is possible to make a Pensieve, yes, but it's a rather complicated bit of enchantment. I'm uncertain whether even I could do it. It's very likely the Potters already own one, though, you should search your House's vaults and properties before buying one.
There are a variety of methods Seers may use to attempt to determine whether the information they are receiving is relevant to the timeline they reside in. However, these methods are themselves unreliable. It is impossible to be certain.
It is true that mind mages are often talented with divination as well — it simply isn't a talent I have myself. Divination requires a certain passivity, to leave yourself open and allow echoes of events to carry information into you. I don't like leaving myself vulnerable in this way. The few times I have attempted to perform true divination, the sensation of it has always instinctively registered to me as an intrusion, and I pushed it away without truly deciding to, every time. I suspect it's something I'll simply never be capable of. You may or may not have better luck achieving the proper state of mind than I.
Anyhow, congratulations on your successful working.
If you find your up mood is too persistent to sleep properly, the most basic of sleep aids can take the edge off. I recall there was a suitable option in my third-year Potions text.
The use of a magical animal as the sacrifice in such magics can be a complicated proposition. Generally speaking, no, you will not acquire magical traits of the sacrifice through this method, even temporarily. But sometimes you will notice something, even if it's not what you might expect. Some of these results are actually quite harmful — they will never be lethal, but unpleasant or at the least very conspicuous results are possible. Before attempting such a thing, you will want to research the magical traits of the creature in question very, very thoroughly, paying particular note to which magics are carried on the creature's blood and whether they are compatible with human biology and magic.
If you do intend to attempt such a thing any time soon, I would strongly recommend you run it by someone more knowledgeable in these matters first. Which would require explaining just what you're trying to do, of course, otherwise whatever they tell you might well be useless. And it would be best if they're familiar with subsumation themselves as well.
Oh dear. I suppose you're stuck with me, aren't you?

Tamsyn


Jolted awake with a hard thrum, her whole body throbbing all at once, Liz sprung up to sitting. For a couple seconds — fingers twitching with adrenaline, her breath thin and fast — her eyes darted around the darkened room, panic quickly dissolving into confusion.

Nothing looked out of place. It was still early, the curtains hiding the window only faintly glowing with approaching morning — a glance at her clock confirmed it wasn't even six yet. What the hell had woken her up?

She jumped at a hard, sharp knock on her door, the sound reverberating through her room. Much more than it should, in fact, that just wasn't natural, must be some kind of magic. Liz hesitated for just a second, but the chances it was someone who'd actually be able to retaliate from this distance were pretty low. Reaching out toward the door, she felt for—

Tensing slightly, even as the anxious tingles settling over her shoulders vanished, Liz frowned to herself — because she knew this mind. What the fuck was Snape doing here?

Well, no use thinking about it, presumably he'd tell her once he was inside. She floated a thought over at him, I'm not dressed, one minute. Not actually pushing it into his head, which he'd definitely resist, just setting it to float in the air around them — he'd get the message, she was pretty sure. She scrambled out of bed, snatched up the dress she'd worn to dinner yesterday from the back of her chair. Once she had the thing pulled over her head and tugged into place, she flicked on the lights, blinking and hissing under her breath for a couple seconds before her eyes adjusted.

Because if Snape was going to drop in, he couldn't have come at a convenient time, of course not, waking her up at five-thirty in the morning was a perfectly reasonable thing to be doing...

Her room was a bit of a mess, as it pretty much always was — she never much saw a point in keeping it neat, since she was the only person who'd be seeing it. Potions stuff here and there, books stacked at random, bits of parchment and paper strewn about, clothes thrown aside onto the carpet or hanging from furniture and door handles. It didn't look like there was anything particularly embarrassing sitting out. A couple pairs of pants, she guessed, one of which had been tossed toward the bin but hadn't quite reached it. (Some of her underwear was starting to wear out, and others getting uncomfortably tight, she should probably buy new ones.) The rubbish ones she threw away, the other two slipped into a drawer. Okay, that would do. Right.

Liz was just deciding it was probably fine when there were a few more unnaturally loud knocks on the door. "I'm coming! Christ..." She stomped over and threw the door open, not even bothering to try to keep her irritation off her face. (Not that it mattered what was on her face, Snape would know what she was feeling anyway.) "You realise what time it is?"

Snape shot her a cold, level glare — she did twitch a little, but it wasn't as effective as it might have been, his pale face looking even longer than usual, strained with exhaustion. There was an unusual amount of stubble around his Saturday morning cartoon villain goatee, and his hair had poofed up a little at the left side of his temple, as though he'd run a hand through it too many times. And he didn't bother saying hello, or explaining himself or anything, after a couple seconds of glaring just started striding through the door. If she hadn't jumped out of the way he probably would have run right into her.

Trying to ignore her stomach lurching and ants starting to crawl over her skin — it was fine, Snape wasn't going to hurt her, it was fine — Liz pushed the door closed, glaring at Snape's back as he walked further into her room. "Oh, good morning, Professor, come on in, how nice of you to ask first."

Snape turned to her, but not to say anything, just shooting her another glare. After a couple quick glances around the room, he flicked his fingers, her trunk sliding down between the beds, and started packing up her potions supplies. "Pack your things. Now."

...What? "Why? What happened?" She'd thought he was fine with her staying here on her own...

"Don't argue with me, girl, just do it!"

Liz cringed, suddenly feeling uncomfortably warm and shaky, nauseous (she hadn't even eaten anything recently), her skin crawling worse enough it was almost painful, she grit her teeth, tried to ignore it all (the echo of it on the air like a bad smell)—

Biting out a harsh sigh, Snape paused in his packing for a moment, muttering what was probably a curse under his breath. "I apologise, Miss Potter, I didn't mean to— I've had a very long night. One of the prisoners held in Azkaban has escaped. It is not safe for you to remain here any longer." That wasn't making her feel any better, a numb sort of horror slowly starting to hang over her, before Snape added, "Elizabeth, I am not bringing you back to your relatives. I have spent the last half hour making other arrangements — it will perhaps be...awkward, but I can think of nothing else that will suit for the remainder of the summer. It simply isn't safe for you to be left on your own. Understood?"

Her fists clenched at her hips, her jaw clenched so tight her teeth squeaked, Liz forced herself to nod, stiff and shaky. She was trying to ignore it, push it down — it wasn't so bad she was back there again, the cloth of the couch scratching at her chest and Vernon's hand on her shoulder and— It could be a lot worse, but it still wasn't great, and her skin was still crawling, it wasn't stopping. So she walked to the dresser, her steps wooden and awkward, pulled open the drawer holding her stash of potions. Her fingers were shivering too badly to get the cap off, but Snape obviously realised what she was doing, loosened it from there with a flick of a finger. (Liz tried not to twitch at the flicker of wandless magic, it was fine, she was fine.) Loosening her throat with a long, shaky breath, Liz took a gulp of the potion.

A second of disorienting numbness later, and the echo of it was gone, and she was fine again. Maybe a little floaty, she might have taken more than she'd needed. But fine.

"Sorry," she muttered, twisting the cap back on — which also wasn't as easy as it should be, too weak and clumsy, but a lot easier than it'd been before. "You just sounded like him for a second."

There was an odd, sharp...clang sort of feeling from Snape's direction. He paused in his packing for a second, taking a single breath through his nose. "You have nothing to apologise for, Elizabeth. I have not slept at all tonight, and I've had several extremely frustrating arguments with a variety of bleating imbeciles — I don't say this as an excuse, but an explanation. I shouldn't have shouted."

Liz frowned at his back for a moment, the muscles of her face somehow feeling tired, numb, thought slowly turning over in her head. She kind of did have something to apologise for, she thought. By this point, she knew Snape wouldn't hurt her. If nothing else, he'd demonstrated over the last...year and a half or so that he was at least trying. (She wasn't certain how to word what he was trying to do, exactly, but that she didn't quite understand it didn't really matter.) This just now, coming in here at the break of dawn, being all brusque and angry, saying she had to leave, this was outside of normal behaviour, sure, but she didn't actually doubt him at all.

They probably had reason to believe this person escaped from prison — a Death Eater? — might be after her, but they also thought she was safely hidden away in anonymous, muggle suburbia. (Fucking joke, that.) Or, actually, people didn't know about that, most people assumed Dumbledore was keeping her safe somewhere, whatever. Point was, they thought she was protected wherever she was, but only Snape knew otherwise.

If it came down to it, Liz would prefer not to test her mind-control superpowers against a hardened criminal of some sort, especially not one who'd actually managed to escape from Azkaban. (Dementors sounded...bad.) Going somewhere she was less unlikely to be found, and had an adult mage or two on hand for backup in case whoever it was threw off her mind magic attack, seemed the thing to do.

And, if Snape had actually wanted to hurt her, he could have just opened the door with a basic unlocking charm and cursed her in her sleep. Not that she thought he would, obviously, but still, his current behaviour might be weird and out of character and slightly unsettling, but not in a way that was any kind of threat to her.

She knew that, but her stupid fucked-up brain apparently didn't. Things had gotten better since first year, it didn't bother her most of the time, but sometimes... Sometimes, she was really fucking tired of it. It was just...frustrating.

She meant, she hadn't even seen Vernon for years, and it'd been years before that since he'd actually done anything to her, but still, someone comes in — someone who could hurt her if he wanted to, though she didn't really believe he would — and does something that only vaguely reminds her of Vernon — more than vaguely, really, yelling at her to not argue and do as she was told and calling her girl, that was uncomfortably Vernon-esque — and suddenly it was like she was back in that damn house. Not really exactly, but it felt like that moment before, when Vernon was giving her a lecture on whatever she'd just done to earn it, while she waited sitting on the couch, trying not to cry (Vernon hated it when she cried), trying to just keep breathing, to not give him any more reason to be angry with her—

There was no reason for her to feel like that, but she couldn't fucking help it, and she hated it! It was, just, so fucking stupid, she was so tired of this, the feeling enough even through her calming potion her chest was starting to ache from her anger with herself, and her stupid damn fucked-up brain, and she just... It was pointless and stupid, so she felt like there was something to apologise for, even if Snape didn't.

But she didn't really want to try to explain any of that to Snape — and she wasn't certain how to explain all that, anyway. (The calming potion made it so thinking was possible again, but it didn't improve her already lacking ability to articulate feelings things.) So she just dropped it, and set to packing.

The realisation floated up through her slow, numb, potion-addled mind — while she stacked up her books, rolling scattered bits of parchment up into a big asymmetrical scroll, hiding Tamsyn's letters in with the others' — that she didn't want Snape to think she was stupid. That she actually gave a damn what he thought about her, at least a little bit.

She had no idea how to feel about that. In her current state, she wasn't capable of much more than blinking confusedly at the thought.

The packing didn't take more than a few minutes. It might have been a lot longer, given how much of a mess her room was, but Snape had already gotten started on the potions stuff — and used magic to cheat a bit once he had the more volatile things squared away — and Liz wasn't taking any particular care to keep the trunk nice and organised. She'd just be unpacking again once she got wherever they were going, seemed kind of pointless. She didn't even bother folding her clothes before just chucking them in there.

It was sort of awkward, though — or as awkward as she was capable of feeling while she was this floaty. Neither of them said a bloody word the whole time, which was awkward on its own, but apparently her stupid fucking brain could continue to fuck with her even through the calming potion. It wasn't bad, really. She meant, it was obvious there was supposed to be a flare of fear with it every time, but she didn't really feel it. No more than a mild thrill crawling up her spine, slightly nauseating, a brief wave of oddly numb tingles crawling over her skin. Obviously something, but hardly strong enough to be identifiable as what it was supposed to be.

While they were packing, every time she noticed Snape step toward her, every time she met his eyes, she would twitch, the odd not-fear flaring up, instinctively shrinking back a step, hardly even realising she was doing it. It was extremely irritating. Especially since Snape had obviously noticed — her mind magic could get weird when she was this floaty, Snape had pushed her away enough she couldn't feel much, but she noticed a sort of sharp, cold twinge every time — and she'd already taken a damn calming potion, what the hell. After it happened a couple times, Snape, with a very un-Snape-like tone of voice, cautious and awkward, offered to step out into the hall and let her finish her packing herself, but she'd brushed it off, said she was fine.

And she wasshe was fine. This was just stupid — Snape wasn't going to hurt her, she knew that. He was, quite honestly, the only adult she felt she could say that for certain. (Unless Dora counted now, she guessed, but Liz really thought she shouldn't.) Acting all twitchy and scared like this was... It was stupid, and she really wished it would stop.

This...was going to wear off, wasn't it? If it didn't, she was going to be extremely annoyed, stupid fucked-up brain...

Before long, the hotel room was swept clean of all of Liz's belongings, all of it stuffed into the trunk thanks to its expansion enchantments. Liz took one last search of the entire room, looking for anything out of place, clicked all of the electronics on and back off again, but everything looked good. Okay.

"I presume you needn't check out, or anything of the like."

Frowning to herself, Liz blinked up at Snape for a moment. Or, blinked at the wall to his left, actually — meeting his eyes hadn't stopped making her uncomfortable yet. "Er... I'm pretty sure if I don't keep them up, the compulsions on the staff will wear off in a week or two, and they'll remember to give the room to someone else. I think. I've never actually let them just wear off before."

"That will do, I suppose." Snape paused for a moment, something in his head tensing a little, though she couldn't get close enough to determine how, exactly. "Have you ever apparated before, Miss Potter?"

"Um, no. That's the thing where people pop around, right?" She had seen people appear or disappear many times, and she'd read references to apparation in one book or another, but she'd never been told explicitly that the popping and apparation were the same thing.

"Yes. It is a...somewhat unpleasant experience. Not painful, but it's not unusual for a person to vomit the first time."

"I guess you get used to it then, else no one would ever do it."

Snape's lips twitched. "It's not so bad for the one performing the magic — for those being dragged along, however, it is much more uncomfortable."

"Right." Put that on the list of things she needed to learn at some point, then. "Okay, consider me forewarned. It's not like I've eaten anything yet this morning anyway."

There was another silent twitch of amusement from Snape. And then silence, for a couple seconds. She wasn't looking quite directly at him, so it took her a moment to realise he was waiting, one hand held out to her, palm up.

...Oh. She probably had to be touching him for this apparation thing to work. That... She kind of didn't want to do that right now. She wasn't really in the mood to be touching anyone — the back of her neck started tingling at the thought, her stomach lurching just a little. But, Snape was enough of a cheater about these things that he likely realised that, if there were a different option he would have offered one.

So, she...just had to do that. Reach out and take his hand and they'd be going.

Honestly, she kind of wished Snape had just snatched hers and popped them away without warning her. Working up the nerve to do it herself, even through the calming potion, was frustratingly difficult.

She did manage it, eventually, after far too much faffing about, glaring at Snape's waiting hand and trying to ignore the prickling at the back of her neck. Not actually looking at him made it easier, so she stared at a wall, gingerly placing her hand on top of his with an embarrassing degree of awkwardness, feeling vaguely nauseous, ugh.

(Liz did not like touching. Especially when she was having a stupid brain moment, just, no.)

Thankfully, Snape didn't give her very long to dwell over how very uncomfortable this was, his fingers quick clenching around her wrist, and then she was being yanked forward, and then down, almost felt like she was falling for a second, and then nothingness slammed down on her, thick and hard and constricting, she couldn't see a damn thing, she couldn't even breathe, tried to draw in a shocked gasp but it didn't bloody work, and she was dragged through the black, twisting and straining, colours dancing in her squeezed eyes, ribs and the joints of her limbs aching, until—

The world came rushing back with dizzying suddenness, meaningless shapes and fuzzy colours swirling around her, bile crawling up her throat, "There's a chair behind you," Liz tipped back, plopping down on a chair hard enough it hurt a little. Her hands shaking on her knees, carefully breathing in an effort to keep herself from sicking up, she closed her eyes, waiting for the spinning to stop.

She was mostly better when she heard a sharp pop, she jumped, eyes snapping open. She was in what appeared to be a perfectly ordinary muggle kitchen. Everything was in pale yellows and whites, cabinets and flat countertops, the floor made of cheap white tile, an old-looking gas range — it didn't have buttons for the temperature and the timer, but dials with numbers on them, Liz had literally never seen that in real life before. But for the absence of a refrigerator, it could be any ordinary kitchen, if an old-fashioned one.

Except, she was pretty sure it wasn't. It was very subtle, though, she might not have noticed if she hadn't glanced up at the lights over her head — the lightbulbs in the fixture over the tiny little table in the middle of the kitchen had been replaced with the familiar bits of crystal enchanted to glow. Must be a magical home.

The noise that had startled her was Snape — he must have apparated back to the hotel quick to grab her trunk. He waited for her to finish looking around the room before speaking. With no preamble at all, he explained that this was the kitchen (obviously), which didn't really see much use, beyond making coffee. Everything was magic, so Liz didn't have to worry she'd accidentally short anything out — the lights were controlled by the original switch on the wall, even, which was neat — these tall cabinets here were enchanted to keep their contents cold — so, it was a magic refrigerator, also neat — and the oven was also magic, so the temperature dial was very precise. There wasn't much in here, but she was welcome to whatever was, and shopping could be done later.

He then led her into a little sitting room — sedate, dark rugs covering the plain wooden flooring, two armchairs and a small sofa, plain and stiff-looking, near a surprisingly large fireplace (wood waiting inside, but currently dark), the rest of the walls not occupied by the hearth or doors completely hidden by bookshelves. First, he pointed at a heavy wooden door at one end, saying that was the front exit. She was allowed to go out if she liked, but he would prefer she didn't wander far; for trips further afield, especially in more public places — shopping for books or school supplies or whatever — escort could be arranged whenever she needed. There was a corner store only a couple blooks away she could get groceries from, though, he'd show her where it was later.

The books were a mixture of muggle and magical publication, and pulled from a wide spattering of genres and subjects. There was an organisational system, but it wasn't exactly written down anywhere. If she did take something to read, just remember where she'd taken it from and put it back once she was done. And do be careful not to ruin anything — some of these had been difficult to get his hands on, and a small number were quite possibly unique, literally irreplaceable.

It was about here that Liz realised she was standing in Snape's house. Apparently Snape's solution for someone needing to keep an eye on her, escaped criminal on the loose and all, was to do it himself. She missed a few sentences — something about the fireplace? — just blankly staring at him.

She had absolutely no idea how to feel about this. Just... Weird, that was all, it was weird.

The little house had one back hallway, making a little loop from one side of the sitting room and around the corner to the other. The first door they walked past was Snape's bedroom — the door would be closed whenever he didn't want to be bothered, though obviously she should still knock in the event of an emergency. The next door was the staircase leading downstairs — that was his potions lab, which she absolutely should not go poking around in without permission. There were some volatile (and illegal) things down there, and sometimes he had experiments in progress that might react badly to being interrupted. If she wanted to do some brewing, though, she was allowed, just ask first.

The next door was a bathroom — again, very old-fashioned, with a pedestal sink and a free-standing bathtub, the pipe leading to the showerhead exposed. It was the only bathroom in the house, and there unfortunately wasn't a lock on the door. (He said something about the lock being broken in an incident long ago and that he'd never gotten around to replacing it — why bother, he was the only one here — something about his tone telling Liz she very much did not want to ask.) If the door was closed, assume it was occupied. She was welcome to throw sealing charms at it should that make her more comfortable, there wasn't anything around here active magic would interfere with.

Any sealing charms Liz could put up would hardly be a deterrent against a mage like Snape...but it wasn't like a lock would be either. She'd just have to...try not to let that bother her. She could do that. Maybe.

The next door led out into the back garden. She could go out there to practise magic if she liked — Snape had put up wards to deflect the attention of his neighbours, and also contain the effects of the more destructive spells. She could toss around Unforgivables or, hell, cast bloody fiendfyre in there, the dissolving filters would contain pretty much anything, don't worry about it.

Though, he didn't know if the attention-diverting wards would prevent the Ministry from detecting fiendfyre cast so near muggles, so maybe not that one. From the faint note of sarcasm on his voice, Liz assumed that was supposed to be funny, and maybe it would be if she knew what fiendfyre was.

The last was a second bedroom, where she would be staying — he floated her trunk in while he spoke, dropping it at the foot of the bed. The drawers and the closet were currently completely empty, she could do whatever she wanted with the place so long as she didn't permanently damage anything. And, he wasn't kidding about everything being empty, the furnishings looked new. There was a faint smell of newly-varnished wood coming from the dresser, the surface clean and smooth, the (very modern) metal frame of the bed free of nicks or dings. There were some scrapes and scratches on the wood flooring, a few patches in the pale blueish wallpaper, but the dresser, the bed, and a couple shelves in the closet were pristine. She was willing to bet the mattress was new too, the blue and green sheets and blanket spread across it.

...

This wasn't what the room had looked like, a day ago. There must have been something else in here, but Snape had cleared it out, bought new furnishings to stick in here, specifically for her use. That was what he'd meant, earlier, when he said he'd spent the last half hour making arrangements.

She had absolutely no idea how to feel about this, either.

That concluded their tour, if Liz had any further questions Snape would be in the kitchen getting some damn coffee. And he walked out, across the little hall through the door back into the sitting room, leaving Liz alone in the bedroom.

It was only the second actual bedroom she'd had that she'd been given, that she hadn't needed to take. The only other one was her room at Hogwarts, which she wasn't certain should count — everybody in Slytherin got their own room, that was hardly special. So, the first one a person had given her, anyway. The cupboard definitely didn't count, she'd forced Vernon to let her have the guest bedroom, the various hotel rooms she'd stayed at... Well, she guessed the magical hotel she'd stayed at for a couple weeks, she hadn't had to take that room, but she had still been paying for it. Nobody ever just...put her up somewhere, just because.

It was...weird. And vaguely unsettling. She knew Snape considered it his job to look after the Slytherins, but this just seemed...a bit too much.

Liz actually did have questions — relatively easy questions about who escaped and what was going on, and impossible questions about why Snape was doing this and what was going on. But, right now she just...couldn't. She was still floaty from the calming potion, she could hardly figure out what she wanted to say anyway, and the whole thing was just so weird, and confusing, and she really just didn't want to talk to Snape right now. It could wait at least a few hours, a couple days even, for when she felt more capable of having that conversation.

So she pushed the door closed, pulled out another one of Ciardha Monroe's novels, and plopped down on the bed to read. Doing her level best to not think at all about where she was and what the fuck had just happened.

(It didn't work very well.)