Actions

Work Header

Harry Potter and the Berserker

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

October 31st, 1990

Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts grounds,

Hooves lightly trampled the forest floor before coming to a stop at a small ledge that dipped down into a muddy creek. The head of the man that made up the torso of the horse body looked up to the sky. Night had yet to fall making it much more difficult to read the heavens, but the sign from last night had kept Firenze watchful.

Last night the stars and planets had been strange to read, not at all like their usual patterns. It had almost been as though the worlds had started to overlap on one another. And on top of that, Mars seemed to be a bit brighter than usual. Granted it was Hallows Eve, one of the most magical times of the year, but this seemed beyond any magic known to centaurs. It seemed more ancient, more vast, more predestined. That was if magic had anything to do with it at all; it could be fate itself.

Firenze doubted the Wizards had thought anything of it. Their seers would misinterpret all the signs, as usual, never taking anything beyond their first assumption into account. It was a bit hypocritical of him to think that way considering his first impression had been one of foreboding and had not changed since.

The sound of more hooves galloping along the dirt came from behind the fair-haired centaur. "You have seen the heavens as well, Firenze?" A deep voice asked.

Firenze turned to meet the other centaur. "I have indeed, Bane."

"And?" Bane inquired. "What did you make of it?"

"Indecisive," Firenze coined. "The way they were arranged, I haven't seen anything of that pattern before. I was unsure of its meaning."

Bane clipped one of his hooves and scratched at the hair on his chin. "It would seem you're not the only one. Malaborne is contemplative as well. He's been meditating since last night. He recommended I do the same."

"Did you?" Firenze asked. He knew Bane to be one of the more headstrong and stubborn of their herd, but that did not mean he did not listen to the council of his fellow brethren.

"Indeed." Bane's reply was curt.

"And, do you believe that yielded any new insight on this strange occurrence?"

Bane huffed and kicked at the ground. "I am unsure. I thought to have seen a premonition while I was in my trance."

Firenze's tail lightly flicked from curiosity. "Trance visions are not to be taken lightly. Perhaps there is truth yet to be seen in the stars." Bane still looked unsure.

"And more often than not, they are just as failable as those seers. It wouldn't do to dwell on something that would prove fruitless." Did Bane actually sound, frightened? Firenze knew Bane to be many things, but afraid was not one he would use to describe his fellow centaur.

"What? What did you see?" Firenze persisted. "If you speak the truth, then it could shed light on this abnormality."

"Tell me, Firenze, how much of our history do you recall?" Bane asked, out of the blue.

"Our history?" Firenze questioned. "We are creatures of nature. We have always been. The forests have been our home for thousands of years. Our closest relatives in the world of magical beings are the satyrs, known for their musical talents."

Bane remained impassive. "A student from that Hogwarts could have answered as much. I expected more from you, Firenze. I meant our roots. How we came to be of this world."

Firenze racked his brain for the information. "I, believe we had migrated from a faraway land alongside many creatures muggles consider to be myths of old. Only a handful of our sister herd stayed behind on what became a small island." This time Bane looked more pleased.

"And how do you think we migrated? Our homeland is practically unreachable now, it exists in a land, not of this world. Instead, we now reside here, on this plane."

"And that is what you believe you saw?" Firenze questioned further. "Our first home?"

Bane was silent for a pause. "I thought I saw a large tree. And a white hawk."

#4 Privet Drive,

It would be unfair to call ten-year-old Harry Potter a normal child. Strange things always had a way happening to him. The incident when he had somehow evaded his Aunt Marge's dogs, and the time he escaped from his cousin Dudley's gang of friends by somehow ending up on his school's roof were two cases that came to mind. of course he never had an explanation as to how any of the stuff that happened to him actually happened. To another child, they probably would have answered saying that it was magic. Harry knew better than to say that.

The relatives with whom he lived, his aunt and uncle, the Dursley's absolutely despised the word magic. Whenever they heard it Aunt Petunia would turn white as a sheet-like she had seen a ghost, and Uncle Vernon would glower red with frustration while the veins in his fat neck and head would bulge. Harry guessed they reacted that way due to their relative "normal" way of living. everything had to be a certain way in their household; from the way, they ate meals, to the job Uncle Vernon worked, to the way they spoiled their son, Harry's whale of a cousin Dudley. Everything had to be perfectly normal.

And that was probably why they despised Harry the way they did. His raven black hair was always a mess no matter how it was cut and grew back at an alarming rate, His eyes, which were partly obscured by his thick-rimmed glasses, were a unique shade of emerald green, just like his deceased mother's as he heard Aunt Petunia mention once. And the most abnormal thing about him; the lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead.

Harry had had the scar all his life since he was an infant. The one time he asked about it he was told he got it the night his parents died in a car crash and had been, in Uncle Vernon's words: "Dumped on our doorstep and have been ungrateful ever since." Although Harry didn't really see what he had to be grateful for living with the Dursley's.

The place he called his room was a small cupboard under the stairs. There was room enough for a mattress but not much else. The second bedroom on the upstairs floor was out of the question since it was used to house all of Dudley's possessions; most of which his cousin broke a few days after receiving them. But that didn't matter; whatever Dudley wanted, Dudley got no argument.

No. Harry had little to actually be grateful for. Especially today, considering what day it was. Halloween. It was one of Dudley's favorite holidays because it meant he could pig out more than usual on free candy and sweets. It wasn't even nighttime yet and Dudley was already parading around the house in the costume his parents had bought him. Dudley was going as a very fat Superman.

"Oh, look at him Vernon," Petunia cooed as she watched Dudley run around dressed up in a costume he looked like he was about to spill out of in Harry's opinion. "Isn't he just precious?"

Uncle Vernon smiled from behind his thick walrus-like mustache. "Little tyke's all giddy with excitement, that's for sure. Dressed up like his favorite superhero and everything."

He should go as a whale, Harry thought, thinking the costume choice would be much better suited. But he knew it didn't matter, if Dudley wanted to wear a certain costume, then he would wear just that. But he knew Dudley cared little for the costume itself, he would just rip it later, it was all about the candy he would horde all for himself. And while Dudley was out Trick or Treating, Harry would be stuck home in the cupboard under the stairs.

"Boy!" Uncle Vernon hollered at him "Go grab the camera, I want a picture of Dudley to send to Marge this year." And with more than a slight smack to the back of the head, he sent Harry to retrieve the camera. When Harry brought it to him, he didn't receive so much as a thank you.

But it could have been worse. At least Vernon had called him Boy instead of the usual Freak. Those were the two names he was known as around the Dursley household. They never said why he was a freak, only that he was, and that his parents had been freaks too. They were always so quick to anger when it came to him; was that what made him a freak?

Harry watched as Petunia took photo after photo of his overweight cousin. It was getting closer and closer to nightfall, and Dudley was getting more and more anxious. "I want to go trick or treating now!" Dudley whined.

"You don't want to wait until it gets darker first ?" Petunia asked, but it was clear to Harry what the answer was going to be.

"No! I want to go with Piers, and when I get to his house it'll be dark." Dudley argued. And, Harry had to admit that was probably the most sound bit of logic he had ever heard Dudley speak.

"Alright then Dudders," Petunia called Dudley by the nickname she had given him. "I'll take you over to your friends' house. Will you be alright here, Vernon?"

"Of course, Tuney. Just so long as the boy keeps to his cupboard and doesn't make a ruckus." Harry could feel Uncle Vernon's beady gaze on him.

He nodded obediently. "I won't be a bother."

"Right you are," Vernon said, not shy at keeping the threat in his tone a secret. "Now go on. Get into your cupboard, Boy."

"Yes, Uncle Vernon," Harry answered as he undid the latch and shut the door behind him. almost cloaked by darkness, Harry reached above his head and pulled the chain that would turn on the single light bulb which hung from the bottom of the stairs. The light is dimly shown in the small cramped space, but just enough that anyone could see the dust particles floating around.

Harry heard the sound of Dudley running past the cupboard, followed by the sound of the front door opening. Plopping himself down on his mattress, Harry laid down. This would be how he would spend the rest of his night. It would be boring. While Dudley was out gorging himself on all sorts of sweets, he would be right here in his cupboard, trying hard not to make a sound while Uncle Vernon watched the telly in the other room.

Sighing in boredom, Harry reached under his mattress to pull out the few toys that he did have; a couple of knight figurines. They had originally belonged to Dudley, but he broke the lance on one of them and decided to just throw all three figures away. Harry saw him do it, and at night had snuck out of his cupboard to pick them from the trash.

He would occasionally make the figures do battle with each other, and he would usually let the white knight win most of the time. He still liked the black knight better because he thought it looked cooler, but he always saw the white knight as being the good one. But that didn't mean he didn't give the black knight a few wins too. After a few minutes of fake jousting, Harry set the figurines back where he had gotten them. Even though it wasn't that late, Harry could feel himself beginning to nod off; just out of sheer boredom.

Harry closed his eyes and began to drift slowly into sleep's embrace.

...

And he dreamed that he was a knight. He knew he was a knight, he was sitting atop a horse after all. Looking down at his arms, Harry saw they were covered by chain mail, and there was a dagger sheathed on his waist as well. But he wasn't the only one, oh no. He was in a line up with other knights dressed similarly to him.

But those Knights looked to be older than him by a few years. Some of them even held banners. The design was rather simple, a white sword with wings over a blue background. As the wind blew past, it sent ripples through the banners making the sword design almost resemble a bird of some sorts.

Just then, a war cry was given, and all the mounted knights charged forward giving yells of their own. Maybe because it was a dream, but Harry felt at ease riding a horse. On its back, Harry almost felt like he was flying, or gliding through the air. The sounds of swords clanging against each other weren't even enough to distract him from this newfound feeling of freedom. about the only two things that caught his attention was a massive man with short spiky black hair wielding a giant greatsword, who knocked three enemy knights from their mounts. Harry was glad he had dreamed that guy on his side.

The other was the man leading their charge. He was clad in white and silver armor, crafted in a slender but elegant design. On top of his head, he wore a hawk like a helm, from which Harry was able to see his pale flesh underneath through the eye and mouth holes. It had to be a dream. With the way they were dominating the battlefield, it had to be.

Even in a dream, there still had to be- Thunk!

Harry looked down to see an arrow piercing his chest. His grip on the reigns loosened. He was falling backward. So much for it being a- dream. The feeling of falling washed over him.

Sitting up bolt right, Harry found himself inside the cupboard under the stairs. Lifting his shirt, Harry checked himself for an arrow wound. Of course, he found none; some bruises, but no arrow. It had only been a dream after all. "Look, dad, look!" The voice of Dudley rang from in the living room. "Mum took me and Piers out to every neighborhood! Look at how much we got!"

"Atta boy Dudley!" Vernon praised his son. "And we got very few trick-or-treaters here this year, that means you can have our left over candy." Harry knew that was probably a lie. Tons of children came down Privet Drive during Halloween. Uncle Vernon probably only gave them a few pieces, keeping all the big candy for Dudley. Risking a glance, Harry peaked out of his cupboard.

All three Dursley's were gathered in the living room. Dudley sat on the floor, a pile of candy lay before him. Dudley's costume was ripped underneath the arms, but the boy hardly seemed to care. He had his candy, that's what was important. A quick glance at the clock showed him that it was about a quarter to midnight. Aunt Petunia must have kept them out as long as she could if they had just gotten back.

Slowly, Harry closed the cupboard door as to not alert his relatives he had been watching them. Plopping himself back down on the worn mattress, Harry threw the tattered cover over himself and waited for sleep to come once more. Maybe he would have that knight dream again. Even if it was a dream, and he could control what happened, he would still like to see how everything panned out. He wouldn't lose in his own dream. Closing his eyes, Harry prepared to reenter the domain of Morpheus once more.

Right away Harry could tell that it was different than before. He was no longer a knight, he was the same scrawny boy he was in real life, dressed in Dudley's oversized hand-me-downs. He was on solid ground, yet it felt like he rather weightless. Like if he were to jump, he might never come back down again. And then there was the mist. Much like his eyes, it was green in color, but carried a certain chill to it; almost as if it were rising from the grave. Whatever this new dream was, he didn't like it. Not one bit.

No matter which direction he looked, Harry was met with the mist. It looked like he was trapped in an endless void of the stuff. As the mist grew thicker, the less it began to feel like a dream, and instead more like a nightmare. He wanted to wake up. But how? Harry closed his eyes tight and counted to three he opened them. The mist still remained.

"C'mon," Harry urged himself, closing his eyes once more and counting now to five. Opening his eyes, nothing had changed. No. that wasn't entirely true. For a flicker of a second, Harry thought he could see a large dark shape moving through the mist to where he now stood. More terrified than ever before, Harry quickly closed his eyes once more, this time counting to ten. Before he even opened his eyes, he felt different. It wasn't a good different, but it was something. He would open his eyes and be back in the same old cupboard as before.

Harry opened his eyes to a horse. Not a regular horse, this one was larger, skeletal, and the same could be said to the rider who mounted it. The rider looked to a mix between a human skeleton and medieval armor. A sword hung from his waist and a shield on his arm. But what truly captivated Harry's attention were the glowing pair of red eyes emanating from his skull-like helm.

Feeling his heart rate start to accelerate, Harry found he could so nothing but simply stare up at the skeleton knight that stood before him. Despite knowing that this was all just some vivid dream of his, Harry's mouth felt completely dry and his legs unsteady. It felt as if he were to reach out, he would be able to touch and feel the bony nature of the horse. And perhaps that is what frightened him the most. The "Skull Knight" craned his head to look down upon Harry, assessing him with those glowing eyes.

"You are afraid." The Skull Knight stated, rather than asked in a deep yet hollow tone of voice. Harry's mouth was too dry to answer, his body too stiff to move. The mouth of the Knight hadn't opened to speak, yet it talked to him all the same.

"...I... d-d..." Harry at least managed to get out. He just wanted to wake up already.

Skull Knight seemed to understand. "You would be a fool if you weren't." He didn't say it sounding threatening, it almost sounded more... cautious.

"W-who... are... y-you?" Harry plucked up the courage to finally speak. His voice was weak compared to the Skull Knight's, he knew that, but at least it was better than before. Being in the presence of the Skull Knight made him feel weaker than he was. He didn't want to feel like that. This was all his dream, after all, he should sound strong. Right?

The Skull Knight seemed to ponder over his question as if to decide how to answer best. At last, he settled on: "A foe of those who would gorge themselves of humanity." Was he a friend of humans? Looking at his appearance gave the opposite impression. Harry shouldn't believe him, not yet. The Skull Knight could be a liar, someone who said they were a friend only to try and kill him before Harry woke up.

"...W-why are you in my... dream?" Harry questioned. It was a stupid question, he knew that. But when he felt a chill go down his spine every time the Skull Knight spoke was cause for concern. Skull Knight looked away from Harry and to the ever expanding mist that surrounded the pair of them.

"You do not know."

"...What?" Harry asked, reluctantly.

"In your world, it is the Eve of Hallows, is it not?" Halloween? Harry slowly nodded. "It is a strong day for magic. The layers have all but aligned on this night. The veil between layers, easy for those who have the means to influence the happenings." Harry felt more confused than ever. Layers? Veils? What was this knight talking about? And magic? There was no such thing. Uncle Vernon had made that clear many times when he had to physically reprimand Harry when he had once said the word.

"...Magic isn't real..." Harry spoke in a soft tone. The Skull Knight turned to look down on Harry. He had heard.

"You do not know." Once again it was more statement than a question.

"...Know... what?"

"Of your destiny. Of the power that you truly possess." Skull Knight paused. "Of those who wish you and your world harm." Did someone want to hut... him? Harry Potter; the boy who had no parents, and lived with his ghastly relatives? The boy whose room was the cupboard under the stairs? It was unreal.

"...You- you're wrong," Harry said trying to sound confident. He could almost feel the Skull Knight's glowing gaze on him as he looked to the ground. "I'm just... Harry. I'm not special. I don't have magic, and I don't have enemies. I'm... just-," and Harry felt it. It wasn't a tremor, no it was more like an a-a heartbeat. Low, and imposing, invisible, but there all the same. The chill that had come with the mist seemed to intensify.

"They know." The Skull Knight cryptically said.

"Wha? Who-?" Before Harry could finish, Skull Knight had grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him up onto the horse. "H-hey!" Harry protested as Skull Knight urged his horse onwards. "S-stop!"

"That would be unwise," Skull Knight warned. "Your destiny lies not with them."

"Who?!" Harry demanded. What was even going on?! He saw Skull Knight reach for the sword that was on his hip and pull it free from its scabbard. His eyes widened as he watched the jaw to the Skull Knight open before he proceeded to swallow the sword up to the hilt. When he pulled it free it was now glowing, and covered in various eyes, noses, and mouths. The sight made Harry want to throw up.

"You would interfere? In this world?" It was not the Skull Knight who spoke. The mist had begun to fade, leaving only darkness, but in that darkness, a voice came. It was expansive and eerie, much like an endless void.

Another voice spoke from the darkness; this one much more seductive and feminine. "And we thought it wasn't in your nature to do so. You know the law of causality, your majesty. And this young boy has such a colorful destiny indeed."

Two more voices spoke; one sounded more impish, and the other hollow. "You think we would offer him to become one of us?"

"It is not his destiny to do so. That lies to another."

Skull Knight spoke next. "And yet your presence is felt here. For what other reason to offer him one of your trinkets. And if not him, his rival, the one who marked him with this fate."

Skull Knight swung his sword down, and Harry had to close his eyes to keep the sudden glow out. The void like voice spoke again. "Destiny cannot be stopped. It is, some transcendental entity that governs all."

"Then you should know that this one's fate is set as it is," Skull Knight shot back, and spurred his horse forward to where he had cut with his sword.

When Harry opened his eyes, he was in a new setting. Gone were the cramped confines of his cupboard, the Dursley's chatting idly in the living room was nonexistent, number four Privet Drive was gone as well. He was on a grassy hill overlooking an expansive plain below which was playing host to a large campsite of sorts. Tents were pitched all around, and he could see various fires lit as their embers and smoke drifted off into the growing night sky.

Bony, but strong fingers grasped onto Harry as the Skull Knight set him down upon the ground. Harry immediately fell to his knees as he took the sight in for himself. It really hadn't been a dream.

"The wheels of causality have been set in motion," Skull Knight said. "Those unholy abominations shall see to it one way or the other."

"W-what...? What is this?" Harry asked. He couldn't keep the tremble out of his voice. He had gone from Privet Drive, probably for good. He had hated it for sure, but it had been where he had lived all his life. Not a home, not for him anyway, just a place of familiarity. This place... where even was he?

Skull Knight made to turn his horse around, away from the encampment below. "My world, within the astral layers of existence. Life here is much different than your own. Take heed, child, some dreams will only lead the path to hell." Skull Knight spurred his horse once more, "We will meet again, Wizard." and took off amongst the grassy hills, leaving Harry staring down at the sparking embers of the campfires below blow away in the breeze, just like the life he once had.

A/N: So that is the first chapter, and if you read the other fic I posted about this story, it is going off the first choice. And Harry will not be without magic if anyone was wondering. I do not know when the next chapter will be finished, but I don't plan to go on hiatus either. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Also Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Seconds turned to minutes, and minutes turned to what felt like hours. And Harry still remained on his knees, looking down at the camp below. More fires had been lit, the laughing and cheering had enhanced to new heights, and the smell of what he thought to be alcohol drafted to where he remained. Harry's eyes were never really good to begin with, hence his large glasses, but if he squinted the outlines of a few men standing vigil on the perimeter would be visible to him.

The sensation of being in a new environment coupled with the knowledge that Privet Drive was long gone caused a whirlwind of motion to swirl around within his head. On one hand, there were no more Dursley's. They were not around to degrade him, to make him their whipping boy, no more confining him to a small cupboard every day. But the only place he had to live was gone as well. Living in the cupboard was horrid, sure, but it still held a small comfort to Harry. Out of everything in Privet Drive, the cupboard was the one place that had been his own.

And then there was-this place. Harry didn't even know what to call it yet. All he knew was that it made no sense. A skeleton knight, disembodied voices, all this talk of fate and destiny, and now a scene that looked like it was plucked from one of the stories of King Arthur and Camelot. The absolute one thing he knew for certain was that he was alone. "Heh," Harry let out a scratchy half laugh as his throat and eyes suddenly felt very hot. Alone. Maybe this wasn't all that different from Privet Drive.

Running a hand through his already messy black hair, Harry closed his eyes and took a calming breath. He took another. And another. He kept that up until he felt his eyes and throat begin to relax. There was no point in crying over this, was there? It wasn't really even up to him to begin with. It was that Skull Knight. Where had he gone off to anyways? Looking over his shoulder, Harry saw no trace that the mysterious figure had left behind, other than his rather cryptic message.

Sighing Harry hung his head low with disappointment. rrrroow. Harry's stomach rumbled. Not surprising, he hadn't eaten all day; not at all like Dudley who was back at Privet Drive, probably stuffing his face full of candy this very minute. Harry spared another glace down at the encampment. Would they give him food if he asked for it? The people down there had been drinking, that much was obvious. And if they had been drinking they might act like Uncle Vernon, and even sober the man was a pain to be around.

Should he-steal some?

No! What was he thinking? If they were friendly and he stole from them, then that would make him a thief, plain and simple. Besides, he's been hungrier than this before, no need to try and steal food. As if to disagree, his stomach rumbled again.

"Quiet," Harry said to his stomach. Another rumble. He sighed once more. As he waited for the rumbling to recede. "Alright," Harry relented. He didn't like it, but what other choice did he have? He didn't know how to hunt for food, and he didn't have the faintest idea what direction the nearest town was in. "But only a little food." He didn't need a lot, just a little. Once he had that he would come back up here. After that he would probably have to follow the camp back to a town. And maybe then he could find out more about where he was.

As silently as he could, Harry made his way down the hill and towards the camp perimeter. The lack of light proved to be bit of a curse as Harry found himself hugging the side of a tent to avoid two hidden sentries. Both of them were dressed in medieval armor, and half helms upon their heads and they carried pikes but had crossbows hanging from their backs. They seemed to be having a conversation with each other.

"Huh? Just what kind of question is that?" One asked.

"Just curious, is all. Now c'mon who do you think would win; our soldiers, or the Black Dog Knights?"

"Us, of course," the one answered. "With Captain Guts, Big Sis Casca, and Griffith on our side we'd show those Black Dogs that they're just puppies at heart."

Once Harry was sure that they hadn't seen him, he clung to the side of the tent tightly and moved along. When he reached the flap he hazarded a peek inside. It was empty of people but full of barrels. Just a quick sniff told Harry that there was no food inside. Instead it smelled like some of the drinks Aunt Petunia had served to the neighbors. Wine. He closed the tent flap and quietly made his way over to the next tent.

This tent had a light coming from inside, and because of that Harry was able to discern the shape of a person inside from their silhouette. Not this one, Harry easily decided moving once again to the next tent over.

Before he got the chance to peek inside this one, a loud cheer was coming from around another tent. Acting fast, Harry ducked around another corner to avoid being spotted. A group of guys walked past. Some wore armor, but some had changed into basic clothing consisting of torn shirts and worn breeches. The man walking in front of the rest was one of the largest Harry had ever seen. It looked as if he possessed the upper body strength of a rhinoceros. Some gauze was tied around his bicep and around his head of short spiky black hair. He carried an over large great sword which he currently now rested across his shoulder. If Harry had to guess, this man could probably lift Uncle Vernon up by his neck with one hand!

"Let's hear it again for Captain Guts!" One of the men cheered. "Fiercest raider in all of the Band of Hawk!"

"Save it for the toast, Gaston!" another man lightly jested. "Tonight we drink to a job well done!" That earned another cheer from the group of men. Harry watched as they went inside the tent he had been at previously. Talk about timing.

With those men out of sight, Harry took a quick peek inside the next tent. Much to his delight this one was also full of barrels, and none smelled of wine or alcohol this time. Like a cat, Harry tiptoed inside and opened one of the barrels. Tomatoes. He opened another. Potatoes. Another. Cucumbers, garlic, apples, food. He found it!

He grabbed two apples, as well as a tomato. It wasn't much by any means, but it was more than the leftover scraps he would get from the Dursley's, and he knew it would certainly be enough to satisfy his stomach for the rest of the night and in to morning. Or maybe even midday if he saved some for later.

Harry pulled the tent flap open, and then shut it just as fast as someone came walking past. They kept walking, so Harry assumed that they hadn't seen him about to exit just then, something he was thankful for. That didn't mean it still hadn't given him a heart attack though. "It's okay," Harry assured him. "Just make it back. That's it." Making his way out of the tent, more cheering filled the air.

"Hey, Judeau! Show us that knife trick of yours!"

"Again, Corkus?"

"Not all the boys got a chance to see it last time! C'mon, y'know ya want to."

"...Alright, alright. Which trick was it?"

"Y'know, the one where you stab it between your finger without getting cut."

"Mm. Alright, now watch closely."

Whatever they were doing, the cheering began to intensify, as well as the sound of a knife poking a wooden table over and over again. That actually spelled good news for Harry. With the men distracted he could slip out nice and easy- "Oof!" Harry looked up at what he had walked into, or rather who.

It was the large muscle man from before, and as he stared down at Harry, he was able to take in the sight of all the scars that lined the man's exposed arms as well as a rather distinct scar that lay horizontal on the bridge of his nose. He looked even bigger and imposing than before, and the sword only added to that image.

"So, just what the hell are you doing here?"
-----------------------------------

Headmasters office, Hogwarts, Midnight-

The night had been going perfectly well. Albus Dumbledore had enjoyed the Halloween feast along with his staff and students. The House Elves had seemed to take on the challenge of one upping their meal from last year. The students, as well as the Wizarding World as a whole had been looking forward to Halloween considering it was one of the most magical times of the year. He however could not help but feel that despite all of the celebrations going on, that there was something off.

The first thing that came to memory was the fact that this was the anniversary of that night. The night when Voldemort murdered James and Lily Potter just to get at their infant son. Everyone in the magical community knew that story, it was one of the most infamous since Grindlewalds fall from power decades ago. It was the night Harry Potter became The-Boy-Who-Lived.

This feeling was different than mourning the loss of friends. No one at Hogwarts had said anything, but that did not mean that something was amiss. And Dumbledore could honestly say that he was stumped as to what it could be. It was just like some invisible veil in the air, like it had always been there, but was just now showing its presence. For as many positions Dumbledore held within the magical community, a religious seat was not among them; but if he did, he would have compared the feeling to being watched by some god from above.

It had him on edge. And rightfully so when some of the many ornate instruments that lined his office started to zip, twirl, flip, and fizz in many a bizarre manner. Checking to see which instruments were going off, the Hogwarts Headmaster was startled to see they were the ones that monitored the wards around Number 4 Privet Drive.

Harry! Dumbledore frantically thought as he rushed over to Fawkes' perch. The phoenix perked up at his approach and flew over to his outstretched arm. "Fetch Minerva and Severus at once!" He instructed. With a nod of his head, Fawkes flew straight into the fireplace and disappeared in a ball of flame.

In the short time that it would take both professors to floo to his office, Dumbledore began to pace back and forth, scenario after scenario playing in his mind's eye. He thought about remaining Death Eaters looking to exact revenge for their fallen master, but he countered that with the fact that the blood wards would have prevented an attack such as that. But the ward detector had been one of his instruments going off not a minute ago. Had Lucius Malfoy somehow used his influence to track down Harry's location and have a curse breaker remove the wards? No. Until Harry attended Hogwarts his address would be kept secret on the Hogwarts ledger. Had Harry perhaps run away from the home? Granted he knew firsthand from Minerva's report that the Dursley family was less than idea, but they were still the only family Harry had left. The treatment couldn't have been that drastic. Could it?

Dumbledore silently berated himself. For all of his wisdom, he was still as prone to hindsight as anyone else. The headmaster was broken from his ruminations by a green glow from within his fireplace to reveal his Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall wearing her trademark green robe. Another flash of green flame and his Potions Master, Severus Snape emerged. Dressed in all black robes and wearing a face of indifference.

"The hour is awfully late, Albus," McGonagall was quick to point out. "What was of such great importance?"

"I am curious as well, Headmaster," Snape said with a drawl. "Surely there was no late night prank by one of our students. My Slytherin's are all accounted for. But I wouldn't put it past those Weasley twins."

"This is far more concerning than a prank, Severus." Dumbledore dismissed the assumption. "We are to floo to Arabella Figg's home. A situation has arisen."

McGonagall looked flabbergasted for a split second, before changing to determination. She was the first to grab a handful of floo powder and toss it into the soot filled fireplace. Dumbledore followed quickly after and allowed the green flames to consume him. The floor felt as if it gave out beneath him, but he kept his expression as neutral as he could as he felt his feet touch solid ground once more as he now stood in a living room where cats of all different breeds lounged about.

"Albus?" Figg asked as she saw him materialize inside of her home. "What's this all about? Your headmistress was already out my front door before I could ask what was-," the fireplace sprouted green flames once more, and the Potions Master stepped out. "Three of you?!" Figg began again. "Albus, what in heaven is going on?"

"I will explain in good time, Arabella," Dumbledore assured her as he headed out of her door. "Something is not right tonight." With a pace that was surprising for a man his age, Dumbledore strode across the street to where the Dursley's resided. Minerva was already at the front door and had begun to knock.

"The holiday is over!" a man's voice called from the other side of the door. "We've no more candy!" Minerva persisted and knocked even harder. "Do you have any bloody idea what hour it is!" the man shouted once more, he sounded closer this time. Dumbledore heard a lock being undone. "If you keep banging on my door I'll call the-," Vernon Dursely stopped his would be rant when he saw the three Wizards standing on his doorstep. So the Dursley's were unharmed; that was good. It cut the chance that Death Eaters had taken Harry.

"Good night to you, Vernon," Dumbledore said keeping a good job at keeping the panic out of his voice. "May we come in?"

Vernon stood there with his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water as he began to sputter. "Wha… you… any idea… bloody… no! No! No! No! No! NO! You've come for him haven't you?!" Vernon pointed an accusing finger between the three of them. "You've come to take him off that-that school for freaks, haven't you?!"

"That isn't how our acceptance system works," Dumbledore replied evenly. "We were stopping by to check up on Harry. To make sure that he is well and-,"

"I won't allow it!" Vernon bellowed. "It was enough that we took the boy in when we did; we've given him a roof over his head and have lived our lives as best we can without any of your people interfering!"

"Vernon, who is it?" a woman's voice asked. When her husband did not answer within a few seconds, Petunia Dursley came into view holding a glass of warm milk. As soon as she saw who was there her glass shattered on the floor. Her eyes instantly locked onto Severus. "YOU!"

Hello, Petunia," Snape greeted with a sneer. "You look…," he took in her horse like appearance, "…the same as ever."

"They've come for him, Petunia!" Vernon told his wife. "They've come to teach the boy magic!"

"We only wish to speak to young Harry," Dumbledore tried his best to assure the couple. "And I don't personally believe it would bode well if your neighbors were to see individuals such as ourselves visiting at this late an hour." Dumbledore knew he had struck a chord with that one. Petunia's eyes instantly widened as she poked her head out the threshold to see if anyone she knew was watching.

"…You just want to check on the boy?" Petunia hesitantly asked. Dumbledore nodded.

"Petunia!" Vernon hissed.

"They won't leave until they do, Vernon." Petunia admitted allowing them entry. "Wait in the living room. I'll… fetch him for you."

"No need," Dumbledore told her. "I just need to make sure that Harry is here is all. If he is asleep there is no need to wake him. May we go upstairs?" The two Dursley's paled.

"…he doesn't sleep upstairs," Petunia said. She opened the cupboard that was under the stairs. Pushing down the feelings of anger that were starting to bubble up, Dumbledore strode forward and looked inside. Cobwebs adorned the space that was large enough only for a small mattress, which contained no sleeping child.

Minerva saw the site as well and rounded on the couple ready to release her ire upon them. "WHY YOU VINDICTIVE CUN-!"

"Minerva!" Dumbledore kept his voice clear, yet firm. As angry as she was at the two now terrified Dursley's, she could not be blinded by rage. "If you would, go outside and make sure the wards are still in place." He didn't leave that as a suggestion.

Fuming, McGonagall turned on her heels and stormed outside. "Severus, would you please keep an eye on our hosts?"

"Of course," Severus drawled once again ushering the two in the living room where he had them sit. Vernon did not appear being told to sit in his own home. Dumbledore meanwhile focused his attention back to the cupboard. How could this have happened? He should have paid a visit here much sooner than tonight. Minerva had been right all along. He drew his wand. There was no erasing what was already done, but he could still do his best to find Harry.

He muttered a string on incantations, moving his wand all over the cupboard space. Magic, no matter what kind always leaves traces. If this happened to be a case of an accidental apparition, then it would be easy to pick up. The challenge in that was figuring out where he had gone, or if he had gotten spliced along the way. Getting no response from apparition, Dumbledore shifted focus with his incantations to more outside forces. This time the result was much more responsive. A faint green glow appeared for only a second before fading as quickly as it had come.

Whatever had happened to Harry, he was a long ways away now. The question now, was where?

Harry walked silently in front of the muscular man, who guided him through the camp. They passed by many different men, some wearing armor, some not, but they all appeared to be drinking something or other. It looked like they were celebrating a great victory or something.
-------------------------------------------------------

"This way," the man said pointing to their left where a larger than average tent was pitched. It was easily two or three times larger than the others, and two banners hung on poled from either side of the flap. It was the design of a sword with wings coming out of the side. Harry's eyes widened. He had seen that same design before. It had been while he was having that dream.

"Hey!" The man all but snapped at him. "Quit staring already, c'mon." Swallowing a lump in his throat, Harry wordlessly followed behind. The swordsman pulled the flap open and made sure Harry went through first before following him in.

Inside was lit by two braziers as well as some candles that rested on a table in the center of the tent. Two people currently stood around the table looking over a map. The first was a woman with mocha skin and silky black hair that she kept short, just above her ears and wearing an armor breastplate and men's breeches. The second person was someone Harry wasn't even sure was real.

They had pale skin, with long snow-white hair and piercing blue eyes. The armor they wore was white and silver, slender and elegant. The helm rested on the table, it was circular and designed in the shape of a bird of prey. A hawk. Harry thought them to be a girl at first until they turned to acknowledge the two new presences and he saw that although the features were soft and feminine, there was an underlying masculinity to be found as well. But looking at all three of them together, Harry was surprised by how young they were. They had to be in their late teens at least, maybe no more than nineteen at the most.

"Ah, Guts," the white-haired one greeted the swordsman. His voice was soft, but still had a firmness to it that gave it authority.

The swordsman, Guts, replied. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" Harry saw the woman looked a bit annoyed with the addition of Guts.

"Actually, Griffith and I were just going over the strategy." She told Guts. "Seeing as you got injured, again, we decided to revise it. If you keep acting recklessly then you'll… who is that?" she stopped her verbal berating to take in Harry's presence.

"That's why I'm here," Guts told her. "Found him sneaking out of our storage. With these." He placed the food Harry took on the table. Three sets of eyes now stared at him. Whenever this had happened with the Dursely's he knew exactly what to expect from them. Petunia would berate him with verbal assault, Uncle Vernon was more hands-on discipline, and Dudley was a mix of the two of them. But for these people, Harry really had no idea what to expect.

"I'm sorry!" Harry shouted. "I didn't want to steal your food, I was just hungry. I… I was lost and didn't know where to go and… I'm sorry." His apology probably wouldn't mean anything to them. And the anxiety of what was going to happen to him took hold, when the one clad in white armor, Griffith, came and knelt down so he was at eye level.

"You snuck into our camp to steal this?" Griffith held up one of the apples.

Harry averted his eyes. "…Yes."

Griffith wore a mask of pure indifference as he studied Harry, and then did something none of them were expecting. He chuckled. It wasn't a sarcastic or condescending chuckle. No, it was a pure, innocent, childlike chuckle. It was so unexpected Harry looked at him in surprise.

Chuckling some more Griffith said, "It looks like we have the making of a master thief before our eyes. Right, Casca?" The girl composed herself.

"Griffith, he could be-," Griffith stopped her with a smile. A childlike smile that seemed impossible for a knight like him.

"I think if he were a Chuder spy, he would have looked to stealing information or lives instead of food." Griffith smiled at Harry. "It's a little rude that we keep talking about you without even knowing your name, don't you think?"

"Um…" Harry had not been expecting this. Screaming, yes. Threatening, yes. Torture, maybe. But not to be dismissed as just being a kid.

"Would you e more at ease if we introduced ourselves first?" Griffith asked. "My name is Griffith, leader of the Bank of the Hawk. This here is Casca," he gestured to the girl, "my second in command. And Guts." The swordsman briefly glanced at Harry.

"…I'm Harry." Griffith took the second apple from the table.

"And I take it you're also hungry?" He handed Harry an apple. Harry accepted it but did not bite into it. "Something wrong?" Griffith asked, taking a bite out of the other apple. "They really are in season."

Putting it to his mouth, Harry took a bite. The faint rumble of his stomach somewhat receded as he swallowed, but soon demanded more sustenance. He took another bite. And then another. Griffith chuckled again.

"I don't think I've seen horses eat apples that fast. You really were hungry." Harry bashfully nodded.

"I really am sorry," Harry apologized once more. "I shouldn't have stolen from you."

"So what are we going to do with him?" Guts asked looking at Harry from the corner of his eye causing the boy to pale once more.

"Hm," Griffith stood up and put a finger to his chin. "I have a few ideas in mind." He looked down to Harry. "Nothing bad I assure you. But you have to choose one. Would you like to hear them?" He could actually feel his heartbeat against his ribcage. Griffith said he wasn't going to do anything bad, but was going to let him choose what was going to happen. "Three choices for three pieces of food. Does that sound fair?"

Griffith was a complete stranger. Harry's school teachers had always hammered it into his head that you shouldn't trust strangers no matter what. But Griffith also seemed so… childlike. From the way he smiled and the way he laughed, it was like a child was made taller and put into a suit of armor. But when Griffith stood up it was like he had matured. He was giving Harry a choice, talking to him almost as if they had known each other from some time before.

Harry nodded. "…alright."

A/N: So that is the second chapter. What do you think the three choices will be? Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

A faint ghost of a smile moved across Griffith's pale face. "Very well. The first choice I offer you is this; since you are clearly away from your home I'd be able to spare you a horse so that you may travel back to where you are from."

"I... don't know how to ride," Harry confessed. The Dursley's had gone horseback riding one time over the summer, but they had left him with Ms. Figg and her litter of cats. He had seen the pictures later on and it looked like the pony Dudley had been riding could hardly support his weight. The same could even be said for his uncle.

Griffith looked as if he had been expecting that response. "Not everyone does. But, that does lead to your second choice. To have a few riders take you back to your village."

"My ho-," Harry paused and corrected himself, "-village, it-it isn't around anymore."

Casca blinked in recognition. "Your an orphan of war, aren't you?"

"My parents died in an accident when I was a baby," Harry told her, recalling the story Aunt Petunia had told him when he had once asked where his parents were. "I had to live with my aunt and uncle after. And after... some things happened, I ended up here." It wasn't a lie, not really. His parents had died in an accident, he had lived with his relatives, and he could not go back to where they were now.

"Hm. I see." Griffith contemplated Harry's words. "Then that leaves you with the third option, doesn't it?" Strangely enough, both Casca and Guts seemed a bit curious as to what Griffith was going to offer next."

"Griffith," Casca said. "You aren't actually going to offer him-,"

"A chance to travel with us back to the capital." Griffith settled on. Casca visibly relaxed and seemed satisfied with the option, and Guts remained stoic and impassive. "We ride out at first light tomorrow. And seeing as how you can't ride on your own, you'd have to either ride in a wagon or with one of our men."

It certainly seemed the best choice out of all of them, but there was the question of, "What would I do in the capital?" Harry asked. He doubted that it would be anything like London, not that he had ever been, but still.

"Since you've said you don't have a family, you'd probably end up in an orphanage," Guts bluntly stated. Harry inwardly cringed. Uncle Vernon's sister, Aunt Marge, would always say that if he had ended up on her doorstep she would have sent him to an orphanage. And if that was the worst thing Aunt Marge could think up then it couldn't be good news.

"That, or try and become an apprentice," Casca offered. "There are smith's there that could use an extra pair of hands."

"Couldn't have said it better," Griffith smiled to the both of them. "They may not be much, but those are your choices."

It didn't even really feel like a choice at the moment. The third one was his best bet seeing as he had nothing else, but then what? Become another face in an orphanage? Or maybe a child of the street seeking to survive by any means? Being an apprentice could be alright. At least that way there would be someone to look out for him.

"I... guess I have to pick the last one." Griffith nodded.

"I understand. I can't guarantee you that it will be ideal, but it will be better than surviving out here I wager." Griffith turned to Casca. "Would you be willing to offer our guest a spot in your tent? He'll need an extra bedroll of course."

Casca seemed hesitant."...Of course, Griffith. Follow me then." She turned him back to the way he had entered and led him back out. Guts watched her depart and turned to Griffith.

"Do you really buy that story he was putting out?" Guts asked. The boy had sounded scared when first addressing them, it was to be expected, but it was almost like he was holding back on some parts.

"I believe he was telling the truth," Griffith answered, "from a certain point of view."

"Kinda like he didn't believe it all himself." Guts further supplied.

"Exactly."

"And you're hoping Casca might be able to get more out of him?" Guts guessed.

"Her loyalty and judgment have never been called to question before," Griffith told him. "If she feels up to the task that is her call to make."

Guts shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. For all of her nagging, she knows how to do her job right." That caused Griffith to chuckle.

"You two still get along like a house on fire, I see."

Guts gave a small roll with his eyes, not that Griffith seemed to mind. "I think she was honestly worried there for a second." Griffith gave a tilt of his head, seemingly confused. "She probably thought you were going to offer him a spot in the Hawks."

"Oh. While the prospect of more soldiers is always a welcome one, I'm not quite sure we could trust him with a burden like that."

"Because he was stealing?" Guts asked.

"No," Griffith said. "Because of what we were just discussing, his story. There's not a doubt in my mind that he was indeed alone, looking at the state of his clothes was proof enough. He didn't have that look of a child who had seen war. You know firsthand how battles can get. If the time came, would he be willing to take a life to save his own? Would he be willing to die for a cause bigger than himself?"

"Hm." Guts mulled it over. That was Griffith for you. If you thought he was going to do something, he would surprise you and do what you wouldn't expect. Any other leader would have taken the boys hands for stealing, and Griffith smiles at him and offers him a choice. Other mercenaries would see value in child soldiers. Gambino, Guts thought before quickly pushing the memory away. Griffith saw how his men would play into his dream. The dream of having his own kingdom and the path he would take to get there. "Can't argue on that one."

Griffith smiled. "Enough talk about such things. The night is still young, why don't you go celebrate with your men?"

Guts nodded. "Won't be much celebration as it is supervision. Gaston is probably already shit-faced and if he and Cassian get into it all the other raiders will want to get in on the action as well."

"Well if that's the case then they'll need their fearless leader to straighten them out, won't they?"

"That is if they're still sober enough to listen to reason."

"Yet another challenge to overcome," Griffith lightly joked as the two of them exited the command tent to walk among the celebrating Hawks.

Standing off to the side, Harry watched as Casca lay down an extra bedroll for him within her tent. It didn't look all that comfortable, in fact, it was more or less the same size as the mattress he had in his cupboard, but leaning a bit more toward the larger side of things. There was no pillow, just an additional fabric sewed onto the piece that stuck out of the folded sheet. Harry would say it looked like a very early version of a sleeping bag. Fitting seeing they were in a tent.

It was nowhere near as big as the command tent had been, but it was still of modest size. "You'll probably want to sleep," Casca told him, standing over her own bedroll. "We have an early start tomorrow so it's best to get some rest."

Giving a small nod, he knelt down and was prepared to throw the cover over himself when he caught sight of Casca staring at him. Had he done something wrong? "Are you really going to sleep in those?" She indicated the over sized clothes. That's what was bothering her, his clothes?

"Well- I've done it before. Lots of times." Harry told her. It was no big deal really. Casca, however, did not seem too satisfied.

"Stay here," she commanded before exiting her tent. after about a minute or two, Casca returned. She carried two pieces of clothing with her; a white tunic and a pair of tan breeches. She tossed them to Harry. "Here, try those on."

He held them up to examine them but made no move to get undressed. "Look, if you're uncomfortable just face away from me and change," Casca instructed. "There's nothing for you to be nervous about, you've made your choice of what you wanted to do."

Slowly, Harry faced away from her. He shrugged off Dudley's over sized button down, and the stained tee shirt underneath. He lifted the tunic onto himself and found to his surprise, it fit much better than his previous garments. Next came the trousers. after quickly dropping his own pants, he put on the new ones. They felt- nice. Comfortable even. Sure they had a few holes and were a little big on him, but it was still a better fit than before.

"Thank you," Harry said. He wanted to sound grateful, but not too enthusiastic, but it ended up sounding a bit flat. They were the first clothes that hadn't been worn by Dudley previously.

"Don't thank me," Casca told him. "Those belong to another boy here, Rickert. He's got a similar build to you and is only a few years older too. You're eleven, right?"

"Almost ten and a half," Harry admitted.

"Really?" She asked, and he nodded. "That's awfully young to be out on your own. You must have been wandering for some time given the state of your clothes."

"Not too long," said Harry. Again, it wasn't really a lie. "They belonged to my cousin, Dudley."

She held up the over sized tee shirt. "He seems... well rounded." Harry tried to suppress a laugh, but couldn't.

"I guess."

Casca nodded and put the shirt back into the pile of Harry's old clothes. "Sleep in Rickert's clothes. They fit you better, and it's cold out tonight." Casca undid the straps on her breastplate and armguards and set them down next to her own bedroll. She slid off her boots until she was dressed in just a dark pink tunic and brown breeches. She climbed into hastily set up sleep space.

"Try and get some sleep now," she told him. "Like I said, we have an early day tomorrow." Harry climbed inside his own bedroll.

"Alright." He removed his glasses and set them on the open grass to the left of his head. He shut his eyes. The cheering from outside the tent died down just enough for Harry to feel sleep's embrace coming for him, only to have the noise pick right back up again and snap him back to being awake. this cycle continued for what felt like hours when it was probably only a half.

How was Casca dealing with the noise? Harry turned his head to look over at the tents other occupant. Casca slept on her back, seemingly unfazed, or just used to the noise caused by her fellow soldiers. But it was a flicker of firelight from outside the tent that he saw. One of Casca's dark eyes was open just enough that she kept his form in her sights. It was almost as if she expected him to try to sneak out in the middle of the night.

Harry quickly rolled over in the small roll to face away from her gaze. Maybe that's why Griffith wanted him to be in her tent. Because he knew that she wouldn't fall asleep until he was. And it worked.

Hogwarts, Headmaster's Office,

A half empty bottle of Fire Whiskey sat on Dumbledore's desk and an empty glass rested in the headmaster's hand. While Dumbledore was nowhere as young as he had once been, the recent disappearance of Harry Potter had him feeling fifty years plus what he actually was. It had been a while since he had a drink, and nothing Madam Rosmerta had was strong enough. He actually had his brother send him the bottle.

Perhaps he shouldn't have drunk as much as he did. Because if the alcohol wasn't giving him a headache, Minerva was doing a good job of seeing it done.

"And you say you have no idea how this could have happened?" Minerva kept her tone level, but Dumbledore could tell that she was going to snap sooner or later. And judging by the way her mouth was as thin as a line, it was going to be sooner.

Severus stood to the side, watching the deputy headmistress pace about the office keeping his face as unreadable as possible. Dumbledore was glad Severus had been much more level-headed than his second in command, but seeing as the matter pertained to James Potter's son might have had something to do with it. There was no love to be found between Severus and James, but Severus had done all that was instructed by him. Probably more for the memory of Lily than anything else.

"It has been two days, Albus," Minerva reminded him. "And you have not found any results?"

"Exactly," Severus spoke. "It has only been two days. Not even a wizard as powerful as the Headmaster would be able to come across all the results in that time. If you truly want to see Potter returned then you must have patience."

"I am not asking for all the results, Severus." Minerva lowered her voice when addressing the head of Slytherin. "I only ask for one. Just enough for us to go off so that we know what we're dealing with."

"You trust Dumbledore's abilities do you not?" Severus asked her. "And if you do, you will allow him to continue his search in private."

Minerva narrowed her eyes at the man. "You are in no rush are you, Professor Snape?" Her tone shifted once more, this time sounding closer to snapping. "Just because he is the son of James you would let your hatred for his father cloud your judgment of the boy?"

Dumbledore raised his wrinkled hands to stop an argument from breaking out. "That is enough. Arguing amongst ourselves will only set us back from finding young Harry, not progress it."

"Albus, we cannot find the boy if we are not all working to the same end," Minerva sent a small glare Severus' way.

"Please, Minerva." Dumbledore tried to calm her. "The only thing that I've been able to find in that short time frame has been a theory. One of my own design." Both professors looked at him expectantly. "Merlin."

"Merlin, Albus?" Minerva asked, confused. "What does Merlin have to do with any of this?"

Dumbledore cleared his throat before continuing. "In the height of his power, Merlin essentially gained an understanding of all layers of magic. So much so that he believed different worlds to-overlap in a lack of better words. On days of strong magical importance, such as Halloween, Merlin believed the veil between layers to be at its weakest. He was rumored to have traveled to one of those other words when visiting Stonehenge. It is considered a crackpot theory by the Ministry but, When has magic ever truly made sense?"

Light poured over the grassy green hills as The Band of the Hawk began to pack up camp and saddle up for their journey back to the capital, Windham. Any leftover campfires were stamped out before the men donned their armor and other equipment. Guts sheathed his great sword behind his back and clasped his cape to his armor.

He caught sight of Griffith, already fully armored and patrolling around the camp on horseback. Casca was just putting her armguards on while the boy, Harry, stood off to her side watching her do so. It looked like Casca had given him some of Rickert's clothes in place of those oversized rags he had worn before.

"Sleep well?" Guts asked her. She sent a small glare his way.

"No thanks to your men. They were up until midmorning cheering."

"I told them to keep it down," Guts told her.

"Maybe do a better job of it next time." Casca practically snapped at him. Guts was about to retaliate but remembered she had essentially got stuck babysitting all night. She was probably looking for somebody to argue with because of it.

"I'll keep that in mind." Guts said to her before walking away to saddle up his horse.

Once Guts mounted his steed he reined his horse over to his fellow raiders. They were to be near the front of the formation, just behind Griffith and Casca. Once all the men had saddled up and the gear all packed into the back of wagons, Griffith led the band Northwest, back to Windham. As he moved his horse up to the front of the formation he saw the Hawks youngest member, Rickert, sitting in the back of an open end carriage alongside Harry. The boy seemed more at ease around a kid his age.

"Thank you for lending me these clothes," Guts heard Harry say to Rickert.

"Of course!" Rickert excitedly told him. "It isn't often I get to see other kids. I'm only twelve, going on thirteen. What about you?"

"Ten. Going on eleven though."

"That's neat!"

Guts spurred his mount once more and managed to fall behind Griffith on the left while Casca took the right. One look at Casca told Guts she was still a bit peeved about the noise his men had made, but she would get over it soon enough. Griffith would thank her for keeping watch on the boy for the night and she would forget about it soon after.

"Glad you could join us," Griffith smiled from behind his rounded hawk-like helm. The band followed behind them. Guts nodded in acknowledgment. Casca gave a small, but a begrudging nod to Guts as well. "We'll be passing through a short valley of small hills. Chuder forces are cleared from this area after our last victory, but it's also an ideal place for bandits to strike."

"Do you need me to scout ahead?" Casca volunteered.

"No," Griffith told her. "Let Judeau."

"Of course, Griffith." Casca nodded obediently and directed her horse to move back to relay the order to their fellow soldier. Not long after, Guts saw the blonde haired man lead a group of seven mounted men ahead of the formation and into the shallow valley path. Griffith gave the signal for the formation to slow their march. They would await Judeau's signal before they advanced.

"He won't find anything," Guts heard the voice of Corkus say to Rickert and by extent, Harry as well. Their wagon had caught up close to the front of the formation. "After our victory in this area, no one would be stupid enough to try and raid us. From here on its smooth riding back to Windham, and to all those brothel girls too."

Corkus always had been a bit too arrogant when it came to the might of the Band of the Hawk. Like when Guts had been a lone mercenary. He and a few others had tried to rob him and most wound up dead or mutilated. If Griffith hadn't intervened, Corkus would probably be dead.

As if to just spike Corkus' good mood, a horn was blown.

Whaaaaaa! Whaaaaaa! Whaaaaaaaa!

Three blasts. Danger ahead.

Guts put his helm on and drew his sword. Griffith and Casca drew theirs as well. Judeau and his team were spotted riding over one of the hills, armed with crossbows they fired off their bolts at a band of enemy riders dressed in gray armor and tattered brown capes. Some of the bolts found their mark and the enemy riders fell dead from their mounts. One of the one bandits pulled out a horn of their own and gave forth a long bellow.

Soon enough, the hills were alive with the shouts and jeering of other bandits as they rushed down to ambush the Hawks.

"Raiders, with me!" Guts yelled as he spurred his horse to cover the left flank. One of the bandits rushed Guts, and before he could raise his sword, Guts had already brought his down. Bone, blood, and brains stained the green grass below as Guts pulled his sword free and cut another bandit across the chest. Guts' sword cut through the man's armor like butter.

"On the captain!" Gaston cheered the other Raiders forward as well.

Trying to get the advantage over him, two bandits charged Guts from the sides. As they both swung their sword in horizontal arcs, Guts acted fast and ducked underneath their swings and ending up behind them. And with a single swing from his sword, Guts took the head of one and the upper torso of the other.

More bandits came to him, but with the addition of Guts' Raiders, they were able to trap a portion of them in a circular formation and begin to pick them off. Blood splattered across Guts' helm as his sword disemboweled yet another bandit. Sparing a glance toward the center of the Hawks formation, Guts saw that Casca and her men were taking care of the right flank.

She moved similarly to Griffith on her horse. She would wait until the enemy swung at her before moving inside the strike to cut the throat. A decent number of bandits lay before her horses' hooves.

Judeau and his scouts had met up with Pippin, the largest member of the Hawks, and were forming a defense along the wagons. Rickert still sat in the back of one of the wagons, but he was working on loading crossbows and handing them out to Corkus' troops. It looked like he was telling Harry how to do so as well.

Griffith had taken a handful of men and was now pushing forward. His strikes precise and deadly, his sword cut not only the neck but also at the chinks in the armor. Blood would spurt from the wounds and the riders would fall from their horses not long after. The only blood that stained Griffith's white and silver armor was that of the enemy.

And that's when Gut's saw it, a lone crossbowman sat mounted on a small hill with Griffith in his sights. Without a second to lose, Guts charged forth, cutting down two, three, four more bandits; paying no attention to the cuts he had just received on his already scared forearms. All that mattered now was killing that Bowman before he shot Griffith.

Thunk!

A crossbow bolt now protruded from the bandit's neck. Guts turned to where it had been fired and saw a very green faced looking Harry sitting in the back of the wagon, holding a crossbow Rickert had handed to him.

Griffith looked to the dead bandit as well and then to Harry. He must have connected the dots. For when Guts rode down to meet with his leader he saw from behind the helm, a look upon Griffith's flawless face. And Guts knew that Griffith's opinion of Harry had changed in that moment.

A/N: So that's the third chapter, Thank you to everyone who has favorited, followed, and reviewed so far. Chapter 4 will be out as soon as possibl

Chapter Text

A/N Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

From strength in numbers and a masterful counterattack formation, the Hawks were able to pick off any last stragglers of the bandits. From the back of the wagon Harry saw Guts cut down at least three more men as he met up with Griffith who gave the former a reassuring nod. Griffith might be fine, but Harry was experiencing quite a different feeling. His hands shook, still holding the crossbow and remained pointed at where the one bandit had once been. Barely even a minute ago, he had taken his first life.

The eyes of the man he had just killed were wide open, but stared lifelessly up towards the vast blue sky. A pool of thick red blood was seeping out of his neck and starting to stain the green grass below. It was a sickening sight and it took Harry every ounce of his willpower not to throw up at the sight, which despite its gruesome nature, seemed impossible to turn away from. But it was the knowing that he was the one to cause such a sight that truly caused a whirlwind of emotion to flood his head.

Killing was wrong. He and every other child had had that lesson embedded into their head at an early age. The cartoons that Dudley would watch would feature villains who tried to blow up the world, and the James Bond films that Uncle Vernon enjoyed always featured the bad guy as a murderer. And here he was, a boy of ten who just shot a man with a bolt. Did that make him as evil as a villain?

But he had done it to save somebody.

He had saved Griffith, hadn't he? Someone was alive because he acted.

But Griffith was also a stranger. And Harry saw Griffith cut down some of the men attacking as well. He was a killer too.

But, they were the one's under attack. Didn't that mean they had a right to defend themselves? And Griffith might be a stranger, but he was also nice to Harry, giving a choice of what he wanted to do when he easily couldn't have. He had killed to save.

How though?

How was it that he, a boy who never even held a crossbow before today, was able to hit a man on his first shot? The only thing Rickert had shown him had been to load the weapon and pass it to the soldiers. Could he have picked it up from watching them? He must've, it wasn't anything too complicated; just point and shoot. So why didn't he believe that? Maybe it had to do with Griffith. Harry had shot just before Griffith's would be killer would have; in some strange way it was like an unseen force had guided Harry's aim just right so Griffith wouldn't die.

"...some transcendental entity that governs all..." Harry vaguely recalled the vast void like voice from when the Skull Knight had taken him. Could it be that-?

A hand was placed on his shoulder, an act which partially snapped Harry out of his thoughtful trance. Looking back, Harry saw it belonged to a young blonde haired youth with some freckles decorating his nose and cheeks. A bandolier of throwing knives was strapped across his chest. Rickert seemed to recognize him right away.

"Judeau!" The fellow blonde greeted. The youth now known as Judeau nodded to the boy.

"Glad to see you okay, Rickert." His voice was smooth and kind. "And you too. You're Harry, right?'

Harry in turn just nodded back. Now that he was broken from his trance Harry realized how dry his throat really was. Judeau seemed to pick up on it and handed him a pouch of water. Harry eagerly accepted and took a long uninterrupted sip.

"Th-thank you," Harry said, his voice sounding more than a little hoarse.

"Don't mention it," Judeau told him. "I saw what happened. It's not easy, especially for someone as young as you." Judeau then patted him on the shoulder in a reassuring manner. "But you have our thanks because of it."

"Yeah!" Rickert chimed in as well. "The first time it happened with me I threw up on Corkus' boots."

"What happened?" Harry asked, intrigued. It sounded like Rickert knew exactly how he was feeling right now.

"Almost exactly like yours," Rickert confessed. "I had a crossbow, and an enemy was coming right at me. I don't even remember looking when I fired, it just happened."

For what it was worth, it helped a little bit. From the short time he spent with Rickert in the back of the wagon Harry knew he wasn't a bad kid. Not once had he made fun of him like the kids Dudley was friends with like Piers. If anything he behaved the exact opposite; polite, well spoken, a bit shy but still easy to talk to.

"So, it was okay what I did?" Harry tentatively asked. Judeau had thanked him sure, but he didn't say it proudly.

"Killing? No," Judeau honestly told him. "But that doesn't mean that it wasn't wrong either."

"Huh?" Harry was confused.

"Hm, how can I put it?" Judeau asked himself. He pondered for a few seconds and snapped his fingers. "There are good people and bad people in the world right?" Harry nodded, understanding that much. "And sometimes good people do bad things, and vice versa right?" Another nod. "Well a good person can do a bad thing and still be good person, do you know why?"

"Why?" Harry asked.

"Because as long as they acknowledge what they've done is wrong, and it wasn't easy for them to do, they still might be a good person."

"It wasn't easy," Harry said, more to him than to the two others. "Does that mean you think I'm a good person?"

Judeau smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. "Shooting a man to save someone you only just met, I think that speaks miles of your character." And for the briefest of moments, Harry allowed himself to smile back.

Wheeeeeeee!

One of the soldiers whistled, gaining Judeau's attention.

"C'mon, Judeau!" one of them shouted. "We still have to scout ahead!"

"Right." He turned to Harry before he left. "Duty calls I'm afraid. I'll check back once I return."

As Judeau departed another approached. This one all too familiar, decorated in their pure looking armor. Griffith removed his helm and let his mane of flowing white hair loose to billow slightly with a passing breeze.

"Well," Griffith began, "it has been an eventful morning now, hasn't it?"

Harry could only nod whilst Rickert watched them. His eyes holding nothing short of admiration at seeing Griffith. This time Griffith looked directly at Harry while speaking. "It would seem that I'm in your debt. I was just talking with Guts, he says it was you who killed my would be assailant, was he wrong?"

"No," Harry said, his tone a bit flat as the memory replayed in his head. "He wasn't."

"I thought not. Guts' battlefield instincts are unparalleled by any one of us here." Griffith seemed to speak with admiration at the large warrior who Harry noticed to be watching them from a distance. "But I'm also curious," he fixed Harry with an inquisitive stare, "How was it you were able to learn to shoot so quickly?"

"I was- actually wondering the same thing myself," Harry honestly told him. "I just-just shot at where he was. I didn't even think it would hit, but it was like-," Griffith was looking at him to finish that thought. "Like something had just guided my hand."

It felt like an eternity of being under observation of Griffith's gaze, until the young man let out a mixture of a sigh and a laugh. "It sounds to me like luck." He said in a joking tone, but with some seriousness added in as well. "I guess my good luck charm really does work!" Griffith pinched a string around his neck and fished a piece of jewelry out from under his armor.

It was small and egg shaped, and was a blood red crimson color with various facial features scattered all over it. Griffith looked at it fondly. "It was a gift from an old fortune teller. She called it, The Egg of the King. I've considered it my good luck charm since its rumored to give you the power of God."

Harry stared, transfixed by the piece of jewelry that Griffith held. It was by no means attractive, but it stood out. As it rotated a little on the rope, for the briefest of seconds, Harry could have almost sworn he saw one of the eyes open to stare at him with a piercing blue iris. He nearly fumbled backwards and when he blinked, the eye was closed shut.

"It would seem that fate was on my side, wouldn't it?"

"Oh, yeah," Harry was glad when Griffith tucked the red jewel back under his armor.

"But talk of fate aside, I truly am grateful." Griffith gave him a close lipped smile. "Anything you would have of me, do not hesitate to ask."

It seemed such a jarring experience to Harry. For all the work he had given to the Dursley's by cooking their meals, tending the gardens, and cleaning the house, he never so much as received a "thank you" in return. Yet now he wore the clothes of someone who willingly shared, comforted by a complete stranger, and now told he held the favor of a knight. The change was so out of Harry's comfort zone that he seemed to respond on autopilot and said, "That's fine. You don't owe me anything."

"I appreciate your modesty, but there must be something I can offer in return? I prefer to live my life debt free."

"Why don't you let him join with us?" Rickert asked, with all the naivety of a boy his age.

What?! Harry internally bemused. What was Rickert saying?! Him, Harry, a scrawny boy in an army of fierce warriors. Griffith was sure to shoot down the suggestion any second. What was Rickert even saying?!

"Well, I wouldn't entirely be opposed to it," Griffith casually stated, causing Harry to do a brief double take. He couldn't have possibly heard that right. "It wouldn't be as safe as an orphanage or apprentice back in Windham, but you would be given a share of gold for your service." No, he had heard right, it was the believing it part that was throwing him for a loop.

"I don't- why?" Harry questioned. "Why would you want me? I was caught trying to steal from you before."

Griffith looked past Harry and pointed with a gloved hand toward a dark haired man who was probably in his twenties, but his haggard face made him look older than that. "See that man over there?" Harry nodded. "That's Corkus. He used to be part of a thieves guild before he joined up with us." Corkus briefly looked to where Griffith was; allowing Harry to see that the man had a very shifty look in his eyes. "But now Corkus stands as one of my most vocal of supporters. Any guess as to why?"

"No." Harry shook his head.

"Because he knows there's more to his own life than petty theft. Him, and everyone else here, they're all dedicated to a cause much larger than themselves; a dream, my dream. To one day have my own kingdom, and they are willing to fight to see it through to fruition." Griffith paused to allow him to absorb the information.

"I will admit I had my doubts about you," he continued. "I didn't see you as a boy who could handle the battle field; perhaps I was wrong. You may not be a warrior as fierce as Guts, but that doesn't mean you would be without purpose. With time, you could prove to work with Rickert in supply and reserves, but that does not guarantee your safety." Griffith looked at him now with all seriousness. "But above all, I need to know that you would be willing to help me achieve that dream as every other man here has done." He extended his hand to Harry. "The choice is yours."

Guts eyed the outside wall of the capital, Windham, as the Band of the Hawk made their approach. The flag of Midland hung proudly over the side; consisting of a waning moon, a sun, a lightning bolt, and three stars all centered around a tower in the center. He spied the sentries atop the battlements, who blew a horn to signal their return. The drawbridge was lowered and the portcullis raised allowing them entry to the bustling city that was Midland's capital.

The lower district mainly consisted of the slums. Filled with dark alleys that smelled of piss and shit and was the center for many a mugging. The Hawks rode past on the main street upwards to the next gate to the second district of the capital.

This district was a hub of activity for merchants and smiths alike, and also served as the barracks for housing many of Midlands armed forces, The Band of Hawk included. And beyond that, sitting on the top of a small hill was Windham castle. Guts was by no means an architect, but he castle did look picturesque in a way. His attention was diverted from the view by the citizens of the capital crowing the side of the street to welcome them back on their return. Some men cheered, and the women threw flowers in their wake and trading hushes whispers with one another at the looks of some of the men. There might have been some admirable looks thrown his way, but he paid them no attention.

Some of the men like Corkus took the opportunity to revel in the praise granted by the people, and then there were those like Judeau and Rickert who gave polite waves. But the Hawks newest addition looked to be overwhelmed by all the stimulation. The boy, Harry, Guts recalled looked indecisive; like he wasn't sure if he wanted to wave to the people, or just get away from all the attention. In Guts' view, it was looking more toward the latter. Guts hadn't heard the conversation between the boy and Griffith, but he saw that the boy eventually shook hands with the enigmatic leader. As of that moment, he became one with the Hawks. But that didn't mean he wasn't still green.

He had gotten a lucky shot in, sure, but he was far from a warrior. He lacked armor and a weapon he could properly handle. Guts knew that Casca would likely be put in charge of getting the kid supplied; one of the downsides of her position as Griffith's right hand.

The band headed down one of the side roads to the barracks, luckily none of citizens were allowed on the private property, all the ladies would just be scrambling over each other to meet Griffith in person. But as Guts and the rest of the others dismounted, the door to the barracks opened and a small bald man wearing a set of expensive robes and flanked by two armored guards with axes approached Griffith. Guts narrowed his eyes; he knew who this man was.

"Ah, Minister Foss," Griffith politely greeted, with a bow as well. "To what do I owe this unexpected visit?"

"Royal business," Foss said in a formal tone, but underlined with oil. "You will excuse my presence I hope. His Majesty wishes to meet with you, no doubt to congratulate you on your victory to the East. I would not be surprised in a rise in rank came your way." One of Foss' eyes twitched ever so subtly at the mention of it.

Griffith probably noticed it too, but smiled along all the same. "His Majesty is too kind. But I can't ignore a royal summons, can I?"

"That would be most unwise indeed," Foss confirmed as if it were the easiest thing to understand.

Griffith nodded. "Very well, shall we depart, Minister?"

"Naturally," Foss answered. "It is rude to keep a king waiting."

With the minister escorting Griffith to Castle Windham, Guts took his own leave to head to the barracks courtyard. It was spacious enough for him to further train with his sword, and that was all he really needed. He removed his armor chest piece and set it aside, the blood from the bandit ambush would have to wash off of it later. Guts retrieved some chopped wood and a rope and began to tie the wood close to the hilt of his great sword. The added weight would serve to increase his arm strength.

Guts gripped the sword with one hand and held it level at chest height. Feels heavier alright, he thought as he raised it above his head and brought it down. He stopped his swing right before the blade could touch the stone covered ground. He lifted the sword again and repeated the process. Each time he would stop the blade lower and lower, just to test his arm, to see if he could handle a sword even larger than the one he had now.

He repeated the process over and over, eventually leading him to build up a sweat after a time. As he swung down once again Guts caught sight of a reflection in his massive blade. When he brought it back up he did so much slower to see who or what it was. What is he doing? Guts wondered, still not breaking from his training exercise.

"If you have something to tell me, just say it," Guts told his observer, still without breaking from his session. "It's creepy if you just keep watching like you are."

The boy stepped out from under the archway. "Sorry. I didn't mean to be a bother." Guts briefly eyed the newest member with a side glance before turning back to his sword.

"Is there something you wanted?" Guts asked with his usual tone.

"Er- no, I was just looking around."

Guts gave a small, "Hm," but otherwise didn't continue the conversation further.

"Um…" He heard Harry trailing.

"Stop being so hesitant," Guts told the boy. "You agreed to this, right? Well come time for a battle that will only get you killed." What was it with this kid? It was starting to get on his nerves.

"Sorry! I just wanted to ask- why do you tie wood to your sword?"

That's it? Guts internally deadpanned. "Extra weight. Helps train my arm. Is that all?"

Harry made a small, "Oh." Guts hoped that would be enough of an answer for him so he could continue uninterrupted, but he heard the sound of more feet heading his way.

"There you are," Casca said, to Harry Guts assumed. "I've been looking for you."

"You have?" Harry asked.

"I'm in charge of all new recruits, I have to make sure that they have what they need, and I know that you don't. And before he left, Griffith wanted me to supply you with what you needed. I was going to take you into the commercial district."

"What kind of things?" questioned Harry.

"New clothes for one, you can't go around wearing some of Rickert's," Casca listed. "Not to mention a proper weapon and some armor your size."

"You're taking him shopping?" Guts asked, still swinging his sword.

"Do you have a problem with that?" Casca asked him.

"No," came his immediate response. "Try not to spend too much gold." He could practically feel Casca glaring daggers in the back of his head.

"You're coming too."

At her statement, Guts stopped his sword mid-swing, his arm barely even trembling. "Huh?"

"You heard me," Casca told him. "I'm taking you along as an escort."

"Ask Corkus or Judeau," Guts declined.

"Corkus is at the brothel, and Judeau is helping unload our equipment."

"Ask one of you men."

"They're tending to the horses."

"Pippin-?"

"Busy as well. The only person not doing anything is you." Casca pointed out.

"I'm training," Guts shot back. "I think that counts as "busy.""

Casca wasn't having it. "You can train later. Besides, you owe it to me for your men keeping me up last night; remember?" Harry's eyes darted back and forth between the two of them as they argued. "And we could use you as muscle. It wouldn't be right if we to get mugged or swindled out of gold by a greedy shopkeeper."

The two of them locked eyes with one another and moments later Guts found himself walking behind the both of them down one of Windham's side roads. Just because they were in an upper district didn't mean that it was without crime. More than once Guts had to shoot a threatening look at a few figures lurking in nearby alleys as they walked.

Casca had labeled a tailor as their first destination and the trio was greeted by an elderly man and a young woman, most likely his daughter. "Welcome!" the woman greeted. "How may we help you?"

"Just getting clothes for the boy," Casca told the woman.

"Of course," the old man spoke. "Take some time to look around. If the boy sees anything, I'll take his measurements for a fitting."

As Casca led Harry around the store, Guts leaned back against the wall, watching them from the corner of his eye. The only real reason he was here was because Casca had dragged him along for his men's behavior. He could probably just walk out of the shop and head back now. But Casca would just nag him out for it later; was it worth it then?

Harry walked up to him holding a green tunic, which almost matched the shade of the boy's eyes. "Um, Guts." He looked down at the boy. "Are these what guys usually wear?"

"Why are you asking me?" Guts asked. "Ask Casca. She dresses like a man to know fashion." He saw that his comment got the only female Hawk to glower at him.

"She said I should ask you," Harry told him. To which Guts just shrugged.

"If you want it get it. It's not my gold."

Guts was at least grateful Harry wasn't a slow shopper. He saw what he needed and picked it out. He had settled with the green tunic and a pair of black breeches and brown boots. Nothing fancy, just the essential.

"This next one is right up your alley," Casca told him as the sound of metal hitting metal filled the air. "If anyone is the weapons expert it's you." That actually sounded like a complement. "So long as the weapon is an oversized sword."

Hssssssss! The blacksmith put a hot iron piece in a trough of water as they set foot in the shop. "Just a minute," the smith called as he let the metal cool. He took off his gloves and wiped the seat on his smock. "What can I do for yeh?"

"We're placing an order for a weapon and some armor," Casca answered.

"For the big fella over there?"

"For him," Casca gestured to Harry, who was sweating from the sudden heat that came with being inside the shop.

"Hm. Small one," the smith observed. "I'm no Godo, but if the pay is good enough, I'll give ya a weapon that won't fail. What did yeh have in mind?"

This time Guts answered. "Start him off with a basic short sword. Nothing fancy."

"Did you start with one like that?" Harry asked.

"We don't have swords for babies," the voice of Gambino played across his mind.

"…Something like that," Guts vaguely answered.

Casca once again paid for the order and the smith promised that it would completed sometime within the week. Guts, frankly was just grateful that he wouldn't be dragged along for the rest of the day once they returned to the barracks. Harry having gone with Rickert now to a room they would be sharing.

"So what do you think?" Casca asked him.

"About what?" Guts asked for clarity.

"The kid," Casca said as if it were obvious. "You think he has what it takes?"

Guts shrugged. "Griffith wouldn't have taken him if he didn't, right? Who am I to say? Besides, he'll be in the supply division with Rickert. Hardly any fighting happens with them."

"Not always."

"Then he better put that hesitant side behind him," Guts told her. "You know what I mean, the way he looks so unsure of everything around him. Swords and armor will only get him so far. If he really wants to be a part of us, he has to be ready to do what it takes to live."

A/N: So this was more of a slower chapter, but I can promise the next one will be more action oriented and will see how the people in Hogwarts side of things are doing. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Sounds of steel clashing against each other filled the courtyard of the barracks. Different members of the Band of Hawk had taken to sparring with one another to keep their skills as sharp as their blades, and Harry found himself being one of them. True to his word, the blacksmith had forged a short sword and breastplate for him within the week. He was told it was nothing special, but Harry didn't mind; they were the closest things to gifts he had ever received. Dudley could probably only wish to have a sword of his own one day.

The armor felt a bit snug under his armpits, but Casca had told him that all new armor felt that way and that he just had to break it in as best he could. The sword however, was a much different feeling. Mainly it was much heavier than he was expecting it to be. To compensate for that fact, Harry found it easier to grip the hilt with both hands; it was much easier to swing around that way. But not easy enough to the point where he was able to get a hit on his opponent.

Judeau was armed with a basic sword as well and was blocking and parrying all of his attacks seemingly without flaw. Going for an almighty attack, Harry lifted the sword above his head, ready to knock the blade from Judeau's hand. As he charged his opponent, Judeau sidestepped the attack, and stuck his foot out in Harry's path. As expected, he tripped.

Groaning slightly, Harry pushed himself back up and was met with the sight of Judeau offering him a hand. He took it. "You alright?" Judeau asked, once Harry was back on his feet.

"Yeah, I think," Harry answered, rubbing a sore spot by his chin. "I didn't know tripping was allowed though."

"I never said it wasn't," Judeau countered. "Your opponent won't always play fair, remember that."

Harry nodded. "I will. And thank you, for training me. You're really good."

"Hm, I suppose," Judeau admitted. "But swordplay isn't really my forte. I'm more of knives guy." He patted his bandolier for emphasis. "If you want to see real swordplay, just watch Guts in action."

A scornful "Tch!" cut its way into their conversation. Leaning against a wall, watching them practice was Corkus.

"Something to add, Corkus?" Judeau asked.

""Real Swordplay?" Corkus parroted. "That big idiot?" He scoffed again. "Please, he has muscle and a large sword, but that doesn't mean he's the best. Griffith can cut down just as many men as him, and do it in a more graceful way." Corkus looked directly at Harry. "Speed over size any day. And swords will only get you so far. What happens if someone's shooting at you, huh? I'll show you. Hey, Rickert! Bring me a crossbow!"

Running from across the courtyard, Rickert obeyed without hesitation. Corkus took the weapon and pointed it towards two other Hawks sparring with each other. "Hey! Unless you want to be target practice, move out of the way!" Corkus shouted to them. They quickly stepped aside so Corkus had a clear shot at the target behind them.

"Watch and learn," Corkus smirked as he fired the bolt. It struck true, hitting just an inch from the center target. "Not bad right?!" Corkus boasted with a wiry smile. "If the sun wasn't in my eyes I would have nailed that bull's-eye. A quick look at the sky showed that the sun was in fact behind him.

"Uh…," Harry began, but Rickert was quick to whisper in his ear.

"Please, let him have this. He'll be in a mood the rest of the day if you do. He just likes showing off to the new additions."

Corkus continued to boast. "When's the last time you've seen that idiot do something like that?"

"I can't say that I have," Judeau admitted. "But why not ask him to give a demonstration?"

"Eh?" Corkus seemed confused. "Don't bother. He's off brooding somewhere. Let him be." Corkus gave a small nudge of his head to the battlements of the courtyard. Sure enough, Guts was up there sitting down with his sword resting next to him as he looked out to the city beyond.

"Why is he up there alone?" Harry asked.

"He has his reasons I'm sure," Judeau answered. "Guts has never really been a social type of person. Then again, he doesn't really need to be to do what he does."

"Do you think he could offer me advice then?" Harry asked. If Guts was as good a swordsman as they said then he would know how to make him better, right?

"Well… it's like I said, Guts isn't really a social type of person," informed Judeau. "He takes things at his own pace, always has."

"So, I shouldn't ask?"

Judeau shrugged. "You can. Just don't expect him to agree."

Harry cast another look towards the brooding Guts, and to his own sword. Swallowing a lump in his throat he wasn't aware of, Harry steeled his resolve and began walking up to the more experienced swordsman. As he climbed the steps to the battlements, he cast a look over his shoulder to see Corkus muttering to himself, and Rickert giving him an encouraging kind of nod.

Seeing his approach from his peripheral vision, Guts turned his head to address Harry. "What is it?" Guts asked, it didn't sound harsh but it wasn't exactly welcoming either.

"Well, I was just talking with Judeau, and he said that you're really good at swordplay," Harry explained.

"And?" Guts asked again.

"I was just wondering… if there were any tips you could tell me." Harry said, trying to not sound hesitant.

Guts stared at him and the sword in his hand. "You were talking to Judeau, right?"

"Yeah," Harry nodded.

"Talk to him again. He might not use a sword all the time, but he knows a bunch of tricks."

"Oh." Harry slouched a little at the response. "He kind of told me the same thing. That's why I wanted to ask you."

Guts stared at him for a moment before turning his gaze back out to the city once more; seemingly ending the conversation. Harry took that as his cue to leave when he heard, "Your sword." He turned to see Guts, still leaning against the battlements in a sitting position, but now he was holding his hand out. "Let me see it."

Placing the sword in Guts' outstretched hand, Harry watched as Guts rotated his wrist a few times to get a proper feel for the blade, as well as slashing it through the air a few times. "Catch," Guts ordered as he suddenly tossed it back to Harry, who much to his own surprise caught it by the hilt without fumbling. Maybe he just had good reflexes when it came to catching.

"It has good balance," Guts simply told him. "It's not about to cut a man in half, but it'll do its job alright." Harry was fine with that. He had no desire to cut someone in half.

"Just keep practicing with it. Try using one hand."

"But its heavy," Harry lightly complained.

"Exactly," Guts said. "Using one hand will build up muscle. You won't cut it with that skinny frame."

Harry looked at his own build and then to the muscled frame of Guts. There was a clear distinction to be sure. "Thank you," Harry told the swordsman.

Guts still stared out over the battlements, seemingly in his own little world. "Sure."

Hogwarts, Headmasters Office

"Do you understand the situation?" Dumbledore asked the man who stood before his desk. The man's magical blue eye swiveled around in its socket before fixing Dumbledore with its gaze.

"I understand what you've told me," Moody answered. "Can't say that I can make head or tails of it though."

"I was afraid you might say that," Dumbledore lamented.

Moody huffed to himself, his eye returning to swivel around in its socket. "So who else knows?"

"Only Minerva and Severus. I did not want to cause a panic amongst the rest of the Order."

"Aye, but it they'll find out soon enough. And not just members of our little organization either."

Dumbledore knew exactly what Moody was referring to, the day Harry Potter would attend Hogwarts. Being the son of two former Hogwarts students, as well as being hailed as the one to defeat Voldemort, Harry Potter attending Hogwarts was an absolute in the minds of the entire Wizarding Britain. The social repercussions for him not would be… well, Skeeter would be having a field day.

"Indeed they will," Dumbledore agreed.

"Have you thought about what you're going to tell them? Saying he decided to go to another school, or just deciding to not attend Hogwarts aren't you're best options."

"I hadn't planned on it," Dumbledore informed. "You know Cornelius, he'd be contacting every magical school on the globe to try and confirm that statement. He might actually go as far as to pay a visit to the boy's relatives."

"What about the Hogwarts ledger?" Moody questioned. "Shouldn't that show his exact whereabouts?"

Sighing, Dumbledore cast a silent summoning charm, and the ledger landed neatly on his desk. He pointed with his wand tip to Harry's name.

Harry James Potter

Status: Registered

Location: ?

"It has not been of much use."

"And that's where I come in, right?" Moody asked, his magical eye fixed on the headmaster once more.

"You're the best at what you do, Alastor. You have connections within the ministry that can prove useful in our search."

"I used to," Moody corrected. "I'm retired, in case you'd forgotten."

"I haven't. But I know it's in your nature to keep up on the current happenings of things. Even through unconventional means. You still have your old invisibility cloak?"

"Aye, but I don't exactly plan on strolling into the Department of Mysteries with it. Some of the unspeakable are wise to that sort of thing. Any leads you have now would be welcome."

Dumbledore nodded. "I have already gone over the theory I shared with my two professors, the one pertaining to Merlin."

"You have, but even you admit it's only a theory. Where would I even start looking? The boy disappeared on Halloween; the next biggest day in terms of magical energy would be either the summer or winter solstice."

"Then perhaps a site that frequented by Merlin himself," Dumbledore suggested, further playing off of his theory. "One of the most magical places on Earth: Stonehenge."

It was around Midday when The Band of Hawk rode out from Windham once more. Griffith led the way through the streets and the band followed in suit. Harry only caught glimpses of him from the back of the wagon along with Rickert of course, but he was hard to miss. They were being dispatched to a village to the southwest. Scouts had reported that Chuder forces had been spotted nearby.

With time to spare before they were to arrive at the village, Harry took that time to ask Rickert exactly what was going on with this war. The blonde boy looked at him like he was crazy. "Have you been living under a rock?" Rickert asked. "Everyone knows about the war. It's been going on for the last one hundred years."

"Well, I know that," Harry said, even though he didn't. "I just wanted to know, why is it going on?"

"Chuder is a neighboring empire," Rickert explained. "They're really focused on their army and invaded Midland so they could expand."

"And now we're going up against them," Harry stated.

"Just a group of them," Rickert informed. "And we probably won't do any real fighting anyway."

Harry just silently nodded at Rickert's words as the band moved along through the fields of Midland towards their destination.

It was just around nightfall when the Hawks rode up upon the village. They overlooked the settlements from a small hill, and saw that it seemed completely dark; no torches were lit save for the ones that were being held by Casca and her men as they reported back to Griffith.

"The place was completely deserted," she reported.

"Were there any signs of a fight?" Griffith asked.

"No, the villagers must have all cleared out." Casca pointed to a plateau not too far from the settlements. "My guess is they fled to the top as an evacuation of sorts. The people in my village practiced something similar."

"Makes sense," Guts concurred. "Peasants and farmers aren't the fighting types. Better to run than risk their hides."

"Hm," Griffith mulled the information over. "Have Judeau and Pippin take some men to search that plateau for the villagers. Corkus will scout the area for Chuder forces."

The order was given, and the band split into their designated groups and rode off. Guts and his men waited for the next order to be given, same with Casca and her troops.

"Anxious?" Griffith asked him.

"It's just another fight," Guts replied. "We're probably over prepared for this anyway."

"Perhaps you're right," Griffith partially agreed. "But it's best to always be prepared for the worst, isn't it?"

"Sure," Guts agreed, putting his helm on.

Hooves trampled the ground, and Corkus came riding back to deliver his report. "Griffith, they're here alright. My boys and I found where they're camping out."

"Where?"

"'Bout a mile or so north of here."

Nodding in acknowledgment, Griffith turned once more to Guts. "Take your raiders and strike first. Casca and I will hit them from the side to box them in."

Guts faced his men. "Alright, you heard him!" Drawing his sword Guts led the charge. Their horses moving quickly across the grass beneath them as they headed north to the enemy encampment.

Sure enough, Guts was able to spot the flickering of flames in the near distance; Chuder forces were indeed here. And by the look of it, not that many. If Guts had to take a guess, he'd say maybe a little less than two hundred. There was no way they'd be able to stand against the attack that was coming their way.

Leading his raiders around the left flank of the encampment, Guts easily cut down one of their sentries before he had a chance to raise his crossbow. They stormed their way into the center of the camp and quickly rode to cut down the biggest threat, the crossbowman.

As more of Chuder's soldiers were being cut down, more began to emerge from the tents, some even lacking parts of their armor as they scrambled to try and repel the sudden attack. This, however, made it that much more easy for Guts to cut them down where they stood. His sword could cut through armor if he put enough force behind his swings, and these hastily dressed soldiers were no exception.

His sword cleaved men in half as fast as he was able to swing it. Many a man chose to simply retreat rather than fall victim like many of their comrades. Guts continued to swing his sword like a mad whirlwind until-

Clang!

A man riding a horse, clearly the leader, and wielding a very large war hammer blocked his blade with the staff of his weapon. He probably stood a foot taller than Guts had they been on equal footing, but that didn't stop the captain of the raiders from glaring the other man down.

"Where are you cravens running?" The leader shouted to his men who were trying to flee the camp. Guts took this opportunity to pull his sword back and go in for another swing, but his opponent reacted just as fast and managed to knock Guts from his horse.

"Oof!" Guts grunted as his back hit the ground. He didn't even have a chance to rise as he was forced to roll out of the way of being trampled by his opponents' horse hooves.

As Guts made his next roll to dodge, he did so by bringing his sword arm up as he twisted his body; and the blade cut through the horses' neck. It gave off a dying neigh before its legs gave out from under it.

"Aagh!" Its rider screamed as he fell from his mount. With the horse out of the way, Guts pushed himself up and charged the leader. The larger man barely had time to swing his hammer and knock Guts' strike aside as he too rose to stand.

"You're a tough one, I'll give you that. But that's all the more glory for myself once I kill you!" he leader snarled at him and their weapons clashed once more.

He's definitely their leader for a reason, Guts thought as he continued to trade swings with the other man. Neither man was giving the other an inch in the fight. He's striking just as hard as I am. That hammer of his isn't about to break anytime soon. An idea began to make its way into his head.

As the leader brought his hammer down upon Guts, he made no move to block it with his sword. Instead, he waited for the weapon to get closer before he shot his left hand out and grabbed the hammer by its staff.

"What in the-?" The leader asked, wide eyed that Guts was able to stop his attack like that.

"Aahhh!" Guts yelled, and with his sword arm swung low and cut one of the man's legs off at the knee.

"BAAAA!" Yelled the leader as Guts let go of the hammer's staff and pushed him down. Guts planted a foot on the other man's chest and raised his sword above his head, ready to drive it down. "Wait!"

Guts paid him no mind as his sword drove its way through his face. Bits of teeth and skull went flying from the epicenter of the blow. "Captain!"

Guts saw Gaston holding the reins of his horse for him. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Gaston," Guts told his subordinate, climbing back atop his steed.

"Captain, the others have joined! Look!" It was hard to miss. Griffith's light armor stood out amongst the night setting as he led a Calvary charge straight through. Any Chuder soldiers trying to make a fast getaway soon found themselves either cut down or being trampled under hoof by the advancing horses.

Guts saw Griffith look his way after cutting the throat of a fleeing Chuder soldier, and from behind the helm gave him a knowing smile. Guts just gave a nod of his head and rode to rejoin with the now assembled might of the Hawks command.

"Do you really think there are people up here?" Harry asked as he and a few other Hawks walked along a narrow path up to the top of the plateau. The walk wouldn't have been as bad if he wasn't carrying a sack of food over his shoulder and holding his sword in the other. He had taken Guts' tip on that; and it hurt. His arm felt like it was on fire having to grip the sword with only one hand. Did that mean it was working? What was the workout saying; feel the burn, or something like that?

"I'd assume so, yes." Judeau answered. Instead of food, he carried a banner for the Band of the Hawk. "In a time of crisis its common for people to flee to a safe location until the conflict has passed."

"We're almost to the top anyways!" Rickert called from behind. He had a brown messenger hawk resting on his arm to send word back to the main forces if need be. "We'll see soon enough, right?"

As the path got narrower towards the top, Harry made sure to hug the side of the rocky surface. When they had first started the ascent, he had nearly fallen over the side, had the bronze skinned giant known as Pippin grabbed him just in time.

Harry could only describe Pippin as being a miniature giant. The man was by far the largest in all of the Band of Hawk, even more so than Guts, and talked even less. But he still gave Harry a closed lipped smile to match his squinty eyes.

A sudden, "Halt!" Rang out through the night. Blocking the path was an older man with a grizzled mane of white hair and armed with a sword, a shield, and an oversized helm. "Who's-?" e stopped as he took in the sight of the banner Judeau carried. "Ah!" His face lit up with recognition. "You're those Hawks, right?"

"We are," Judeau greeted. "The king received word of Chuder forces not far from your village and sent us to deal with it."

"Glad you showed up when you did," the man ushered them along. "Those Chuder blights are all fucked in the head if you ask me. Never know when to surrender, always thinking about invading and taking homes away. Bastards."

The old man led them to the top of the plateau where the rest of the villagers were indeed gathered. Families were gathered close to each other and exchanged hushed whispers amongst themselves. Judeau gestured for both Harry and Rickert to come close.

"Rickert, give me some parchment. I'll send a letter back to let them know we found the villagers. Harry, why not pass some rations along? These people look like they had to skip out on more than just one meal."

Both boys nodded and went about their respective tasks.

If Harry was being honest, handing out food to these people felt good. As he went around to their little huddles handing out bread rations, the people smiled at him, thanked him from the bottom of their hearts it felt like. He was no stranger to serving out food, he had done so at a young age for his relatives, but here he was thanked for it. He wasn't just a part of this to swing a sword around; he was actually being used to help people who were grateful.

He noticed one of the people he had handed out bread to, a pretty young woman with brown hair and grayish brown eyes in her early to mid-twenties, actually give her entire ration to a group of kids he had yet to get to, before walking over to a group of younger girls.

"Excuse me," Harry said to the woman.

"Hm. Yes?"

Harry reached into the sack and pulled out another loaf. "Did you want another? I saw you give the other away." She looked at him and the bread before accepting it.

"Thank you," she said, tearing the bread into equal halves and giving a share to all of the assembled girls, minus herself.

"Uh, are you going to take any?" Harry asked confused as to how she would not take her own share.

She gave him a small smile. "Me? No. There are others who deserve it much more than I do. Besides, I've enough money back in the village stored away from my work."

"What's your job?" Harry asked.

She had to stifle a laugh. "Well… you're a bit too young to understand. But so long as those Chuder soldiers didn't ransack the place, I have enough to buy my own."

One of the teenage girls finished her share. "Thank you for the food mister. And thanks for sharing, Luca."

The young woman, Luca, smiled. "Of course."

"All set over here, Harry?" Judeau walked over.

"Yeah," he answered. "I think I'm all set."

"Right. I've sent off our messenger hawk to let the others know all the villagers are safe. We'll wait here until we get word back." Harry nodded in understanding. Judeau smiled. "You did well today."

"I kind of like this better than fighting really," Harry somewhat bashfully admitted.

"No shame in that," Judeau assured. "But you know it won't always be like this. One day you might actually be on the front lines." Harry just nodded. "I won't be too worried though."

"Huh?"

"You listen well," Judeau elaborated. "I don't know what Guts told you, but I assumed you listened to what he said. Why else would you carry your sword in one hand when you could have it sheathed? When the day comes, I'll trust you'll know enough to know what you're doing."

A/N: And that's it for that chapter. And there is a brief cameo from another Berserk character that wasn't subtle at all. Next chapter could see a potential time skip, not a big one, just a few months at the very least. Let me know what you think, and thank for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling And Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

September 1st, 1991. Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 ¾

"Trevor! Trevor!" The chubby boy named Neville Longbottom cried out. But his cries for his pet toad were drowned out by the sea of people crowding the platform of the large red train. With all these people bustling around, Neville feared that one of them might accidentally step on his pet; and his grandmother wasn't exactly helping at the moment either.

She had her overly large handbag in one hand and Neville's wrist in the other as she led him along to the Hogwarts Express. "Come along, Neville! Come along!" She ordered, paying little mind to his calls for his toad. "We've got to get you onboard, those compartments fill up awfully quick you know."

"But Gran," Neville pleaded, "I've lost Trevor! He could be anywhere!"

His grandmother sighed. "Again, Neville? How many times have I told you to keep better track of your pet?"

"It wasn't my fault this time!" Neville tried to assure her. "He jumped right out of my hand as soon as we crossed the barrier."

His gran just shook her head and continued to drag him along towards the Hogwarts Express. "Trevor is a smart toad Neville," she told him, dragging him to the steps of one of the train cars. "He's always come back to you before and there's no reason to think he won't do the same now." Neville looked down to avoid her gaze, as well as the sight of her stuffed vulture hat. "Who knows, he's probably already on the train right this very minute."

"You think?" Neville asked, unsure if she meant it or not.

"I'd bet my bottom galleon on it," she said with confidence. "Now come along!" Practically dragging Neville up the steps, she led him towards the front of the train to find a compartment to store his trunk.

Neville listened as she mumbled under her breath at the students that flooded some of the compartments. "I swear, it was never this busy when I was a Hogwarts student. Too many kids for this one train."

At last, they were finally able to find an empty compartment near the front. With a swish and flick of his gran's wand, she levitated his trunk to the rack up above. "I hope you paid attention to that Neville," she advised. "That was actually a first-year spell I used."

"You mean by the end of the year, I'll be able to make things levitate?" Neville asked in awe. Having thought he was a squib for most of his childhood, the idea that he could actually perform magic was one of the best memories he had.

"So long as you pay attention. And you've got a good wand with you too."

Neville touched the wand he had tucked away in his pocket. It had belonged to his father before- before Bellatrix Lestrange had done what she did. He was actually caught a bit off guard when his gran pulled him in for a quick hug. "Make them proud Neville."

"I-I'll try."

With that, she quickly ended the embrace. "Well, you should have everything you need for the trip. I should be off."

"But Trevor is still missing," Neville pointed out.

"Then I suggest you try and find him. Who knows, you might make a friend along the way." With one last farewell, as well as a reminder not to forget to write, Madam Longbottom departed from the Hogwarts Express leaving Neville to his own devices.

BWHOOOOO! BWHOOOOOOOOO!

The train blew its horn twice and lurched ever so slightly as it began the journey from King's Cross to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Casting a glance out the compartment window Neville caught a brief glimpse of his grandmother sending a small wave towards his compartment. It wasn't much but just enough to let him know she cared.

Not a minute later the sight faded to black as the train passed through a tunnel and when it emerged on the other side Neville was greeted with the sight of an expansive green country side. The Hogwarts Express must have had some enchantments on it so any muggles who owned farms wouldn't notice it passing by.

Being the only occupant in the compartment, Neville stood up on one of the seat benches and reached up to his trunk to pull his school robes out. Neville knew that he was a very forgetful boy, and if he put the task off he might forget until it was too late. Especially since there was no one else here to remind him.

Once that task was done, that left him with nothing else to do except look for his missing toad. He opened his cabin door and stepped out. Walking down the train car Neville caught sight of many students from behind the glass of the compartment doors. Most of them looked quite full, and by students much older than him.

Neville swallowed a nervous lump and continued to walk on by. He was thankful his gran was not here to see him pass those compartments by. She probably would have remarked that his father wouldn't have cared what year those other students were and that he was already failing to live up to his parents' image.

He would never say it out loud, but Neville suspected the reason his gran was so nice to him on the train was that she was just glad he was actually going to Hogwarts. It was the ultimate sign that he was indeed not a squib.

He kept as keen an eye as he could as he eyed some of the other compartments. One of them actually looked promising. It looked like there were already two people inside already, but Neville had to mentally tell himself it was better than every other packed compartment he had come across earlier. Giving a very weak and hesitant knock on the door, Neville waited for one of them to answer.

When one of them did answer, Neville found himself staring at a girl who was probably going into the first year the same as himself. She had dark brown hair and hazel eyes and wore a summer sundress like a pureblooded witch would wear save for her shoes which looked to be Muggle made.

"Who is it, Tracey?" The other girl in the compartment asked. She had light blonde hair and blue eyes, dressed almost the same as the first, save for the shoes, they were more traditional.

"I don't know. Can we help you?" Tracey asked Neville who was having difficulty finding his words.

Why'd it have to be girls?! Neville internally screamed. I have no idea how to talk to girls! He knew no girls his age, he barely knew any boys his age, and with confidence as low as his he was probably making a fool of himself this very minute.

"I…um…. T-t…ad…l-ost…" Neville failed to string together a completely coherent sentence.

Tracey looked at him with a raised brow. "You lost your friend Tad?"

"N-no…" Neville shook his head. "Um… you see…"

"Are you okay?" Tracey asked. "Is this your first time talking to a girl?"

"Well…" now he was feeling really embarrassed. It was hard enough knowing something was true, but being called out on it, that was even worse. "I… talk to my gran…" Neville hoped that counted.

"She means our age," the blonde girl specified.

"…" Neville remained bashfully silent. That was evidently the only response the girls needed.

"It's really not that hard," the blonde one told him. "Just say what you need to."

It could have been worse. They could have outright laughed at him. "…Well, I was just… looking for my pet. My pet toad. I uh… I lost him and-,"

"That toad was yours?!" Tracey exclaimed.

"Y-you've seen him?" Neville asked, not believing his luck. The first stop he goes to and the people know what he's looking for.

"Up close and personal," the blonde girl explained. "He hopped down from the luggage rack and onto Tracey's head. She almost wet herself."

Tracey quickly became flushed. "Daphne!"

"D-do you still have him?" Neville hopefully asked.

"Not a chance!" Tracey told him, quelling his hope. "As soon as he jumped on me, I opened the door and let him free."

Neville's face fell. "Oh. I'm uh- sorry. He's usually well behaved."

"Except for when he runs off," Daphne commented.

"Y-yeah." Neville scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "I guess I should buy a cage for him."

"That would stop him from running away," Tracey advised.

"R-right." Neville stared down at his feet, and then back to Tracey who was still watching him. She probably wanted him to leave. "Well, um- bye." Neville quickly turned on his heels and began walking further down the train. Trevor was probably in some other compartment by now.

"Oof!" Neville and another student collided amid the aisle.

"Watch where you're going!" The other boy told him in an arrogant manner. Neville regained his bearing s to see he had bumped into a platinum blonde boy with his hair combed back. His gray eyes were narrowed at Neville as he turned his nose up in a superior fashion. The two other boys that flanked the blonde were quite burly and cracked their knuckles.

The boy didn't need to introduce himself to Neville, he knew who it was he had seen pictures in the Daily Prophet of a man who looked just like him. This boy was the Malfoy heir.

"S-sorry," Neville apologized, trying not to start a conflict.

"You better be," Malfoy sneered. "You're lucky you didn't damage my robes. I spent an eternity getting them tailored." He turned to his two cronies. "C'mon boys. Potter might be further down." Neville stepped to the side, but still found himself shoved unnecessarily by one of the brutes.

Potter? Harry Potter?

That's right! Neville had been so stressed about starting school himself, he completely forgot that Harry Potter would be joining their year as well. Maybe if he found him, he would help search for Trevor with him. After all, they were god brothers. Did Harry know that? The only reason Neville knew was that of his gran, who had Harry been staying with all this time. Sure people speculated in the prophet, but no one seemed to know for sure. Maybe once the term began Neville would try and talk with him about it. His gran did say he might make some friends early on.

Hogwarts Castle, Great Hall

Here we go, Professor McGonagall thought as she ushered the new wave of first-year students into the great hall. The time had finally come, the time to sort the students into their Hogwarts houses. She had already explained how the sorting ceremony worked. When she called the students name, they would come to the front of the hall and wear the Sorting Hat.

The chatting in the hall died down once McGonagall cleared her throat. The older students stopped their talking out of past experience and the first years were mainly too nervous to do much talking at all. With the stool and Sorting Hat to her left, McGonagall unrolled the list of parchment of all registered first-year students.

"Abbott, Hannah!"

A girl with dirty blonde hair nervously stepped up to the front. She sat down on the stool and put the hat on her head. After a few seconds, the hat cried out, "Hufflepuff!"

The Badgers cheered in welcome as the trimmings of the girls robed became yellow to match the rest of the house.

"Bones, Susan!" A girl with red hair, who looked so much like her aunt in McGonagall's eyes stepped up and soon declared a Hufflepuff as well.

Lavender Brown became the first new addition to her lions, and Terry Boot became Ravenclaw.

Further and further she read down the list of names. "Davis, Tracey!" A moment later and a polite round of applause came from Slytherin table. More names more applause from the students as the tables began to fill with more students. Her lions would always give the loudest cheer, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were more mellow, and Slytherin was quicker and to the point; demonstrated when Daphne Greengrass joined their ranks.

More names, more cheering, farther and farther down the list she called off.

"Longbottom, Neville!" The son of Frank and Alice nearly tripped over his own feet as he made his way forward; an action that some of the students snickered at. As the hat fell over the boys head it took a bit longer to decide where to put him. At last, it finally settled on, "Gryffindor!"

Her house table cheered, and Neville in his excitement began walking towards the table with the Sorting Hat still atop his head. McGonagall had to run after him to get it back, earning a laugh from the entire hall.

"Malfoy, Draco!" The son of Lucius and Narcissa strutted rather arrogantly up to the front. The Sorting Hat had barely touched his head before shouting out Slytherin for the entire hall to hear. The Malfoy scion wore a self-assured smirk as he strutted over to the Slytherin table as if he owned it personally.

Closer. She was in the P section right now. A set of twins by the last name of Patil. One in Gryffindor, the other in Ravenclaw. There was no getting around it now. The moment of truth was at hand. Clearing her throat, McGonagall prepared for the name she, as well as the rest of the staff, have been anxious for.

"Potter, Harry!"

Any chatting that had been going on had stopped completely. A pin could drop and everyone would be able to hear it. The assembled mass of unsorted first years looked amongst their ranks to try and spot the boy with the infamous lightning bolt scar. Nearly half a minute passed and mild whispering began to break out.

"She said, Harry Potter?"

"Where is he?"

"Do you see him?"

When no one stepped forward she called again, "Potter, Harry!"

Once again no one stepped forward.

"Hey! Where is he?!" One of the students openly questioned. Upon hearing that the whispering picked up a great deal more and all sorts of theories were thrown around. It got to the point where McGonagall had to put her wand to her throat and cast the sonos charm to make her voice heard over the talking as she continued to read from the list. But at that point only the unsorted first years were listening to her, and who could blame them?

McGonagall herself felt a fool. It has been nearly a year since the boy vanished with no explanation as to how. She knew Dumbledore had sent Moody to look into things, but his investigation to Stonehenge on both solstices proved fruitless. Honestly, what had she been expecting; for the boy to openly burst through the great hall's doors when his name was called, making an entrance that James and Sirius would be proud of? No. He was still missing and with no clear idea of where exactly he was. Perhaps this Halloween would be different. But with that being hidden beneath the school, only a handful of professors would be able to investigate further.

When the sorting ended with Zambini, Blaise in Slytherin no one was listening. They were all too busy with talking about Harry Potter's absence. She took her seat at the staff table and looked to see her fellow Professors reactions. Sprout and Flitwick were having a hushed conversation, Sinestra was biting her nails, Hagrid seemed to want to get to his drink rather quickly, Snape appeared unfazed, but a glance to his leg showed that it was twitching ever so slightly. Even the new teacher for Defense Against the Darks, Professor Quirrell, who had a habit of twitching and stuttering seemed to be extra jittery; his face switching between a smile and a frown.

But Dumbledore, the Headmaster, smiled at his students both new and old and continued on with his usual start-of-term speech. It was a façade. Out of all the staff here, Dumbledore was the one who was truly suppressing his reaction and emotions. The same question running through his mind the same as everyone else: where is Harry Potter?

Harry took a calming breath as he and the rest of reserve troops observed the battle that was unfolding beneath them. He found that it helped; it was just a way for him to clear his head as he remembered glimpses of previous experiences.

Like Rickert had told him some time ago, the section they were in hardly did any of the real fightings. That task was always left for people like Guts and Casca, with Griffith leading a finishing charge later on. But things had not stayed that way. For example, when caught in a sneak attack everyone has to do what they can to help the others be prepared. He and Rickert were tasked with loading the crossbows to pass out to the men, and the man he went to give it to died right in front of him. A crossbow bolt from a Chuder knight went right through his skull before Harry could arm him.

That had been the first time he had saw one of the Hawks die in front of him, and Harry didn't even know his name. It was so jarring that another Chuder soldier had almost got the drop on him and cut him down as well.

Harry assumed the only reason he was alive was that of sheer dumb luck. He had only just enough time to draw his sword, and even then he fell on his back from blocking the swing that would have taken his head. He just remembered lifting his arm and the Chuder soldier had walked straight into his blade, killing himself. Then there was the blood that spilled from him, working its way down his sword and coating his arm in the stuff.

Suffice to say, Harry wasn't able to sleep that night once they had returned to the safety of Windham. Casca had found him later that night just wandering about the barracks.

"Something on your mind?" She had asked.

"I just- couldn't sleep is all." Harry settled on.

"You killed another person in battle." It was a statement, not a question. Harry didn't meet her gaze but nodded in confirmation. "It was bound to happen sooner or later. How'd it happen?"

"I was-," he paused. "I- don't really want to talk about it. It's stupid really." He made to walk back to his barrack, but Casca had gripped his wrist, preventing him from leaving.

"Your head is clouded. If you keep things like this to yourself, it'll only get worse." She had loosened her grip. "Best to come clear with it now, then have it get you killed as a result."

"It's not really the one I got, but one of ours," Harry confessed. "I saw him get killed right in front of me. And- I didn't even know his name! I know that I chose to be a part of you all, but- was I really a good addition? That man died because I wasn't fast enough to help."

"Do you really think that?" Casca had asked. "Nearly everyone in the Hawks is here because they chose to be. They all have something they're willing to risk their lives for. I know I do. Not many of the new additions know this, but some of the senior members do, but I joined because Griffith saved me, and I was just some peasant girl in the country. That's my resolve: to not be that same helpless girl I was before. I fight for that and for Griffith's dream. You didn't like seeing our men die, right?" Once more he nodded. "Then let that be your resolve. Fight for our people. Fight so they won't have to die."

And it was in that moment that Harry understood why so many of the men referred to Casca as, "Sis."

And that had become his resolve, and he was sure that he had gotten stronger because of it. He kept up with his sword training, and over time he saw that his arms were more muscular than they had been before. They were not Guts' or Pippin level but were lither. He might have even sprouted a couple inches in the height department as well.

As he sat atop a horse that he was finally able to mount, thanks to his change in height, he was able to see the status of the battle raging below. The fortress that they had been laying siege to for the past few hours, had finally entered the stages of defeat. Guts was leading his raiders up to the Citadel portion of the fort and another team had already entered the fortress to capture the leader, a fact Judeau looked nervous about.

A rider came approaching their position. "Reporting!" He yelled as he kneeled before Griffith.

"How goes the battle?"

"It's nearly over. Their leader is still holed up in the citadel. The men sent in to apprehend him haven't returned."

"Ha!" Corkus laughed. "One man? That's it? That's pathetic!"

Corkus mood changed when Judeau uttered the name, "Zodd."

All heads turned to look at him, Harry's included. "I had heard a rumor that Chuder was hiring out mercenary leaders to assist in the war. Among them, was Nosferatu Zodd." That seemed enough to make all who listened pale, but Harry felt the need to ask.

"Who's Zodd?"

"Only one of the fiercest fighters to ever live!" Rickert exclaimed. "Among mercenaries, he's a living legend. He's rumored to have killed hundreds if not thousands of soldiers. But that's not the scary part. He's always popped up on different battle fields when people think he's dead; he's been doing that for almost a hundred years! That's why he's called Nosferatu Zodd. He's immortal."

"C'mon!" Corkus insisted. "You don't actually believe that do you? It's all a fairy tale. Like the Kushan's with magic tricks."

Griffith ignored Corkus' denial as he looked toward the nearly conquered fortress, as the once clear sky began to darken with lighting. "I have a very bad feeling about this."

Let go of me, Gaston!" Guts ordered as he pushed his way toward the entrance of the fortress' citadel. He was being restrained from going any further by Gaston and two other raiders; his hatred for being touched intensified because of it.

"No way Captain!" Gaston opposed. "We should just wait a little bit longer, please!"

"It's been an hour and not one of fifty of our guys has come out!" Guts shoved both of the men off of him and continued toward the entrance.

"AAAAGGGH!" A deathly scream came from the darkness of the passageway into the citadel. All arguing had stopped, and eyes were glued to a shape emerging from the darkness. Guts' eyes widened as he recognized the man as his own, Dillos.

He was missing an arm. At his shoulder, Dillos' right arm had been completely removed even exposing a decent portion of his rib cage. "Dillos!" Guts shouted as the man dropped to his knees.

"Caaaptiiiin," Dillos struggled to say. "…Zodd… Zodd." His body went limp.

Guts faced the tunnel with renewed anger. Seeing Gaston approaching from his side Guts ordered, "None of you come in! I'm killing this bastard myself."

The walk through the tunnel was like walking through a butcher's shop. But instead of pigs and chickens, human bodies lined the walls. Bodies of his comrades, with their eyes popping from their sockets, limbs scattered about the floor, and their blood painting the floor, walls, and even ceiling.

Guts grit his teeth at the sight. That bastard Zodd was going to pay for humiliating them like this. He knew the rumors about Zodd, every mercenary did. And they were just that, rumors. Zodd was just a man, and men could be hurt, and if it could be hurt it could be killed. Simple as that.

He continued deeper, the smell of death becoming all the more powerful. One man did all of this. Just one. And Guts would fight him as such. Just the two of them, anyone else would just slow him down. That was when he heard it. The sound of metal on metal; the sound of a fight. Rushing ahead, Guts found himself in a torch-lit room piled with the corpses of members of The Band of Hawk. And standing amidst those corpses was a single man.

He stood almost eight feet tall and was covered in muscle. He had spiky black hair similar to Guts and pointed ears. In one hand he held a sword so massive that two men were completely skewered through by it, and in his other, he held the entire head of another man; his meaty fingers had completely crushed the eyes.

By the light of the torches, Guts was able to see he had a few pointed teeth protruding from his lips, and his eyes had slits for pupils. This was Nosferatu Zodd. Any normal man would have fled from such a sight, but Guts, he yelled in fury.

"AAAHHHHHH!" Guts charged forward, ready to cut Zodd in half, but was met with Zodd's sword striking his own and sending the two corpses he had pinned to it to go flying into the wall.

What the hell is this?! Guts wondered as Zodd set his sights on him now.

"You parried that strike well," Zodd commented in a deep throaty tone. Guts barely had time to block Zodd's next swing and felt his knees buckle from the force of it. He was further caught off guard when he rolled away from another swing that completely decimated a stone pillar.

Zodd sent a flurry of slashes his way, which he was only able to barely block. Seeing Zodd's blade coming in fast on his left side, Guts used his arm guard to absorb the hit but was sent flying into another pillar as a result.

"Gah!" Guts coughed up a bit of blood from the force of impact.

Leering over him, Zodd said, "Superb." Guts glared back at him, rising to his feet. "You are lasting much longer than any of these men did."

Shifting his stance, Guts posed himself with his sword gripped in both hands and leveled it around his midsection. Zodd perked up at the stance. "Ah. So instead of blocking you will bet it all on one strike." Zodd smiled a toothy smile. "Interesting. I will accept this challenge."

Both men shot forward, Guts swinging up and Zodd swinging down. Sparks flew as their blades clashed. Guts could feel the force Zodd was putting behind his strike, the larger man was really going all out on him it felt like.

Aiming to break the clash, Guts stepped into the force of the swing, brought his sword around and straight into Zodd's shoulder.

"ARRRRGH!" Zodd screamed in pain.

Got him!"

However, Guts had no time to celebrate his hit as Zodd instead smiled that horrible toothy smile showing off his unnaturally sharp teeth. "What a surprise." Zodd gripped the blade and pulled it free of his shoulder. "You are the first to land a blow in my last three hundred years of slaughter!"

With that, Zodd began to change. He was becoming bigger in height and width; more muscular even. Thick black hair began to cover his entire body, and his face morphed to resemble something of a cross between a bear and a mane less lion. Two long curved horns sprouted from his forehead, and a pair of goat legs replaced his human ones. He even grew a tail. It was a true monster; it was terror itself.

Never before had Guts felt this sort of fear grip him. It was enough to make his body shake and his knees tremble. Zodd spoke again, this time in a much deeper voice.

"This is great! I have almost forgotten what it feels like to experience that rush during a battle! Come now, don't disappoint me!"

Zodd swiped at him with his paw, and Guts took the hit sending him flying into another stone pillar. He barely had time to rise or recover as Zodd charged him, horns first ready to skewer him. He rolled to the side and brought his sword in for a strike. Zodd blocked it with his horns and used them to toss Guts aside once more.

Guts was slammed once again and felt blood begin to coat the back of his head. He was woozy when Zodd grabbed him in his enormous paws and lifted him up.

"What's wrong? Don't tell me that was it."

Guts' head lolled to the side as he stared at the beast before him.

"For what it's worth, you fought well- for a human." Zodd began to squeeze.

"AAGHH!" Guts yelled in pain, coughing up some more blood in the process. He had to fight it. Somehow, just fight- Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!

Zodd let him fall to the floor and Guts was able to see why. Standing behind them, was Griffith, Casca, Judeau, Pippin, Corkus, Rickert, Harry, and an entire squad of crossbowman. Snarling at the intrusion, Zodd turned his fury on the crossbowman.

The beasts' great horns impaled men, he trampled another under his hooves, his claws cutting through armor like it was butter, and even just using his fangs to bite others in half. Soon next to no crossbowmen remained alive.

Griffith had taken off towards Guts and helped to pull him to his feet. "Live to fight another day," Griffith said as he began to lead him away from the great beast, who caught sight of this latest interference.

"Where are you going?" Zodd questioned. "Your heart is still beating."

"Griffith!" Casca cried out.

"Can you move?" Griffith asked Guts, seeing Zodd rearing up for a charge in their direction.

"We're dead if I can't," Guts forced himself to stand and tightened his grip on his sword. Zodd shot forward towards them.

"Go left," Griffith told him. Zodd got closer. "Now!" The pair of them dived to the side and brought their swords in an arc.

Zodd roared as both succeeded in landing a hit on him. Guts saw Griffith looking in his direction, sending a nod his way, but failing to notice Zodd's tail coming toward him.

"Griffith!" Both he and Casca shouted as the tail sent Griffith crashing into the wall. Seemingly knocking him unconscious.

"What a day. To think two humans would be able to would me." Zodd struck Guts with his forearm and sent him skidding across the floor. He set his sights towards Griffith. "I suppose I'll start with this one."

Guts tried to push himself up, but Zodd was practically on top of Griffith as he used his sword as a sort of crutch. Thunk! A crossbow bolt was fired at Zodd, who managed to catch the shot in his paw. One look to the reinforcements showed Guts Harry had retrieved one of the fallen weapons. Now Zodd's sight was set on the boy.

Harry must have been struck by fear as Zodd simply flicked him and was sent flying into the wall beside Griffith. "A valiant try, but unsuccessful." Zodd raised a hoof to squash Harry but stopped himself short as he eyed something on the boys head.

"Hm? What a unique scar. It is different than the one I know, but I recognize a brand when I see it." To Guts' surprise, Zodd stepped back. "His life belongs to someone else." He set his sight back on the fallen Griffith. "Now where was I?"

But once again, Zodd stopped himself short of killing. This time he eyed the piece of jewelry that hung from Griffith's neck. "It cannot be. The Egg of the King, the crimson behelit!" Then, Zodd began to laugh. "Huhuhuh! HUAHUAHUAH! So, it's that kind of ploy." Zodd punched the ceiling causing a good portion of it to collapse, leaving a huge hole to the outside above them. He turned once more towards Guts. "We'll have to put our battle on hold. But I'll leave a word of warning- no. A prophecy. If you call that man a friend, take heed. For when his ambition collapses, death will pay you a visit! A death you will never escape!"

Zodd arched his back, and a pair of giant bat-like wings emerged from his back. He kicked off from the ground and shot out of the hole he had created; his wings carrying him off to an unseen destination. The fight was over.

Guts fully rose to his feet staring off at where Zodd had exited. He saw Casca free herself of being restrained by Judeau and rushed over to where Griffith and Harry lay motionless. "Hey," Guts said as he approached her. "What-?" He was stopped short when Casca turned on him, glaring daggers through her tear filled eyes.

"You!" She snapped. "This is your fault! They're hurt because of you!"

A/N: And that was the fight with Zodd. I know that it was mostly exactly like it was in the manga/anime, which is why I had the first scene with Hogwarts side in first, so it wouldn't feel like a retelling of the Berserk side of things. I hope you all enjoyed, and thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

The-Boy-Who-Lived Missing?

By Rita Skeeter

No, you haven't misread the title dear reader; Harry Potter, the savior of the Wizarding World, the one who vanquished You-Know-Who, is nowhere to be found. Last night during the infamous Hogwarts sorting ceremony Harry Potter was inexplicably absent when his name was called. The news was so shocking that this reported worked all through the night to get this article printed for you in this issue of our beloved prophet.

Now, I believe I speak for everyone when I ask, "Where exactly has our savior gone?" The whereabouts of the young Mister Potter have always been up for discussion for these past eleven years following You-Know-Who's defeat, but no solid conclusion has even been confirmed. Theories have run rampant, ranging from he was staying with a pureblooded family to learn the ways of proper Wizarding society, to traveling the world as a celebrity in disguise, and even becoming a child actor in the muggle world.

Yet our questions to that topic have been put on hold as Harry Potter is not at Hogwarts to confirm or deny any of these rumors. So, what could have happened to delay Harry Potter's arrival at Britain's most prestigious magical boarding school? This reporter wants to know! Could Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, hold the truth we seek? Perhaps after that fateful Halloween night, Dumbledore has been training the boy under his tutelage this past decade.

Only time will tell the dear reader. Only time will tell.

For more on the story of Harry Potter, see page 7

Dumbledore read the headline news of the Daily Prophet after a very irate Minister of Magic slammed a copy of it on his desk. Minister Fudge twirled his lime green bowler hat around with his hands as Dumbledore read the article.

"Well," Dumbledore began. "Ms. Skeeter certainly has a talent for grabbing the reader's attention." It was meant to be obvious. As long as Dumbledore had known Cornelius Fudge, he knew the minister could sometimes be appeased by information that he already knew. It was a tactic he suspected Lucius Malfoy of incorporating into his influence over the minister.

"That she does, and that is exactly the problem!" Fudge paced about his office. "Everyone within our society has probably read this article, Dumbledore. And now people are asking questions, questions that I don't have the answers to. Merlin, Dumbledore, do you have any ideas how many letters have been flooding the Ministry this morning?"

"A great deal more than I've received, I'm sure." Dumbledore used his wand to levitate a large stack of letters reaching almost five feet in height.

"Howlers too," Fudge added. "People are furious about this! And for some reason, they think sending a howler at me will solve the problem. I've no idea where the boy could possibly be, but I see no reason to tell them that. People depend on people like you and I Dumbledore. Something has to be done about this!"

"I agree wholeheartedly," Dumbledore told the minister. "As it stands I've already gotten into contact with some old colleagues and sent them to track down any methods of locating young Harry." Dumbledore purposefully neglected to tell Fudge that he put those colleagues on the case almost a year ago.

Fudge actually showed the first hint of smiling since he entered Dumbledore's office. "That is exactly what I like to hear!" Fudge twirled his bowler hat in a slower fashion. "I always could count on you for help."

"Surely those at the Ministry have been a help as well?"

"Hm? Oh, yes!" Fudge nodded. "Dolores has been a big help, as always, she suggested I make a public statement later today to address this situation. She says if I don't the people might begin to panic." He paused. "Well- panic more than they are already. If I don't put some of these rumors to rest, the people might start to think Harry Potter's disappearance was an act of You-Know-Who or something of that sort!" Fudge waited for Dumbledore to deny that possibility. He didn't. "Oh, come now Dumbledore! You don't actually believe that's the case."

"One can never eliminate all of the possibilities, Cornelius," Dumbledore advised. "It would be unwise to do so."

Fudge shook his head in denial. "Dumbledore, do you have any inkling of what would happen if I were to say something like that? If there wasn't panic before, there would be after that! People would riot in the streets, up and down Diagon Alley, even in the Ministry itself! I know you've said before that you don't believe You-Know-Who to be truly gone, but people want- nay, need to feel safe." Fudge stopped twirling his hat to place both hands on Dumbledore's desk to look the aged wizard in the eyes. "That is why they trust us. We have made them feel safe these past ten years, and I see no reason to jeopardize that trust."

Dumbledore raised a hand in a good gesture to calm the distressed minister. "Relax, Cornelius. I did not say that I believe that to be the case; only that it is a possibility, and a relatively unlikely one at that."

After a moment had passed, Fudge sighed. "I apologize, Albus. I didn't intend to come across as confrontational; I just- want the people to know that they can rely on me."

"I do not blame you for your concern, Cornelius," assured Dumbledore. "And as I have told you just moments before, I have already sent a search party of sorts underway."

"Yes, yes," Fudge nodded, picking up his bowler hat and twirling it once more. "I'll be able to quote you on that for when I give my statement, I take it? Hearing it from me is one thing, but coming from you…" Fudge let the offer hang, with the slightest hint of jealousy in his tone.

"You may," Dumbledore approved. "It is as you said, the people trust us."

"As they should," Fudge twirled his bowler hat once more before setting it on his head. He crossed the office to the fireplace and pulled out a bag of floo power from his robes. The minute the power hit the ash the minister was engulfed in a torrent of green flames.

With the minister gone, Dumbledore ran a wrinkled hand through his long white beard. Fudge had acted as expected. He was scared and confused and looking towards him for support and advice. Better him than the likes of Lucius Malfoy.

His phoenix, Fawkes, let out a melancholy hum as an owl flew through his office window and nearly crash landed on his desk. Eyeing the letter it had clutched in its talon, Dumbledore took it; and immediately massaged his temple when he saw who it was from. It would seem Molly had seen fit to write to him as well. He prayed to whatever god there was that she hadn't seen fit to send a howler.

Darkness surrounded him. The only source of light came from the glowing yellow eyes of the beast, which stood snarling over his tiny form. Zodd barred his fangs at Harry as he said, "Your life belongs to another. So sleep now. Sleep, just like your parents!" Zodd gave a roar at the last word, and he too faded into black.

And then, the darkness began to swirl. Slowly at first but gradually picking up speed as it soon became an all mighty whirlwind. WHOOOOOOOOOOOSSHHHHH! It began to sound like a hurricane at full force. And Harry was caught right in the midst of its force.

Around and around he was being blown around, enough to begin to make him nauseous. But as disorientated as he was, Harry could faintly make out a dark shape as the source of the whirlwind. It was very faint, but he found it to be familiar. It was a shape that resided within all humans. It looked like- THUMMM

"AAAH!" Harry sat bolt upright on the bed, clutching at his chest. Wait- bed? He looked around; no longer was he in that chamber with Zodd and the others, he was in some kind of medical ward if the gauze wrapped around his abdomen was anything to go on. The only other person in the room with him was-, "Guts?"

The large swordsman had paused at the exit to turn around to address him, allowing Harry to see the condition the other man was in. Guts was covered in gauze as well, namely his torso and forehead, he was also walking with a crutch under one arm. "Oh, you're awake."

Harry winced a little as he sat up in the bed. "What happened? Where's Zodd?"

"Zodd left," Guts informed. "He ended the fight after deciding not to kill Griffith."

Griffith. "Is he-?" Harry began, only to have Guts beat him to it.

"He's fine; at least I think he is."

"What does that mean?" Harry asked.

"It's been three days," Guts explained. "I haven't seen Griffith since we moved him. Plus he's being treated in a better place than this."

"Is that where you were going?" Harry asked.

Guts nodded. "I'm not in the best of shapes right now, but I at least owe it to him to see how he's doing." Guts hobbled back to the exit. "Hey," Guts cast a glance back toward Harry, "you coming?"

"Me?"

"You see anyone else in this room?" Guts rhetorically asked. "You want to know how he's doing too, right?"

Together the two of them set off down the stone corridor to where Guts suspected Griffith to be. Harry took notice that they were actually in part of Windham castle itself. Griffith was a Knight of the Kingdom, so it only made sense that any wounds he sustained be treated by the physicians at the castle. Along the way, they passed a few members of the nobility who eyed their bruised figures with curiosity, or in the handmaidens' cases, with flushed faces and giggled whispers.

Guts' crutch made a noticeable Clunk sound with every other step he took down the corridors. It was the only thing breaking the silence between the both of them until Guts finally spoke. "That was some move you pulled back there."

"Huh?" Harry asked, confused.

"You fired a bolt at Zodd, right?" Guts recalled. "And that was after he became- well whatever the hell that was."

"Oh," Harry also recalled the memory of what Guts was talking about. "Yeah, about that, I-,"

"Don't apologize," Guts told him abruptly. "What the hell do you have to be sorry for about that? Trying to save his life? Pfft, please. I'm not Casca, I won't bite your head off for acting on instinct and wanting to protect him."

Was it Harry's imagination, or did Guts sound, proud in some sense of the word. Maybe it wasn't too farfetched, Guts was a warrior after all and had probably done his fair share of reckless things too. He was the one who had went in to face Zodd alone when he could have waited for reinforcements to arrive.

And speaking of Zodd, two noblemen stood before them in the corridor seemingly discussing the Hawks most recent battle. The nobles noticed their approach. "Oh-ho, what convenient timing!" One of them exclaimed.

"Yes," the other agreed. "We were just discussing your bands' recent victory over Chuder. Quite the battle we heard."

"However," the first one took up a condescending tone, "strange rumors have been surfacing. Have you heard? I believe they revolved around a great demon appearing toward the end of the battle."

"What do you mean rumors?" Harry asked, a bit indignantly. "It's true. Ask anyone who was there, they'd tell you."

The two noblemen looked at one another. "And you were there I take it?"

"I was," Harry confirmed, not really liking the condescending tone they spoke in.

"Well, I don't find the fact that you believe it to be true all that surprising then. After all, children will believe anything, that's why they should only be seen and not heard. It raises the question of why Sir Griffith would allow- OW!"

Guts continued his walk down the corridor, "accidentally" bringing his crutch down on the noble's foot as he hobbled along. "You coming, Harry?" Guts cast a glance over his shoulder to send a chilling glare at the two nobles.

Harry followed suit and "accidentally" stepping on the foot of the other noble, who was too scared of the look Guts was giving them to do or say much of anything. If Guts disapproved of Harry copying his previous action, he said nothing about it and kept on hobbling along.

"What was those guys' problem?" Harry asked once they were a good distance away.

"Who knows," Guts answered. "They're nobles. They got money and they think that gives them power."

After walking out to an open courtyard, they came across Casca, Judeau, Cokus, Pippin, and Rickert waiting around. A pair of armored guards wielding battleaxes stood a short distance away guarding a closed pair of doors.

"Harry! Guts!" Rickert yelled as he spotted their approach.

"Hey, Rickert," Harry greeted back.

"Yo," Guts casually said.

"Glad to see you both up and moving," Judeau said with a smile. "Griffith should be cleared any time now." Guts looked to the two armed guards.

"He in there?"

"Yeah," Judeau confirmed. "Minister Foss and a few others are discussing a few things inside with Griffith." Guts nodded.

"Thanks," Guts said, approaching the door. The guards crossed their axes at his approach, preventing him from going further.

"It's a private meeting," Casca told him, frowning at his attempt. "We all have to wait."

"Maybe you do," Guts told her, before turning to the guards who were nowhere near as tall as he was. "So I take it you guys aren't going to step aside?" They looked at each other nervously but made no gesture to move out of the way. "Alright."

Guts used his crutch to sweep one of the guards' feet from under him, and then swiftly lifted it and knocked the other on the back of the head. The members of the Hawk either deadpanned or watched in awe at Guts' action.

"Are you out of your mind?" Casca angrily asked. "How hard did you hit your head? I just told you it was private didn't I?"

"Like you don't want to see him either?" Guts shot back, to which she silently glared at him. "Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go check on my friend. Anyone else want to come? Rickert?" The blonde boy shook his head when he saw the look Casca was giving him. "Harry?"

"Uh, sure," Harry agreed. Guts was pushing open the doors and Harry made to follow, but Casca put a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her and she shook her head, "no." She walked up towards Guts.

"Yo, Griffi-," Guts called into the room before Casca laid a hand on his shoulder. Guts instantly reacted and turned to see who it was. Wramm!

Casca's fist collided square with Guts' jaw sending him stumbling back. It was a sight that had everyone's jaws falling wide open. Guts rubbed at his chin while Casca stood with both her fists clenched. "That's just like you, isn't it? To go charging head first without a thought to anyone else. I have no idea why Griffith values you like he does."

A tension filled the air between the two of them; finally being broken when Guts turned to walk away. "I'll be somewhere training. Don't want my skills to dull because of these injuries." Harry watched him limp off to go and find his sword.

"Ha!" Corkus laughed. "What a punch, Casca!"

"That was odd huh, Pippin?" Rickert asked the giant man, who simply nodded.

Harry walked up to Casca. "Are you- alright?" He asked, hesitant she might turn her ire on him now that Guts was gone.

Casca sighed and brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. "I'm fine, Harry. It's just- he's just so- ugh!" She threw her hands up, before helping the two guards back to their feet. "So reckless all the damn time." Harry heard her mumble to herself.

"Well, this is a welcome sight." Griffith walked out of the guarded room leaning on a crutch similar to Guts, and he was followed by the short bald Minister Foss and a few other high ranking nobles.

"Griffith!" Casca exclaimed, her previous gloom seemingly vanished.

"You're okay!" Harry enthused as well.

Griffith chuckled. "Well, I will be." He moved his crutch around for further emphasis. "But yes, I have been cleared by the court physician."

"A fact we all revel in, Sir Griffith," Minister Foss said. "Given your latest exploit, I do believe that you've managed to win our king's favor yet again. I would not be surprised if you were invited to partake in His Majesties hunt. For a knight of your- unique upbringing, you should consider it a great honor." Harry almost missed the small twitch under Foss' eye when he said that last part.

"I do indeed, Minister Foss," Griffith replied. If he too noticed the subtle twitch he didn't acknowledge it.

Foss gave a polite bow. "If you'll excuse me, my presence is required elsewhere." Griffith nodded and watched as the minister walked off with the entourage of other nobles.

"I can see the concern in your eyes, Casca," Griffith acknowledged his second-in-command. "Why don't you wait in the gardens for me? There's someone else I'd wish to speak with first."

Guts had found a level platform on one of Castle Windham's outside staircases. The smells of flowers from the gardens down below were entirely lost on him as he devoted his current attention to his sword. He brought it up and down and in an arc and down again. His crutch lay discarded to the side. He didn't need it, not when he had his sword. He just had to block out the pain with the rush of swinging his sword.

Gambino hadn't taught him much else than that, but it was all he ever needed. This time was no different. Just another injury, just fight through the pain and come out stronger than before. And stronger was exactly what he needed. Zodd. He had been on an entirely different level than what Guts was used to. And then there was that prophecy the demon Zodd had spoken of.

He had warned him about Griffith, and of a death that he would be unable to escape from. And it stemmed from seeing that red jewelry around Griffith's neck. Guts had always found Griffith's "good luck charm," to be creepy ever since he saw one of the eyes open to stare at him a few years back.

Guts' thoughts drifted now to after the fight had ended, of Casca glaring at him through her tears as she shouted that it was his entire fault. But what did she know? He hadn't intended for anyone to come and rescue him. If he had done it like he intended it would have just been him left to fight Zodd.

"You seem troubled." Guts looked to see Griffith walking with a crutch up the stairs to the platform he was on. "Although your injuries seemed to have healed much faster than mine despite being more severe."

Guts stopped swinging to lean back on the railing. "I'm used to taking hits."

"Evidently," Griffith eased himself into a leaning position as well. "Thinking about the encounter with Zodd?"

"It's not exactly easy to forget. He was strong."

Griffith nodded. "He was. It was a miracle we got out of that alive." He fished the red egg jewel out. "Lucky charm, huh?"

"Yeah…" Guts eyed the bauble suspiciously, almost expecting an eye or the mouth to open. They didn't. "And you seem to be healing fast too."

"Not disappointed about that are you?" Griffith asked in a jesting manner.

"No," Guts said. "But I think Casca will be pleased. It might stop her from biting my head off."

"I take it she wasn't happy with the way I went in to save you," Griffith concluded. "I'll talk to her about that."

"Yeah. Speaking of that, why did you?" Guts asked and Griffith tilted his head. "Why'd you risk your neck for me like that?"

Griffith pondered the question over before looking Guts dead in the eye. "Do I need a reason each time I risk mine to save yours?"

To that Guts had no reply. Griffith was doing it again; saying things normal people wouldn't and making them seem natural. Guts was almost relieved when a few new presences came walking down the steps to where they were relaxing against the rail.

Two men walked in front of a group of armed guards, one was clearly young than the other. The younger of the two had long, but well pampered reddish-brown hair and a face that looked like it was always in a sour mood. The other, Griffith instantly took a knee for at his approach. He had lines on his face, but it was balanced out by the luscious black hair and well-trimmed mustache and goatee. It was the King of Midland.

The sour faced man pointed an accusing finger at Guts. "You! Show some respect and kneel before the king!" Guts was about to refuse, but Griffith gave him a look telling him to go along with it.

"That is alright," the king dismissed Guts notion of bowing. "I was just on a stroll, no need for such an action at the moment."

"But sire!"

The king paid the other man no mind. "I'm pleased to see the White Hawk's injuries are healing. You've made quite the name for yourself on the battlefield."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Griffith rose, but still gave a bow of his head.

"Allow me to introduce you," The king gestured to the sour faced man. "This is my younger brother, Count Julius; general of the White Dragon Knights, and second in line to the throne."

"A true pleasure to make your acquaintance," Griffith gave a bow of his head to Julius.

"Humph," Julius scoffed. But Griffith paid it no mind, his attention was drawn to someone at the back of the armed escort, seemingly trying to shy away.

"Who might that be?" Griffith asked in curiosity. The king looked to where Griffith was looking.

"Oh, that is my daughter, Princess Charlotte." Guts saw a brief flicker of the girl as she tried to shy away from some more. "She is quite a shy girl; she rarely ever leaves the castle." Charlotte peaked out just enough to see she was a girl in her teenage years with her chocolate brown hair styled in buns on the side of her head and a nervous pair of deep blue eyes.

"Let us be off," the king announced as he continued down the steps, his guard following. Griffith kept his gaze solely on the princess as she brought up the rear. She seemed especially nervous as she walked past Griffith, so much so that she tripped on a loose stone and nearly fell down the rest of the stairs.

"Ah!" Charlotte gasped, but Griffith reached out and wrapped an arm around her midsection before she could fall. The princess became flushed from the close contact as Griffith helped her regain her balance.

"Your pardon," Griffith said to Charlotte.

"T-thank-," Charlotte attempted to say, but…

"You!" Julius had come back up the stairs to see what was keeping the princess. "How dare you! How dare a commoner such as yourself lay hands on the princess!"

Slap!

Julius backhanded Griffith, much to Charlotte's horror and Guts' anger.

"Hey, pal!" Guts yelled as he took a menacing step towards Julius, who began to pale. Before anything could escalate quicker, Griffith raised his hand, signaling Guts to stop. With his other, he wiped the blood from his split lip.

"Please pardon my rudeness, General Julius," Griffith said with a smile. But it wasn't the one Guts was used to seeing from him. A shadow seemed to pass over Griffith's face as he narrowed his eyes and gave a closed lip grin. It wasn't childish at all, instead, it was like a much different side of Griffith had emerged from his shadow.

It was enough to make Julius pale even further.

"Is something the matter?" The king called from the bottom of the stairs.

"N-nothing, Sire!" Julius called back. "Come, princess. Let's not keep your father waiting." Charlotte followed her uncle down the steps, but not before casting one last look at Griffith before turning away with a blush adorning her soft features.

Harry and Casca sat on a stone bench in one of Windham's gardens, waiting for Griffith to join them as he had promised. The only other people in the garden were two children, younger than Harry, who was being watched by two armed guards. "I suppose I should have asked you this sooner, but how are you feeling?" Casca asked. "Your injuries I mean."

"They're okay. getting better," Harry told her. "You're not mad about it are you?"

"What? Why would I be mad?" Casca asked.

"Well- you were with Guts earlier," Harry recalled.

"Oh," Casca said. "That's different."

"How?" Harry asked.

"Because Guts acted like an idiot and went ahead when he should have just waited five mi minutes for the rest of us," Casca elaborated. "You came in with the rest of us following Griffith, who was only down there because of Guts. I mean, does he think that just because he has strong muscles that that's the solution to everything? I just don't understand him sometimes, if at all."

Harry just shrugged. "It kinda sounds like you like him," he mumbled quietly to himself.

"What was that?"

"N-nothing!" Harry remembered her temper when she hit Guts, he didn't want to be on the receiving end of that. He quickly turned his attention to the two children playing around by one of the bushes.

"Careful," he heard the girl advise the boy. "I thought I saw a snake!"

"It's probably just a garden snake," the boy insisted. "They're not poisonous."

Another girls voice came from Harry's other side. "Father, may I please join Elize and cousin Adonis in the gardens?"

"Of course, Charlotte," a man's voice replied from the distance, and soon a teenage girl came around the bushes. Casca instantly stood up and gestured for Harry to do the same. They bowed their heads as the girl walked past. With her chocolate brown hair done in buns on the side of her head, she reminded Harry of an infamous Star Wars character.

"Who's that?" Harry asked as the girl joined the younger children.

"The princess," Casca told him.

"Cousin Charlotte!" The boy exclaimed at her arrival.

"Greetings, princess," the girl gave a courtesy.

"Cousin Adonis, Lady Elize, it is my pleasure to join you," Charlotte gave a polite bow of her head. "What are you finding in the garden today?" Adonis smiled as he grabbed a stick and pulled it out of a bush.

"I found this!"

Charlotte gave an, "Eep!" as she rushed to hide behind the two guards. At the end of the stick was a garden snake.

"Adonis!" Elize scolded the boy. "How dare you scare your cousin like that! Don't you know girls don't like snakes?"

Adonis scratched the back of his light brown hair bashfully. "Sorry, Charlotte." He let the snake free and it began to slither over to where he and Casca sat on the stone bench. It came close enough that Harry was able to catch it.

"I don't think it's that scary," Harry told Casca, showing her the snake. She cringed a little.

"Maybe gross, but not scary," Casca agreed.

Harry looked at the snake who was slithering between his fingers. 'Hello there.'

The snake looked at him. 'Hello, sssspeaker.'

Harry almost dropped the snake in pure shock. 'You can sspeak?' Should he even be that surprised? In a world that had a skeleton knight, disembodied voices, and a demonic- whatever Zodd was was a talking garden snake too out of the question?

'Of courssse I ssspeak. The trouble isss finding thossse who lisssten.'

'Well, thossse kidsss didn't ssseem to lisssten to you.'

'Oh no, children are the worssst. Esssspecially human children.'

Harry laughed at the snakes' humor. What was Casca thinking of all of this? "Hey, Casca! Can you believe… this?"

Casca was no longer sitting next to him. Instead, she was standing up, looking down at him with her mouth agape and eyes filled with confusion and uncertainty like he had done something wrong. What had he done?

A/N: So for anyone wondering when Harry would be getting magic, this chapter is the start of that with the discovery of his Parseltongue ability. And is it just me, or does Princess Charlotte look like Princess Leia from Star Wars?

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

"He was talking to a snake?" Guts asked, repeating what Casca had reported. Casca had been in quite a fluster when she had come barging into Griffith's solar within his quarters of the barracks. The only reason Guts was there with him was because Griffith wanted to personally tell him that they would be joining the king on the next upcoming hunt, an event usually held exclusively for members of the nobility. Then Casca came running in claiming she had urgent news. She began telling Griffith of how she witnessed Harry talking to a snake, who seemed to understand him. "Big deal," Guts brushed the story aside. "Kids get bored right? They talk to animals all the time."

Casca shook her head. "Not like this. This was- he was speaking another language, okay."

"What, like Kushan speak? They're supposed to be snake charmers right?"

She denied that notion as well. "No. It was like- like he was actually speaking snake; and the snake was speaking back."

"…You on your period or something?" Guts asked. "Because that doesn't make a lick of damn sense."

"Shut your mouth!" Casca snapped at him. "You weren't there, you didn't hear it!"

"You're right," Guts admitted as much, "I wasn't. And that's why I find it hard to believe that an eleven-year-old can talk to snakes. He was probably just trying to impress you or something."

"You didn't see his face after," Casca told him. "He looked surprised when he began talking to it. It was like he didn't even know he could do it until right then. When he saw how I reacted he just looked confused. He must have thought that I could understand what was being said."

"So… he can talk to snakes, and didn't know about 'til now?" Guts asked skeptically.

"I know it sounds crazy, but it happened," Casca insisted. "It was just like- like…"

"Magic?" Griffith asked, speaking for the first time. He had been quite, listening to Casca tell her story. "That is what you were going to say, right?"

Casca remained silent, but her eyes conveyed all the meaning where her voice was silent.

"Come on!" Guts insisted. "You don't actually believe that, do you, Griffith?"

"Did Judeau ever tell you what he did before joining my band?" Griffith evaded the question. "He used to be part of a traveling performing troupe. And then one day an elf supposedly fell into their company." Griffith paused. "How did he describe it? Oh, yes; "small, blue, playful, and borderline annoying."

"What does that have to do with anything?" Guts asked.

Griffith shrugged. "Just that our world isn't as plain as we believe it to be. I thought you would know that after our encounter with Zodd."

Guts was silent for a moment. "So let's say for a minute that this is true; what in the hell do we do about it?"

"Well we can't exactly have everyone else know about it," Casca said. "I know my reaction probably didn't give him a peace of mind, but imagine if someone like Corkus were to find out. He'd be stammering and freaking out and maybe claim it's a Kushan trick. Or if someone from the nobility were to find out…"

"Then the boy would be burned at the stake," Griffith concluded.

Casca nodded. "And from what I know, The Holy See religious organization has an inquisitor that specializes in witch hunts; and torture."

"So we're going to just keep it a secret, is that it?" Guts asked. "If this really is… magic then-,"

"Then we'll have to confirm our suspicions, won't we?" Griffith finished for him. "But for the time that he has been with us, Harry has given us no reason to suspect him of being malicious towards us. Where is he now anyways?"

"I took him back to his barracks," Casca informed. "I told him to wait there until- well I didn't exactly say when."

Griffith nodded in understanding. "Could you go fetch him, please? We should discuss this next part with him."

Despite having a candle lit, the room seemed dark. Harry sat alone on his bunk while Casca had run off, most likely towards Griffith. It bothered him. Not so much the fact that they were probably talking about him right now, but because of the way Casca had looked at him afterward. Her face full of shock and fear over what had happened. It had almost reminded him of-,

"We will meet again, Wizard."

The Skull Knights parting words to him came back to the forefront of his mind, pushing his previous recollection aside. Wizard, that's what he had been called. Wizard… magic. There is no such thing as magic. Magic is just make-believe, only freaks believe in magic. Freaks… like him.

The door to the barrack opened. Anxiety gripped at his heart, but a soft voice said, "Harry?" It was just Rickert. "What're you doing in here all by yourself?"

"Oh," Harry let out a short breath of relief. "Nothing really I guess. Just… waiting."

"Waiting for what?" Rickert asked, sitting on the bunk opposite him.

Harry shrugged. "I don't know."

Rickert tilted his head in confusion. "Are you in trouble or something?"

Once again, Harry shrugged. "Maybe."

"Well, what'd you do?" Rickert inquired further.

"I… just something freakish," Harry settled on.

"Like spying on Corkus when he trims his huge toenails?"

No," Harry said nearly failing to fight off the smile that tried creeping its way onto his face. "Nothing like that."

"Well that's about the only freakish thing I can think of," Rickert slumped in defeat. "But I'm sure you won't be in that much trouble."

"Huh, why's that?"

"Because you're one of us, that's why," Rickert said as if were the most obvious thing in the world. "You've been with us enough to know that we look out for each other. Whatever it is that you did I'm sure that-," The door opened with a creek, interrupting the boys' conversation. Casca peeked her head into the room.

"Hey, could I borrow you for a second, Harry?" He noted that she seemed nowhere near as nervous as she had been previously. "We just want to talk for a bit, that's it."

We? Harry picked up on. "Uh… sure, alright." He sat up on his bunk and cast a glance over his shoulder to see Rickert giving him an encouraging kind of half smile. Closing the door behind him Harry was surprised to see that alongside Casca there was Guts and Griffith as well. Guts was casually leaning against a wall with his arms crossed, and Griffith was surveying him with an inquisitive look; not necessarily threatening just curious, with a tinge of ambition.

"So," Griffith began, "Casca has told us quite the story regarding you and a snake. She said that you seemed to be speaking with it, is that true?"

"Well…" Harry was a bit unsure of what to answer that with. "It was more like it was talking to me first." He hoped that would pass for an acceptable answer.

"In another language?" Griffith surmised.

"It- sounded normal to me," Harry was quick to point out. "I thought she could understand it too. That's why I was so surprised when I saw her reaction." He looked to Casca to see she actually looked a bit embarrassed herself. "I didn't mean to scare you like that though, I didn't think I was even speaking differently. I'm sorry. I'm sorry if you think I'm a freak after this."

He averted his gaze away from Casca and to the ground, so it came as a surprise to him when he felt a comforting hand placed on top of his head. Harry looked up to see it was Casca, who then gave him a gentle pat.

"Look, Harry," she said. "I know that the way I reacted wasn't the most- er- comforting back then."

"Tch," Guts snarked.

"But it just- caught me off guard is all," she continued. "And I'm sorry if I made you feel like you were a freak because of that."

"But you just said you couldn't understand it," Harry recalled. "It was only me. So what does that make me if not a freak?"

"That is exactly what we intend to find out," Griffith spoke again. "While you were waiting in your barrack we were discussing a few things amongst ourselves. And… we only have guessed."

"Oh," Harry said, not exactly sure how to feel about that. Harry had discovered that he hated being left out of stuff that included him, so to find out that the three people who were just talking about him had no idea what to think of him was a disappointment, to say the least.

"But none of them involve you being a freak," Griffith assured him. "And until further notice, we ask that you try to keep this… talent of yours a secret."

"Yeah," Guts agreed. "A lot of people might get the wrong impression if they see you doing what you can do."

"Indeed," Griffith agreed. "And that's why I'll have you and Casca pay a visit to Windham's library first opportunity you get to look into this "snake speak" further." Guts nodded, but he didn't seem too thrilled at the prospect, Casca too.

Elsewhere in Windham Castle

It's a mockery! A complete disgrace of tradition! Count Julius thought angrily as he strode the castle. To think a mere commoner like that white haired cur will be partaking in the royal hunt is a disgrace! What is my brother thinking inviting Sir Griffith and his men?! If Father were alive he'd name me heir in a heartbeat after hearing that news.

To Julius, he had every right to be angry. Griffith, a common born young man from the slums who was raised to Knight Status in just a few short years was nothing short of a miracle; an idea for peasants to get behind. And he hated it!

Peasants were peasants for a reason, just as the nobility ruled for a reason: because it was their right to do so. Griffith was disillusioning himself into believing any different, and if he had any sort of respect for Midland at all then he would go back to whatever back alley gutter he was raised in and live out the rest of his days as he was meant.

Whatever does a commoner know of being a Knight? Whatever does he know of being in the presence of his superiors except for when to kneel? Julius fumed. All this frustration building inside of him, it wasn't healthy. Perhaps he should pay a visit to the queen to help relieve some of his stress. She shared the same mindset as him in regards to one's social standing, she would understand; she had before.

Julius knew that his brother cared little for his wife, only marrying her for political security and only consummating the marriage once on their wedding night. After the death of Charlotte's mother, it was only fitting for his brother to remarry. It was a loveless marriage, but that didn't mean the queen was without needs. And with his own wife dead as well, Julius experienced urges of his own.

However, any fantasy Julius was about to imagine between himself and his brother's wife was interrupted by the sight of the short and bald Minister Foss looking out of a window. "Lovely time for a stroll, Count Julius."

"A lovely time for me to retire to my chambers, Minister Foss."

"A tad early, something troubling you?" Foss inquired, but the tone of his voice made it clear he knew full well what was raging through Julius' mind. "I do hope that whatever it does not keep you distracted during the upcoming hunt. Many an accident could happen to those who don't pay attention."

"What are you insinuating?" Julius demanded of the short minister.

"Only that hunts are just as dangerous for people as the animals," Foss slyly replied. "A stray arrow dipped in poison could end the promising career of a young up and coming knight, who if the rumor I heard was true could soon become a general in status."

Julius instantly knew of who Foss spoke of. "Someone like him as the rank of General?! I won't allow it!"

"I thought not," Foss replied evenly. "For what does a commoner know of responsibility such as that? But, I suppose it is up to men like us who do not wish to see this country disgraced to take action."

Julius mulled the thought over. "A poison arrow?"

"Completely untraceable," Foss assured, to which Julius chuckled. It would be such a fitting end to that white-haired commoner.

Hogwarts was living up to the magical hype his grandmother had promised. But, Neville just wished he had the aptitude to live up to all of it. To start off, the common room was only accessible behind a painting of The Fat Lady who would only open if you had the password; and Neville had forgotten it on the first day. Next was navigating the maze that was Hogwarts itself. Twice in one day he had got turned around and found himself on the first floor when he needed to be on the fourth. Then there were the actual classes themselves.

Transfiguration with McGonagall was alright. She was fair to all students and even revealed herself to be an animagus on their first day of lessons. When he failed on multiple attempts to transfigure his matchstick into a needle, she had given him five points for effort, but also additional practice as homework.

Charms with Flitwick was fun, the professor would always beam positivity at his students while looking up at them (he was quite short), and offer help where needed. He was probably over by Neville's seat the most going over the proper wand movements with him until he was sure that Neville would not forget.

Herbology was probably his favorite out of all the classes. Professor Sprout seemed determined to give them very hands on teaching experience, and Neville actually found it enjoyable. Unlike the rest of the classes, this required little to no wand usage and was possibly the reason he enjoyed it as much as he did. Even Professor Sprout seemed to like him, always giving Gryffindor points when he correctly treated one of the magical plants.

But for every moment Neville enjoyed in Herbology, he dreaded in Potions with Professor Snape. Compared to the rest of Hogwarts the dungeons were dark, damp, and depressing, and the same could be said for Slytherin's head of house. Each class Snape would hover over the Gryffindor's side of the room and nitpick their potions while showing blatant favoritism to his own Slytherin's.

"What's this?" The oily-haired professor asked as he leered of Neville's potion. "Tell me, Longbottom, can you read?" Neville heard snickering going on from the other side of the room, and could practically see Draco Malfoy's smirking face.

"Y-yes, Professor Snape."

"Then tell me, what does it say up on the board step four is for brewing The Draught of Living Death?" Another Gryffindor raised her hand to answer for Neville, but Snape paid her no mind.

"To turn, er- stir three times counterclockwise," Neville recited from the instructions written up front.

"And if you had done that then why is your potion the color of mud and not a dark purple?" Snape pressed him.

"I-er, um," Neville fumbled for his words.

Snape sneered at his stuttering. "Pathetic." With a wave of his wand, Neville's cauldron emptied itself. "It is clear to me that you lack the etiquette of potions making. Do I need to assign you a supervisor, Longbottom?"

"…N-no, Professor."

"Not quite sounding so sure of yourself," Snape observed. "Not at all like a Gryffindor. Did the Sorting Hat make a mistake sorting you, Longbottom?" Malfoy and his cronies openly laughed.

"…W-well-," Snape held up a hand to silence him.

"Since you are so inept at this very simple task, you will be working alongside someone I know not to be a dunderhead such as yourself. You will be working with Miss. Davis." Neville looked to the Slytherin side to see one of the girls he had met on the Hogwarts Express.

"Are you expecting her to move to your side, Longbottom?" Snape asked when Neville made no move to get up. "Five points from Gryffindor, for lack of manners."

Neville was aware of everyone's eyes on him as he packed up his things and moved across the room to where Tracey was. He still kept his head down and muttered a very brief, "Hello," making sure to avoid eye contact.

"Hey, I remember you," Tracey recalled. "You're that weird kid from the train, the one who lost his toad."

"Um, yeah," Neville confirmed, still not looking at her. She already knows that I'm weird.

"Do you plan on reading the board with your head down?" Tracey asked after a minute of very awkward silence. "I don't want to get a bad grade because you're not doing your work."

"S-sorry," Neville muttered as he began the first step.

Not a minute later Tracey was asking, "What are you doing?"

Neville looked back and forth between the board and his cauldron. "Well, I-er, was just…"

"You were about to add the wrong ingredient," she informed. "Look before you add, like I said, I don't want to get a bad grade because of you." She pointed out the correct first ingredient for him. "Now add crushed Mandrake leaves."

"Those are these ones," Neville pointed to the next batch. Tracey actually looked a bit surprised.

"You knew that one?"

"Well, I read about it," Neville meekly admitted. "I- um, like Herbology and, well I just kinda knew what it looked like."

"Hm," Tracey just nodded and continued to work on her own potion, occasionally correcting Neville whenever he was about to make a mistake. At the end of the lesson, Snape observed all the potions and simply said that Neville's was good… for a dunderhead. That caused another chuckle from the majority of his Slytherin's.

As the class was dismissed, and Neville made his way back to the Gryffindor Common Room he heard a student cast a spell. "Diffindo!"

Next thing Neville knew part of his robes were ripped and the bottom part of his trousers had been cut off, exposing part of his underwear. He was thankful that he actually remembered to wear underwear today. The corridor immediately erupted in laughter as Neville's face turned beat red in embarrassment. But the loudest laughter of all came from the spell's castor.

Draco Malfoy was clutching his stomach as he roared with laughter at Neville's exposed state. "Look boys! He really does have a long-bottom! You were right Crabbe!" As if his red face wasn't humiliating enough, his eyes began to feel very puffy all of a sudden.

"I-is there a pr-problem h-here gentlemen?"

Neville never thought he would be so glad to hear the stuttering voice of the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Quirrell before. Malfoy and his cronies eased up on their taunting.

"Not at all, Professor," Malfoy said, wearing a proud smile. "Longbottom just had a misfire with his wand was all."

"A-ah, th-that does tend to happen to f-first years o-often, eh?" Quirrell seemed to believe Malfoy's lie. "N-now why d-don't we all keep a m-move on? Don't w-want to h-hold up the c-corridor, eh?"

The cluster of students began moving once again, and Malfoy sent Neville a smug grin as he departed. Quirrell turned to Neville and muttered a spell that instantly repaired his torn robe and trousers.

"F-first year j-jitters? I had t-them my-myself," Quirrell told him kindly.

"Yeah, sure," Neville mumbled. "Thank you, Professor Quirrell."

"N-no problem. None at a-all." Quirrell smiled at him and walked back to his own empty classroom. Unbeknownst to Neville, Quirrell's stuttering act dropped the minute he closed the office door behind him.

"Weak little brat," Quirrell uttered when he was sure he was alone. Well- as alone as he could be. Walking over to a wall mounted mirror, Quirrell began to undo the purple turban that he wore every day. With one last twirl, the face that was growing out of the back of his head was free.

It was pale and reptilian in appearance and had slits for nostrils where a nose should have been. Red eyes blinked to adjust to the light. It was the face of Voldemort, or what was left of him,

"Halloween is only a few weeks away, My Lord," Quirrell spoke with the face on the back of his head. "I am ready to make our move then."

"Excellent," Voldemort rasped out. "Dumbledore was a fool if he believed hiding the stone here was the safest move. For a man who claims to love his students, he has put every one of them at risk with this ploy of his."

"I agree," Quirrell said. "The man is going senile in his old age. When the stone is ours you will be back to your original glory. Dumbledore won't stand a chance."

"Dumbledore will fall, I will see it through to fruition," Voldemort said with determination. "But not before I torture him within an inch of his life. I want to hear him confess where he has hidden the boy all these years."

"B-but My Lord," Quirrell stuttered, genuine this time. "The boy is missing. No one knows where he is."

"Do not believe those lies in the Daily Prophet!" Voldemort reprimanded him. "Dumbledore knows. He must. And even if he doesn't, I will find him myself. Potter can't stay hidden forever."

Thud! The thickly bound leather book made quite the sound as Guts plopped it down on the desk Casca sat at. For the past two hours they had spent in Windham's library they had found little as to what Harry's "talent," as Griffith had called it, could possibly be. And both of their frustration was beginning to surface.

"Could you be quieter?" Casca asked, clenching a fist. "This is still a library after all."

"Doesn't seem busy to me," Guts observed the near desolate hall, the exception being an old man a few tables away that looked more asleep than awake. Casca just shook her head and opened the book he had placed before her.

"This is a history of Midland," Casca read the title.

"Yeah, so?"

She sighed. "Nothing. Good to see you're still an uncooperative jackass."

"Heh. Good to see you're still an unappreciative bitch," Guts shot back. He could tolerate Casca well enough on good days, but only for so long.

Instead of arguing further, Casca let out a very long sigh and began to flip through the book. This had been the cycle for the last two hours. Guts would pick a book for the surrounding shelves and Casca would skim through it for information. A stack of discarded books sat on the floor beside the desk, nearly reaching as high by now. Usually, Casca had power skimmed through each of the text, but she seemed to be taking her time with this one.

"What's taking you so long?" Guts asked. "Find anything?"

She ran a hand through her dark hair. "I don't know, maybe. This is an old text, the first few chapters are speculations about old King Gaiseric and then a list of his rumored descendants."

"Who?" Guts asked, unfamiliar with the name.

"You know, King Gaiseric?" Casca repeated. "He was the one who united the entire continent. He was known for wearing a skull like helm into battle. Apparently, the royal family of Midland is descended from him."

"That has anything to do with what we're supposed to be looking for?"

"I'm still looking," she replied. "It wouldn't hurt if you helped read through a few too."

"You seem to be doing an alright job," Guts said. She looked like she was about to retort, but restrained herself in the end and continued to flip through.

"Wait," she said after a few more minutes of looking. "I think I might have found something."

"What is it?"

"Come here, look for yourself."

"Just tell me, you're the one holding the damn book," Guts further argued.

"Yeah, well-," she paused. "Hold on. Can you- can you read?"

"What makes you ask that?" Guts answered with a question.

"Every book you've picked out, you've given to me to read. After awhile I began to wonder if you were even looking at the title. It would explain why one of the books you grabbed was one filled with children's fairy tales."

"I know enough words," Guts said. "I can read if I try hard enough, but it's not something I need. I'm not about to throw books at people in battle, am I?"

She looked at him strangely, before sliding the book over so the both of them could look at it. "Do you know what that says?" She asked. Guts looked at the word in concentration trying to make sense of the way the letters were arranged on the parchment. He was able to recognize the first letter easily enough, it was a capital after all. M.

The letters following he recognized as well, but they didn't form any word that he knew already. "That someone's name or something?" Guts asked. "Murr," he tried sounding it out.

"I think its pronounced Merlin," Casca read as well.

"So what's so special about him?"

Casca pointed to another passage. "Court order from the king of that time. One day a man arrived at Windham castle seeking an audience with the king. The king's wife had fallen deathly sick and had put the word out all over the nation for the best healers to come and heal his beloved. When this Merlin arrived he claimed to have been a great friend and advisor to the king of his realm and promised to do all in his power to help. A day later, the queen was back to full health. Some in the court accused Merlin of witchcraft, and he made no move to deny any of them, but the king refused to have him killed on account of what he had done. The king only wanted to know why a stranger from a distant land would want to help. Merlin was quoted with the following, "Stranger? None of us are strangers. We may come from different lands, but I choose to see the world as a tree that connects us all, like how I came to visit this land. We each have a choice, and I choose to help; not strangers, but my fellow man."

"They thought this guy was a wizard?" Guts said after Casca had recited the text. "He sounds more like a washed out poet."

She slammed the book shut. "Still it's the closest thing we've managed to find, aside from the record of witch burnings held at The Tower of Conviction. It's a start, but if Griffith wants us to dig into this Merlin character further, we won't find it here. Chances are anything else about him might be held in the royal family's private library." She packed the book in her rucksack. "Still worth hanging onto I suppose."

It was a good day for a hunt. At least that's what all the lords seemed to think. This hunt was one of tradition as it was hosted by the king himself and featured many members of the nobility. But by royal decree, The Band of the Hawk was cordially invited to join as well. Or so many of them believed.

"So we're not actually doing any hunting?" Asked Harry from horseback.

"More like shepherding," Guts surmised from his mount as well. "Nobility can't break all their stupid tradition."

His placement alongside Guts was not by coincidence. After "the incident," as Harry came to refer to it as, it was decided that he should stick close to either Guts, Casca, or Griffith in case any other new "talents" popped up. Harry was actually glad he was with Guts today. The swordsman seemed skeptical if his "talent" was real or not and didn't make any mention of bringing it up. Of course Harry had nothing against being with Casca or Griffith, but even though Casca meant well, she could still be overbearing at times. And Griffith…

Well, Griffith kept his mount by the king, and by extent next to Princess Charlotte. The entire time the hunt had been taking place, Harry noted Charlotte to seem nervous whenever an arrow would be fired at an animal, to then letting out a sigh of relief when it missed. As a way to help ease her nerves, Griffith was showing her how to get a leaf to whistle. She seemed to be enjoying it.

"Is he trying to woo her or just enjoying the little things?" Harry wondered.

"Both," Guts replied. A fox ran in their direction. "C'mon." The pair of them rode forward and cut the fox off. Startled, it ran off in another direction.

"Nicely done, lads!" A noble said, riding after the prey.

"Lads?" Harry repeated. "He doesn't know our names, does he?" He felt a tad insulted.

"Why would he?" Guts sounded put out, but for another reason. "We could've killed that fox if we were allowed."

They should have. The direction the fox fled was right past Charlotte's horse, spooking it and causing it to run off. "Aaaaah!" She wailed as her horse ran off with her. Acting fast, Griffith gave chase after.

"We're going after them, right?" Harry turned to Guts for guidance.

"Hell yeah, we are. C'mon!" Guts spurred his horse after them as well, Harry following close behind.

Charlotte's horse had a head start, but they were quickly able to catch up to them after Griffith had ridden up alongside her and grabbed the reigns to help steady the spooked horse. Griffith dismounted and tied the reigns to a nearby tree branch to ensure the horse would not run off again.

"Are you alright?" He asked Charlotte, who much to his surprise jumped down from her horse to wrap her arms around him, trembling as she shook from fear. He gently patted her head to sooth her. "It's alright, princess. Horses might be majestic, but spook quite easily."

"T-thank you, Sir Griffith." She smiled up at him.

"Now, why don't I escort you back to your father and-,"

Thunk!

As Harry and Guts rode to where Griffith and Charlotte were a cry of, "HELP!" rang through the air. Getting closer they saw a terrified Charlotte standing next to Griffith, who had an arrow protruding from his breastplate.

"Griffith!" Guts rode down to him.

"Crap!" Harry lightly cursed, following suit.

"Someone shot at him!" Charlotte panicked. "He had just saved me and then-,"

"Did you see where?!" Guts demanded, approaching the already scared Charlotte. "Where'd it come from?!"

"I-I don't… I didn't see until… until after!" Charlotte became more panicked.

"Guts, you're scaring her," Harry reached out to calm Guts down, only to have the swordsman pull away before it could happen like he was expecting something bad to happen if he did.

"Don't worry about me, worry about-,"

"Griffith!" Soon Casca and a few Hawks were riding down to them, as well as the king and a few nobles.

"What is the meaning of this?!" The king demanded.

"Ugh!" Griffith groaned as he pulled the arrow free of his breastplate. "I'm fine." He pulled the crimson red bauble free from beneath his armor. "If it hadn't hit this I would be done for. My luck holds out again."

"Someone shot at him, father!" Charlotte explained. "My horse had been spooked and Sir Griffith had come to my rescue when-," the king had one of the nobles give his daughter a cloak to wrap around herself.

"Escort my daughter back to the castle at once," he ordered. "Everyone else, search the area. We may be dealing with a Chuder assassin."

As a chorus of "Yes, Your Highness!" rang out, Harry saw Griffith staring at one of the noble lords. He man had a well-pampered mane of reddish brown hair and the look of someone who had been sucking on a lemon. The lord stared back at Griffith, before riding to escort Charlotte back to the castle.

Hours later

Guts watched Griffith as he flipped through a book within the latter's solar. "We didn't find who shot at you, if that's why you called me here," Guts told his leader.

"No, I wouldn't think so," Griffith replied nonchalantly as if he had not almost been killed hours ago. "I have just been reading up on something that might be of interest to us. You recall the name of that man you and Casca had discovered in your research?"

"That Merlin guy? Yeah," Guts recalled. "Why?"

Griffith held up the book he was reading. "From the royal family's private collection."

"How'd you get that?" Guts questioned.

"Well, the king was most grateful for my helping his daughter that he was quite easy to persuade into allowing me access."

"What'd you find?"

Griffith smiled softly. "Quite a few things. I plan on lending this text to Casca so she and Harry can go over it together."

"And, you want me to run it over to them or something?" Guts asked. "You're lazy if you don't feel like giving it to them yourself."

Griffith lightly chuckled. "No. That's not the reason why either. I… have a favor to ask of you."

Guts shrugged. "So, do it. If you need me to do something, just say so. Don't be so damn hesitant; it isn't like you at all."

Upon hearing his words, Griffith smiled. But like that one time before this one wasn't childish at all. It was more a smirk filled with a hidden dark intent that only surfaced like a sharks fin above the water, you never knew it was there until it was. It was… creepy.

"I'd like you to kill a man for me."

A/N: So there's chapter 8. I made mention to Merlin having crossed over into Midland in previous chapters, and without giving away any spoliers, I can say that it will be an important plot point in the future. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

It was perhaps a show of wealth, combined with a streak of vanity that compelled Count Julius to possess his own manor instead of residing with the resident family in Midland's capital castle. The manner was located just a few miles from the castle itself, a close enough distance for Julius to travel to and from the court of his brother; and easy for Guts to find, even in the dead of night.

All night long he had observed Count Julius' movements throughout the manner from the shadows, learning his routine and the layout of the dwelling. Julius had spent the better half of the early night giving orders to servants and discussing a few matters with an old scholar. That was until a certain visitor came to pay Julius a visit. She was a tall woman in a dark yet elaborate dress with her dark hair veiled by a headdress that framed her narrow face and regal features. Guts needn't have met her to know that she was Midland's Queen.

And it was perhaps due to her visit that Guts learned where Julius himself resided within the large manor. From his current position on the roof lining the courtyard, Guts was able to identify the flicker of candle light from the window of the manors spire, along with the soft billow of smoke that escaped from the chimney; adding further fire to the passion that was surely going on between the two of them from within. For a brief flicker of a moment Guts pondered what the king would say if he were to discover what was going on between his wife and his brother.

Ultimately, Guts didn't really care. It was just a fleeting thought. And besides, one of them was going to be dead soon anyways.

After the two of them were finished with their explicit nightly activities, Guts observed Julius escorting her majesty back to her awaiting carriage and then calling his young son Adonis out into the courtyard. "Fetch us some swords!" Julius ordered the Master of Arms.

"The tourney swords, My Lord?"

"My son won't become a great warrior by training with wood all his life," Julius said, ignoring the nervous look from his young son. "Bring us live steel."

"At once, My Lord." The Arms Master returned with two broadswords for the father and son pair. Julius held his sword with a steady grip while Adonis had to use both hands to wield his, and even then he could barely lift it.

"It's heavy, father," Adonis pleaded for a lighter one.

Julius denied his complaint. "Do you expect to become strong by using a sword fit for a baby?" His tone was condescending, and he knew it. "You won't be a boy forever. It's time for you to man up!"

As harsh as Julius' words were to his Adonis, Guts knew them to be true. Who knew when the war with Chuder was going to end? One day Adonis would have to take his father's place and lead a portion of Midland's army; and he wasn't going to do that as a weak little kid.

Their blades clashed and Adonis fell flat on his bottom. "Pick yourself up!" Julius commanded. "Come on, Adonis!"

Pushing himself to his feet, Adonis dragged his sword across the cobblestone courtyard to where his father stood. "Hiyahhh!" Adonis managed to swing the sword, albeit using both hands but Julius was easily able to knock the attack aside. Julius brought up his knee up to Adonis' stomach sending him reeling back.

If anyone were to see Guts' face from beneath the hood of his cloak, they would have seen a flicker of nostalgia pass like a shadow over his brown eyes. Everything about this situation felt oddly surreal to Guts; like he was reliving a scene of his own past in the present. From the much larger opponent, to the sword too large for him to properly lift as a child of six, to even when Julius was a bit too forceful with his strike and ended up cutting his son on the arm. And for a sliver of a minute, Guts could almost feel a tinge run along his nose where the scar running horizontal rested.

"My Lord," the elderly scholar interjected the one-sided sparring match. "Young Adonis should see to his wound. It would do no good to anyone if he were to die from an infection."

"Hmph," Julius sheathed his sword. "Very well, see it done. I'm retiring to my chambers for the night. See that no one disturbs me for the rest of the night." Julius gave his son but a brief glance and a pat on the head before heading inside his manor.

"Come, Adonis," the old scholar beckoned. "Let us see to that wound of yours."

Silently Guts raced along the rooftop to the outside of the spire where the Julius would be arriving in his chambers. Gripping onto the brickwork, Guts was careful to work his fingers into the notches as he began his climb upwards to the man he was sent to kill.

Another year, another Halloween to be celebrated at Hogwarts School. While the doors to the great hall remained closed the sounds of feasting and merriment still carried out around the enchanted castle. Inside the hall students talked and laughed over the latest bit of gossip from grades, to Hogsmead Village, or secret infatuations. And up at the staff table the teachers socialized as well. And of course, they all feasted.

The food was of a variety, a meal for the eyes as well as the stomach. Pork, corn, beans, soup, bread and butter, turkey, chicken, and pumpkin pie were just among a few dishes out of many. But there remained one person within Hogwarts who would not be enjoying the festivities of the night. Instead, they stood outside of the great hall, waiting to make an entrance.

The plan was a bit rushed in Quirrell's opinion, but it was well thought out enough in most parts. He and his master both knew Dumbledore to be hiding the Sorcerers' Stone on the third floor, and that every other staff member was currently in the great hall enjoying the feast. But knowing Dumbledore, the aged wizard had most likely installed some kind of ward that would alert him if anyone were to enter the corridor. So what better way to distract the staff than with a misdirect?

Quirrell was far from the most powerful professor under Hogwarts employ, but he did have a certain gift with magical creatures, Mountain Trolls to be more precise. Getting it in the school had been an easier task than expected as he was able to use the guise that it was a security measure to guard the object he was secretly plotting to steal. He had subdued the creature enough that he was able to put it in the dungeons before lifting the sleeping spell he had put on it. That had bought Quirrell just enough time to rush back to the entrance hall where he waited now.

"Give a convincing performance," the muffled voice of his master spoke from under his purple turban.

"Of course," Quirrell confirmed. He had managed to fool the entire school that he was a stuttering incompetent who lost his courage after a vampire encounter; he could easily pull this next act off without a hitch. To get into the role, Quirrell began to hyperventilate to give the impression he had been running for his very life. Carefully, he unrolled his turban by one roll so not to give too much suspicion about his relatively clean appearance, as well as to still keep his master concealed. With that, Quirrell ran forth, throwing the doors wide as he barreled straight into the hall.

All chatter stopped as the students eyed their normally quite Defense Professor running at full speed and shouting at the top of his lungs. "Trollll! In the dungeon!" Quirrell wailed. "Troll in the dungeon!"

Dumbledore had risen from his seat, but aside from that no one moved or said anything. "Thought you ought to know," Quirrell quietly said before faking a faint and falling face down on the stone floor. His eyes might have been closed, but his ears were much attuned to the collective scream that followed after. The students were in a clear panic, the sounds of their feet scrambling over one another to get to the exit assaulted his ears.

And then, "Silence!" Dumbledore bellowed, his magically amplified voice carrying out to quell any other noise in the hall. It worked. "Prefects," Dumbledore's voice was much quieter now, but still carried authority, "escort students back to their dormitories. Teachers will come with me to the dungeon."

Quirrell remained motionless as he listened to sounds of feet shuffling by, they were loud at first as the halls inhabitants grouped together with their houses and followed the orders the prefects were giving them, and then it was like listening to the end of a rainstorm with only a few drops falling before leaving silence in its wake.

Sure that the hall had emptied, Quirrell got to his feet and rushed out of the hall himself. But Quirrell rushed not down to the dungeons, but up to the forbidden third floor corridor. The door to enter was locked, but a simple alohomora charm made short work of the lock. Shutting the door behind him, Quirrell made quick stride down the corridor, the torches magically lighting as he past them.

At the end of the corridor there would be another locked door, but Quirrell knew that another alohomora would unlock it just the same as the first. It was too easy so far really. The magically locked doors could be unlocked by a charm learned by a first year student. Of course, there were the other protections around the stone but anyone in the school could make it this far and then come across the-,

"WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!"

"Agh!"

The door at the end of the corridor slammed shut, as Professor Snape forced it closed with all his might; using his wand to secure the lock in place once more. The other Hogwarts Professor breathed heavily as he held a bleeding gash on his leg and lifted his beady dark eyes to look at Quirrell. "My, my," Snape flatly said. "What a coincidence to meet you here, Quirrell."

No. No! This could not be happening! How could Snape have possibly known?! He could even feel his master seethe from this unexpected interruption.

"P-professor S-s-snape!" Quirrell defected back to his bumbling persona. "W-what a s-surprise! I t-thought y-you had come this w-way. I d-didn't think I saw y-you g-go to the dungeons. E-every other p-professor is down t-there."

Snape let go of the door and limped over to where Quirrell stood. "Save for the two of us. I wonder why that is." Another step forward and Quirrell found himself backed against a wall. "Surely you would have gone to assist our fellow colleagues, you seem to have made a full recovery in such a short time."

"I a-am not much of a f-fighter y-you see," Quirrell began to weave a tale together. "I w-wouldn't have been m-much of a h-help. N-not directly a-anyways. I t-thought t-that's what y-you were o-off to do, to m-make s-sure no one w-wandered away to this c-corridor."

"Hm," Snape's black eyes never left his. "How considerate of you."

"I-indeed," Quirrell stuttered further. "I w-would only be an h-hindrance a-any other way."

Snape's lip curled into bit of a sneer. "I will never understand how you got your position, Quirrell." Snape stepped away from him. "Come, Quirrell! There is no danger here. Let us go aid our fellow staff against this troll."

"O-of c-course!" Quirrell managed a fake, but convincing smile. It couldn't be farther from what he was feeling on the inside.

The fireplace and a few candles provided light to the lord's chambers atop the spire, a spacious living quarter, Guts had to admit, but with the lingering stench of Julius' and the queen's sex it felt much less homely than it could've.

Guts waited in a corner of the room where the light did not illuminate, and with the hood of his cloak pulled up it seemed to cast him further into the shadows. He fire hissed as a log cracked and the sound of approaching footsteps ascended from the spiral staircase leading upwards. A lock was undone and Julius stepped into his quarters not bothering to close the door fully behind him.

The king's brother went to the desk in the middle of the room and took a seat, unbuckling his sword belt and resting it against his desk. By all accounts, Julius believed himself to be alone in his room. Guts took a slow step out of the shadows, the firelight briefly reflecting off of his sword.

Julius noticed the gleam from his peripheral vision and turned, startled to see that there was an intruder. Quickly, he reached for his sword, but Guts was faster as he shot towards him. Julius barely had time to block Guts' attack and staggered from the force of the swing. Guts swung upwards and sent Julius' sword flying out of his hands. Raising his sword high, Guts brought it swinging down. In a vain attempt to block the swing, Julius raised his hand, but the swing cut right through his appendage and sank into his shoulder.

The once expensive robes Julius wore quickly became tainted red with blood as he dropped to his knees, bleeding out within his own chambers. And in his last dying bit of strength, Julius managed to use his non-mangled hand to pull Guts' cloak down looked up at his now assassin and was able to catch a brief glimpse of Guts' face. Guts saw the recognition pass over Julius' face as he recalled seeing him with Griffith that one day during their recovery. The thought that Griffith had bested him would be the last thought Julius had. A pitiful half gurgle escaped Julius' lips and his body went limp in a pool of his own blood.

Moving away from the body, Guts started back for the window he had entered from. He would have to go tell Griffith that Julius was no longer an issue. In just a few minutes he would be-, Creeeeek.

The door to the chamber creaked open enough to elicit a noise and Guts knew that it had not been the wind. Guts turned his head and sure enough he was able to identify a shape looking through the crack in the door. He couldn't see who it was but he knew that they could see the body. They could see his face. Not wasting a second, Guts ran forth, threw open the door, and drove his sword forward. Schuck! His sword pierced the body, pinning it against the wall.

"Uughh," Adonis moaned as his mouth filled with blood. Guts sword penetrating his abdomen, most likely puncturing both of the boys lungs. Guts' eyes widened as he took in the sight.

It was no guard, nor an advisor, just Julius' son, a boy younger than Rickert, younger than Harry even. Just a boy.

Adonis' eyes began to close and he reached out weakly to the room where his father lay dead. It must have just been the shock of the situation, but Guts reached out and grasped the boy's hand in his much larger one. Adonis' hand already growing cold. The boy gave one last gurgled cry before his eyes closed for good; his hand falling limp in Guts' grasp.

A boy.

Guts pulled his sword out, and Adonis slid down the wall; a trail of blood following his movement.

A boy. Not a soldier.

"Master Adonis?" The voice of the aged scholar called from somewhere on the staircase. He sounded close. "Master Adonis, you shouldn't disturb your father at such an hour. He tends to-," the scholar and his two guards rounded the corner and saw the sight of Adonis laying dead, and Guts standing over him.

"I-intruder!" The scholar yelled. "Intruder in the-!" Guts rushed forth and quickly cut him down. The two guards both swung at him, but he blocked both of their swings and with a single swing of his own blade cut them both down.

Guts put his fallen hood up as he raced down the spiral staircase. He just had to get out of here. Get out of here and report back to Griffith. Julius was dead, his mission complete. And so was the boy.

"Intruder!" More guards saw him racing through the manor and charged forth to prevent his escape.

Careful to keep his hood up, Guts swung, blocked, and hacked his way through a fresh wave of guards that came to challenge him. Guts made short work of all of them as he cut through their armor and barreled out of the manor.

"Don't let him escape!" More cries sounded from the manor, and soon the place was in an uproar. "Archers, to your posts!"

Get to the river! Guts mentally pushed himself. If he could get there and get across he could leave this place behind and make it back to Windham. Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! Arrows rained down around him, but he didn't break stride as he kept rushing for the river that was within his sights by now.

Thunk!

"Gah!" Guts grit his teeth as an arrow found its mark on his upper arm, and remained lodged in place. But an arrow wound was the least of his worries as he heard the sound of riders approaching fast on horseback. "Shit!" Guts cursed as he neared the river, he could see where he had tied his horse, he just had to get there and crossing the river would be an easy task.

Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! "Neeigghgh!" One of the riders must have seen his horse and shot it before Guts could take the saddle.

Damn it! Guts mentally berated.

"Stop him!"

With little options left, Guts took his chances and jumped into the river himself. His armor and cloak quickly became soaked, and the current of the river began to carry him down stream. "Aah!" Guts' head broke the surface of the water, but had little time to savor his breath as the current of the river forced him under.

His back slammed into a rock as the current continued to pull him along with its meandering flow and bend. The impact of colliding with the rock briefly had Guts seeing stars. Feeling water seep into his lungs and frustration overtake his senses, Guts kicked off from the bottom of the river with enough force to breach the surface once more.

"Bah-ah-ah-ah!" Guts coughed up water as he kicked his way over to the other side of the river bank. Pulling himself ashore, Guts plopped down of his back as he took in sight of the arrow protruding from his bicep.

His right hand, Guts grasped the arrow, and with a fierce yank pulled it out of his arm. "Tch!" Guts tossed the arrow aside and ran a hand through his watered down black hair. Why's it feel so warm? Guts wondered as looked at his hand. Blood? Oh, he must have hit it on that one rock.

Maybe. It wouldn't hurt if he just… rested for a bit. His eyes grew heavy.

And he was a child again. A boy of the mere age of six, holding a sword that was much too large for him to be wielding. He swung it around without the skill that he had now, and his opponent knew it as well.

It was a face Guts recognized; the one of the mercenary leader who had raised him as a boy: Gambino. The spar that passed between them, was largely one sided, as Gambino knocked every one of his strikes aside, all the while wearing a knowing smirk on his face. But that smirk faded fast as Child Guts was able to knick Gambino on his hand.

Gambino scowled, and the friendly spar between them turned deadly when Gambino cut Guts across the bridge of his nose, ensuring a scar would stay in its place.

"It was all your fault," Gambino said, accusingly and Guts noticed that his mentor was missing a leg. Gambino raised his sword to kill him, and as he stepped into his strike, Guts raised his sword, and Gambino walked into the blade; killing himself.

But it wasn't his kneck that had been impaled on the blade, now it was his chest. And Gambino was not a grown man, he was a child. Adonis. And Guts was still the one holding the sword in his hand.

"HUHUHUHUH!" A deep rumbling laughter echoed around him and it took shape in the form of Zodd. The demonic figure loomed over Guts and snarled. But it was not the beastlike face that he had seen before. The face snarling down at him was his own.

The flicker of the candlelight in the nearly empty dining hall cast its light over the weathered pages of the old text. It probably wasn't wise to have it so close to the book itself, but it was necessary on account of the near faded ink, a clear indicator that it was perhaps hundreds of years old. Both Harry and Casca found themselves having to squint to read certain passages.

It was from the royal family's private library, a gift to Griffith from the king as thanks for saving Princess Charlotte during the hunt. And to further show his thanks, the king had invited Griffith to a feast alongside some other very high ranking nobles, hence why the white-haired man was not looking at the text as well. But that did not diminish the fact that it had been a great insight so far. Or the parts that they could read at least.

The book was written by a name Harry recalled from many a children's fairy tales: Merlin. Apparently he had wrote it as a field journal of sorts to record his travels throughout Midland, only leaving it behind to the royal family as it contained the recipe for the potion that had saved the then king's wife should they ever have to brew it themselves as it required no magic on their end.

Casca's dark eyes scanned the page they were on. "This is… something else alright." Harry was glad to see that she didn't show the signs of freaking out like when he had first spoke to that snake.

"So do you think its true then?" Harry asked. "Magic, I mean."

"Well, this Merlin was either a complete lunatic or the real deal," she answered, scanning the page over once more. "I mean he says on the first page that he attended a school that teaches magic called Hogwarts. I had to reread that to make sure I wasn't seeing it wrong. That and something about a tree of some kind."

"It does sound made up," Harry couldn't help but agree. "But did you see anything about talking to snakes?"

"Actually, yes." Casca turned to a previous page and slid it over so he could see it better. "Merlin wrote something about further studying parsalspeech, the language of snakes. He had been studying it for sixteen years before learning the speech himself."

"But I never studied to talk to snakes."

"Well he wrote that its largely a family trait and can only be learned by those with the mental capacity for it," Casca read off. "You used to live with your aunt and uncle right? Did they-?"

"No," Harry bluntly answered. "Vernon and Petunia would have freaked out if they could." Huh. He hadn't added uncle or aunt before their names.

"Maybe our parents then," Casca inferred. "If it can be passed by blood then maybe."

"I guess," Harry said. "But if they had magic then they could have saved themselves from dying, right?"

"I… don't have an answer for you there," Casca said, her tone gentle. "Just from what I've read so far magic, if it really is real, has a lot of uses but stopping death… that's not one of them." Seeing his disappointment, Casca changed the topic. "But I do think I might have found how magic is performed."

"With a wand?" Harry guessed.

"More of a staff," Casca said. "Merlin wrote that he was able to pass his staff off as a simple walking stick when passing through a village that openly burned supposed witches."

"So if I had a staff, you'd think I'd be able to do magic?" Harry guessed. He even noticed that he sounded a little excited when asking. Sure he had been nervous after Casca initial reaction to the snake, but knowing that she was willing to help him now was a comforting thought.

"Heh," She chuckled. "Maybe you could go try and find his then. He wrote that he stumbled across witches living in one of Midland's forests and made them a powerful staff as a token of good will."

"Really?" Harry asked as he tried to decipher some of the smudged letters. Either it was that old, or Merlin had the worst handwriting ever. "Does it say which one he-?" the sound of the hall's door opening prompted Harry to suddenly close the book and stuff it away in his satchel.

"Oh," Casca said her tone flat when turning to address the newcomer. "It's just you."

"Griffith," Guts said as he eyed the near empty hall. "Where is he?"

"He's at a dinner event," Harry told him, standing up and shouldering the satchel. "He was invited for-,"

"Thanks," Guts said abruptly, before walking back out the way he had came.

"What was that about?" Harry wondered, watching a very drenched Guts walk out.

"Who knows," Casca replied. "But we best stop him before he interrupts the event and embarrasses Griffith."

Whatever it was Guts wanted to see Griffith about he clearly wanted to do it soon. His stride had them racing to keep pace with him as they caught up to him on a set of stairs leading up to a fountain just outside a section of the castle. Two figures were sitting on the fountains edge talking, not noticing the three looking up on them from their position.

"There you are," Casca said in a berating tone once they had caught up with him after he had stopped midway up the steps. "What's so important that- what's this?" Both of them looked to see that apart from being soaking wet, Guts had acquired a fresh wound on his upper arm that looked like it belonged to an arrow. Guts didn't reply as he stared up at the two by the fountain. He didn't even react until Casca had tore the sleeve of her shirt and began to tie it around his wound.

"Hey, what are you-?"

"Shut up, and let me patch this," Casca told him, tying it around to absorb some of the blood. Seeing her example, Harry tore a sleeve from his shirt as well and handed it to Guts.

"For your head," Harry pointed to where he saw a patch of blood. Guts accepted it and tied it around his head like a bandana, turning his attention back to the two figures soon after. No surprise considering one of them was Griffith. He and Charlotte must have come outside to enjoy the cool night air.

"Sir Griffith," Charlotte shyly spoke, "do you believe in destiny?" The three of them heard the princess ask Griffith.

"Like everything that happens, happens because it was meant to?" Griffith asked. "I don't believe in that," they heard him tell her. "I don't believe that we're supposed to live our lives as intended by forces out of our own control, but by what we make for ourselves. If the former were true I would just be a beggar boy in some alley. And here I am now."

"I never thought of it that way," they could all almost visualize Charlotte's blush. "If you don't mind my asking, why do you see it that way?"

"Because of my dream," Griffith easily responded. "I always dreamed more for myself than a boy of my status had any right to. The aspiration that burned inside me like a raging bonfire that could not be extinguished."

"You speak true?" Charlotte asked. "Most would have said that they do not possess such a dream. But what is it you desire? A lover? A knight's honor?"

"Both are important, aren't they?" Griffith answered with a question. "Fighting and dying for a cause are important, but it is their own dreams that are more important I see it."

"More important?" Charlotte parroted.

"The dream supports them, breathes fire into their soul that continues to burn even after they have fallen," Griffith explained. "And it is that quality that I measure on the most, because it is how I am to call a man my friend. Someone who has their own dream in sight and will fight to obtain it, even me if it so stands. The dream will keep him afloat so that we are on an equal field. A dream that is different that we are equals in aspiring towards it."

Harry listened to the speech Griffith gave to Charlotte, unknowingly being overheard by three of his own. That's what Griffith considers a friend? Harry internally mused. A person who lived live according to their own dream and could stand by it until the very end, that was an equal? For the time Harry had known him, he never would have thought Griffith would have that opinion on friendship. From day one he had come across as an understanding guy keen on doing what he could to help another out. He was nice, compassionate, smart, almost the picture perfect image of how a person should be in both looks and traits.

But the words he had just spoken now seemed cold and distant, as if to shatter that image Harry had of Griffith in his head with a single flaw doting a near perfect record. The words Griffith had said replayed over and over in his mind, the idea of a dream presenting itself to Harry and seeing nothing in its place. What was his dream? What passion kept him burning? What made him an equal to Griffith? Was he even Griffith's friend?

It wasn't a question he wanted to think about. He wanted to tell himself that he was, Griffith had been nothing but friendly to him, so why wouldn't he be his friend? It felt wrong to even think about, and yet Griffith had just said that was the quality he measures a friend by. What was he to Griffith? What was everyone else?

He wanted to ask Guts what he thought of it, he was closer to Griffith than he was anyways. For all Harry knew Griffith could have just been saying that to impress Charlotte. But Guts was already walking back down the steps the way he had come. Casca put a hand on his shoulder to lead him away as they followed after.

"Guts?" Harry asked as they caught up him. "Are you-?"

"What did you find in that one book?" Guts cut him off.

"A few things," Casca answered. "Mind telling us why you're all wet and wanted to see Griffith as soon as-?"

"What are you doing tomorrow, Harry?" Guts cut her off as well.

"I- don't really know yet. Maybe look through that book some more. I mean it-,"

"Has anyone showed you how to block a full thrust attack?" Guts asked.

"Well, a few times, but I don't-,"

"Why don't I show you tomorrow?" Suggested Guts. It caught both Harry and Casca off guard. For the time he had known Guts he trained in solitude.

"Why are you offering?" Casca questioned, clearly not understanding Guts' motives.

"Just 'cus," he replied. "What do you say?"

"Well- I guess," Harry agreed. "But why are-?"

"See you then," Guts ended the conversation as abruptly as he had cut them both off. Harry had no idea why Guts made the offer that he did, but the one thing he did know for sure: Griffith's words had resonated within Guts as well.

The green flames of the Floo powder lightly tickled at Dumbledore's crooked nose as he stuck his head into the enchanted flames to talk to his contact on the other side. "Alastor?" He asked as he was able to see the interior of Moody's home office. The multiple Dark Detectors on the desk were a clear sign that they belonged to Moody. The troll fiasco had delayed him in contacting the Ex-Auror, but the creature had been dealt with by McGonagall, Snape, and himself while Quirrell promised to deal with the body after wards. And the matter of sending a poor first-year student to Madam Pomfrey had to be dealt with as well. How the troll had wandered into a girls bathroom was something that remained to be seen.

"I'm here Dumbledore," Moody knelt down into his line of sight.

"Good, good, how has your monitoring been going?" Dumbledore asked getting right down to the point.

"Different, unlike last year," Moody replied. "We monitored Stonehenge again this year, Albus. Something was different."

"Pray tell," Dumbledore urged sounding frantic.

"We were able to detect a slight ripple in magical influx," Mood reported. "Something crossed over here Albus."

"Could it be?" Dumbledore didn't want to get his hopes up, but the prospect was too promising.

"I don't think it was a person, Albus," Moody reported. "And whatever it was it isn't in England."

Elsewhere in an Albanian forest, a small green object landed on the hard ground. Gravity pulled it down a rocky slope where it finally came to a stop nestled between the gnarled roots of a tree. It was a small object for sure, and the color green was a rather emerald shade, and its egg shape was adorned by a variety of scattered facial features.

A/N: So that's it for this chapter. Quite a lot was foreshadowed in this chapter and some crossover in the HP side of things has finally happened as well. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

It seemed that Hogwarts was abuzz in the days following the Halloween incident, as it quickly became a major topic of conversation among the student body population. Neville had no idea how many rumors were flying around, but if the resident gossiping Gryffindor's, Pavarti and Lavender were an indication, there were more than necessary.

"The troll was twelve feet tall, at least," Lavender whispered to Pavarti in the Gryffindor common room.

"And it had a club that was half its height," Pavarti whispered back.

"How do you think it got in?"

"Maybe someone let it in."

"No. Who would do that?"

"Probably a seventh year, they thought it would make a good prank."

"Well it wasn't funny," Lavender concluded. "I mean, did you hear about what almost happened with that girl in our year? She almost got killed by it."

"In the bathroom?" Pavarti asked. "She was in there all day after Weasley insulted her after Charms."

"Uh-huh," Lavender nodded. "Maybe he let the troll in. You know, to mess with her some more? He can be really mean most of the time."

Pavarti shook her head. "No. That isn't like the Weasley in our year. "His brother's maybe. They pull pranks like there's no tomorrow."

Neville knew the two Weasley's through reputation. Fred and George Weasley were two years ahead of him and spent a majority of their time slacking off in the common room, and planning pranks with another friend of theirs, Lee Jordan. When they weren't doing that, they were practicing their game out on the Quidditch field. They were a total opposite of their older brother, Percy, the Gryffindor Prefect and a stickler for the rules.

"I think you may be right," Lavender agreed, "they would find this funny. Did you see how they laughed about Quirrell passing out?"

"I did. One of these days their pranks will get the better of them." Even Neville was surprised at how quick their conversation had turned direction. The only reason he was listening to what they were saying was because they had sat in the armchair next to him, and talked louder than they thought.

"Is she alright, though?" Neville decided to ask. It was a strange bout of courage that compelled him to ask, but he was curious, and hearing the two girls just gloss over the subject and onto another one so seamlessly.

The both of them looked at him, as if just realizing that he was there all this time. "You're Neville, right?" Pavarti asked him, to which he nodded. "Yeah, she's alright, just resting in the hospital wing with Madam Pomfrey."

"Do you know if her parents know what happened?" Neville further inquired. With a student in the hospital wing it would only be fitting to notify someone back home of what happened. And considering a troll was involved in the mix, who knows how they would react.

"Maybe," Lavender answered. "She's from a non-magical family so no one can really say what's going to happen. They might just pull her out of school if they hear about it. Getting attacked by a troll and being picked on by Weasley, why would she want to stay after that?"

"Oh," Neville solemnly said. "That's… too bad."

"Wait," Lavender said, seemingly examining his face. "Neville, do you like her?"

The suddenness of the question as well as its nature threw him off, and he felt heat rising to his face. How and why would she ask him that question?! It had absolutely nothing to do with what they were just talking about. "W-what?" Neville asked confused. "No. I don't. I mean I don't even- I don't even know her really."

His response had both girls looking to each other before descending into a fit of giggles. "It's so cute," he heard Lavender whisper (not so quietly) to Pavarti. "Do you see how red he just got?"

"I know," Pavarti whisper-talked back, "he must really like her."

Neville face palmed. All he had been trying to do was find out if the girl was okay or not; and now he was most likely going to end up the center for a love story in the Hogwarts rumor mill, courtesy of his two house mates. His motives for asking in the first place had nothing to do with what Lavender and Pavarti assumed; it was entirely different.

It had little to nothing to do with romantic feelings, but just that of understanding. He was there in class that day that Weasley had remarked that she had no friends, and he had seen her run off crying because of it. And he knew what it felt like. Neville knew that he was not popular by any means here at Hogwarts, but even he got along well with the people he did know. Seamus and Dean, his fellow dorm mates were easy enough to talk to, and were always good for a conversation, but he wasn't best friends with them by any means. He had gotten the impression they talked to him because he was in their house and their year, and they might have even felt a little sorry for him seeing his lack of real friends. Maybe they knew that Neville was only one insult away from running off and crying like she had. Perhaps given the chance he and the girl could relate to the other.

But surprisingly enough, that didn't mean that Neville didn't know people from outside of Gryffindor. In Hufflepuff house, there was Susan Bones, a girl he had seen a few times when his gran hosted dinner parties. Apparently his gran and Susan's aunt knew each other quite well from fighting together against You-Know-Who's forces. From what he recalled, Susan looked like a miniature version of her aunt.

He had stumbled upon the Hufflepuff at the library, sitting at a table with two of her housemates, Ernie and Hannah. The three of them were holding their wands over a piece of parchment and seemed to be trying to figure out how to enchant it.

"Uh, hello," Neville meekly greeted. The three Hufflepuff's lifted their heads to acknowledge him.

"Hi, Neville," Susan warmly greeted. "It's nice to see you out of class. You know Hannah and Ernie, right?"

"Yeah," Neville recalled. "We have Herbology together."

"Oh, yeah!" Ernie exclaimed, before being silenced by the librarian, Madam Pince. "You have a natural green thumb. I actually know what to do most of the time watching what you do."

"…Really?" Neville asked, not sure if what he said was true or not. Ernie didn't strike him as a liar, but he didn't want to be the bottom of an inside joke.

"Really," Hannah confirmed. "Professor Sprout is always saying good things about you. I think she wants you to be a Hufflepuff instead."

"She did?" Neville felt a swelling of pride towards his Herbology professor. The stout witch always tried to be fair with all students present, but he never would have guessed she would value the work he did that much. "Well, now that you mention it, the Sorting Hat did consider putting me in Hufflepuff."

"You're joking?! Really?!" Ernie asked, earning another shush from the librarian.

"Yeah…" Neville trailed. "It told me I would do good there, but it chose Gryffindor in the end."

"Well no wonder Professor Sprout took such a liking to you, you're a badger at heart," Ernie declared.

"Maybe," Neville somewhat agreed, shying away from their looks before asking, "What is it that you were working on?"

Susan held up the piece of parchment, "It's a get well card, for the girl who got attacked by the troll. You're in her house."

"We were trying to get it to when she opens it, our names will write themselves out," Hannah explained. "We don't think anyone's stopped by to say anything yet, so we wanted to be the first."

"Do you want to sign too, Neville?" Susan asked laying it down for him to write out him name.

"Sure, yeah," Neville agreed. It seemed like Susan was still the kind girl he knew from those dinner parties back then. Her and her friends struck him as being good people, maybe even as being friends later on.

But aside from Susan and her group of friends, the only person Neville had a somewhat civil acquaintance with was the Slytherin, Tracey Davis. Unlike Malfoy and his two goons, she didn't seem interested in harassing him, as Neville noted on that one day Snape made him work with her. And while she might not go out of her way to tease him like Malfoy, Neville still felt a bit uncomfortable with the way she looked at him, it made him feel as if he had done something wrong but he didn't know what.

She threw him for an even bigger loop when she had pulled him aside after another dreadful Potions class to talk to him. "Still terrified of Professor Snape." The manner in which she said it made Neville realize that it was not a question.

"I never stopped being," Neville admitted, adverting his gaze away from hers. She had that exact look right now. "He really hates Gryffindor."

Tracey just shrugged, not denying it at all. "No thanks to your skills, right?" Neville's lack of response was all the answer she needed. "Maybe I could help you out." She fished a note page from her robe and handed it to him. "Daphne and I took notes on how to brew all the potions up until this point." She offered him the notes.

"Um, thank you," Neville hesitantly accepted the notes. "Where were you keeping them until now?"

"In my bra," Tracey casually said. Neville instantly paled and the notes fell from his hands.

"W-what?"

She shook her head. "I'm joking."

It wasn't funny, Neville kept his thought to himself. "…Alright, but why are you giving this to me?"

"Think of it as an exchange," she explained. "You're terrible at Potions and I could use a few pointers in Herbology; notes for notes. Daphne and I trade ours all the time."

"So you do this with your friend too?"

"I do, but we've known each other since we were four," Tracey elaborated. "Because she and I are friends we share without an alternative means."

"It's just about notes then?" Neville asked. He wasn't opposed to sharing what notes he did have, but he didn't expect her to treat it like a business deal of some kind.

"What did you expect?" She asked, not seeing an issue with her offer. "That's how we usually do exchanges in Slytherin, best to know someone else's motives up front than risk getting double crossed."

"I understand that much," Neville truthfully did. "But you could have just always asked me for them, I don't have a reason to say no."

"You mean like doing good just to do good?" Tracey tilted her head.

"Well…" Neville didn't finish his sentence, but his expression must have told the rest of his unspoken statement.

"Heh," Tracey laughed lightly.

"What's funny?" Neville asked.

"Nothing," she told him, her face a mask. "But you really do belong in Gryffindor."

Before Neville could ask her what she meant by that a new voice interjected. "What are you doing, Longbottom?" The pompous and arrogant tone could only belong to one student at Hogwarts. The blonde scion, flanked by his gorilla like goons approached a very nervous Neville.

"Is this Gryffindor," Malfoy spat the word as if it were poison, "bothering you, Davis?" Both Crabbe and Goyle cracked their knuckles to further intimidate Neville, who looked between the pair nervously.

"Its fine, Malfoy," Tracey told her fellow Slytherin. "Longbottom was just asking for some tips in potion making. I told him to just go ask Professor Snape."

"Really?" Malfoy asked. "Longbottom had to courage to actually ask a Slytherin for help?"

"That's what happened," Tracey lied.

Malfoy chuckled in mock pity. "You really are pathetic, aren't you Longbottom? I'm surprised they even let you into this school. Are you sure you're not a squib?"

Neville chose to remain silent. Malfoy's father was rumored to have a silver tongue, and if he was anything like his father then any comeback Neville could think of would probably be combated with more fury.

"Don't ever let me see you socializing with a Slytherin again," Malfoy warned his gray eyes boring into Neville. "Come on, Davis, let's return to the common room."

"I don't need an escort, Malfoy," Tracey denied the offer. "My legs can walk on their own."

"Hmpf," Malfoy snorted at her refusal. "Suit yourself. Come on then boys." Crabbe and Goyle followed behind Malfoy like two trained dogs.

Once they were out of sight, Neville turned to face Tracey again. "Thank you. For handling Malfoy back there."

"Do you know how you can really thank me?" Tracey asked, sounding a little too innocent. "Some nice Herbology notes, if you would." She didn't wait for an answer as she already began walking away leaving Neville behind to consider her offer. He wouldn't exactly call her a friend because of it, but it was still something.

The sounds of steel against steel rang throughout the courtyard almost as a callback to the mournful sounds of the church bells when Count Julius' funeral was held a few days prior for both himself and his young son, Adonis. But this was a far less gloomy occasion than a funeral for the king's brother, and yet it still presented a challenge for Harry who had managed to just barely knock Guts' blade aside for what felt like the hundredth time that morning.

True to his word, Guts had taken to showing Harry how to properly defend against a powerful lunge attack. Why Guts had him parrying, dodging, and blocking that particular kind of attack was lost logic to him, Guts was not one to offer specific help in just one kind of defense, he hardly offered any at all. When Harry had asked him why he would take the time to do this he had responded with, "Got nothing better to do."

That might have been a very Guts answer to the question, but Harry suspected that there was something else to it as well, whether it was overhearing the words Griffith had spoken to Charlotte or just something else entirely.

Even if he may never get the answer as to why, Harry had an inkling that the swordsman was beginning to warm up, if just a bit. During their training session, Guts was not telling him to stop hesitating with how he would evade or block the incoming attack. He would tell him which one he wanted done and trusted Harry enough to handle it. On the occasions where Harry would miss a swing or a sidestep, Guts demonstrated a mastery over his sword arm by stopping the blade mere inches from where his chest would have been. When that happened Guts would have him do it over until he got it right.

It was grueling, tedious, and exhausting; Harry could feel that intense burn in his limbs after a while of wielding his sword. He kept hearing that it was a good thing, and although it hurt, he could feel the muscles in his arms begin to tear and strengthen to accommodate his training.

Despite the growing burning sensation in his arm, Harry managed the strength to strike the incoming blade from below, giving him time to duck under the lunge. Guts looked down at him, perspiration evident on his brow making some of the black hair cling to his forehead. "That's enough for today," Guts simply stated, hefting his blade and sheathing it. "We ride out in a few hours, best save our strength for the coming battle."

"Right," Harry nodded, feeling how parched his throat truly was. Guts didn't take his hand, but instead grasped him by his forearm to pull him up. It seemed to Harry that Guts wanted to avoid being touched, like some sort of compulsion on his end.

Harry brushed that concern aside as he donned the rest of his armor. The rest of the band seemed to already be saddled up and ready to depart. True to what he agreed on, Harry sought out Casca, who would keep an eye on him during the upcoming battle.

He knew as soon as he saw her that something was wrong. She was breathing heavily, as if dehydrated. Perspiration doted her brow, but it was not from training nor the heat, it was a cloudy day and looked as if it could rain.

"Casca?" He asked, concerned. She took deep breaths but did not answer. "Casca?" He asked again. No answer. "Casca?"

"What?!" She all but snapped at him causing Harry to flinch.

"I just… are you feeling alright?"

She inhaled deeply through her nose. "Fine. Just a head cold, it'll pass."

Truthfully, he had no idea if that were true, and he didn't have time to dwell on it as Griffith issued the command, "Forward, time to depart!" And the band followed along.

The battle was set to take place against the Blue Whale Knights, led by the Chuder commander Sir Adon. Reports stated that Sir Adon's forces were spotted to the south, along a Cliffside overlooking a river. And the reports were correct. The Blue Whale Knights were every bit as the name described them to be, large and imposing, and donning blue armor with whale shaped helms.

Even with the Hawks receiving additional forces from a band of knights led by a man named Sir Owen, a young man with his blonde hair cut to just above his ears, the fight would appear to have equal numbers.

"You ready?" Rickert asked, handing him a spare crossbow.

"Harry accepted. "If I wasn't by now I'm not sure what I'd be doing here."

Griffith's silver armor shone in what sunlight escaped from the clouds overhead as he rode his horse to the front rank. "Vanguard, break their right flank!"

"You heard him!" Casca yelled, her voice not betrayed by her appearance. "My men with me!" She was quick to follow Griffith's command.

Riders from the enemy flank rode forth to meet them head-on in their charge, leading to Harry and some of the other crossbowman to send a volley of bolts their way. The armor on the Whale Knights proved to be as strong as their namesake, save for the slits on the helms. While the design for the rest of the armor was superb, the slits were far too wide and open and made them an easy target to be penetrated.

After the suppressing fire from the crossbows, it came time to physical side to the battle. Swords clashed and shields were splintered from the impact of maces that were flung around. But Harry made sure to keep in formation with the surrounding charge, never swinging at the heavy armor of the Whale Knights, but instead at their horses. If their mounts were cut down then they would fall as well.

That fact proved all too true when Harry saw Casca's horse get slain from under her. She jumped from the saddle and into a roll to avoid being crushed under her dead horse. The culprit behind killing her horse was a large man wearing the more upgraded armor than the rest of the Whale Knights, as well as a cape that held some sort of family insignia. If Harry had to guess, this was Sir Adon.

"Ahaha!" Sir Adon laughed. "You're a woman?! What are you doing on the battlefield? You disgrace it with your very presence! If you seek to be around soldiers that much you should just let them have their way with you!"

Casca's anger flared at Sir Adon's insults as she rose to her feet. This is it! Harry thought, eager to see her put Adon in his place. His eagerness quickly turned south when he saw that Casca was not moving at her regular pace. Her moves were slow, uncoordinated, and sloppy. And worst of all, she wasn't thinking clearly. Her anger towards Sir Adon was clouding her judgment, and it showed.

Every swing of her sword was easily knocked aside by his weapon of choice, a three pronged trident. He caught her blade between two of his prongs and twisted the blade from her hand. She was losing.

"C'mon!" Someone shouted to Harry's left, and he and a small group rode forth to assist Casca against her opponent.

"No interference!" Sir Adon shouted as he swung his trident around in an arc and cut through the advancing unit. Harry would have been one of them, had his horse not reared up and taken the blow in his stead, throwing him to the ground. "Now then, woman," Adon turned his attention back to Casca, "if you surrender now I'll allow you to live the rest of your days as my personal concubine."

Casca spat at his feet. "Go to hell!"

"Insolent wench!" Adon yelled. "You want to play the part of a warrior?! Then allow me to grant you- Arrrrgh!"

Adon was cut off as Guts rode forward and brought his sword up and cut through his helm, tearing it off as well as a majority of his teeth. Adon fell from his horse grasping at his damaged face. Harry would have smiled at the sight, if he hadn't caught sight of Casca beforehand. Whatever was wrong with her seemed to be far more than a head cold, as she swayed on her feet dangerously close to the cliffs edge.

"Casca!" Harry yelled. Guts turned to see the state she was in and rode to grasp her hand before she could fall off. That proved to be a fatal move as the fallen Sir Adon retrieved his trident and threw it, killing Guts' horse and sending both he and Casca over the cliff.

"Ahaha!" Adon laughed. "Serves that bitch rig-,"

Harry had enough of Adon's gloating. He didn't think twice as he felt a rage take hold of him at hearing that laugh, at hearing him insult Casca like that. He brought his sword down, cutting Adon's right hand off. Some blood sprayed him, surprising him that he had that in him. Adon's armor was heavy and thick, how had he-?

A glance at his blade showed that it seemed to glow like it were in a blacksmith's shop fresh out of the embers. Some steam wavered off as Adon's blood began to evaporate. Had he- somehow heated his sword?

"Aaaaaaaghhhhhhhhh!" Sir Adon wailed as he clutched his bleeding stump. "You cut my hand, you disgraceful twat!"

"Maybe you should watch your mouth," Harry advised in a tone that sounded much more mature than he thought possible, "I'm cutting it next."

He hadn't even took a step forward when a barrage of arrows came raining down between him and Sir Adon. The remainder of the Blue Whale Knights had taken a defensive position and their archers were providing cover fire as two men rushed forth to help Sir Adon mount a horse.

"Retreat!" Adon ordered. "All of you, fall back!" Harry was prepared to mount up and make chase after them, but some archers continued to fire at him even from horseback, causing him to retreat.

"Harry!" He heard his name being called, probably by Rickert, but he paid it no mind as he instead ran over to the Cliffside to look down. It was a good fall down to the river below, and it was fast moving on top of that. His eyes scanned the riverbank, looking for the glimmer of armor or something to break the surface of the water. Much to his dismay, nothing of the sort happened.

"Harry!" It was not Rickert, but Griffith. Riding up to dismount next to him, he knelt down. "What happened?"

"Guts and Casca!" He exclaimed. "Something was wrong with Casca, she and Guts fell off the cliff!" More gathered around the two of them.

"From here?" Corkus looked down the edge. "No way they could have survived that."

"I would be too sure of that, Corkus," Judeau contemplated. "They're both stubborn in their own right, together; it'll take more than that to kill them."

"They're alive," Harry insisted. "I know it!"

"I hate to interrupt," Sir Owen rode to join them, "but the king will want us to return as soon as possible. He told me so before I made my departure."

Harry wasn't willing to give up so easily. "But what about-?!"

"I cannot refuse a summons from the king," Griffith said, killing a portion of his hope. Without Griffith who was going to save the two of them. "I'll return to the capital with Sir Owen, the rest of you set up camp in a secure location."

"But Guts and Casca are-!"

"Valuable members to our band," Griffith finished for him. "While I may not be able to refuse a royal summons, I do not intent to leave them behind." Relief washed over Harry, knowing that Griffith didn't plan to just abandon them. But in the back of his mind, Griffith's previous words played reciting what he considered a true friend. "I instead leave that task to you."

Harry looked to see who Griffith was referring to but saw that Judeau's, Rickert's, Corkus', and even Pippin's eyes were on him. "Me?"

"You show the most conviction," Griffith observed. "Take a few dozen men with you to form a search party." Judeau and Rickert gave him a reassuring nod. "I trust you with this." Griffith turned to ride with Sir Owen back to Windham. The sight of Griffith's white hair billowing behind him as he rode towards the stormy horizon was like something right out of a painting.

"Bahaaa!" Guts coughed up a mouthful of water as his head breached the river's surface. He kicked himself to the shore, dragging an unconscious Casca in his wake. He had done all he could to try and keep her head above water, but with both of their armor weighting them down, he might have failed in that regard. Guts removed her breastplate and pushed down with his hands until Casca coughed up a stream of water. However her eyes did not open to signal she was awake.

In fact she had been acting weird all day, if guts recalled. He put a hand to her forehead. She's burning up, he realized. If she had some kind of sickness then lying around in her soaked clothing and armor wasn't going to help. The sound of thunder rolled across the sky. "Great," Guts said to himself, as he carried the limp form of Casca a ways into the surrounding forest until stumbling onto a tree with a hollowed out trunk that was large enough for the both of them to take shelter in.

Guts stripped himself of his soaked armor and clothes so they could dry, and started to do the same to Casca. He felt a bit uncomfortable doing so, but he was at least glad she wasn't able to chew him out on it. She would feel even worse if she stayed in her wet clothes anyway. He piled her clothed and armor next to his own, and he caught sight of something red and warm while taking off her boots and breeches.

Blood, Guts realized as his fingers came into contact with the liquid. Had she taken a hit in the fight, or from the impact of falling into the river? He stopped his internal line of questioning when he saw that it was trailing from between her legs.

Oh. Ohhh. "Oh," he said out loud, it suddenly all made sense. "So that's what it is." What the hell was she thinking, going into battle with… this going on?! Just what the hell was she trying to prove?

Guts grabbed his breastplate and went out back to the river. Rain fell onto his head as he brought his armor piece up, water gathered in the center. He brought in back to the hollow tree and rubbed some water on her forehead. She stirred a bit in her sleep, but did not wake. Guts propped her up in his arms as the rain began to pour outside.

The rain began as a drizzle, but soon erupted into an all out thunderstorm and the rain fell hard enough that Harry could feel it through his hood. Pippin attached a lantern and hung it at the end of his massive mace, but the rain continued to extinguish it after every few minutes. Harry was grateful that Pippin didn't need to be told to stop trying to light it after a few more tries, it would have felt awfully uncomfortable if he had.

It didn't mean Harry was opposed to having people with him search for Guts and Casca, but more the fact that they were following him that struck him as odd. He got on well enough with Pippin, Judeau, Rickert, and even Corkus, but they were all older than him; even Rickert was a year his senior. Of course he would feel overwhelmed at being in command of them and a few additional men.

He had laughed with them, trained with them, fought alongside them, but everyone in the Hawks had done so. What had he done to constitute this responsibility? Griffith had said that he had trusted him, but why? Harry had overheard what Griffith considered a friend, an equal, he didn't meet that standard. There was no dream that he held that he could use to support himself, no goal in sight that he could see burning like a flame. So why? As far as Griffith should have been concerned Harry was just a boy who could talk to snakes.

And heat up a blade, a voice spoke within his mind. But even that could not equate to an ultimate goal in life. Any and all magic powers, could they really hold true if he had no purpose or desire to use them?

"Worried about them?" Judeau asked, cutting into his train of thought. Harry looked to see a rain drop fall from the tip of Judeau's nose.

"Oh, yeah," Harry answered. "I was just wondering- wondering why-,"

"Why Griffith chose you for this?" Judeau correctly guessed.

"Yeah," Harry affirmed. "I mean I'm all for looking for them and all, but…"

"You just feel that there are others more qualified to do so?" Judeau inferred.

"You're good at that," Harry told him.

Judeau shrugged. "You're actually pretty easy to read. But I get where you're coming from."

"You do?" Harry asked, quizzically. "How?"

"When Griffith asked me to become one of his captains," Judeau explained. "Of course I was one of the earlier ones to join up, but it still took me by surprise. I was just a young performer with a few knife tricks and a pouch of elf dust."

"Elves?" Harry asked, his interest peaked and not minding the change of topic.

"One fell in with my former acting troupe," Judeau explained. "As far as I know, he's still there. But I do know what you're feeling. The self-doubt and uncertainty, believe me, I know."

A sense of appreciation swelled inside him. "So, any pointers then?"

"Well… if they washed ashore, they'd be downstream. If we follow the river we might find a slope that we can descend down with our horses," Judeau advised.

"And that's what we should do?" Harry asked.

Judeau put his hands up. "You're in charge for now. I'm just giving a pointer. We won't go through with it without your word."

"Alright then," Harry nodded, his voice betraying no emotion. "We'll do it."

A bundled up cloak served as a pillow for Casca, while Guts wrung out his breeches and shook water out of his boots. Much to his benefit his breeches were dry enough for him to put back on, and while his boots were still a bit soggy, they were far from the worst they could have been. Guts partially dressed himself and reclined against the interior of the hollow tree; the rain was finally starting to let up.

"Hnnnn," Guts tilted his head to see Casca begin to stir from her dark eyes fluttered open as she took in her new surroundings.

"You're awake," Guts observed. "We're safe for now, the current of the river carried us downstream, but I wouldn't put it past ours or Chuder to have sent out a few scouts to look for us." She didn't answer; instead, she looked at him with an unreadable expression. "What?" Guts asked, confused by her lack of response.

Guts soon found himself scrambling out of the tree as Casca began to throw pieces of discarded armor his way. "Will you cut it-?!" He narrowly ducked his head as a dagger came flying at him, just missing the top of his head. "What the hell's wrong with you, you crazy bitch?!"

Casca stood with her cloak pillow draped around her form, clearly embarrassed to be in such a state. "Look away," she ordered as she began to sort through her clothing.

"Don't flatter yourself," Guts quipped but turned away all the same.

"My clothes are all soaked," she called to him.

"Yeah, that happens when you fall into the water," Guts sarcastically said.

"How is it yours are almost dry then?" She questioned.

"I wrung them out, any other questions?"

"…You can come back in now," she told him. As Guts climbed back inside he took notice of Casca wearing his sleeveless tunic, her legs pulled up to her chest. He rolled his eyes at the sight.

"Comfortable?" He asked.

"I'd be better if my clothes were dry."

"That's not what I mean," Guts corrected. "You know what I'm talking about."

She looked away in embarrassment, clearly not a subject she wanted to talk about. "Why do you care?"

"I don't really," Guts replied. "But when I get caught up in it, that's a different story." She briefly looked at him. "Why'd you do it? Why ride into battle when you knew you were going trough that? Aren't you always saying not to go charging in?"

"Because Griffith relies on me, that's why" Casca curtly replied. "I wouldn't expect you to understand."

"I'm pretty sure the same could be said for anyone," Guts objected. "We're all here to get him to his dream, right?"

Casca scoffed. "Like I said, you wouldn't understand."

Guts was generally confused. "What? You're not making-,"

"Because everyone pledged themselves to him willingly, except for you!" She nearly shouted at him. Her words reminded him of that day when Griffith had beaten him in their first initial fight. Griffith's words from that day still stood out to him, "From now, you belong to me."

"And yet," Casca continued, "somehow he trusts you over everyone else. You're his favorite, and you don't even care about it."

Guts stared her down for a moment, as if waiting for her to continue to rant. "So that's it?" He asked. "You risked your life to prove yourself over your feelings of jealousy? That's stupid." Casca glared at him

"That's just like you to say. You don't appreciate what you have and look down on someone who wants what you have," Casca looked close form tears; weather they were from the hormones of her monthly bleeding or her personal stake in the argument, Guts didn't know.

"Just why the hell does it matter so much to you anyway? You just said you know I don't care about any of that."

"Because!" She yelled. "Because I want to feel that way again. You have no idea the life I lived before this, do you?"

You have no idea the life I lived before this, Guts thought but kept silent, not wanting to talk about any of that.

"I came from a small farm, with parents who had too many children than they could afford. To pay for the farm we all had to pitch in to work in the field, then one day a noble lord came to our farmstead with an offer to take me to his castle as a new servant. My parents agreed with his price and I agreed like the naïve little girl I was. Who was I to know what his true intentions were, until he tried to have me in his carriage." For the briefest of minutes Guts saw an image of Donovan, the man who violated him as a child, flash through his mind.

"And that's when I met Griffith," Casca continued. "He cut off the noble's ear and threw a sword at my feet. I finished the deed and pledged to live my life by the sword if Griffith would have me. And he did. For once in my life I had control over my own life, I wasn't powerless. So yes, it's selfish of me to feel that way, but it is what it is." She turned away from him. "Like I said, I wouldn't expect you to understand."

No wonder she's so attached to him, Guts realized. In Casca's mind, Griffith was her literal knight-in-shining-armor. "No," Guts said, much to her surprise. "I know exactly what you're talking about. And I don't plan on ever feeling that way again."

They waited until the rest of Casca's clothes had dried before setting off from their tree, although the sun had already set by that time. It might have been a hasty decision, but if they didn't move then they risked getting left behind by their band if they hadn't already set up camp back up on the other side of the river and cliff.

Their trek through the woods proved especially difficult on Casca, who was still experiencing the effects of her monthly cycle. She was always a few paces behind Guts, her ragged breathing cutting through the silence of the forest. More than once she looked close to collapsing, but a few snide comments on Guts' end seemed to motivate her to prove that she wasn't weak. Guts could respect that, but he didn't believe he should have to be doing it in the first place. They were in this situation largely in part to her to begin with.

But apart from Casca's uneven breathing, the forest was dead silent, the rain having stopped hours ago. It was quiet to the point where Guts could hear the subtle sounds going on around, much like the sound of an extra pair of footsteps coming up from behind them. He spun around and knocked Casca aside from the spear that came from behind. Guts was quick to draw his sword and cut the intruder down.

"His armor," Casca noted as she shakily rose to her feet. "He's a sellsword." As the intruder's body fell limp, the forest became alive with the noises with more people rushing to their location. Casca drew her sword, as well as the two of them, became encircled by a variety of men, maybe even a hundred or more.

"Ahahaha!" Laughter erupted from the surrounding men. Making his way to stand on the exposed root of a tree was Sir Adon. His face was largely covered in bandage, and Guts noted that one of his hands to be missing and bandaged as well. How had he lost that? "I had a gut feeling that the two of you were alive! I wouldn't let those who humiliated an esteemed knight like myself to escape with their lives."

"And do you expect to kill us?" Guts challenged. "You've seen better days, I'd say you're on your last legs. One good hit and you're done."

"No thanks to you and that little shit!" Adon bellowed. "And as for killing you, my offer before for the woman still stands. The men could use some stress relief and she fits the position perfectly."

Casca spat once more. "Fuck you, cockbite."

Adon bristled at her response. "Suit yourself, you've chosen your own demise then. Sampson!" The ground seemed to quake as the largest man of the bunch emerged. He wore heavy Blue Whale armor and carried a massive spiked flail. "Allow me to introduce my younger brother, Sampson!" He might have been younger, but he was not smaller. "Sampson, bring honor to the Corbowitz family and slay these two degenerates!"

Sampson stepped forth, swinging his flail and launching it straight towards the pair of them. Guts sword came swinging to meet the spiked ball and sent it off course, striking and killing one of Adon's men.

"He knocked Sampson's attack aside," whispers broke out amongst the assembled men.

Flail attack was flung one after the other, but Guts sword matched every swing, never missing a beat. This can't go on forever, Guts realized. One of our weapons in bound to give way sooner or later, and I know which. To the onlookers it appeared that Guts was just matching Sampson's attacks, but that was only the surface of it. His counter attacks were used to measure weak points in the flail. And he found one.

As the next attack came swinging down on him, Guts reared back and swung overhead with all his might, striking just between two of the spikes. As expected, the flail shattered. Guts couldn't see Sampson's eyes from behind his whale helm, but he got a good look at them when he rushed forth and drove his sword through the large slits.

"S-Sampson?" Adon looked down at his fallen brother. "Bastard! A thousand pieces of gold to whoever brings me that man's head!"

The fear at seeing their largest fall vanished at the prospect of gold and a line of sword and pike man rushed to meet them. Guts wasted no time in cutting down any who got within range of his sword, their blood drenching his blade in hot red liquid.

"Hyahh!" His back bumped into another, and a turn of his head recognized it as Casca. A few bodies lay at her feet who would have attacked him from behind. She was sweating and breathing heavily, but she was fighting with him. "I got your back, alright?" He gave a curt nod, and the both of them cut down a foolhardy man.

"What is this?!" Sir Adon yelled at his men. "There are just two of them! Shoot them already!" A group of half-a-dozen crossbowmen took aim and fired. Guts tilted his sword to its broad side and allowed the bolts to deflect off of his blade, but one found its mark and stuck through his left hand. His sword faltered.

"Ha!" Adon exclaimed. "He's wounded; no way he can lift that blade now. Hurry and finish him off!"

The crossbowmen were too caught up in the fact that they had landed a blow, that they neglected to reload as Guts shot toward them and cut them down in the midst of their excitement. Casca was locking blades with another man, but she managed to maneuver her blade under an upcoming strike and cut the man's throat. A few more corpses piled at her feet, but Guts could tell she was still not up to her normal standards. He met with her once again and they stood back to back.

"Get ready to run," Guts spoke to her. He could feel her eyes on the back of his head. "I'll clear a path for you, after that run as fast as you can."

"Are you mad?!" Casca questioned, sounding insulted. "You expect me to just leave you here to fight them by yourself?! That's not brave, that's suicide!"

"Hey!" Guts snapped, silencing her from protesting further. "You want to live right? You want to be of use to him, right? Then trust me on this. I'm just the guy who's best at swinging his sword around, right? This is where I'm most alive. So when I tell you to run, you run; run back to him."

Knocking a spear aside, Guts cut down another man, and another, and two more, enough to create a breech in their lines for Casca to run past. "Go!" Guts shouted. "Get out of here!"

She hesitated but moved to the opening he had created. Running off, Guts thought he heard her shout, "Stay alive! I'll find them and bring them back for you!"

"Fools!" Adon pointed to the fleeing Casca. "You're letting her get away! Go after, pursue!" Some men made chase after, but Guts was quick to blindside them and impale them one after the other on his sword. Adon growled in frustration. "And someone kill this man!"

The forest roared with the yells of men as they rushed Guts, most of their attacks he blocked and cut his assailants down, but a spear got lucky and cut him across the cheek. Then another cut just above his knee, and then across his arm.

"Arrrgh!" Guts roared as he brought his sword up, down, and center, killing his attackers with one swing each.

"Unbelievable," Adon grimaced. "Despite his wounds, he's killed nearly half of my hundred men."

"What's that?" Guts asked. "You mean there are still fifty of you left? At this rate, it'll be dawn before I get a chance to crack open all of your skulls."

"Kill him!" Adon shouted. "Kill him this instant!" A collective roar was bellowed from the assembled men as they began to pour down on Guts in droves. Guts dashed past spears and sword strikes and brought his sword behind his head to block an ax that would have split his skull open.

What am I doing here, in this miserable place? Guts questioned as more men died by his hand. Is this worth risking my life for? Blood sprayed as he severed a man's leg. Am I fighting for Casca? No, that can't be it. Three, four, five more dead. This is no time to be thinking about that. I just need to focus on wielding my sword, and how I'll kill them. Blood drenched his hair and ran down into his line of vision as his sword became a whirlwind of death. Nothing more.

"You really think we'll find them all the way out here?" Corkus questioned Harry as they rode through a dense wood located near the river by the cliff. Harry sighed. Corkus had been the most skeptical about finding them.

"This is where they could have taken shelter by the storm," Harry pointed out. "They could have found a cave or something to hide out in."

"Maybe," Corkus said, not sounding all too convinced. "But let's say that they didn't make it."

"Don't talk like that, Corkus," Rickert scolded the older man. "They're two of our strongest; they can make it for a few hours alone." Harry looked to the sky, a few hours looked like it would be turning into dawn soon. They had been looking for almost the whole night.

"Harry," Judeau called to him, a hand on one of his throwing knives, "do you hear that?"

Harry listened to what Judeau was talking about, and sure enough he heard a few voices, they sounded to be men's.

"Hold her still," one voice said, following the sound of fabric ripping.

Curious, Harry dismounted and crept alongside Judeau to peer through a nearby shrub. On the other side, three men in armor loomed over Casca, who laid on her back with her hands being pinned under one of the men's feet. The sight reignited that previous anger Harry had felt earlier when he had cut Sir Adon, and he rushed from the bush. Judeau saw this and threw one of his knives, killing one of the men.

Casca used this opportunity to grab her fallen sword and cut another's throat. Harry meanwhile engaged the third in a sword fight. His opponent was far larger than he was, but Harry was faster. Their swords clashed, and the man pulled back to deliver a finishing blow, but his practice with Guts had prepared him just for this.

Harry ducked under the lunge, and drove his sword through a chink in the man's armor. The anger he had towards this man and his companions seemed to manifest in his blade and Harry swore he felt the hilt heat in his grasp. He pulled his sword out, or at least what remained of it. A jagged slab of iron was all that was left attached to his hilt, while the rest of the blade remained lodged in the assailants' stomach, steam lightly drifting from the metal.

"Casca!" Harry turned to help her up. "Are you-?" Harry quickly averted his eyes and felt heat rushing to his face when he realized that the front of Casca's shirt was ripped, exposing her chest. He had heard talk from Corkus of his experiences in brothels, and how women took jobs to expose themselves, but seeing Casca in a state like that made him feel… just wrong. He was glad that they had killed those men before anything else could happen to her.

"Here," Harry unclasped his cloak and handed it to Casca to wrap around herself. She accepted.

"C'mon!" She grasped his wrist and began to drag him through the woods. "Judeau, Rickert, everyone, follow me!"

"Where are you leading us?" Harry asked. "Where's Guts?"

"He stayed behind to let me escape," Casca explained as they ran. "We have to hurry! He's all by himself, fighting those men!"

Time seemed to fly by as the sunlight began to stream through the tree branches, but Casca was insistent on making it back as soon as possible. And then the smell of death assaulted all of their noses. Dead men lay scattered everywhere Harry turned his head. Swordsmen, pike men, crossbowmen, all lay dead. Their blood staining the forest floor. And he lay amongst them, slumped against a tree, multiple wounds across his face, arms, and legs. His overly large sword coated in blood and resting against his shoulder.

"Guts!" Harry and Casca cried as they rushed to his side. For what felt like an eternity, Harry believed him to be dead. The strong man that he had known, looked no better than a corpse at this moment. That was until he moved his hand to pat Casca on her shoulder. His brown eyes opening to their relieved faces.

A full day had passed since the battle in the forest, and despite the healer's wishes, Guts was already up and walking around. His destination of choice, a hill overlooking the current campsite. The night air was cool on his bandaged torso, but the heat blowing from the campfires below helped to balance the chill out.

New scars adorned his body since that fight, some more serious than others, maybe they would fade. But even if they didn't it made little difference; the fight was over and he had come out alive. That's all that ever mattered in a fight and no matter how many opponents there were would change that.

"Hey," a voice said from behind him. He looked back to see Casca holding a pouch of something. "Do you have a minute?"

Guts eyed her and the pouch she carried. "Not doing anything else, why?" She walked up behind him and stuck her hand in the pouch when she pulled her hand out her fingers were coated in some sort of sparkling jell.

"Hold still then." She reached out to his bare back.

"Hey! What're you-?" Guts began.

"Just hold still, please," Casca ordered as her fingers coated in the jell brushed their way across one of the scars on his back. Guts half expected himself to flinch from her touch, but he didn't. Any pain that came from the wound she touched seemed to be fading fast.

"What is that?" Guts asked about the sparkling jell.

"Elf dust," Casca said. "Judeau had some from his encounter with one. He said this might help." He watched as she put more of it on his wounds. "Why'd you do it?" She finally asked. "Why'd you stay behind to fight?"

Guts looked out over the camp. "You know, there's nothing for you to worry yourself over. I only did that for my own sake. I'd rather fight with my sword than run away. It's in my nature."

"That's it?" Casca asked, looking him in the eye. "You fought a hundred men because it's in your nature?"

The sound of crickets chirping filled the silence between them. "Yeah, that's it," Guts confirmed. "Plus I wanted to give that Adon bastard some payback."

"Did you kill him too?"

"I got so caught up in swinging my sword I lost track," Guts affirmed. "But all the while I was doing that, fighting, I couldn't get something out of my head. Fighting a hundred men means nothing, compared to what you're doing." Casca listened. "And not just you, Griffith too. You two have something important to stake your lives on. I think it's great," he offered a small smile, uncommon for him. "I mean it." Another silence fell between them. "Some view, huh?" Guts referred to the camp below.

"Some view," Casca concurred looking out with him.

"You know, Gaston plans on opening a tailoring business after the war," Guts told her. "He might not look it but he's good with his hands. Nicholas plans to get promoted so he can marry a woman who rejected him. Even Harry seems to be studying over that one book about that wizard guy. Looking at them from here, it's like I can see each of their desires flickering in the light."

"A bonfire of dreams then," Casca compared.

"Nice comparison, something a princess would say," he teased.

"As if!" She suppressed a laugh. "But you're right. They each shine when gathered like that."

"Yeah, and to keep burning they join with the brightest one of all," Guts referred to to the fire that was Griffith's ambition. "But, I don't see my light amongst theirs. I'm more like someone who stopped by the bonfire to warm up." Casca looked at him, concerned. He lifted his sword from the ground to hold in front of him. "As long as I've had my sword, I know I could survive any battle, that's all the mercenary leader who took me in taught me. I fight because it's all I know how to do, I've always fought for people with purpose, never knowing myself what I fight for myself."

"Heh," he finally gave a small chuckle. "I guess I must sound pretty stupid right now, makes me wonder why I told you all of that."

"Maybe you're right," Casca said, but she didn't laugh with him. "But you know, what you just said about fighting being all you know, why don't I… teach you how to read."

"I know how."

"You said you know enough words," Casca recalled. "Just consider it my way of saying thanks, for what you did earlier." Guts stood up shouldering his sword. "Who know," Casca continued, "maybe you'll find your flame."

The heat from the nearby fires warmed Harry in the cool night air. He wasn't sitting next to any one fire, but rested his back against a tent recalling earlier events. His sword breaking being the key one in particular. Had it been some manifestation of magic that had heated the blade to such a degree? What else but? He would have to look over that book again, maybe the answer would lie somewhere in there. Could magic just be the answer to everything then? Why his sword broke? Perhaps even a dream he could pursue?

"Something troubling you?" The voice of Griffith spoke to his side. Harry rose to his instantly, not even aware that Griffith had returned from the capital.

"No," Harry told him. "Just thinking, that's all." Harry found it a bit difficult to look Griffith in his piercing blue eyes, once again remembering what Griffith had spoken to with Charlotte when he though no one near.

"Hm, well why not join in the other's celebration? You did find them in the end after all."

"Yeah, maybe."

Griffith stared at him for a minute. "Very well, if you wish to remain here, you're free to do so." He began to walk away.

"Actually," Harry said, making Griffith stop. "There was something that was bothering me." Griffith looked back at him. "I just wanted to ask you… are we your friends?"

Griffith looked perplexed. "What? What makes you ask that?" His answer wasn't an immediate yes.

"Just… something you once said about dreams," Harry left the explanation vague. But Griffith seemed to know exactly what he was talking about.

"Oh. You heard that?" Harry nodded. "Well to tell you the truth, I meant what I said to Charlotte." Harry internally deflated. "But that does not mean that I don't hold you all in high regard and think any less of you all."

"What do you mean?" Harry asked.

"Everyone here has a dream they aspire to," Griffith told him. "It might not be as grand as having their own kingdom, but it is something they are working towards obtaining by being here. And for that I have the upmost respect for them. And there's no one else I would want with me in a fight."

"Not everyone," Harry sullenly said.

To his surprise, Griffith chuckled at him. "You mean you don't see it?"

"See what?"

Griffith shook his head. "I don't think I ever said this, but you and Guts are very much alike. Look around." Harry looked at the assembled bonfires, and the people crowded around. "Even if you don't see it, it's there. It's always been there. Why else would you have joined." Harry continued to stare at the mass of people milling about. Trying to see the hidden message Griffith was hinting at. "I'll tell you this much, there was a reason I chose you to search for the two of them. For what it's worth."

Harry spotted Guts walking through the crowds, still covered in bandages. "Why not talk to him yourself?" Griffith suggested. "You might just figure it out."

As Harry approached the larger man he noticed that Guts seemed different in a way. His usual reserved walls seemed to have been lifted for tonight, as a genuine smile was worn on his face.

"Hey, Harry," Guts greeted.

"Hey," Harry greeted back. Rickert came up to the both of them and handed them a flagon each. Guts downed his, but Harry just stared at the liquid within.

"You ever have ale before?" Guts asked.

"I've never had any alcohol before," Harry confessed much to many of the men's shock. That was apparently going to change as the men began to chant his name, urging him to take a sip. It was both the best and worst taste he ever experienced.

A/N: Sorry if this chapter took a bit longer than the others. The lenght of it is the longest yet, and I just recently had eye surgery so looking at a computer screen took time getting used to. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

One, two, three, and a swish of his wand.

Nothing.

Another attempt. One, two, three, and a swish of his wand.

Again, nothing.

Time to try yet again. One, two, three. One, two, three. One, two, three. Over and over Neville swished his wand with every attempt as he stared down into the goblet that held regular water. The transfiguration that he and the rest of the class were attempting to turn water into pumpkin juice. McGonagall wanted to start them off simple after the class had all managed to turn matchsticks into needles, and water transfiguration was the next step up.

Water was what McGonagall had referred to as a base liquid for them to work with since its properties made it viable to work with magically. She had properly demonstrated the spell and wand work at the beginning of class, and half the class had already succeeded after the third or fifth try. As usual, Neville had yet to get his water to even change color to an orange hue. It remained as crystal and clear as when McGonagall had first poured it into his goblet.

What was he doing wrong? He was saying the incantation the same as the rest of the class and following the wand movements, so why? He didn't even need to look over his shoulder to know that Malfoy was laughing with Crabbe and Goyle at his expense.

The only small comfort he derived from his multitude of failures was knowing that he hadn't made a complete fool of himself in front of the entire class. Seamus Finnegan had somehow caused a small combustion to occur, evaporating all of his water and covering his face in soot.

"Trouble, Mr. Longbottom?" The curt voice of Professor McGonagall spoke from over his shoulder.

"Just- trying to get a feel for it, professor," Neville explained as he went over the wand motion once more. McGonagall watched and waited to see if this trial would yield and other results. She pursued her lips in thought when nothing happened.

"Mr. Longbottom, what did Mr. Olivander say when you purchased your wand?" She inquired, eyeing his wand suspiciously.

Neville shook his head. "I didn't get mine from Olivander's," he truthfully replied. "My gran gave me my father's."

McGonagall nodded in understanding. "I thought it looked familiar. Stay behind after class, Mr. Longbottom."

"Oh, alright, professor," Neville gave a small nod himself. He gave the spell a few more tries, but those results fared about as well as all of his previous attempts, his mind wandering to what it was McGonagall wanted to speak with him about. Knowing his luck, he was likely to get removed from her class. Oh God, what would his gran say?!

"Neville! How could you let your parents down like that?! You were supposed to make them proud! Make them proud!"

He shuttered at the mental berating he had constructed for himself. For as long as he had known his gran, it was right up her alley to say something along those lines. As much as she did care for Neville, she did make it clear on more than one occasion that he wasn't living up to his full potential. It hurt even more that he knew that she was right.

The Hogwarts bell tolled its noise and one by one the class began to pack up their books, filing out to get to their next class. All except Neville of course.

"You wanted to speak with me, professor?" Neville asked as he tentatively walked up to McGonagall's desk.

"Yes." McGonagall waved her wand and a chair levitated over next to him. "Please have a seat for a moment." He did as was instructed. "You said this was your father's wand, correct?"

"Yes. That's right."

She held out her hand, and Neville handed it over for her inspection. "Oh yes. This is Frank's wand alright." She muttered an incantation and a green spark shot from the end. "You've been keeping it in good condition I hope."

"Oh yes," Neville quickly confirmed. "My gran would send me a howler if I didn't. I might be forgetful, but I would never neglect my wand."

"And a find wand it is," she handed it back to him. "But it's not suited for you, I'm afraid."

Neville grimaced as he looked down at the wand in his hands. He should have known that he wasn't worthy of his father's wand. His father was a brave man who didn't talk under the cruciatus curse, and he was just… Neville. "Am I going to have to drop your class?"

"Whatever are you talking about, Mr. Longbottom?" McGonagall asked sounding confused.

"Well, a wizard without a wand is practically a squib," explained Neville. "Squibs can't-do magic."

McGonagall shook her head, seemingly disappointed in his logic. "Mr. Longbottom, you would not have been accepted into Hogwarts if that were the case." She waited to see if he had anything to add to his previous statement. He didn't. "A wand is but a vessel for a wizard, Mr. Longbottom. Magic, is around you, inside of you. Your wand is just a tool for you to direct it, manipulate it. There have even been examples of wizards performing magic without a wand if their knowledge of the field is strong enough. Why Merlin himself even used a staff, but I don't believe he ever really had need of it."

"I… never knew that," Neville admitted as much. He looked at his wand with a much different light now. He knew that he wasn't like his father, but he would never have thought that they were that different to where he couldn't use his father's wand. Gran had always kept it safe, so he had little time to practice with it when he was a child.

"Considering you haven't stopped at Olivander's, I'm not too surprised," McGonagall stated. "There is a phrase he says to first-year students, it goes something along the lines of 'the wand chooses the wizard.'"

"The wand chooses the wizard?" Neville repeated.

"Indeed. As powerful a wand as your fathers is, it just isn't a fit for you."

"So, what do I do?" Neville inquired.

Pulling a piece of parchment from her desk drawer, McGonagall began to write. "I'll send an owl to your grandmother explaining the situation. With her permission, I'll escort you to Diagon Alley to acquire a new one."

"I don't know if my gran will like that," Neville confessed. "She was really set on me using my dad's wand."

"Well I'm also sure Augusta would like to see her grandson's magical performance reach its peak," McGonagall was quick to counter. "She'll just have to accept that you are Frank's son, not Frank himself." She grabbed an envelope and sealed it shut. "That will be all, Mr. Longbottom. I suggest you hurry to your next class."

"Yes, professor," Neville nodded, packing up the rest of his things and heading for the door.

"Oh, Mr. Longbottom!" McGonagall called. Neville stopped to look back. "Just so you know, you're father was a late bloomer when it came to magic. But when he came into his own, he was one of the best I ever taught."

"Where is this place exactly?" Harry asked as he rode his horse alongside Guts' through the scenic countryside of southwest Midland. All Guts had told him about their destination was that they were going to get a replacement for the sword that Harry broke. If Harry's suspicion about it being from magic was true, then his new sword would have to be of a better make.

"Not far now," Guts told him. His idea of far must be drastically different from Harry's, as they had been riding for close to four hours out from Windham. "This guy's a bit of a recluse, but he's the best at what he does."

"You know him then?" Harry asked, curious as to who it was.

Guts gave a half nod. "He's the one who made the sword I'm using now." Harry eyed the blade strapped to Guts' back. For as big as it was, it looked to have gotten a few chinks in it from his battle in the forest.

"And you think he can make a magic sword?" Harry further questioned.

"I didn't say that," Guts corrected, "I just said he's the best at what he does."

"Meaning a magic sword?"

"Shut up." It didn't sound as serious as it should have.

That was around the time they came upon a cabin near the wall of a cliff. Smoke drifted up from the chimney and the sound of metal hitting metal rang throughout the air. Guts hopped off of his horse and tied the reins around a low tree branch and Harry followed suit. "This is it," Guts said as he strode to the cabin. Guts gave two knocks on the door and Harry could hear the metal clanking decrease to some degree. In a few short seconds, the door opened.

Instead of looking up, Harry found himself looking down at the little girl who answered. She had fair skin and light brown hair. Her bluish green eyes reflected curiosity as she looked up at the two of them. If harry had to guess, he would say she was probably only about seven years old at most.

Guts met her gaze with his own. "Hey," he casually greeted.

Her face broke into a wide smile. "Papa!" She shouted into the cabin. "He's back! The sword guy is here!" She took a look at Harry. "And there's someone with glasses!"

A grunt was heard, followed by a gruff voice. "Alright, Erica. I'm coming." Standing behind the girl now known as Erica was, in Harry's opinion, the definition of a blacksmith. He had a long, grizzled gray beard and the hair on his head was long but thin. His skin was tanned from the heat of the forge, protected by the large smock he had on. While his hands were wrinkled like old leather, they looked as strong as fresh steel.

"Been some time," the smith said to Guts. "You haven't broken that sword I made for you, have you?"

"No, Godo," Guts told the smith, "you're swords fine."

"Then why'd you come?" Godo asked. "Not like you to just pay a visit because you feel like it."

Guts pointed a thumb at Harry. "He's here for a sword."

Godo turned his attention to Harry, looking at him as if to get a good judge of his character. "A sword you say?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Don't call me sir," Godo advised. "I ain't no knight." He ran a hand through his scraggly beard.

"He's looking for a custom sword," Guts continued. "Something special."

"Special?" Godo repeated, almost sounding amused. "Never liked that word. I can do unique, but special? A sword is a sword, no matter how big or small."

"I'm not hearing a 'no,'" Guts observed.

"Hold your horses, lad!" Godo put up his hands. "You haven't even told me the details about it yet. I can't work if I have nothing to go off of."

Guts urged Harry forward. "Tell him."

"Well, I was thinking about a sword that can handle heat," Harry said, unsure of how to phase it without sounding crazy.

"All swords have to get heated," Godo told him. "That's how we make 'em. Even a non-smith knows that."

"I mean after it's made," Harry said, defending his intelligence. "Like when I use it, it can handle heat."

"You make it sound like you want a magic sword," Godo sounded borderline amused. Harry didn't respond to that. And with his lack of response, Godo began to chuckle. "Har-har-har! Boy, let me show you something. Erica, go unlock the shed."

His daughter nodded. "Alright, papa." She grabbed a set of keys and skipped over to a large shed off to the side of the cabin. The three followed behind her. Erica twisted the key into the lock and pushed the door open. "Ta-da!"

Godo patted her on the head. "Good work, Erica." He led them in to a cornucopia of arms, armor, and a bunch of other scarps littered over work tables. Harry took notice of a custom repeating crossbow, what looked like cannonballs, and various other tinker toys. But Godo led them to the back of the shed were something was propped up against the wall, covered by a tarp.

"What's under there?" Harry asked.

"A story," Godo answered cryptically. "Before I lived out here, I was commissioned by the previous king of Midland to forge a sword like no other, a sword that could slay dragons. So for days, I worked away at the forge, I had to construct stirrups to lift in and out of the flames. By the time I had finished it, it was more a heap of iron to be called a sword. Much too massive and thick. It was so large the king could not wield it." Godo looked over at Guts. "I doubt even you could lift it, lad." Guts scoffed but didn't retort.

"So the king ordered that I close my forge and relocate," Godo continued. "And I did just that. I made him a sword that could slay dragons if dragons existed. But dragons and every other mythical creature vanished long, long ago. The only things the left behind were stories and legends like the ones you would hear from Enoch village about trolls and enchanted forests."

"What about your cave, papa?" Erica asked, putting a helmet over her head that was much too big for her.

"Aye, my cave too."

"Cave?" Harry asked, looking away from the tarp-covered sword.

"Elves used to live in these parts," Godo explained. "The cliff wall behind my cabin houses a cave that elves used to live in. Ore can be found there, but I can tell that's it's different. The elves, they may have left some of their magic behind before they left."

"Why are you telling us these stories, Godo?" Guts questioned. "We came for a sword, not a history lesson."

"Aye, and a sword you'll get," Godo confirmed. "If you're talking about a magic sword, I'll see about using some of the ore from my cave. I tell you that story because I want you to know. I've dealt with fools who didn't know the consequence of their request, I don't want you getting your hopes up when you discover that the sword you get is no different than any other sword in this shed." Godo cast a look at the tarp. "Any other sword."

"Thank you," Harry said. "Whatever your price is, I'll pay it." He reached for his coin pouch, but Godo raised a hand to stop him.

"My price, huh?" Godo thought it over. "Alright, your companion will come with me to the cave to mine that ore, and you… you can chop some wood for me."

"Cutting wood?" Harry asked.

"The seasons are changing," Godo stated. "Fall is here and soon enough it'll be winter. My back ain't what it once was. You, you're young. That's my price. I don't want me or my daughter freezing when the snow starts falling."

The next hour found Harry wiping sweat from his brow after bringing the ax down on yet another chunk of wood. Godo apparently had a pile of wood he wanted to be chopped behind his shed, but he said that after that was done, he wanted Harry to cut some of the trees around his settlement. He wasn't looking forward to it, but if it meant it was the price for te sword, he would have to pay it.

He put the split pieces of wood into a cart and pulled it up to the side of the cabin. As he did, he caught sight of a head peaking around the corner of the cabin at him. Turing his head to look, Erica emerged from her hiding place holding a bucket. "Hiya!" she greeted cheerily.

"Hi," Harry greeted back unsure of her reason for visiting.

She presented him with the bucket. "Here. You looked thirsty, so I got you some water." Harry accepted it and drank his fill of the cool liquid.

"Haaa," he sighed. "Thanks."

"No problem," she smiled warmly at him, a complete contrast to her father's serious face.

"So do you like living out here?" Harry asked the younger girl. "It must be pretty quiet most of the time."

"Uh-huh," she nodded vigorously. "I love living with papa, he's the best blacksmith ever! And one day I will be too." The mental image of a girl as small as Erica lifting a hammer twice her size brought a smile to Harry's face. "But it does get lonely out here. I think papa thinks so too."

"Really?" Harry was not too convinced of that. "He seems content enough."

"He likes when Guts comes to visit," Erica told him.

"He said that?" Harry asked. He knew Guts was not a very social person, and Godo didn't strike him as one either.

"Wellllll, he didn't say it," Erica emphasized. "But it gives him something to do. Papa is always thinking about what he can make next, and Guts always asks for bigger swords. Then he puts him to work like you're doing now. If he pays by staying to do work, that's extra company."

"Extra company," Harry parroted. He wasn't Godo, so he couldn't say for sure.

"Yup!" Erica said. "Maybe after you're done cutting wood for papa you can play with me?"

"Huh?"

"Yeah, I don't know any kids my age. You're still a kid right?"

Still a kid? He was only eleven, but he felt older than that. Maybe it was spending time with people who were older than him or having to adapt to life, but Harry couldn't recall a time he ever felt like a kid. Rickert was good company, but they didn't do childish things besides joke around. And while Griffith had childlike tendencies, Harry knew he was mature.

"Sure," Harry agreed after a moment of thought. "What did you have in mind?"

Her eyes lit up. "You mean it?!" He nodded. "I know all the hiding spots around here, or I can run and you can try to catch me, I'm fast just so you know. Or, or maybe we could go to the waterfall, or-," Erica began to list off activates much to her pleasure and Harry's acceptance.

Sir Laban, a nobleman of twenty-nine years and a knight and general of a portion of Midland's army knew that the war was nearing its end. It was as plain as day to all the generals who had attended the meeting that Chuder was close to defeat. Scouts had reported that a majority of Chuder's forces were now held up in the captured fortress of Doldrey, one of Midlands's best strongholds.

The report had stated that Sir Boscogn of the Purple Rhino Knights, supposedly Chuder's strongest commander was holding the fortress under the command of a Lord Gennon. Laban had heard enough about Boscogn's career to know that the rumors of his fighting prowess were no joke. Lord Gennon however, was the enigma to him.

Gennon was a wealthy lord, with an apparent perversion for young men, keeping a handful of boys as his pleasure slaves to suit his needs. Why Gennon was at Doldrey remained a mystery, but that made it all the more important to sack the fortress before the lord could leave. If Gennon is slain, then Chuder loses a substantial income of wealth.

The problem that lay before Midland's forces was deciding who should assault the fortress. Many a general feared that with Boscogn present, that the nearly impenetrable fortress was a lost cause. How soon they forget that Chuder had taken the impenetrable fortress from Midland, the action that sparked the hundred year war. Laban knew the true reason the rest of noblemen and generals did not wish to assault the fortress because they would be the ones in danger.

How they could govern Midland was lost logic on him and Sir Owen both. It seemed the only general willing to fully commit to the assault was the recently anointed General Griffith. He had volunteered to take Doldrey with just his own forces with no assistance from any of the other generals. This, of course, sparked a reaction from the others; a newly anointed low born general taking back the fortress of Doldrey? It seemed absurd.

They were even more taken aback when Laban himself gave Griffith his support for his plan to retake Doldrey. He cared little if Griffith was high born or low born, what mattered was that he was willing to commit himself to the cause, and that spoke more than any status in Laban's eyes. What did concern him was how eager Griffith seemed to be when Lord Gennon was mentioned to be at Doldrey. If Griffith somehow knew Gennon, it wouldn't bode well to have his emotions cloud his judgment.

"That was quite bold of you to put your faith in General Griffith like that," Sir Owen spoke with him after the war meeting was over with.

"A bold move for a bold man," Laban agreed. "He showed the most conviction, Midland needs that kind of spirit."

"At this rate, he's likely to win the hand of Princess Charlotte," Sir Owen half-joked. It was no secret that Griffith was moving up the social latter at an exponential rate. And with the princess' not so secret infatuation for the young hawk, it seemed inevitable.

"That is if our king allows it," Laban added. "He loves his daughter as a father should, but the princess is a woman flowered and his majesty has denied all marriage proposals for her hand."

"She's the last thing he has to remember of his first wife," Owen reminded. "We can only pray that the princess becomes like her real mother and not the woman her father married after her passing."

"Yes, her mother was such a sweet woman," Laban recalled the kings' marriage to the queen. She had even shared a dance with Laban during her wedding day. A beautiful woman, frail of health, but one of the sweetest persons to ever live. A drastic difference from the now queen earning her the secret nickname from Laban and Owen as Queen Cunt.

"I suppose Griffith's future with the princess will lie after the Battle of Doldrey," Owen concluded. "One way or another, the war is nearing its close."

"Agreed, my friend," Laban acknowledged. "Change is fast approaching Midland. And the White Hawk will be at its focal point."

A/N: So both Neville and Harry are getting new items. I also included Sirs Laban and Owen at the end of this chapter as they are two of my favorite side characters in the series. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned b J.K. Rowling, and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Doldrey. Midland's strongest fortress, now currently in the hands of Chuder forces and current destination for The Band of the Hawks. It was Midland's easternmost stronghold, built in a very arid climate and into the side of a mountain. Supposedly, it was impenetrable.

But that wasn't what concerned Harry, it was Griffith. For some reason, Griffith had denied any additional troops of Midland's royal army and insisted that the numbers the Hawks possessed would be enough. He spoke like he had a personal stake in the matter that went beyond any promotion or a new title.

After a brief talk with Casca, Harry found out why. "We weren't always this large in numbers. To build a mercenary band, you need funding. A lord named Gennon offered if Griffith agreed to his terms." She left the next part unspoken, and Harry picked up on the hidden meaning. He knew enough to know that things like that happened to women all the time in Midland, but to boys and men too… it was disgusting! Would something like that happen to him if they lost a battle?

"You think he just wants to get revenge?" Harry had inquired.

Casca looked ahead to where Griffith rode. "I don't know. All I can say is that he seems rather eager to take Doldrey, that's it."

"But he has a plan," Harry reminded. "He always does."

"I know," Casca said. "Speaking of which, we should get ready to break away from the main force before we cross to the plain outside of Doldrey," Casca shouted a command to her men, who in turn rode away from the ensemble to carry out their part of Griffith's plan. Harry was about to do the same, but he heard Griffith calling to him from the front of the host.

Wondering what Griffith wanted of him; Harry went to ride next to the young man. "Riding out with Casca I see."

"Yeah. Do you need me somewhere else?" Harry asked.

"No," Griffith answered, his voice lacked its playful edge but kept a hint of mischievousness. "I just had something that might come in handy." He opened a satchel on his saddle and pulled out an average garden snake. "I took it from the gardens in Windham before we rode off."

"Okay," Harry said as Griffith handed him the serpent, which seemed more comfortable in Harry's grasp. "How is this snake supposed to come in handy?"

"Yours and Casca's force is going to be the infiltration unit while the rest of us draw Chuder's forces out of Doldrey," Griffith recited the battle plan. "But sending your division in essentially blind would do neither of us any good. However, this little serpent would be dismissed without a second thought."

Harry looked at the snake which curled around his hand and back to Griffith whose blue eyes held a glint of brilliance. "You want me to- tell it to spy for us?" Harry whispered the last part.

"You have a unique gift," was Griffith's answer. "Use it."

The sight before General Boscogn was a disgrace of a knight. Sir Adon Corbowitz, a knight only due to his family name had little right to brag. Even with the support of a hundred men, Adon had been inept to kill two soldiers in a forest. Chuder was renowned for its military history; the capture of Doldrey, the fortress they now stood in was a prime example. For the century-long war that had been fought with Midland, thousands of Chuder soldiers had given their lives for the expansion of the empire, they had been the ones to die with honor.

And then there was Adon.

Adon. The misogynist blowhard coward that was so inept a warrior he relied more on his name than his skills to be considered a true soldier of Chuder. Listening to him run his mouth was giving Boscogn a headache.

"Let them come!" Adon boomed to Boscogn and two other knights. "This fortress is too massive to be taken by a simple assault. Many have tried in the past and failed to retake Doldrey." He was clearly looking for someone to agree with his sentiments, but Boscogn would deny the disgraced knight of that.

"Rather bold words from you, Sir Adon. Have you perhaps forgotten that it's the Hawks who come rushing our walls?" Boscogn watched as Adon grimaced. The disgraced knight still had gauze wrapped around his face from when a swordsman knocked his helm from his face and a prosthetic blade for a hand that a young boy had apparently severed. If the same boy was on the battlefield, Boscogn would thank him for giving him the death of a warrior. With Lord Gennon at Doldrey, Boscogn would not let the boy suffer from the lord's perversions.

Seeing his words have the desired effect on Adon, Boscogn decided to dig deeper. "You of all people should know how dangerous the Hawks can be. Just one of their men killed a hundred of your sell swords, as well as your younger brother, Sampson. Did you try to avenge your brother's death? Or did you perhaps hide amongst the dead until the slaughter was over?"

Adon paled further under Boscogn's interrogation. "My survival was- was the result of generations of Corbowitz family training, and-," Boscogn grew tired of Adon's lie and seized him by the throat.

"I do not plan on killing you, Sir Adon," Boscogn told him, still not releasing the hold on Adon's throat. "You have shamed yourself too much to be given death at my hand, and I will not have a coward ride onto the field. Stay and guard the fortress and Lord Gennon." Boscogn let Adon fall to the floor. "If you accomplish that you might be able to save what little pride you have left."

Adon further cowered as a small snake slithered its way past and continuing on along the corridors of Doldrey. "Do not disappoint, Sir Adon," Boscogn advised, putting his rhino helmet over his shaved head. "Snakes are the least of your worries."

Damn dust, Guts cursed at the arid climate of Doldrey. With the wind as a factor, it was blowing all over the place; but, that was part of Griffith's plan. Using the environment to their advantage. It was a risky strategy to be sure, but under Griffith's command, he was confident that it would work. Guts looked to one of the banner's blowing in the wind. After this battle, Griffith's dream will all but be achieved. And me… This will be the last I fight under this banner.

His time spent with the Hawks had been unlike any other mercenary band before. But even in the company as good as theirs, he did not possess a dream of his own. There was no light in that bonfire for him, just another sword on the field. Maybe- maybe once he finds his own dream he'll return. But now wasn't the time to think about it. Doldrey lay before them, and despite its size, it was just an ordinary fortress and it would fall like so many others.

"How are your wounds?" Griffith asked, riding up alongside him. Guts drew his sword and swung it with enough force to part a cloud of dust and sand.

"Don't even feel them," Guts added. "Whatever medicine it was Judeau had really worked." Guts sent a nod of acknowledgment to the person in question.

Griffith gave a small content smile. "Good to hear. We'll need you to guard the rear during phase two after all." Guts gave a half-grin in response, but it did not quite reach his eyes. Just a sword without a dream.

Nodding, Griffith donned his hawk-helm and addressed the assembled troops. "First division advance!"

"You heard him!" Guts shouted. "Raiders advance!"

A cloud of the loose dust and sand formed behind them as a force of two thousand troops rode to meet the first wave of opposition on the field outside of Doldrey. Guts noted that the first wave of enemies was smaller than the Hawks numbers, maybe even less than half their numbers. Maybe the others were holding back, or maybe they didn't believe a large force was necessary given Doldrey's position.

Either way, those men were already dead. Thanks to the supposed Elf dust that Judeau had given Casca for his wounds, Guts hardly felt the pain from his previous battle in the forest. It showed in how he swung his sword in this new battle.

His sword moved like the wind around them, cutting a straight path toward Doldrey. Any man unlucky enough to get in the way of his sword lost hands, arms, heads, and even half of their bodies. The Battle for Doldrey was turning into a one-sided slaughter.

The push forward continued with the Hawks mercilessly cutting down the first wave of opposition, littering the desert-like terrain with fresh corpses for the vultures. Guts led his men the farthest through the enemy ranks, taking a few hits along the way, but always hitting back. He would need to be the farthest when Griffith executed part two of the plan.

Speaking of which; his leader's voice rang out on the battlefield. "All units fall back to the base camp!"

Boscogn watched, confused as the Band of Hawk suddenly stopped their advance and went into full retreat. It made no sense. Boscogn had been watching the battle unfold, and the Hawks had been dominating the field. He spotted one man in particular who cut down men with a special sort of ferocity. He would be a worthy opponent. And then they had retreated. What was the White Hawk thinking? Surely he didn't think he could take Doldrey with the host he advanced with, so why make the blunder, to begin with? It was out of character for what he knew of the young leader, what was he planning?

"General!" Someone called to him. Much to Boscogn's surprise, Lord Gennon sat saddled on his own horse and wearing an expensive set of golden armor. A young boy accompanied the lord, not looking all too thrilled about it.

"Lord Gennon," Boscogn greeted. "You should be back inside where it is safe."

"Bah!" Gennon spat. "The enemy is retreating. Will you miss this opportunity for victory?"

"No, sir. But we-,"

"Attention!" Gennon yelled to the second division of Purple Rhino Knights. "Do not kill the enemy's leader, Griffith. He is to be captured alive!"

What is Gennon thinking?! Boscogn questioned to himself. Griffith was smart and cunning, far too dangerous to be kept alive. Unless… Boscogn looked at the young boy who Gennon had brought with him. Of course.

Gennon continued to issue his declaration. "Any man who captures him will be thrice promoted, and rewarded a holdfast back in Chuder!" Cries of approval rang out from the men.

"You shouldn't make such promises, Lord Gennon," Boscogn advised. "It undermines their military discipline."

"General," Gennon spoke directly to him. "I am taking control of the field. Have your troops pursue the enemy!"

Boscogn was dangerously close to refusing the order, but Lord Gennon was his superior and a source of funding for Chuder's armies. To refuse him would be a blow to Chuder itself, and years of military discipline had taught him to always follow the orders that were given to you, even if you did not agree with them.

"At once, Lord Gennon," Boscogn finally agreed. "All units prepare to pursue!"

Guts cast look over his shoulder as he brought up the rear of the retreating Hawks. They took the bait. Just as Griffith predicted. The unmistakable shape of rhino armor chasing after them through a cloud of dust proved as much. Their two thousand men soon met up with the other half of their forces under the guise of Judeau and Corkus.

"Regroup formations!" Griffith ordered, and the men obeyed. "We have arrived at a crucial moment. Stake your lives on this fight! Our survival demands that we stake our lives on this fight! And to survive is to be victorious!"

Leave it to him, Guts thought as the Purple Rhino Knights made their advance into the cloud of dust that had been picked up by the Hawks retreat. The familiar feeling of overwhelming odds blew past Guts. A real fight was on its way, and because of that, Guts felt himself smile.

Harry and Casca watched as last of the rhino knights poured out from Doldrey's main gate. Their division had broken off early on to approach Doldrey from the side. Scaling the side of the mountain it was built into, they waited until the majority of soldiers would leave to pursue the first two divisions. And that was when they would strike.

Casca had pulled Harry aside as he spoke to the snake Griffith had given him. It was as expected; the snake had been able to scout inside for them without any suspicion at all. In exchange for its services, it demanded mice as payment. It was simple enough and so the serpent agreed and told Harry everything he wanted to know.

It had seen a man in a room filled with young boys, and Harry assumed that was where Gennon was, but the serpent told him that the man left to go out on the field. The other bit of useful information was the knowledge of a small force of garrison troops stationed in the fortress. And then it mentioned a man with half a face and missing a hand.

"Sir Adon's here," Harry told Casca as they set up ropes to descend down into Doldrey from above.

"Is he now?" Casca looked contemplative. "Good." She teethed her rope around her waist. "Once we're inside I'll have a few men take up position around where they are." She handed Harry a rope too. "Ready?"

He took the rope and tied it around himself as well. "Yeah."

Harry had never been mountain climbing before, but he imagined that this is what is like to scale down the side of a mountain. Save for the people below that wanted to kill him and everyone else of course. Once he and the others touched down on Doldrey's battlements, they cut their ropes and followed after Casca.

"Two teams seal the west and south gates!" Casca ordered. "My division, we'll be taking the keep!" Running along the battlements, they came across a pair of guards, clearly not expecting to see enemy troops inside Doldrey when the battle was being raged outside. Casca wasted no time in cutting down the first one, and Harry drew his sword to engage the second.

Godo had made good on his word to make Harry a new sword with ore from the elf cave. The blade was the same length as his previous one, a good three feet, but it felt much lighter to him. It could be because of training his arm since first joining up, or maybe Godo was just that good at forging. Either way, it felt right. The steel it was made of was much paler than a regular blade and seemed to have an almost electric blue tint embedded in the steel. Maybe Godo had seen his lighting scar and thought the color would look nice, despite telling him it was just an ordinary sword.

Sparks flew as Harry's sword clashed with his foes. Ducking under a swing, Harry stabbed his opponent at the waist, through a chink in his armor. The act of killing had become easier to do, but not mentally. Harry found no joy in doing it but did it because he did not want it done to him, to anyone else in the Hawks ranks. But now was not the time for him to dwell on it. He followed after Casca and the others as the found themselves in a courtyard of sorts.

"Halt!" Casca commanded as three of their men fell from the battlements, bleeding from cuts across their throats. Standing before them, with his trident weapon in hand, was Sir Adon.

"Sir Adon to the rescue," he boasted before his handiwork.

"Oh, it's you," Casca said unimpressed. "You're persistent."

Adon gave a throaty chuckle. "I am known as the indestructible Adon! Known for my vitality and good standing. I saw through your cheap trick and waited patiently for your arrival."

"Liar," both Harry and Casca called his bluff.

"You doubt my intuition?" Adon said insulted. He let out a whistle, and the garrison troops made themselves known. "See?! You're all surrounded!"

Casca threw Adon off guard when she smiled. "Really?" She looked over at Harry. "Do it."

Clearing his throat, Harry yelled as loud as he could, "Now!"

Thanks to the information provided by the serpent scout, they had been able to plan ahead for an ambush like this. It worked in their favor, as the Hawks who had taken up hidden positions revealed themselves. Armed with crossbows, they fired down upon the remnants of the Blue Whale Knights.

Adon seethed in frustration as he watched his ambush fall to pieces. "You insolent woman!" He jabbed at Casca with his trident, but she easily sidestepped and tripped him up. Harry was about to jump into the fight too, but Casca raised her hand to stop him.

"Help the others," she told him as the few other Hawks battled with the rest of the Whales. "I can handle him." Understanding that Casca had things under control, Harry did as ordered, engaging in a sword fight with the enemy.

Each and every attack Adon threw at Casca, she was able to deflect back at him, knocking him down more than once at the cost of his pride. "How is this possible? You weren't like this the last time we fought!"

"Yeah, I wasn't exactly at my best last time," Casca remembered. Adon jabbed at her once more, but she knocked the strike aside and kicked him in the face. What little teeth Adon had left fell out.

"Arrrghhh!" Adon wailed as he fell to his knees before Casca's feet. "I surrender!"

"Pardon?" Casca asked, not impressed with how easy Adon surrendered.

"It's yours! Doldrey, if you want it it's yours! I'm just a lowly commander taking orders from the general!" No one, especially the remainder of Adon's men was impressed with the sight of him groveling on his hands and knees.

"You're pathetic," Casca simply stated. Before she could end Adon's life, however, he struck out with his prosthetic blade hand and cut Casca on her leg. She winced and took a step back.

"Simpleton!" Adon shouted standing back up. "That blade was laced with a paralysis poison for just such an occasion as this! It'll wear off in an hour or two, but you'll be dead before you can see that happen!"

Grabbing his trident, Adon charged forth once again, looking to impale her on the end of his weapon. Already feeling the toxins beginning to take effect, Casca made no move to dodge to the side of the attack. She waited until Adon was close enough before grabbing his weapon and using the last her leg strength to flip over him.

Before Adon could fully comprehend what had happened, or even turn around for that matter, Casca swung her sword in full arc. A thin line of blood began to form along the top of Adon's head. He fell not long after.

"Their leader is fallen!" Casca announced propping herself against a wall. "Finish off what's left of them!" A collective cheer went around from each of the Hawks as they made good of Casca's command.

After dealing with his current opponent, Harry made his way to Casca and slung her arm around his neck. Whatever toxin Adon had used must have been fast acting. "Here. We'll get you bandaged up."

"Take me to the battlements first," Casca told him. "Let's hang our banner for them to see." Doing as instructed, Harry hung the sigil of the Hawks over the side of Doldrey's walls. It was hard to see the battle through the large cloud of dry sand that had been kicked up, but he could see that it was more or less even right now. That was to be expected, but there was something that caught his eye that wasn't on the field of battle.

On a hill overlooking the battle sat a horseman. Harry could tell from here that whoever it was, was coated in muscle. "Do you see that?" Harry asked Casca.

"Where?"

"On the hill," Harry pointed out. "That isn't one of ours, is it?"

"No," she confirmed his suspicions. "It isn't."

Harry would have said that they were with Chuder then, but they made no move to jump in and help out. Just who were they?

Up, down, left, right, Guts' sword cut down as many men that came within his distance. One by one the corpses began to stack up. As the rear guard, he was tasked with holding off as many men as possible from getting to Griffith.

Many of the others had taken defense around their leader as well. Rickert took a hit to his arm but was saved by Pippin, who brought his mace down on the boy's attacker. Corkus was panicked and a little banged up himself and was nearly blindsided until Judeau saved him with a throwing knife. Griffith himself fought with all the pose and grace to be expected. With his elegantly designed sword, he cut right at the throats of any who managed to break through to him. And it seemed an awful lot of men were eager to get at him.

Guts would have cleaved many of those men in half, but his sword was now crossed with an enormous battle-ax, hefted by a man in heavy rhino armor, and a horse dressed to match his fashion. No doubt this was General Boscogn. Through the slit in Boscogn's helm, Guts could see a battle-hardened face, no doubt he would prove tougher than the other men.

Their weapons clashed again and sparks flew in the dust storm that surrounded them. Guts was testing his hits against Boscogn's ax, much to his dismay, the general's weapon had more of an edge than his sword. He learned that the hard way when he received a cut along his shoulder. Guts retaliated by swinging upward and cutting off the front portion of Boscogn's rhino helm.

This process continued with each strike dealt. Guts would chip away at the heavy armor worn by Boscogn, but at the cost of a strike dealt with his own body. It was starting to get on Guts' nerves, and he prepared to put all his strength behind one final blow to the staff of Boscogn's ax. Reacting much faster than expected, Boscogn spun his ax to intercept Guts' sword.

Clstraat!

Guts fell from his horse clutching the hilt of his sword, only a jagged piece of metal remained of the once greatsword.

"Captain!" Some of his raiders yelled as they charged Boscogn.

"No! Get back!" Guts shouted, but it was too late. With a twirl of his ax, Boscogn cleaved three of the raiders in half.

A swooshing sound came whizzing through the air, and suddenly a sword was thrown between Guts and Boscogn. It was just as long as his previous sword but was more a scimitar with a serrated edge. It looked almost like the one that had been used by-

Guts looked where it had been thrown from, and he thought he caught a glimpse of a mounted horseman overlooking the battle some distance away.

"Guts!" Griffith called his name. "Use that sword!"

He didn't need to be told twice, grabbing the sword like it was second nature he was able to block an overhead attack from Boscogn. Unlike his previous sword, this one did not break under the pressure of the attack. Pivoting at his heels, Guts pulled away from the lock and twisted in a full arc. Boscogn's head, as well as his horse's, rolled along on the sandy ground now colored red.

The reaction was near instantaneous. At seeing their general dead, the remaining enemies turned to flee back inside Doldrey, only to find the banner of the Hawk now decorating the fortress' walls. In that instant, they simply chose to flee away from the battle, or else risk losing their own lives.

As the Hawks forces chased the fleeing forces, Griffith instead rode to a man in golden armor that had fallen in the chaos of the battle. Looking down on the man, he was more or less the same as when they met close to five years ago. Balding with a full brown beard that made his wrinkled face look a bit younger.

"Griffith," he spoke with awe, looking up at him.

"It's been a while, Lord Gennon," Griffith kept his voice neutral.

Gennon managed to pull himself to his feet. "Oh, Griffith! I've thought about you for so long! Ever since that night we shared and the love we made! We've always helped each other out, that's why you're going to let me escape with my life, right?" Gennon grabbed for one of his hands. "I gave the men strict orders not to harm you, you must understand the feelings I hold in my heart for you."

Griffith's porcelain face conveyed no emotion whatsoever. "D-don't tell me you bear me ill will?" Gennon asked, sounding more afraid of Griffith's opinion than losing his own life.

"I do not bear any ill feelings at all," Griffith settled on, not missing the relieved sigh from Gennon. "However, it concerns me to hear you speaking of our 'making love,' as it means little but nothing to me." Gennon's face fell.

"What are you talking about Griffith?" Gennon said little more than a whisper.

"I took advantage of an opportunity, and it just so happened that it was you who was there at the time," The funding Gennon had provided had been well spent indeed. "I picked up a pebble that lied in my path, and by chance it was you."

Gennon growled at this. Before he could bark out a retort, Griffith's blade found its way into his eye. Gennon's body twitched before Griffith withdrew his sword. "But it would be rather unfortunate if you were alive to spread any nasty rumors of the sort." Griffith rode away without a second glance.

"Here you go," Harry said as he tore off a sleeve from his tunic to wrap around Casca's leg. It wasn't a deep cut, but it would at least help stop the bleeding.

"Thanks," she said. "Would it be too much to ask for a shoulder though?" Harry obliged and led her over to where she could look out over the battlefield. A collective cry of victory spread from every man assembled outside of Doldrey as the last of Chuder's forces went into a full-scale retreat. There was no mistaking Griffith surrounded by some comrades.

The sounds of footsteps approaching caught their attention and a turn of the head showed it was Guts. He sported a few cuts on his forehead and arms, but what drew their attention was the massive sword that he now carried. It wasn't his own.

"Hey," Guts casually greeted the two of them, a rare smile on his face. He joined them looking out over the battlements. "Some view, huh?"

"We couldn't see much because of the sand cloud," Harry told him. "But it looks like it was rough."

"It got a bit dicey," Guts admitted as much. "But we did it." Guts took notice of Casca's cut. "Hurt?"

"It's getting better," Casca told him. "I at least paid the bastard back for it." Guts gave a nod of understanding.

"He sure is something," Guts admired as Griffith went around congratulating the men surrounding him.

Casca gave a smile of the sad kind. "He is. And he seems so far from the rest of us though. Like he's already taken flight."

"There's a quality about him I guess," Harry added. "I don't know how to explain it."

Guts looked between the two of them. "I disagree. C'mon." Guts suddenly picked up Casca, much to her embarrassment.

"What are you doing?" She almost yelled.

"Taking you to meet your commander," Guts said nonchalantly. "That's what you want, right?" Casca looked like she was going to say no, but decided against it. "You coming, Harry?"

"I'll catch up soon," Harry told him. "You go on ahead." It wasn't so much that he had anything else to do, but this was one of the few times that he saw Guts smile. Not a sarcastic smile or borderline sadistic smile, one that was true. And he figured that smile would last even longer if Guts went with just Casca.

Turning his attention back out onto the field, Harry scanned for a sign of that mysterious horseman that he spotted earlier. He found nothing. But even still- a horseman is seen overlooking the battle, and Guts come carrying that other massive sword that he had not had before. A shadow passed by behind him, a large one that could have belonged to Pippin, the silent giant of sorts. When Harry turned to greet who he thought was Pippin, he quickly drew his sword instead.

It was a man he did not know, tall and full of muscle. Instead of armor, he wore almost tribal-like furs and leathers. His hair was dark and spiky like Guts', but his eyes were yellow with spits for pupils. Harry almost dropped his sword. He recognized those eyes, although they had instead been in the head of a demon beast. Zodd.

The human Zodd grabbed the massive sword where Guts had left it, taking a moment to acknowledge Harry's presence. "Your friend can't keep my sword," Zodd said almost sounding civil.

Harry's grip tightened on his own. "W-what are you doing here?" It probably didn't sound brave, but knowing that Zodd could turn into a beast any second wasn't helping.

Zodd hefted the massive blade. "For my sword of course. A warrior is always in need of a weapon."

"Even if you can turn into a beast?" Harry asked not taking his eyes off Zodd's blade.

"Not all opponents warrant my true power," Zodd admitted. "You seem comfortable with your blade, however. I wonder how you would fare against me." Harry steeled himself for an attack that didn't come. "But I've no quarrel with you, another time perhaps."

Harry was relieved, to say the least, but confused all the same. "You're not going to fight?"

"My fight does not lie here. The battle is over, no use now." Zodd sounded disappointed. He walked the rest of the way along the battlements before stopping. "I bestowed your friend a few words last we met. Treasure your days of peace and youth while you can, they will not last." Zodd gave a toothy smile as he jumped from the battlements. Instead of the thud of a body, the sound of wings beating against the wind greeted Harry's ears and a sense of dread in his bones.

A/N: And's that's it for that chapter. The Battle for Doldrey is over. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Following the victory at the Battle of Doldrey, Chuder was forced to withdraw a vast majority of their forces form Midland's territory. The deaths of General Boscogn and Lord Gennon proved devastating to Chuder's war effort as Boscogn was their top military general, and Gennon provided them with more funding than any other lord for the war effort. To further compensate for the loss, Chuder's monarchy devised a method for forced military drafting. But in an unexpected turn of events, the peasant population broke out in open revolt at the decree, and instead, their focus turned inward to combat the rebellion rather than Midland. With Chuder now focused on their internal problems, the Hundred Year War was at last at an end.

To all those who resided in Windham, it was a day to be remembered. As the Band of Hawk came riding back through the city streets citizens pooled around to shout praise to the soldiers. Men cheered and drank, women threw bouquets of flowers to the riders, and everyone had their windows open as all clamored to get a look at the young leader of the Hawks himself, Griffith. But the best view was from the castle, where Minister Foss and Queen Mary, as well as a few other nobles, watched the parade trot through the streets.

"Have you made the arrangements?" The queen asked him without looking in his direction. Her attention was on the parade below.

Foss gave an unnoticed bow of his bald head. "Consider it done, your majesty."

"Perhaps we should hold a feast when all is said and done?" She considered. "After his untimely passing."

How ironic, Foss smirked in agreement, that the White Hawk should meet his end after the war is over. He will be trapped inside the very walls he once defended. It was no secret that members of the traditional nobility despised Lord Griffith. A base-born peasant turned lord over a few victories, and if rumors were to be believed, captured the favor of Princess Charlotte.

Griffith was an inspiration to the peasant class, but one need only look at Chuder's current state to see how the low-born outnumbered the high-born. To allow someone like that so much power and influence was a gamble that Midland couldn't afford at the moment. The war with Chuder had nearly bankrupted the kingdom with its hiring of mercenary bands, and pay farmers to stockpile their crop should the capital fall under siege. Foss knew this, and more importantly, so did the queen.

Queen Mary despised Griffith more than anyone. From his birth status, to rise in rank, to her suspicion that he had been involved in Count Julius' death, she hated the young man to his core. It didn't help at all that her stepdaughter was quite taken with him. But the queen would not have to wait long for the demise of Griffith. Foss had pulled a few strings to acquire a poison from the Uterine Isles of the south. It was colorless, odorless, and most importantly, untraceable. A few drops of it in Griffith's goblet during the ball tonight and that would be the end of it.

"Minister Foss," a court courier approached him.

"Hm. What is it?" Foss asked. The courier handed him a letter with an unrecognizable seal. "Who is this from?"

"I was asked to give it to you from a lady of the court," the courier answered. "She didn't say what it was about." He bowed. "Excuse me."

Foss dismissed him and unfurled the parchment. His eyes scanned over the first paragraph and then widened in shock and horror at the contents of the rest of it. "…It can't…"

"Something the matter, Minister Foss?" The queen asked actually looking away from the parade.

Foss could feel sweat forming on his forehead but put on a fake smile. "Nothing is wrong." His hands curled around the now folded letter. "I just have an errand to run. If you'll please excuse me." Foss didn't exactly wait for his dismissal before exiting the chamber.

Once he was out of earshot from the chambers, he broke out into a run as fast as his short legs would allow him. How?! How could this have happened?! Foss' eyes nearly bulged from his sockets. That bastard! How could he have known! He was cunning; there was no denying that, but this? Elize…

Night had fallen quickly in Windham, but looking at the castle was like staring at the sun. Every window was illuminated by candlelight, and none has shown brighter than the ones from the ballroom. Hundreds of people could fit into the room and there was still enough room for others to dance. From the high ceiling and chandelier to freshly polish marble floor and decretive columns, the place practically screamed high class. It was too bad they had to dress how they did.

Griffith had told them that they would have to look their best for tonight's events, and Harry had almost wanted to disobey that order. Much like Rickert, Harry found himself wearing a heavy wool doublet with a poofy collar and, a bib? That probably wasn't what it was actually called, but the way he had to put it around his neck and tuck it in the front of his outfit made it feel like a bib.

Walking into the ballroom beside them was Corkus, who seemed to be pulling off the outfit much better than either of the boys. "Stick your chests out," Corkus advised them. "Act confident, you can't afford to look nervous now." How he was able to say that while wearing a wide-rimmed blue hat with a feather in it, Harry would never know.

"Does it have to be so itchy?" Harry asked Rickert as he scratched at the side of his neck. How did the nobles wear this?

"I have no idea," Rickert fiddled with some of the buttons on his cuffs. Despite getting their outfits tailored Harry felt rather uncomfortable, and the large crowd of nobles in the ballroom wasn't helping much either.

They were supposed to be heroes, and Harry couldn't stop scratching at his neck. The way some of the nobility were looking at them made Harry feel like some kind of fish on display. He was out of his pond and swimming into some larger lake filled with fish much bigger than himself. Harry felt a large hand place itself on his shoulder, and look up revealed it to be Pippin, the resident giant of the Hawks.

Wordlessly, Pippin helped tuck in his bib-like and adjust his collar. "Thanks, Pippin."

The giant nodded and replied, "My sister is a tailor."

"Don't look so nervous," Judeau said to both boys. "Smile. It's good for you." Harry saw Guts actually roll his eyes at the suggestion. It looked like he and Rickert weren't the only ones a bit uncomfortable; Guts looked as if he would rather be anywhere but here. Maybe it had something to do with his outfit, a fancy white doublet, and a blue overcoat. Or more likely than not, his inability to bring his sword with him.

But it came as no surprise for Harry that Griffith seemed completely at ease by the new surroundings. His clothing was tailored to match his piercing blue eyes and he wore his white hair tied behind him. He had only taken a few steps into the center of the hall before being swarmed by a flock of ladies.

"Lord Griffith, would you please share a dance with me later tonight?"

"Lord Griffith, what do you think of my pearl necklace?"

"Lord Griffith, would you please indulge us with stories from your battles?"

Harry had to give credit to him; Griffith was keeping an incredibly cool head under the assault of questions. "While my tales are numerous, it would be uncouth to talk about such things with the conflict over so soon out of respect for all those who have fallen."

Judeau shook his head. "Well, he knows how to please a crowd."

"Wow! He seems so at ease!" Rickert remarked.

"Damn! He could at least send a few our way." Corkus grumbled.

Corkus's wish came true sooner than expected as another flock of ladies made their way over the group of guys. "Are you a member of the Hawks?" "You must be so strong."

"Indeed I am!" Corkus capitalized. "In fact, I'm so strong I sometimes scare myself." However, Corkus' time to shine was cut short when the ladies noticed Guts and swarmed around him instead.

"You're the leader of the Hawk's Raiders, aren't you?"

"…Yeah."

"Is it true you defeated General Boscogn?" "I heard he was the strongest general from Chuder."

"…That's right."

"You must be so brave, would you share a dance with me tonight?"

"…Uh…"

Harry almost felt his jaw hit the floor. For the time that he had known Guts he had never once seen the man nervous, but now in a completely foreign setting, Guts seemed just as socially awkward as Harry felt.

"Maybe some other time," Guts declined the offer walking away from the crowd of ladies, much to their disappointment. "Why don't you talk to my companions? They're free." And like that Harry found himself being swarmed.

"Don't worry; we'll take care of them!" Corkus said to Guts as he struck up a conversation with two ladies.

"Sir, would you care for a dance tonight?" One of them asked Judeau.

"That's kind of you to offer, I'd be happy to accept," Judeau replied.

Three women took to admiring Pippin. "He's got such broad shoulders." "You must be so strong, Sir."

And then there were the ones taking to Harry and Rickert. "They're so adorable!" "They'll grow into little gentlemen, won't they?"

Harry looked over to Rickert and an unspoken conversation happened between them. 'What is even going on?'

'I don't know, Harry. But I'm kind of scared now.'

"Ladies," a new voice cut into the conversation. Walking towards them were two men, one with brown hair and a neatly kept beard, and the other a clean-shaven blonde man whom Harry recognized as Sir Owen.

"If you ladies were interested in a dance, I do believe Lord Wolflame is currently available," Sir Owen informed. Much to Harry's relief, the ladies stopped crowding him and the others in search of this "Lord Wolflame."

"Hey! I'm still available!" Corkus chased after them.

"Forgive our intrusion and allow me to introduce myself," the brunette gave them a polite bow of his head. "My name is Sir Laban, I believe you know Sir Owen from your first battle with the Blue Whale Knights."

"The pleasure is ours," Judeau politely greeted. "And thank you for that. I never knew court ladies to be quite so forward and persistent."

"This is exciting for them," Sir Owen said. "Meeting men who worked for their status is something of a rarity for them."

"They think of us like trophies then?" Harry wondered.

Sir Laban waved stroked at his fine kept beard. "An interesting analogy, but not incorrect. Try not to think less of them for it, most of them have been brought up at a young age with the knowledge that they would one day marry a high lord. To interact with men who are now hailed as heroes of Midland though, and one who worked for their status as well, it is a rarity for them. Perhaps they felt the need to let their hair down for a night."

"Their hair?" Rickert asked confused.

"It's a metaphor," Sir Owen informed. "But Sir Laban speaks truly; it's a break in their way of living, and one they seem to welcome. Just look at your own female companion." Sir Owen nodded to four men who were talking with a rather pretty girl with mocha skin and short black hair wearing a light red dress.

"Whoa, that's Casca!" Harry realized not recognizing her at first.

"And she's not wearing any pants," Rickert noted as well. Compared to her usual attire, a dress seemed the farthest thing from what she would want people to see her in.

"She certainly looks lovely," Judeau commented with a bit of red on his freckled cheeks.

"I've heard many men asking her for a dance," Sir Laban told them. "She's turned them all down."

"If she wishes for a dance with your leader, she best make haste," Sir Owen observed a new crowd of ladies swarm around Griffith. "Once the princess arrives, I doubt anyone else will have a chance to dance with him."

"You know the princess well?" Rickert asked.

The two knights shrugged. "We know her enough to know that she's very much like her mother. A kind girl with a faint heart, but with room to mature."

"Well said, Sir Owen," Laban agreed. "I look forward to the day that I can call Charlotte queen."

Guts hated the crowd. He hated the chatter that came from the crowd; he hated the clothes that he had to wear. It was stupid; all of it was. The war is over, understood, no need for a celebration like this. He leaned back against one of the pillars on the outskirts of the ballroom. Only a handful of people were over here and they were the ones who didn't want to be dragged out to dance, and he fit right in with them.

Guts spared a brief glance when the royal family made their entrance onto the floor. The band began with an elegant tune that was lost on him, and the king opened the dance with Princess Charlotte instead of his own wife.

After that dance concluded, the king shared one with his wife before excusing himself to watch the ball from a balcony overlooking the ballroom. This allowed Charlotte to share in a dance with Griffith. Others soon joined in and the floor was now alive with people dancing along to the tune of the band.

To Guts' left, a group of nobles was asking for the hand of a pretty woman in a light red dress that he didn't recognize. She shook her head twice and rushed over to where he was leaning on the pillar. She grabbed onto his arm and tried pulling him away.

"There you are, I've been looking for you."

Guts was confused and starting to get angry. Who did this woman think she- Casca?

There was no mistaking it; the one leading him away from his stoop was Casca. He hardly recognized her. In place of her helm, there was a flower, she wore heels instead of boots, and of course, the dress. It was so… jarring!

"Those men kept pestering me, and I didn't know what to do about it," Casca hurriedly began explaining. "I kept telling them, no, but more just kept showing up, looking at me like some kind of foreign animal. I figured if you'd pretend to be my partner, then they'd leave me alone."

Guts had no idea what to say to that. The sight of her actually in a dress was incomprehensible. She narrowed her eyes slightly. "You're staring."

"I didn't know that you liked to wear dres-!" Guts was unable to finish his sentence as Casca elbowed him below his jaw and he bit his tongue on accident.

"Don't patronize me," Casca averted her gaze to the nobles she had rejected previously. "And it's working. Just follow me."

"I don't dance," Guts said tasting a bit of blood in his mouth.

"Neither do I," Casca said as she instead let him away from the dance floor and out a set of doors to the outside balcony. She sat down on the railing and took off her heels. Guts sat on the railing itself wondering why she had dragged him out here. He wasn't exactly complaining, it was better than in there at least.

"It's such a change from what I usually wear, I know," she began. "Riding a horse and swinging a sword around is much more comfortable to me."

Guts nodded. "I know the feeling. I never thought I'd be wearing an adult bib," she chuckled, "or see 'Big Sis Casca' in a dress."

At that, she huffed indignantly. "Men's clothing is more practical." A silence fell between. "But, it is a bit silly. Wearing this I feel like a church bell. Be honest, it looks ridiculous, right?"

Honestly?

"No," Guts said. "You actually look nice."

It seemed that opposite of what she was expecting but brightened because of it. "Really? You're being honest?"

"Yeah," Guts told her. "You look better than those noble girls crowding around Griffith. You have more self-control and respect for yourself than any of them." Guts looked up at the half moon. It was getting chilly out with the changing of the seasons and snow would be falling soon, a complete change from the arid climate of Doldrey. But even with the seasons' change, it strangely didn't feel all that cold where the two of them sat.

"Thank you," Casca said.

"Why don't you ask Griffith to dance with you?" Guts wondered.

A sad smile had worked its way onto her face. "Oh no, like I said I don't dance either. I haven't since I was a little girl in my village; I'd end up stepping all over his feet. But I'm surprised you actually came to this. You hate these kinds of events."

"Well, I wanted to see this through to the end," Guts settled on. "Ever since I met you and Griffith three years ago it's been unlike any time I've spent with other mercenary groups. Thant's why I'm here, to see it through to the end."

She was looking at him, the gears in her mind already working to understand the meaning behind his words. "You want to leave. You want to leave the Hawks." The way she said it, he knew she wasn't asking. He remained silent, and perhaps that was all the answer she needed. Until he had that dream like Griffith, he could not call himself an equal.

"You can tell me, you know that," Casca said to him.

A loud round of applause erupted from inside the ballroom, no doubt the king was about to make a speech of some kind. "That sounds like our new sponsor," Guts guessed. "Why don't you head on inside, I'll catch up with you later, I'm not really in the mood to listen to a tedious speech."

"…If that's what you want," Casca reluctantly said as she put her heels back on and made to head back in.

"You know," Guts began, stopping her in her tracks with his words.

"Yes?"

"...Never mind," Guts decided against it. "Go on, try to have fun." She hesitated for a bit longer as if she wanted him to continue, but she headed back in after another silent pause.

There is another reason for me being at this party. She doesn't know, nobody else knows but Griffith. In a few minutes, it'll happen.

Harry thanked whatever god there was that when the king began his speech, all the dancing had stopped. Sirs Laban and Owen were friendly, but they seemed to be about the two most decent nobles in all Midland. He and Rickert eventually had to dance but had found girls roughly their own age.

Knowing basically nothing about dancing, Harry stepped on his partner's feet more than once, but she assured him it was fine. She was probably lying. Rickert had fared no better than he did, and the boys agreed to never dance again in their lives. That was just before the king began his speech.

"A little while ago, a Chuder diplomat entered Windham with a signed treaty of non-aggression. It has been a difficult war that has spanned generations, we've lost many friends and loved ones, but it necessary that we rebuild after this ordeal. I expect all of you to use your assets to continue the prosperity of my reign. As I'm sure all of you are well aware of, this armistice is largely in part to the contribution of The Band of the Hawk, and their leader, Count Griffith.

"They have succeeded where others have failed and showed great bravery and courage of unmatched magnitude. In two days time, a celebration will be held for them as they will bear the title of the White Phoenix Knights and will hold second in command of all of Midland's armies. I shall personally knight all within their band." Cheering erupted from the nobility. Was he going to be a knight? They had been the only toys he had from under the cupboard, and he was going to be one! He and Rickert exchanged a high-five.

Waiters poured out onto the floor serving wine to all who accepted. "Please sir, take one," a servant said to Griffith offering him a goblet.

"Ah, why thank you," Griffith accepted.

The king raised his own goblet. "And now, a toast to our young heroes and to the prosperity of all of Midland."

Cries of, "Here here!" broke out. Harry clinked his goblet with Rickert's and Pippin's. They all took a sip together. That was when it happened.

Krakk!

Griffith's goblet shattered against the floor, and his body fell soon after.

All talking had stopped. Everyone's eyes took in the sight of Griffith lying motionless on the floor. No, Harry's brain finally seemed to boot backup, just in time to hear Casca crying Griffith's name out.

The Queen's Manse

Everything had gone much more smoothly than expected, and Queen Mary couldn't be more thankful. Only an hour had passed since Griffith had died from the poisoning, ending the celebrations rather abruptly. Her stepdaughter, Princess Charlotte had fainted at the sight of Griffith's body and presenting her "husband" with the distraction needed to come here to her personal manse within the city of Windham with a few other noblemen as well as Minister Foss.

The short minister had made the necessary arrangements for the poison to be put in Griffith's drink; it was only fitting to invite him to this after party of sorts as a reward for his services.

"It was a complete success," Lord Wald congratulated the minister for his poison.

Foss seemed to the queen, nervous as he replied. "Oh, come now. It wasn't all me."

She waved his modesty aside. "You should feel proud, Minister Foss. Without you, this plot would never have succeeded."

Foss gave a small bow of his bald head. "You are too kind." Foss' hand grabbed his hat, squeezing it rather tightly.

"What is the matter?" She inquired. "You look positively ill, minister."

Hiccupping a response, "It must be the light. I tend to look rather sickly in candlelight." He was met with skeptical looks from all who were present.

Steering the conversation away from the minister, Lord Richmont asked, "But what of the waiter who served Griffith the wine? If he is to be captured he could confess our involvement."

"You need not worry," Foss assured him. "A few moments ago I received a report from an associate that the waiter has been dealt with."

A chuckle came from Lord Wald. "Is there anything you hadn't accounted for, minister?"

"You flatter me," Foss said as he rose from his seat in the private dining room. "But if you all will excuse me, I have to return to the castle soon. My presence is required to make a final inspection of the body."

The queen eyed Foss as he left the room, but then turned her attention back to the assembled group of lords. "At last the stability of Midland is all but secured."

"To think that a mere mercenary could become a leader of Midland's armies. Ridiculous!" Lord Wald exclaimed.

"Peasants and farmers should stick to what they know best."

"Any other country would have considered us a laughing stock."

She raised her hand to silence their laughing. "In any case, you all have toiled for our common goal. For that, I thank you."

"We are unworthy of your kindness," Lord Wald praised. "It is us who should be thanking you. Without your much-needed support, this would have been a sham."

He thanked her, and he should. For what she had set into motion the royal bloodline of Midland was now secure. Charlotte might not have been her daughter, but it was no secret that the young girl had feelings for the late Griffith. If the young Hawks career had been allowed to prosper for any longer, Mary might have found herself calling him as her son-in-law. Thankfully, that was never going to happen.

Now Charlotte would marry a lord of noble birth, preferably one of Mary's choosing, one who could be manipulated under her influence. Charlotte was too much a damsel to be a fit queen anyhow. What is that smell?

She need only to look down to see plumes of smoke drifting through the wooden floorboards, and she wasn't the only one to notice.

"What is with all this smoke?" Lord Wald questioned as he and Lord Herr tried to open the door.

"Ah!" One of them exclaimed. "The handle's all hot!"

Another tried to open it. "It's no use. It's locked from the other side!" with panic seeping in, two of the noblemen tried to forcibly knock the door down.

"Step aside!" Wald dragged a chair over and began to rapidity knock it against the door. He made far better progress than the others, and on his seventh swing managed to break the door. But there was no cause for celebration, for as soon as the door came down, a torrent of flame came rushing in, burning Lord Wald and three others.

"Fire!"

"How did this happen?!" She shouted as she raced to open the window. Jumping would be a lost cause as the room they were in was at least three stories high. And even if they managed to survive the fall, the fire was encircling the entire manse. They were trapped.

A gush of the cool wind blew the smoke away just enough for the queen to catch sight of a figure standing at the steps leading up to the manse. It was a slim young man with a head of long white hair. "It can't be…"

But it was. Taking a few steps closer, the White Hawk stared up at her defiantly.

"Griffith!" She shouted down. "How is this? You were dead!"

"And for all intensive purposes, I appeared to be," Griffith called up to her and the few remaining. "I arranged for it to be so."

"You what?!" She shrieked

"What I drank was not the poison you intended. Instead, it was a toxin that numbed my muscles for a time long enough for me to appear dead. But it was not just for show, it allowed me to trap you all at once." His voice was lacking any malicious tone, but somehow that seemed to make it all the more sinister. He had known all along what she had been planning.

"Hold your tongue you insolent degenerate!" She yelled down.

"I suppose this is what you were used to," Griffith calmly continued. "Sitting and scheming behind closed doors. But this is war. There is nowhere to sit on the battlefield."

The flames danced their way closer to her and the two other nobles who were trapped. Licking at the hem of their clothing, the warmth and dread quickened. And as the heat raged on in the room, so too did the fury inside of her. "Griffith, you impudent swine! Do you actually intend to kill me, the queen? Do you believe a boy of common blood could burn me, the Queen of Midland to death?!"

Griffith crossed his arms, the only indication that he was losing his patience. "Death on the battlefield comes for everyone, regardless of class. The loser must die."

The flames had reached the beam support in the ceiling. The wood gave out and fell. "Aaaaaaghhh!" A final scream from the queen as the structure of her world caved around her as it went up in flames.

Walking down the steps of the manse, Griffith stopped to address Minister Foss who, at this point was wringing his hands as if to wash away the deed of lighting the fire, to begin with. "Are you unwell, minister? Are these ploys not uncommon in the court?"

Foss swallowed his own saliva before replying. "Elize? Is she safe?" Griffith snapped his fingers and a trio of hired thugs came escorting a young girl with them.

"Father!" The girl yelled as she ran into Foss' arms.

"I thank you for your cooperation, Minister Foss," Griffith said. He then fished out a coin purse and handed it to one of the thugs. "As a reward for keeping the girl safe from all of this." Of course, it was also the money for her kidnapping, to begin with as well.

The leader eagerly accepted the money. "Pleasure doing business with ya. If ya ever need any more dirty deeds done, yeh know where to find us." He flashed a toothless smile.

"I'll keep that in mind," Griffith said, not meaning to ever take them up on their offer. The thugs took their leave, and Griffith followed soon after, but not before casting a last glance back at Foss and his reunited daughter. He would keep quiet about this event, if not… now he at least he knew the price for that.

The sound of the coin purse jingling was how he was able to track the thugs down. But even then they talked much too loud for their own good. They openly boasted of how much money they carried and if Griffith ever decided not to hire them again then they would blackmail him with this.

But the thing was, they wouldn't.

Choosing to reveal himself, Guts stepped out of his hiding place. He had abandoned his horrendous party getup in favor of a breastplate and a dark cloak, and of course, his sword. He had to visit Godo again for a new one after Doldrey, and this one handled just as well as the former.

One swing was all it took for the once trio to be cut into six. And with that, all loose ends were tied in a neat bow.

He met up with Griffith in a secluded location down a back alley in the lower district of Windham. "It's finished?"

"Finished," Guts confirmed. "But what about that minister? Is it safe to let him go?"

"Maybe," Griffith answered. He didn't sound too worried about it.

"Maybe?" Guts parroted.

"Relax," Griffith smiled at him. "I believe he's learned his lesson after this. And if not, I'll take care of it."

Guts looked to where the smoke now touched the sky. "Caused quite the uproar. All those nobles and the queen… Who'd have thought a dead man was pulling the strings."

"Guts…" Griffith began. "Do you think me a dreadful man?"

"Huh?"

"I've hardly dirtied my hands tonight, and left the killing of those men to you," Griffith elaborated. "Out of everyone in the Hawks, I told only you of this plan of mine when they would be more than willing to help. Do you not resent me?"

Was he really asking that? Guts knew that despite the image that Griffith put up, he was no saint. Neither was he. At his very core, Griffith was a man driven by ambition, a raging fire that made the fire that killed the queen pale in comparison. He had that dream in mind.

"You do realize you're asking that question to the guy who killed a hundred men, right?" Guts asked. "Not really much of a point to it. That's what I do, swing my sword. This was to reach your dream, right? You haven't lost sight of it have you?"

After a brief pause, Griffith let out a small sigh of relief at Guts' opinion and chuckled. "Thank you." Guts clapped him on the back.

"Now why don't we head back? A dead man like you shouldn't be spending all night out here. You've probably kept everyone worried too long."

Griffith Hmmd. "I suppose you're right."

"You know," Guts said, "I don't think you noticed, but Casca put on a dress."

Griffith looked shocked. "Did she?"

"Yeah," Guts said. "She actually looked nice." Griffith smiled s the two of them set back to meet with all the others who would no doubt be shocked to see Griffith alive.

A/N: That's it for this chapter. It took a bit longer to write because I had a paper due for my one college class, but hopefully it'll still be on par with the rest. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Christmas Eve, 1991

The time to take the Sorcerer's Stone was now. With the coming of the winter holiday, students would be out of the castle and back home. Even some of the staff were taking time off, and among them was Dumbledore. The aged headmaster was busy attending a yule-time Wizengamont gathering brought about by the Minister of Magic.

Voldemort could not have been presented with a more golden opportunity.

For the previous two months, the Dark Lord had been gaining knowledge of what other protections lay before the stone. The first was Hagrid's beastly three-headed dog who guarded the trapdoor to the lower levels. After having Quirrell disguise himself as a trader in a pub Hagrid frequented, he got the information he needed at the price of a dragon's egg.

Below the trapdoor was a nest of Devilsnare, courtesy of Professor Sprout. A powerful lumos charm parted the deadly vines and allowed him further passage.

Next came a room of enchanted flying keys, provided by Flitwick. Voldemort did not have Quirrell bother catching the right key on the broom provided; instead, he used the summoning charm, accio.

McGonagall's giant chess set came next, but at Voldemort's instruction, Quirrell won the game in just a few moves. Becoming the darkest wizard in history required a strategic mind after all.

Quirrell dealt with his own troll easily enough. Despite being a mediocre wizard at best, Quirrell at least knew what spells trolls were vulnerable to.

Beyond that was Snape's own potion riddle required to pass beyond a wall of flame. Voldemort had to respect Severus for his choice of protection; it was the only one that required any use of logic. The others had been so easy a first-year could figure them out.

After drinking the correct potion, and passing harmlessly through the wall of flame, they came to a half-circular room with an arch mirror. No doubt, this was Dumbledore's own protection.

"Go to the mirror, Quirrell," Voldemort ordered. "Look into it and tell me what you see."

"I see… myself," Quirrell stared at the reflection. "And I'm holding the stone." An illusion no doubt. "I see you too, master. You're back to how you once were."

"And I soon will be," Voldemort said. "This mirror is all that stands in our way."

"Yes. Nevertheless, how do we get the stone? Should I break the mirror?"

"Not yet," Voldemort responded. "Let me examine it." Quirrell turned to face the opposite direction and lifted his turban so Voldemort could properly see.

Staring into the mirror, Voldemort saw himself as he was; a parasite so weak that he had to latch onto another to sustain himself. It was pathetic. He, the Dark Lord, attached to the head of a weakling such as Quirrell.

And then, it began to change.

He no longer saw a parasite, he saw himself as he once was. Young and handsome with a full head of dark wavy hair and sharp angular features. He looked as he had before splitting his soul before the horrendous magic of the Horcrux's had taken their effect on his being.

The background of the illusion began to change as well. Instead of seeing the firewall glowing, it became white, and a corridor covered in archways and stairs on all four walls. It almost resembled a painting of that one muggle artist, whose name escaped him at the moment.

Four shadowy figures began to materialize, each in a different archway. Two appeared more rounded, one was unmistakably female and the other… well, it was the tallest of the four, and it looked to have a very high collar for whatever outfit it wore.

Each of them pointed a shadowy finger towards his illusion self. The illusion was holding something in his hand. It was small and rounded; could it be… the stone?

Voldemort wanted nothing more than to reach out and grab whatever it was the illusion held. "Master!" Quirrell's sudden cry and accompanying movement forced Voldemort to lose his focus on the mirror.

As he cast a last glance back at the mirror, he saw no trace of the previous illusion, but he did see the reflection of Dumbledore.

"Hello again, Tom," Dumbledore addressed him by his previous disgrace of a name.

Voldemort sneered in return. "I wasn't expecting you, Dumbledore. But you seemed to know I would be here."

"As Hogwarts Headmaster, it is my duty to know the going on's in my school. And that includes knowing of a possessed professor. So I saw fit to provide an enchantment to alert me if anyone entered this room."

The revelation came as a humorous surprise. "You knew all along, and only now choose to act?! You've grown senile, Dumbledore. You're lost without your would-be-golden-boy!"

"And you are not as powerful as you claim to be," Dumbledore's calm demeanor slowly trickled away. "I can scarcely imagine the lows one must sink to magically cling to a host for survival."

The Dark Lord's red eyes narrowed in response. "I have dabbled deeper into the dark arts than any wizard before me. I am immortal."

Dumbledore drew his wand. "Death is inevitable for all of us, Tom. Unlike you, it does not discriminate. There is no avoiding it when the time comes."

Voldemort laughed dryly. "And you're going to kill me? You? The man who was always preaching for peace, I think not." Quirrell hesitantly drew his wand as he felt Voldemort's bloodlust flare.

The possessed professor shot a non-verbal bone breaking hew at Dumbledore, who cast a shield around himself. The headmaster then shot three stunning curses at Quirrell, who cast a shield charm of his own. The shield nearly broke after the first spell and completely broke after the third. It was pathetic and Voldemort knew it, Dumbledore wasn't even going all out.

"Stop with the mild spells, Quirrell!" Voldemort ordered his lackey. "Use the unforgivables!"

Quirrell raised his wand high to do his masters bidding. "Cruci-,"

Dumbledore moved much faster than a man of his age should have, and a slashing motion with his wand, a blinding white light arced its way to Quirrell effectively knocking him back. "Get up!" Voldemort yelled. Quirrell's fear of Voldemort proved stronger than his of Dumbledore and he got to his feet.

"Master…?"

"Use the spell I taught you," Voldemort's tone made it clear there was no room for argument.

A wave of jagged darkness shot from Quirrell's wand, straight at Dumbledore. It was a spell Voldemort had made himself and was a lesser version of the enchantment that protected his ring Horcrux. If one bit of the darkness so much as touched the flesh, the victim would fall to magical corruption before dying in agony as they bled to death from the inside out.

Instead of jumping to the side to avoid the attack or conjuring a shield, Dumbledore managed to bend the wall of fire to his will and sent a torrent of flame to burn away at the coming darkness. "I can't hold it!" Quirrell yelled as the flames started to overpower the stream of corruption spewing from his wand.

"Enough, Quirrell!" Voldemort snapped. "We must flee!"

"Master…!"

The flames won out and consumed Quirrell's curse to the point that his wand snapped from too much magical overload. "Ahhhh!" Yelled Quirrell as suddenly, the flames wrapped around his wrists and ankles like chains, holding him down. "They burn!"

A look into the mirror showed Dumbledore approaching the beaten Quirrell. It was over. The mission to steal the stone was a bust, a lost cause and nothing more than a trap to lure him into captivity. He had been so desperate for a body of his own that he had become too hasty to achieve his ambition. Of course, this was bound to happen.

"Master, please!" Quirrell begged as the chains of flame tightened. "Help me! Get us out of this!"

Quirrell… such an aspiring young man, filled with so much potential. Squandered potential. The man had played the part of the bumbling fool so well because that's what he was at his core: a fool. What chance did this young fool truly have against Albus Dumbledore? He performed like a fool under fear, he had been a fool when he thought Voldemort would share the stone with him, and he was just pathetic now, begging on his knees.

There was no saving Quirrell at this point. Dumbledore would see to it that the professor would be sentenced to Azkaban for this, and the Dementors might even perform the Kiss on him. There was no help for Quirrell, and he was the biggest fool to live if he truly believed Voldemort would waste his time trying to save him from this situation.

Using what strength was left to him, Voldemort began to undo the magic that bound him to the back of Quirrell's head, taking with him some of his host's own bit of magical energy. "Master?! What are you doing?!"

"You have served well, Quirrell. But you are not worth my capture. As my servant, I expect it will bring joy to your heart knowing that your master has escaped." A flash erupted as the magical bonding broke, and a specter-like figure of Voldemort fled the scene.

"Masterrrrrr!" Quirrell's pleading shout was unheard by Voldemort, who left him behind with no remorse in his blackened heart.

At last, snow had begun to fall on Midland. The cold was a stark contrast to the warm sense of relief experienced by Harry when he realized Griffith had not died from the poison. Those few hours spent thinking that his leader was dead was among the worst he could remember. But his depression was nothing compared to how Casca had been.

The second-in-command seemed to completely shut down, not speaking and just staring off into space in a trance. But when Griffith walked back to them fully alive, it was the first time Harry had ever seen her cry.

Guts, who Harry assumed left the party early, had tracked down the waiter who served Griffith his drink and cut him down before he could flee Windham. On top of that, the Queen of Midland had been killed in a fire within her own private manse.

The king seemed less concerned about the loss of his wife, and more about the safety of his daughter. Additional guards were placed outside her chambers in case a threat was made against her life.

Aside from the political intrigue, the king made good of his word and raised Griffith to the rank of White Phoenix General, and personally knighted all those a member of the Hawks, Harry included. After everything that had happened since first encountering the band of mercenaries, Harry never would have thought it would lead to being a knight. He was by no means complaining or anything, just surprised and- anxious.

After all, what comes after this? What could possibly top being a knight? For him- there was one option.

He and Casca sat in her quarters in the barracks of their new setting within Windham going over a map of Midland. "Enoch village is to the northeast of here," Casca pointed to it. "It's out by a mountain pass and a large forest."

"You think that there might be magic users there then?" Harry asked as he took a scrap piece of paper to copy down its location.

"If you want to believe in children's stories," Casca said. "Pretty much every story about magic and witches are centered on the forest just outside of the village. An old woman is said to live somewhere within those woods, practicing spells on anyone wicked who strolls too far from the path."

"Are you being serious?"

Casca shrugged. "That's what I always heard from my village anyways. My older brother would tell us stories like that."

"Do you think we could ride out there one day to see?" Harry asked.

"We'd have to tell Griffith about it first. I doubt he'd say no. What future king wouldn't want to have a wizard in his court?"

He suddenly felt bashful. "You're getting ahead of yourself."

She smiled. "Maybe. But who knows? One day you…" something outside the window caught her attention. "Oh no!" She hurriedly grabbed her coat and ran for the door.

Taking a look himself, Harry saw an unmistakable figure waking away from the barracks with a bag of belongings thrown over his shoulder. Harry quickly followed after Casca in pursuit of the individual.

Along the way of sprinting outside, the two of them dashed past a very confused Judeau and Corkus, with Harry accidentally stepping on the latter's toes. Harry threw a quick, "Sorry," in their direction as he strived to keep pace with Casca.

The snow muffled the sound of their footsteps as they caught up to the departing man.

"Guts!" Casca shouted halting him in his tracks. He cast a glance over his shoulder to see the both of them. "Guts, are you- leaving us?"

"What?" Harry looked at Guts expectantly. He looked ready to head out all right, but it could be a task for Griffith. He could be going to visit Godo for a new set of armor. Wherever he was going, he was going to come back, right?

"Answer me!" Casca yelled when Guts remained silent. She spoke again but in a much softer tone this time. "I'm sorry. I know that the two of us haven't gotten along in the past. We've had more than our fair share of arguments, but we've fought together for so long. All the work we put in with the rest of the Hawks is bearing its fruit, and this is just the beginning. You don't have to-,"

"Thank you," Guts spoke at last. "But I've already made up my mind. I told you before; I wanted to see things through to the end. With the way they are now, his dream is all but accomplished. It's a dream I can't live under any longer."

Harry shook his head, not able to believe what he was hearing. "What are you talking about? 'Seeing things through to the end, living under a dream?' Where's that coming from? Aren't you happy here?"

"It's not that," Guts said. "I've felt happier with the Hawks than for longer than I could remember. But the war's over. My time fighting here is over; nothing stands between Griffith and his dream now except for Griffith. It's time I found my own."

So this was it? Guts was actually going to leave them for some unrecognized dream? Guts had always been a solitary figure, sure, but to go as far as to leave… Would he even come back once he found what he was looking for?

"Excuse us," Judeau and Corkus came walking their way. "But we seem to have overheard part of what's going on. Guts, why don't you come with us for a drink? For old times' sake. You have the time for that don't you?"

Guts' eyes looked between the two newcomers. "Sure. Why not?"

"Glad to hear it," Judeau smiled at him. "Corkus, why don't you lead the way?"

"Fine. I know a place that'll be open this early in the morning."

As the three of them set out for the tavern, Casca turned and ran back to the barracks. "Where are you going?" Harry called after her.

"To get Griffith," she said. "Just go with them, try and stall."

The four of them sat at one of the tavern's tables, a serving wench came by to take their orders, and Corkus was quick to start chatting her up. Guts had placed his order for some ale but otherwise remained stone-faced. That left Harry to fully explain the situation to Judeau.

"This seems a bit sudden, Guts," Judeau honestly said once Harry finished explaining.

"I think so too," Harry wholeheartedly agreed.

"No. It's not." Guts' tone wasn't angry, just somber. "I've been thinking about this since before the last campaign."

"Why? Are you discontent?"

"No, Judeau. These past three years have meant a lot to me. It feels like I've been at a festival full of excitement." Guts actually allowed a nostalgic smile.

Corkus planted his boots up on the table. "I don't understand you. We're higher than we've ever been. Women and children will swarm around us as we walk these streets, and why not? We're the heroes of the war, we've spilled blood to achieve we have now, and you're willing to give all this up?!" Corkus leaned back as far as he could. "Do whatever makes you happy. Which for most men would be dancing with ladies in court but for you its probably to just swing that sword of yours."

"That's a bit harsh, don't you think?" Harry asked, not liking the direction Corkus was taking this.

"No," Guts said. "He's right."

"Huh?" Corkus wasn't expecting that.

"It's true. I'd rather fight for my life than live it. I was only a child when I took my first life, and since then I've learned how to refine the art of slaughter so that to live I take life. And I was content, I was my own master. But then I met the man who made me challenge what I hold true and made me need his respect. He possessed nothing, yet he attended to obtain everything. And even with all his ceaseless ambition, there's no one else I respect more than him. But to be beneath him, I can't-do that. I want to stand as an equal by his side."

Corkus sneered at that declaration. "You think yourself Griffith's equal?" Corkus threw his legs off the table and stood up. "Goddamn, you and your childish bitching! Griffith is exceptional, and you are beneath him! You should be grateful for the position he stowed upon you. A position an ass like you doesn't deserve!"

"I don't want what another man can give me," Guts evenly responded.

"Well if wanting was enough to get what we'd want, we'd all be kings," Corkus shot back. "Listen, it's a man's duty to face reality and his own limitations. But you're just too damn weak to admit you've already exceeded your station and you look to the horizon for something that will never come because you're just a coward!"

"That's taking it too far," Harry said, but only Judeau heard him.

"What about you?" Guts asked Corkus, his tone showing less patience. "Are you the only man to never dream?"

Corkus recoiled like he had been struck. "Wha- Tch! I've had enough! If you say another word, I think I'll kill myself." Corkus tossed a few coins to the bartender and left.

"Well that could have gone better," Judeau remarked as he picked up a butter knife from the table. "I've always been good with knives, but nowhere near the best, never the best at anything really. So I resolved to find someone who was." Judeau balanced the knife on one finger and flipped it to another. "Everyone dreams of greatness at one point." He stood up. "I'll see you off. I hope you find it, that thing that makes you whole."

Guts smiled. "Thanks."

Harry had the opposite reaction, however. "Wait! You're not going to talk him out of it?"

"What would be the point of that?" Judeau asked. "I doubt there's anything left for me to say to convince him otherwise, and I sure wouldn't want to physically stop him. This is just something he has to do."

"Well…" Harry racked his brain trying to think of something. "Try and Stall." Casca had asked of him. Casca… "What about Casca?"

"What about her?" Guts put a few coins on the table for his drink as he made ready to leave.

"Have you thought about how she'd react to all this?" Harry asked.

"She'll be fine, she has Griffith," Guts got up and left with Harry and Judeau following.

"I wouldn't be so sure about that. I think Harry has a point," Judeau backed him up. "Griffith's dream is within reach, and the only one who can take him farther now is Charlotte. And besides, you two would work well together."

Guts rolled his eyes and let out a small chuckle. "Now you sound like a love-struck teen."

The three of them exited the city, taking the main roadways away to a snowy hill. "This is far enough," Guts told them. "Thanks for walking me out."

C'mon Casca! Harry fretted. If she didn't show up soon with Griffith, then…

A little ways up the hill a small group of people stood. Corkus leaned against a tree with Casca, Pippin, and Rickert present as well. From behind Pippin, Griffith walked out. Any trace of a warm smile on his face was absent.

"You're leaving?" The first thing Griffith asked.

"Yeah," Guts said.

"You're turning your back on the Hawks," Griffith reasoned.

"I'm sorry," was all Guts had to say.

"Guts!" Rickert ran over to him. "Please, explain it to me so I can understand. The Band of the Hawk has been like a family to you, and now that we're doing so well you're just going to leave us?"

"Rickert," Judeau stepped forth to pull him back form Guts. "Leave it be. It's a man's decision. Don't make it any harder on him."

"You could be a little less supportive," Harry grumbled but still had a bit of hope Griffith could talk sense into Guts.

"But Guts is an important captain!" Rickert further argued.

Corkus spat in the snow. "So what? We were undefeated before he joined us. We don't need him."

Harry shook his head. "You're wrong. Guts is-"

"Shut up!" Corkus snapped at him. Both Harry and Rickert flinched a bit at the loud tone.

Corkus now stormed up to Guts to glare at him. "Hey, I don't like you." Guts' face betrayed no emotion; he hardly seemed bothered by it. "I never liked you. I see what you are; you're not special and you'll never be like Griffith! I'll tell you one more thing; if we ever meet on the battlefield then you better watch your back. A stray arrow might just fly your way." Corkus ended his rant and went back to slouch against the tree.

Guts took a last look at each of the assembled Hawks, a small smile etched onto his face. "Thanks for everything." He walked past Pippin and Casca, ready to head out on his own.

This can't be happening, Harry wanted to believe it wasn't true. Guts had always been a solitary person, sure; but he still taught Harry some useful swordplay advice, still fought beside all of them when in battle; was Griffith not going to say anything else?

He didn't have to. Instead of words, Griffith unsheathed his blade and stood in Guts' path. "When we first met, I told you that you belonged to me. I won your loyalty that day. If you wish to be free of me, the rules have not changed; draw your sword and take your freedom from me." Griffith readied his own stance.

"Griffith, please!" Casca pleaded.

"Would you settle for a smile and a fond farewell?" Guts asked. Harry looked at Griffith for his answer, and it was the first time Griffith's blue eyes had ever scared him. They were unblinking, unmoving, fixated on Guts with an obsession. "So be it." Guts dropped his bag into the snow and pulled out his sword. The rising sun casts a blinding gleam from both of their blades.

"Stop this!" Casca ran between the both of them. "Are you two serious about this?! Are you really prepared to kill each other?" Griffith slashed his sword through the air as he shifted into an offensive stance.

"Step aside, Casca," Guts told her. "Don't interfere."

"If you two go at it then someone is going to die!" She argued, but Pippin threw her over his shoulder and pulled her to the side. Harry would have tried to help her, but Judeau put a hand on his shoulder, holding him back as well.

The two of them had yet to make a move. They stood in their own respective stances, sizing the other up. There was Guts, arguably the best at fighting with a very brute force style of swordplay. His sword was made by Godo, the same smith who crafted Harry's elven ore sword, and it was far larger than Griffith's own blade. Guts stood ready to fight to find his own dream, the same purpose that Griffith had done with each and every battle.

And then there was Griffith. He was not as physically strong as Guts with his more lithe frame, but he was faster. His blade was not meant for crushing the skulls of his enemies, instead for quick slashes and jabs, perfect for weeding its way into weak points in armor. Instead of his dream, Griffith was fighting for his own personal feelings, his dream momentarily forgotten. And that made all the difference.

Snow from the tree's branch fell, and Griffith lunged towards Guts, his sword ready to hold nothing back. Guts raised his own sword and brought it down full force towards Griffith's.

Everyone was left speechless as Guts' blade passed completely through Griffith's, breaking it in half. Guts managed to stop the momentum of his swing, just before his sword cut hit Griffith's shoulder. The look of absolute shock on Griffith's face told the whole story: he had lost.

Griffith dropped the hilt of his now destroyed sword and fell to his knees in the snow. "Griffith!" Casca yelled as they all raced over to him. Guts sheathed his own sword and picked up his dropped bag. Griffith didn't even seem to acknowledge this.

"Farewell," Guts said as he continued on his own journey.

Casca looked between the defeated Griffith and the departing Guts. She clenched her fist and yelled after him, "Guts!" He made no indication he heard her and kept walking.

"That's it?" Rickert asked, "He didn't even look back."

"It was a fluke!" Corkus said in denial. "I won't believe it."

"Let's help him up, Harry," Judeau offered, but Griffith raised a hand to stop them. He rose to his own feet, clutching his shoulder where Guts' blade had nearly cut him. He said nothing as he walked back to the city of Windham.

Corkus followed suit, then Pippin, the Judeau and Rickert, and lastly Casca who cast one last look at the departing Guts before leaving as well. As for Harry, he stood where he was, not wanting to believe what had just happened. He cast a look at the retreating Hawks and then to Guts.

All this, just for a dream. Harry followed after Guts, intent on bringing him back.

Night had fallen, and Guts repeated for what must have been the hundredth time, "Go back, Harry." He said it without any malice or anger, he just said it.

And every time Guts would say that to him, Harry would respond with, "Not unless you come too." This back-and-forth had continued from the point of Guts' departure at sunrise to sunset.

Since that time, Guts had set up camp in the woods around Windham, leaving Harry to wonder if Guts had any real plan of how he exactly intended to find his dream. "I just don't understand it," Harry began to elaborate. "You were happy with the Hawks, and you just want to leave? What about Griffith?"

Guts began to light a fire. "It was just a bump in the road for Griffith. He has a stronger will than anyone I've met. He'll get over this; he won't let this stop him."

"It's not going to be the same without you, please just come back and talk to Griffith, please."

Guts fanned the fire to get it to grow before taking a seat on a fallen tree. "What is there to talk about?"

Harry could hardly believe that. "How about apologizing for the fight?"

"He wouldn't have let me leave if I hadn't faced him," Guts debated. "I wouldn't expect you to understand my reason for leaving, just accept it. Accept it and go back."

"It's because of your dream," Harry stated. "That's what this is all about, a stupid dream."

Folding his arms behind his head, Guts focused his attention on the growing fire. "Like I said, I wouldn't expect you to understand."

The fire hissed as smoke escaped from it. "But the thing is, I do," Harry confessed. Guts actually looked in his direction. "After you and Casca got separated during that one battle, Griffith asked me to lead the party to find you both. I didn't understand why I'm just a boy and he could have asked anyone else. Apart from my… magic, I'm nothing special. I don't have a dream to guide me either. Later, when we found you both and celebrated after, I asked him about it. I asked if we were friends and he told me that he holds everyone in the Hawks with high regards. He said they all have something they can stand by, even us; we just couldn't see it."

It looked like he had Guts' full attention. "Look, I don't know what exactly Griffith meant when he said that to me. I don't know what that hidden dream is that we can't see, but I know for a fact you aren't going to find it out… wherever it s you plan on going." He could tell Guts was thinking it over. "So please, please just come back and talk to him. Straighten this out, please."

"…Look, Harry, this is-," Guts stopped talking and suddenly drew his sword. "Get your sword out," Guts ordered, and Harry obliged, the bluish gleam of his own sword seemed almost purple by the light of the fire.

"What is it?" Harry asked, standing next to Guts.

"I heard something. It sounded like a horse." The two of them scanned the surrounding snow-covered forest, looking for any sign of a horse or rider. They were both caught off guard when they felt the warm breath from a neighing horse hit the back of their necks. They hadn't even heard it approach from behind.

Turning around they faced a horse decorated in bone-like armor and a rider who sat tall upon his mount wearing a similar design. His skull helm held those same glowing reddish-purple eyes as when Harry first met him. The Skull Knight.

"It has been some time, wizard," Skull Knight addressed Harry.

"You know this guy?" Guts asked of Harry, he actually sounded a bit nervous.

"I met him that night when I first came into your camp," Harry explained. "I didn't think anyone would believe me."

Guts shifted his stance, ready for a fight if it should come. "So why's he here?"

Skull Knight turned his glowing gaze to Guts now. "So the gears have indeed begun to turn. Take heed, Struggler. In one's year's time, it will mark two-hundred-sixteen years since the last eclipse. A torrent of madness will be unleashed and hell will be experienced. But you, Struggler, you were born from death, so you are best at escaping it." Skull Knight focused back on Harry.

"And you, Wizard, are not of this plain. You're being is different." He looked back to Guts. "Struggle and resist, that is what it means to be free of control and to live by the path of your own choosing. Never forget this." Skull Knight turned to ride off.

"Hold up!" Guts shouted. "How the hell do you know about me?! Who are you?!"

Skull Knight began to ride away. "In the abyss of despair, he who stands with a broken sword… perhaps…" He rode between a few trees and disappeared from sight. His cryptic warning resonating with the both of them.

The walk back to Windham was a depressing one. Instead of snow, there was rain, freezing rain. That coupled with the darkness of night, hadn't helped at all. Harry's boots were completely soaked y the time he arrived back at the barracks for the Hawks.

The members who had witnessed the fight were all gathered at one table within the mess hall, two candles cast their light at the figures sitting in silence. Rickert was the first to notice his arrival. "Harry! There you are. We've been wondering where you- Guts?"

The swordsman walked in after Harry, earning a surprised look from everyone. "Guts!" Rickert shouted running up to him. "You're back!"

"…Yeah," Guts forced a smile. "I wanted to see things through to the end after all."

Harry knew that wasn't the reason. It probably had less to do with Harry's speech to him and more about the sudden arrival of Skull night. It had a clear impact on Guts with the cryptic warning that had been left behind before his departure.

Judeau smiled warmly. "Glad to see you back, but what of your dream?"

"I haven't forgotten about that," Guts said. "I still intend to go my own way, but for now, the least I can do is see this through to the end. I want to see him achieve his dream before I worry about mine."

Pippin gave a nod of approval, but Corkus looked unconvinced. "This doesn't change anything, you know that? You still walked out on us. I've never seen Griffith in a more depressed state. He said he'd see the rest of us in the morning, whatever that means."

Harry would expect that from Corkus, but it was Casca who had him worried. She walked up to Guts with her arms folded in front of her. "Look Casca-," Guts began, but she grabbed him by the hem of his cloak and pulled him down to her eye level.

"I don't care what you say, or what you do, but you make right by him." She pushed him back and walked out of the hall.

An uncomfortable silence fell around them to be broken by Judeau. "She took that better than expected." That she had, but now the only person left was Griffith. Where was he?

The rain ran down the large window to Princess Charlotte's balcony. She had just dismissed her handmaiden for the night and was prepared to slip out of her day dress and into her nightgown. Lightning flashed as he knocked on the window, alerting her to his presence.

She gasped at first thinking him an intruder, but once she saw his face through the rain stained glass, she visibly brightened and opened the window for him to enter.

"Please excuse my visit at this hour, Princess."

"Of course," Charlotte said in a fluster. "But, Count Griffith, this is unexpected. At this hour, it hardly seems appropriate though. You're all wet and-," He silences her by wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her close, capturing her lips with his own.

She pulled back after a few seconds, her pale features turned red. "Griffith… this is… this…"

He leaned down to put his mouth next to her ear. "Do you wish for me to stop?" His other hand rubbed circles in the small of her back. He heard her give a small moan of unexpected pleasure.

She wrapped an arm around his neck to whisper in his own ear. "No…"

They embraced again. Griffith's hand roamed to her shoulder to slide the gown off of Charlotte. Before the garment could even touch the floor, Griffith's hand had cupped one of her breasts. She gasped, allowing Griffith to slide his tongue into her mouth.

She was ready to give herself to him. Griffith led her over to her bed and laid her down beneath him as he too began to undress. He tossed his clothes to the side and Charlotte slowly began to spread her legs for him.

"Aah!" Charlotte yelped as he entered her, the pain of her maidenhead breaking was felt throughout her lower body. He allowed her some time to adjust before he began to move his own hips. Her once cry of pain quickly turned to pleasure as Griffith moved in and out of her.

She was obedient to him, whenever he felt the need to change position, she would oblige. Every touch, every bite he left on her pushed her further and further. His hand snaked down to where they were joined and massaged her folds. Her walls tightened and she collapsed on her bed, completely worn out.

Griffith sat on the edge of the bed, sweat coated his body and he rubbed his shoulder where Guts' sword would have cut him. Guts… you… He cast a look at the sleeping Charlotte and pulled a blanket over her.

You made me forget.

Him and the princess. The princess and him. Would he- under normal circumstances- ever do that? It was such a rash move on his end, but Charlotte had given herself willingly. She had not refused; he was not at fault for this. She was of marrying age and now that they had coupled, marriage was sure to follow. Marriage and then the kingdom he had dreamt of for so long.

It was all within his grasp. He could not afford to lose sight of it again. Guts had… made him forget. And that was dangerous. Dangerous for the Hawks, dangerous for himself, and dangerous for the kingdom.

Sunlight began to creep into Charlotte's room. He had been awake all night thinking. Griffith dressed in his discarded clothes and made an exit of the same way he had entered. Charlotte was still asleep, she would know that he had shown himself out.

Griffith jumped from her balcony to a tree and worked his way down to the ground. He barely took two full steps when a dozen guards and their captain surrounded him at spear point. The captain pulled up his visor. "And by what business does the White Phoenix General have for leaving the princess' chambers at an hour as early as this?"

The spears poked closer, preventing any chance of escape as iron chains were clamped around his wrists. "Take him to the dungeon to await the king."

Fire from the torches provided the only light in the dank dungeon as the king strode towards the cell with Minister Foss close on his heels. "Please, your highness, I beg you to wait. A situation such as this-,"

"Is none of your concern, Foss," the king cut him off. "This is a matter of my own daughter and I will see it dealt with." He opened the cell door and his two personal guards followed him inside.

Griffith had been stripped of his shirt, save for the strange red bauble that hung from his neck. His hands were tied above him to a rafter in the ceiling. It was such a degrading position for one who rose to his rank in the Midland army. Griffith didn't say anything as the king approached his suspended body.

"As king, I always viewed knighthood as lees to do with birth and more to do with actions. You have done much for Midland and for that I thank you. But when it comes to my daughter that is another story. She often forgets her lesions of what it means to be of her status and duties, and instead, acts like a town's girl when it comes to you. After her mother passed and before I remarried, Charlotte was everything to me, she still is." The king took a whip from the torturer's rack. "And you undermined that."

He gave the whip a few cracks to test it. "For seventeen years I have made it my duty to keep Charlotte safe from those who would take advantage of her position. I have shot down countless suitors who could have greatly benefitted Midland because I did not believe them fit for my Charlotte. I thought better of you, Griffith."

Much to his displeasure, Griffith finally lets out a chuckle. "I've always found it funny how for a girl of seventeen years to never have found a suitor," Griffith went on. "And now, I think I know the reason. You want her, don't you?" The king froze at Griffith's words. "The King of Midland is nothing but an old man who lusts after his daughter because of the memory of his first wife."

The king had had enough. "Silence!" He cracked the whip against Griffith's chest hard enough to draw blood from his porcelain white skin. He brandished the whip and again and struck Griffith once more. "You know nothing of being king!" Another lashing. "Do you know of the responsibilities that come with the title?! The burden you must bear for the land, the people?!" More and more lashes. "What do you know of it?!"

His two personal guards stood speechless and the stone floor was splattered with Griffith's blood; his torso ripe with cuts. "If one of you so much as speaks of this, you and your families will be put to the sword." They nodded in fear and understanding. "Torturer!"

The torturer came when summoned. He was a dwarf of a man with a balding head and speech impediment of some kind. "Yesh, shire?"

"You are free to use whatever methods you want on this man," the king instructed. "But do not kill him. Keep him alive for another year, he has sinned against my house and will suffer for it."

The torturer bowed. "Of corse, shire." The torturer took the red bauble from around Griffith's neck and dropped it down a drain grate. "His flesh is fine."

The king took his leave, stopping at the door to cast one last look back. "So sad how the mighty fall. You were a hawk who flew too close to the sun, Griffith. And now, your wings are clipped, never to fly again."

The king's next stop was the bedroom of his daughter, Princess Charlotte. Her favorite handmaiden stood outside her room. "Please, your majesty. Princess Charlotte is sleeping, she needs her-," one of the king's guards pulled the handmaiden away to allow him entry.

So precious, he thought as he looked at the sleeping form of his daughter. Her chocolate brown hair lightly clung to her forehead, her mouth open just a tad but letting no sound escape. If her eyes were to open he would be met with the sight of ocean blue orbs to stare back at him. The king approached her and sat at the side of her bed.

Brushing some hair from out of her face, he noticed bite marks around her neck. This is where he bit her. These lips are the ones he kissed. He lightly felt at the bruises on her neck and ran a thumb across her lips. He pulled the sheet covering her away.

She slept naked allowing him a sight of her perky breasts. They're not as big as her mother's had been, but she can still grow. He lightly traced the outline of her breasts as his eyes traveled down.

There- between her legs was a small smear of blood.

Oh, Charlotte! What has he done to you? His sweet princess had been defiled by Griffith! A year of torture would not be enough for the White Hawk! He would see to it Griffith would be moved on the morrow to a place where he could never hope to escape. He would pay for what he had done to his Charlotte.

His Charlotte.

The king planed a kiss on his daughter's forehead before licking the nipple of her breast. She, at last, began to stir. "Griffith?" She asked as her eyes opened. She was met with the sight of her father licking at her breast.

"Aaaaahhhhh!" She shrieked as she pushed him away. "Father! What are you doing?!" She recoiled away from him in fear.

"It is alright, Charlotte," he tried to calm her. "Let me fix this. Let me help you."

Charlotte backed away. "Father, you're scaring me!"

"Do not be afraid, Charlotte," he reached for her legs. "I won't allow your honor to be sullied." He made a move to pry her legs open.

"No! Stop! Father! Stop!" Charlotte began to cry as his face neared her womanhood. In a surprise bit of strength, she pulled one of her legs back and kicked the king in his nose hard enough to break it.

"Ouuggh!" The king recoiled from the blow. "Charlotte you-,"

His daughter was curled up in the corner of her room, her bed sheet wrapped around her protectively. Tears streamed from her beautiful blue eyes. She was afraid of him. She hated him.

The king stood up and left Charlotte's room closing the door behind him and then slamming his fist against it. "Damn you, Griffith! You've tainted her!" He turned to one of his guards. "I want you to send an invitation to the Band of the Hawk under Griffith's name. They are to gather outside in the country of Midland. They will pay for his sins as well."

Albanian forest,

After the failed duel with Dumbledore, Voldemort had no choice but to flee. The bond he had used to attach to Quirrell had allowed him to steal enough of his magic to apparate once he had reached Hogsmeade village in his spectral form.

He had chosen Albania for its connection to one of the Hogwarts founders, Ravenclaw. Or to put a finer point on it, her daughter. This forest is the one she fled to way back when. And now, it was the haven for a badly weakened Voldemort.

The body- if he could call it that- was so frail a breeze could knock it over and break almost every bone he possessed. It was about the size of a baby with stick-thin limbs that he could barely move, let alone hold a wand. But he was alive.

The stone was a loss, no doubt about that, but there were other ways for him to be reborn. There was a blood ritual that could be performed, but he would need a followed to oversee the proceedings.

He used what strength his arms possess to turn himself over, the effort nearly left him drained. And his finger touched something that at first felt like a rock. But brushing over it again it felt fleshier. His fingers strained themselves to grab what he found and bring it close to see.

It was a small bauble, emerald green in color like his favorite unforgivable curse. But it was decorated with various facial features all scattered around. How curious.

A/N: So the rating has at last changed to M for the obvious reason this chapter. And the behelit from a few chapters previous makes a return, but don't expect to see the Hp side of things for awhile.

Chapter Text

Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Horses lightly kicked up truffles of snow as the assembled Band of the Hawk waited in the snowy field for Griffith's arrival. Last night a letter had been sent instructing them all to meet outside of Windham for reasons unknown.

Harry's breath was visible in the chilly air and he rubbed his hands together to keep warm. Near the center of the Hawks was Casca. Every now and again she would look angrily towards Guts as if to make sure he wouldn't leave again.

A change had occurred between the two of them Harry noted. When he had first met the both of them they bickered and argued like crazy. Then when they got separated after the battle with the Blue Whale Knights they appeared less hostile towards each other. Casca had become less standoffish towards Guts, who in turn seemed to have become a little more open. He had even spent most of his time at the ball with Casca than anyone else. Now, Casca seemed to be back to a cool attitude and Guts, despite being back, seemed more solitary than before.

Guts' decision to leave seemed to have a greater impact on everyone that he thought it would.

He rode over to where Guts was. "Have you thought about what you're going to say to him?" It wasn't much of a conversation starter, but he figured it might get Guts to open up a little.

"I'll just say what I mean," said Guts simply. "Griffith is sensible, he'll understand eventually. Besides, you still have to explain about that boneheaded knight."

Yeah, there was no getting around that one. How to explain that though? It wouldn't be that hard to believe, could it? Both Guts and Griffith had seen Zodd as a demon; would a mysterious Skull Knight be too far to comprehend? In fact, Harry shouldn't even be too worried about explaining it. Three people he trusted knew about his magic, maybe this Skull Knight was connected to that somehow. There was the matter of the warning both him and Guts received during the brief encounter, something about next year being the year of some sort of rare event.

A glint in the sky reflected off of Harry's lens. Actually, more than a few something's was catching the light of the sun. They looked almost like a flock of birds while in formation, but as they traveled downward Harry saw that that was not the case.

A volley of arrows fell into their ranks filling the snow with ammunition and worse, some of the Hawks. An ambush.

"Second volley!" An order was given from somewhere surrounding them and another wave of arrows came pouring down towards them. Completely caught off guard, many Hawks fell victim to the surprise attack. The white snow quickly became stained red with blood.

It was a sheer instinct that told Harry to ride left just as half a dozen arrows landed where he had been previously. His horse neighed and whined from the confusion and he almost lost hold of the reins. Who was doing this? Who was attacking them? It couldn't have been Chuder, the war was over and they had signed a non-aggression treaty. A mercenary band? It would be foolish of them to do so, the Hawks were a member of a larger force of Midland's armies.

More arrows fell taking the lives of more Hawks in their wake. "Agh!" Cried Casca, an arrow protruded from her shoulder. Both Harry and a nearby Judeau rode over to her.

"Casca!" Judeau exclaimed.

She wore a face of discomfort as she pulled the arrow out. Blood quickly began to soak her undershirt. "I'm fine, I'll live."

Maybe not. Half a volley was bearing straight down on them. Thunk!Thunk!Thunk!Thunk!Thunk!Thunk!Thunk!

Most of the arrows had embedded themselves in the shield Guts had grabbed from a fallen soldier, protecting them from the onslaught. But even that wasn't enough to stop one of the projectiles from hitting Guts in his forearm. He must have been doing a lot to numb out the pain he must be feeling.

"Raiders!" Guts shouted out for his group of men. "Surround and-!"

"No!" Casca canceled whatever order Guts was about to issue. "Guts, you and your Raiders get ready to make a break in the enemies' formation. Clear a path for us to regroup and gain our bearings! Judeau, you and Harry bring up the rear! Pippin, you assist Guts and his men!"

It might not have been Griffith giving the orders, but Casca knew what had to be done. There was no way they could stay here and get picked off, they had to retreat. But a retreat now didn't mean defeat. Whoever was attacking had spilled the blood of the Hawks; for that alone, they had to pay.

Corkus took a shot with a crossbow at where he thought an enemy archer to be hiding, and he cheered as his shot struck true. "Rickert! Hand some crossbows to the boys in the back! I know where the bastards are hiding now!"

"One volley only!" Casca ordered as Guts and his men charged an approaching mount of lance knights adding more bodies to the fallen in the snow. As the remainder of the Hawks began to follow after Guts and his Raiders, Casca gave the okay for Harry and the rest to fire their volley at the archers.

Some archers fell as well, but not nearly as many that had been lost to the Hawks already. As one of the archers dropped dead to the snowy ground, Harry was able to catch a fleeting glance of the sigil on his surcoat as he followed after the Hawk's Raiders. The sigil was that of Midland's Royal Army.

There was little light in his cell. The stone floor was cold against his naked flesh but welcomed a cooling element to his skin which had been pierced with hot spikes not an hour ago. His torturer made sure to prod him in areas that would be non-vital, but not un-painful. The torturer had even had the smiths make an iron helm to encase his head almost exactly similar to the one he used to wear in battle styled like a hawk.

Water from above dripped down one drop after another. A small puddle began to form in front of his face. He had trouble moving his body, it was still sore from the prodding. After much struggling and clawing his way forth, he was still unable to lap up the water. The helmet restricted his head movement, and his tongue just couldn't reach.

Another drop of water fell, this time hitting his flesh between the eyehole of the helm. It rolled down his cheek, close enough to his mouth for him to lick it. Two more drops fell in quick succession, granting him his only drink for the day.

This life… this life is… He shut his eyes and immersed himself in total darkness. What a fall from glory he had experienced. His dream had been everything; it had kept him going since he was still a child living in poverty. Where was his dream now?

Here in this dungeon, he saw only the cold stone walls around him, that castle he had always envisioned was all but a few lines and cracks in the masonry. And it was all because of one man- no! No, he was just as to blame as Guts was. The swordsman might have caused him to momentarily lose sight of what was important, but he had acted on his own misjudgments.

He had indeed flown too close to the sun.

Did he deserve this though? Did he deserve to be tortured for daring to dream? Every being had a dream even if they didn't know it; his problem was that he knew all too well what he was, and more horrifically, what had to be done to achieve it.

Count Julius, the Queen of Midland, they had been obstacles. All their lives they sneered down on those who dared wish to make their lives better, what did they know about the benefits of working towards a dream? They didn't, they never did.

All those who had followed him, who pledged their swords to his cause, those were the ones who knew. Their lives, their own dreams were his responsibility. Where were they now? Perhaps they were like the castle he had always pictured, now just cracks and lines in the masonry. Just like the stone that was being pushed out of the wall right now.

What?

Indeed, one of the stones in the wall was being pushed out from something on the other side. The stone fell from its slot allowing for whatever had been pushing it to slither out and onto the floor of his cell.

Out of the darkness came- a thing. He honestly had no godly way of saying what kind. It was small and blood red. Multiple small heads and limbs composed it, making it seem like a combination of small human children joined together by some unholy method. The dozens of small eyes stared into his piercing blue orbs and it began to crawl toward him with its stunted limbs.

This is… The creature neared his hand and with two of its stubby hands, hugged his index finger and brought it to its lipless mouth to kiss it.

What came next was the creature talking with a dozen small voices at once. "Sweet Prince! Oh, sweet prince of the eternally unforgiving. We have to come to pay respect and to marvel at what you have become."

Many of the small disfigured heads bowed to him and a dozen of their hands pointed to the way they had entered. His blue eyes followed their gesture, unable to move his body and escape.

From the darkness where it had crawled forth, a space of sorts started to become visible. It looked like a white corridor with dark archways on the walls and floors. He stared, captivated by the image, and the following voice that spoke from somewhere within. "We shall meet again, in another world." Whatever was speaking had a voice like a bottomless pit.

His imagination of whom or what it could become clearer as four shadowy figures materialized each in a different archway. Two of them were smaller and more rounded, the third was without a doubt the shadow of a woman, and the last one was the tallest and most likely the leader and the one who had spoken.

"We are kindred. Your kinsman."

A rattle of keys sounded, and when Griffith blinked, the grotesque disfigurement and the shadowy figures were gone, leaving the cell to just him and the arriving torturer. The latter happily played around with a pair of pliers, kneeling down in his line of sight to wave them around his face.

"You don't threem when I prod you," the torturer spoke with his lisp. "You's ghtss nice fingees. Tho well keept." He picked up Griffith's hand and positioned his fingernail between the pliers. Griffith never screamed as his nail was yanked from him, his eyes still gazed off into the darkness where those figures had been.

Another nail was lost. Just like those figures; just like his dream.

After the first initial ambush from the Midland army, the Hawk's numbers had suffered a severe blow. Nearly a hundred had been lost that first day, and then twenty when a group of riders tracked them down. After about a week of evading attacks, it became painfully obvious that Griffith was being kept prisoner, but for what reason was unknown.

Without Griffith's leadership, it fell on Casca, his right hand, to take up the mantle in his stead. She knew what she was doing, Harry didn't question it, but she didn't have the charisma that Griffith did. That alone cost them nearly a quarter of their remaining numbers as the men left believing the Hawks to be a lost cause without Griffith.

What numbers remained were subjected to a life of nomadic warriors, constantly being tailed by the Midland army, and having to fight for their lives. More men were lost this way; as without any income for food, some died of starvation when the hunting parties returned with less food than expected.

Those weeks on the run without a destination saw winter through to its end, and then spring, and then summer, and in a few more months, it would be fall once more. It had almost been an entire year.

For those who remained, they had to withstand another battle entirely, that between Guts and Casca. Both of them believed Griffith to be alive, both wanted him back, and both disagreed on how to handle it.

Guts wanted to just storm Windham the day after the ambush, but Casca insisted that they not rush headfirst into this, one wrong move could mean death for Griffith. Their arguments had gotten so heated that Harry feared Guts would leave them again, but he didn't. He would curse Casca out, call her names like stupid, crazy, and bitch; Casca would retaliate with ignorant, fool, and jackass.

It almost came to the point where other Hawks had to choose sides between the two. Those who wanted action instantly like Guts, or those who wanted to save what numbers remained and plan ahead like Casca. The problem with the latter as they hardly had any time to plan before fighting another raid from Midland's army.

The stress was starting to show on Casca as well. She would stay up all night, mapping out their next path while juggling Griffith rescue plans. When Harry saw her in the morning bags would be under her already dark eyes and her silky black hair would always be in a state of dishevel. This night was no exception.

He and Judeau lifted the flap to her tent and saw her sitting at her table resting her chin on it. A map of Midland lay before her, hastily spread out with different markings drawn over marking where they had been, where it was unsafe, and where they could go. She looked exhausted than ever.

"Casca," Judeau said handing her a blanket and wineskin filled with water. "You-are-exhausted."

She took a drink of the water. "Thanks. And it just comes with the title I suppose. I don't know how he managed it."

"You won't have to for much longer," Harry told her. "Judeau and I were talking, and we thinking of sneaking into Windham to-,"

"We've been over this before," Casca cut him off, "if we storm the capital it'll-,"

"That's not the idea," Judeau stopped her worrying. "With all of the running around we've been doing for the last couple of months, I hardly had the time check up on an old lead I had about an underground passage into the city."

That got her attention. "It was built when the war with Chuder broke out a hundred years ago as a means for the royal family to escape if the city fell under siege," Judeau continued. "It's built in a graveyard outside of the city, so we'd only be able to take a few. Maybe Harry, Corkus, and myself. We're lighter on our feet than the rest."

"We could find what cell he's in and break him out for good," Harry picked up.

"That's optimistic thinking," Casca finished the last of the water. "Rare to see that now." She rubbed Harry's head ruffling his already messy black hair. "Tomorrow night then. Take who you need, Judeau. I trust you."

Judeau smiled. "Will do, boss."

"I'm not your boss, you know that."

"You are until Griffith is with us safe and sound," Judeau argued. "And that's why you should get some rest already. You're no good to anyone if you're working yourself into the ground."

Casca put the blanket around her shoulders. "You guys are making me soft." Her eyes began to close.

"Let's let her have this," Judeau spoke softly and they took their leave.

A few fires had been lit already, what few men remained gathered around them, not telling jokes and stories like they once used to, they more or less just sat there in silence just lucky to be alive for this long. Corkus sat by himself against a tree, a half-empty wineskin sat in his lap.

"The Band of the Hawk, eh?" Corkus address them. "Mightiest warriors in all of Midland! Look at us now."

Judeau shook his head in disappointment. "Wine should be valued more, Corkus. Save it. We need you for an operation tomorrow."

Corkus fell into a series of hiccups. "You still think he's alive? Looks like I was wrong thinking Guts was the hardheaded one."

Harry quickly became fed up with Corkus' attitude. "Then why are you still here?"

Corkus eyed him shrewdly. "What'd ya mean?"

"Everyone who believed Griffith's dead already has left and the ones still here are the ones who know that he's not. So why are you still here? If all you're going to do is sit around and complain, why stay?"

"Harry," Judeau sounded concerned. "Leave him be."

"Why?" Harry asked. "What about all the nasty things he's said to Guts over the years? No one stopped him when he said those things."

Corkus spat and rose shakily to his feet. "You want to know why I've stayed." Harry looked at him defiantly. "Because if I leave, then I'm no better than he was back then. That's why." Corkus shouldered his way past them and toward the campfire.

"I don't recall you having that standoffishness when you were eleven," Judeau noted. Harry was going to say that he was still eleven, but this summer was almost over, he would be twelve now.

"Only to people who act like that," Harry rebutted. Corkus had always been a downer, now more than ever.

"And that person is bigger than you are," Judeau pointed out. "There's nothing wrong with sticking up for what's right, but do be smart about it. Even Guts would agree- to an extent."

That was Judeau for you, always trying to help out. "Do you have words of wisdom for everything?"

"No man can know everything."

Yup. Judeau. Helping out and being quick with his wit as he was with his knives.

"Hey!" One of the Hawks yelled. "Fire! It's spreading!"

Panicked, they both turned to where the campfire was- to see that it was under control. The fire that was spreading was due to flaming arrows raining down upon them. Another ambush. Casca was already rushing out of her tent yelling orders to the scrambled Hawks

"Pippin, you and your men take care of the fires! Judeau, form a defensive line! Guts, you and your Raiders take the offensive!"

Sprinting from the trees were not soldiers of Midland's armies. These men wore ragtag cowls and armor; their weapons looked in need of repair. Mercenaries. A bounty must have been placed so high that mercenaries had taken up arms.

As the battle commenced, a swishing sound cut through the air heading straight in Harry and Judeau's path. "Duck!" He pulled on Judeau's arm as a small metal ring cut through the air, taking a lock of Harry's hair.

Another disk flew through the air, but the other Hawk wasn't as lucky to just lose a lock of hair, he lost his life.

"Those disks," Judeau said. "I've heard about them." He drew his sword and Harry did as well. The two disks acted like a boomerang, arcing back to their thrower. A slim young man wearing desert-like clothing, light clothes and a white turban and lower face cowl. The skin visible around his dark eyes was a tanned bronze, the trademark of a Kushan.

The Kushan easily caught his disks as they flew back to him and pulled out two three-pronged blades. The way he moved, Harry observed, was completely unorthodox. He would use his pronged blades to catch swords mid-swing, and with a hidden blade in his shoe, he would deliver a lethal blow. His lithe arms moved like windmills cutting with precision and walking with a swagger of superiority as if he was confident he could defeat any whom he faced.

Casca, despite her fatigue, crossed blades with the Kushan warrior. She fared much better than the man's previous opponents, in terms of speed she was able to match the Kushan's swings. What threw her off was when the Kushan contorted his body and brought his foot up from behind his back to kick her on her chin. Casca staggered backward and lost her sword to the Kushan whacking it from her hands.

Harry could almost see the smirk from behind his cowl, but Casca soon wiped it from his face when she ducked under his swing and swept his feet from under him. It brought her enough time to retrieve her sword, but the Kushan jumped back to his feet a second later, now taking on a defensive stance.

"Impressive," he said in an accented voice. "I've never crossed blades with a woman before, I must say you fight quite like a man, a shame you have to die." The Kushan jumped and performed a spin kick, his boot blade nearly missing Casca's face.

Deciding enough was enough, Judeau handed Harry a throwing knife, and the both of them flung them at the Kushan. Much to his credit, the Kushan picked up on the new danger and back flipped out of harm's way. Now his attention was focused on the two of them.

"Interference?" He sounded insulted. "I would expect nothing less from those of Midland. So unable to understand the art of a battle." He posed his blades ready to attack.

As he lunged for them, the Kushan had to quickly redirect his blades as Guts' sword struck them, sending him flying off course. "I saw your disk trick," Guts stoically told the Kushan. "How about you show me how good you are with those blades?"

The Kushan scowled. "Another interference? It is a travesty that any of you are called warriors-very well." The Kushan crouched ready to spring. "Don't assume size gives you the advantage!"

He leaped, and soon found himself on his knees as Guts' following swing forced the Kushan to assume the defensive. The Kushan's eyes visibly widened as his pronged blades began to crack under pressure. He rolled back and Guts' sword came down on where he was previously.

"Your steel is crap," Guts eyed the Kushan who pulled out a whip-like weapon, but instead of leather lashes, this whip had long thin pieces of sharpened steel.

"And your tongue is sharp," the Kushan shot back. "Let's see how you fare against this."

With a flick of his wrists, the metal lashes tore their way towards Guts, who didn't even bother to move out of the way. He swung with the blunt of his sword, catching the lashes with his blade and forcing them off target.

Guts then took the offensive and charged the Kushan. He abandoned his whips and jumped out of the way of Guts, and then had to dodge Harry and Judeau who had been flanking him the entire time the fight was ongoing.

Casca surrounded him as well, and soon the Kushan found himself cornered. His black eyes darted around looking for an escape. "Do you yield?" Casca asked her sword level with the Kushan.

The Kushan squinted in contempt."You must be awfully arrogant to assume that-,"

"You might want to rethink whatever it is you're about to say," Judeau advised. "Look at what's left of your forces."

Despite being less in numbers, the Hawks still had some of the most capable fighters in Midland. While this Kushan's mercenary band might have gotten the initial drop on them, things had switched in the Hawks' favor.

He growled. "It is not often I find myself so… humiliated. What is your name?" He asked Guts.

"Why?"

"I want to know it," the Kushan said. "I'll give you mine; I am Silat of the Bakiraka clan."

"Guts," he gave his name.

"Hmm," Silat hummed. "Don't forget my name, Guts. I want you to remember it when I kill you." And Harry saw the small metal ball Silat held between two of his fingers.

"He's got a-!" A loud bang and cloud of thick heavy smoke beat Harry to the warning, and by the time the smoke cleared-Silat was gone.

"Leave it to a Kushan to rely on parlor tricks," Judeau said wiping his eyes clear.

In the hours after this latest ambush, Guts took the time to saunter off to a cliff near a waterfall ways away from their newest campsite. He examined his sword, perhaps Silat's steel had not been as crappy as he thought previous. The Kushan's blades had left a few chinks in his sword.

Perhaps he could have Godo make another one for him. The aged blacksmith wouldn't care if he or the Hawks were more or less outlaws in Midland now. As long as he got a payment out of it, he would do his work.

The waterfall behind him nearly drowned out the sound of approaching footsteps. Guts glanced over his shoulder. "What is it?"

Casca stood with her arms crossed. "I wanted to tell you that Judeau and Harry have a plan to rescue Griffith." Way to get his attention.

"When? Are we going to sit around and wait for months on end?" It was harsh and he knew it. If he had done things his way, Griffith would already be back among their ranks.

"Tomorrow," she sounded annoyed. "And you've expressed how you've felt about waiting before. No need to remind me."

"Really?" Guts stood up, his sword momentarily forgotten. "I would have thought if you had listened to what I had to say, then we might have done this much sooner. My mistake."

She was reaching her boiling point. "And do you why that is? Is that last raid not a perfect example why?" Her voice was rising. "Every day since Griffith was lost on us, we've had to keep moving, it was that or we die. Do you not think I want him back as much as you?!"

"I know you do, that's, why" Guts said.

"And I also want what's left of us to stay together!" she finally yelled. Tears were welling in her eyes and beginning to flow. For all the times they had argued, she hardly cried, this might be the first. "Do you know what's it like to worry about him day and night, while knowing that once we get him back you're just going to leave again?"

Guts found his words lost to him. After Griffith was rescued, he knew he would make right by his once leader, but after that? What about finding his own dream? Would Griffith understand then? He simply didn't bother to answer her.

Casca picked up on his silence as all the answer she needed. "You really are just like him, you know?" Her tears flowed freely now. "Just chasing after a dream."

"Casca-,"

She threw a punch at him, which he caught. Casca swung again, grabbing hold of both of her wrists. "Let go, you idiot!" She yelled. "Idiot! Idiot! Idiot. Idiot…" Her strength faded from her and she just butted her head against his chest. "Idiot. You really are."

For his part Guts did let go of her wrists, but she made no move to strike at him anymore. She just stood there, face buried in his shirt staining his shirt with her tears. She had meant it when she called him an idiot chasing after a dream. A conversation with Harry floated to his mind, about Harry telling him how Griffith believed there was something he just could not see.

Guts looked down and brought up a hand to Casca's head. He brushed some hair from her forehead, and much to his own surprise, leaned down to kiss it. She looked up, surprised herself, but stepped closer to him.

Hesitantly, Guts kissed her forehead again. She didn't refuse. He put an arm around her, and their lips met.

It was… it was… Guts had no idea how to describe it; he had nothing to compare it to. If it was good or bad, he didn't know. But it felt real. It probably sounded stupid to think of it like that, but if he was an idiot then it probably was. What he did know was that being here with Casca felt real.

His hand cupped her cheek and they found themselves seated on the grass, their clothing slowly being discarded and their positions shifted to resting against the trunk of a tree. A visible blush was present on Casca's mocha skin, but she moved her arms away from her breasts and began to open her legs.

He knew what to do- he had never done it, but he still knew what to do. Guts took her hand in his and kissed her once more. His hips moved closer to hers. Casca let out a sudden gasp as he began to enter her. Her hand clawed at his back and she gave a nod of her head for him to continue.

A feeling of some unknown bliss enveloped his senses, and Guts knew nothing apart from him and Casca. "Guts…" Her voice was softer than he ever heard it.

They kissed once more, their fingers intertwined as they enjoyed their time joined as one.

A/N: So that's it for this chapter. Sorry if it was a bit late, I had other papers to write, but I still managed to finish this as early as possible. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

"What's taking them so long?" Harry wondered out loud as he and the rest of the Griffith retrieval team waited for Guts and Casca's return. The two of them had been gone the rest of the night and with dawn at its peak, people were starting to get restless. Harry wanted to go and look for the both of them, but Judeau had advised against it, a knowing gleam in his eyes.

"They'll be back soon," Pippin said. The giant of a man didn't talk often, but when he did he was usually right, so it was no surprise that he had been chosen to rescue Griffith with them. The full party consisted of Harry, Pippin, Judeau, and the absent Guts and Casca.

"If they're slacking off while the rest of us were busting our balls putting camp away, I swear-," Corkus complained to anyone who would listen. He was in charge of the backup brigade. Once Griffith was rescued they would meet up with his forces and make haste to a new hiding spot. After the attack of Silat and his mercenaries, they couldn't risk it.

For all those who had been wounded in last night's raid, they would follow after Corkus' forces at a much slower pace so not to overburden themselves. Surprisingly, Rickert had been chosen-more like a volunteered-as caretaker for the injured. He had briefly pulled Harry aside after he finished adjusting his saddle.

"Hey, Harry," he said.

"What is it?"

"Just make sure you bring him back, okay?" Rickert put his forearm in front of him. Harry smiled and bumped his arm against Rickert's.

"You don't even have to ask." Rickert nodded. "Take care of yourself, Rickert."

He nodded. "You too."

"Hey, Rickert!" One of the injured yelled. "Can I bug you for some water?"

"Coming right up, Harmon!" Rickert grabbed a pal and headed to the stream to fill up.

Harry mounted his horse and rode over to where the only other two members were waiting. "Will they be well enough to ride by night?" It might be dawn now, but by the time it would take to reach Windham it would be around dusk.

"Probably not," Judeau shook his head. "That's why they'll be a bit behind Corkus and the rest."

It wasn't long after that Guts and Casca finally returned. "You're all ready?" Casca asked the three of them. She looked determined as ever.

"And awaiting your orders," Judeau nodded. Harry and Pippin did so as well. Guts brought Casca's horse to her and he saddled his own.

Was it Harry's imagination, or did Casca look a bit sore as she sat on her saddle? She looked over to Guts who was at ease on his, and she mouthed something that sounded like, "Lucky."

But whatever was wrong, she shrugged off and gave the order for them to ride out. It was finally time to rescue Griffith.

They had been right; it was dusk by the time they reached the outskirts of Windham. The darkness would make it hard for any guard to spot them and with the extra addition of a fog their chances of success in infiltrating just increased. And given their current setting, the fog almost seemed appropriate.

It was a graveyard, just outside the city walls. Hidden among one of these tombstones was a secret passage that Judeau had learned of that would lead straight into Windham castle. The passage had been built just as the war with Chuder began a hundred years ago as a means of escape for the royal family should the city ever fall under siege.

"Any idea what we're looking for?" Guts asked eying a few grave markers that looked like they might stand out.

"An engraving of some kind," Judeau said. "Probably the Midland coat of arms or the royal crest."

Casca nodded in understanding. "Alright, split up but don't wander too far. It wouldn't bode well if one of us got lost." She and Guts worked closely together, Judeau moved silently through rows of tombstones, and Pippin lumbered off with surprising stealth for a man his size. Harry took to investigating a few of the mausoleums.

The first was a previous queen, perhaps Charlotte's mother, but much too late for the passage to have been built. He moved to the next one. This one was for a previous king, and from the look of it, it was the father of the king they had now. Harry searched a few more tombstones and wandered far enough to stumble on another mausoleum.

It appeared far older than the other two he had viewed previously, and an inscription of the top provided him with a name to whoever lied inside. Here lies Hilderic, son of Hunderic, descendant of- "Here!"

Pippin's deep voice drew them all to his location. He stood in front of a weathered tombstone covered in a few ivy leaves, it wasn't the biggest in the cemetery, but it looked to be one of the sturdiest. Pippin pointed a mailed hand to an engraving of a small coat of arms next to the name. It was the coat of arms of Midland and on the grave of a random handmaiden.

Putting both hands on the tombstone, Pippin pushed with all his might-which was a great deal given his size. A rumbling was heard and the tombstone slid back like it was built on wheels. Before them now was a set of stairs descending downwards into a dark unknown.

"Good job, Pippin," Casca retrieved a lantern they had packed with them and Harry lit it for her. "Remember, once we're down there we should still keep our guard up." She was about to descend, but Guts spoke up.

"Wait a minute. Shouldn't one of us stay back to keep watch? You're our leader and everything, if you get caught too who's going to lead?" Guts spoke logically, but Harry could tell he didn't want Casca going for some strange reason.

"We have the Hawks' strongest members," Casca reasoned. "This team has the highest rate of success."

Guts still didn't look too convinced. "Yeah, but-,"

Casca wasn't having it, and she stepped up on her tiptoes to try and look him evenly in the eye. "You're worried aren't you?" The three watching blinked a few times in confusion. She wasn't yelling at him. "You're a pro mercenary. You should know that certain things need to get set aside." She backed off and walked down a few steps before casting a look over her shoulder. "I can still watch your back. Don't forget it."

Judeau and Pippin stifled a laugh as Guts looked at them to shut up. Harry meanwhile didn't know what to make of what he just saw. That was unexpected from Casca, and for Guts to tell Casca to sit this one out, it didn't make sense.

Although, Casca and Guts being gone for the rest of last night, Casca looking uncomfortable on her saddle, that entire interaction just then. And like that, all the pieces fell together. "Oh, I get it," Harry said.

"Just get in the hole, Harry," Guts deadpanned.

After descending the stairs, Harry's boots made contact with ankle high water. Even with his boots on, Harry could feel that the water was as cold as the grave, fitting he supposed, but not pleasant. Their group made haste through the dank tunnel, having stepped on a few rats along the way. With Casca in the lead, they continued straight until finally arriving at another staircase leading to a sealed exit.

It was Pippin's time to shine once more and with an almighty push, he held the exit open for the rest of them to pour out of. Pippin closed the passage behind them; they had come out under a pedestal of a marble statue. Instead of the graveyard they now found themselves in a dark art gallery.

The gallery was completely dark, save for the lantern that was coming towards them. "Who's there?" A feminine voice asked.

Guts got ready to bust out his sword, but Judeau stopped him. "Hold on. They're on our side."

"How do you know that?" Harry asked before Guts could. Two hooded figured approached them.

"Well, I had to have known about that passage somehow," Judeau explained. "A few weeks previous I snuck back to the city to try and find a way in. A guard spotted me and I thought I was a goner. But he handed me a letter instead, claiming to be an ally."

As the hooded couple stopped a few feet away, Harry could see that they were both women. One of them seemed to recognize Harry and Guts. "You two were there the day of the royal hunt." She pointed to Guts. "And you said "hey pal" to Count Julius once."

"You did what?" Casca asked him.

Guts looked equally confused. "How did you know that?"

"Forgive me," she pulled her hood over her head. The light from the lantern cast a warm glow on her dark chocolate hair and deep cobalt eyes. "I am Charlotte. How do you do?"

"The frecking princess?" Guts bemused.

Casca flicked his head. "You're being rude."

Charlotte waved her hands nervously. "It is alright. I don't mind."

"My name is Casca, acting leader of the Band of Hawk. These are my cohorts, Guts, Judeau, Harry, and Pippin."

Harry eyed the second hooded woman. "Who are you then?"

She stiffened as if she had not expected to have to introduce herself. Pulling back her hood she was revealed to be a nervous looking blonde haired woman. "Forgive me, I am Anna. Princess Charlotte's handmaiden. As such I could not let her go wandering around unsupervised."

"Speaking of which," Casca tried to get them back on topic. "We only have a limited amount of time. If we are to rescue Griffith, it must be now."

Charlotte nodded. "Very well. Please, follow me."

They followed after Charlotte and Anna, who had led them to another secret passage that took them outside of Windham castle. Now, they wandered the deserted streets of the upper district of the city.

Judeau looked around at the surrounding buildings. "I recognize this area. Not quite the homecoming I was expecting though." A look of guilt passed along Charlotte's face.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "But as Princess of Midland, I feel I must apologize for my father's actions against you all and your companions. You all have done nothing wrong, and yet you are hunted like animals throughout the kingdom."

Harry looked at her face. It was hung low, and an embarrassed tinge of red stained her alabaster features. She seemed genuine. "You don't need to apologize for him," Harry told her. "But- it would help to know why he just turned on us the way he did." He tried not to look at her expectantly, but it was hard not to.

She hesitated. "It is as I said, I apologize. My father, he loved my mother very much. He loves me too…" Charlotte looked troubled. "That night, a year ago, Lord Griffith, he visited my chambers…"

And it all made sense.

"I hardly recognize my father anymore. His hair is completely white, his skin is all wrinkled; he looks older than my grandfather once looked. He sits on his throne all day ignoring Minister Foss' council; he's obsessed with ending the Band of Hawk." If that were true, the king had officially gone mad.

Two distinct torch lights rounded the street they were on. "Halt!" One of the torchbearers yelled. They halted. Three men approached them. Two carried the torches, but the third man, he was a face Harry recognized. Yes, he had seen him, talked with him at the ball. Dark brown hair with a well kept beard; it was Sir Laban.

Charlotte stepped into the light, and the reaction was instantaneous. All three men dropped to their knees, sprouting the words, "Princess! Forgive us; we did not know it was you!"

Charlotte put on an innocent smile and beckoned them to rise. "It is alright, you were only doing your duty of protecting our city."

"Princess Charlotte, why are you out here all at this hour?" Laban questioned, concerned for her safety.

"I needed some fresh air," she lied poorly, but none of them made a move to correct her. "I found that I could not sleep and decided to take a walk."

"Without protection?"

"No, I have my handmaiden, Anna," the aforementioned woman waved sheepishly to the knight. "And I have some select bodyguards' accompanying me as well." Sir Laban and his men eyed them. And for the briefest of moments, Harry saw a trace of recognition pass Laban's face.

He knows.

One of the guards seemed to notice as well. "Sir Laban! Aren't those-?"

"The princess' bodyguards." Laban finished for him. "They appear to be, yes."

"But, sir-,"

"Do you doubt the integrity of your princess?" Laban questioned his men.

"Of course not, sir!"

"Then I see no cause for concern." Laban bowed his head to Charlotte. "Please, forgive my men, Princess Charlotte. They are new to the night patrol and only wish to keep the city safe."

"Of course," Charlotte said. "Anna, why not give these brave soldiers a little compensation for their hard efforts."

Anna picked up on the meaning and pulled out her coin purse. Royalty never carried the money themselves. "I believe this will be a healthy sum," Anna handed the money to the patrolmen.

Sir Laban bowed once more. "Please, if you will excuse us. Have a nice walk, princess. And do stay safe."

Guts eyed them as they continued on their patrol. "I never thought you would have had that in you. I guess you're not just a do nothing princess." Anna looked offended at Guts' comment, but Charlotte smiled as she wobbled a little on her feet.

"Are you alright?" Casca asked.

"I'm-fine," Charlotte said unconvincingly. "Its just-Sir Laban has always been so nice. To lie to him like that it doesn't feel right."

"I think he knew," Harry told her. Charlotte looked at him, silently asking for him to explain. "When he looked at us, he recognized us from before. But he let us go still."

Charlotte put a finger to her lip in thought. "Then that means there are those who are more loyal to the realm than to my father. Perhaps that's for the best."

Guts kept his eyes wandering as Charlotte led them down a semi-hidden side street that continued straight to a small wooded confine within the city. The road was straight, and the lack of any stone buildings nearby put him on edge. They weren't being led to Windham's dungeon that was for sure. Wherever it was she was taking them must be a special sort of prison.

He was proven right when a tower came into view. It stood on a raised construct for added height and stood tall against the night sky, making Guts question how they had not seen it before now. "That's an old looking tower," he observed vocally.

"The Tower of Rebirth," Judeau clarified.

Harry looked curious. "You know about it?"

Judeau looked somber. "Of all the towers in Midland, it's the most ancient. Many say its been here since Midland was established… maybe even before then. I don't know why it was built, but in times of war it was used as holding for prisoners of war, and during the Holy See's grand inquisition it was used to hold heretics."

Charlotte and Anna looked impressed by his knowledge. "Indeed," said Charlotte. "The bottom is used to house the vilest of criminals. I heard my father say that Lord Griffith is being kept in the lowest cell."

Casca bowed in gratitude to the princess. "Thank you for your assistance, Princess. If there is anything any of us can to repay you for your help-,"

"Actually," Charlotte began to wring her hands in anticipation, "I was hoping to be taken too, along with Lord Griffith." The Hawks stared at her, completely dumbfounded while Anna looked ready to faint. "Would you be willing to do that?"

Is this girl for real? Guts mentally berated. Did she have any idea what life would be like outside of her pampered lifestyle? There would be no warm mattress for her to sleep on, she would be a liability in a fight, and men were more likely to rape her than bow to her should she wander out of the Hawks' protection. He was ready to speak these hard truths to the naïve girl, but her panicked looking handmaiden beat him to it.

"But, your highness! Have you even considered what that would do to the kingdom? If you were to go missing, there would be riots in the streets! Inquiries would be sent out throughout the realm!"

Charlotte did not look too concerned, not about any of that anyway.

"What about your father?" Harry asked now. "He already has it out for us as it is, if we took you too he won't stop until every Hawk is dead."

She shook her head. "I would be willing to be a hostage. Besides-I no longer consider that man to be my father." A look of sheer uncomfortableness spread evenly across her face. Just speaking of the king made her uneasy. "Please, I want to be with Lord Griffith."

Why are we even talking about this? Guts wondered, looking at the tower. Griffith is so close.

"PLEASE!" Charlotte suddenly yelled. "I'll do whatever you ask of me! Just please don't make me go back to my father!" Her shouting prompted Casca, Guts, Harry, Judeau, and even Anna to put a hand over her mouth. If there were any guards up top who could have heard that.

"She's got a set of lungs, that's for sure," Guts noted, not happy with her outburst. Casca was the first to take her hand away.

"Let her go," she ordered. "I know what it is she's feeling; that longing to be next to someone." Casca actually smiled. "We'll rescue Griffith together." Charlotte beamed, but Casca continued. "However, should Griffith dismiss you, you must obey his wish." She nodded, hesitantly but still nodded.

Guts approached Casca. "That was big on your end."

She didn't respond at first. "…Maybe. Only time will tell I suppose."

"Forget about time and think about Griffith, it's his say after all." The two of them joined the others by the stairs leading up to the tower with Harry and Judeau taking point.

They stopped just before the last step as Judeau gave the signal for them to hold. Guts could see two torches lit near the door to the tower. Judeau drew one of his knives and Harry his sword. "Please avert your eyes, Princess."

His knife made no noise as it flew through the air to cut one guard's throat. The second one looked at his fallen cohort allowing Harry time to flank him from the side. He sure came a long way from being hesitant to kill. If he learned to expand on that magic of his, he could become even greater. Maybe, once this was over he would seek out how to better understand it.

Harry fished the keys from one of the guards and unlocked the door to the tower. Inside was a staircase that lined the side of the tower going up and down. There was no railing, so if any of them were to fall it would be straight down into the shadowy unknown.

"It goes deeper than it does for the top," Guts said as they began to trek downwards.

"Yes, and Lord Griffith is in the lowest cell," Charlotte said. As they passed a door to one of the cells, a horribly disfigured man suddenly popped his head up by the small bars at the top of the door. He was missing a nose and all of his hair and it looked like he was blind as well.

The sight frightened Charlotte so bad that she almost fell off the stairs and into the pit below, but Harry reached out and grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her back safely. She collapsed to her knees. "I-don't think my legs can support me right now."

You gotta be kidding me, Guts rolled his eyes. "Maybe you should have waited up top."

Despite her clear weakness, Charlotte refused. "No. If I am to go with you all, I need to learn to not run away. Life outside of Windham will be nothing like living in the castle. Maybe- it is best I learn that now."

For a girl as fragile as her, she did have some strength of will to her. "Suit yourself," Guts said handing his sword to Pippin to carry and offering Charlotte his back to climb on. "It won't be as nice as a carriage, I'm warning you."

"Thank you for the trouble," Charlotte meekly thanked.

He saw Casca looking at him funny, but she didn't say anything as they continued walking. "What?" He finally asked. "Do you want a ride too?"

"Nope."

Guts shook his head and eyed the seemingly bottomless hole suspiciously. "How far down does this hole go anyway?" Harry asked if he knew someone was going to ask sooner or later.

"I heard from the king that the prison goes down about as far as the tower is high," Anna finally spoke. "But the hole has been here for much longer. Its actual depth is deeper than any mountain in Midland."

"So what's at the bottom?" Guts asked this time. Charlotte looked down as well.

"Do any of you know the origin of this kingdom's name, Midland?" No one answered and Charlotte continued. "It goes back about a thousand years. In those days the continent saw a constant war between small city-states and tribes. It was a time of rival warlords. But finally one arrived to put an end to it." Everyone listened as they continued their descent.

"Supreme King Gaiseric. He was an emperor who was able to subjugate dozen of nations and established an empire that spanned the entire continent. No one knows where he came from or how he raised his army, but he was said to be a warrior of unparalleled prowess earning names like Demon King and King of Galloping Death. But whenever he would go into battle he would don a terrifying helm shaped like a skull."

At her words, something seemed to resonate within Guts and he looked at Harry who seemed to be thinking the same thing. The Skull Knight. But if what Charlotte said was true, Gaiseric lived over a thousand years ago. It couldn't be.

Judeau jumped in with the rest of the legend. "I believe he also gathered workers from all over to build a capital city. He lived in luxury by levying heavier and heavier taxes. Then one day, an angel of God came and leveled the city in a single night for the king's misdeeds."

"That is correct," Charlotte said. "The city or its remains lie at the bottom of this hole. It was built in the middle of nations, so it earned the name Midland. After Gaiseric's death, the empire split into many countries that are around today."

"Did he have any descendants?" Harry asked. "If the whole kingdom got leveled, who was around to tell the story?"

Charlotte contemplated. "I believe he did, yes. Or at least some who claim to be his descendants. Some of the claimers are buried outside of Windham; my family is even supposedly descended from Gaiseric."

He didn't know if she was telling the truth or not. The idea that a meek girl like Charlotte could be from a line of a warrior like Gaiseric seemed folly. But even so, there was still some manner of strength to her. She could not fight like Casca, but the fact she was willing to give herself up as a hostage to save someone else… speaking of which, they had arrived.

The lowest cell in the tower, the stairs ended here at this door, beyond was a drop off into the pit leading down into the remnants of Gaiseric's once city. It was quiet down here, eerily so. Guts heard no rats scurrying about and there was only a faint sound of water dripping from the other side of the door.

He could practically hear Casca's heart beating in her chest as she unlocked the door and pushed forward with a low creak. It was completely dark inside; the only visibility provided was from the light of their lanterns. And then there was the smell. It smelt of piss and shit and many other horrid things Guts didn't want to think of because somewhere in here was Griffith. They all walked into the cell, looking for any sign of movement from Griffith.

There was no movement, no noise, no nothing.

"Are you sure this is the right cell?" Guts set Charlotte down.

She nodded nervously. "Yes, I'm sure of it. The lowest, darkest cell in the Tower of Rebirth. It has to be."

"Guts," Harry said, spotting something lying on the floor. "Over here."

There on the floor was an extremely pale and unnaturally thin body. What distinguished it was an iron helm like a hawk that was locked shut in a mock fashion of the one worn previous. Guts rushed toward the body, gently cradling it, fearful that they might have been too late. Judeau and Harry looked over his shoulders, and their light casts a better glow at the body in Guts' arms.

He was so thin that his ribs were visible, and some skin on his torso had been peeled off to expose the muscle underneath. His fingernails and toenails had been pulled out, leaving the tips of his appendages to scab over horribly. His back looked to have almost been peeled away, showing off the raw redness underneath and part of the spine. Around the wrist and ankles, cuts were clearly visible; the tendons had been cut.

No way. No way this is Griffith. He wanted to take the helmet off his head, just to see with his own eyes that this person wasn't Griffith. "Casca, give me those keys." He held out his hand but felt nothing. "Casca!"

She stood away, her eyes widened in horror at the sight of the body. Pippin went over to her and took the keys from her and handed them to Guts. He undid the latch on the helmet and pulled the visor off.

There was no mistaking it. The white hair once long now cut short, this was Griffith. Guts couldn't look, he put the visor back in place, and Griffith's blue eyes opened up. They blinked a few times as he took in the sight of Guts' face, almost not sure if what he was seeing was real.

With what strength remained in his feeble limbs, Griffith reached a hand out towards Guts. On his end, Guts just pulled Griffith closer in an embrace, and for the first time in what felt like forever, Guts felt his eyes begin to leak. They dripped down onto Griffith's helm, and his now dull blue eyes closed sadly as well.

The moment of silence was interrupted when the door to the cell suddenly slammed shut alerting them all to the presence on the other side of the door. A very ugly face sneered at them from the other side of the front flap. He was a pudgy man who was missing all but a few of his teeth and a few strands of hair.

"I've ghost youhs," he laughed with a lisp. "I've locked yoush in herehs, sho therehs no chance of eshcape. And I've called the guardhs. They'll be here shoon. I can playhs with youhs like him."

Guts handed Griffith to Harry and Judeau with ease. He stood up. "Are you the one who did this to him?"

The jailor smiled. "Yesh. He wahs shuch a good toy. He never shcreamed, no matter how musch I tortured him. I cut his tendonsh sho he can't walk or hold a shword. The way hesh at now, he will never shire childrens-,"

Guts had heard enough. He grabbed his sword from Pippin and let himself fall into the rage that had been building inside of him. With his sword pointed in front of him, Guts stabbed straight through the door, wood exploded everywhere as his sword demolished it. The tip had gone through and impaled the jailer in his shoulder.

The jailor himself screamed as the only thing keeping him falling off into the pit was guts' sword. He was so small that he had to stand on a stool to look through the top flap, but now the jailor probably wished to be back on the ground with his stumpy legs.

"No, pleash!" The jailor pleaded with Guts whose face was scowling like some sort of rabid wolf.

"You sure scream a lot for a guy who tortures people," Guts flicked his wrist, and the jailor fell down the pit; his arm following soon after.

Harry and Judeau handed Griffith over to Pippin, and they drew their weapons at the sound of metal clanking along down the stairs towards them. The city guards had arrived. "How many of them are there?" Casca asked, trying to keep her mind off the state Griffith was in.

"Maybe two dozen," Judeau inferred. "Maybe more."

Guts started up the stairs. "Stay behind me. Harry, Judeau, Casca, you take out the ones I miss." And he dashed up the stairs, ignoring the calls from the others.

He came upon the first three men like a wolf pouncing on sheep; their armor did little to stop his sword as he cut them down in a straight row. Two more men now, his sword cut them down faster than the first three. Now it was six men. Ax's, spears, his sword weaved its way through their attacks and they were dead before falling into the pit.

"Fire! Shoot him!" The captain of the men must have yelled to the crossbowmen. Guts pulled his cloak in front of him to act as a shield, but still, one or two bolts hit his arm and thigh. It hurt, but barely. Compared to what Griffith went through, this was nothing. If anything it just served as fuel to the raging fire that was burning inside of him.

Heads went flying as Guts cut them before any of them had the chance to reload their weapons. The captain was running for the exit to the tower when he saw Guts continue on his rampage of killing any man that stood in his way. More men tried to stop him, and they all failed falling down the pit to join what was left of the city of Gaiseric.

Any stragglers were picked off, but there were few. As Guts continued carving a way back to the top, everyone who watched him thought he looked more like a demon than a man.

With an almighty swing of his sword, Guts cut the last four men that stood by the exit to the tower, his companions hot on his tail. If he thought the fighting was over-which he didn't, at least thirty armed bowmen of the city guard awaited them outside.

As strong as they were, they couldn't stop the arrows from flying. And once the captain gave the orders, it would be over. Guts readied his sword once more, but Harry whispered something in Charlotte's ear that sounded like "Play along."

Harry stepped behind Charlotte and put his sword level with her neck and walked to the front with her acting as a hostage. The captain saw this and a look of dread was evident. "Hold your fire!" He shouted. "That's the princess!"

Charlotte kept a terrified face on as Harry led her down the steps of the tower with the others following. They received fierce glares from the Windham guards, but they kept their weapons even as they parted through the line of soldiers who were too afraid of what the king might do to them if his daughter was hurt.

Crickets chirped near the reeds of the pond where Rickert filled up his bucket. Most of the wounded men were healing up quite nicely, they just kept asking for more water from the stream. Once they were healthy enough, they would ride out again and meet up with Corkus and the rest.

Gaston, Guts' second-in-command of the Raiders were leading with Corkus. Even though the man had suffered an injury last battle, he still insisted he was well enough to ride with the others. Rickert missed the company. He didn't mind being a caretaker to these men, but he still wished he could have been part of the team that went to rescue Griffith.

Pippin and Guts were the strongest, no doubt about that. Judeau and Harry were both pretty stealthy, and Casca was their acting leader. It made sense why they would be the ones to go. But just for the chance to see Griffith sooner rather than later had been bugging away at Rickert.

With Griffith back, things could finally go back to normal- what was that?

The crickets had stopped chirping, and even the water seemed deathly still. On the other side of the pond bank, there was a light green glow. And it was moving, zigzagging through the trees, heading for him.

Rickert ducked as a child-sized form zoomed over his head, and he was able to catch a glimpse of it. The body was that of a young girl, her arms, and legs covered with light green hair. Her small breasts were exposed, but the carefree expression she wore on her youthful, and bug-eyed face showed that she did not really care.

Bug like was the best way to describe her/it. The eyes were large and oval just like a bug, an antenna curled from the forehead, just like a bug. And a giant pair of moth wings from her back allowed her to fly. She wasn't a full bug, but she wasn't a human girl either.

"An elf?" Rickert wondered as she flew past him straight for the camp of soldiers. Bucket forgotten, Rickert chased off after it back to where his branch of the Hawks were residing. He was running nowhere close to how fast that Elf had been flying, but it was as fast as his legs would carry him.

What would the men think of an elf flying over their camp? Would they freak out and attempt to fight it? He hoped not. Elves were supposed to be friendly, that's what the stories always said anyway.

The campfires were visible now, and Rickert burst through the bush. "Guys! There's a-guys?" The fires still burned, but no one was around to tend to them. "Guys, where are you?!" Rickert called out.

"He-he!"

Sitting up in a tree was the elf girl. She sat with her legs crossed and an amused smile on her young face. A set of eyelids closed over her one bulbous eye giving Rickert the impression she just winked at him. She pointed behind Rickert and he turned around. He wished that he had not.

The firelight illuminated a massive creature standing behind him. Molten green in color and resembling a giant slug, it had a human face with an extra set of eyeballs coming out from the side of its head. Beneath the grinning human face, it had another jaw, this one was closed around the torso of one o the injured Hawks'.

The beast leered down at Rickert as it swallowed the Hawk whole. He was too scared to move, too scared to even scream. The elf girl in the tree snapped her fingers and two giant insect creatures crawled toward him, their intentions as pure as the wicked grin she had on her face.

And then they stopped. Standing next to Rickert on a horse was a knight in skeleton themed armor. Actually- the armor itself looked like a skeleton, and the helm with the glowing eyes only enforced that idea.

The Knight of Skeleton spoke to the two demons. "This is not your festival. Begone, your hour is not at hand. Or would you rather temper your powers against my sword?" He drew his blade and the creatures eyed it nervously.

The slug let out a deep throaty growl and retreated. The elf girl pouted and stuck her tongue out at the Skull Knight like a child would do to a bully. She snapped her fingers and the giant bugs retreated as well. She jumped from her perch and flew off into the night sky.

As for the Skull Knight, it was like he hadn't even been there, to begin with. Rickert clutched his head. Madness. He was alone now. Just madness.

A/N: That's it for this chapter. I didn't make mention of Griffith's tongue because I want that to be a bit more open ended. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

They weren't followed, not with Harry holding his sword to Charlotte's neck. Slowly, they had made their way back to Windham Castle presumably to where they snuck in, to begin with. A secret tunnel in an art gallery provided them with their means of an exit to the graveyard beyond.

He felt useless as Pippin carried him the entire distance. All of them had risked their lives to try and save his, or what was left of it. It was a terrible truth for him to admit to himself, but he could do nothing. He could just stay still and be cradled in Pippin's arms and watch the rescue party that had come to his aid.

There was Casca, no surprise there. She had always been one of his top commanders and felt deeply indebted to him for saving her life those years back. Of course, she would be the one leading this mission, she was probably hoping that she wouldn't have to play at being the leader anymore. As capable as he knew her to be, she never desired power for herself, just to help him and remain by his side. And as his blue eyes took her in he felt there was something different about her, but he could not put a finger to it.

Then there was Pippin and Judeau. Pippin had the brawn where Judeau had the stealth. Both would be handy if a brawl erupted or a lock needed picking.

Never would have expected to see the princess or a handmaiden-who was probably just dragged along into all of this. That night he had shared with Charlotte, she seemed to have taken it deep within her heart, so much so she was now willing to give up a pampered lifestyle of a princess to aid them. She was even allowing herself to be taken, hostage.

Harry, the one holding her hostage, had grown in the near year of his imprisonment. He-like Rickert was tall for his age, and within a year or two he might not have to look up to meet Casca's eyes. Aside from his physical growth, he seemed to have matured in his mentality as well. Of course, his holding Charlotte at sword point was an act. There was no way that Harry would have actually harmed the naïve girl, which she seemed to know, unlike her handmaiden.

"What were you thinking, you young ruffian!" The handmaiden-whose name he believed to be Anna, berated Harry once they were out of the graveyard and heading to where the horses were hidden.

"Holding the princess captive after she aided you, how dishon-!"

"It is alright, Anna," Charlotte attempted to assure her servant. "I volunteered to be taken, remember?"

Anna took a second to compose herself. "Be that as it may, you could have gotten hurt." Harry had the decency to look remorseful.

"I am sorry about that, Charlotte."

"Princess Charlotte," Anna corrected.

"Yeah, that. I could have given a better warning than just, 'play along.'"

Casca mounted her house and offered a hand for Charlotte to climb on back. "It doesn't matter," she said. "Lord Griffith is safe, that is what matters."

Strange. With the bout of courage she went through to assist in his rescue, she still held traces of her naivety. Could she not see his body? All the scars and missing nails, were they just paper cuts in her eyes? Or perhaps, was the love she felt for him blinding? Being the only one to have made love to her, had her love for him been so strong that she simply does not care about his appearance?

More likely she just believes that love can heal him, heal everything that had been done and that when he was whole again that they would one day wed one another. If that was true, and he had a suspicion it was, she was living in a dream. And he of all people knew how dangerous that could be.

"You got that right, princess," said Guts hopping onto his own horse. "Corkus and Gaston should be near the border by now, if we ride the rest fast we might be able to reach them by sundown."

Guts.

Guts.

Guts.

Guts.

He had come as well. The one who left returned to save him. When he had opened his eyes the first sight out of all his rescuers had been Guts. The whirlwind of emotions that had begun to brew inside of him made him want to shout, curse his name for their fight, call him a traitor, make Guts feel the pain he felt for losing his dream.

But he didn't. He barely had the strength to move or yell. His throat was incredibly dry, not having a proper drink of water in a while would do that to the voice. Instead, he just allowed himself to be carried away as he watched Guts' fury unfold on the torturer and all the guards who stood in their way. He had grown stronger, they all grew stronger while he grew weaker.

Guts had always been strong, and any who said otherwise clearly hadn't met him before. During their fight was the true eye-opener for Griffith, not only was Guts strong with a sword but with his will. It, in that moment, had been stronger than his own; a dream unrealized.

But Guts was too stubborn to see it. That dream he believed that lied out there, waiting to be found was non-existent. Guts' dream had been within his reach the entire time, much closer than Griffith had ever been to his. And he envied Guts for that.

But even with his envy, he did not hate the swordsman. For walking away, for leaving them, for not seeing the dream that had been so close to him the entire time, Griffith did not hate him. He was just the most disappointed he had ever been in his life.

The sun had risen and was beginning to set when the rescue party neared the border of Midland. The setting sun was beginning to cast a warm orange glow to the clouds in the sky, and the slightest of breezes made the grass of the plain lands ripple like the waves of a great grass sea. That was the rendezvous point for the Bank of the Hawk.

Gaston, the soldier who dreamed of being a tailor later on in life, and Guts' second in command, was the first to greet them. "Captains! You all made it back!" He noticed Charlotte and Anna. "And you've brought guests."

"Not guests," Casca helped Charlotte down from the saddle, "it appears that they're joining us."

Anna fidgeted nervously. "A rather hasty decision."

"Wait-isn't that the princess?" Gaston pointed to Charlotte.

"It is," Judeau said. "She was kind enough to aid us in our rescue of Griffith."

Gaston's face broke into a wide smile. "You actually got him? Where is he?"

The vice captain's face fell instantly at the sight of him being cradled like a baby, wrapped nearly three times around in a cloak. Gaston didn't need to say anything, everything he needed to know was written as plain as day on his face.

"Hey, Corkus!" Gaston called.

"What is it?" Corkus asked back.

"Bring a covered wagon over here! And some gauze!"

Harry offered to tend to his wounds; wrapping him up with the gauze and supplying him with a spare pair of breeches for his lower half. More than once Charlotte stopped outside the wagon to try and check up on him. He watched her talk with Harry from his propped up position in the back of the wagon.

"Please," Charlotte pleaded. "We're safe for the time being, all I request is a moment alone with Lord Griffith."

He saw Harry shake his head. "Griffith's… been through a lot. He just needs time to rest right now."

"Then allow me to assist," she insisted. "Anything that I can do to help I will try my best to do. If I truly am joining you all in your travels, I will need to make myself useful. Please."

"You still can," Harry reasoned. "Just, for right now the most you can do is give him a little space." He couldn't see her face, but she must have been pouting or conveying some other displeased expression. "But… when he's feeling up to it, you can be the first to come and visit him."

That certainly seemed to brighten her up as she flung her arms around Harry's neck for a hugging embrace. "Thank you," she said. "You mean it?"

Harry looked a bit flustered. "Uh… yeah, sure."

Casca yelled for the other girl's attention. "If you want to help, you can go and fetch some water for him."

Charlotte must have looked perplexed. "I've never fetched water before."

Her handmaiden came to her side. "Come then, your highness. I'll show you. Such a menial task," she muttered under her breath.

Harry climbed into the back of the wagon with him holding a pouch of something. "I asked Judeau if I could borrow this," Harry said putting his hand inside to come out with a gel-like substance. "It's elf dust. Casca used some on Guts after the forest fight and it seemed to have worked."

He took his wrist in his hand and rubbed some of the dust over where his tendon had been cut. It took a moment but a slight stinging sensation prickled his wrist where Harry had rubbed but was quickly replaced by a warm soothing feeling, maybe even a little ticklish. "How does it feel? Do you think its working?"

A single nod of his helmeted head was his answer. The dust seemed to fade fast on his wrist and Griffith tried to bend it. His fingers managed to twitch, but instead of moving in his wrist slanted back, the opposite of the direction he wanted it to go. He narrowed his blue eyes in frustration. "Don't push yourself too far," Harry advised as he rubbed some more on his other wrist and heels.

He turned his helmeted head to the side of the wagon where a sword lay propped up. One of his thin arms moved to grasp for it. His skeletal fingers wrapped around the hilt for a second before falling from his clutch. Honestly, what had he expected? Grabbing that sword would not make him the man he once was. Even the elf dust provided could not restore his broken body.

"Whoa," Harry said, putting the sword back where it was before. "Just take it easy. It might not work right away, but it'll help at least." Harry tried some more gauze around his wrists and ankles. "You know, I was thinking that I might be able to help you recover too." Griffith didn't make a sound; he just looked at the boy expectantly. "I might try and go to the woods near Enoch village. Casca told me that a witch lives somewhere inside the forest. She might know some healing spells, I could learn them, or take you there to have you fixed up. We're here to help you; all of us."

Griffith smiled sadly. Fairy tales and legends seemed like a good thing to believe in right now. To be able to just magically wash away all the pain like waves over the sand, what he wouldn't give for that to be so simple.

He heard voices from outside. For a moment he thought Charlotte had returned to offer up her services once more, but no. The voices he was hearing was undoubtedly those of Guts and Casca. Harry heard them too. "I'll let you rest for now," Harry said moving to hop out the back of the wagon. "Guts might come in at some point. There are some things he has to talk to you about."

How Harry would know that Griffith could only guess, but he turned his ear to listen to the conversation unfolding outside. Casca was the one speaking right now. "Do you still plan on leaving again? Now that we've got Griffith, what will you do?"

"Maybe not," said Guts. "I left before to look for a dream that I never had. Now, I don't know. Gaston came up to me earlier; he said he'd leave his dream of wanting to become a tailor behind, so did almost all that's left of the Raiders."

"And does that mean you'll stop looking for yours for Griffith's sake?" Casca asked. "Is that what you really mean?"

"If you're asking me to make that choice now, then yes; I would stay."

That sounds so different from how he once was. What changed in him?

"You mean that?" Casca asked again.

"Why wouldn't I? What do I get from lying to you? You'd know if I were anyways."

"I don't want you to stay if feel that you have to out of some guilt of what happened," she told him. "Stay because you want to. Stay because you'll do everything you can to help Griffith when he needs it."

From the way she was speaking to Guts right now, he could tell that they had grown closer during his imprisonment. "You're crying," Guts said. There was a sight, Casca crying. Maybe that elf dust was starting to work; he was able to push his body up just enough to look over the back of the wagon. Casca stood with her forehead resting on Guts' chest and one of his arms wrapped around her. Yes, they had grown closer.

She wiped away a tear. "Why wouldn't I be? You saw the state that he's in." Her voice was low, but not low enough that he couldn't hear her. "I worry. I worry that the strong confident man he used to be might never come back to us."

He was a burden. She said it best, no longer the strong confident leader. Just a burden, one that would weight them down. He could not walk on his own, he could no longer hold a sword, and what good was he? His arms gave out, and he fell down on his side. Worthless.

The sound of armor creaking made him look back to the exit of the covered wagon, expecting to see either Guts or Casca standing there, not himself. It was how he once looked, standing tall and proud as his long white hair glowed in the warm sun. The hawk helm was held under his arm, not a mock one to remind him of how far he had fallen. When he spoke, it sounded just like him too. "What are you doing, lying here pathetic and weak?"

His prime self-drew his sword and impaled it in front of his face. The light reflected off the blade was not the sun, but a white castle in the distance. The prime pointed to it in the distance. "Have you lost sight of it?" The sword looked so real that he could actually touch it. He could.

Using it as a prop, Griffith managed to pull himself up. The castle was on a hill, so close; if only he had the strength to move his legs on his own. A child's voice cried out next to him. "Let's go! There's still time to play!" His eyes widened when he saw the boy. His voice was high like every child his age, but his long white hair set him apart from any other child. It was him.

His child self-yelled back to him, still running toward that castle. "The sun isn't gone yet!" The child was running, running to an ever blinding white light that seemed to consume everything around them except for that castle, which still stood as the only sturdy thing in sight.

Guts knew that Casca was right. If he was going to stay, it had to be because he wanted it, truly wanted it. The choice to stay or leave was his to make, and if he was going to choose it would be because he wanted to, not because he felt that he had to. Originally, he planned to rescue Griffith, make amends with his friend and then part ways once more on much friendlier terms.

Funny how things had changed. Griffith was in a state that required someone to assist him with near everything, and things between him and Casca were-they were, they made him want to stay. And maybe that made all the difference.

"We've returned!" The surprisingly cheery voice of Charlotte called to them. Both her and Anna came back with pals full of water. "This was my first time fetching water, did I do well?"

Casca nodded. "It's a start." Charlotte beamed.

"May I see Lord Griffith now?" She asked. "I was told that I could before."

Guts managed to suppress a roll of his eyes at the princess' little fantasy. "Sure," he agreed. "I'll give him a heads up that you're coming in." He never got that chance.

The wagon that Griffith was residing in was moving, the horses were being ushered to go by the driver, who much to Guts' surprise was Griffith himself. The reigns were wrapped around his forearm seeing as his wrists were incapable of moving how he would like. Somehow, he had managed to crawl to the front and take control. What could have possibly come over him?

"What's going on?" Charlotte asked nervously as the wagon pulled away from their camp. "Have the horses been spooked?"

Guts quickly ran and saddled his horse. "Princess, you stay here! Harry, make sure she and her handmaiden don't follow. Everyone else, after that wagon!"

"But I can want to come too!" Harry protested. "I can help!"

"Help by making sure the princess doesn't do anything stupid," Guts ordered. "Hiya!" He spurred his horse in hot pursuit of Griffith's wagon. Griffith had a few seconds head start and two horses pulling his wagon, but Guts pushed his horse to its limits.

The others he heard were gaining on them as well and if he couldn't catch up to Griffith, one of them would. One of the faster riders like Corkus, Judeau or Gaston. But why were they even chasing him, to begin with?

He didn't know what was going through Griffith's head right now, but it wasn't good. Just like what was happening up above. The light of the sun was fading; a dark shadow was slowly creeping its way to snuff out the light. Guts didn't like it, not one bit.

With his battered body, Griffith could barely keep the wagon steady, the horses threatened to pull the reigns from his faux grasp. But to him, it was so close. The castle, it was so close, so, so close. He just had to reach out a hand and the castle and its kingdom would be in the palm of his hand.

The wagon hit a rock, and the jolt was enough to throw him from the wagon. Griffith soared like the bird he had taken as his sigil, his arms spread like wings. But his wings had been clipped, the ground came closer.

Splash!

He landed not on grass, but in the cool, clear water of a shallow lake. The water soaked his gauze and breeches and he shivered. Much to his own surprise, he was able to stumble into a kneeling position; it wasn't easy as one of his elbows had bent inward from his fall. Yet another injury to be added.

He was pathetic. He wasn't some proud leader, not anymore. Now, he was just larva, the lowest of the low. In a mundane way, it was like he had never really grown up from his life of poverty. In the end, he was just a burden on those who would follow him. They had Casca, they had Guts, and they did not need him. A jagged root of a fallen tree lay right next to him. They did not need him.

Griffith let his body fall forward toward the jagged wood, looking to end it all. The wood missed his jugular but managed to cut above his shoulder, a single stream of blood trailed down his arm from his attempt. And then he laughed.

Perhaps laugh was the wrong word; it was more the only sound that came out of his throat at the time. "Huhuhuhuaaahuu!" He couldn't even kill himself right for crying out loud.

There was nothing left but to gave down into the ankle high water below. Perhaps he could drown himself, it was deep enough-what was that? Among the rocks of the lake bed, a red bauble on a string stood out. He recognized it; it was something that had fallen down a drain pipe when he was first captured. His old Crimson Behelit. He had thought it lost forever. He snagged it with his finger by the string and held it up in front of him. Blood dripped from his arm and onto the bauble. A sudden cry of, "Griffith!" rang throughout the air.

Harry didn't like it; he didn't like it at all. It was less the fact that Guts had told him to stay behind with the princess, but more with what was happening in the sky above. A large, round, dark shadow was making its way to block the light of the sun. It was almost like an eye looking down, smiling with cruel amusement at events yet to come.

Charlotte noticed it too. "An eclipse. I didn't know one was supposed to happen today."

"Yeah," Harry agreed, his eyes flashing to and from the soon-to-be eclipse. His vision was bad enough as it was, there was no need to ruin them any further. He couldn't help it though; he was a curious person by nature, and this impending eclipse just did not sit right with him for some reason. Harry wanted nothing more than to chase after everyone else and warn them of… something.

The moon climbed closer and closer toward the sun, and the feeling of dread grew with it. Something bad was about to happen. To who, he did not know; all he knew was that it was coming, and soon. He grabbed the reigns of his horse and made ready to depart after the rest of the band.

"Where are you going?" Charlotte asked. "We were told to stay here."

"I know that," said Harry, his voice frantic. "I just need to check on them. I'll be right back, I promise."

Anna looked frightened as well, but for different reasons. "But, what if a group of bandits comes by when you're gone? We have no ways of defending ourselves." Harry took out his dagger and tossed it to the handmaiden. "What's this about?"

"To defend yourselves," Harry said. "If any trouble comes up, try and scare it off or just run to find us." The girls looked uncertain. "Look, I'll be gone five minutes at most, I'll come back and I won't be alone. Just stay here for now."

His horse made haste as it rushed off in the direction that everyone else had headed. Guts or Casca could yell at him later, all that mattered now was reaching them as soon as possible. All the while the moon moved closer and closer to eclipsing the sun.

"Griffith!" Guts shouted as he jumped from his horse and into the water where Griffith kneeled. He bent down to hoist one of Griffith's arms over his shoulder. "What came over you, huh?" If Griffith heard him, he made no indication. His attention was focused on the red bauble dangling from his finger. Guts' eyes widened as well; Griffith had no had that Behelit on him before.

The sound of horses approaching alerted Guts that the rest of the Hawks were quickly approaching them. "C'mon, Griffith. Let's get you patched up again. Casca'll have a fit if she sees that cut on your-," he stopped talking. The Behelit was jiggling. The assorted facial features were moving, rearranging themselves to form a non-abstract face.

The eyes slowly opened to reveal blue orbs, and tears of blood flowed from them as the Behlit appeared to weep. Then the mouth opened and it cried the most blood-chilling sound Guts had ever heard. "BWAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"What is that?" Casca and the others pointed across the lake to where humanoid figures now stood. To Guts, they looked rather sinister standing across the water just staring at all of them. The Behelit continued to scream.

"Everyone!" A new rider was fast approaching. From the voice, Guts could tell that it was Harry. What was he doing here? He should be supervising the princess to make sure she doesn't do something stupid. And the Behelit kept on screaming right up until the moon reached its peak in front of the sun. Then everything changed.

The sky, the lake, the grass; all of it was gone, replaced with a ceaseless pattern of red faces spanning as far as the eye could see. Their eye sockets were either closed or hollow, but the mouths seemed to move, seeking to release screams that would go unheard. The only thing that remained a constant was the sun up above-or rather the eclipsed sun. Indeed, it was high above them like a giant black eye looking down on them like insects.

Some of the Hawks began to lose their nerve. "The hell are we?" "What's going on?" "Commander, get us out of here!" Corkus was having it the worst though. "Look around! We're in hell! This is what hell looks like!"

"Quiet!" Casca scolded him. "You all need to calm down!"

"You're telling us to calm down?! Take a look around, we're in hell surrounded by freaks!" The demonic looking individuals seemed to have grown in numbers and watched them but made no sudden move yet.

"We can't afford to show weakness in front of this enemy!" Casca rallied. "Panicking won't give us a way out of here." Despite it all, Guts smiled. She really was something else.

The demonic looking people began to chant. "The time is now. It is time. Time for our four angels to come."

From the ground, one of the faces began to rise up. It turned from red to a lively alabaster tone and it became more and more clear that it belonged to a woman, for a body was rising up with it. Breasts laid bare, but she didn't seem to mind, if anything she seemed to revel in her attractive appearance, even sending a seductive look at some of the men. As she rose hair fell from her head, an uncommon turquoise color that reminded Guts of snakes. Two large leathery wings sprouted from her back and closed around her feminine form.

Above them, the faces seemed to swirl together like a brewing storm and a pale, chubby face with blacked out glasses and a sickening grin came spiraling down, cackling a sick laugh. It was small, lacking any legs but rather a few short tentacles like appendages that helped it to float around the Hawks. It circled and laughed at Corkus, and then Harry before floating over to the woman.

The ground shuttered once again, and a cornucopia of the faces mashed up into a wide rounded shape. Emerging from that mass was a fleshy ham colored face even chubbier than the last. Its eyes were closed, but its mouth was gaping open. Taking its place next to the two other great beings, it appeared hunched over with its hands intertwining its fingers.

Then, it was as if darkness leaked down from the eclipse above like a giant dark waterfall that took the shape of a tall figure covered in a long leathery black robe with a high popping collar. As the darkness retreated back up to the eclipse, the figure standing had six digits on his hands, skin the color of a corpse with some of it pulled away from his mouth, leaving his teeth exposed. His eyes appeared to be sewn completely shut, but what stood out the most was his brain. It was much larger than any brain had the right to be and it was on full display like it had grown so large it had simply burst forth from his head. Out of all four, Guts felt the most power from this one.

The brain man did not move his mouth, but his voice seemed to speak to all of them within their minds. His voice like a mysterious, vast expanse. "The time has come for the blessing. In this, our final chapter, the final destination. The final days draw near for our sacred children. Enjoy this hallow feast in all its glory." He pointed one of his six fingers towards Griffith. "And you, our disciple, you are chosen. Here and now appointed by God's own hand. We are your brothers, and you, our new blessed kin."

Griffith stared up at them, shock written on the parts of his face that Guts could see. Many of the Hawks looked just as nervous, Harry was transfixed by the four. "That voice," Guts heard him mutter. Getting angry, Guts drew a dagger and pointed it up at the four.

"This is bullshit!" He yelled. "You think you can drag us to this goddamn place and say whatever the hell you want?! Kinsman? Disciple? That's ridiculous! There isn't one shred in this man that makes him like you! How dare you compare yourselves to him!"

"Guts!" Casca yelled his name. Three of them laughed at him.

The woman appeared most pleased. "What a beautiful friendship. You will make a most welcome sacrifice."

"Sacrifice?"

She nodded. "He cannot become one of us without a proper sacrifice."

"Precisely," the hovering imp said. "From the instance, you crossed paths with the Crimson Behelit, it was your destiny to join us. The fact that you have it shows that you possess the traits necessary to become like us. To unite with us, The Godhand."

The demonic people gathered around, had begun to change. They changed much like Zodd had done in their first encounter; some sprouted horns and claws, some extra mouths and limbs. They changed into what they truly were, demons. "These gathered here today have used Behelits to achieve their own ends as well, although they will never be Godhand they are Apostils."

She continued speaking. "He will be reborn in exchange for all of you; but only of his own choosing."

"His fate was written long ago, and all of you were predestined to be his sacrifices," the brain elaborated. "Let us begin the rite of transformation."

"Bring forth the alter!" The one with the gaping mouth shouted, and the ground of faces began to rise, shooting up to the sky like a great mountain, Griffith and Guts were on a ride straight to the top.

"No, Guts! Griffith!" Casca shouted.

"We have to climb up after them!" Harry yelled, but their yells were drowned out as Guts tried his best to not fall off the rising tide of faces and to keep holding on to Griffith.

A tremor sent him falling back, but Griffith found the strength to reach a hand out for him to grab onto. But it was no use, not with the stare Griffith's body was in. A tendon in his arm snapped and Guts fell down while Griffith continued to be pulled up.

Guts wasn't about to give up easily. He plunged the dagger into the side of the rising face mountain to slow his fall. Bits of flesh and blood flew into his face as he plunged it in deeper to keep his stay on the face mountain. No-not a mountain. As he looked up, the faces had arranged themselves into the shape of a giant right hand.

When the rising settled, Griffith found himself in the open palm of the hand. "We are four," the brain man's voice rang out. "Conrad," the one with the gaping mouth on the pinkie, "Ubik," the floating imp circled the ring finger, "Slan," the woman licked her lips from the middle, "and Void." He was on the thumb. "What is it you fear? Us? Who are infinitely more powerful than you? Or is it your future and its uncertainty?"

Ubik floated down toward him. "Why not take a look at your past, before taking the step to your glorious future?" His dark glasses glowed white and Griffith stared into their depths, transfixed by the sight of a young, child version of him running along a street.

It was the same streets he had memorized as a child too, right down to the exact layout, even the castle on the hill was how he had always pictured it. But… this wasn't right. He was the only one here. "Where did everybody go?" His child's voice asked no one. The streets should be full of the other kids this time of day. "I thought we were all going to see the castle." He looked over his shoulder as if expecting someone else to come running.

"Oh well, I guess I'm going on my own." He continued running down the streets. He ran and ran, but his memory of these streets seemed to be failing him. This street was completely unknown to him. But at least there was a person. An old woman with a bonnet over her head to partly obscure her old appearance. She spun a spinning wheel and was so wrapped up in it she didn't seem to notice him at first.

"Excuse me," he said, "do you know how to get to the castle from here?" She pointed a wrinkled finger to the left. "That way. Okay, thank you!" He took off once again.

"You're welcome," she called to him. "You're friends passed by not long ago, they said that they would meet you there." So that's where they had gone.

He ran some more, and it became dark out. How long had he been chasing after his friends? "Hey! Is anybody here?" His foot crunched down on something; it was a corpse. And it wasn't the only one. The entire street was paved with corpses, corpses everywhere. "Ah!" He cried and tried to escape the bodies.

"You're quite the noisy child," the old woman walked up to him as calm as a summer breeze.

"Ma'am, this is terrible! There are so many dead people!"

"I know," she sounded unconcerned.

"That's awful! You knew and you lied to me!" Griffith shouted at the old woman.

"I didn't lie to you," she denied. "This is the only path that leads to the castle. The only way to the castle is over those who have fallen before, they have done their job of paving the road just for you. Look." The castle was only a short distance away, glowing as bright as the sun. "Here comes one of your friends now."

A boy of around his age walked up to Griffith, a toy knight in his hands. "You're on your way to the castle to become king, aren't you? That's great! I want to be a knight someday. Will you take me with you? If you do you can have my toy."

Griffith was hesitant. "I don't know." Who was this boy? He was one of his friends, yes?

"Why not?"

"I can't. I can't because you're-," Griffith looked away from the arrow that pierced the boy's heart. Such a gruesome sight. "You're already dead!"

"Why not take us too?" Some of the corpses had risen, clad in armor and ready to do battle. Let us carry your flag!"

"No," Griffith shook his head. "You're all dead too! Please understand, please!" He sank to his knees on the corpse laded ground and cried. "I'm so sorry!"

The old woman tsked. "Now, now. What are we going to do with you? Don't you understand that they are all dead because of you?"

"What?"

"Don't play dumb with me!" She suddenly snapped. "They became what they are because they followed you! If you had not forced them, they would not be like this."

"But," he wiped a tear away, "I never forced anyone to follow me."

"Then how did they get to the way they are?" She asked. "These corpse cobblestones are the dead who have followed you, killed for you, died for you. All for that dream of yours." The corpses sank down and stretched forward to the castle, just missing it. "You only need a few more."

Griffith remained hesitant. "Having a change of heart? If you are you will become one of the cobblestones yourself." It was like the skin on his arms was peeling off, becoming just like the bodies below him.

"My hands!"

"Foolish child. You should have known this was the price. Why couldn't you be content to simply gaze at the castle from afar?"

"I didn't know, I swear I didn't know!"

"Shut up!" she snapped. "You knew all along what kind of place this was."

Apparitions slowly became visible among the corpses. "You're our leader, we'll follow you!" A young woman with short dark hair. "We're here to help, all of us." A boy with glasses and green eyes. And a swordsman.

"Where do you go from here? Isn't this the path to your dream? What's holding you back?" Guts.

"He's right," the woman said. "It is not too late to lay those stones." She split into Conrad and Ubik. "There is no other path!"

"There is no use in repenting is there?" Griffith walked to the young dead boy. "Where would that take me? My sins, I cannot take them back. There is nothing I have to give the dead who have followed me except for the completion of the goal in which they all fought." He carried the boy down the path of corpses.

"Now you see," Ubik cackled, ending the trance.

"They will forgive you," Slan spoke to him. "Each is a feather in your wing, helping to carry you down your path."

Void spoke next. "If that dream still lives, if that castle still gleams as bright as the sun, then it is your obligation to lay the stones around you now. Stand and face your future on the dark wings that will carry you there"

Griffith's lips seemed to move on their own like he had no control, but that was not true.

"Griffith!" Guts shouted as he finally managed to climb to the palm of the hand. He was panting, exhausted, but he was here. Just in time to see Griffith give the smallest, saddest smile he had ever seen. It was one filled with unfulfilled ambition and the tiniest hint of a promise that this was not the last.

The fingers of the giant hand closed in around Griffith, separating him from Guts. Void lifted his hand and a green emblem materialized. It looked like two diamonds stacked on top of each other with a line running through them. "Time to administer the brand." The green turned to red and split apart like a dozen angry hornets.

Guts felt a burning sensation on the right side of his neck where the brand struck. Below, the brand burned into Corkus' forehead, just below Casca's collarbone, on Pippin's arm and Judeau's hand.

When one approached Harry, it looked to almost striking his forehead where his lightning scar was but pulled away before striking the left side of his neck. It seemed to have a stronger effect on him as well; he cried in pain and fell off his horse, clutching at his head.

And the demon apostils descended on the Band of the Hawk.

A/N: So this was a pretty Griffith heavy chapter, and we all know what the next one is. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

"Princess Charlotte, please wait!" Anna shouted as Charlotte climbed on a horse.

"That boy-Harry has been gone much longer than he promised," Charlotte told her handmaiden. "They should have returned by now. Do you not see what is going on over there? It's happening right where they would be."

It was a rhetorical question. How could anyone not see it? A giant whirlwind had touched down just as the moon had eclipsed the sun. Even from where they waited the two girls could feel the wild gush of wind from the enormous twister. There was no telling how wide the tornado was, but the funnel extended for miles into the sky, seemingly touching the eclipsed sun in the heavens up above.

The sight of it frightened Charlotte to no end. Midland was not known for irregular weather patterns, and a twister of this magnitude was unheard of by any standards. To actually go riding towards something like that would be a foolhardy idea which Anna took the liberty of reminding her of. "The Hawks did not survive by reputation, they have the skills to handle themselves, your highness. Please, I insist we seek shelter from that storm."

"The storm is not moving," Charlotte observed. For as gigantic as it was, the mighty whirlwind remained rooted in a fixed position to resemble something akin to a mighty tree branch that had sprouted from the ground, seeking to connect the deepest region to the highest heaven.

"That does not make it any less dangerous!" Anna insisted.

"But we owe it to the Band of Hawk to at least try to aid them," Charlotte argued. "They rescued me from the king," she shuttered at the memory of what he had tried to do to her that one night, "and I agreed that I would do whatever I could to contribute. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I must make good on my word!"

Anna shook her head. "You've gained a fair amount of confidence, your majesty. I shudder to think what your manners will be like the longer you're exposed to some of these ruffians."

"Will you come with me then?" She hoped so. Riding toward that whirlwind was not something she wanted to do alone.

"As your handmaiden-it is my duty to follow in your wake. Especially when sound words of advice fall deaf to your ears." Anna managed to give a rather nervous smile to showcase the lack of good faith in Charlotte's decision. "Just know that-what in the heavens?!"

Charlotte followed Anna's gave to the sky, but her attention was not directed at the expansive twister, but instead a large dark shape flying toward it. Whatever it was, it was no bird. Birds did not have large leathery wings or goat legs, and especially no horns. Despite its size, the creature flew fast, unlike any animal she had ever seen before in her life. She might have hallucinated, but Charlotte almost felt like the great beast looked down towards them, but never breaking from its flight path.

The sight of it instilled a new fear in the girls, on par with the sound of hooves rapidly approaching them. "The king must have sent out mercenaries!" Anna shrieked. "We're done for!" Riding over the hill was a lone rider, tall and menacing in appearance, and much like the creature flying above he moved much too fast for something of his size.

The closer he got, the more Charlotte could distinguish the features of his horse and armor. His horse looked to be a skeleton, much like the armor he wore. A shield was fastened to his left arm with the design of a thorny rose embalmed on it. What stood out the most was his helm; it was a glowering skull-like helm with reddish-purplish eyes that seemed to glow from their sockets adding the only bit of life to his otherwise dead appearance.

He was gaining on them, faster and faster his horse trampled the ground, not showing any signs of slowing. In a few seconds, he was on them, passing them by as he continued to ride. But in the briefest of moments, Charlotte saw that skull-shaped helm tilt to look directly at her and an almost familiar sensation seemed to register in her mind. He never spoke, never made a sound, but his glowing eye sockets conveyed the unspoken message, "stay."

She obeyed the unspoken command, her body stiff as a board while the rider continued on his path straight toward the monolithic whirlwind of madness.

Elsewhere, Rickert was on his own path for the whirlwind. It couldn't be a coincidence that this twister touched down almost exactly where the Hawks planned on meeting up. He believed less and less in coincidence since that night when those two demonic creatures slaughtered all the wounded Hawks. Creatures like that, they had no right to exist in this world.

With no horse to ride, Rickert had managed to stumble upon an acting troupe, who was kind enough to give him a ride to the supposed rendezvous point. It might have been his imagination, But Rickert swore that those performers had an elf flying somewhere around in their wagon. The childish, impish giggle he had heard during the night followed by a faint blue glow only further cemented that belief.

Once they had dropped him off, that wind storm had begun. As Rickert rushed over a grassy hill, he was met with a strange sight just outside of the funnel. A demon, Nosferatu Zodd to be exact, stood ready to face off against a skeleton knight.

What was Zodd doing in a place like this? And that Skull Knight too? "What the hell is going on around us?" Rickert had to wonder. It was madness. The world was becoming madness.

Zodd grunted. "Hmph. So you did come. You, who have been our foe for a millennium, I figured you wouldn't let this chance slip past."

"And you were given the command to guard the gate, Immortal One," Skull Knight addressed.

Zodd almost seemed to smile. "Hardly. I have no interest in their indulgent spree. What I seek are strong. You should know that. Old rival."

They locked gazes. "Void would say that this too falls within causality's current." A tense moment of silence fell. "Very well…I wager myself upon my sword."

Zodd looked overjoyed. His lion-like face broke into a malicious toothy grin. His claws swiped toward the Skull Knight, and the battle began.

But as the two combatants squared off against one another outside, a much different battle was being fought on the inside of the great whirlwind. Perhaps fight was the wrong word; it was more of a slaughter than anything else.

From all sides, the demonic apostles descended upon the already overwhelmed Band of Hawk. Giant, gaping maws swallowed men whole. Talons sharper than any dagger cut through armor, completely eviscerating their victims. Horns impaled others straight through, letting the blood run down their bony extension; they drank the blood of men.

Shouting, everybody was shouting. Men shouted in fear, in sadness, in pure agony; and the demons shouted in excitement. To them, this hell was heaven. It was a chance to helplessly gorge them on human flesh, and revel in every fight, every kill, every minute of this torture.

Casca, the one who many looked to as a sister figure, found herself unable to react at first. An apostil had bitten three men in half right in front of her and all she could do was stare at the giant fist made of faces where Guts and Griffith were. She would have been bitten in half as well, if not for Pippin intervening and knocking the demonic jaws away with his war hammer.

"Run!" Pippin yelled, a contrast to his silent nature.

Casca felt an arm around her waist, and she was pulled up onto a horse was ridden by Judeau. Pippin stood his ground and faced off against the demons who would pursue them. "What are you doing?!" She yelled. "Pippin!"

Pippin elicited a war cry of his own, challenging any demon near him. He stood like a man who had just accepted his fate. "Go back, Judeau! We can't let him die!"

"It's no use!" Judeau yelled. Any trace of his usual laid back and calm demeanor was gone. She was surprised; this was a side to Judeau she had never seen in all the time she had known him. "You have to survive. You're our leader now. As long as our leader's alive, we aren't finished! You have to keep on living! You think I'm going to let it end here, like this?!"

The courage that Judeau felt was lost on Corkus. He and three other Hawks were faced with an apostle that looked to have an upside-down face. Two tusks sprawled from the sides of its maw which it used to gobble up the three men before any of them could even raise a sword to defend themselves.

Corkus' legs trembled, and he felt his breeches become soiled. The sight of his comrades face become twisted and contorted as the apostil chewed them to pieces would do that to just about any man; there was no reason for him to feel embarrassed for his reaction. The apostil used a clawed hand to wipe away the blood from its lips, and it set its sights on him.

"Wahaaaaa!" Corkus wailed as he did the one thing that registered in his head, he ran. He ran as fast and as far as his weak legs would carry him, but the apostle was faster, much faster. Large, curved claws raked against his back, cutting through the metal and underlining flesh. He fell to his knees.

Two other apostles had joined up with the one that had been chasing him. Panicking once again, Corkus let himself fall down the hill of faces, the momentum giving him a chance at the time to pick himself up and continue running.

But everywhere he ran, there were demons on all sides, and they were eating. Gorging themselves on his comrades, biting off heads and limbs, clawing them open to devour their entrails. There was no escaping it. From the sides, from behind, he felt their eyes on him. They were coming, he could feel their hot, putrid breath on the back of his neck, making his hair stand up and ready to fly out of his body.

Tears and mucus ran down his face and he continued to run. There was no way any of this was real. A world made of faces, demonic apostles; it was a nightmare, a fever dream. "That must be it, just a nightmare. My wound doesn't hurt a bit. Hehehe! Hey! Wake up, me! Fun's fun, but enough's enough! But how the hell did I dream all this up? Midland, the Band of the Hawk, it ain't all that farfetched to be a dream. When I think about it, it was all too good to be true. I'll just wake up and it'll be over. I'll…be a nobody again."

And he saw her. Standing there looking every bit an angel as he could dream up, with her shoulder length blonde hair, sultry eyes, and a clear feminine form. Her arms covered her breasts, but even at that Corkus knew she was beautiful.

"Heh. A woman, here in hell…? I knew that this was a dream." She moved her arms away from her chest, allowing him a full view of her naked form. Squaring her shoulder, she made her breasts all the more inviting, and Corkus approached. He laughed nervously. "Dammit." He cupped one her bountiful breasts. "Dammit. Why a guy like me? Dammit." He buried his face between her breasts, sobbing as she wrapped her arms around him.

He felt her soft, smooth skin get harder and much stronger. Her petite arms felt awfully sharp, and her breath a lot hotter, like a predator to prey. "Dammit." And Corkus knew no more.

Casca and Judeau continued to ride. An exit, a way out had to be present. He couldn't be where it ended for all of them, here in some godforsaken hellscape. Why? Casca wondered, feeling the tears ready to break loose at the endless stream of death that surrounded them. The Band of the Hawk was arguably the greatest group of soldiers in Midland, but against a demonic horde, had they even stood a chance?

Had they sinned that much? All the lives that they had taken, all those who had fallen in battle, has it all been leading to this? Or, an even more terrifying thought; Casca looked to the giant hand turned fist, the Godhand faintly outlined by the hellish lighting, was this really the nightmare that he wanted? Would she ever get an answer to that?

Griffith, the person who had saved her at a young age, trained her in the art of the sword, made her his second-in-command, he had been the crux in all of this. What was it they had done? They had rescued him, served him faithfully, so then why? Had Griffith felt that much of a broken shell that he reasoned that he was as good as dead? Whatever it was, could she hate him for it? He had been her hero for so long, his attention was all she had ever wanted, to know that she had helped get him to that once dream of his. And now, she almost felt the brand below her collarbone prickle, maybe she was closer to that than ever before.

Even on horseback, the demons were able to keep pace with the pair of them. To his credit, Judeau would use his sword to cut down any who got too close and would throw a knife at an advancing lizard-like demon who had been tailing them for some time. The knife struck its mark, and the demon lagged behind. But another was fast approaching. "Judeau, right side!" Casca alerted her friend, but it was too late.

A great lion-like demon bit down on Judeau's arm, armor and bone cracked from the strain. Reacting on instinct, Casca drew a dagger of her own and plunged it into the eye of the demon. It might not have killed it, but it was enough to get Judeau's arm free, or what was left of it. Now it looked more like a piece of raw meat than human flesh.

"Judeau, your-,"

"It's fine," he said weakly. "You saved me." He was losing a lot of blood.

"Let's turn around."

"No way…" he sounded woozy.

"It's the same if we do or don't!" Casca yelled. "They're going to keep following us no matter how far we go! We don't even know if there's an exit!" Her eyes felt very wet now. "At least, let's fight beside everyone else to the end."

"Shut up!" Judeau yelled at her, surprising her once again by his tone. "You'll bite your tongue off. Struggle. Keep struggling until the end's the end, and keep struggling some more. There's no fighting just to die. That's what I'd say if I were him." Judeau then smiled. He didn't have to say anything after that. She knew exactly who he meant.

The moment was ruined when a shape began to split between the face pattern that was the ground to this hell. It was the jaws of a demon, and before either of them knew it, their horse was being devoured. They were spared the same fate as they had managed to roll off the saddle before the steed was completely eaten. But the danger wasn't over.

An apostle had caught up to them, dark green in color with a rounded head with two whip-like tendrils and a rather slim build. One of the tendrils shot out and stabbed Judeau through a chink in his armor. He staggered from the blow, but he forced himself in front of her as the demon let forth an onslaught of whipping.

They fell down, with Judeau placing his body on top of hers, taking all of the hits himself. "Move, stupid!" Casca yelled blood was leaking from Judeau's body. "Stop, Judeau! You're killing yourself! At this rate-!"

Both of the tendrils had pierced straight through Judeau, shock evident on his face. Droplets of blood drizzled onto her face, and she reached out to touch his. He couldn't-

One of Judeau's eyes opened. He reached for his last throwing knife and twirled his body around to toss it straight into the demon's eye. While it was blinded, Casca drew her sword and cut it in its slim body. The demon fell.

"Judeau!" She ran back to him.

"D-did it… hit? My last…knife?"

"Y-yeah. It hit. You got it."

He tried to push himself up, only to fall. "Now…go."

She couldn't stop the tears this time. "What did you just say?! Weren't you just the one who said to keep on struggling?! Now, on your feet! No complaining! I'm taking you even if I have to drag you!" She draped his arm over her shoulder and began to carry him, to where even she didn't know.

"Okay. No need to shout. I'll come with you. I'll stay even if I gotta crawl."

"If you got time to shoot your mouth off, you can crawl," she tried to keep his mind focused away from his undeniable pain. She looked to see Judeau smiling up at her.

"You sure do…cry a lot, you know."

His body went limp and fell to the face covered floor. His last smile lay etched upon his face, undisturbed to the hell he was in.

"Judeau…" it was a lost cause, but she didn't want to believe it. No more did she want to believe the sound of the various apostles that were surrounding her, closing in on her. How many? A dozen, maybe more; she couldn't be exactly sure. But she was sure of her anger.

In a blind rage, she swung her sword, blinded by both her tears and rage, she hacked and slashed, cutting any apostles that dared get too close. They could kill her, hell they probably would. But she would be damned if she didn't die fighting like she had for years.

Her last swing was caught in the jaws of a hulking apostle, who crunched the blade to pieces with its powerful strength. Her eyes widened, and she stepped back. They were closing in on her, chanting. "Sacrifice." "Sacrifice." "Sacrifice." "A woman sacrifice." "Eat now?"

"No."

"Before that."

"Before that."

They closed in even more and she could feel their hot breath filling her nostrils, it was enough to make her skin crawl. Many of them opened their mouths, letting their slimy, disgusting tongues hang free. They were so close to her now.

Guts. Casca thought of her lover as they grabbed for her.

I'm falling. Farther from the light. Where…where is this? Where's my body? I'm sinking…deeper. It was like being in an ocean. He could see the light above him, warm and comforting, and below him, where he was falling, that was just a deep endless pit of darkness seemingly as vast as Void's voice.

It should be cold, so why couldn't he feel it? He could see, he could think, so why couldn't he move of feel? But even sight soon failed him as he fell further and further into the abyss.

And then flashes.

He was watching scenes play out before him. There was a mass of people, and they were terrified. Fear was present on each and every one of their faces. Sweat, blood, and tears covered nearly all of these men he was seeing. And then they would die. Some would be decapitated, others split right up down the middle and waved around like a human flag, and others would just have their heads explode, sending bits of bone and brain flying in every direction.

What is this?

Death, death, and more death. Body parts were thrown around like a child would toss their toys during a temper tantrum. Jaws of serrated teeth would crush men into small chunks of meat for other demonic entities to feast off of. Everywhere, there was death, claiming the lives of every man that came across these monstrous beasts.

All their deaths and piercing through me. I wished for this. I killed them. It's strange…I don't feel anything. I'm sinking.

Why didn't he feel? These people dying, those were his men, his people. So why? It was almost like the deeper he went, the less he became. Who he was, what made him, him that was being broken off and scattered into an ever-swirling current that he had no chance of swimming free from. He saw something in the darkness of his submersion.

What is that? That shine?

A voice seemed to answer back. The manifestation of your last tear. When suffering so profound it makes you tear yourself apart, a heart is frozen. A very faint, Bthump could be heard.

Something's here, he realized with a start. And he saw them. They floated past him, up towards the light coming from the darkness. They were all different colors, but not one was crimson red like the one he once had. Behilits.

They are splashes, droplets of ideas that have spilled from the sea of eternity. Summons to the other world.

And he fell deeper. He was so deep in the never-ending abyss, which he could no longer see, not with his eyes. There was nothing around him now. He was alone, he had to be. Was this it? The sacrifice he had made led to this? To nothing? But-no. No, that was wrong. There was something here with him. Something so deep in this abyss, something so ancient that it could not exist anywhere else but here, the crux of darkness. He could hear a sound like a rhythmic beat, and a shape started to become visible to him. It was a shape shared by every living thing, every man, woman, and child.

"…God?" It was the last word Griffith ever spoke.

Harry's head felt like it was going to explode. Once that brand had struck the left side of his neck, a terrible, burning agony had befallen him. It felt like a hot iron was being placed against his skin, but not where the brand had struck; instead from the scar on his forehead. It was like two forces clashing and raging a small war inside of him, each side trying their best to get the upper hand to a battle he didn't even know existed beforehand. The pain wasn't going away, but it seemed to lessen at the cost of his own strength.

The pain in his forehead seemed concentrated, rooted firm and not willing to budge an inch. And it seemed to speak to him. Almost like another voice inside of his head talking to him. Fight, kill them, and kill them like they killed your friends.

As the apostles would claw their way towards him, it was as if Harry was seeing double vision, one minute he would see the advancing demon, the other he saw a pale hand clutching a stick pointing it at a woman. A flash of green light and he couldn't tell if that was a memory from someone else, or if it was from the energy flying from his own sword.

Whenever he swung, it was like it was reacting to the apostles. Godo had crafted it from an elf mine, and now Harry was finally seeing why this could be considered a magic sword. When it touched the demons, it seemed to cut them easily, even sending out sparks of what he assumed to be raw magic at the antagonists. He didn't know what he was doing, or if his body was just reacting this way naturally, but it had kept the demons at bay so far, and for that, he had no complaint.

There was a downside, whenever he would wave his sword and send those bouts of magic forth, he would be blinded by another one of those double visions. He saw a forest, and a small form that was curled up in the nook of tree roots to survive before flashing back to this hell and he had to stab at another demon. The small figure in the woods held something up, a small dark egg shape, different from the one Griffith had had but he knew what it was. Harry wanted to shout at this figure to warn them of the danger, but they didn't seem to know what it was.

Another apostle, another bout of wild magic flaring from his elf sword, and he saw a rat faced looking man looking down over him, picking him up like some sort of baby. More magic sprayed from across his sword blade, and that cold voice seemed to take hold in the back of his head. Kill all of them. Avenge all who have fallen! You are weak, you can't keep this up!

"Stop it!" Harry yelled, clutching his head to try and force that voice away. "Stop talking to me!" Something large touched his shoulder. Harry rounded, ready to stab a demon, but much to his surprise, it was Pippin. "Pippin!"

The giant of a man had seen better days. A large cut ran along his head, most of his armor was completely torn off, and his weapon was broken. Another member of the Hawks was with him. With a badly mutilated arm and bloodstained hair, it was guts' second, Gaston of the Raiders.

"Are you two…alright?" Harry asked it felt like he was going to collapse at any second.

"Us?" Gaston asked he didn't look much better. "What about you? You look like you're on your last leg." Harry tried his best to give the most convincing nod he could.

"I'm fine, really."

"No…" Pippin sounded incredibly fatigued but was hiding it much better than either of them.

"I can still go on," Harry said as his vision started to blur. "Where's…everyone else? Corkus? Casca? Judeau? Guts?"

"I haven't seen Corkus," Gaston said. "I haven't seen anyone!"

"Casca and…Judeau, they got on a horse," Pippin heaved. "Don't know about Guts."

"Have you- look out!" Harry's sword sparked with energy as a molted green slug-like apostle came looming up behind Pippin. With a swing, a burst of power discharged itself from his blade and burned the demon's hide. The slug glowered down at him and moved to take a bite out of him, but Pippin stepped in front, forgoing a weapon and just punching the monster.

The slug growled and knocked Pippin aside, into Gaston, who fell backward. Harry himself felt one last cry escape his lips, "Pippin!" His strength left him and he fell down a hill of faces, the last thing he saw before his eyes closed was a flash of green light and hearing that voice in his head.

"Kill."

He fought like a maniac, no-a demon. A demon in human form. Guts' sword was broken, so he had to improvise. When a demon charged him with its spear-like tusks, Guts used the jagged broken blade to crack one of the tusks from the demon and plunged it into the creature's skull. Vaulting off of the dead apostle, Guts was met with dozens more to take its place. His chest armor was long gone; he fought covered in thick blood from slain apostils.

Narrowly avoiding the jaws of a demon that tried to bite his feet off, Guts drove the tusk through this one's eye. He jumped off of that one, rolled under the grotesque arm of another and stabbed it through the chest. A winged harpy swooped down and Guts ducked before her talons could claw his face off. With rage and adrenaline-fueling him, Guts leapt and impaled the harpy through her back as she flew back up.

Pulling the tusk from her back, he then impaled it in the side of the giant fist to slow his fall. It partially worked. He still fell, but much slower than he would have, had he not tried to slow his descent. When he landed, he found himself not on a pile of faces, but in something warm. Something that was warm and red, and left a lingering taste of iron in his mouth.

Blood. He was in a pool of blood. Various body parts lay scattered, floating in the pool like ducks on a pond. Bones, hands, and feet, torsos, even heads. "Uaghhhhhhhhh!" He yelled a mix of horror and anger.

"Is anyone still alive?! Judeau! Pippin! Corkus! Harry!" His face begins to fall. "Cas…ca."

"Captain!" The voice was incredibly weak, but standing there in the pool of blood with him was Gaston. Most of his arm was missing, and he was using his sword as a crutch, but he was here, he was alive.

"Gaston!" Guts rushed over to his second. "You're alive!"

"Heheh," Gaston laughed weakly. "I don't feel it very much." The raider choked a sob. "C-captain, why is this happening? I don't know where anybody else is. I got separated from Pippin and Harry. I just want to go back to the good ol' days."

"Stop talking, save your strength!" Guts ordered. He helped Gaston stand on his feet. "Now c'mon, we can't be the only ones who've made it."

It happened almost in an instant. Gaston's face began to contort, his jaw moved at a weird angle like he had gotten kicked by a mule. His right eye closed whilst his left bulged, looking to break free. Blood freely ran from his eyes, mouth, and nose. Then his whole head exploded.

Gaston's blood splattered over Guts' face, adding to the amount of carnage that coated him. Sliding out from Gaston's body was an impish demon that hopped into the blood pool and laughed a hideous cackle as it slithered away "Kekekekekekekek!"

Guts picked up Gaston's fallen sword and stabbed at the demon as it slithered away. It escaped his blade, but not Harry's as the boy came rolling down a hill of faces to stab the imp demon. "Harry!" Guts grabbed the boy by his arm and helped him stand. He might not be in as bad a state as Gaston had been, but he looked utterly, physically exhausted.

"I…got it…" Harry said, referring to the demon he had just stabbed.

"It's dead," Guts affirmed. "How are you still standing?"

"How're…you?" Harry asked. "Everyone…everyone I don't know…"

A large shape manifested to their left. Standing on the band of the horrid blood pool was Pippin. He stood with his back straight, motionless like a small mountain made man. He didn't greet them, or make any notion that he even acknowledged the both of them, and Guts could tell that something was off. It was like he was already dead on his feet, and the only thing supporting him were the two thick tendrils that seemed to stem from his rigid back like strings on a marionette. Slowly his upper and lower began to separate themselves and were tossed into the pool alongside the pair of them. A giant sluggish apostle had been behind Pippin, working him, moving him like a puppet which had now been disposed of.

Then came the laughing. "Kuhuhuhuhu!" All around them, apostles surrounded them, brandishing various parts of former Hawks. Corkus' head was between the jaws of a succubus, Judeau resembled a human pincushion, and the sight of severed heads impaled upon teeth and claws looked down on them, the fear forever etched onto the faces of the dead.

"They all…" Harry looked ready to pass out.

Guts grinded his teeth and snarled. "Damn you all!" And they both spotted it. Near the base of the towering fist, a group of apostles were gathered. Suspended above them, completely naked, was Casca. Tendrils bound her arms and worked on moving her legs apart, lowering her closer and closer to a long, sharp point of an apostles horn. And they both snapped.

"RRAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHH!" Guts yelled conveyed all of his frustration, his desperation, and an almighty unyielding rage, his blinding fury taking complete control over all of his senses. He cared not what happened to him, all that mattered was reaching her, reaching Casca.

He brandished Gaston's sword that would make even Zodd proud, as he hacked and slashed, cutting his way through any and all apostles that dared stand in his way. He was completely covered in blood by this point, but he kept pushing through. Miraculously, Harry seemed to find a renewed vigor as well for he was right on Guts' heels the entire time. His elf sword seemed to glow a bright fiery blue, to symbolize a fire burning inside of him. They were close now.

Guts found himself unable to move. He moved his feet, but something had got a hold of him. His left forearm was caught between the mighty jaws of an apostle. Harry noticed this and made a move to come and help him. "Guts-,"

"Get her!" Guts yelled at him, he began to stab his sword repeatedly against the strong steel-like jaws of the monster holding him in place. As long as he could get Casca, that was all that mattered.

Harry quickly picked up his pace, he was just a few feet away. He swung that sword of his, and a light seemed to ripple off the blade, striking the demon that suspended Casca. Getting ready to simply cut the creature down, Harry was stopped short when a winged apostle swooped down and tackled him. It's dagger-like talons sinking into the boy's leg, pinning him down.

Whatever the apostles were going to do next, they stopped short of. It was like a resonating beat could be heard that drew all attention to the giant clenched fist, which now had rivers of blood running up its length to resemble veins. Slowly, the fingers began to open to reveal a dark form crouched in the palm of the hand.

The demons instantly bowed their heads and began to chant as one. "Our prince. Our fifth blessed prince. Void, Slan, Ubik, Conrad, and now, the Wings of Darkness. Femto." Bat-like wings were spread, and it flew down from the palm, straight down to where the three of them were trapped. The wings made no noise as they beat against the air, silent as the dead of night.

Talon feet landed just in front of Guts and Harry and the new figure raised its head. It looked just as Griffith's hawk helm had, but now totally black along with the rest of its body. The leathery wings folded themselves to now act as a cape, but their attention was what lat behind that helmed head. Through the mouth and eyeholes, the pale flesh was visible, even paled than Griffith's had been. But where there should have been striking blue eyes-there was malicious looking red ones with slits for pupils.

Femto regarded the both of them for a moment and he moved his arm out to the side, an unspoken command for the apostle holding Casca to lower her right there. When she was within his reach, he cupped her chin. Then, his hand began to roam her body, trailing up her thigh to squeeze at her breast. His red eyes were focused solely on Guts.

Casca's eyes began to flutter open. "…Gri-ffith?" She got a look at the one touching her, and she seemed to know that this was not the Griffith she had known. His hand moved down, straight to between her legs. "…no."

Harry found the strength to swing his sword at what was transpiring before their eyes, and a jet of light seemed to spring from his blade like instinct. It was on a straight path for Femto, but all the demon prince had to do was turn his head and the light seemed to fizzle out and die. "Stop it!" Harry yelled at him. "Stop it!"

Guts continued to jab the sword against the jaws of the demon holding him in place until it broke, leaving only a bit of rough, jagged metal as his only means of escape. Casca continued to writhe before him, and Guts knew what he had to do. Taking the bit of the jagged sword, Guts stabbed it down onto his own arm, just below the elbow.

The Godhand watched from above. Slan seemed amused by Guts' efforts. Again and again, Guts stabbed into his own flesh, cutting through his skin, muscle, and bone. Intense pain like never before overloaded his senses, but he kept telling himself to block it out. Just block all of the pain out. His body tore away from the ruined remains of his left forearm.

Guts' face contorted, resembling a snarling, rabid dog with a thirst for blood. "GRIFFFFFIITTHHHH!" Guts roared as he rushed the new Godhand with a bleeding stump and a broken, jagged sword.

He didn't get far. Two winged harpies, similar to the one pinning Harry, swooped down and tackled him. A clawed hand grabbed a hold of his head, forcing it into a position where it could witness this event. Casca began to cry. "Don't look!" She pleaded.

Harry continued to struggle as well, the light flying from his sword was becoming less and less. "Stop… you were… our… friend. Stop…"

Guts cried as well, his tears a mixture of the feeling of helplessness, and pure unadulterated hatred for this man that he had once held in such high regard. How could he ever have wanted to be compared to a man-no, a monster like that? He began to see red in his right field of vision and realized that the demon's claw had pierced his eye.

"GHAAAHHHHHHH!" Guts let out one more yell, and the strength began to leave him. Casca's eyes were rolling to the back of her head, and she fell to the face covered ground, just out of his reach.

The apostles laughed at the sight of it all. "Hehekuheku!" And then they stopped. All eyes were now on the blackened sun above them. It was beginning to crack.

From it burst the Skull Knight. His horse jumped from the shattering eclipse and made a beeline straight for Void. Skull Knight stabbed at the Godhand, but a portal materialized in front of Void, and another behind Skull Knight, where his sword point exited. He blocked his own strike with his shield and fixed Void's sewed eyes with his glowing sockets.

Skull Knight made no other move to attack that Godhand member, but his glare conveyed the entire message that needed to be sent. He turned his attention below where the newly born Femto was.

As soon as his horse touched the ground, Femto clenched his fingers and a multitude of demons collided where he had landed. They began to congregate into a single formation, but he cut them all down, his sword practically a blur the way it moved.

Hurriedly, he cut the apostles holding Guts and Harry and picked them up on his horse, along with Casca. The eyes of Femto were on them, and his horse carried them back up, up to the shattered eclipse, and back to the land of the living. The Age of Darkness was about to begin.

Rickert watched as the whirlwind began to die down. Soon it would be gone completely. Zodd stood by, picking up his severed arm and reattaching it with ease. He was a true monster, but to think that the Skull Knight had been able to wound him like that-what did that say about his skills?

Speaking of which, emerging from the whirlwind, was the Skull Knight. Three other bodies were thrown across his saddle, and he handed them down to Rickert. "Their wounds are in need of attending. Hurry!"

Rickert nodded his head. "Y-yes sir!" Zodd approached them.

He snarled down at them. "Don't think that battle settled anything."

"Of course not," Skull Knight replied, "Immortal One. But perhaps consider delaying our next battle."

Zodd, surprisingly nodded. He caught sight of the three that had been rescued. "They survived? And that boy with the scar, I thought him already claimed."

"Perhaps this is a sign that that proves causality wrong then," Skull Knight retorted. And Zodd laughed.

"You should leave. Once this gate vanishes, they'll all be pouring out."

Skull Knight picked up Rickert and the three unconscious bodies and rode off. Zodd's eyes never left their retreating forms. "They survived. How interesting. Now show me; show me how you will all struggle. You are the branded."

The whirlwind had finally vanished, and Charlotte insisted that they ride for where it touched down. Anna, still as hesitant as ever, reluctantly agreed. The danger was past, but a growing sense of unease lingered within both of their senses.

"We're almost there!" Charlotte shouted to Anna, who was lagging behind a bit. "It's just over this hill!" the sight that greeted them was not a pleasant one. It was instead one that would haunt both girls dreams for years to come. It was a lake, a lake of blood.

Charlotte fell from her horse, and Anna loudly retched from the sight of it. The Band of the Hawk, how could this have happened? The result of this was by no twister, something had torn them apart, ripped and clawed to eviscerate them. But what? What had become of that boy Harry, of the sole woman Casca, of the swordsman Guts, of Griffith?

Horses were approaching. "Your Highness!" Anna yelled as the riders came over the hill. They held the banner of a chain design, the banner of the Holy Iron Chain Knights, and their leader looked to be a young teenage girl with golden blonde hair and sapphire eyes. They noticed her and Anna.

"Vice commander Azan, please help the princess back up onto her horse." The girl ordered a squat man with a rather unique facial hair. Charlotte made no protest, her attention, much like the new girl's was focused on the lake of blood.

A young blonde man approached the leader of these knights. "A lake of blood, just as the scriptures from the Holy See predicted."

"We'll inform them of this no doubt," she replied. "For now, we'll see the princess back to safety at Windham. Her father has been most worried."

It was as if the world had come crashing down around her. It was all over. The Band of the Hawk, her freedom, everything.

There was light. It was faint, and he could only see out of his left eye. He opened it with a jolt, sitting upright in the cot that had been constructed for him. He faintly recognized this place, he was in a mine of sorts. "Guts!" A child's voice called his name. He turned his head to see Rickert and Erica, the daughter of Godo the smith. They each held a bucket of water.

He was in Godo's mine.

Rickert heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness you're awake. It's been five days and we didn't know if you-," Guts gripped him by the shoulder.

"Casca. Where is Casca?"

Rickert's face fell. "Harry's watching her."

"He made it too?"

"Yeah, his leg is…you should lie down. Let us tend to you." Guts ignored the advice and headed to the sound of an underground waterfall. Harry was sitting in a chair, his leg in a cast as he looked out at the woman who was letting the water fall over her. She was wearing a shirt, but she would catch a cold if she stayed in there any longer.

"Harry?" Guts asked.

"I'm fine." He didn't sound fine. "You shouldn't go in after her."

"What are you talking about?" Guts asked as he waded his way through the shallow pool towards Casca. She had made it. She was safe. He reached out a hand to touch her. "Casca…"

She saw him, and she recoiled from his touch and retreated further into the pool. "Casca…what're you-?" He reached out again, and she nearly bit his thumb off. There was a feral look in her eyes, one that only a frightened animal could possess.

Casca began eliciting noises that sound like things a baby would make. "Ghaa! Nghh!" Guts stared at her in shock. Erica hopped in and got close to Casca, who seemed to calm in the young girls presence.

"Shame on you, Guts!" Erica lightly scolded. "Scaring poor Casca like that wasn't nice."

"She doesn't remember, Guts," Rickert joined them. "Everything that happened, you, me, Harry; she just doesn't remember. She's been acting like that since she woke up three days ago."

"No." Guts shook his head. "That's wrong." A look at Casca smiling as she splashed around with Erica only drove that nail further into him. "It can't be."

"Bwhaa! Bwhaaa!" Casca laughed like a baby when Erica let her out of the pool to dry her hair off.

He left. He walked up the path to the outside world, threw the door opened and began to sprint. It was over. It was all over. They were all dead, all of them. The only one's remaining were himself, Harry and Rickert, and Casca.

Casca.

Their faces all seemed to flash before his eye. Judeau, smiling that knowing smile off his. Pippin standing tall and strong. Even Corkus, with a sneer plastered on his face.

The farther and farther he ran, the more pain he felt, the more the anger built up inside of him, the more longing festered. He ran and ran; he would run until he could run no more. It had taken him so long, but he finally realized what his dream had been.

Back inside the cave, Harry watched as Casca got finished being dried by Erica. With his leg the way it was now, he could not move on his own without the use of a cane or walking stick. It was the price he had paid for trying to save her, and he would gladly cut his leg off it meant being able to go back in time to stop it all from happening.

Even with his magic acting up like it did back in the Eclipse, it still had not been enough. He had been useless, to Guts, to Casca, to everyone. Erica led Casca over to where he sat. "Do you want to entertain Casca?" She asked. "She's calmed down enough now."

Harry nodded, and the young girl left the two of them alone. "Casca?" Harry asked. She was too busy gnawing on her towel. He snatched it away from her, and she pouted, just like a child. "You really don't remember, so you?" She made no response. He hung his head in disappointment.

And he felt a hand be placed on top of his head, slowly rubbing circles in his hair in a calming sort of gesture. It reminded him of something the old Casca would do. He lifted his head to see her staring at his face, almost like she recognized him. "Casca?"

She smiled, and flicked him on his nose and then began to laugh like a child. "Huhuhuha!"

Harry hung his head once more and felt the tears mark their path down his face. It was all because of him. He had done this to her. A good person can do a bad thing, and still be a good person. As long as they acknowledge what they've done is wrong, and it wasn't easy for them to do, then they're still a good person.

Those words, Judeau had said that to him when they had first met, right after he had killed his first man. Had it been easy for Griffith to sacrifice them like he had done? Maybe not, the Hawks had helped him along the way for so long; it couldn't have been an easy decision to make. But he had made it all the same. And Harry hated him for it.

The moon was full, Guts lay on his back, staring up at it as it cast its light down on him. Even through the rain, the moonlight was bright. "You have run a long way." He recognized that voice. He sat up to see the Skull Knight looking down from his horse at him. He tossed a sword at Guts' feet, Harry's sword. "Tell your friend not to drop that. But for now, you'll need it."

Before Guts could ask what he meant, a prickling in his neck occurred. He brought a finger up to where he had been branded to discover that it was bleeding. From the ground the fallen rain began to take shapes of ghosts, almost transparent because they were made of water, but their glowing eyes let him know that they held malicious intent.

"You have been branded, an offering to the damned. Your body exists in this physical plain, and the astral world. Your brand acts like a beacon for lost souls. They will try and possess you, kill you and take your body. Will you fight them?"

Guts snarled. "Shut the fuck up, you bonehead!" He used Harry's sword to strike a spirit. It cut through like butter. "If I get hit, I will hit back!" He slashed at more and more spirits. "That is my declaration of war!" A spirit burst from his strike. "This is my new dream!"

He readied himself for another one to charge at him, but the spirits froze, their attention was directed somewhere else, and they took off flying through the night. "They sense others with the same brand."

Guts' blood ran cold. "Harry…Casca… Take me back! I've got to go back!"

Skull Knight looked down at him, and with little effort pulled him up onto the saddle. "This is the second time I've carried you, Struggler." They rode off through the night.

A/N: That's the end of this chapter. It seemed fitting to upload this on Halloween, and I know that this sticks mainly to the manga material, but next chapter will start to differ. And if anyone was curious, I did use the name Femto after the birth instead of Griffith, becasue I believe them to be two different characters. Femto just being the incarnation of all the negative emotions of Griffith. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

The Skull Knight's steed rode much faster than any horse alive. Its skeletal, but strong legs easily carried both of its occupants with no sign of strain. Guts knew that he had ran a great distance, it had been hours of running, but the horse seemed to leap entire miles as it traversed the terrain he had previously. Before Guts knew it, they were whizzing by Godo's hut and nearing a cliff.

"They are here," Skull Knight informed as he reined his horse to a stop. Guts wasted no time jumping off and running to where the spirits circled two figures, each had a thin trail of blood running from where the Godhand's brand had struck them.

With Guts in possession of Harry's sword, the boy had armed himself with a standard sword that must have been lying around Godo's workshop. He was trying to keep the circling spirits from reaching Casca, but with his leg still in a cast, his movement was severely limited, making his strikes fall short of their targets. But, any that happened to get close to Casca seemed to sense something about her, something that kept them from trying to fully possess her body.

Guts wasted little time in rushing over to them, cutting a few spirits as he went. "Casca!" he yelled as she suddenly fell to her knees, clutching her stomach. The spirits backed off and took to circling the three of them like watery buzzards looking to swoop down any moment to deliver the kill.

"What's wrong with her?" Harry asked, finally able to stop trying to ward off the spirits. "She wasn't like this a few moments ago. She had wandered out of the cave, so I followed." Even with the state his leg was in, he had followed.

"She should not have left that cave." Skull Knight spoke with conviction. "She would have been much safer if she had."

"Meaning?" Guts demanded. Casca had gone through enough, if there was something he could do for her, anything, he would.

Skull Knight pointed a bony finger at the brand of Guts' neck. Those brands, they act as beacons. I have told you as much, as long as you have them, as long as the being who administered the brand exists, you will never know rest, and you will never know peace. Every day when the sun sets, they will come, never to relent. That cave owned by that blacksmith, it was once inhabited by elves. Their presence still lingers, masking the beacon of the brand. It is among one of the few safe havens for you three."

"Then we have to get her back," Guts was determined. "Harry, grab her arm, and let's move her."

"That would be unwise," Skull Knight advised. "Wait until it is over."

"Until what's over?" they both asked. The answer was provided by the sight of blood beginning to drip from between Casca's legs, a look of sheer discomfort on her face. She grabbed at and tore out a few strands of grass, and she began to scream.

"Aaaaghhhhahhhahh!" something fell on the ground from between her legs. It was small and looked to be a mass of circular lumps all melded together. It lacked any real limbs, but there was a bulbous head with a lipless mouth and a single bulging eye. There was no mistaking that it looked to be some sort of underdeveloped fetus.

Harry took a step back, revolted by the sight of what he had just witnessed. Guts stared on in shock at the fetus as its one bulging eye looked him dead in his now single one as well. He turned to the Skull Knight, demanding an answer. "What the hell is this?"

"She was with child during the Eclipse. Her encounter with the Godhand's newest member corrupted it. What you see before you is a hybrid of human and demon." Skull Knight sounded almost empathetic.

"She was with child," Guts repeated. The memory of the night they had shared together came floating back to him, they had consummated the night before they sent out to rescue Griffith. Casca had been carrying his child. Had she known? He didn't know how long it took for women to figure out they were pregnant, and she hadn't said anything to him about it. Maybe she had been waiting to tell him once all the excitement had died down. Guts might never know that answer.

But huddled in the grass right now was all that was left of their child. A grotesque blob that resembled no baby, not a human one at least. "Oouu. Ouhhh."

"What's it doing?" Harry asked, not taking his eyes off of the "child."

"All newborns yearn for their parents," informed Skull Knight. "Even those of demonic nature."

Casca looked down at what she had just birthed, and she smiled. She made a move to pick it up, but Guts was faster. With his one remaining hand, he held it up to his face, examining it. Up close it was even more horrendous to look at. It was soft and slimy at his touch, and the fact that its "skin" looked to be made of blood did nothing to sooth its appearance. Was this really his and Casca's child? It looked nothing like either of them. But the eye; the eye was the same shade of brawn as his-no!

"If you value your life, you will kill it," Skull Knight looked down at him. "It will bring you nothing but misfortune if you do not."

Almost subconsciously, his fingers began to clench around the small form. It would be so easy to just kill it right now. The thing began to squirm and fidget in his grasp. All he had to do was squeeze just a little tighter…

Casca screamed and she bit Guts' thumb. She kept sinking her teeth into his flesh until he finally let go, relinquishing his hold of the thing over to her. She held it not as a monster in the making, but as any mother would hold a child. Cooing like a mother bird to her chick, Casca moved the thing to where the brand had struck her on her collarbone almost to let the thing drink her blood that was trailing from it like milk.

"Guts…I can-I can do it. If you want?" Harry offered. His face was nearly as green as his eyes, but he didn't look like he was comfortable with Guts having to face the prospect of killing what was the closest thing to his and Casca's child. "Just hold her back and I'll…" he left the rest be unspoken.

Guts made no move to subdue Casca, who seemed very content to just hold the thing in her arms like a loving mother. Time passed, and Guts just stared at her. He hated what she held in her arms, but he would not deprive her of the love she was feeling. That unconditional love for the thing-their child was about one of the only things that would remain of the woman she once was. It would be the only one he would leave alive

The sun broke through the cloud layer, and the spirits who had been circling them like hungry vultures suddenly began to disappear, like they had never existed. The same held true for the thing Casca kept a protective holdover. It began to grow transparent as the sun's rays began to shine, and the thing faded from their eyes. Casca, not understanding where the thing had gone, began to wail, crying for it to return to her.

"That was unwise," Skull Knight told him. "That child will be your undoing."

"So you say," Guts said dismissively. "But I don't plan on dying. Not until I kill him." He could be put through the worst kind s of torture, but he would not falter. His declaration of war had been made.

The Skull Knight had vanished as mysteriously as he had shown up after the spirits had faded in the rising sun. Casca, as much as it pained Harry to see, had been constricted to staying in Godo's cave under lock and key. With her mind the way it was now, it would be unsafe if she wandered out after the sun had set. It would be her haven; and her prison.

A few more days had passed since that fateful day, and Godo had done what he could to assist the surviving members of the Hawks. "Take that cast off, lad," Godo ordered Harry once he had led the residents of his home, sans Casca to his storage shed. Doing as he was told, Harry took the wrapping off his mangled right leg. Godo pulled up a chair and stool for him. Lifting his leg into position, Godo came over carrying a brave of some kind.

The blacksmith rolled up Harry's pant leg, strapping the brace into place. "Try moving it." He did, and it elicited a slight creak. "Needs some oil on it." Godo scratched at his scraggly white beard. "But it'll keep you standing; along with this." Godo handed him a walking stick of sorts, the wood was a fresh polish and felt heavier than it looked. "Pull the top up."

It was like a sword unsheathed, Harry now held a two-foot blade, the rest of the walking stick served to conceal the weapon. That wasn't the end of it though; Harry was presented with his sword once more, looking better than it had before. "Thank you."

"Thank your friend," Godo pointed a thumb over to Rickert. "He helped me design the both of 'em."

Rickert looked a bit sheepish. "I didn't imagine you'd let the injury stop you. Guts either."

"Yeah, show him what you have, papa!" Erica eagerly bounded over to a tarp-covered table. Godo patted her head and threw the tarp off. Underneath was an assortment of gear.

"I took your measurements when you were asleep, took some time to make adjustments of a prosthetic arm." Godo strapped the metal arm to the base of his elbow where Guts had severed his in an attempt to save Casca. It ended where his real arm would have. "The palm of that hand is made with a metal that sticks to others so you can grip a sword. I know you fancy a two-handed one." He pulled the wrist of down to show that the arm had a built-in secret barrel and stuffed a fist-sized metal ball inside, closing the wrist back in place. The insides filled with flammable powder, pull the string on the top and brace yourself."

"You've been busy," Guts admired his new arm.

"That isn't all," Rickert and Erica carried over a crossbow and bolts. "This crossbow can be mounted onto your arm, crack its lever and it'll fire as fast as you can turn it."

"This'll come in handy," Guts remarked. "What about a sword?"

Godo spread his arms, gesturing to all the swords lining the walls. "You should know by now." But Guts' attention was drawn to a large shape also covered by a tarp leaning against a wall.

"That one?"

Godo scoffed. "Didn't I tell you the story the day you brought the boy for his sword? That sword is meaningless if you can even call it a sword. No one can even lift it."

Guts went up to it anyway and cast the tarp covering aside. Godo was right about one thing; it was far too big to be called a sword. Too big, too thick, too heavy and too rough. It was more like a large slab of iron.

Erica trotted up to where Guts stood to admire the weapon. "That's Dragonslayer."

"That's a waste of my time, is what it is," Godo scoffed. "You might be strong, but even you can't-," Guts had grabbed the hilt of Dragonslayer, and with a grunt and a heave, lifted the massive blade.

Harry wasn't too surprised. With knowing how Guts had trained, he was always looking for bigger, heavier blades to work with. While some of his previous swords had broken in the past, this one looked like it would last for all eternity. From the way Guts was eyeing the blade, he was thinking something along those lines as well.

"It's perfect for what I need, Godo. What do you want for it?"

Godo still looked a bit perplexed that anyone had been able to lift it. "He's really doing it, papa!" Erica was happy to witness the wielding of the sword.

"That he is, Erica," Godo regained his gruff composure. "Take it with you. Put it to use; you're probably the only one who can. Rickert staying to help me in the forge is more than I could ask in my old age."

Rickert looked to Guts confused. "Wait, you're leaving?"

Guts set Dragonslayer down. "Yeah, Rickert. I'm leaving. There are things that I need to take care of."

The boy looked like he wanted to say something, but just settled with, "You'll be back, right?"

"One day." Was Guts' only response.

"So will I," Harry said. Rickert appeared more shocked by this than Guts'.

"You too?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah."

Everything Rickert was going to say to Guts, he said instead to Harry. "But what about Casca? What about all of us? We're the last of the Hawks, doesn't it make sense to stay together?"

"Casca has you and Erica," Harry pointed out. She seemed to have taken a liking to Erica, the two had been playing a child's game the other day which Casca had enjoyed. "And I'll be back one day too." Once he learned to control the magic of course.

Rickert didn't seem too convinced. "Guts was prepared to walk out on us once before; you brought him back. I would never have thought that you'd end up leaving too." Harry knew that he meant well, but he had not been there. He had not seen the people he had called friends be torn apart by those savage monstrosities. Neither Harry or Guts told Rickert what had happened during the Eclipse, just that they were the only ones who were left. It had little to do with them believing Rickert couldn't handle it, but more to do with the fact that he had been absent. He would remember the fallen as they had been, preserving their memories in the best way that he could.

"Let it be, Rickert," Godo lightly scolded. "Do you not see the passion in their eyes? I see it. I've seen it. Men always get that look in their eyes when they believe in something greater than themselves. Every time I've seen it, I see that light in the sparks of my forge. They burn as hot as any fire and can only be cooled over time." The way Godo spoke, it sounded almost like guts when he had wanted to leave the Hawks. Was Godo perhaps encouraging them to chase after their goals because he could only see the future that presented itself in the form of his forge? it was a weird thought to think about, and it made Harry see the aged blacksmith in a new light. Even with no grand dream, Godo still managed to live a content life.

Harry looked his friend in the eye. "I'll come back. I promise."

Erica rushed over to him, extending her pinkie finger to him. "Promise?"

He felt a small work its way onto his face and he took her pinkie with his own. "Promise."

The next day Harry said his farewell to Casca in Godo's cave. She had just finished playing a game of peek-a-boo with Erica, laughing and clapping all the while. "We're leaving today. I know that you probably don't understand what I'm saying, but we'll both be back one day. Guts is going to hunt them down, the ones who did this to you, who killed our friends. And me-I'm going to go look for that witch. I'll find a way to help you, I won't stop until I do."

Casca, of course, didn't seem to understand a word of what he just said. She was content to just sit there and ruffle her hair. Harry looked over to where Guts stood, leaning against the door to exit the cave. He hadn't come to say a goodbye, but the look in his eye seemed to convey all the words that he would never speak.

The three residents of the small homestead saw them off as the two set off that day. "Take care!" Erica shouted after them.

"We'll be waiting for you!" Rickert yelled out. "We'll keep Casca safe!"

Godo was little more than a whisper. "Try not to get yourselves killed out there. The world's changing."

They walked in silence for a while, neither saying a word. Before they had left, they had equipped some new clothing for their travels. Harry had settled for a grey cloak, green tunic, and dark breeches. Guts outfit consisted of all black. Black cloak, black armor, black breeches, and boots. His fight lied in the shadows; he would blend in much better this way. Harry did not know if the witch he sought would look anything like how he would perceive them to look, so he wanted to keep a neutral appearance.

"Do you really think you'll find them?" the silence was broken by Guts.

"Maybe," Harry was unsure himself, but he owed it to Casca to try. "They're just rumors, but it's all I have to go on."

He nodded.

"And you?" Harry asked. "How do you plan on finding them?"

"By tracking down their servants. If I find those apostles, they'll tell me how I can find them. How I can find him."

They walked the rest of the path in silence. Stopping only once they reached a fork in the road. Between the forks was a wooden post pointing the directions of each path. To the right would take the road back towards Windham, the left to a local village. Harry looked to the right, and Guts to the left.

"Well, I guess this is where we part ways," Harry said feeling a bit uncomfortable at the prospect of departing for an unknown amount of time, but it had to be done.

"It is," Guts affirmed.

Without thinking about it, Harry extended his hand to Guts. "Good luck on your journey then."

It took a moment, but Guts, at last, reached out and took Harry's hand in his larger one. "You too."

And they both departed down their own path. The young warlock going one way, and the Black Swordsman the other. But even as they walked different paths, the sun still set bringing with it the spirits of the damned who clamored for both of their lives as the brands on their necks bled, acting like the beacons they were. Miles separated the pair of them, but that night was filled with the sounds of steel clashing; a sleepless night for the both of them. It was to be the first of many for the aspiring warlock, and the Black Swordsman both.

A/N: That's it for this chapter. Both Harry and Guts go their separate ways to fulfill their own desires. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

He was being followed, that much was certain. The sounds of an extra pair of boots squashing their way through the muddy path were discernible enough, even with the falling rain. This had been going on for about the last five minutes or so. If it was a fight that they were looking for he wasn't going to object. Last night had been a fight for survival against possessed corpses, this would be no different. It was just another enemy to defeat.

He stopped walking, and the one following stopped as well. With his hood covering his head, he craned his neck just enough to get a look at the one who had been tailing him. It was a squat man; bald and wearing only a pair of breeches that were unbefitting of the current weather. The man didn't seem to mind however as he had an ever-present grin on his face.

The man pointed a knobby finger at him. "Put your hood down. I want to see it with my own eyes."

Reaching up, he humored the request and rain now pattered on his black hair. The brand on the side of his neck was trailing a thin line of blood as if it had reacted to this man's presence being near. "Any other requests, stranger?"

The man shook his head. "Only to express regret." His eyes began to shine with a yellowish light and his voice seemed to be getting lower with every spoken syllable. "Regret of having missed the Great Eclipse!"

His appearance began to change. Where once there stood a short man, there was now a hulking behemoth that stood over seven feet in height. The man's grinning face was still present but was now at the top of his head. Sprouting where his face had been was a second pair of jaws with a pair of boar-like tusks, and the lips pulled into a maniacal grin even more unsettling than he had on before. An apostle.

"Ah. This is so much better. My legs are so stumpy in my human form." He now pointed at him with a large meaty finger. "It seems fate is on my side. For me to stumble across someone bearing a brand… my angels are truly smiling down at me!"

"I take it you're planning on eating me?" his voice betrayed no hint of emotion.

"That's the idea. Human flesh is scrumptious after all." The apostle tore up the muddy earth on a beeline straight for where he stood. He didn't move; this was exactly what he wanted. The sight of one of those freaks so soon after the Eclipse, it added fuel to the fire that had been burning in him ever since that fateful day, and that anger pushed him forward as well.

As the two combatants neared one another, the apostle clawed his hands, ready to grab hold of him. But the larger blade in Guts' grasp gave him the advantage. Dragonslayer. The sword had performed exceptionally well last night as it tore through multiple corpses at once. The sheer size, length, and width of the blade were unlike any other of its make. Godo could call it a waste all he wanted, but this sword was made to kill dragons. But there were no dragons in Midland, so demonic apostles would make for a good substitute.

Guts let out a roar to rival the sound of thunder brewing above, his face contorted into a fierce snarl, and his one remaining eye shown with the ferocity of a mad animal. He burrowed Dragonslayer into the shoulder of the apostle, whose arms and hands were unable to reach Guts with his sword keeping it at bay. "Ahhhooooo!" the apostle howled in pain caused by Dragonslayer.

Pulling the blade free, Guts quickly changed his stance and brought Dragonslayer down to sever one of the apostle's arms. Thick, hot, dark red blood spurted out to turn the small puddles of rainwater into something much fouler. "You bastard! Do you know how long that will take to heal?!"

"No." Guts said, uncaringly. "But I know how long it'll take to kill you. Want me to count?"

Dragonslayer was a blur as it cut through the air and the apostle's stomach. A twisted mass of pink intestines fell clumped together with the mud. "One. Two." A horizontal swing saw a leg being lopped off just above the knee. "Three." He jammed Dragonslayer back into the already wounded shoulder, pinning the apostle to the ground. "Four. Five."

The twisted smile the apostle had once worn was now gone, replaced by an expression that he clearly had forgotten about for some time; fear. "Don't-!" Whatever pleas the apostle had been going to utter, had been completely cut off by the massive blade that was Dragonslayer being driven straight through his mouth, splitting his head in half. The apostle lay there, dead. The first of many that would fall victim to the Black Swordsman.

Guts pulled Dragonslayer free and put the blade back on his back. "Six."

The rain had finally relented after a night of heavy downpour. The tree branches still dripped with water down on the corpse-laden ground. It had been a night of exhaustion for Harry once the sun had set. It began with the brand on the left side of his neck prickled and bled. Not long after, several possessed corpses had risen to antagonize him. There must have been a battle site or grave pile nearby for the spirits to have reanimated them from. Whatever the case, he wasn't about to stay in the same place for much longer.

The sky above seemed to mirror what he was feeling, an overall gloomy and cloudy day with a bit of a chill in the fresh morning air. Even the woods in which he found himself seemed less open and inviting than they had been when he and Guts parted ways. In about an hour's time, he would be clear of these woods and back on the path heading towards Windham. His destination lied north of the capital, near a mountainous path.

The metal brace was hidden by his pant leg creaking a bit as he slowly picked himself up. After defeating the reanimated corpses, Harry had tried to get as much sleep as he could, which wasn't a lot, three or four hours at most. It was hard to sleep, for whenever he closed his eyes he just saw giant, benevolent faces sneering down at him; a pool of blood scattered with eviscerated bodies, all under a black sun.

His stomach rumbled, his body tired from last night's fight. Passing by a nearby bush, he picked himself a handful of blueberries to break his fast. It wasn't much, but it would hold him over until he came to the nearest town or village. He could try to get some proper food there before moving on before night fell once more. But until that happened, he continued to pick berries from nearby bushes.

But as he picked from the last bush, little alarms seemed to go off inside of his head. He ducked down, just low enough to see beyond the bush. The smoldering remains of a campfire were stomped out by a slim individual. Through the shrubbery, Harry could discern that the man wore very light clothes that would befit someone who lived in a very hot environment, completely different from the weather in Midland today. Two more pairs of feet became visible to him; these ones were much bulkier.

They took a knee before the slim one. "Master Silat, the search for Rakshas was a failure."

Silat? It hit him. That was the name of the Kushan who had raided their camp before they set out to rescue Griffith. What was he still doing in Midland? Why hadn't he gone back home to the east?

Although Harry couldn't see Silat's face, he could tell by the tone of voice he was less than pleased. "Of course. He's a slippery one, always has been. Emperor Ganiska would have recognized us greatly if we had presented him with Rakshas' head on a platter. Tell me, what of our pursuit of the rest of the Band of Hawk?" Harry tensed.

"We've heard reports, master. They say that Princess Charlotte was abducted by a few of their members and then later found by a lake of blood. By all accounts, they seem to have been wiped out."

Not all of us.

Silat's tone did not seem convinced. "Perhaps; but I doubt it. I had the liberty of exchanging blows with some of them during our brief encounter. They were strong, that one swordsman was strong."

"Master Silat, forgive me, but you often boast of your prowess in battle. Comparing yourself to them is hardly a fitting-," Harry saw Silat's leg move as fast as the wind, coming up and then down on the head of the man who spoke.

"Forgive me," Silat sneered, "but last I checked I was the one in charge of the Bakiraka. And this foolish King of Midland still believes there to be survivors out there. If we were to present that fool with the head of just one of their members, then he might be persuaded o grant us legal doctrine here in this country." They were exiles.

The man who Silat had struck was quick to beg for forgiveness and kiss his masters' feet. "I apologize for my outburst. I will never let it happen again." Silat did not strike him again.

"I know that you won't. There are too few of us left to bicker amongst ourselves."

"Except for Rakshas?"

Silat nodded. "He is the exception. Come. Pack up our gear and continue on along the road." The small pack of Kushans quickly worked to deconstruct their temporary campsite and follow after Silat, and for a minute they passed so close to the bush where Harry observed that he feared that he would be exposed. Thankfully he wasn't, and the Bakiraka continued along their path.

He waited, and waited until the soft footsteps of Silat and his gang became less and less audible before he came out of his hiding spot. He hadn't given Silat much thought after their brief encounter, more so out of everything else that had happened after than anything else. The Kushan mercenary still seemed to carry himself with an aura of superiority, boasting about his skills in battle. Harry had gotten more than adept at swordplay, but if he had been discovered, would he have been a match for the Kushan? He had a hidden blade in his walking stick that could give him the advantage, but that probably wouldn't have been enough.

Wait-what was he doing, thinking about stuff like that? It didn't matter. All that mattered to him right now was getting to his destination. If he got there, he could properly learn magic, and after that-Casca might be able to be saved.

He continued along his way through the forest until it gave way to the open road. The tree line now kept to the side instead of encircling the entire area. If Harry kept to this main road he could reach his destination possibly within a few days. And that was without the supernatural attacks that would undoubtedly happen at night.

Walking, he passed by another sign pointing in Windham's direction. Doing so, Harry couldn't help but think of what became of Princess Charlotte. Odds are that she had been apprehended after the Eclipse and returned back to the castle. He considered making the capital a pit stop to possibly bust her out but then thought better of it. With him being branded, he would have to fight to protect her life as well as his own.

A rolling cloud let loose the last minute rain, and Harry pulled his hood up; his hair was messy enough as it was. But a little rain and bad hair were looking to be the least of his troubles. The road ahead was crowded with knights.

They were in a circular formation, surrounding a few individuals. Keeping his hood up, Harry kept walking to the side of the road; these knights didn't need to be fought. As he walked he was able to see the knights were captained by three men, two of which Harry had encountered before. There was the blonde Sir Owen and the well-trimmed beard of Sir Laban. The third man, however, was a complete unknown. His face was long like a horse or a monkey, with lips too small to cover his large teeth. Instead of armor like many knights wore, he dressed more in tribal furs with a black wolf pelt that covered the top of his head.

Altogether the knights numbered close to thirty. Thirty surrounding three persons who Harry had just observed in the forest. Silat and his two muscle covered henchmen had not gotten far, and they looked none too happy about it. "Is there a problem, Noble Knights of Midland?" Silat asked his voice full of sarcasm.

Sir Laban trotted his horse forward and presented the Kushan with a sealed document. "A warrant for the arrest of any and all Bakiraka clan members."

Silat didn't bother to open it. "And what of our deal with your king to capture all remaining Hawk members?"

"His Majesty was displeased with your first failed attempt. He now has Midland's royal army pursuing that objective." Laban did not sound too enthused by the prospect.

"Then we hunt the same prize," Silat told him. "If you allow me and my subordinates to walk away free we would be most grateful. Our Emperor Ganishka might even extend his regards."

"I don't much care for your insinuations," Laban narrowed. "There doesn't need to be any trouble so long as you comply peacefully."

The man wearing the pelt let loose a chuckle that fully exposed his large animal like teeth. "Where's the fun in that, Laban? The men I brought with me haven't seen a battle in such a long time. Why not slaughter these guys?" Harry saw that the few men that he had compared to the larger formation of knights were eyeing their leader rather nervously.

Laban and Owen turned their attention to their third captain. "And there is a good reason for that, Wyald."

"We've both heard the rumors," Owen said to this Wyald. "What you and your men did to that unfortunate town; to those women."

Wyald seemed to brush their concerns away. "I suspected they were harboring Chuder spies. We were at war, remember?"

"They were still citizens of Midland," Laban's voice was laced with a dangerous undertone. Silat and his two cronies started edging away, but Laban spotted them. "Stay where you are!"

Smirking, Wyald said, "You see? Give them the opportunity and they'll escape causing who knows what sort of danger." The knights looked at him regarding the hypocrisy. "If the king really wants them alive, then he's more senile than I thought."

Laban and Owen unsheathed a bit of steel. "Careful. He is still our king, and your words are sounding treasonous." It was clear they were looking for any excuse to apprehend Wyald as well. Harry quickened his pace past the lot of them. And the brand on his neck began to prickle. Wyald, who had been smirking a second ago, now seemed on high alert; his eyes drifting to Harry's wandering from. Eyes that had slits for pupils.

He hopped down from his horse, brandishing not a sword, but a wooden club. "Hey, you!" Wyald called after him. Harry kept walking. He heard Wyald growl at being blatantly ignored. "Hey! I'm talking to you!"

The scar on his forehead began to prickle in pain as well, and a voice seemed to say, He is one of them. He needs to die. He walked a few more paces.

"Are you deaf and stupid?!" Wyald shouted. "When the leader of the Black Dog Knights talks to you, you stop and listen." Black dog Knights. The name was distantly familiar; he had heard it spoken once in a conversation between two sentries the night he snuck into the Hawk's camp. "Why don't you take off that hood? Let me see where you got branded."

Owen looked at Wyald with disdain. "Wyald, get back on your horse. Let the traveler be-,"

"-Shut up." Wyald snapped. "You and your men want to keep those filthy Kushan alive, fine. But don't you deny me this bit of fun." He finished with a scowl that seemed more animalistic than most animals could make. "Show me it. Show me your brand." His yellow slit eyes seemed to glow like a miniature inferno.

"Enough, Wyald!" Laban commanded. "We have a task before us, and that does not include harassing travelers." The Kushan tried slipping away once more. "Stay where you are!"

"Wyald!" Owen shouted.

"Show me your brand!"

"Men, keep the Kushan from escaping. Wyald! Get back on your horse!"

"Show me the brand!" His teeth were becoming longer, sharper. "I missed the Eclipse, too caught up in my own little fun."

"Wyald!"

"Wahhhhhhaahhhaahhh!"

Before all of their eyes, Wyald had begun to change. His torso was cut off midway, and now a part of a giant apish body. Snowy white fur covered his revealed apostle form, and a giant mouth was present on his apostle form's chest and an eye was situated just above that. On his shoulders, there was an eye each as well. Harry drew his sword, Sirs Laban and Owen nearly fell off their horses like some of their men had as well. Silat and his Kushan looked ready to bolt but were too paralyzed by fear to move. The few men that Wyald had brought with him seemed extremely apprehensive about this like they knew all along he was capable of becoming this.

Now fully transformed, Wyald flexed some of his giant, meaty fingers to get a feel for them. "S'been such a long time since I transformed, feels weird. But who cares? This is bound to be fun."

With little warning, Wyald slammed one of his massive ape fists down onto the ground where Harry had been, who had barely managed to roll out of the way in time. Wyald reached to grab him instead, but Harry was more prepared this time around and landed a cut across the apostles' palm. Thick, dark droplets of blood fell from the cut and instead of sneering or cursing; Wyald brought his hand up to the mouth on his torso to lick at his wound. He smiled on both his human face located where the head would have been and in the torso mouth.

Turning to address his own men, Wyald gave them a command. "You boys do what you want with those knights. I have my own little bit of fun right here. Anyone asks any questions-blame it on the Kushan." With that, the Black Dog Knights charged both Owen and Laban's group of knights; their fear of their leader greater than that of dying in battle.

With the knights otherwise preoccupied, Wyald turned his attention once again to Harry. The apostle brought both his meaty hands together in a clap motion, which would have flattened him like a pancake had he not let his legs fall and roll under the attack. With his position now lower to the ground, Harry managed to stab Wyald in his kneecap. The apostle smiled at him before kicking him back.

It was like being hit by a truck. Harry felt himself bite his own tongue as he was sent rolling back, he dropped his sword but managed to hold onto his walking stick; mud covering his cloak and clothes and by the time he stopped, the sky was a swirling mass above him. What he was able to feel was the large hand of Wyald grab him by his leg and hoist him up to level with the mouth on his torso.

"What? Is that it?" He sounded disappointed. "I thought this was going to so much more fun. Oh well. Better to have a little fun, than no fun at all." Harry saw the mouth draw closer and felt the hot, rancid breath emanate from Wyald's gaping maw. He was without his sword, but not without his walking stick. Pulling it in half, Harry unsheathed the hidden blade and jabbed it into the eye above Wyald's maw. "Yeaoooww!"

Wyald dropped him as both his hands moved to cover his danged eye. Harry took the opportunity to pick up his fallen sword, roll between Wyald's legs and cut the tendon of his left leg. His elven sword glowed a deep blue when Wyald's blood touched the blade. "You slippery little sonuva whore!" Before Wyald could turn around to grab at him once more, a metal disk came flying through the air, cutting across one of the eyes on Wyald's shoulders. The disk flew back to Silat, who caught it around his finger. Wyald scowled at him next. "Fucking Kushan!"

A spear was thrown and stuck in the back of Wald's leg. Both Harry and Wyald turned to see that Sir Laban and Sir Owen's knights had completely overwhelmed Wyald's forces, and now set their sights on the apostle. "Kill it!" Sir Laban ordered. More spears were tossed and crossbow's fired.

The assault only seemed to further enrage Wyald. The apostle picked up a knight and tore him completely in half, letting the entrails fall to the ground. He then grabbed two men and used them to beat the ground like a drummer. Their mangled corpses were tossed aside as he stomped another man underfoot, before biting another in two. At the rate he was going, all the knights would be wiped out completely.

"Hey!" Harry yelled at him. "You wanted to fight me, remember?! Come on! I'll show you the most fun you'll ever have!" He took off for the tree line to the side of the road. Fighting something like Wyald in the open would just get everyone killed.

A dark shadow passed over Harry, who almost didn't duck to the side as the projectile came crashing down. The horse that had been thrown let out a dying neigh before going limp. "Come back here!" Wyald yelled as he tossed another horse at Harry, who continued to run to the woods. With his one tendon cut and the other playing host to a spear, Wyald charged forth on his fists like an angry gorilla. Harry worked to pick up his pace, running as fast as the brace on his leg would allow him.

Spotting a nook between some exposed tree roots, Harry nosed dived for it and took shelter. The color of his cloak and the mud covering it from his fall helped him blend it into the surrounding. Why hide? The voice seemed to speak, and his forehead burned. He is wounded. Fight him. Fight him or he will kill all of them back on the road. It will be like before during the Eclipse.

The sound of wood snapping brought Harry back to reality, and he felt a gush of wind and the feeling of wood rake its way across his back, drawing blood. Wyald had arrived brandishing a tree branch fit for an apostle of his size and was swinging it around; he hadn't discovered Harry yet. "Come out, you little bastard. You promised me fun, are you really going to hide?" Wyald began to patrol the area, his back was to Harry.

How does he beat this guy? His apostle from is huge, not as big as Zodd's but still big. Stabbing at his apostle body had done little lasting damage to Wyald, with the exception of his eyes. The one part of his body that hadn't been damaged was-Harry's eyes traveled to the human torso that was in place of where the head would have been on that body. But how to reach it? Wyald swung his branch around some more, yelling profanities as he did. Watching him gave Harry an idea; a stupid idea that only Guts would follow through with.

Silently, Harry removed himself from his hiding spot and began to climb up the nearest tree. He had to be extra cautious because his metal brace creaked with each movement of his leg. When he reached a high enough branch, he shimmied along until he was above Wyald, who was growing increasingly more frustrated below.

"Come out already! This isn't fun, this is just annoying! Maybe I should go back and finish off those knights; at least they'll have the balls to die on their feet."

"Not fun enough?" Harry asked from above. As expected, Wyald looked up to where he was; and Harry let himself fall down. With his sword held in front of him, and gravity working with him, Harry drove the sword point straight through the human torso of Wyald. The apostles' face began to twitch and he coughed up blood straight into Harry's face. But he wasn't dead yet.

Wyald found the strength to buck around like a bull, trying to shake Harry and the sword free. Harry's legs tried to regain their footing on the apostle body, but with Wyald's wild jerking, that became increasingly more difficult and he was forced to hold on with his hands as tight as possible.

"Get off already!" Wyald bellowed, finally grabbing Harry and tossing him off after giving the boy a squeeze that probably broke one of his ribs. Both of them fell to the ground, injured, but still both alive.

Harry was able to get to his feet first, using his walking stick; he limped over to Wyald, who still struggled to rise. The blow Harry dealt with his exposed human half must have done more damage than he anticipated. Wyald tried to push himself back up as Harry climbed onto his back, moving up to get at his human torso once more.

"Wait. Angel…Ubik, save me…help me…" Wyald pleaded for the Godhand to appear. "There's still so much fun I haven't enjoyed."

"I know who you're talking about," Harry said, sword raised above him. "And they won't help you. That's not what they do." He stabbed his sword through the human head of Wyald, and the giant apostle went limp beneath him. Now, he was dead.

"They went through this way!" one of the knights shouted as Sir Laban and Sir Owen followed after. In all the excitement that had transpired, the knights of Midland had been slow to react to Wyald turning into…whatever monster he had become. He and that traveler had run off somewhere into the woods, and they were following the large tracks Wyald had made through the forest.

All of them had their weapons out and ready; they didn't need that thing to massacre them. "Up ahead!" Sir Owen shouted. What they discovered was not the corpse of the traveler, but the body of an old man, naked and with a sword wound through the back of his head. Upon closer look, the old man shared many of the same facial features Wyald had. Was this what Wyald looked like all along? And what of that traveler?

"Search the area!" Laban ordered. "If you find that traveler, bring him back alive for questioning." The knights affirmed his command and spread out in the search. Sir Owen was kneeling by the corpse of the old man. "What do you make of that, Owen?"

"It looks like Wyald, but far older." So, he sees the resemblance too. "The traveler did this?"

"The only one else it could have been was the Kushan, but they escaped during the chaos. Something about what Silat had said about Emperor Ganishka granting them his favor didn't sit right with him. Perhaps an envoy should be sent to Kushan lands to instill better relations. " It was hard to admit, but it very well could have been that traveler. And something about him made Laban feel he had encountered that individual somewhere before, he just couldn't put a finger on it. "When we return to the capital, we'll have to take any remaining Black Dog Knights into custody for questioning."

Owen nodded. "Yes, the men Wyald brought with him today seemed to know he could turn into that…thing. The king should be alerted at once."

"He should, but with his obsession over the Band of the Hawk, it is unlikely anything will be done about it, and this raises some very serious questions."

"Like how he was able to turn into that monster?" Owen supplied.

"Yes, that. But remember back to the war with Chuder. The Band of the Hawk encountered Nosferatu Zodd and claimed he had transformed into some kind of great demon."

Sir Owen's eyes widened. "You mean-?"

"-There might be others in Midland who can do the same."

They called her The Angel, or at least the bartender had. And with her blonde hair and pale skin, she fit the image. She would frequent the tavern on occasion, arriving by herself but always leaving with a man as an escort. She sat alone at a table, drinking not alcohol, but water. Many men clamored over each other to sit next to her or offering to buy her a drink.

One man made little effort to hide his intentions and resorted to making rather lewd comments to her. She had the decency to look abolished by his remarks, and that was when he found his face being slammed down on the table. The one who had done the smashing looked down at him with a fierce glare in his single brown eye.

"Ow! I dink you broke muh nothse!" he said with a few teeth missing. The woman looked up at her apparent rescuer.

"Thank you." She told him, he nodded.

"This place is getting a bit crowded," he observed. "Want to leave?"

She looked at the man writhing in pain on the floor. "Yes."

They left the tavern behind and walked out to the setting sun. "You know, I don't think a simple thank you can convey my gratitude."

"What did you have in mind?" he kept his voice as even as he could.

"Well… my profession. I'm a-,"

"-Whore." She nodded. "Alright, I get what you're implying."

"It wouldn't cost you," she told him. "You did save me back there. Are you staying at the inn?"

"No. I set up camp in the woods outside the town. We can go there. Is that a problem?"

She smiled. "No, no problem."

He started a fire to warm them, and she began to undress. She had been eying Dragonslayer ever since the bar, so he took that and the rest of his gear off and rested them against a tree. It wouldn't do to frighten her and get her worried. She might take off because of it. "Is that a tattoo on your neck?" she observed. "Where did you get it?"

Wouldn't you like to know? "Doesn't matter," he took off the rest of his clothes, and she spread her legs for him. He initially made no move, so she wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him closer.

Her smile grew wide and then sharp as she began to change shape before Guts' eye. She had a gaping maw of razor-sharp teeth, long clawed arms which lightly pierced his back, and her legs became longer and covered with hard scales like a lizard.

"Ha! Now you're trapped!" she said in victory. Which was why her smile faltered when Guts smiled back at her, equally as cruel and malevolent.

"You're the one who's trapped, bitch!" he moved his prosthetic hand in front of her gaping mouth. Using his teeth, he pulled on a string attached to the replacement arm, the metal hand folded down and then-KABOOOOM!

Firing with such force, the built-in canon tore through her face, leaving it a more disgusting mess than what she had transformed into when becoming an apostle. It was also great enough to almost knock his shoulder out of the socket, had Guts not prepared himself for it.

With the apostle slain, Guts donned his armor and weapon once more, setting off into the night as the demonic spirits would come for him once again. They would fall just as that apostle had done, more victims for the Black Swordsman.

A/N: So the fight with Wyald happened this chapter instead of before the Eclipse, I just wanted to change the circumstances regarding the fight as opposed to just leaving it out. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

The town's name was Koka. A once reputable town, Koka was not known for any grand history of Midland, nor was it a target during the Midland-Chuder War. To many, Koka was just an above average town with hardly any relevance. That was until one got a look at the town itself. Prison carriages full of women and children came and went on a set schedule like the herding of cattle.

Not only that, gangs of thugs seemed to have taken a residence in and around Koka, with the local guards doing nothing to stop the vagabonds and their deeds. Something odd was at play, that much was obvious to all who lived and feared for their lives inside of Koka, and to the Black Swordsman who came upon the town. He had heard rumors of a man who supposedly led these gangs of men, although no one seemed to know what he looked like. Those who did-they kept quiet.

If such a man did exist, nearly every resident of Koka was content to never see or hear from him in their lives. The Black Swordsman was different. He went to the nearest tavern, not for a drink, but to discern any information on this mysterious leader as he could.

The tavern was a lively enough place this time of the day, many patrons sat at tables along the side of the bar area, giving the group of three men a wide berth as they toyed with looked to be a small creature. It was bluish in color and had a set of bug-like wings on its back. A small rope had been tied around its neck to hold it confined as the three men threw daggers at it.

A closer look and it was clear that this was no bug they were tormenting; it was an elf. A pint-sized impish thing with human characteristics and a childish voice when he tried to sound intimidating to his tormentors.

"Quit yer squirming," one of the thugs said to the elf. "How am I suppose to hit you?" he asked in a slur.

"You're not supposed to!" the elf yelled in its high voice.

One bar patron near the door shook his head at the display. "Not even the mayor can stand against the men of Koka Castle."

The Black Swordsman went over to the bartender and fished out a gold coin, flicking it across the counter. "I'm just going to mess your place up a little." He didn't pay the concerned look any mind as he reached to one of the weapons strapped on his back. His fingers snapped the crossbow into place on his metal arm.

"Bring it on, fathead!" the elf yelled at his tormentor. "Why don't you untie me?! I'll show you I'm a master at Elf-Dimension Style!" a large knife was slammed down right in front of the elf, shutting him up.

"Get ready to eat those words of yours you-," a crossbow bolt flew across the bar, sinking into his temple and pinning his head against a wooden beam. He was dead, but for a second or two, his mouth opened and closed like a fish gasping for water.

"Bastard!" one of the men growled. "You have any idea who you're dealing with?" some men drew their swords, but they were met with more bolts, killing them just as quickly as the first. Now there was but one.

Guts towered over the thug, like a wolf staring down its prey. The man tried to make a quick run for it out the door to safety, but a precise bolt to the bridge of his nose stopped him in his tracks. The thug instantly fell, clutching at his face at the torment that he was experiencing. A strong hand grabbed the back of his neck and slammed him against the wooden beam where his comrade was pinned through the head.

"So, you're one of the men from Koka Castle." He didn't bother phrasing it as a question. When the thug didn't answer fast enough, Guts slammed the man's face on the nearest table, breaking the nose even worse and knocking out a few teeth as well. "Hurry up and answer." His eye conveyed all the emotion his voice held as well.

The thug finally nodded. "Yes…"

"Good." The remark shocked the on looking patrons more than they were already. "Then that means that you can deliver a message to your boss for me." One of the thugs who had been hit with his barrage of bolts stood, wounded, but alive and sword in hand. "Tell him the Black Swordsman has come." The wounded thug came up behind him. "That's it."

Before the thug could bring his sword down, Guts had already drawn his. The entire tavern seemed to hold a collective breath when he moved his sword in a wide arc, bypassing the sneak attack completely. The thug didn't even seem to release a cry until it was too late and he was in two halves, each in completely different sides of the bar. Some unlucky patrons even got splotches of blood spilled into their drinks.

Guts lifted the blade with ease and strapped it back onto his back. He cast one last threatening look at the last remaining thug, who, like the rest of the bar looked on in fright. "Don't forget to tell your boss." And with that, he departed into the streets of Koka.

After his brief scuffle in the bar, Guts continued his venture through the town. He had acquired enough gold to maybe rent a room at an inn for the night before the inevitable fight that was to come. He had made an enemy of the thug's boss, and no power-hungry leader would let a slight like that go unpunished. Yes, he suspected a visit from this boss figure soon enough.

A childish voice called at him from above. It was that elf from the tavern, flying down towards him. Guts ignored the creature and kept walking. "Hey, wait!" the elf called. It was floating right next to his ear now. "Listen, if you're going to save me, then you have to stick around to be properly thanked. You have to see it through to the end."

Guts continued to tune the small elf out. "That's quite the sword you're carrying around with you. Or, would you call it a slab of iron? I've never seen a sword like that before!"

Once again, silence on Guts' end. "Oh! I haven't introduced myself. The name's Puck! Nice to meet you, Mister Swordsman!"

He continued walking down the street, noticing the fearful looks he was getting from the women and men as he passed by them in the street and their homes. His single, bestial eye keeping a look out for any other thugs.

Puck didn't seem too put off by him yet. Perhaps he figured that since he saved him, then he was a nice guy or something. "You know, I used to be part of a traveling performing troupe, but one day we got attacked by bandits and I've been locked up in some birdcage ever since. It sure is wonderful that I'm still alive, I'll tell ya!" Puck was starting to look a little put out that he hadn't made to continue the conversation. "This town has been attacked a lot recently, too. The mayor seemed to have made a deal with the head thug. In exchange for a tribute, they leave the town alone. But after your little stunt, I guess they might start attacking again."

Once again, no response from Guts. "You sure are the silent type," Puck sighed. "But if I were you, I'd get out of town. If they catch you, then you'll be cut into ribbons." He went to sit on Guts' shoulder, and as soon as he did receive a grip from Guts' hand and was tossed into the mud.

"Hey, that hurt!" Puck yelled at him, flying forward to stare him in the face. "Why the heck did you do that?! I'm just trying to be friendly!"

Guts stopped to give him the only response so far. "Don't touch me. I might squish you." His voice was low enough to convey the feeling of dread. With that out of the way, he continued on like nothing had happened.

Puck shouted at him once again, sounding angrier this time. "What's your deal?! Somebody shows you a little appreciation and you act all angry and stuck-up?"

Guts stopped in his tracks, not so much because of Puck calling him out, but more the approaching mass of town guards. Each and every one had their weapons drawn and pointed straight at him.

He cursed to himself, "Damn it."

They took him to a dark and dank cellar, confiscated his gear, and chained him by his wrists to the ceiling. There wasn't much he could do, save for listening to the sound of his blood hitting the cold stone floor. Six to eight cuts marred his bare chest.

The torturer cleaned the blood from his whip. "My, you are a stubborn one. Aren't you going to make any noise?"

"Pttew," Guts spat at the torturer's feet.

The torturer raised his whip again. "Fucker!" Before he could crack the whip, the door to the cellar opened.

"Stay your hand," he was a small, old man with a bushy, white mustache. No doubt this was the Mayor of Koka. "Enough for now."

The torturer backed off and the mayor inspected the confiscated weapons. "All these belong to this one man?"

"Indeed," the torturer nodded. "He's trying to look like a one-man-army."

The mayor took in his appearance from the tall, muscular frame, the various battle scars, and metal arm. "You're a mercenary, correct?"

Guts didn't answer.

"You're a stranger to this town," the mayor continued. "Killing those men earlier…do you know what you've done?" he was beginning to tremble. "Because of you, this town might end up destroyed!"

This time, Guts actually remarked. "Are your guards incompetent?"

The mayor shook his head, looking more and more nervous. "You do not know how awful he truly is…the leader of those men. He…It…it's terrifying. No one can comprehend. No human can kill him."

"Ah, so that's why you made a deal with him." He smirked slightly at the mayor's bemused reaction. "I saw a cartful of prisoners when I came here. Those are for him."

"You wouldn't understand; some vagabond like you-,"

"I do understand." The mayor went silent. "I know that he's a monster that eats human flesh. I know all about that."

The mayor began to sweat. "It is my duty to protect this town!"

"The people of this town, or yourself?" he could tell that he had struck a nerve. He chuckled at the gobsmacked reaction.

Nervously backing away to the exit, the mayor addressed the torturer. "Continue. Torture him as much as you like, but don't kill him. We will hand him over to Koka Castle and to the baron, alive. I'd best go to the castle and beg the baron for forgiveness." He left.

The torturer grinned as he grabbed a red, hot poker and pressed it against Guts' abdomen. He was disappointed when the Black Swordsman never made a sound.

"He calls himself, the Black Swordsman?" the Baron of Koka Castle sat alone in his dining room feasting away at the meal the head chef and prepared for him. It looked like diced ham with a nice glass of wine, but everyone in the castle knew better. Ham was more pink, not the splotched red that he ate, and wine was supposed to smell sweet not like a faint trace of iron. For these reasons and another, he was also known as the Snake Baron.

"Yes, Lord Baron." The sole survivor from the tavern reported. "He wielded a sword that was taller than him, swung it like it was nothing. He wore all black, and he had a metal arm."

The baron tucked a lock of black hair behind his ear as he poked at his dinner and took a bite. His extraordinarily sharp teeth chewed at the meat. The Black Swordsman. Could it really be?

The door to his dining room was thrown open and an attendant came with the mayor in tow. "What is it?" the Baron asked, not happy that he was being deprived of properly enjoying his meal.

"I-it has been a while, my lord," the mayor pathetically stuttered before his presence. "I have personally come to offer my apologies for what transpired earlier today. It was the act of a wandering degenerate; he is not connected to our town in any way. To compensate for the loss, I will see that you receive double the amount of gold and prisoners. Please-,"

"So troubled."

"S-sorry?"

The baron took a sip of his drink, the metallic taste just the way he liked it. His yellow, slit-pupil eyes glowed in the darkness of the room. "Gold and prisoners, I don't care about them, I never have." He poked at his dish and plopped an eyeball into his mouth, eating it whole. "All I really wish to see is humanity in its rightful place, trapped in an apocalypse, never to escape. I want to hear the sounds of bones breaking under the hooves of horses." He stood up and crossed the room, leering down at the mayor. "I don't need an excuse to do what I do. I never have."

The mayor was seized by his arms by the attendant who had brought him in. "W-what is the meaning of this? Unhand me." The Snake Baron smiled unnervingly at him. "Lord Baron! Lord Baron, please!" His cries went unheard.

The terrain was as uneven as Harry's breathing in the chill of the morning air. Last night had brought about yet another wave of possessed spirits for him to deal with, and now he was feeling utterly exhausted. For the first couple of nights he had been able to cope with the overwhelming sensation, but night after night of the activity was starting to take its toll on him. He checked his reflection in the water of a clear stream and found his black hair to be messier than ever, and heavy bags under his eyes.

But he was close, or at least he thought that he was. All he had done was follow the signs along the main roads of Midland, leading him up north to where a mountain range and a prominent ravine were situated. Apart from the apostle, Wyald, Harry hadn't come across another of his kind, but that didn't mean the road was without danger.

Bandits and other vagabonds lurked to the side, ready to strike at unsuspecting travelers, and he had almost fell victim to one of their traps, had it not been from a tip from a resident of a town he passed by. The girl who had tipped him off was probably a bit younger than himself, maybe by a year or so, but she had a look in her eyes like she knew what would happen.

"You're going to Enoch, right." She hadn't said as a question. "Then you should take the side road through the woods, bandits stick close to the main road here."

"What makes you think that's where I'm going?" he had asked, she seemed innocent, and the brand on his neck wasn't hurting at all. For all he knew, she could be telling him that to lead him to where the bandits actually were.

"I don't know," she admitted as much. "You just have a look about you, I guess. I can just sort of tell. Like you're wondering if what I told you about the bandits is true." Her smile had been as innocent as she looked. "The only thing that would be stolen from you if you take the way I said would be an extra hour of your time walking. Can I see that stick of yours?"

He responded with an absolute, "No." However, she hadn't seemed that phased.

"Oh, well. Maybe I can see the new one when you get it."

"What new one?"

"No idea, you tell me. It's going to be yours after all."

She had seriously begun to weird him out, but she hadn't made any threatening moves or gestures. A woman's voice then called to the girl. "Sonia!"

She waved over to who Harry assumed to be her mother. "Well, that's my mama. I'll see you sometime. Maybe you can show me a trick or two, I'd love to see it."

He had no idea what to make of that girl except for that she was a bit loony. But, he didn't get the feeling that she had been lying to him either, and the path through the woods proved to be the safer one, but at the cost of time. If anything, he had the distinct impression she knew all about him from just one look.

After walking all the next day, his legs were just about ready to give out, when he found himself outside of a wheat field; a clear signal that a town or farm was close by. If luck was on his side, which he doubted it was, he might be able to get a few hours of sleep now before the sunset and the spirits emerged. A woman's cry sounded from somewhere within the field of crop. Luck must really hate him.

He took off into the field, using his sword and walking stick to push the stalks aside. The woman cried again. Picking up his pace, Harry rushed through the stalks like the wind, finally coming upon the sight. There was a young blonde woman and a brown-haired man who was-,

"Ted!" she yelled. "Stop tickling me! We're not kids anymore."

The young man, Ted, smiled teasingly. "Doesn't mean that we can't act like we are. Or, do you want to have the other kind of fun, Hannah?"

"We're not married yet you know. And if my brother catches us…"

"I thought your brother loved me," Ted defended. "Or are all those fond memories someone else's?"

"He does, but I think he loves his sister more," she lightly poked him in the chest.

"Besides, it's not as if he doesn't know what we do when we're alo-," Ted finally became aware that Harry was present, witnessing their conversation.

"Ted?" Hannah asked. "What's wrong-oh!"

Both quickly became flustered and embarrassed. Ted was the first to regain his ability to speak. "Howdy, stranger." He said, unsure. "What-uh, brings you out this way?"

Harry put his sword away; they looked startled enough as it was. "I was heading to Enoch Village, but I got a little sidetracked when I heard her scream. You wouldn't know the way would you?" they relaxed at his explanation, either they were trusting by nature or just naïve.

"It would be a bit embarrassing if we didn't," Ted said. "We do live there after all."

"Yeah, looks like you're in luck," Hannah added. Harry wouldn't exactly call it luck, but he wasn't going to correct her.

"I guess it is. Would it be too much to ask for a point in the fastest direction?"

Ted nodded. "If you cut through this field, there'll be a wooden bridge, cross that and you're practically there."

"Thank you," Harry said. "I've been meaning to come out here for a while, but never got around to it. I used to hear a lot of stories about the forest around your village." If one of them added anything, it would be a help.

"Do you mean like one of old-man Morgan's stories?" Hannah asked. "He used to tell the best stories from when he ventured out into the woods; remember, Ted?"

"Used to? He still does," Ted corrected. "It happened decades ago, and he still tells that story to anyone who'll listen."

So there was someone named Morgan he could seek out. Good to know. "Thank you, again," Harry waved. "I hope to see you in the village. I'll leave the two of you alone for now." He thought he distinctly heard Hannah say something along the lines of, "So embarrassing almost getting caught."

Accurate down to the description, once Harry crossed the bridge, he found himself standing just outside of the village. While it largely consisted of one long, cobblestone Main Street, several other smaller one's branched off of it running to a blacksmith shop, a watchtower, a graveyard, and a few barns. At the center of the village was a Holy See chapel, the bell on top chimed at the new hour. The graveyard looked to be quite big, and Harry made a mental note to take shelter away from the village when the sunset.

Overall, Enoch was spacious than most villages, but nowhere near as large as a town or city, as it settled for a more comfortable feel. If he could find this Morgan, then that would be a major help in narrowing down his search; assuming that there was anything magical about the forest around the village anyway.

He asked around some of the villagers who either ignored him thinking him some sort of wandering beggar or just didn't take him seriously when he asked for Morgan. Whoever he didn't seem to have too high a reputation. The only actual response was from an inebriated villager exiting the tavern.

"You want Morgan?" he pointed to the tavern he exited. "He's in there, being a freeloader." He sauntered off back to his home.

Inside, the tavern wasn't crowded, but the patrons who were there seemed to have taken it upon themselves to make additional noise. They slammed their mugs together, leaving a mess for the barmaid to clean, and talked so loudly and often at the same time that their words hardly sounded like any known language. Some of the patrons were young men around Guts' age, while others were more toward their middle ages, and the only "old man" was sitting at a table, alone, watching the patrons clustered at the bar with an amused smile on his scruffy face.

"Excuse me," Harry said, approaching the older man.

He smiled kindly at Harry. "Morning. Or, is it evening?"

"Afternoon," Harry informed a bit dryly. If he was drunk he wasn't going to be of much help.

"What can I do you for, youngster?"

"Well, I was looking for a man named Morgan. I'm traveling through the village and I heard he has stories about the forest around here."

"You thinking of going into those woods?" he asked.

"That's why I wanted to find him," Harry explained. "I don't want to go into anything dangerous." But unless it was an apostle or some more spirits, he doubted it was too dangerous aside from bears. "Do you know where I might find him?"

"Of course I know where you can find him-he's me."

"You're Morgan?" Harry asked. When he had heard Ted call him 'old-man' he thought he might be someone older than the man sitting across from him. Morgan was probably in his late fifties to early sixties, old, but his eyes still held a child-like sense of wonder despite his age. "I heard some stories about the forest, but I was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling some of your stories about it."

"Heh. You're about the first to actually ask me to talk about that. Everyone here thinks I'm loopy for still believing in that old legend." He took a drink from his mug. "Truth is, I've really only got one story worth telling, sorry to disappoint."

Harry waved the concern away. "That's alright, anything worth telling I want to hear."

Morgan took a sip from his drink and wiped the corners of his wrinkled mouth. "Well, what exactly do you know about our forest?"

"I know that it's the center for a lot of fairy tales," Harry admitted as much.

"Aye. Especially tales of witches." A child-like look flashed across Morgan's face. "I was a young boy when it all happened, younger than you even. My mother had fallen terribly ill and the village healers feared she wasn't long for this world. So, being the stupid child I was, decided to go out into the woods alone to search for this rumored witch and ask for her help. I lost track of how long I wandered around by myself, hours, days, time just seems to blur in those woods. I was about ready to give up when I saw her; an old woman coming out of a mansion built into a tree. She gave me some type of potion to bring back to my mother, who felt much better after having taken it." He smiled in nostalgia. "I went back almost every day to find and thank her, but I could never find that tree mansion again."

Morgan finished his tale and took another sip of his drink. "You thinking of going looking for witches, kid?"

"No," Harry tried his best poker face. "Like I said, I was just passing through this way and wanted to hear about the forest around here. I met with two people outside of the village who told me you have some good stories to tell."

"And you're traveling by yourself?" he sounded a bit skeptical.

"Not for long," assured Harry. "I'm meeting up with someone soon." And Morgan had helped him out immensely for it.

While the village might have been small and quaint, the forest was another story. It seemed to stretch on forever, unconfined by any means and seeking to envelop the entire world with its roots. After his chat with Morgan, Harry had set off on the forest path, following it as it snaked its way through the trees, which seemed to become more overgrown the deeper he traveled. It was like Morgan said, time seemed to become warped in this forest.

He had set out a little afternoon, but with how long he had been walking, it felt like it was going to be nightfall soon. Hopefully, he was far enough from the village that no spirits would possess the corpses in that graveyard of theirs. His brand wasn't acting up, so it was safe to assume that there was still some time left before the sun would set.

But, as usual, it was never safe to assume anything.

A large, muddy fist came crashing down in front of him. He stumbled back, nearly tripping over his own feet before regaining his balance. Standing before him was a six-foot-tall rock monster. That probably wasn't the correct name for it, but its body seemed to be made out of boulders, and its head looked to just be a rock with eye design carved into it. The stones on its hands spread apart and reached out toward him.

Quickly, he drew his sword and cut across the palm of the creature. It did not roar, or howl, or make any sort of indication that his attack hurt it. But it was moving slow, and Harry capitalized and thrust his blade through two boulders that made up its torso. The head looked down at where his sword penetrated, and the whole began to fill with mud.

It raised both of its fists above its head, ready to squish him. Before it could do that, Harry ducked between its legs, unsheathed his hidden blade and cut the creature behind both of its knees. The legs began to tremble, and it fell, unable to stand.

Acting fast before the wounds closed with mud, Harry stabbed his sword through where the neck would be, and the stone head went tumbling to the ground. And then much to his surprise, the arms moved to pick up the fallen head and put it back into place above its rocky shoulders. The head turned a full three-sixty to stare at him, and the wounds behind its knees healed as well.

Before its large fist could collide with his face, it managed to stop its attack. Rising to its full height it walked past him to stand behind a new figure; one incredibly short figure. They held a staff in their hand which ended in a full spiral at the top, and they wore dark purple robes with a matching hat that was pointed with a wide brim, hiding their face. And from under that hat, a small, pink bug-like creature emerged and flew right up to his face so he could get a good look at it.

While the wings were like that of a bug, the tiny body was humanoid. Harry pulled his head back so it wouldn't fly right into his face. The creature gave a gasp, sounding like a small child. "Scherike! I think he can see me!" he could tell that it was a girl-whatever it was.

"Of course he can, Ivalera. He wouldn't have been able to cross the border if he couldn't." the short figure sounded like a girl as well. Could she be the-,

"Excuse me; are you the…witch-?"

She lifted her head, and Harry was fully able to see her face. Her hair was an unusual shade of green, and her large eyes a shade of turquoise. And she was young; younger than even him. Morgan said that the witch he met had been an old woman, had she somehow been able to reverse her age with magic?

The little girl stared up at the rock monster without the slightest hint of fear. The creature pointed in a direction. "Yes, it's alright. I'll take him back to the mansion." She had to look up at Harry to meet his gaze. "Follow me please." She began walking back the way she had come. Harry watched as she walked off, she noticed he wasn't following. "Follow me, please." She sounded a bit annoyed this time. She began to walk again.

"Hey-wait!" Harry yelled as he made to catch up with the strange girl.

She led him, with the strange rock creature following not far behind. Harry had so many questions that he wanted answers to, but this girl seemed intent on tuning him out. "How did you know where I was? Did it have something to do with that rock person?"

"Golem," the girl, Scherike corrected. "The proper name is a golem."

"Right, that." She didn't seem amused. No matter which question he asked, she ignored, until they came upon it.

A large tree with a thick trunk' large enough to house the wooden mansion that seemed to grow into the tree itself, almost like the two were one in the same. "Come," Scherike led him to the tree-mansion. "My mistress awaits."

"Your mistress?"

"Yes." She opened the door for him. "The one who sent me to stop that golom from crushing you. This way."

The inside had a much more simple design that the outside would have the viewer believe. Each room looked like it could be found in any old home, so long as it was made of wood. It seemed designed to release an earthy vibe to it. One such room had a stained glass window like a chapel, and the old woman sitting at the spinning wheel helped to complete that feeling.

Harry felt Scherike poke at him with her staff. "Introduce yourself," she instructed, this time not bothering to hide her annoyance.

"Er-," Harry cleared his throat, and the old woman looked up. She surely fit the description Morgan had given him. But that had also been close to fifty years ago. "Hello. My name is-,"

Her bluish-gray eyes locked onto his, and a twinkle seemed to shine in the woman's gaze. "You are Harry Potter."

Did she just-read his mind? She even seemed to know he was thinking that. "It was trick taught to me long ago called legilimency. You might even be a bit familiar with who taught it to me." She smiled a kind, knowing smile. "His name was Merlin."

A/N: It might have been a long set up, but magic is finally being introduced. If anyone remembers, I made mention of Merlin's involvement in the story back in a few earlier chapters to foreshadow this meeting. And without giving any spoilers away, I can say that this won't be the last time Merlin is mentioned in the story.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Where to go from here? How does he respond to that? Merlin; that was what she had said. The Merlin; the one nearly every child knew of back in Britain. It was mindboggling and added more question to the already impressive list that he had been keeping file inside of his head. And as those questions and others swirled around in his head trying to make sense of it all, the old woman sat there, smiling at him like some long overdue guest at a party.

The younger girl-apprentice-Schierke seemed a bit more cautious around him. Although Harry was facing away from her, he could almost feel her large turquoise eyes boring into the back of his head, and then alternate to look at her mistress almost like she was feeling left out of some silent conversation that wasn't going on. Her clear suspicion towards him was actually far more comforting a thought that the woman's reaction or lack thereof.

"You have heard his name before, no?" she asked, but it was clear that she already knew the answer.

Harry nodded. "I have, yes."

"I apologize for the golem," she said. "It sensed your presence when you came within close proximity of our spirit-tree mansion. You fought it, but did not destroy the source of its magic; it would have kept fighting with you, so I sent Schierke to go and collect you."

"You make it sound like you were suspecting me," Harry said without thinking.

Instead of trying to deny it, she gave a half-shrug and a close-lipped grin. "A contact of mine told me that I might be getting a visitor one of these days."

An acquaintance? Harry pondered. Who? Who could have known that he would come here? Schierke seemed to wonder the same thing; she was clearly out of the loop. "A contact, mistress? But no one ever comes here, you made this place near impossible to locate." And yet Harry had managed to stumble upon it.

"Someone from my past, you've never been introduced yet, Schierke." Her voice sounded a bit teasing, like a mother to a curious young daughter. "And speaking of introductions, I do not believe that I have introduced myself." She gave a curt bow of her head. "I am Flora; the Mistress of the Spirit-Tree."

Flora turned her gaze to her young apprentice. "Care to properly introduce yourself as well, my disciple?"

Schierke looked a bit embarrassed for a quick second, before giving a polite, but also seemingly forced bow of her head. "I am Schierke, the sole disciple of Mistress Flora."

The tiny pink, winged creature flew out from under Schierke's hat, and close to Harry's face. "And I am Ivalera, Schierke's best friend."

Harry didn't want to sound rude, but he asked, "You're a fairy?"

Ivalera tilted her tiny head to the side, almost insulted that he had to ask. "I am an elf. Haven't you ever seen an elf before?"

"Er-no, sorry," Harry said truthfully. Of course, he hadn't. Godo had said that all the elves had gone from Midland and virtually everywhere else. Where would he have possibly come across an elf before now? He kept that to himself though. It wouldn't be wise to insult them.

"Do not be sorry, young Harry," Flora told him, her attention back to him now. "The world has changed, and with it, many of what once was." She looked him over as if examining him. "You have traveled a long way to come here, you look exhausted." If he looked it, he didn't feel it. Anxiety and anticipation were flooding through his systems. "We can discuss your journey and its purpose in the morning; you should take some time to rest. Schierke, can you show our visitor to a vacant quarter?"

"You're inviting me to stay?" it wasn't that Harry wasn't grateful for being offered a place to spend the night, but he had only just arrived. He was an outsider, basically a complete stranger to them. There were so many questions that he wanted answers to.

Schierke, however, seemed to take it upon herself to voice the doubt Harry was feeling. "Mistress, I've never doubted your teachings, but inviting him to stay… I don't know how I feel about that. He doesn't know of our ways of life." She sent a suspicious look in his direction, but Harry didn't back away from it.

With a soft chuckle, Flora responded, "Everyone is an outsider before finding their place, Schierke. When you grow to be as old as I am, you tend to become a very good judge of character; you're growing into an exceptional witch after all." The young girl's cheeks reddened and she seemed to take an interest in a part of the floor.

The elf-Ivalera flew over to the girl's shoulder to talk in her ear. "Don't be embarrassed, Schierke. You've come so far in your practice." the elf assured her companion.

Flora continued. "While you may be an outsider from the land of the Holy See's influence, it goes against my better nature to turn away anyone in need; much like that one boy who found this place nearly fifty years ago." She sent Harry an almost apologetic look. "Any questions you most assuredly have can be saved for the morning. No harm will come to you by accepting our offer for shelter; you have my word on that."

She sounded genuine enough alright, but Harry was still a bit skeptical. Flora was not acting at all like he expected, Schierke was taking to that role much better than she was currently doing, and she was clearly suspicious of him after all. Flora, on the other hand, seemed far too trusting for someone of her age. But that didn't mean that she was lying, either. If she had wanted him dead, then she would have just let him face that golem alone, and she had helped Morgan out with his sick mother all those years ago for seemingly no other motive other than she wanted to.

"…And would you answer some of my questions in the morning?" Harry asked before giving his final answer.

"To the best of my ability," Flora answered.

"Then yes. I'll stay here."

She nodded. "Very well. Schierke, would you please." Flora motioned to the door.

"O-of course, mistress," Schierke bowed in acceptance. "Come along then." Harry knew she was talking to him and followed her.

"Sleep well," Flora called after them. "Tomorrow will be a most interesting day."

Schierke led him through the halls of the tree-mansion, not bothering to pause for Harry to take in the sight of all the ingredients, potions, decorations, and artifacts that lined the walls. The mansion sure beat the idea of a witch's hovel, but still managed to keep a deep sense of nature intact with every aspect of its design. Not only that, but the place practically felt magical; it was almost as if his mind felt clearer, even calmer than he had thought possible.

Stopping at the end of a hallway, Schierke opened a door and stepped aside for him to enter. The room was small, but not cramped. There was space enough for a bed, a wardrobe, an opening in the wood that served as a window of sorts, and desk. Feeling the mattress, he realized that it was stuffed with feathers. Schierke stood on the threshold, watching him examine the room. Ivalera fluttered up to sit on her shoulder, watching as well.

"Well thank you," Harry said to the witch apprentice.

"Of course," Schierke said. "It was my mistress' request after all." The way she worded it let him know that she had only done so because of her teacher, not of her own choosing. "Well… good night then." She closed the door, leaving him alone.

With little left to do, Harry plopped himself down on the bed, and sleep came upon him almost instantly.

And he dreamt of the tree, very similar to the one he found himself in right now. But this one was different-it was shining-it was on fire. The flames seemed to move in the pattern of a serpent, twisting and wriggling as if alive, completely surrounding the tree.

The sun shone down from up above, but that light was starting to fade; a great black shadow was working its way to cover its polar opposite. When the two finally overlapped, two six digit hands moved to seemingly cup the two of them together forever. His sewn eyes betrayed no emotion to what he was thinking with that massive brain of his, but the brand that flickered to life between his hands glowed with malice.

"Sacrifice." The voice seemed to speak, either to him, or another, or in a distant memory, it was unclear.

And then it was like he was never there. Now he saw the back of a chair and a snake slithering along the floor beside it. There was someone sitting down in the chair, and for some reason, Harry did not want to see who it was. There, a fragile hand held a small item, emerald green in color, and with various facial features arranged all over it.

A cold voice drew his attention away from that accursed egg. "Potter…"

Harry awoke in a cold sweat, his dream already becoming a distant memory. He hurriedly put his glasses on and looked out the nook that served as a window in the tree-mansion. It was dark outside, the sun having set some hours ago. "No," Harry said to himself. He grabbed his stick and sword, strapping them to his belt.

The brand, he was branded and it was past sundown. They would be upon him any minute. What was he thinking, agreeing to stay the night? No. that was it, he hadn't been thinking. He had instead been so caught up in the prospect of finding the witch in the forest, that his cursed luck had been forgotten. He would leave and return in the morning. If not then he would have just doomed the tree's two residents.

He rushed from the room provided to him, banging his knee against an end table in the hall as he did. "Ow!" some of the decorations on it nearly fell off had he not grabbed them first. His stick made a "clunk" with every step he took, but it wasn't loud enough to cause any real cause for panic from the two witches who were sure to be asleep by now. Or so he thought.

Before Harry could open the door to exit the tree-mansion, a very tired, and annoyed voice asked, "Where are you going?"

It was Schierke. In place of her purple robes she now wore a blue and white nightgown, minus a cap which left a strand of her green hair free to poke out of place. Her eyes were only half open and she more or less leaned on her staff for support. "Where are you even-ahhhhhh," she yawned, "doing up?"

"Yeah?" Ivalera flew up to sit on Schierke's shoulder. "Some of us were trying to sleep before you started making all that ruckus."

"I need to leave for the night," came Harry's vague reply.

"Huh?" they both said.

"I-I just need to leave for the night, alright?" he cracked the door open, slowly. He half expected there to be the glowing eyes of a possessed corpse or animal waiting for him. Much to his surprise, the coast looked clear, but that did not put him at ease.

"Why?" Schierke asked. "Planning on telling the nearest village where this tree is?" she sounded less tired now than she was.

"That's pretty low, mister." Ivalera scolded. "We take you in, and then you sneak off to rat us out. You were right about him, Schierke."

"No, no that's not it at all," Harry said, trying to diffuse the growing tension. "I-I'm cursed, alright."

"Cursed?" they both asked. Ivalera is sounding more curious and Schierke sounding more skeptical.

How to even explain this to them? "Yes, cursed. I have this mark. Every night it happens. If I don't get away from here soon this place is going to be crawling with possessive spirits."

Ivalera pondered his claim. "Sounds mighty fishy to me. Don't you agree, Schierke?"

He expected her to agree, and run off to report him to Flora, but she instead said, "It isn't impossible. I noticed a scar on his head when I went to collect him. But even if what you say is true, I doubt you're in any real danger."

"Not just me, the both of you too!"

"Shush! Keep your voice down." Schierke ordered. "Follow me, I'll show you what I mean." She pushed the door open all the way and stepped outside. "Coming?"

"You want to go out there?" Harry asked. This girl had no idea what she was getting into if she did.

"That's what you were planning on doing," she retorted. "And like I said, you won't be in any real danger."

Now it was Harry's turn to look unconvinced. "What makes you so certain?"

"I'll show you, that's what." Schierke would probably roll her eyes if she could fully open them. "And I'm pretty efficient in magic too."

Ivalera nodded. "That's right, she is. So don't try and pull a fast one and try to run away. She might turn you into a cat if you do."

The pair of them walked through the dark forest, their only sources of light were the moon which reflected off of Harry's drawn blade, and the luminous natural light produced by Ivalera and the beating of her wings.

Every creak had Harry turning his attention in that direction; ready to defend against the danger. Schierke continued on like nothing was the matter, probably thinking that he was being overly paranoid. At last, they came upon the site where Harry had fought with the golem earlier that day.

She pointed at a tree. "See that?"

Ivalera flew closer so it was lighter. Etched into the bark of the tree was a symbol of some sort. "I see it," Harry admitted.

"This was carved by Mistress Flora herself," Schierke explained. "It's a talisman. They are carved into different trees surrounding the spirit-tree to form a border and- ahhhh-," she yawned again, "and keep trespassers out. That was how the golem found you."

"Yup, the golems have talismans inside of them that let them know about those sort of things." Ivalera elaborated.

Schierke nodded. "As long as you're behind the border, you're safe from any evil spirit."

"Hey, look!" Ivalera pointed past the border where a sinister pair of purplish eyes gleamed in the darkness. It was a wolf, one possessed to be exact. Harry readied himself, but the wolf did not advance. It just stared at him, almost like it knew he was there, but could do nothing about it. It was weird. The only other place that offered sanctuary at night was Godo's cave where Casca was being kept under lock and key for her own safety.

"Convinced now?" Schierke asked him. "Because if it's all the same to you; I'd like to get back to bed." She yawned once more. "C'mon, Ivalera."

Harry took a bit longer. He stared a little longer at the talisman carved into the tree, an idea coming to mind before he too followed Shierke back to the spirit-tree.

They walked in silence for a few minutes, until the silence was-surprisingly-broken by Schierke. "So, what exactly is it you want with Mistress Flora, anyway? Why come all the way out here if you don't plan on telling more outsiders of our existence?"

"Well… I came here to study magic," Harry had no reason to lie to her. He could tell she didn't trust him much and giving her a vague answer wouldn't do much to change that. "I had heard from a friend of mine that the woods around Enoch were rumored to be magic. So when I found out I had magic, I-,"

Schierke interrupted. "What do you mean you "found out" you had magic?"

Now Harry was confused. "What do you mean, "what do I mean?" I found out I could do magical things when I had a conversation with a snake. No one else could do it."

"That's probably because they didn't study how" Schierke argued. "You mean to tell me that you just discovered one day that you had a magical talent?"

"That's kind of what happened," Harry admitted, it sounded much less anti-climatic the way she said it. Casca had nearly had a heart attack when she witnessed it. The memory brought a bitter-sweet feeling of nostalgia. "How did you discover you had magic then?" it was a personal question, but seeing as that he had told her his-it would even them.

"I was just taught," Schierke confessed. "Mistress Flora took me in when I was very young-,"

"Younger than you are already?" Harry interrupted.

She sighed. "Yes, younger than I am right now. But don't go looking all clever; you're not that much older than me, you know." She cleared her throat. "But yes, she took me in and trained me in the art of magic. I just learned from her."

Now that was odd. "So… magic can be learned, by anyone?"

"So long as they have an imaginative and open mind they can. Magic is a school of thought, exploring beyond reason."

"You know, for someone so little, you sure know a lot." Harry complimented, but Schierke seemed to take it a different way.

"What do you mean little?"

Ivalera shook her head. "You're not little, Schierke. You're just-um, vertically challenged!"

From back at the spirit-tree, Flora watched from her window as the two younglings neared the mansion. But she was not alone. A second visitor had shown up for the night, but unlike Harry, she knew this one was not going to stay.

"How long have you been following him?" she asked with a hint of a teasing knowingness.

"Long enough. I have been alternating."

She smiled. "My, have you been developing a caring side in these few long years?"

"It has been longer than a few years."

"Indeed, but time does fly," she felt a twinge of nostalgia. "Do you ever yearn for the old days?" she could feel his glowing eye sockets fix her with a stare.

"Past mistakes cannot be undone."

"They can't. But new ones can be avoided," she pointed out. "I suspect that is why you brought him to this land. Their influence is starting to spread to other realms."

"They will struggle, that much I know."

"You will not remain until he returns? I'm sure he will be surprised to see you here of all places." It was a fickle effort and she already knew the answer. His visits were never long.

"I will not. I will observe the progress of the Struggler next." His large feet made little sound on the wooden floor. "Farewell, for now, Witch."

"Farewell, old friend."

He had been unchained from the ceiling and left to lay on a pile of hay that reeked of aged piss. New lashes and scorch marks marred his torso and back, but he never gave the torturer the satisfaction of eliciting any noise. Right now, the men from Koka Castle were probably on their way right now to either take him into custody themselves or raze the town to the ground. Either way, he would be faced with the Baron soon enough.

The bars of the opening, which served as his primary source of light above him, reflected a faint glowing from the town outside. They were an orange hue, someone probably had torches lit, either the town guard or the men that were sure to be escorting the Baron. It was then put at a complete contrast with the mix of blue light suddenly appearing. Poking his tiny head through the bars, the small blue creature flew down to where he was situated on the floor. It was only a few inches tall, with a set of bug wings sprouting from its back; it was that elf from earlier at the tavern, Puck.

"Hey, I finally found you!" Puck exclaimed like they were some sort of long lost friends, which he had no right to. After guts had been taken into custody, the elf had flown off on his own. "This town sure is big for someone like me."

"What do you want?" Guts asked, annoyed by the mere sight of this elf. "Fly on out of here. Put those wings to good use."

Puck put a finger to his chin in contemplation. "My wings, huh?" he snapped his fingers. "I got it!" he flew over to Guts. "Hold still alright." He looked like he was about to sit down on his person causing Guts to scowl.

"Don't touch me you little-!" Puck fluttered his wings and a glowing dust of sorts sparkled off of them, drifting down on some of Guts' recently acquired wounds. Much to his surprise, the pain began to fade like it had never been there in the first place. A memory came rushing back to him; of himself overlooking many small campfires after having fought a hundred men. She had rubbed "elf dust" on his wounds to help with the healing. This was the exact same sensation now as it had been then.

"There," Puck said, happy with his work. "You should be feeling better real soon." Guts pushed himself to his feet and Puck's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets. "Not that soon!"

"That dust trick of yours is handy," Guts gave Puck the closest thing to a compliment as he would allow. "Now buzz off. I'll take care of the rest on my own."

Puck look affronted. "That's it?! I risk my head to come and help you out, and you just tell me to go and get lost?! This is just my way of saying thanks for helping me out earlier. You don't have to be so ungrateful."

"You're right, I don't. But if you really want to help out, then you'll get out of here before I end up squashing you."

Shaking in tiny rage, Puck yelled, "Why do you have to be so mean?!"

Guts fixed him with his sole eye. "I don't have to be. But it sure as hell helps."

Puck was about to retort, but Guts saw him catch sight of the brand on his neck. He turned away from the pint-sized elf. "That mark…" he heard Puck utter.

There were footsteps coming to the cell. The jingling of keys could be heard with each step taken. "Get the prisoner!" one voice ordered. "The Baron's men will burn this town to the ground if we do not surrender him!"

The flickering of the orange light from outside had grown exponentially. The cries of men, women, and children could be heard, they yelled in terror and agony. The Baron had come at last.

Guts heard the sound of the cell door being unlocked and took his stance to the side as the door was swung open and the torturer entered. "Prison-erk!" Guts wrapped his arm around the other man's neck in a chokehold. The other man struggled; clawing at Guts' arm and trying to reach back to hit his face, anything to escape the hold Guts had on him. His legs began to twitch and kick out as the oxygen supply to his brain began to dwindle. "…agh…" he gave one last choked noise before going limp.

Guts let his body go free, before snatching the keys that dangled from around his waist. Puck could only watch wide-eyed in horror. He made a move to exit the cell. "Hey," Puck called. "Where are you going now?"

"To get my gear."

Outside was chaos. Fires burned through the night, consuming the homes of Koka's residents, and spreading quickly to neighboring houses. As the citizens attempted to flee their burning homes, they were quickly trampled by horses and impaled by the spears of the riders. They ran rampant through the streets, anyone lucky enough to make it out alive sought refuge in the surrounding woods.

"Burn it all!" a cold, cruel voice rang out amongst the screams and cries of the citizens. The corpses began to pile up in every street as the Baron's men ran rampant. "It is all ours for the plundering. No one will stop you, do as you please!" his voice was as distinct as the suit of armor that he wore. It was a deep shade of red with a pure white cape strapped to his shoulder plates. His helm was designed like a hissing cobra, and his face was visible through its open mouth. It was easy to see why he was known as the Snake Baron.

A collective cheer rose from the Snake Baron's men, as they relished in the mayhem their leader had graced them with. They had little time to ravish themselves before a quick barrage of crossbow bolts whizzed their way, killing four men.

"Where'd it come from?" "Did you see?" "All the guards should be dead."

"There!"

From under a pile of corpses, he rose. He shrugged off the corpse of a child from his shoulders and took aim once more with his arm-mounted crossbow. Bolts flew as fast as he could crank the handle, cutting down even more of the Snake Baron's men. More bolts struck their targets, and more bodies began to pile up, this time they were not civilians. He kept cranking until his supply of bolts ran out. The Snake Baron's men were quick to notice.

"He's out!"

"Let's take him now!"

Two riders charged forth, spears extended and ready to skewer him. He waited until they neared, before reaching behind him to grasp the hilt of Dragonslayer. Two cuts and six different halves went flying.

"Did you see that?" the Snake Baron's men asked each other nervously. "He cut them in half."

"Even the horses."

The Snake Baron himself trotted to the front of the formation, battle-ax at the ready. "So you're the one who has been causing so much trouble." The fires that crackled around the street reflected a piece of jewelry that hung from the front of the Snake Baron's armor; a teal egg shape. "You are just a mere human, and a foolish one at that!" he spurred his horse forward. "How can you ever hope to challenge those of a greater power?!"

Guts ran at the charging horse as well, his Dragonslayer ready to cut the Snake Baron in half just like the previous two. The Snake Baron predicted his tactic and twisted his body to the side before the strike could land. And while Guts' strike missed, the Snake Baron's did not. The bottom half of his battle-ax struck him on the back, knocking him down, and Dragonslayer fell from his grasp.

The men cheered their leader on as he reared to charge again and cut Guts in half. Grabbing some more bolts and loading them into his mounted crossbow, Guts fired a volley at the unsuspecting Snake Baron, this time yielding greater results. Five arrows embedded themselves in his chest, and the Snake Baron fell from his horse and into a pile of rubble from a burnt down house.

Cries of, "my lord!" was elicited from the men who feared their leader deceased. They were all startled when a serpentine tail came thrashing out from the rubble, striking Guts across the chest, knocking him aside.

"Ohohohoh!" a laugh enveloped from the rubble which began to shift. "Shoot all you like, no human can kill me!" stepping out, was the body of a giant, red cobra with thin, but strong arms and legs. The face of the Snake Baron was still visible in the mouth of the giant snake, but a long, pinkish tongue lolled about when he spoke.

His tail lashed out once more, striking Guts and sending him flying into a pile of rubble. Guts groaned from the impact, and he made a move to push himself to his feet. It surprised the Snake Baron greatly. "My, you can still move. If you were an average human, that would have killed you."

Guts looked to his side; Dragonslayer was there, just beyond his reach. The tail whipped down on his back twice, causing Guts to cough up some blood from the force of each impact. The Snake Baron sneered down at him. "Now do you see just how weak and fragile humans truly are?" he grabbed Guts by his head and lifted him up to his face. "I will take great enjoyment in drinking the blood from your flesh. Humans are meant to be slaughtered."

Instead of a face of fear, Guts smiled. He moved his metal arm up to the Snake Baron's face, the string running to the prosthetic was clenched between his teeth. The hand flipped down. KABOOOM!

A portion of the Snake Baron's face was completely blown away. "Ahooooooww!" he dropped Guts, who used this opportunity to grab the fallen Dragonslayer. With a cry of fury, Guts brought the massive blade up, and then straight down into the Snake Baron's shoulder. The strike carried all the way through and severed the torso from the rest of the apostle's body.

Now it was Guts' turn to leer down at the defeated apostle. "Didn't you say that no human could defeat you?" he loaded some more bolts into his crossbow.

The Snake Baron's eyes widened. "That… brand… ow!" Guts shot a bolt through one of the apostle's eyes.

"You're right. Humans are weak." He fired another bolt. "But our weakness makes us fight to survive." The elf-Puck fluttered to the top of a house, watching the scene unfold. A look of sadistic glee was etched on guts' face. "Now why don't you experience some of that pain yourself? Understand what it's like to be human." With every sentence, a bolt was fired.

"No… don't kill me…"

Guts spat on his near-dead form. "And what did you say when all these people asked you the same thing?" Bolt after bolt was fired, the Baron's men were long gone at this point. There was just the dead apostle and the Black Swordsman.

"That rage," Puck said, watching Guts leave the town to burn. "I-I felt it."

Castle Windham

"The newest report has come in, your majesty," Sirs Laban and Owen kneeled before the King of Midland. "The town of Koka has been destroyed. Only a dozen or so survivors have been reported."

"And where do these refugees seek to go?" Minister Foss asked from the king's side. "Do they seek refuge here, at the capital?"

"The town of St. Albion have extended their hospitality," Sir Owen mentioned. "The Holy See's presence is strong there and will assist where they can for those displaced souls. The Holy See's good grace can be found in the Holy Iron Chain Knights."

The young girl commander of those knights was present as well. She and her companions had received a bountiful reward for the safe return of Princess Charlotte and her handmaiden, and the king offered them full honors for their services and any request that they had would be granted. She was a young girl for certain, younger than even Princess Charlotte, early to mid teens if Laban had to put a finger to her age. For any other branch of knights, she would be turned away, but the Holy Iron Chain Knights had a tradition that their leader must always be a young maid. It also helped that her family was one of the wealthiest in all of the Holy See controlled territory. Farnese de Vandimion was her name, and if rumors were to be believed, she had quite the history when it came to the Holy See's doctrine of witch hunting.

"But the most troubling thing about this report," Laban continued, "was that there were sightings of a giant snake monster." A few other nobles in attendance snorted at the report, but both he and Owen knew that there was some truth to that claim. "I know that this sounds ridiculous to most of you, but considering Wyald-,"

"-You have taken all remaining Black Dog Knights into custody," Foss cut in. "Have any of them confessed to the claim that their leader could turn into some sort of monster?"

"They have been incredibly tight-lipped," Owen shook his head. "And there was that vague insinuation that the Bakiraka leader made. Perhaps a diplomat should be sent to Kushan land. Their empire has extended rapidly in recent years."

"No one questions either of your honors," Foss was quick to reply. "Only the claim of monsters in human form. And the Kushan are known for their strange cultures, I wouldn't think too much about it. Our king cannot be troubled with claims with no evidence of support." It was a hypocritical thing for him to say considering that the only thing the king was actually worried about was the vendetta against the Band of the Hawk. All evidence pointed to them being dead, yet the king was certain Griffith was out there somewhere.

It had become such an obsession to him, that his hair and beard were now stark white; new wrinkles had appeared on his face and hands, looking much older than he actually was. The only thing that had not changed about their king was the way he treated his daughter; not that anyone saw much of her these days. Charlotte had confined herself to her room since her return, not opening the door for anyone, saves for that handmaiden of hers; it was a miracle that the serving girl still had her head. Perhaps she was holding out on the hope that one day Griffith or someone would return for her.

Foss cleared his throat. "Now, is there anything else of significance in the Koka report?"

"Yes," Lord Wolflame asked, "have wizards been sighted as well?" that elicited a dry chuckle from all save the two knights, the king, and the Vandimion girl.

"There was one other thing that was mentioned," Laban recalled. "Survivors say that the beast was slain by a swordsman dressed all in black." That caused the Vandimion girl to perk up.

"The Hawk of Darkness," she uttered.

"Pardon, Lady Farnese?" Foss asked.

"The one scripture from the book of the Holy See," she elaborated. "The Hawk of Darkness, the one who will bring chaos and death to our world."

Foss appeared to be growing tired of hearing what he must consider nonsense. "Now, I am a stout believer of the Holy See's teachings like all of you; but to believe that this swordsman is the Hawk of Darkness-that is a farfetched assumption."

"These are troubled times indeed," the king spoke, seemingly ignoring Foss' previous statement. "Do you believe this swordsman to be connected somehow, Lady Farnese?"

"It is entirely possible, your majesty." Her sapphire eyes shone with an unspoken passion. "Your hospitality has been greatly appreciated, but with all due respect, my men and I must be departing the capital soon."

The king nodded. "Do as you must, my honored guest. If there is anything I can do to further repay my debt to you, please, do not hesitate to ask."

The Vandimion girl bowed her head. "Thank you, your majesty, but it is high time my men do our service to the people of the Holy See Alliance; we will find and bring this Black Swordsman to justice."

A/N: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you all enjoyed reading this chapter, and have a happy holiday.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

True to her word, Flora reserved their question and answer session until the morning. The elderly witch and her young disciple convened at the crack of dawn in the dining room of the spirit-tree. Miniature versions of the large golem Harry had faced walked about presenting their hosts with a fruit platter variety so the residents could then break their fast.

"Good morning to you," Flora said, spotting Harry peeking in from the entryway of the dining hall. "Please, come and join us. The golems have gathered fresh fruit, do have some."

Taking a seat opposite of the two witches, a short little golem walked over and presented him with a fruit platter as well. "…Thank you?" Harry said to the tiny rock person. The golem made no sign of acknowledgment and walked to stand off to the side of the wall.

"You're wondering how they exist, aren't you?" Harry saw Flora looking at him from the corner of her eye. "No doubt it is one of many of a long list of questions."

"Did you do that mind trick again?" Harry assumed.

"No. That would just be intuition on my end," Flora smiled. "They each contain a talisman within them."

"Like a charm or a necklace," Harry listed.

"More like a small artifact," Schierke said, dabbing the corner of her mouth with a cloth. "Mistress Flora made each Talisman from scratch and charmed them so that they could then take the form of the golems we have now."

"These are different from the one when I first came here," Harry observed how peaceful and content these ones seemed to behave. "So, the more powerful talisman there is, the stronger the golem would be?"

Flora looked impressed. "What an astute observation. Yes, that does tend to be the case for most of the time, but look closely at these golems here." Turning his attention, Harry noted that all the golems looked exactly the same, just much smaller from the goliath he had encountered.

"They all look alike."

"That is because I used the same type of talisman for each one. And because of that, they can join together to create one of the sizes that you encountered before. That branch of magic is known as enchanting."

"So there are different types of magic then?" Harry asked, feeling a jolt of excitement. "Like ones that require a wand, or making potions?" he was really just asking about what people usually associate with witches and wizards.

"You wouldn't be wrong to think so," Flora nodded. "But that is only an outside view on the study of magic as a whole." She saw that she had him hooked, and she continued. "Magic is a school of thought, it is meant to go beyond reasoning. Magi study this aspect of the astral world and can gain a better understanding of the bigger picture that unfolds around us. Think of magic like this tree; there are many branches of it, each stretching out to one plain or the next, but in the end, they are all rooted to one place. Does that help clarify?"

He thought over her words. From the way she phrased it, she made it sound like magic was a living thing, something that could grow in anyone and far more ancient than humanity or just about anything else. If different schools of magic were like branches, and then the tree would be thought it, something that all people and animals were capable of in some regards. He nodded. "I think so, yeah." He thought over his next question. "So, in what other ways does magic branch out?"

Instead of answering, Flora picked an apple from the platter and examined it from every angle. She seemed determined to memorize every aspect that she could, taking a bite out of it she tossed it to the side. "Watch closely." Before Harry's eyes, a form began to take shape in Flora's outstretched hand, slowly at first, but it soon turned into a tangible object. It was the apple she had tossed away previously. Harry knew it to be the same since it had a piece missing from where she had bitten into it.

"A form of astral summoning," Schierke finished her dish.

"I'm glad to see you're keeping up with your studies, Schierke." Flora commended her student. "It might seem like a trivial thing, but that apple represents the first steps in the study of the astral world of magic."

"Astral magic," Harry repeated. "So what about magic with wands? You didn't need one for what you just did." He pointed out.

"Care to explain, Schierke?" Flora asked the girl, who gave a quick glance at Harry before giving a quick nod.

"Many mages have used wands in the past, yes, but a mages true power comes from within. A wand is merely a tool to help focus the flow of od; other times rely more on one's understanding of the astral world."

Harry eyed Schierke's wooden tool from where it was leaning against the table. "Yours looks more a staff than it does a wand. And just what is od anyway?"

"Od is life-force," Flora answered. "Od exists in every nook and cranny of the world, sometimes it is stronger in a more natural environment, but all creatures have an od to them, humans are no exception. By directing the flow of od is what gives a mage their magic, to begin with." She paused for him to absorb this new knowledge. "As for wands and staffs; both are tailored for the wielder. Wands are better suited for quick magic. Sure, you can say an incantation and with a wave produce fire or transfigure one thing into another, but the use is limited. They are too small to accommodate massive feats like the ability to ascend into the astral layers or produce a luminous body. Staffs can do all a wand can do but are more complex and harder to use. They are capable of holding and channeling massive amounts of od, but pose a higher risk to the user if something should ever go wrong when performing a ritual or spell."

Harry eyed Schierke's staff with a greater respect and determination. If someone so young was able to wield a staff, then he could too. "Where did you get that? Did you make it or something?"

Fluttering down from the ceiling was Ivalera, who had been absent from the early morning breakfast. "You bet she did!" the elf praised her friend. "You're looking at the youngest witch in all of Midland."

"Don't go thinking you can use it," Schierke held the staff close to her. "I spent a lot of time and effort into crafting it from the bark of this spirit-tree; if you want to use one then you'll have to make one yourself." She seemed to realize what she had implied as soon as she had finished speaking.

"My, my," Flora raised a brow. "Are you opening up to our visitor so soon?"

The young witch quickly shook her head. Her hat flopped around, looking as if it might fall off at any second. "No, mistress! That's not what I-,"

"Nice to know that I succeeded in making a friend," Harry lightly teased as well. Schierke planted her head down on the table. Her hat covered most of her face, but Harry could see that she was glaring in his direction.

Flora patted her on the back. "But in all seriousness, Schierke has just brought up a very good point. If you truly wish to study and practice the arcane arts, you must be willing to commit yourself." She handed an apple to Harry. "I do not expect you to succeed your first time, but try and do what I had done previously. Study the apple; memorize every detail, its exact shape, and size, how heavy it feels; everything. Once you've done that, discard it, and see what happens.

An apple. Just a regular old apple. It was red in color, but one side had a splash of green added in. the stem was short, and a bit pointy at the end, with a single large leaf stemming out. The bottom was a bit bruised, and one side, the one with the green, seemed smaller than the other.

"Once you are sure that you've memorized its every dimension and detail, set it aside and close your eyes," instructed Flora. "Image it in your hand once more." Letting the apple roll to the end of the table, Harry closed his eyes and held out a hand, imagining that the apple was back in his palm.

He felt nothing drop or materialize; he clenched his eyes tighter, imagining harder. He could see the apple in his mind's eye. He remembered how heavy it had felt and how large it had been, the small patch of green, but had there been a hole in the leaf? How long was the stem exactly? It had a point to it, but…

Harry opened his eyes and was not surprised to see his hand still held nothing. It was hard not to feel a bit disappointed in himself, here he was asking away for all these magical questions and he couldn't actually do the magic himself.

"Mistress did say she didn't expect you to get it on your first try," Schierke said, actually sounding a bit comforting. "It's actually easy, once you understand it." Now Harry frowned in her direction, he knew it was a hidden verbal jab.

"I seem to remember you failing at your first attempt as well, Schierke." Flora reminded the girl who shied away from her teacher's gaze. "And don't pretend like you didn't feel it."

"Felt what?" Harry asked.

"Your od," Flora said. "With a little training and a better understanding, summoning an apple will be child's play."

The cool water was refreshing as he submerged himself into the pond. The fight with the Snake Baron had left its fair share of marks on his body, and the water succeeded in putting his body at ease. After traveling during the night, and fending off more spirits, the early morning sun had, at last, began to rear its blinding head, putting an end to and more attacks that might happen throughout the night. This morning, Guts could relax and take a much-needed breather.

The pond was only about thirty feet in length, and eight in depth; but still large enough to accommodate more people should they join in, not that he would let them, of course. His gear and other necessities were piled up near some reeds, about halfway from where he was now. Sinking into his neck, Guts closed his eye and just allowed the water to lightly lap over him. It had felt like such a long time since he could actually relax. While fighting apostles and spirits, he was always so engaged in the fight itself, that the idea of actually being able to enjoy himself after had started to seem like a foreign concept; one that was fleeting.

He could not stay here forever, eventually, he would have to keep moving out into the world to continue on his quest, and a moment like this would be a diamond in the rough, should he ever fall under ideal circumstances. His chin touched the water level, as he leaned against the rock he was situated against. Maybe moments like this would become a more common occurrence, but that was just wishful thinking on his end, but never the less something to think about.

A place like this, with its shallow but warm water, secluded from everywhere else. It was a comforting thought. Casca might even be by his side, a warm, true genuine smile on her face. He closed his eye. She would be back to the way she was, she would snap at him occasionally, but her smile afterward… his mind began to wander. Casca's smile morphed into an expression of terror and revulsion, either from him or the dark wings that descended from above. The Wings of Darkness. The dark shape raised its head.

Griffith.

He opened his eye and found the world around him to be a turquoise tint, and out of focus. Water flooded his senses, and he raised his head above the surface. Coughing up some water, Guts realized that he had fallen asleep. He had allowed himself to drift off a little too much.

Some rustling occurred from the reeds where his gear was stored, and he waded his way through the water to investigate. Whoever it was hadn't noticed him approaching yet, and he saw why. They were not some skilled bandits or wary animal, but a group of three kids who seemed fascinated with his metal arm, armor, and of course, Dragonslayer. Some ways away by the road a wagon were parked, and a short man, presumably their father waited.

"Didn't you dad ever tell you, kids, not to go snooping around?" his voice disrupted the once innocent scene as the kids finally took notice of his presence. They gave a collective scream as they turned tail and ran back to their awaiting parent, hopping into the wagon and quickly fleeing the pond.

Guts pulled himself out of the water and began to dress himself. After putting his armor back on, he went for his black cloak and heard snoring coming from underneath it. Lifting it up slightly, Guts was greeted with the sleeping form of the elf Puck. The annoying little bug had been following him ever since Koka, and even after all of his attempts to tell the pest to buzz off, the elf continued to stick by his side. Probably because he can't survive on his own.

"Get out from under my stuff," Guts said, yanking the cloak away and jerking the blue elf awake.

"Huh? Wuzzgoinon? Who?" Puck sleepily asked. He looked up at the scowling face of Guts. "Oh, you're back from your bath. I guess I must have dozed off keeping guard of your stuff."

"Some job you did, a couple of kids were snooping around here just now." He was unimpressed with the little elf's ability to safeguard anything.

"Really?" Puck asked. "They must have sensed I was dozing off under your stuff. Kids are more attuned to magical creatures like me." He smiled proudly.

"Well if you like them so much you can probably catch up to their wagon," Guts pointed out. "Travel with them and leave me the hell alone."

"And leave you all to yourself?" Puck tried to play up his importance. "What happens when you get into another fight and need my dust to help heal you? Admit it, you need me around."

"I admit that you're a serious pain in my ass, got any dust that can cure that?"

Puck pouted in indignation. "No need to be so mean. I'm just trying to help you out." Guts began to pack up the rest of his gear. "And all your stuff is exactly how it should be, thank you very much."

"Where's my coin pouch?"

"…What?"

"My coin pouch," Guts repeated. "Where is it?"

"Have you checked your pockets?" Puck asked nervously.

"I'd feel it if it was there. Let me guess, one of those kids probably took it while you were dozing off." Useless bug.

"Don't go blaming me for that!" Puck verbally defended. "Why didn't you stop them as soon as they came over? It's not like you dozed off too." Guts didn't answer. "Wait, did you? Then what right do you have to go blaming me?! Besides, those kids are probably poor and needed a few extra coins."

"So because some farmer went and had a few more kids than he knew what to do with, I end up paying for that?" Guts asked sarcastically. "I oughta track down that wagon and-,"

"Excuse me," a new voice jutted in before Puck could say otherwise. Both turned to look at the young girl who had approached them. Long blonde hair framed her innocent face, wide smile, and large blue eyes.

"What do you want, kid?" Guts asked, feeling a bit aggravated by her sudden appearance and cheery disposition.

She looked not at him, but at Puck. "Do you have an elf with you?"

"He's yours if you want him." He might be able to pawn the little bug off.

The girl shook her head. "I just wanted to see. I've never seen an elf before; except for in my dreams."

Sensing a more suitable audience, Puck fluttered over to her. "Name's Puck!" the elf gave a toothy smile. "Nice ta meetcha!" she reached out a finger and poked Puck in his stomach. "Oof! Watch it with the manhandling. This one tosses me around enough." He pointed an accusing finger in Guts' direction.

She laughed. "My names Sonia, what's yours, stranger?"

"Why? And didn't your parents ever tell you not to talk to strangers?"

"Hm. Nice to meet you too, Why. And you have an elf with you, and they're supposed to be creatures of good so you can't be all bad."

"Look, I'm not really in the mood for this right now," Guts told the girl. "Why don't you run along or something?"

Sonia looked a bit put out, but Puck tried to assure her otherwise. "Don't worry about him. He's just crabby because some kids stole his money."

"Well if you're looking for money, why not come back to my town? The local tavern has a lot of gambling; why not play to win?"

"He doesn't have the best history with taverns," Puck accounted.

"Yeah, the last one I went in I ended up with you following me." Puck pouted once more.

"I think you should try," Sonia advised. "I got a feeling that you might leave with some money."

"You have a feeling?" Guts asked. "Well don't I feel lucky now."

Sonia nodded. "My feelings usually turn out to be true. I had a feeling about this one boy who passed by not too long ago. I get the same feeling l did then when I look at you now."

Puck flew back over to Guts' ear, and he resisted the urge to toss the bug into the pond. "I think this girl might be a medium."

"You mean like psychic stuff? Sorry to break it to you, but I don't put much faith in prophecy or any of that crap."

"It's not prophecy," Puck told him, "it's more like… well, a feeling about something."

Guts looked over to Sonia who was absentmindedly twiddling her thumbs and rolling on the balls of her feet. "Are these 'mediums' usually air-headed?"

Puck didn't answer that.

"Alright, I'll humor you, psychic girl. Which ways your town?"

She showed them the way, humming a tune and tilting her head back and forth all the way to her town which seemed a downscale version of what Koka had been. The tavern was easily identifiable, being located just at the end of the main street. Some faint laughter, as well as some shouting, could be heard coming from inside.

"Here it is!" Sonia happily exclaimed. "They don't allow kids like me inside, so best of luck on our gamble."

Guts lightly scoffed. "Yeah, luck." He went inside. Each table came with a candle, some of which were lit. Beer stains marred the wooden floor, and much more were sure to follow as the patrons cheered as some poor bastard seemed to tell a particularity humorous joke.

However, the general peace and lightheartedness disappeared when an intoxicated patron grabbed one of the waitresses and held her with a knife to her neck. He approached the frightened bartender with his hostage. "That last game was rigged, you old hack!" he yelled at the bartender. "I want the winnings you collected!" he momentarily pointed the knife at a pouch of money behind the counter.

Puck flew onto Guts' shoulder. "C'mon! You're a jinx when you walk into bars! You should do something."

Guts eyed a knife resting on the table nearest him and threw it straight for the disgruntled patron. "Agh!" the man let his hostage go as the knife found its way into his arm. With the man caught off guard, Guts drew Dragonslayer. With a single cut, he severed one of the man's legs from the knee down. "Aaaaaggghhhh!" he fell to the floor clutching at his severed limb.

His action drew all eyes in his direction, but he ignored them, heading straight for the counter. "You saved her," the bartender said as Guts approached. "Thank-, eh?" Guts walked past him behind the counter and retrieved the coin pouch the man had been so distressed over. He jingled it around, hearing the coins collide with one another inside.

"Feels heavy," Guts noted. "I think I'll take it. A little reward for saving her life." He placed a single gold piece on the counter. "Sorry about the mess." He made a move to leave the bar.

"H-hey!" the bartender seemed to find his voice. "You can't just-," Guts cast a gaze over his shoulder; his hand patted the hilt of Dragonslayer.

"There isn't a problem, is there?"

The bartender made the smart move to not say anything.

Outside, Sonia was leaning against a wooden pole, seemingly awaiting their return. "That was quick. Did you win anything?"

Guts didn't answer, but he reached into the pouch and tossed her two gold pieces. "Thanks for the tip." He went to exit the town, his business here all done. Sonia didn't follow, but Puck, unfortunately, did.

"You are just plain mean sometimes," Puck flew along beside him.

"And now that you finally know that, will you leave me alone?" Guts didn't want to sound too hopeful.

Puck seemed to know that his smile would annoy him. "You might be mean, but I can tell you got some good in you too. And I'll stick around until you see that too!"

I really hate this bug.

Everything that was, there was always more to it. That had been the first lesson and the one that was supposed to be the most important. Both flora, and to a lesser extent, Schierke, had tried to explain as best they could about the many branches of magic, and how they all function when properly used. He had already been briefly introduced to summoning and enchanting, but there were others, many others.

Transfiguration, it was a sit sounded, to take one thing and manipulate it into another. It could be as simple as changing the color of a bed sheet or turning a human into an animal. Ivalera had accidentally spilled a drink on Schierke's clothes and the young witch had briefly turned her companion into a ladybug.

One Harry was surprised had a category of its own, defensive-based magic. The entire spirit-tree mansion was protected by it through the talisman carved into the surrounding trees, as Schierke had shown him that one night. But personal shields could be erected as well with the proper symbols drawn and a salt line. The flaw in those was that the charm would only protect against supernatural threats, not physical ones.

Then there was potion brewing, a topic which Flora actually let him practice alongside her and Schierke. The main reason being aside from the fact that he was still a novice, was that potion making did not require any prior magical experience. The potion itself would have magical properties, but the brewer could be anyone who understood what it was they were doing. And with a few helpful tips from Flora, Harry brewed his potion alongside Schierke.

"Add a few crushed mint leaves," Flora instructed him.

Harry read over the list of ingredients. "It doesn't list mint leaves." Schierke took the time away from her own potion brewing to hand him a bowl of leaves.

"Mistress Flora has been doing this for a long time. After a while, you take away a few tips that no list could ever show you; your own experience. You'll never learn to grow if you just go by what's put in front of you."

"Does that mean that you messed up bad at one point?" Harry jokingly asked, accepting the leaves and adding them to the cauldron.

"Everybody makes mistakes," she informed, turning her head to look at him. When she did, Harry couldn't help but stare. "What?" she asked.

"You wear glasses."

They were oval shaped, not as large as his, but still noticeable. He had been so enraptured with his own potion he never saw her put them on. "So." She sounded a tad indignant. "I'm farsighted and I can read the text better with them. Besides, you wear glasses too."

"Yeah," Harry admitted as much. "But you kinda look like an owl with them on."

She had to blink a few times to try and comprehend if he was serious or just teasing. "No, I don't!" Ivalera flew up and studied Schierke as well. "What do you think, Ivalera? Do I look like an owl?"

The elf pondered. "…Owls are cute." Schierke pulled her hat down over her face.

"Both of you potions are looking quite fine," Flora examined their work. "You've taken an important step into understanding that not all magic requires a wand, it can be as physical as we are now."

That had been another thing; the physical. When Flora had first explained it to him, Harry thought his head would actually explode. There was the notion that the world they resided in now, was not the only one to exist, there was other worlds, or layers rather, that intertwined or occasionally overlapped. They were the astral worlds.

For starters, there was the physical world, the world of humans where what you see is what there is; overall nothing exceptional. Not until the astral layers. They were what witches and wizards tapped into to draw their magic, even if they knew it or not. These layers were the birthplace of magical creatures, beings with innate magical abilities, such as elves like Ivalera. They once crossed over to be a part of the physical world, until they either died or were killed in which they returned to the astral plane of existence. Having magic make up a part of which they are, no magic can ever be truly killed.

Then there was the interstice. It was a place where people like Harry, Guts, and Casca now existed. It was like a place between the physical and astral, hence why the spirits came for them at night; it was because of their brand. The brand came from a part of the astral world, and was now a part of them; physical beings.

Lucky us, Harry bitterly thought.

With a deeper understanding of magic, mages could project a "luminous body" or their means of traversing the astral layers without their physical bodies. But it was risky. The most powerful magic that can be pulled to assist from the astral world laid the deepest in, and therefore the most dangerous. The deepest layer was known only as the abyss. It is a swirling torrent of madness and despair that would be impossible to escape from.

Finally, there was what Flora called the "ideal world." It was a world in which both humans of the physical, and creatures of the magical existed. However, a link to that world was near impossible to establish. It would have to take a direct link of sorts to actually be able to travel there.

It was confusing but fascinating. The ultimate contradiction that only made sense to mages; and what led Harry to a question that had been bugging him for quite some time and he had asked as he and Flora walked around the spirit-tree. "All this stuff is fascinating, but why don't more people know about it?" Flora's smile faltered. "If all of that is true, then other people must know at least some things about it. How can anyone cover up the fact that this isn't what's only real?"

The elderly witch seemed to ponder how best to answer. "It was because people knew that the knowledge was lost to most. Tell me, young Harry, how much do you know of the Holy See?"

"It's the main religious organization for all the western countries. I take it they didn't like the idea that something went against their teachings." She nodded.

"Magic had been around for far longer than any religion had," Flora elaborated. "The founder of the Holy See believed magic to go against the divine will of their god and began the first of many witch hunts. Over time people stopped believing in many magical creatures and the magic was less. Believing in a spell, an idea, anything that is what is most important." She pursed her lips. "He was horribly misguided."

"Wait… you knew the founder of the Holy See?" He had gotten the impression Flora was older than she looked, but the Holy See was hundreds of years old, maybe even a thousand.

"I considered him a friend at one point. He had an aptitude for exploring beyond reason, and was quite handsome as well." He didn't need to know that last part. "He thought by taking certain actions that he was saving lives, but he ended up killing a great many."

"Sounds like someone I know," Harry muttered under his breath. "He thought that mages were all focused on using dark magic or something like that?"

"Dark magic?" Flora repeated. "Magic is what you make of it. A simple cutting jinx could cut a man's throat as easily as it could some leaves. A levitation charm could kill someone on impact if the height is high enough. And a spell that could be used to end one's life, imagine if someone was living a life of pain, someone, you cared a great deal about. If the best way to help them was to use a spell to kill them, would you? Magic is what you make of it." Harry was under the impression that Flora had used that last example from personal experience. As they neared the end of their walk around the tree, Harry noticed something he had not previously. A door was built near some of the roots, blending in almost perfectly. Flora followed his gaze.

"An old storage room," she said a bit too quickly. "I keep some of the more, unstable for lack of a better word, items down there. Two of them, in particular, are not to be trifled with." He looked at it with a newfound curiosity. "But Schierke tells me that you have a gift when it comes to snakes." She led him over to a small garden where a few garden snakes slithered around. "The gift of talking to snakes is called parseltongue. But, I am curious about what you know about warging."

A/N: So this chapter was pretty exposition heavy, but I thought it important to explain the concepts of magic this chapter. The next one will have warging and Harry beginning to craft his own staff. Thanks for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling, and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing

She led Harry back to the garden and away from the supposed "storage door." Flora's answer regarding what lay beyond had been far too vague for his liking, as opposed to how she normally gave such lively descriptions. For some reason, his sense of curiosity seemed amplified, his imagination running wild. But, it was also something else; something that seemed to almost call to him, to pull him toward… something.

"Here we are." Flora's voice drew him away from his imagination train of thought. They were back in the garden where Schierke was watering the plants. A bee buzzed around the girl's hat, and she shooed it away with a point of her staff toward some sunflowers. "Hard at work, I see."

Schierke straightened when addressed by her teacher. "I finished with the potion I had been brewing, so I decided to help out here."

"No reason to defend yourself, Schierke," Flora spoke lightly. "I was actually hoping that you'd be out here."

"You were, mistress?" Schierke tilted her head.

"For what I had in mind, yes. Have you been keeping up with your ability to warg?"

Schierke bowed. "Of course, mistress. Do you require a demonstration?"

"Not for my sake, no." She looked over at Harry. "For our learner." Flora bent down near some of the flowers, seemingly looking for something. "Aha!" in her hand was a small green garden snake, which almost seemed content in the witches clutch. "I believe this little fellow would make a fine vassal for your first experience." Flora handed him the snake, which perked up at Harry's touch.

"Warging… you mean I'm going to be able to see what this snake sees?" Harry surmised from what he had been told about the art.

"See what it sees, feel what it feels, move its body around to your will," Flora expanded.

Harry looked down at the small serpent which was curled around itself in the palm of his hand. "If I actually do manage to take control over it, will it feel anything?" Harry wondered. "If something goes wrong, what would end up happening?"

"Usually warging requires a mage to have a luminous body, one that can exist outside of our existence in the astral world." Harry had still to summon the apple; an act which he attempted every night before going to sleep. "But, if you can talk to snakes that would be a great benefit to you."

"You mean if I ask nicely, the snake will allow me to do it," surmised Harry.

"Consent of sorts is needed from the animal," Schierke mentioned. "Animals can form bonds with humans either over time or just from being in tune with one another. If you really can talk to snakes, it could allow you to get past the fact that you haven't achieved an astral form yet."

Harry looked back at the serpent coiled in his palm. Sensing his gaze, the snake perked its head up, eyes unblinking and flickering its forked tongue. But, there was no sign of discontent from the tiny serpent. "Try speaking to it," Flora suggested. "Ask if it would be willing to share its mind and body." Flora gave an encouraging look, and Schierke looked at him with curiosity, trying to pass it off as being nonchalant.

Trying his best to imagine that he would get this right on the first try, Harry spoke. "Hello."

The forked tongue flipped up and down in rapid succession. "A sspeaker. Here? That'sss sssurprissing."

"It's talking to me," Harry spoke to the two witches.

Flora nodded in approval; Schierke, on the other hand, dropped whatever blasé appearance she was going for. If she had wanted to see him fail, her expression of wonder betrayed that completely. "What's it saying?" she excitedly asked.

"It's just surprised that I can speak to it," Harry admitted as much.

"Parseltongue is a rare trait," said Flora. "To have such a unique ability is a great blessing. Please, do not let us distract you. Talk to it some more. If it grants you consent, I'll tell you how to properly warg."

Directing his attention back to the snake, Harry said, "My name'ss Harry Potter. Do you have a name?"

"No name for me, sspeaker. Usss seprentsssss do not name ourselvesss."

"How long have you lived in this garden then?"

"Many yearsss. I wass here before the girl, but not the woman. Ssshe doesss not age, not here. Many of my brothersss and sistersss have found refuge near her tree."

"You like humans then? If you live so close to them."

"I've heard talesss from othersss of my kind. Humansss outssside of this foreesst, they are cruel, viciousss beingsss who would kill without a second thought. But thessse onesss, they are kind to usss creaturesss."

"Have you warged with them then?"

"Once, with the older one. Ssshe hass done sso with almossst every creature who comesss near this tree. Sshe iss in tune with all thessse animalsss."

"Would you be willing to try it again, with me this time?"

"Perhapsss, what'sss in it for me?"

"What is it you'd like?"

"Ratss, sspeaker; ratsss. The woman iss protective of all creaturesss, even the uselessss onesss."

"Well I promise if I find a rat then it's all yours."

"Much oblidged, sspeaker. I will name my firssst hatchling after you asss thanksss."

Harry looked up to see both witches watching him. "He agreed."

"Did he want anything is return?" Schierke asked. "Snakes can be faithful to those they trust, but they are sly to a fault."

"You're not wrong. He wants a rat."

Schierke blanched. "Even predators have to eat, I guess. I'm just glad that's its rats."

"You're glad, Schierke?" Flora asked. "I'm rather fond of the little rodents. The pitter-patter of their little feet always amused me."

Clearing his throat to get back on topic, Harry asked, "What's next? Now that I've gotten the snake's permission, what do I do now?"

"Ah, right." Flora cleared her throat. "First, make eye-contact with the snake." Harry did as instructed. "Now, imagine looking at yourself, but through the eyes of that snake; its eyes are about to become yours. That is a crucial step; magic comes from believing, after all. And finally, recite the following phrase; videm na conspectru tao ostinde maihi."

Videm na conspectru tao ostinde maihi. Harry mentally recited. He looked back at the serpent in his hand, it was looking at him expectantly, waiting for him. "Videm na conspectru tao ostinde maihi." Harry recited.

It was almost instantaneous. One minute he could see himself holding the snake as clear as day, the next it was like he was swimming through milk. Everything was a bit foggy, and Harry feared he had messed up and gone blind. But the white began to clear; shapes and outlines were becoming present to him now. He turned to look, but it felt like his whole boy moved in sync with his head and neck. Moving his arms and legs was impossible, he didn't have any.

The whiteness faded to near nothing and he found himself staring up at himself, at his own body. His human eyes were closed, and his body as still as any statue. Right now he was being held in the palm of his statuesque hand. Flora's image came into focus, and she extended her hand for him to slither onto, which was easier said than done. He was used to walking with two legs, and with only a body and tail at his disposal, it made for a great struggle.

Eventually, Harry managed to grasp the concept of whatever direction he moved his head and neck, the rest of him was sure to follow. He slithered into Flora's palm and was examined by the elderly witch. She looked him over as if to see if he was able to pass inspection. She spoke some words, but his snake hearing did not interpret all of what she had said. He got the general gist of it when she set him down in the grass, eager for him to test his legs, or rather, his tail.

With this new environment as his horizon, he slithered forth. It may have just been his imagination, but he felt faster as a snake. He slipped through the grass as if he were the wind, eventually being stopped by a sparrow landing right in front of him, his excitement quickly replaced by fear. In this body, he might be faster and more in tune with the environment, but he was much weaker. There was no way he could defend himself from being eaten by a-wait, what was wrong with the birds' eyes?

Circling around the pupil of the sparrow was a glowing turquoise ring. The same shade of turquoise of-Schierke? The sparrow bent down towards him, but not to peck him with its beak or to carry him off to a nest. It was examining him as well. A series of chirps came from its beak and it was bobbing its head over to where Flora and their two stiff bodies were waiting. The warg Schierke flew low to the ground and went to perch on her human shoulder. Getting the hint, Harry slithered his way back to his body as well. Flora scooped him up in her hand and held him level with his head. She pointed a wrinkled finger to the center of his forehead, and he extended his body to touch it. He saw white, and then black, and then color once again. He blinked his eyes and flexed his fingers. He was back.

"Well done," praised Flora as she let the snake down on the ground. "You've just achieved your first major step in the world of magic."

"Congratulations," Schierke said, her voice lacking any form of sarcasm or distrust. "I guess I was wrong about you; you do have magical talent. And I'm… sorry for being unpleasant before."

She held out a hand to him, and he took it. "That's pretty mature of you, Schierke. And once you get a bit taller, you'll look the part too."

"That's not funny," she deadpanned. "At least Ivalera wasn't here to hear-,"

"-Schierke!" the elf flew out from behind a sunflower. "Did you actually apologize?! You never apologize to anyone besides Mistress Flora. Are you feeling alright? Do you have a fever?"

"Oh no." Schierke shied away from Ivalera's hounding interrogation.

"The two of them have been friends since as long as Schierke has lived here with me," Flora informed Harry while the two bickered. "But all joking aside, you did splendidly."

"Thank you," Harry replied. "I had a good teacher I suppose."

"I simply taught you the incantation. The rest was all you. Speaking of which, may I now ask you a question?"

"With all I've asked you, it seems fair."

"You see, Parseltongue is a rare trait, as I've said. Usually, it is passed down by blood, what do you remember of your parents?"

"I never knew them. They died when I was just a baby."

Flora's smile wavered and turned to a frown. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to bring back any bad memories. I was only curious."

Harry shook his head. "It's fine. Like I said, I never actually knew them." It was a cold thing to admit, that he was fine with not knowing his parents, had things been different, he would feel a pang of guilt. But he never even knew what they looked like, let alone what kind of people they were. The Dursley's never talked about them and they were Harry's relatives. Relatives, but not his family.

"Why not get some rest?" suggested Flora. "To achieve warging on your first attempt, and without a luminous body is quite the feat." Deciding to take her advice, Harry went back to the spirit-tree, passing by the storage door as he did so. He waited to see if he would get the same ominous feeling as he had done before; he didn't.

If warging had been an easy task, then what came after it was cause for infuriation; crafting his own staff. According to Flora, staffs were unique to each person and more "loyal" than wands. Staffs were all handcrafted by the future user issuing a strong magical bond between the caster and instrument. If for example, Harry were to try using Schierke's staff, he would find the power to be far weaker than his own; the exception being if Schierke willingly lent and gave him permission to wield it. He asked her if he could, she laughed at him.

"It'll be better if it's your own," was what she told him after her laughing fit ceased. And that was where the loyalty factor came into place.

Having the ability and understanding to perform magic was one thing, but it would be useless if there was no way to focus it. By handcrafting a staff, it made the bond all the stronger. The only exception to a handcrafted staff would be if a preexisting one recognized a person as worthy enough to wield it. When Flora told him that, it made Harry think that they were somehow alive in a way.

The materials required to properly craft included wood from a tree with deep spiritual connections, the essence of an animal, and a specialized core. The wood was easy to come by, Flora gave him permission to use some bark from the spirit-tree mansion. For the animal, after collecting a few rats to pay his end of the bargain, Harry was rewarded shed snakeskin. As for the core-well things went sour before he could get to that. The incomplete staff shattered in his hands, leaving them covered with splinters.

Ivalera, with her natural elf dust, was able to heal his wounds in a jiff, and thus Harry began the process all over again. She soon found herself overworked as staff after staff kept exploding in his hands. "Schierke, help me." The elf pleaded. "This boy is going to work me to the bone."

"Get some rest, Ivalera," Schierke told her elf friend. "I'll sort this out." Harry heard her approach from behind.

"Before you say anything, I know what it is I've been messing up on." Harry examined the wood he had just carved. "It's the grip. I'm not allowing any room for everything to fit on the inside. If I make it wider-,"

"-It still wouldn't work," Schierke cut him off.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, sounding more than a little frustrated.

"Any one of those ruined staffs would have been ready the first time, and if you keep up at this rate we won't have a spirit-tree anymore."

"Oh, you're right. The staffs that explode would have worked. What do I know?" his voice heavy with sarcasm.

"You're frustrated."

"Really? I had no idea."

"What are you thinking about right now?" she asked out of the blue.

"I'm thinking of how best to make this staff," Harry answered, trying to sound like he wasn't close to exploding like so many of the past attempts.

"Exactly, you're thinking about making it, not what you plan to do with it. Magic reacts best when it has a goal in mind. So what's yours?" the image of a face came to his mind almost instantly. Instead of mindless babble, a kind, yet also relieved look was on her face; like she was ready to reprimand someone in an older sibling kind of way. He set back to work once more, this time he had a feeling things would turn out very differently.

Wood from the spirit-tree, the skin of a snake, and lastly, "Ivalera," Harry said to the elf, "I know you've spent a lot of dust healing my hands; but do you think you can spare a little more?" much to his relief, this time it did not explode in his hands. He had sanded down the wood to make the grip smooth, and he had gotten enough splinters in his life. It stood a few inches shorter than him, and the top was carved to resemble a lightning bolt, similar to the scar on his head. With this new item, the walking stick he had gotten from Godo's seemed a bit obsolete, with the exception of one thing.

Harry unsheathed the hidden blade from the walking stick. "Godo, forgive me." He concentrated and brought the top of his staff down to where the blade attached to the hilt. It fell off as expected, and taking the blade, Harry tied it around the bottom of the staff like a type of makeshift spear.

"You've done well," Flora told him when he presented her with the finished version of his staff. "When you feel you're ready, I will teach you how to enter the astral world via a luminous body. Now that you have a staff, it will be all the easier."

She bid both him and Schierke a good night and they retired for the night. It was a night that would prove to be an unpleasant one.

At first, Harry had thought he had warged by accident. He was in a snake's body, that much was certain; he knew what the sensation was like having done it before. But this was different. Instead of being in control of the serpent, it was more like he was the one who was along for the ride. This snake was clearly in charge of its own actions. It slithered through the night silent as a ghost, fitting seeing as it was in a graveyard.

Some ways away, a house was visible on a hill overlooking the graveyard, no lights were on, but the snake made a beeline for the house all the same. The house was old but far too nice for any peasant, some lordling maybe. A hole was present in the back door which was more than enough space for the snake to slither on through.

It turned right and ascended a flight of stairs to where a voice was calling a name. "…Nag…ni…" it was weak; whoever was speaking seemed to be on the verge of death. The snake picked up on the voice and picked up the pace, perhaps to go in for the kill. The head prodded a half-closed door open to a room where an armchair rested. Faint breathing could be heard from the other side.

The snake slithered round and-a door appeared in his line of sight, a round door that apparently led to storage. He seemed to phase right through the solid wood and enter inside to the awaiting darkness.

Harry opened his eyes and made a mad grab for his glasses and staff. His bad leg ached a bit at his sudden awakening, but the metal brace helped to relieve some of that tension. He had to know. He had to know what was behind that door.

He tried to keep his steps as light as possible, but every now and again, his metal brace would creak. But he made it to the outside alright. He stuck close to the base of the tree, feeling along the bark for the sanded perfection of the door he sought. And he found it. He pointed his staff at the handle, trying to think if he had read the spell that would open locked doors.

"It isn't locked, you know?"

He whipped around to see Schierke standing behind him, Ivalera on her shoulder. Both looked tired, and not amused. "Is sneaking out going to become a habit of yours? Because this is the second time I've caught you."

"Look, I had this… dream, alright?"

"A dream about the storage room?" Schierke said before yawning.

"…Yeah," Harry kept the first part a secret. Even he couldn't make heads or tails of that one. "Are you going to try and stop me from going in?"

Ivalera seemed to relish the thought of it. "Do it, Schierke!"

"What is it you hope to find in there anyway?" she asked, annoyed. "Don't make me regret having put a little faith in you."

"Less talking, more magic fighting!" Ivalera egged them on.

Harry could only shrug. "I have no idea myself. I don't know what's behind that door, do you?"

"I've only been down there a few times when I was younger, and I don't remember too much about it."

"And you're telling me that you're not the least bit curious?" Harry tried persuading her.

"It doesn't matter if I am or not," Schierke told him. "If Mistress Flora does not want us to enter, then we should respect her wishes."

"It is not a sin to be curious." It wasn't Harry who spoke, but Flora. The elderly witch calmly walked toward the two of them.

"M-mistress Flora!" Schierke's tiredness vanished in a flash.

"How did you know we were-?" Harry began before she pointed to an open window on the mansion above the storage door.

"My window was open, and you were speaking quite loud." She smiled cheekily.

"I'm sorry for disturbing you, mistress," Schierke apologized. "I know that you don't want anyone going into the storage room, and-,"

"-And I believe an exception to the rules is overdue." Her statement stunned all three of them as she went to open the door, and a faint light appeared from within the lower base of the tree. "Curiosity can be quelled easily, especially when I know that it won't be the only instance of this midnight sneaking occurring."

The room was a bit packed; tables mainly occupied the space lined with different ingredients and glass containers. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, save for the suit of armor resting in the corner. It was ebony black, and without a dent or scratch on it. The design of the plates was so intricately crafted that no human could have made it. And the helm, it looked like it resembled a skull.

Wait… "Is this-,"

"-Made by dwarves," Flora said. "They were the finest crafters in any part of the physical world. A subspecies of goblins tried to replicate their craft, but they never succeeded."

"Has that always been here?" Schierke asked her teacher.

"For quite some time, yes. The last user died while wearing it; bled out completely while fighting. It is one of the two dangerous items that is kept down here."

"Where's the other one?" Harry asked, his eyes roaming to spot any other abnormal artifact.

"Do you recall when I said a sorcerer named Merlin had discovered this place long ago?" at Harry's nod, she continued. "He left something behind before he departed as well."

He was running. His bare feet were probably cut up all to hell from the cobblestone road, but he felt no pain; just an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety. Something was chasing after him down these narrow streets. Something that was a jumbled mess of what a human body should look like. Skinless and blotchy, small and grotesque with an open, toothless mouth, and a singular eye that was unblinking.

His feet carried him far, but the creature did not have to run to catch up to him, it was always there, right behind him. At last, he came upon a gap in the road, one that led straight down into a black abyss. If he looked behind him now, it was going to be right there, right in front of his face. He had to-,

Guts' metal fist came back to squish the succubus that had been feeding off of his nightmare. It was the same one as the night before, the demon child plagued his dreams as of late, preventing him from ever enjoying a moment of rest.

"Good, you're awake!" Puck flew into his face. "Because we have some company, and I don't think they want to have an idle chat." The light from the campfire Guts had started reflected off of the steel weapons the corpse soldiers held. Bony hands shot up from the ground, and the undead warriors rose to fight as they had done in life.

"Brilliant," Guts mumbled strapping the crossbow onto his arm and firing a volley at the first wave. As he neared the end of his ammunition, he busted out Dragonslayer. The huge blade cut three skeletons in half easily sending their bones flying in all directions over the forest.

More gathered in a cluster, but a shot from his canon decimated their bones, burning them beyond recognition. "Is this all you guys have got?" Guts taunted the undead. "No wonder you all died in real life." Dragonslayer became a blur as bones went flying.

Puck watched in fear and awe as Guts fought another battle. He almost missed the shape that had manifested within the embers of the dying fire. It looked like a misshapen fetus. And its sole eye was trained solely one Guts as he fought. Puck tried to get close, but an aura of unadulterated power kept him back. The fetus made no move, it just watched Guts, watched him until the sun came up.

A/N: Sorry if this chapter was a bit short, I had a ton of papers and presentations due this week, and I tried to get as much of this done as I could. Anyways, thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

His journey resumed once again come the break of day. Bones cracked as his boots came stomping down on them. So many began to crack that anyone listening might have thought that a thunderstorm was brewing in the distance. At least he had been able to get a few good hours of sleep before having to continue on. A blue blur flew up to his good eye holding a stick.

"Hey," Puck began, "you look like you had a rough night, so I went and found some berries for you to eat." The elf presented Guts with the freshly picked fruit. He looked at them with skepticism.

"What are you trying to do, kill me?" Guts nearly spat.

Puck tilted his tiny head in confusion. "Huh? What's wrong with them? Are you allergic or something?"

Guts snatched the berry branch away from the small creature. He plucked a single berry and began to squeeze it between his thumb and forefinger to the point where a line of juice began to appear. "Take a sniff with that useless nose of yours. Tell me if you stiff think that's edible."

He tossed the berry to Puck, who caught it. "Well someone woke up on the wrong side of the-," he sniffed the juice and his bluish skin lost a bit of color. Puck looked up at Guts nervously. "Eh… yeah, I guess its best if you don't eat that; you know, it being poison and everything." He laughed nervously before discarding the rest of the branch. Guts didn't break pace, forcing the elf to beat his tiny wings faster to catch up. "So, where are we going today?"

"I am heading to the nearest town. You can fly off whenever you feel like it, which better be soon."

With an almost indignant shake of his head, Puck said, "Not that easy, mister. I'm useful for when you get into a tight situation, and you know it. You just don't want to admit it." Puck grinned cheekily at him. Guts blew in his face, causing the elf to become disorientated. His smile turned into a frown. "Can't you take a joke?"

Guts spent the next hour or so walking until the forest finally gave way back to a dirt-paved road. If he stuck to that, then he was bound to run into the nearest town or village. Carriage tracks were freshly pressed into the dirt road, and from the direction of the horses' hoof prints, left seemed the way to go.

"Hey, this road looks kind of familiar to me," Puck remarked as the two of them stuck to the side of the road, least a rider or carriage should come up suddenly from behind.

"Let me guess, this is where you were captured by those thugs I had to save you from?"

Puck put a finger to his chin. "No, that road was a lot nicer than this one. And it was a cloudy day too." He snapped his fingers. "Oh! Now I remember! The acting troupe I used to be a part of traveled this way once. They went to go put on a show for a town not too far from here."

"Terrific," Guts said sardonically.

Puck didn't seem to pick up on it and began to swell a little in pride as he recounted what must have been his glory days. "Oh, you should have seen us back then. We had this one guy right; he was super skilled with knives and all sorts of tricks."

"…" Guts didn't respond. Puck's description sounded a lot like someone he had known.

"That was a few years ago though," Puck continued following Guts' silence. "He moved on to bigger and better places, you know how it goes, right?"

"…Yeah, I know how that goes."

Puck seemed to catch onto the fact that Guts was becoming more distant, or at the very least more so than before and he dropped the subject, much to Guts' relief. They continued on in silence for the rest of the journey until the stone walls of the town came into view. They stood at least thirty feet high with sentries patrolling the battlements. Two stood guard by the lowered drawbridge and they chatted idly until they spotted Guts approaching. They readied their spears at his approach.

"What's your business here, traveler?" one asked suspiciously.

"Just passing through," Guts replied.

"The Count isn't allowing visitors in his town at this time," the other added. "We can't risk any heretics of the Holy See coming in."

Guts observed them. "Is that why the drawbridge is down and the portcullis raised?"

The two shared a look before reading their spears. "An outsider has no right to question the rulings of our Lord Count!"

"Maybe," Guts reached behind him. The guards readied to skewer him but stopped short when he tossed a few gold coins to the pair of them. "But are you going to turn away a paying individual? But if a count is running your town, I can imagine that you're pretty well off."

Another uneasy look was exchanged between them. "One night, traveler. You're gone after that."

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Guts brushed past them, not caring if he was a bit too forceful doing so. Puck flew out from under Guts' cloak, wiping away a few beads of sweat on his forehead.

"Whew! For a minute there I thought that you were going to kill those guys. Guess nobody has to die today."

Guts didn't respond right away, he brought two fingers up to the brand on his neck. A thin trail of blood had begun to run down from the accursed mark. Puck noticed as well, his blue eyes widening in surprise. "No." a fierce look was now plastered onto Guts' face. "Somebody is going to die."

The curtains had been drawn to a close, but the thin material allowed only the faintest sliver of light from the setting sun to invade the isolated room of the spirit-tree. With a bag of salt in hand, Harry began to pout the contents out in a perfect circular formation, large enough to fit a person inside of it. Next, he poured the salt inside of the circle to form a triangle shape. Using the blade he had attached to the end of his staff, Harry worked on smoothing the salt out so that it was as flat as it could possibly be.

"You are finished making the ritual rune?" Flora asked from the corner of the darkened room. She and Schierke sat at a table illuminated by candlelight. Flora it some incense, while Schierke studied over a text.

Harry gave an affirmative nod. "I am." Flora came over with the incense and placed them along the outside circumference of the salt circle. It was to "put his mind at ease," or so Flora had claimed. Harry had smelled some of the incense before, and all he felt was an overwhelming headache. But, a clear head was vital in taking what would be the most important step into the world of magic; achieving an astral form. Since magic was so deeply rooted in the world of the astral layers, being able to have direct access to that was essential to any mage who was looking to further their magical abilities.

Even with his recently made staff, Harry was still a first timer when it came to journeying beyond into the astral world. His physical body would remain in place in the center of the salt circle, while his luminous body would be able to venture forth, unseen by any physical eye. It was getting a literal out-of-body experience. It was getting in touch with magic like never before. Harry carefully stepped inside of the circle and triangle combination and kneeled down.

"Relax your body and your mind," Flora instructed as she continued to light more incense, the smoke quickly filled his nostrils. "Breathe. Get in tune with your senses, allow yourself to feel weightless. You will soon leave your physical body to one that has yet to be experienced." Harry held his arms in front of him, his staff lying across his palms. It would serve as an anchor of sorts so that he would be able to find his way back.

Flora finished lighting the incense. "By taking these steps, you are only a skip away from traversing into your astral form." Even though his eyes were closed, Harry felt them grow heavy. If it was due to the smell of incense or the heat of the setting sun, he had no idea. "Your luminous body." He exhaled; his breath seemed much less faint. "It is the very essence of your soul." And Harry felt a floating sensation.

It seemed like the entire town had been gathered in the square. They stood, huddled in a great mass in front of a wooden podium where a few key figures looked to be assembled. Whispers broke out amongst the crowd, some of which he was able to overhear. "Did you know she was a heretic?" "She was just in my shop the other day; I hope they don't come after me now." "You're paranoid; you know how the Count is with this type of business."

Whether it was curiosity or fear, all talk was centered around a woman who was kneeling on the podium, a masked headsman stood at her side. Two other individuals were present as well, the first being an elderly priest, and the other sitting on a cushioned chair beneath a raised tent. The seated individual was quite large as he looked to almost be spilling from his expensive looking clothes. His head was as bald as an egg, and with a double chin, he looked to resemble a dumpling of some kind. The large noble gave a wave of his hand and the old priest began speaking.

"We are gathered here today to witness the execution of this heretic woman who turned her back on the teachings of the Holy See and committed a terrible act of heresy!"

The redheaded woman shook her head in denial, tears streamed down her face. "No! Please, I never committed any heresy! I would never betray the teachings of the Holy See! Please, Lord Count, take mercy on me!" the headsman raised his ax. "I'm not a heretic! I'm-!"

Thunk!

Her head came off in one clean swing, rolling off the podium and down to the assembled masses. The stone tiles of the square were now as red as the woman's hair. "She was the fifth one this month." The whispering continued. "How long until the High Pontiff comes here to investigate?" "It could be the Inquisitor that comes, he deals with these situations." The chatter had more to do with any attention that might be drawn to their town and less about the woman who had just been executed.

Parting his way through the crowd, he picked her head up by her red locks and nestled it in the crook of his left arm. His right hand reached up to the brand on his neck that was still bleeding. With two fingers, he began to draw an outline of the brand on the woman's forehead. A guard noticed his actions and maneuvered his way over to where he was. "Hey! What do you think you're-!?"

Guts suddenly tossed the severed head toward the podium, more specifically, to the Count. Much to the crowd's surprise, the Count managed to catch the head with ease, unexpected given his out of shape appearance. It took only a second for the Count's heavy brows to lift to reveal beady eyes as he took in the sight of what had been drawn in blood on the head. He looked down at Guts in surprise and… amusement.

Guts smirked back in mock humor before turning and leaving the crowded square. "After him!" one of the guards yelled.

Puck flew out from under Guts' cloak. "Why'd you have to go and do that?! They're after us now!" Guts took a glance over his shoulder; the guards were still pushing their way through the crowd so he had a bit of a head start ahead of them. He quickly made his way away from the town square and down a shady alleyway. He attached the repeating crossbow onto his prosthetic arm, ready to mow the guards down one by one once they entered his field of vision. What he didn't expect was for a door to a shabby looking house to open. A small, hunched figure stood on the other side, staring up at him in anticipation.

"You… have an elf with you?" the voice sounded a bit hoarse like the speaker was severely lacking in resources.

"What's it to you?" Guts spoke harshly. "There's about to be trouble coming this way, so unless you want to get used as a human shield I recommend you go back inside."

Surprisingly, the speaker didn't shy away. "Your words are harsh, but you oppose the Count, the ruler of this town, yes? I caught a glimpse of what you did back there."

Puck's curiosity was peaked. "You don't like that gross looking guy?"

The speaker gave a sarcastic chuckle. "Of course not. He was the one who did this to me!" he opened the door fully to show himself. He was an extremely short man, but that was due to his legs being stubby planks of wood. A dirty hooded cloak covered his disfigured face, and most of his right side was wrapped in gauze. Most of his teeth were missing as well, either from old age or from a far worse tragedy. "The name's Vargas. And if you're an enemy of the Count, come in quickly!"

"Search down this way!" the sound of the guards approaching drew closer. While it would be a mundane task to simple slaughter all of them, this Vargas clearly had some history with the Count, and if he could be persuaded into sharing what it was, then killing the monster could be all the easier. Guts entered and Vargas slammed the door shut, barring it with a large wooden plank.

"You won't regret it, swordsman." Vargas tried and failed to give a reassuring smile. He quickly realized his failure, and composed himself, wobbling slightly on his two peg legs. "No telling if they know you're here or not, we can hide in the cellar, I have a secret room down there that only I know about." His wooden legs clunked with each step he took down the wooden staircase and down to his cellar.

"This is a nice place you got here, Vargas." Puck flew around the small cellar. It wasn't, but the elf was just trying to be polite.

"Heh-heh," Vargas laughed to himself. "And I thought elves weren't supposed to be liars. We have enough of that with people as is. He hobbled on over to an apothecary bookcase. "It's right through here." He struggled to push the bookcase out of the way but was moving at a snail's pace.

Guts stepped, roughly pushing the crippled Vargas aside. "Taking forever." Guts muttered as he moved the furniture aside with ease.

Past the bookcase was an additional room, one filled with jars of sickly green fluid and texts of herbal medicine. At the very end was a small table with a locked box sitting on it. Vargas hobbled along inside with Puck flying in shortly after him. "I used to be a physician for the Lord Count, until the last seven years or so."

"What happened?" Guts asked. "Did he realize he couldn't stand to look at your face anymore?"

"That's rude!" Puck chided him. "Sorry about him, Mister Vargas. He's not good when it comes to meeting new people."

Instead of lashing back, Vargas pulled up a stool and sat himself down on it. "No offense taken. I know how I look." He took a pause. "And its all because of the Count that I'm like this. You probably saw at the execution, but he's obsessed with killing anyone who might be a heretic. I began to see how mad he truly was, so I tried to escape his service with my family." He choked up a bit. "But we were caught. We were all tortured; my family was killed and eaten in front of me. I only escaped by faking my own death and being tossed down a sewer drain."

"He ate them in front of you?!" Puck asked with a disgusted look on his face. "That's just sick!"

"Of course he is," Guts said. "He's one of them. An apostle, a demon."

Vargas' single eye widened. "You know of what he is?! Then why-why make such a scene. The Count won't take that slight lightly."

"I hope that he doesn't." Guts informed. "I want him to know that I'm coming for him. I want his last moments to be of fear, to be afraid of what might be lurking in the shadows. Let him experience what it's like to be the one who gets hunted." He finished with a maniacal grin that seemed to unsettle Puck, but intrigue Vargas, who gave a bow of his stout head.

"Then God has granted my prayers at long last. I thought that you were just a citizen standing up against a cruel ruler, but if you truly have the means to kill that monster, I shall assist you to the best of my knowledge." Vargas reached for the box on the table. "Before escaping, I managed to snatch this from the Count's chambers. He was rarely seen without it." He opened the box to reveal a green egg-shaped object with various facial features scattered around it.

Guts reacted on instinct, kicking the stool out from under Vargas, sending him to the floor. "Hey!" Puck yelled, but Guts ignored him, grabbing Vargas by his throat and pinning him against the wall. The man's stubby peg legs moved about in tiny circles.

"Do you have any idea what that is?" Guts' voice was low to the point that it sounded more like the growl of a wolf.

"Ack…no," Vargas choked out. "I saw him-agh, with it many times…ahhhh. I… thought it was precious to him… I don't-don't know…" Managing to calm his rage when he saw that Vargas was telling the truth, he dropped him back to the floor. "Ahhhhhh. Haaaaaaah." Vargas took deep breaths as oxygen filled his lungs.

"That was really uncalled for, you know." Puck said crossly.

Vargas picked himself back up, managing not to stumble on his wooden pegs. "I can see that whatever this egg is, holds some sort of importance. I may not know what it is, but I know how to get you to the Count."

"And that is?" Guts asked some anger still present in his tone.

Vargas gave a near toothless smile. "The same way I got out; the sewer."

He was looking down on his body; his physical body anyways. It-or, he seemed to be as stiff as a board; unmoving, undisturbed, almost dreamlike. But something grew from the back of his head, a tether of sorts. Indeed it was like a bright beam of light that extended from the back of his head and snaked around until connecting with a point on the back of his new head; his luminous one. But that was not the only thing that Harry noticed right away. His hands; when he raised them to his face, he thought that he was looking at a ghost.

They were nearly transparent but seemed to be wreathed in some sort of white flame or a very thick mist that seemed to radiate off of his new body in small, controlled waves. So this is a luminous body, huh? Harry pondered his newfound ability. He tilted back, and it was like an ocean current seemed to carry him, seeing as his legs were incapable of walking on thin air. Not only was he looking down on his physical body, but he was hovering in the air.

Using his shoulders, Harry leaned into an invisible flow, letting the current of his energy carry him in whatever direction he felt like. He started to get the hang of it-moving without a physical body. In a way, it was just like flying. He tilted his chin up, and he spiraled upward, stopping just short of hitting the ceiling of the spirit-tree mansion; not that it could actually hurt him. The tree and ceiling were just wood, a physical embodiment. Harry's physical body was down below, sitting perfectly still in the middle of the salt circle.

To test it, Harry reached out his hand, which sure enough, passed right through the ceiling as if it weren't there at all. He really was just like a ghost right now. Lifting his head, Harry continued upward, venturing out from the confines of the spirit-tree and above to view the expanse of forest that lay beyond.

He could almost imagine the wind that would be whipping through his hair if his body was physical, but he was unperturbed in his luminous body. And with it, came a sight that had before been unseen. They were ripples. All across the forest and as far as he could see, they looked almost like doors, or shimmering flickers of light leading to a hidden secret of a sort.

Having read about od, the life force that went side-by-side with magic, Harry knew that those flickers were in some way connected to a deeper part of the astral world. If he stared long enough at one, he could almost feel what was behind each one. Most of them seemed either light or neutral, but one-no, two seemed to have a much different od than the rest, and they came from beneath the spirit-tree. Right where the door in the roots led to. They had such a unique feeling to them, that almost seemed familiar to Harry, but strangely alien at the same time. The first was a very dark presence, one full of anger and spite; probably the armor that Flora had kept tucked away. The other was much less dark but seemed unstable. But one thing was for sure; both seemed to radiate pure power.

'What you are seeing is the flow of od,' the unexpected voice of Flora spoke from behind him. Her luminous body floated next to him, but she looked nothing like how Harry knew her. She did not appear as an elderly woman; instead, she looked young and full of life, not a wrinkle to be seen on her youthful face. Her hair was not in a bun, but flowed freely and seemed to radiate a fire-like heat. 'You are beginning to discover-?' the healthy smile on Flora's face vanished quickly, leaving one of concern.

She reached out her hand to his arm and was able to touch him. He could feel the heat radiate from her luminous being to his, but her focus was not on his arm, she was looking straight at his head. Flora stuck out a finger and moved it to his forehead. Harry did not feel her touch that time.

Hurriedly, she led him back into the spirit-tree and guided him back so that his luminous body returned back to his physical one. Harry's eyes jolted open at once, looking over to Flora who opened hers as well. "Did you manage to do it?" Schierke asked, looking over from her text.

"That was odd," Flora said walking over to Harry, her eyes full of concern.

"The life-force or strange?" Harry asked, not really looking forward to her answer.

"Both."

Dammit! Harry mentally cursed. He was sure he had done everything right.

"What happened?" Schierke approached. "Did he botch it up that badly?"

"Not funny," Harry shot her a weak glare.

Flora shook her head. "You achieved your luminous body alright. But, I was a fool for not seeing it earlier."

"What?" Harry almost demanded.

"You did not feel it? Our luminous bodies are manifestations of our souls, and yours-yours had a hole in its forehead. It was in the shape of your scar."

Harry ran his hand up to rub it. It didn't hurt; in fact, he hadn't felt much of anything from it of late. "What does my scar have to do with anything?"

Flora looked him dead in the eye. "I had my suspicions, but I didn't have confirmation until now; that scar is magical in nature. It's a wound to your astral form itself."

Schierke's eyes widened. "How is that possible? If it is a wound to his astral being, then shouldn't it have festered by now?" she eyed his scar warily.

"But I was told I got this scar from when my parents died in an accident." He felt stupid as soon as he said it out loud. When have the Dursley's ever given him reason to believe them? "Can it be treated at least?"

Flora cast a downtrodden look. "That is hard to say. I am familiar with almost every form of magic, but soul magic is always tricky. The best I can offer now is the means to ensure that the magic from the wound does not fester anymore."

Guts and Puck managed to slip out of Vargas' hideout, with the former taking off in the direction of the sewer that would lead right into the Count's castle. Their escape proved to be a risky endeavor as town guards were seen storming the hideout soon after they had left. Vargas had said he would try to stall for time, but one crippled man against a squad of armed guards, they both knew that it was a losing battle.

"There's still time to try and save him," Puck argued. "Compared to the monsters you usually fight, a couple of guards would be no problem."

"Why help the weak?" Guts rhetorically asked. "He's lived his life, no need to risk mine for the sake that he can fumble around on fake legs for a few more years."

Puck clenched his tiny fists. "How can you say that?! He didn't have to help us out, but he did. He knew that the best chance of taking that Count guy out was through you. How does helping someone make you weak? He even let you take that egg thing before we left." Guts knew exactly how dangerous it was to leave that behelit behind. It wasn't a crimson one like Griffith had had, but that didn't mean that someone wouldn't be able to use it at one point down the line. No, better to keep something like that close at hand. "Besides," Puck continued, "I think the real reason you're acting this way is because you see some of yourself in Vargas."

"You're delusional," Guts denied as they walked past the town square, keeping to the outskirts to avoid detection.

"It's true," insisted Puck. "You both have some sort of resentment toward those-apostles, or whatever they're called. He just lacks the means to do anything about it, so he has to rely on others, something you'll never admit."

Guts scoffed. "Like I said, you're delusional."

"Hey, I'm not the one that's always-, hey! What's going on over there?" Puck's attention was drawn back to the town square. A smaller crowd had gathered, and the Count was present as well. There was no woman on the chopping block this time, but a horribly disfigured man. "Is that Vargas?!"

It was indeed. His peg legs were hogtied and a basket was placed under his head. The Count motioned for the headsman to step forward. "You have been accused of aiding and abetting a degenerate, how do you plead?"

"Guilty as charged," Vargas made no attempt to deny. "I have a clear conscience, my only regret is not being able to witness the fate that awaits you." The headsman's ax raised high into the air.

"C'mon!" Puck pleaded with Guts. "Whip out your crossbow and put a stop to this!" Guts regarded the scene, then turned and continued to walk to the sewers entrance. "Fine! If you won't do anything, I will!"

Puck zoomed toward the execution like a small blue bullet, but before his body could collide with the headsman, a pair of fat, meaty hands clamped around his body preventing any form of escape. "Hey! Let go!" Puck found himself staring up into the fat face of the Count, his eyes barely visible from beneath his heavy brow.

"My, my; an elf?" the Count leered down at him. "Fetch a birdcage," he ordered one of his attendants. "This will make an excellent gift." The next thing Puck knew, he was stuffed inside a cage, and the headsman's ax came down with a resounding Thunk! Vargas' head rolled from his body. "Come now. I have a gift to deliver."

The cage rattled as the Count carried it up to the top of one of the towers of his castle. All the while Puck continued to shout to be released, or he would evoke the wrath of the elf-dimension style. The Count paid no mind to his ramblings but made sure to shake the cage a little harder should Puck not cease his banter. Despite putting on a brave face, on the inside Puck was panicking. What's this guy gonna do with me? I can tell he's not fully human. Is he going to… he's gonna eat me, isn't he?! Oh man, I'm a few steps away from being a chestnut roasting on an open fire! Oh, I hope I taste bad! Forget it, who am I trying to fool? I'll probably taste like a blueberry.

They arrived outside of a door, which instead of just marching in like a high lord demanding service, the Count politely knocked. "Theresa? May I come in?"

A muffled, "O-of course, father," was heard from the other side. The Count opened the door, not to a kitchen or butchery, but the bedroom of a young preteen girl. Long black hair framed her youthful face, and eyes full of recognition and fear. She sat up from her bed and shifted over to where the Count stood in the threshold. "What is it, father?"

"I've got a gift for you." The Count presented Theresa with the cage containing Puck. "I came across this little elf not too long ago. I thought you would like a companion to keep you company; you always spent too much time in your room."

Theresa lifted the cage to her face, Puck stared back at her as her eyes widened. This must be her first time seeing an elf. "I-is this really an elf, father?"

The Count smiled. "Indeed it is. I know that you will keep it in good health." He extended a hand to pat her on the head, but she recoiled, seemingly fearful of his touch. His eyes actually managed to widen and his outstretched hand curled into a meaty fist. "Are you, displeased?"

Theresa shook her head. "Not at all. I was… overwhelmed. This is a bit too much to take in as a gift."

"You need not worry about such things as that, Theresa. Now, why not come and join me for dinner? The chef can prepare your favorite."

She shook her head. "I'll… take my meal in my room, father."

His eyes lowered in disappointment. "Very well. Just know that there is a space at the table should you wish to join me." He exited the bedroom leaving the two alone.

Theresa carried the cage over to her nightstand by her window, opening it just a crack so that some cool night air could infiltrate her chambers. "Do you like the window open?" Theresa asked him kindly. "I've never, er-had an elf before."

"I'd like to say that I've never been locked up before, but… that wouldn't be true. The name's Puck."

"Hello, Puck." She gave a wry smile.

"Soooo," he trailed, "is that Count really your father?"

Her smile faded. "He is."

"If you hadn't called him father, I never would have guessed," Puck told her. "I mean, you look nothing like him. He's bald, you have hair, he's mean, you look like you're nice, he's um, kinda fat, you're not."

To his relief, she seemed to take it in good humor. "He tells me that I take after my mother." Once again, her happy demeanor quickly changed. "She's a bit of a sensitive topic for him."

"Oh. I'm sorry to hear that." He was, he couldn't help it. It was elf nature to feel connected to children. "Was it recent?"

"No." she shook her head. "It was seven years ago. It was around then that father began to… change."

"Huh?" he tilted his head in curiosity.

"He used to be a highly regarded member of the Holy See religious order," Theresa explained. "It was his job to punish heretics, he never enjoyed it, it was just his job. That changed when a group of heretics broke into our castle and murdered my mother. Since then, father was never the same. He enjoyed killing them after, people of this town started to fear him, he saw possible heretics everywhere, even some who weren't…"

"Like the woman and Vargas," Puck sadly realized. "So you know what he is then?" from what she had told him, it sounded like she suspected her father was not as human as she appeared.

"I know of some of the rumors that circulate about him. Some of them say that he-," she looked sick, "that he eats the flesh of the supposed heretics."

"Eek!" Puck retched. "And he keeps you locked up too?"

Surprisingly, she shook her head. "No. The doors unlocked, I can leave whenever I want."

"Then why stay?" Puck asked. "I'm locked up now, and I would want to go and find my friend. If you know about the bad things that he does, why stay?"

"Because… he's still my father, I guess." She surprised him again by opening his cage door. "I have a choice, so do you. You said you had a friend to find." Puck fluttered out, giving her a toothy smile.

"You know, you're not too bad, kid! I won't forget this. Maybe I'll see you again."

She smiled. "I'd like that."

He flew out the open window, descending down to the town below. Guts was still here, Puck knew that for sure. The Black Swordsman wasn't going to leave until the Count had been dealt with.

A/N: That's it for this chapter. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

As it turned out, Puck did not have to fly far to find where Guts was. He fluttered above the courtyard as he watched a fresh battalion of guards come rushing into the castle. "Intruder!" one of them yelled, no doubt referring to Guts. The Black Swordsman had probably already snuck in but made no attempt to hide his presence once inside. Making sure to take more precaution than Guts, Puck stealthily followed after them.

Following the guards took him through the front entrance of the castle, this time entering it as a helper as opposed to being a caged pet. "Agh!" a cry of pain sounded from further inside. Puck flew up to the ceiling as a severed limb flew through the air, landing just in front of the group of guards that he had been tailing.

"He's made it further in the castle!"

"He must be trying to get to the Lord Count! We must hurry!" they ascended a flight of stairs to where a door had been all but blown right off the hinges. Before they could even draw steel, a massive blade cut through the four of them with such mastery that their steel plate armor could do nothing more but to fold like paper. There wasn't a shadow of a doubt in Puck's mind who that could be. He quickly flew into the next room to discover that it had already become a bloodbath.

Corpses laid strewn about like ragdolls in a child's bedroom, some of them not even fully intact. Heads, arms, legs, there were enough lying around to build an entire person. And in the middle of the chaos and gore stood the Black Swordsman; his expression like an immovable mountain and lone eye fixated on a door that lay beyond another squad of castle guards. The brand on his neck seemed to bleed more the longer he stared at the door that lied beyond.

"Crossbowmen, ready!" a line of guards kneeled and took aim at Guts. "Fire!" as the volley neared, Guts raised Dragonslayer in front of him, the blunt side poised in position. The arrows shattered helplessly against the steel blade. The captain of the guard began to panic. "Reload! Spearmen, skewer him!"

As the crossbowmen loaded a fresh batch of arrows, another group of soldiers charged forth towards Guts. With the spears closing in, Guts waited before ducking underneath the attack. Dragonslayer moved, cutting off six pairs of legs before coming up and cutting the men across their chests. More blood was spilled.

"Hurry! Kill that man!" the captain yelled. A large guard with a mace and heavy shield approached. He swung the mace, missing just short of Guts' face. Before the guard could swing again, Guts had already brought Dragonslayer down to split the shield in two, even going so far as to shatter a few bones in the man's arm in the process. Guts brought Dragonslayer up again, this time splitting steel metal in half as opposed to a wooden shield. The guard was cut in half from shoulder to hip, dropping dead and adding, even more, blood to the stained stone tiles.

Guts then charged the line of crossbowmen, which dropped their ranged weapons in favor of close quarter's swords. They made no difference anyway, not up against a blade like Dragonslayer. Their swords could have been made from balsa wood compared to the slab of iron crafted by Godo. Their corpses only added to the twisted entanglement of bodies lay strewn across the castle floor.

The captain of the guard was all that remained, but the stonewall look on Guts' face told the story that there was no escape. Dragonslayer impaled the captain straight through, even shattering the wooden door which he had been standing guard over. And through the shattered remains of the door laid a chamber of immense size. It was as long as a training yard and lined with stone pillars running the length to where a throne was set atop a few carved steps. That was where the Count sat, looking un-amused and uncaring at the devastation Guts had wrecked on his property and soldiers. "So you have come for me, Black Swordsman."

Guts flicked some off the blood that stained Dragonslayer. "You're a hard man to reach, Count." He more or less spat out the last part.

The Count gave a coy smile and spread his heavyset arms. "Well, I would hate to have kept you waiting. Come, do the deed that you set out to accomplish." Guts stared him down as he took a step toward the Count, who made no move to try and escape or call for more help. He took another step, and then another, eventually, he was nearly within spitting distance of the throne. The Count had a content smile spread along his pudgy face. Not liking the sight of it, Guts readied Dragonslayer and thrust it down to the tiled floor, splitting some of the stone and striking a tendril mass of slimy flesh.

"Hmm," the Count grinned. "You sensed where part of my form was concealed. I'll admit, I wanted to see how honed your skills were in such a field. You'll be pleased to know that they are quite exceptional." The Count tossed aside his lavished robes to reveal a putrid mass of molted green and brown flesh that extended through his throne and into the floor where Guts had stabbed. Standing from the throne, the Count began to change. All of his skin began to turn the same sickly shade of green and brown, with an additional layer of slime. Two stalks protruded from the side of the Count's head which opened to reveal a second pair of eyes. From under his second chin, a large lipless and toothy maw came into being, with the Count's actual face resting just above it. He wormed his way free of the confines of the stone floor to reveal the rest of his true apostle form; something akin to a large slug.

Two large paws of sorts un-tucked themselves from the side of his slug-like body and helped the Count to move more freely. "It feels like it's been so long since I've been able to move around like this. But you, Black Swordsman, you are one who merits my true might be unleashed." With his fleshy paws moving him along, the Count made a straightforward charge towards Guts.

He leveled the point of Dragonslayer with the floor, waiting until the Count approached before taking his swing. The strike was on point, slicing through one of the Count's fleshy paws as if it were cheese. But the Count had picked up enough momentum that he did not come to a halt until he neared the door Guts had entered in. Thick, dark blood oozed from the open wound Guts had dealt. The face above the gaping maw formed into a grin.

"You handle your sword well – not that I'm surprised. But, did you know that your one hit means nothing to me?" from his wound, slime began to secrete seeming to cauterize it. Soon enough, the paw had grown back in place. The apostle Count gave a deep chuckle. "My powers of regeneration are second only to that of Nosferatu Zodd!" a fleshy flap opened on the Count's back, and two tendrils came wriggling into existence. "Now allow me to take the offensive."

The tendrils scraped their way across the ceiling, raining debris and dust down on the two combatants. Guts rolled out of the way of the first and cut the second off at the head before turning his body around to cut the other. Both fell, writhing to the floor, looking to reattach themselves to their host body – a body which was barreling straight towards Guts. The Count had planned to distract him with the tendrils while he made the advance.

Poising Dragonslayer at his side, Guts narrowly made the jump to avoid the charge, and just barely succeeded in slicing the Count in what must be considered to be his stomach area. Much like the first time, an oozing layer of slime secreted from the apostle body to seal off the wound Guts had dealt. "Fufufu! Have you learned nothing?" the Count twisted his body to mimic the slithering of a snake, striking a blow to Guts and knocking him to the side. Two fresh tendrils sprouted from the back of the apostle. One wrapped around Guts' leg and tossed him into one of the pillars lining the chamber. Needing to take time to improve his strategy, Guts quickly ducked behind one of the pillars before the other tendril could come whipping down on him. "Running away to hide?" the Count tauntingly asked. "I expected so much more from you."

Guts did reemerge, with Dragonslayer on his back and crossbow mounted on his arm. Bolts fired as fast as he could crank the lever, some of which the Count was able to swat out of the air like flies, and some managed to hit their mark like the one that struck one of the eyestalks growing from the side of his head. The Count gave a cry of agony, his tendrils wildly whipping about. Seeing a moment of opportunity, Guts charged the Count. He had been paying attention how long it took for the Count to regenerate – he was fast, but not as fast as he liked to think he was. With the time allotted to him, Guts jumped onto the back of the giant slug and drove Dragonslayer into the apostle's back.

"Raaaaggghhhh! You vermin!" the Count yelled. "Get off of me!" Guts withdrew Dragonslayer, ready to impale the Count through the back of his head, but he was stopped short when one of the tendrils wrapped around his leg once more. Guts was torn off of the Count and slammed into the floor repeatedly. The constant tossing around caused the behelit Guts had stored on his person to come flying free. "You truly thought that you could defeat me?! I feed on the flesh of degenerates like you, what chance does a mere man have against the powers granted by the forces of destiny?!" a second tendril came whipping down on Guts as he attempted to rise to his feet. "You're just like a heretic. No matter how much you are beaten, you still find a way to get under my skin!" before the tendril could whip down, a blue blur flew at incredible speeds – straight into one of the Count's eye stalks. "Yeow! Now what?"

Hovering in front of the Count was a very cross looking Puck. "Just what's the big idea, huh?! At the rate you're going, the both of you are going to wind up destroying this whole castle! You have a daughter living in one of the towers; have you thought what might be going on with her?"

"She let you out, I assume? A shame. I hoped for you to be her companion, she is much too lonely. But she has nothing to fear from me. Once I rid the world of this Black Swordsman all will be right again. No one will ever again threaten the safety of my land."

"Good luck with that," Puck scoffed. "This one's much too stubborn to just die. And you're wrong. Whatever it is you hope to go back to, it isn't going to happen. Your daughter is terrified of you because of what you've done. Killing more people is only going to make things worse in your case."

The Count gave a condescending smile. "Silly little elf with your honey words. What does an insignificant creature like you know about the act of killing?"

Puck shrugged. "Not much. But I do know people. And I know with all the noise and ruckus you two have been causing is enough to attract the attention of a curious child."

A shriek of terror sounded from the threshold of the chamber. Standing there terrified out of her mind at the monstrous form before her was the Count's daughter – Theresa. The Count's demeanor changed almost instantly. "Theresa, sweetheart. I-I understand that this is your first time seeing me like this, but it is still I, your father." His apostle form lumbered toward her causing the girl to squeal in terror once more. He stopped, seeing that shock had taken hold of her. In her eyes, he was as much a monster as he looked; and that hurt more than any damage Guts could have dealt with his sword.

"F-father…?" she looked at him as if to see him once again as she had always known him, not the monstrous form that towered above. Her presence could have been a hindrance, but Guts recognized an area of opportunity when one was presented to him. His left arm was poised upward, and with a pull of the string, the hidden canon fired its hidden shot.

Babooom!

"Neagghh!" the Count screamed as a portion of his neck and face was blown off by the force of the canon. Hefting Dragonslayer once more, Guts swung down right where his canon shot had struck the Count. No amount of regeneration could heal the apostle in time before the massive blade sliced through the slimy remains of his neck. A large portion of his head fell to the floor – eyes still blinking; alive, but barely.

"Ooohh…" Theresa looked like she was about to faint. Puck looked at her with concern, knowing full well why she appeared so distressed. It was as she had said to him, her father may be a horrible person, but he was still her father. And what daughter would want to see their father suffer at the hands of a strange man. They all knew that the Count was little in deserving of mercy, but based on what Puck had seen the apostle truly did care for his daughter – perhaps that was his one redeemable quality.

"That was a bit excessive, don't you think?" Puck tried to sway Guts' attention from the sentient part of the Count's head. "I could have tried to take her out of here so she wouldn't have had to see that."

The Black Swordsman spat out some blood. "You could have tried all you wanted, that doesn't mean that she was going to listen." A tendril sprouted from the back of the Count's head, pulling what remained of his head along the floor. "All that bravado you were sprouting a minute ago about your regeneration seems to have gone." Guts mocked. "So much for the mighty Count." He raised Dragonslayer. "Unless you want to-?" the Count had reached his destination – the behelit that had fallen from Guts during the fight.

The tendril wrapped around the egg-shaped object and pulled it close to the Count's mouth. "I… summon…"

All around the four, the walls seemed to crumble – only to be replaced with a disarray of white staircases that covered the ceiling and three walls. The floor on which they stood remained, but where the fourth wall should have been seemed to have vanished entirely, the edge of the floor stopping before dropping into darkness. Puck and Theresa were the two most uncomfortable with the shift of scenery.

"W-what's all this about?" the elf nervously asked. "A second ago we were in some castle chambers, now we're in some kind of abstract world!"

"Father!" Theresa cried out. "What is this place?! What have you done?!"

A new voice answered her. "Your father has summoned us in a desperate hour, child." Standing on one of the staircases was the only female member of the Godhand, Slan. "We are simply answering his summons." Four more beings began to come into existence; two of them were more round and impish – Conrad and Ubik. The tallest had a leathery cloak covering his body, and a brain that was largely exposed and a face that looked like it had been tortured – Void. And the last one, the sight of his former friend standing at the top of a few stairs sent him into a blind bout of rage.

"Grifffiiiiithh!" he yelled, charging up the steps to the newest of the Godhand. The pale flesh behind the raven black helm seemed entirely indifferent to this development. Guts let his anger drive home his attack at the man whom he at one point admired, who had sacrificed all of their lives to be reborn, who corrupted his and Casca's child leading it to be that grotesque creature that would torment his dreams at night.

The distance between the Godhand and Dragonslayer was decreasing, and before the blade could strike a swipe of his hand, and it was sent off its intended path. Griffith lowered his hand and it was like an invisible force was pressing down on Guts, forcing him to take a knee on the stairs. "You're still thinking with your sword first. How incredibly shortsighted." Griffith's taunt only added fuel to the fire.

Despite the pressure he was feeling pushing down on him, Guts used Dragonslayer as a crutch, using it to stand himself back up. He saw Slan look on in admiration. "I truly love watching this boy. His naivety added to his passion makes for the perfect struggle. Don't you all agree?"

"The ability to struggle to survive has always been a part of this one." The sewed gaze of Void shifted to him now. "I have seen that spark in another once before, it will kill him sure enough."

"The lot of you can shut up already," Guts seethed. He readied Dragonslayer once more, but before he could lift the blade into the air, Griffith opened the palm of his hand and Guts was knocked back by another invisible force, knocking him down the stairs and back to the floor.

"Attitude expected from a struggler, but a distraction of why we are here," Conrad spoke next. "Our apostle has summoned us in a moment of extreme need."

With nobody to nod with, the Count had to blink in recognition. "Indeed I have, my angels. The apostle form that you have granted me has been devastated by this man." His eye stalk pointed at Guts, who attempted to rise once more. "In exchange for a new body, I offer you this man as a sacrifice."

Any hope the Count had vanished with Void's response. "That cannot be done. That man is already a branded sacrifice to Femto. His body, his blood, his soul has been claimed by one of our own."

"What you sacrifice must be close to your heart." Griffith/Femto informed. "Otherwise a deal cannot be made."

"Shut it, you bastard!" Guts rose, but when he tried to walk it was like his legs were filled with lead.

Ubik came floating down to where the Count's head was. "All is not lost yet, however. You still have something to sacrifice." He floated over to Theresa, who ducked under the impish Godhand. A look of horror was plaster over the Count's face at the thought.

"She is my daughter… I cannot pay a price like that."

"Of course you can," Ubik insisted. "You did so before with your wife." Theresa's eyes widened in horror and disbelief.

"No…," she said. "No, my mother was killed by heretics. They kidnapped her and killed her. My father would never-,"

"And how do you suppose he gained the form you saw moments before, child?" Slan questioned. "All power comes with a price, the first time it was your mother's life."

"Kidnapped by heretics, she joined with them," Ubik continued. "She held an orgy in your own castle and was unfortunate enough to be discovered by your father. He killed them all and sacrificed your mother. If you do not believe me, ask him yourself."

Her pleading eyes turned to look at the Count. "Is it true, father?"

His downcast expression told the whole story. "I am sorry, Theresa." From where the missing wall was, a source of light could now be seen, green and black flames began to rise from the darkness below, swirling around in a vortex that seemed to have a pull of its own.

Void pointed one of his six fingers toward the unnatural flames. "You have been granted the gift of rebirth once before, you know the price of what it entails. Refuse and that will be your fate, that hell which every apostle dreads. Choose."

Guts wanted to ignore what the Godhand was telling what remained of the Count. What mattered was Griffith, or Femto, or whatever the fuck he was calling himself now. He was here now. He stopped trying to walk and loaded the crossbow onto his arm. Cranking the level, Guts fired a barrage of bolts at his former friend. Void cast his sewed gaze to this new development and a portal opened in front of Griffith to engulf the bolts. Another portal opened above Guts to deposit the bolts and forced him to raise Dragonslayer above his head to act as a shield.

All the while the Count gained a solemn look on his face. He began to speak. "I… cannot. I cannot sacrifice my daughter."

"…Father…" Theresa said weakly before the flames grew in size. From the fire an entanglement of corpses began to take shape, crawling towards the Count. Each body that was aflame seemed bound together by melted flesh, and at the end of the line of bodies was one with a distinct deformity that Puck recognized it to be Vargas. Their twisted hands grabbed the Count's head and the spiral of flame and bodies began to draw back into the fiery inferno where they had emerged.

Ubik gained a thoughtful expression. "It would seem that some human weakness remained inside of him. Perhaps he had learned nothing after accepting apostlehood; you leave your humanity behind you."

"The deed has been done," Void announced to his fellow Godhand members. "Our presence is no longer needed. I bit you all a farewell." His twisted form began to fade into shadow along with the other members of the Godhand.

"Hey!" Guts yelled. "Where are you going?! I'm not finished with you!"

Griffith addressed him one last time before fading like the others. "Maybe not, but we are finished with you. This dream of killing us is futile. After all, you of all people should know just how dangerous dreams can be." He faded back into shadow. The walls made of staircases began to disappear as well. It came to a point where Guts, Puck, and Theresa were standing alone back in the castle chambers as if they had never even left.

They weren't the only ones. Lying on the floor looking as if it had never been activated was the behelit. "Fuck," Guts cursed under his breath, and picking up the egg-shaped nuisance. So close, he had been so close. But Griffith's power had proven to be stronger, he had the backing of supernatural powers on his side, and as much as Guts was loathed to admit it; he was still a long ways before he actually accomplished his goal of killing Griffith. But when the time did come, he knew how to get a hold of the Godhand; Guts put the behelit in his satchel.

"Good riddance," he said in disgust, referring to the Count. Puck flew after him in his wake.

"What were those things?! They weren't like anything we've encountered so far, and what's your connection to that raven-looking one?"

"Drop it," Guts all but ordered. "Point is I'm done here, no need to waste my time any more than necessary." He made to head out, but the girl – Theresa called out.

"Wait!"

Guts turned around, disinterested in what the girl had to say. "What is it?"

"My father is he actually…?"

"Dead?" Guts filled in. "Yeah, I thought that was pretty apparent. Don't feel too bad about it though."

She wiped away a tear. "Huh?"

"You saw what he was, that monster. No use crying over that."

Puck shook his head disapprovingly. "Why'd you have to go and say that? It's still her dad, y'know?"

Theresa began to shake in indignation. "And so are you! You killed so many people too! You, my father, you're no different! You're just the same on the inside."

Guts brushed her accusation aside. "Maybe. But do you know the difference between your father and me? I'm still alive." He turned and made his exit, listening to Theresa curse his existence. Puck flew in front of him, ready to tell Guts off, but stopped short when he that Guts actually looked a bit sad.

Harry held still whilst Flora dipped her finger into a dish of oily black substance. She began to trace a symbol around his scar, "This will help for now," she told him. "The symbol is designed to keep any negative magic from spreading. But keep in mind, this is just regular ink, it can be washed off as easily as it was drawn on, so the need to reapply it is necessary."

"Thank you," said Harry. "But, do you at least have any idea what kind of magic it is that makes my scar so dangerous?" he had a right to know after all. If something happened and he somehow ended up possessed, Harry didn't want to be responsible for any evil acts he might commit. It would remind him too much of Griff – no, Femto.

Flora pursed her wrinkled lips. "As much as I know about magic, even I do not understand everything. I have very rarely delved into the realm of soul-based magic; normally it is not a very pleasant affair."

"That's a comforting thought," Harry mumbled.

"But," she continued, "it is still magic; anything is possible – the bad and the good both. Has there been any instance you can think of that comes to mind if this could take a turn for the worst?"

"Er…" Was there? For as long as Harry could remember there was none, but then the Eclipse happened, the brand had struck his neck – but it had gone for his forehead before. All through the Eclipse Harry had felt like his head was going to be split in half, almost like the evil that came with the brand was clashing with something that had been inside of him, unnoticed until that point. Then it was like hearing a voice talking to him, telling him to kill as many apostles as he could. He had heard it when he had fought Wyald as well; two evils acting with one another.

"Are you going to answer the question?" Schierke came over. While she had been initially suspicious of Harry when he first arrived, she gradually began to drop her guard once she was sure he wasn't going to run off and tell outsiders where their spirit-tree was located. Now, with the revelation of his scar being a source of evil, she seemed to be reverting back to her initial skepticism.

"Uh, well… there were a few times when I thought… I thought that I heard a second voice in my head," confessed Harry. "I didn't think it was anything doing with magic though, both times I was feeling really strong emotions."

Flora contemplated his words. "I see." She took a moment of silence, seemingly mulling over any and all possibilities that could be associated with what he had described. "It seems I have some reading up to do, I might even have to get in contact with an old acquaintance of mine."

"The same one who told you that Harry would be coming before, mistress?" Schierke asked, her curiosity peaked about the identity of Flora's mysterious contact – a contact that Harry had a strong suspicion as to who it is.

"The very same," Flora confirmed. "But if you'll excuse me," she made for the exit, "I believe it's time that we all turned in. A good night's sleep can do wonders for the mind. Don't stay up too late." She lightly shut the door behind her, leaving just Harry, Schierke, and Ivalera.

Harry made to get up to go as well. "She's probably right, as always. Goodnight then." Before he could get to the door, the spiraled end of Schierke's staff tapped him on his shoulder. Ivalera flew up to his line of sight wearing a demanding look on her tiny pink face.

"Going somewhere?" the elf tried to ask as intimidating as possible. Harry looked at the elf and then to Schierke, who kept a rather neutral expression.

"Well, I was. And then you saw fit to try and stop me," Harry said to ease whatever tension had been brought on. "Is there a reason why? It's not like you to go and defy Flora's wishes."

"Not when it's a matter of precaution," Schierke said, lowering her staff. "You were incredibly vague with your answer back there."

Harry could see where this was going. "And you want to know more."

"I want to know everything."

"Everything?" Harry deadpanned.

"Everything," Schierke repeated herself. "What you remember about getting your scar, what you were feeling when you heard that voice, why you decided to come here – all of it."

"You're asking a bit much," Harry shook his head.

"With all the questions you've asked since you got here, I think this evens it out." Schierke cocked a brow as if daring him to deny it.

Harry scratched at his already messy raven hair. "Everything, huh?" he watched Schierke slowly nods her head. "…You really want to know?"

Ivalera was getting impatient. "Quit beating around the bush already! If you're going to spill, just do it already."

"You're not exactly helping out by raising your voice, Ivalera." Schierke tried to get her elf friend under control. "But his stalling isn't exactly a show of confidence."

Harry just nodded, a plan coming together in his mind. "I'll tell you what you want to know, but just the essentials, got it?" Schierke nodded her head, accepting the offer. As mature as she was for her age, and however gifted at magic, Harry knew that the answer to some of her questions would not hold a pleasant answer; but he understood her curious nature. He had asked questions since he had gotten here, he had been curious about the Band of the Hawk, and Schierke was just trying to make sure that his being here did not pose a danger to her or Flora, a feeling he could relate to. Which was why he would spare her details of what happened during the Eclipse – if he would even tell her about that.

"You asked what I remember about getting my scar first, right?" once again, Schierke nodded. "I really don't remember it happening."

Ivalera rolled her eyes. "Well, that sure is convenient."

"What I mean is I was only a baby when it happened."

"Oh," Ivalera had the decency to look ashamed.

"The night I got it was the night my parents died, or so I was told by my mother's sister and her husband. They told me they died in a freak accident – which looking back on it, I was stupid enough to believe them." He kept detail about the Durlsey's very brief, and Schierke thankfully didn't ask more about them. "I later met a mercenary band that I ended up staying with for some time."

"You were a mercenary?" Schierke asked unbelievingly.

"For a time, yes. Then… the King of Midland turned on us because of an action our leader did. We were hunted and lost a lot of our numbers. Shortly after that we… encountered apostles. Do you know what those-?"

"Mistress Flora briefly taught me about them," Schierke cut him off before he could finish asking his question. "She told me that they were all human at one point before making a sacrifice to greater beings. I believe the one she told me about was a ferocious warrior named Zodd." It seemed like Zodd's prowess earned him infamy even among witches.

"Yeah… that's about right. We encountered some of them, and that was pretty much it for all but four of us. Fighting them was when I first started hearing that voice in my head. And, no, I haven't heard it since I got here." He saw that she was about to ask. "It only ever acted up when I was around those things."

"And you actually fought them – the apostles?" Schierke asked. "How did you escape?"

"I had to kill a few," he said without remorse. The young witch looked shocked as if she didn't believe he was capable of such an act.

"You actually killed some? And you don't feel regret?"

"No," Harry said. "You said it yourself, they used to be human – they aren't anymore. There isn't any use feeling bad about them; they made their choice."

"Now that sounds like something a mercenary would say," Ivalera noted.

"As for why I came here, it's like I once said, I wanted to learn more about magic once I learned I could talk to snakes. And to maybe help a good friend of mine." He looked Schierke in her eyes. "Does that about answer your questions?" He allowed her a moment to mull it all over.

"Yes," she answered. "I believe so."

"Really? You haven't even asked about the acquaintance Flora has." Harry waited for her to react to his implication. He was met with skepticism but intrigued as well.

"And you do?"

"I have a strong inkling." It was more than just a strong inkling, he was just missing a few pieces of information was more like it. "What do you know about Emperor Gaiseric?"

Schierke blinked a few times in confusion. "Gaiseric? I know the basic history about him, same as just about everyone."

"Well, during a rescue mission a few good friends and I went with the Princess of Midland who gave us some more insight. Her family is supposedly descended from him, and he used to wear a skull helm into battle."

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"Think about the set of armor Flora has stored at the base of this tree," Harry urged. "What did that helm look like to you?" recognition began to take hold of her.

"Alright, suppose that it is Gaiseric's old armor; the only known owner died whilst bleeding out inside of it. Gaiseric would still be dead."

"He should be, yes," Harry continued explaining his train of thought. "But Flora just said that she does have some knowledge in dealing with soul magic. When my friends and I encountered those apostles, we were only able to escape because of a knight wearing a skeletal suit of armor. Just one look at him is enough to let you know that he isn't human – nor is he dead, not fully anyway."

Schierke was shaking her head, but some sign of resonation was filling her eyes. "But Gaiseric lived nearly a thousand years ago."

Now it was time to hammer in the final nail. "Flora said that she knew the founder of the Holy See. That was founded nearly the same time as Gaiseric." She had gone silent; her hands held tightly to her staff, and her eyes seemed to be staring off into space as his words set in. "Believe me now?"

"I… if that's true… then why would she even consider him an acquaintance?"

"Well if she knew him when he was alive-,"

"-No, what I mean is that the founder of the Holy See was against magic and any teaching that went against their god. He was responsible for the start of witch hunting and the extermination of many magical beasts that are no longer around in this layer of the astral world today. If Gaiseric was the founder, why would he help you, and why would Mistress Flora consider him to be trustworthy?"

Harry opened his mouth to respond, but soon shut it when he realized he did not have an answer to her question. Either he was wrong, or there were more pieces to the puzzle that was the Skull Knight that was missing. If it was the latter, the history of Gaiseric was just like learning about magic; there was more to it than what appeared on the surface.

A/N: So it's the first official day of winter, and I got this chapter done early. The next one should be up by Christmas. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

It has been two years since the horrifying events of the Eclipse. Two years since he and Harry had begun their own separate quests – a quest that he was currently busy with at the moment. The object of his hunt had been another figure of authority within Midland, another count to be precise. Like many apostles before, this one relished in feasting on the flesh of humans, and with the wealth and authority held by them, they took to indulging.

This count – Count Tepes, Guts believed had taken to taking young children from his village and feasting on them. Their remains were impaled by spears and left to fester in a portion of his dwelling. His apostle form, which resembled a giant leathery, black bat proved to be fast in nature, but weaker physically. That didn't mean that the fight was an easy task. Because of the enhanced speed, it made the need to keep his defense up all the greater. This need was solidified when the apostle grabbed a hold of one of the spears he used for impaling his victims and managed to land a hit on Gut's side.

Like many apostles that Guts had encountered, Count Tepes suffered from overconfidence. They assumed that if they got a good hit in it was over, that just because they had superhuman abilities that they would always be victorious. Confidence was a human trait, but apostles were supposed to be above humanity. As such, they failed to understand the full concept of the will of man.

While the bat apostle was mid-flight, Guts reverted to using his crossbow to shot holes in the leathery wings. Tepes hissed as he was brought down to the ground, trying in vain to flap his wings hard enough to lift his form up off the ground and to take flight once more.

"Would you look at that," Guts snarled, pulling the spear free from his side. "Your wings have been clipped. I don't want you flying away on me."

Panicking, Tepes used the talon on his wing to try and pull himself to freedom. Guts was not amused. He stalked over to where the apostle crawled – all but defeated. He made it an effort to drag the tip of Dragonslayer across the tiled floor, scratching the once pristine tile with his massive blade making sure that Tepes could see it from the corner of his eyes. Guts stepped onto the back of Tepes, digging the soles of his heavy boots into his spine. "Where are you going?" Guts mockingly asked. "This is your mansion, isn't it? Why leave? I'm sure your subjects would be devastated if you were to go."

The apostle had to crane his neck to stare up at Guts. His large ears, short nose, and long, sharp fangs truly did give him the appearance of a bat out of hell. "Don't pretend you are doing this for the betterment of my people. I know about you… Black Swordsman." He spat the name with venom. "You hunt our kind, you do so without mercy."

"Mercy?" Guts parroted. "You caught me off guard; I didn't know a creature like you knew what that was." He raised Dragonslayer. "Not that it matters much anyways."

"You are just as much a monster as I!"

Guts showed a minimal reaction. "Of course." He stabbed Dragonslayer down through one of the wings of the apostle, tearing off nearly all the webbing. "It takes one to kill one."

"Yeeeeeggghhhh!" the apostle hissed in pain. "Damn you! Damn you to hell!"

Dragonslayer was a twirling metal arc as the sword was driven down through the back of the apostle's neck. Guts looked down at the now corpse in disgust; he kicked the head away causing it to tumble down a few short steps. "You could consider that mercy; I barely made you suffer before you died." Moving his hand up to his side, Guts noted that his getting impaled by a spear was much deeper than he initially thought. He opened his satchel where Puck had taken to riding around in like a carriage of some sorts. "Hey, bug! Get out here."

The blue elf lazily flew out from his new place of residence. "Huh? Did I miss something?"

"Are you trying to tell me that you actually slept through the entire thing?" Guts' frustration began to grow once again.

Puck shook his head indignantly. "Of course not! I was just keeping Beechi company." Becchi – the annoying little nickname Puck had taken to calling the behelit that he had taken from the one count some time ago. "You can't wake him; he's the one who's asleep."

"I don't want your freaky little egg," Guts told the elf. "What I want is for you to use your dust on my wound."

Puck examined where the spear had impaled him. "I can heal that as best I can, but I'll probably be a little-drained after-,"

"Then just do it," Guts stopped him short before he could say something that would serve to annoy him further. "This is the only thing your good for anyway."

"Hey!" Puck yelled, insulted. "That's not true at all! I can also – huh."

"What?"

"I think that's the closest thing to a compliment you've given me since we've met." Puck flashed that oh-so-annoying smile. "I told you that you'd start to warm up to me – even if it has been two years." The blue elf fluttered his wings to produce the dust. "I knew that I'd get there eventually."

"You have an awfully high opinion of yourself," Guts told his elf companion, he could already feel the dust starting to work its own magic on his wound.

"And you just keep repeating yourself," Puck said cheekily, flying back into Guts' satchel. "So where to next?"

Guts moved his hand to feel at the brand on his neck. It had stopped itching since he had dealt with this apostle, but he knew that it was a fleeting moment of relief; soon it would be sunset and with it another battle that needed to be fought. "There's a forested area to the north of here. I might actually be able to get a few hours sleep before they come."

Poking his head out of the satchel, Puck gave a tiny salute. "Gotcha. You catch up on your sleep, and I'll remain on the watch like a loyal dog. You can count on me." There wasn't a doubt in Guts' mind that the elf would drift off to sleep as soon as the sunset. Regardless, he exited the front of the mansion, the bodies of two dead spearmen – he had killed them before entering. A wind blew from the west, letting his black cloak billow it its breeze; once more Guts set off leaving death in his wake.

"Once more, you've almost got it." The voice of Flora instructed the now fourteen-year-old Harry. The exercise he was currently conducting required him to make the journey to the astral world – but instead of just testing out his luminous body as he had done the first time it was taught to him, Harry was making the next step in that field; bringing something for him to use back with him. As he had seen during his first excursion with his luminous body the forest around the spirit-tree was littered with – ripples, each holding a deeper connection to magic.

Unlike the first time, Harry would not be using a salt circle; he had grown proficient enough to make the journey without the added aid provided by a salt drawn rune. Much like every other time, Harry felt a floating feeling build up behind his navel and it felt like a cord had attached itself to the back of his head. And then he was as light as a feather – or rather, he was even lighter than that. But the physical wind had no effect on him now; his physical body was standing right where he left it. With his luminous body, Harry could move beyond what was right in front of him, now there were the ripples.

When he journeyed into one it was like going back in time or something along the lines of experiencing someone else's dream. The world seemed to suddenly grow much larger, the landscape was dark and hazy; it seemed that there was more to discover in the vast darkness and that it would hold some type of reward if he did. There's so much to this, Harry realized the deeper he went into this new realm of magic. The scenery began to get clearer, and to Harry's astonishment, it looked like a much older rendition of the forest surrounding the spirit-tree. And then he felt the wind. Harry looked at his hands to make sure that they were still the pulsating fire-like substance and not regular flesh. No, he was definitely still in his luminous body; but how was he able to feel that wind? It shouldn't have been possible, but this was magic, after all, he doubted he would ever know everything there was to know about it.

A shimmering beacon of light seemed so tangible to him now, if he were to reach out, Harry was sure that he would be able to touch it. I can bring this back. That is what I came here to do. Harry reached a hand out; he was close to touching it. This is it. As soon as contact was made, the wind seemed to become stronger, the beacon of light was not just an abstract entity – it was a giant figure with a glowing aura. Its face seemed to be cloaked, but the fabric moved like it was made of the wind.

Harry felt a hand on his luminous shoulder – it was Flora in her luminous body as well. "You have made contact. Would you like to come and see what you have unleashed in the physical world?"

"It's there already?" Harry asked, thinking there was more to be done on his end.

"I would imagine so," Flora said with a knowing smile. "It would explain what is going on with the weather." The pair of them floated through the depth of the astral layer they had traversed and back to the physical. However, while still in his luminous body, Harry took in a rather curious sight; the same glowing figure that he had seen before now appeared in the physical world – right behind where his physical body was. "Do you see the fruit of your labor?" Flora rhetorically asked.

"What's it doing?" Harry asked. The being made no move to harm his physical body; it just hovered behind him with its arms spread as if to welcome someone into its waiting embrace.

Flora gestured with her arm to their open surroundings. "Look at the trees. The wind appears awfully strong for a normal fall breeze." She was right. The fall season was always a windy one in Midland, but the way it was now was unreal. It was as if an invisible twister had dropped down, and that luminous being was the epicenter for its cause. While it still made no move, the trees shook violently and the changing leaves fell off the branches in droves.

"That thing is causing all of this?" Harry asked. He had done so little to summon such a powerful entity, and this was what it could do, and it wasn't even moving.

"And you as well," Flora added. "Do not sell your own efforts short. An entity as powerful as this was easy to call forth because of its raw power. Without a specific narrow channel for power, it goes wild. Best return to your physical body and put a stop to it."

"How do I call it off?" was Harry's first thought.

"Tap your staff four times and point to the east," Flora instructed. "But you must do so with commitment; destructive power is easy to use, but harder to control." Harry sent her a nod of confirmation. He had to do so with commitment. The whole idea of summoning a greater power and being unable to control it… for some reason, he felt it acted almost like a behelit – like the one Griffith had once held. And Harry knew after that comparison that he would have no trouble calling off this entity.

His luminous body joined once more with his physical, and following Flora's instructions, Harry performed them with as much confidence he could muster. The entity behind him seemed to give a nod of its cloaked head and the wind began to finally die down. The trees stopped shaking and the leave stopped falling. As quickly as it as it had been channeled, the being began to disappear scattering with one final breeze of wind.

A polite clap brought Harry's attention to his teacher who had also joined with her physical body. "You traversed into that depth quite nicely, and you managed to bring something back with you for a time. Excellent performance, Harry."

Harry lightly bowed his head. "Thank you, but, what exactly did I bring back with me?" he had to know. If ever there came a time where he had to do so again, he'd like to be better prepared to handle the power that he helped channel.

"That was Ate," Flora answered. "One of the four spirits that help governs the elements. As you probably already guessed, Ate is the spirit of wind. He, along with his brother and sisters have largely been forgotten by the outside world, but their presence is still strong here in this forest. It would have been harder to summon them if that village – Enoch, was not so close by."

"Didn't you just say that they were largely forgotten?" Harry asked. It wasn't like Flora to contradict herself.

She nodded all the same. "True, but their history, like so many others has become a bit skewed over time. Now, the people who worship the Holy See know them as the Four Cardinal Kings. In that sense, their legend lives on."

"The Holy See, huh?" Harry mulled that over. It seemed that the Holy See had a much greater effect than just dealing with religion and witch hunting; they were rewriting history as well. This new piece of information only served to add to the growing mystery behind the religious order. Harry had asked Flora before what exactly happened when the Holy See had been founded and found that she was unusually tight-lipped about it. It was a tell-tale sign that either she didn't know (which was unlikely), or she was uncomfortable talking about it. All she had to say was that she didn't know all the details herself and that she was respecting the wishes of another by doing so. That led Harry to ask a follow-up question, this one pertaining to a certain contact that Flora had. She was surprisingly not shy about confirming that it was the mysterious Skull Knight. When asked if he was or had any relation to Emperor Gaiseric, she neither denied, nor confirmed it – rather, she let it hang in the air.

"How did the spell go?" the form of Schierke soon joined the two of them outside of the spirit-tree. In the two years since his arrival, Schierke had become more trusting towards Harry and rarely looked at him with suspicion as she once did. Once she realized that Harry was not going to rat out their location to any outsiders, she had become considerably friendlier. If Harry was having trouble with a spell or potion, she would offer her assistance even if she doubted herself. That was one thing that Harry noted about her after some time had passed; she wanted to help but doubted if she could. He suspected that it had to do with spending so much of her life isolated from the outside world. That was not to say that he disagreed of how Flora had raised the young witch, just that she lacked the confidence of a girl her age would from outside the forest. When he had figured that out, he couldn't help but compare it to how he used to be when he first met the Hawks; back then he was a timid little boy who was intimidated by nearly everything.

Harry had tried his best to assure her that her help was not going to waste; she had been studying magic longer than he had after all. It wasn't much, but it was a start on her own growth. The only thing she hadn't really grown in was height, only sprouting a few inches. Because of it, she often had to ask him to grab potions ingredients that were too high on the shelf for her vertically challenged being, much to her embarrassment.

"He has progressed far," Flora told her first pupil. "I trust the both of you have been practicing during your downtime."

"Yes," they both answered.

"I'm glad to hear it," Flora smiled. "You both have grown so much more proficient in your studies." That was another thing Harry noticed; while he and Schierke both grew in height and age, Flora remained the same as the day Harry had met her. It was yet another secret to add to the witch – along with whatever items she kept stored below the spirit-tree.

"I apologize for having missed it; I was busy with some of the golems." Schierke apologized. "And Ivalera got into some trouble with a few bees as well."

"My, that does sound like something that would keep you preoccupied," Flora admitted, although she said so playfully. "You weren't stealing any of the honey, were you?"

Schierke suddenly looked very pale. "O-of course not, mistress! I would never…" Harry knew that she was not being entirely truthful. He had caught her once in the middle of the night as she walked back to her room with a pot of fresh honey. The excuse that she was "sleepwalking" didn't fly.

"I believe her, Flora," Harry said vouching for the witch. "Since you moved it to the top shelf she hasn't been able to reach it." The look of gratitude she had given him was replaced by a deadpan expression. She wouldn't say anything because she knew he was right.

"Then my method has succeeded," Flora said, almost triumphant. "Although she could always use a levitation charm to lower it." Schierke took a sudden interest in her feet. The three soon retired for the night, the days had been growing shorter since summer's end. Entering his room, Harry filled a bowl with fresh water and used it to check his reflection so he could apply the rune over his scar. It had become a nightly routine for him. Getting onto the feather mattress, Harry was ready for sleep to take him.

He just wasn't ready for where it would take him.

In his dream, he saw death. It was everywhere, corpses were bloated and sickly looking – it was like they had been afflicted by some sort of plague. Rats and flies swarmed over the dead bodies, nibbling on noses and eyeballs, even crawling in the skulls of some to make a sick looking nest. The people who had not been afflicted ran from the infected corpses. There were thousands of them in total, and they were all heading for one place.

A large tower loomed in the distance, and the people seemed to rejoice as they saw it. As they ran, a burning inferno followed them every step of the way – they were trapped outside of the wall that ran along the length of the ominous tower. The fire was closing in on them. And then a shining form swooped down from the heavens, the beating of its wings was enough to stamp out the all-consuming flames. It was a white hawk, one that glowed with all the promise in the world.

It can't be…

But one section of flame had yet to burn out, and he soon saw why. It was a pyre. A mob of angry men and women have gathered around as they tossed torches on the pile of dry wood, cheering as it began to catch flame. And tied to a pole in the center of the pyre was a young woman. Her skin a soft mocha, her black hair had grown longer and messier since Harry had last seen it, but there was no mistaking who that was.

Casca…

No! No, he had to stop this. The crowd continued to cheer as the flames grew higher. Casca's dark eye reflected the fear she must be feeling at that moment – that and the deathly glow of the flames that licked at the dull rags that covered her.

The scene began to change, and Harry heard the hissing of a snake. His eyes scanned his new environment, and it was instead inside a very dusty old house. The person whose eyes he was seeing this through sat in an armchair close to the hearth of a fire. A very terrified rat-like man bowed before him – nervously eying the snake that circled the armchair. The rat-man presented the one sitting with a paper – and a feeling of pure unadulterated joy exploded over the man, and Harry felt it. His scar was burning from this man's happiness.

His emerald eyes shot open in a panic. His forehead was covered in sweat – probably from the first half of his dream. The perspiration had faded the ink he had drawn over his scar, leaving it vulnerable to influence. He wiped the smeared ink from his brow and quickly began to reapply it all over again. Once that was all set, Harry bolted from his door, intent on telling Flora as soon as possible.

Doing so brought him crashing into Schierke as she too was making her way to where Flora slept. "You're awake?" they both exclaimed.

"I had a dream," Harry began. "I saw plague and this tower-,"

"-Surrounded by fire," Schierke finished. She wasn't guessing, she knew exactly what he was going to say.

"How did you know?" Harry asked, almost unbelieving.

"I… dreamt something similar. Tell me, did you also see a great hawk of light?"

Harry slowly nodded. "Yeah, that I saw. And Cas-, a woman. Did you see a woman getting burned at the stake?" Harry knew he probably sounded desperate, but he had to know, was this happening now, or was it yet to happen. "And the man with a snake in an armchair, did you also see that?"

"I… no. No, I only saw the plague and the tower." Schierke shook her head.

"Well, what do we do?" Harry asked, sounding more frantic by the second. "If this is happening now-,"

"-Then what can we do?" Schierke asked him. "We have no idea where this could be taking place, and even if we did, there's no way that we could get there in time to stop any of it."

Harry couldn't believe it – he just couldn't. Casca was in the care of Rickert, Godo, and Erica. That tower was not near Godo's workshop. "There-,"

"-Having premonitions?" dressed in a nightgown of her own, Flora made her way over. "It would appear that I was not the only one to have such a strange dream."

"Please, Flora," Harry asked, "I need to know if what we saw was happening now, or not."

"To have been shared by this many people, it had to have been a vision," Flora determined, calmly. "These events have yet to transpire. As for when they will… I cannot say. However, some truths are known to us; I recognize that tower – the Tower of Conviction. The second – the Hawk of Light will bring nothing but darkness."

Castle Windham

It was early in the morning when all the reports started to come in. Only a handful of nobles were awake, including Sirs Laban and Owen. The first was troubling enough with the use of one word – plague. A deadly plague had broken out in some of the northern and central regions of the kingdom leaving hundreds dead or sick, and thousands seeking relocation. However, due to the deadly nature of the plague, the refugees were being denied entry to the city of Windham. It was for precaution of course, but that did not mean it was easy to have to turn away so many citizens. One place that offered them refuge was the town of St. Albion – the resting ground for the Tower of Conviction, an important structure for the Holy See organization.

Next, there was the increasingly pressing issue of the Kushan Empire. Scouts had reported that Kushan troops were spotted heading westward, already passing through some of the countries under Holy See jurisdiction. War would likely be upon them once again. And to further add to that, the King passed away only hours before. When the country found out they were without a leader, the Kushan would push forward without mercy.

"These are troubled times, my friend," Laban breathed a heavy sigh. "This is just one mess after the next."

Owen handed him another report. "I hate to see you so stressed out, my friend, but I'm afraid that this won't serve to ease that burden." Laban took the report and began to read its contents.

"Nosferatu Zodd?"

"He was sighted somewhere off to the West," Owen recited from the parchment. "From what we know he also possesses the ability to become one of those… monsters." The image of what Wyald actually was would forever stick with the two Midland Nobles. "I doubt it would be of any use to send a party to subdue him."

Laban nodded. "Indeed. He is beyond the measure of any regular human."

"Well, perhaps not one."

"You refer to the Black Swordsman? We have quite a few previous reports on that man."

"Yes," Owen recalled one regarding the daughter of a wealthy count and how she had been orphaned. "From the reports we have gained, he seems to have a habit of encountering these things." Strange how the witnesses under some of these monsters only came forth after they had been slain. Fear must have kept them from speaking out before. "He could be a great help to the kingdom."

Laban ran his hand over his beard. "Perhaps, but do the Holy Iron Chain Knights still hunt him? I doubt any influence we have would be of use to the Holy See."

"You're right," Owen relented. "But we are getting ahead of ourselves. The princess should be informed of her father's passing." Laban set the paper aside and walked with his comrade to the princess' chambers. Charlotte had been quite reclusive since the incident two years ago. She rarely left her room, and the only regular visitor was her handmaiden. As they neared the outside of the princess' chambers, they saw the aforementioned handmaiden run past with an embroidery kit in hand. They looked to one another in confusion.

The door was slightly ajar, and Laban gave a gentle knock. "Princess Charlotte, may we come in?"

"… Just for a moment," her voice sounded from inside. As they pushed the door open, they spotted the princess sitting up in her bed, the embroidery kit in hand as she began to thread a needle. Laban cleared his throat. How would he go about this? How does he tell the princess her father had died from heart failure?

"Princess Charlotte, this visit isn't under the most ideal of circumstances, but-," he saw that her attention was not on him or Owen, but on what she began to sew. "Princess?"

"I saw him," she said. "I saw his face… even if it was just in a dream; I saw him." He couldn't see much of what she was working on, but from what he could, it was the insignia of the Band of the Hawk.

By the time the sun had risen, Harry had made his decision – after two years, he was finally heading out. Flora, unsurprisingly understood where he was coming from in his choice. He had come to learn more about magic, and now he was proficient enough to practice it with ease. He packed up his staff, sword, and a few trinkets Flora allowed him to take with him, like a talisman for growing golems to aid him.

"You have learned much since your arrival," Flora praised. "I'm glad that I got the opportunity to teach you."

"I'm thankful for you teaching me in the first place," Harry said modestly. "I wouldn't know what I do if I hadn't sought you out." Saying his goodbye to her, he moved on to Ivalera and Schierke.

"So you're actually leaving?" Ivalera asked. "I'm not surprised. This was an all girls tree until you showed up, the environment must not agree with you." He had to work on suppressing an eye-roll.

"You're spot on, Ivalera." He thought he saw a tiny smile, but the elf was quick to fly back into the spirit-tree.

Schierke shifted on her feet before offering her hand for a handshake. "Give me your hand for a minute."

"I'm pretty sure a handshake doesn't last that long."

"It's not for that," she chided. "Just give me your hand, please." He did, and both of her hands held it steady as she began to tie something around one of his fingers. "There, done." He examined her handiwork. Tied around his finger were a few strands of green fabric.

"Uh… thank you for the gift." Was this her way of saying goodbye?

"It isn't just a gift," Schierke told him. "They're my hairs. You can use them for thought transference."

"For communication," Harry realized. Schierke nodded.

"Things are going to start changing drastically, and if you run into trouble along the way, I'll be able to help you out by means of telepathy. And also… I'd be able to see what the world is like from your perspective – and don't go and make a height joke out of that."

Harry examined it with a newfound perspective. "Thanks, I'll make sure that it gets put to good use." He patted the witches' hat on her head.

She looked away in embarrassment, but muttering a quick, "Your welcome."

With the goodbyes out of the way, Harry set out on the same path he had traveled before, this time a new journey awaiting him.

A/N: Happy Holidays! The Guts and Harry reunion will happen next chapter, and that should be up by the new year. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Three days had passed since Harry departed from the witches of the Spirit-Tree. The first night came with the addition of possessed animal corpses – a direct result of Harry no longer being under the protection of the charms that encompassed the spirit-tree. The spirits were relatively weak and Harry had made quick work of them with the sword gifted to him by Godo. Perhaps it was all in his head, but Harry felt a twinge of pain in his braced leg when fighting the spirits. Ivalera had helped to heal some of his injuries after he had occasionally messed up with a potion, but this was a different pain. Apostles had done this to him during the Eclipse, and their claws cut deep. The damage had been done by the time he had first arrived at the witches' home.

After the fight was over, Harry had heard the voice of Schierke speaking in his head. 'Your brand. Drawn the rune over the brand on your neck – like you did with the scar on your head.'

It helped. The rune was specifically designed to ward off evil presences, and any protection Harry could get to ward off possessive spirits he would take. With some ink he had taken before leaving, Harry drew the rune on over his brand. It wasn't permanent by any means – probably only lasting three to five at the most, but it was better than fighting for his life any night. Oh god! Harry suddenly realized. Guts was probably experiencing the same thing. The Swordsman had purposefully set off in search of fights, but everyone needed rest, and as strong as Guts was, he was still bound to feel the effect of deprived sleep. Who knows what kind of a mental state he would be in because of it; he had always been a bit of a grump before, but now… it wasn't a pleasant thought. If he ever met up with the swordsman, Harry would make sure to put the rune on him as well; whatever god there was knows he deserves a break.

Continuing along on his journey, Harry experienced frequent observations and mental conversations with Schierke. Apart from just being able to share thoughts with one another, the second part of thought transference allowed Schierke to see what Harry perceived in real time. She was unable to access memories (something Harry was extremely grateful for), but it was comforting to know that he wasn't fully alone on his travel. If he would pass by a farmstead or town, he could always count on Schierke to remark on what he was seeing.

'This is what others homes look like? Most of them are made of stone, is that how they are normally constructed?'

Most of the time, yeah. Harry had answered back. You'd be very culture-shocked if you ever saw a city like Windham. Although he couldn't see her face, Harry could basically picture the look of curiosity she must have adopted.

'Have you visited the city often then?'

The mercenary band I was in used to have a barrack hall set aside for us. She couldn't see it, but Harry recalled the memory of the day he had asked Guts for tips on swordplay. Corkus had been showing off about shooting arrows, and Judeau and Rickert had humored him. Nothing like how the spirit-tree mansion is.

'Hmm. I could try warging into a bird and see it that way. Mistress Flora and I have been doing that frequently of late.'

Because of that dream we all had? Harry inferred.

'Yes. She says that the world is in the process of changing; and based on what we all saw, it's safe to say it isn't going to be for the better.'

Further along the way, Harry encountered a herd of people all looking extremely tired and worn from their travel. Their eyes held a look of defeat that was different than that of those who experienced war but not unlike those who have seen death countless times. None of them looked to be in too good a state of health, so Harry hung back and allowed them to gain a bit of distance. When one of the elderly travelers began coughing in a more than sickly demeanor, women pulled their children away and two brutish men wearing the closest they had to armor seized the old man. A noose was made and they left the man hanging from the branch of a tree; they didn't even bother to cut him down after he had died.

'Oh my…' Schierke sounded close to being sick. It didn't come as a surprise to Harry; this was her first time seeing death outside of what nature offered. It served as a reminder that while Midland might host some kind-hearted people and wonders like the spirit-tree, it was not an ideal place to live. 'They killed him.'

He must have been sick with the plague, Harry assumed. Remember from the dream? A bunch of sick people were seeking refuge because of it.

'That means if you follow them, they might lead you straight to the Tower of Conviction.'

Yeah, they just might.

Harry made sure to keep his distance from the traveling band of refugees. If one of them suddenly became ill from the plague, he didn't want to be around when it happened. Instead, he took to following their tracks they left on the dirt road. He made a few pit stops along the way to rest up and try to catch a few fish in the nearby stream but always kept his eye open for any new development happening on the road ahead of him. The sun began to climb low into the sky, and a low rumble of thunder in the distance gave a clear indication that it was going to rain later tonight. It wasn't long before Harry felt the first rain drop hit the top of his head. And then the next one, and the next one – soon enough it was nearly an all-out downpour.

Throwing the hood of his cloak up, Harry strayed from the road and into the woods that lined the left side. The thick canopy of leaves and branches provided a better coverage than the already soaked fabric of his cloak's hood. Only a few drops of rain now fell down past the coverage of leaves, nowhere near the amount that it would be uncomfortable for him to try and catch up on a bit of sleep.

'Are you planning on retiring for the night?' Schierke's voice asked from within his head.

Just about. I might try for just a few hours of sleep, I want to be up and moving as soon as possible in the morning, maybe even get a bit of a head start.

'Alright, it's getting pretty late here too, Ivalera's already asleep.'

That sounds about right. Once I'm on my way again, I'll be sure to-, "Can't escape us…" the voice seemed to be spoken from above in the canopy of trees. Hurriedly, Harry felt at his neck where his brand was. Much to his dismay, he felt a thin trail of blood seeping out. The rainwater must have smudged the rune he had drawn over it – canceling out the protective enchantment. "You can't. You can't escape."

Harry drew his sword and readied his staff in his other hand, ready for the danger to come. "No escape. None at all." The voice sounded distant now, it had seemed closer at first, but it seemed to be moving a bit further into the forest. And Harry noticed the fire. The soft orange glow made a startling contrast to the dark, wet wood that expanded for as far as the eye could see. More concerning was that Harry heard laughing coming from where the fire was.

'What are people doing all the way out here?' Schierke wondered. 'Do many people live out in the woods who aren't mages?'

Not usually, no. They might be a group of hunters or travelers. They probably have no idea what's about to happen.

'You don't need me to tell you what to do,' Schierke said, and Harry quickly made his way towards the small fire, his feet making little to no sound over the rough forest grounds. As he neared the fire, Harry saw that a group of four men was sitting down, sharing a wineskin and jesting with each other.

"That did not happen," one said, disbelievingly. "How was it that none of us saw it?"

"It did," the biggest of the group said. "You were just too drunk to remember it."

"No we weren't," another denied. "You're always making up stories, trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We're not stupid you know."

"Never said that you were," the big one said. "All I'm saying is that you all have a problem with drinking that makes you forget what happens. How is that calling you all stupid?"

"It's the way you said it."

The big guy scoffed. "Now you sound like a woman saying that."

"It just doesn't make much sense," the first one further argued. "Someone with the plague does not just get cured of the plague. It can't be done. Either the person you saw was faking, or you're just pulling our legs."

"What reason would I have to do that?" the big one asked.

"Same reason you took more than your fair share from our last trade; because you can, and there's not a damn thing we can say to get you not to."

The fourth man, a small, hunched, and a scraggily looking man spat into the fire. "You better not try taking my share away this time, boss. I was the one who nabbed this one." His and Harry's attention was drawn to a dying tree where a young girl, perhaps Schierke's age, was tied up and gagged. "Any noble would pay a handsome reward for this one." Harry's blood ran cold when he realized what trade business these men were a part of.

The scraggily man pulled a knife from his belt and approached the bound girl. Her eyes widened in fear as the man put the tip of the knife on a level with her collarbone. He moved the knife downward, cutting the fabric that was her blouse and undergarment. Much to Harry's – and the man's surprise, the girl found some strength of resistance enough to rear back one of her feet and kick the man in his shin. "Yeaoww! The little twat kicked me!"

"That's what you get for not tying up her feet," the big leader chastised his subordinate. "Leave the girl be, she'll fetch a higher price if she remains unspoiled."

The scraggily man spat again. "Like hell, I can let a slight like that slide. Just one cut, that's all. Trees like this… they've seen all sorts of nasty stuff. People get hung from trees, maybe their memories stay after they pass. One girl with a few cuts – that's nothing! A lot worse has been done for a lot less." The knife crept ever closer to the girl.

Harry moved faster than the man's knife, he pointed his staff at the tree where the girl was tied and muttered an incantation. "Floaras tripedidas." One of the branches began to bend to his will, and struck the would-be assailant hard across the chest, sending him tumbling along the ground towards his buddies. The girl gave a muffled cry when she saw the branch move of its own accord.

The scraggily man coughed up a bit of blood and shook from the force of impact that had been delivered to him. "Shit!" the leader cursed. "Why did you have to go and spread that tree nonsense around for? Now you've gone and jinxed us!"

"D-didn't… mean to. Just… tried to scare her a bit…" he began to fade in and out of a conscious state of mind. The others tensed and drew their weapons. The fear of superstition had begun to take a hold of them.

Sensing an opportunity, Harry directed his attention to the fire that they had going and uttered his next enchantment. "Incendia engrogia." The fire sprang to life, shooting close to twenty feet into the air. The already startled bandits cowed ever further in their fright.

'They're terrified,' Schierke noted as well. 'Just one more spell should send them on their way.' That was Harry's initial plan until the rainwater began to take shape as it trickled down from the trees above. They looked distinctively like skeletons, but more malicious and with a pair of glowing eyes. The bandits were too startled to do anything, and the spirits quickly threw themselves over the men like a second layer of watery skin. Their eyes now glowed with the same possessive desire.

"Branded." They spoke as one unified voice. "There is no escape, branded." Their heads turned instinctively to where he was hidden in the shrubbery. They charged his position like dogs on a hunt. Acting fast, Harry stabbed one of the men through the foot with the blade at the blade at the bottom of his staff before stabbing him through the chest with his sword. The three others closed the gap between them and struck in tandem with one another.

Harry blocked the first blade with his own and had to duck as the two others narrowly passed over his head. Breaking the lock he had with the first blade, Harry cut the assailant across the midsection. The sickly smell of intestines flickered past Harry's nose. He was able to push the wounded possessed down, leaving his attention focused on the other two. The spirits possessing the men must have been relatively weak as Harry was able to knock aside their attacks with surprising ease. However, as weak as they were in combat, they proved to be strong when it came to taking hits. Being possessed, their physical bodies did not feel the pain they had been dealt.

Knowing that his attacks would only get him so far, Harry once again pointed his staff toward the dead tree, ready to utilize it through magic, but something seemed to be happening to it already. The branches were curling like fingers on a hand, the roots were pulling up, and spreading themselves to resemble feet, and the bark seemed to rearrange itself to look like the snarling face of a rabid beast. Through its movements, the girl that had been tied to it was able to escape from her bindings, but the rope restraining her hands behind her back and the gag in her mouth still remained. The now possessed tree reared back one of its branches to attack, and Harry had to hurry to pull the girl to the ground as the swipe passed over them.

I didn't know that they could possess trees, Harry angrily thought.

'They can possess any living thing,' Schierke informed. 'People are easy because they tend to be weak-willed, but for objects like trees, they need to be in a decaying state.'

The fire still burned through the night, and Harry focused his magic on it once again. Muttering the same incantation as before, the fire shot up, but this time arced its way to strike the trees wood. Harry was not blind to the fact that the girl next to him was looking on in wide-eyed wonder and fear at what she had just witnessed. The spell had the desired effect – the tree was now ablaze. The downside to it was the fact that the tree was not burning fast enough. With one of its blazing limbs, the tree looked to strike at them once again. Harry grabbed the girl by her arm and dragged her out of the way from the fiery attack. They had little time to relax as the two remaining possessed men began to approach.

Harry readied his sword to attack once more, but he felt the od of another presence, one that was coming from behind. It was dark, but not like the presence of the possessed; instead it was more of anger than anything else. "Get down!" Harry yelled to the girl as a giant sword passed over both of their heads. No; it was far too big to be called a sword, it was more a heap of raw iron. It got the job done however as both possessed men were cut in half with ease, their blood staining the thick, massive blade. And the man wielding the weapon was just as intimidating. From head to toe he was dressed in black, his left arm up to his elbow was a prosthetic, similar to the brace over Harry's leg. His right eye was closed, and his left eye open, giving the impression that he might have been winking. The light from the fire cast an almost sinister glow across his face, and the scar running horizontal over the bridge of his nose didn't help the image.

As the severed halves of the bandits hit the ground, he turned his gaze down to look at both Harry and the girl. His singular brown eye locked gazes with Harry's emerald green. And then he spoke, "You've gotten taller."

Harry was so caught off guard by surprise that he almost didn't even hear Schierke's voice talking to him in his head. 'You know this man?!'

In spite of having just fought for his and this girl's life, Harry couldn't help but smile just a bit. Yeah. I know him.

To further add to Harry's surprise, something small and blue flew out of Guts' satchel and fluttered in front of him and the girl. "Hi there!" the elf gave a friendly smile. "The name's Puck, nice to meetcha!"

'He's got an elf?' Schierke questioned. 'Just who is he?'

"Uh… hello yourself," Harry greeted back. The girl, however, seemed to stare at the tiny elf more in fear than amazement.

Noticing her distress, Puck went and pulled the gag from her mouth. "There! Now you're free to-,"

"Aaahhh!" she suddenly screamed. "Elf!" Puck blinked in confusion, clearly not used to this type of reaction. "Don't take me!" She tried to run off, but the sight of Guts chopping up the burning tree into sawdust stopped her in her tracks. The brutality in which he butchered the wood could almost be considered a work of art in its own right. She swallowed a notable lump in her throat when Guts turned his attention back to where they were.

"What are you doing, bug?" Guts asked Puck. He began to walk over to them, Dragonslayer still held firmly in his hand. She closed her eyes, probably fearing that she was next. She was visibly surprised when Guts continued past her.

"I didn't do anything but try and help!" the elf indignantly said. "She must be in shock, I wouldn't hurt a fly – well, you know, in a figure of speech." Puck pointed at Harry. "Ask him. He'll tell you."

Guts sheathed Dragonslayer behind his back, and he stood looking down at Harry – who looked up at him in return. Two years, that was how long it had been since they each set off in pursuit of their own goals. Harry had progressed far from just being able to talk to snakes, and Guts seemed to have gained a mastery over the Dragonslayer if his decimation of that tree was anything to go by. But Harry had felt the flow of od that had come from Guts, and it was dark. Granted, Guts had always been a brooding individual, this was something else. What does Harry even begin to say to him?

"You're still swinging that sword?" Harry finally settled on asking. It was lame, he knew that. But there was no point in asking if Guts was doing okay; the man had been going around hunting apostles, there would be no rest in that.

Guts didn't seem to think of the question in a negative light. "You got a new staff, I see." His tone was civil enough and his expression rather unreadable, but Harry could detect that he seemed unsure of what to say as well. "You did that with the fire?" Harry nodded his head. "You got better with it, with magic."

'He knows?' Schierke's voice asked from in his head.

He was one of the first to know.

'Wait… was he a member of that mercenary band of yours? He certainly looks the part.'

"It took some time," Harry admitted. "I can't complain about the payoff, though." His attempt at a light joke failed to even crack a smile or even a smirk from Guts. The swordsman seemed much more distant than Harry had ever remembered him being. Harry had to wonder how dark a path Guts had walked since they departed, how many apostles lay dead, just how much had time worked its way to fester the bitterness Guts had built inside himself.

As Harry exchanged a few more words with Guts, Puck had taken it upon himself to try and put the frightened girl at ease. "Look, I'm not going to hurt you, okay? I'm just an elf. Just a friendly, little elf." He tilted his head to the side to mimic a curious child and even made a few faces to show how un-threatening he was. "See? Could a face like mine really be bad?" much to his relief, the girl made no attempt to escape and didn't yell when he flew a bit closer to her face. "I'll even let you poke me in the belly. Go on! I'm a magical creature and you'll get good luck if you do." Slowly, her finger extended outward and poked Puck on his stomach. "Oof! Wow, a bit forceful, aren't ya?"

"S-sorry," she apologized. "Y-you're not going to eat me, are you?"

Puck's face morphed into one of disgust. "Eew! No! Look at my mouth, does it look like I have fangs?" he used his fingers to pull his cheeks apart and stuck his tongue out for comedic effect. She seemed to visibly relax when she knew that Puck was far from dangerous. Harry also watched the exchange between the pair. It seemed so strange how someone like Guts could have been traveling around with a fun-loving elf like that.

"Are you alright then?" Harry asked; his attention now on the girl they had saved. "I know that must sound like a pretty dumb question, but it has to be asked." She looked at him shyly before averting her eyes to the ground. She was embarrassed, and Harry could see why. The front of her dress was cut open from what the first bandit did with his knife, she was nearly exposed.

He made a move to give her his cloak to cover herself, but Guts had already tossed her his black cloak. "Cover yourself," Guts instructed her, his tone wasn't exactly the most warming, but the gesture seemed to go a long way for the girl as she draped it over her shoulders. It was much too big for someone her size and with her head poking out of the top it gave the distinct impression she was swimming in an ocean of darkness.

"Thank you… Mister Swordsman. And you too, Mister… er, are you too young to be called a mister?" She was talking, but the shock still seemed to be with her.

"Just Harry is fine," he told her. "What about you? Are you okay sharing your name?"

Her eyes darted between both Harry and Guts as if trying to determine their worth. "Jill."

Puck clapped his hands together in a joyous manner. "That's a neat name you got there! I don't think I've ever met a Jill before." The elf flew over to Guts. "Why not give your name? you don't want her calling you Mister Swordsman, do you?"

"She can call me whatever she wants," Guts said, rather uncaringly. "But if she wants to go by name, it's Guts."

'Is that actually his name?' Schierke wondered. 'That's rather odd. Why would his parents name him-?'

Schierke, Harry cut off her thought. I don't think it's best to wonder about Guts' past, alright? That was a topic that Harry actually knew very little himself. Guts rarely, if at all, talked about his life before the Band of the Hawk. The only things he would mention were that he had been a mercenary previously, occasionally he would say the name Gambino, but that was about it. If Gambino had been his father or a relative, Guts was always close-lipped about that. Whatever the case, Harry doubted the story was a pretty one.

Jill nodded her head in understanding . "Well, thank you, Mister Guts. And you too, Harry. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I'd rather preferred that we hadn't met under these conditions."

Puck brushed her concern aside. "Don't you worry about all that. Those guys were bad news. But what were you even doing out here to begin with? Did they kidnap you?"

"At Puck's question, Jill became visibly anxious. "There was just… some trouble back in my village. I didn't want to be caught in the middle of it, so I took off into the woods. It probably wasn't the soundest logic, but I panicked. I didn't know anyone would be out in these woods on account of the Elves of the Misty Valley."

"Misty Valley?" Puck was confused, but interested. "You mean there's more of my kind around here?"

"I hope not," Guts quietly said.

Jill shook her head. "No. Not like you. If you were one of the Misty Valley Elves, I probably would have been taken to the valley. The same with all the other children."

Now Puck just looked plain offended. "What?! Elves kidnapping people?! I don't buy it for a second! Us elves are some of the nicest you'll ever meet!" he finished with an indignant pout.

"Yeah, you're real nice until you become annoying," Guts sarcastically joked.

"Puck does have a point," Harry stuck up for the elf. "Elves aren't really violent creatures."

"Oh, and you've met them?" Guts asked.

"Well, I met one." Harry specified. "She was a bit stuck-up, but not malicious."

'I don't think Ivalera would appreciate that remark.'

She's not listening in, is she?

'She's already asleep. Count yourself lucky.'

"Whoa! You met another elf like me?" Puck became curious at the aspect of another elf living in Midland. "And I thought I was all by my lonesome in this strange new world. Who would have thought that I'd have competition?" he looked at Guts with contemplation. "You don't think it could be one of those apostles, do you?"

"Not unless you want to believe that some of your kind of capable of doing harm," Guts told the elf. "But I'm not about to deal with that now. I'm too tired, that fight woke me up from my nap."

"Um," Jill began, clutching the hem of Guts' cloak tighter around her. "If you were all agreeable to it, I could offer you a place to stay in my village. There's this old watchtower just outside the wall, no one ever uses it anymore because it's too worn down, and you could stay there for the rest of the night."

"See, Guts," Puck smiled at his companion, "things just might be turning around for us. We met someone new, you met someone you already knew, and you'll get to sleep with a roof over your head."

"Well… the roof is mostly caved in," Jill shyly admitted.

"Sounds better than what he's used to," Puck seemed unperturbed. "What do you fellas say?"

"I'd be fine with it," Harry said. "Guts?" the swordsman's singular eye passed over each of them.

"Fine." Guts decided.

The four of them traveled out of the forest and back to the main road Harry had been on previous. Instead of traveling the way he had been going, Jill led them down a side path which led to a new road. This one would end up taking them up a rocky hill where Jill's village resided on the top. Even from a distance, the village did not appear impressive by any means. The stonework lining the outer wall was in near rubble, and only a few pillars of smoke drifted up from some of the rooftops within. Even the sign with the name of the village had broken off leaving the name as an unknown.

Jill pointed to the one structure that was located outside of the near ruined wall. "There it is – the watchtower."

"Not to sound offensive, but this place has seen better days." Harry might have been too blunt, but coming up with a complement seemed a task in of itself.

Luckily, Jill didn't seem offended. "You're not wrong. Before I was born, a group of bandits attacked and raided. We never got the funds make the repairs. The nobles and king decided the war with Chuder took priority over fixing one old village."

Guts pushed open the door to the tower for their group to enter. She had been right; a large portion of the roof had caved in, leaving the floor covered in the rubble. Some of the wall had fallen away as well making it look like an additional window was going to be constructed at a later point. A few furnishings like a broken mirror had been pushed against the far side. Puck was the first to comment.

"Yeah, you can definitely make yourself comfortable in a place like this."

The swordsman shrugged in nonchalance. "It'll do."

"Thanks for showing us," Harry thanked Jill, who nodded. She still kept Guts' cloak wrapped around her.

"So, you will be staying here for the night?" she asked them both.

Guts slumped against the wall and slid down so he was resting in a sitting position; Dragonslayer was propped next to his side. "Does that answer your question?"

Puck lightly chastised him. "She didn't have to show us this place. At least try to play nice."

"I see." Jill put a finger to her lower lip. "If it isn't too much to ask, could I perhaps spent the night here as well?"

Harry looked at her with uncertainty. "You don't want to go back to your home? I'm sure your parents will be worried about you." Really, after just having been saved from bandits, Harry assumed she would want to return home as soon as possible.

"My mother would be… but I can explain it to her in the morning." She tried to hide it, but Harry heard the unspoken plea. Something didn't sit right with him, and he had a sinking suspicion as to what. Having been raised by people like the Dursley's, he knew when something was off.

'She didn't mention her father,' Schierke observed.

Yeah, I noticed.

Jill continued as she had before. "I know that it might sound a bit… inappropriate to ask to spend the night, but I wouldn't mind, really."

Guts gave something that was close to an eye-roll. "Do what you will, you're already here." He nearly ignored the sigh of relief from the young girl.

"Thank you, Mister Guts." She sat on the ground to his left, and Harry sat to the left of her. She looked between the two of them, unsure if either of them was going to speak, or perhaps if she should be the first, maybe it would be best if she say nothing at all. She finally settled on talking with Harry first. "Thank you as well, Harry. If you don't mind me asking, was that magic you did back there?"

"Oh, well…"

'There's no point in trying to deny it,' Schierke mentally spoke. 'She knows about elves and if there's an apostle terrorizing this village, I doubt she'd think badly of a magic user who saved her life.'

Wait and you saying its okay for me say yes? No point in trying to lie?

'Don't tell her about the spirit-tree or anything, just answer her question. But keep it vague.'

"Yeah, actually," Harry told her. "It was. You're not too freaked out by that are you? Not going to run off and bring back a mob?"

"No!" she said, seemingly appalled at the thought. "No, I wouldn't do that. I only asked because, a friend of mine used to talk about being able to do magic. That and being an elf; like the story of Peekaf. Do you know the Peekaf story?"

Harry shook his head. "No. What's it about?"

"Well, the story goes that a boy was born an elf to human parents. He was always ostracized because of how he looked, so he ran away to the Misty Valley where all the real elves lived."

Harry was going to ask a question, but the voice of Schierke prevented him from doing so. 'Sshh! Don't interrupt. I want to hear this.'

"When he met with the elves, they told him that he wasn't actually an elf, and that his parents were who they claimed to be. Distraught, Peekaf ran home only to discover much time had passed since he left. He had only been gone a few hours, but time in the valley moves faster than it does outside. Whole decades had passed, and everyone he knew growing up was gone, even his parents."

"That story's a downer," Puck shook his head in disapproval.

"That's just life sometimes," Guts commented without looking at the rest of them. "You think you want something only for it to come crashing down around you. It's accurate if you ask me."

'He's certainly cheerful.'

"Rosine – my friend, thought so too," Jill said. "It was her favorite, even if it was depressing. One day she went off to find elves in the Misty Valley, she never came back." They didn't talk much after that, rather they just sat in silence. Jill eventually drifted off to sleep, and a sudden thought crossed Harry's mind. He silently cursed himself for not thinking of it sooner. He grabbed a shard from the broken mirror and took out the container of ink he had in his satchel. He began drawing the rune over his brand, lest more spirits visit them during the night.

"Hey, Guts," Harry looked over to the swordsman. "I discovered a way to temporality block the effects of the brand. I can draw a rune over yours like I did mine. If you're okay with that." Harry knew Guts had some previous aversion to being touched, he had seen that back during their days with the Hawks.

Guts momentarily eyed the ink on Harry's neck. He craned his neck. "Do what you have to." Harry knelt down and began to draw the symbol. Now that he was up close to Guts, Harry could see numerous new scars that doted the man's flesh. He had scars on his neck, on his arms, and under his chin. His journey had not been a pleasant one.

"All set," Harry said, going back to his previous spot. "It'll be good for about three days, and then it has to be reapplied."

"Noted," Guts nodded, his eye more focused on the entrance to the tower. It must have been a habit – sleeping with one eye open. This would probably be the first restful night Guts had in two years. "You're different now."

"Huh?"

"You've grown," Guts said, still not looking at him. "When I met you, you were a stuttering, frightened kid who was so unsure of himself that the only thing I thought for sure was that you would be going to an early grave." He paused as if to wait to see if Harry would try to argue that point. He didn't, and Guts continued. "You're more confident now; you know what it is that you want, you sought what you set out for. Tell me about it."

It was hard to tell if Guts actually wanted to hear about Harry's travel, or if he just wanted to hear a familiar voice. Whatever the case, Harry obliged his request. "It was like I thought; there was a place out there with other mages."

As expected, Schierke's voice popped in to give a word of warning. 'Look, Harry, I know that you trust this man, but please, please be careful with what you tell him.'

"They were the ones who taught me all of what I know about magic. There's so much more than what there actually is. It would take all night to tell you all about it. But, yeah, it's thanks to them that I have a staff. Flora was a great teacher, and her apprentice – Schierke became a good friend over time." Perhaps unsurprisingly, Schierke's voice did not speak up.

Guts nodded. "Good."

"What about you?" Harry asked. "How have things been going in your apostle hunt?"

"If I found one, I killed it," was what he answered with. "One fight after the next, it wasn't anything too special. You at least got to learn something useful."

"I suppose so, yeah."

'You suppose?'

"I mean, yeah, I did learn a lot. You saw a bit of it back in the woods."

Guts just slightly inclined his head. "What's that around your finger?" Harry looked at his hand to where some of Schierke's green hairs were tied around his finger.

'He noticed?'

Guts might have one eye, but it's hard to get anything by him. "They're hairs," said Harry. "They're for a part of magic. Schierke gave to me before I left, it's to keep in touch."

"Hmm."

"And, before I set out once again, Schierke and I had the same dream. We saw this tower – the Tower of Conviction, the plague that's going around, people are flocking there like crazy to seek refuge. And… I saw Casca tied to a stake." Perhaps for the first time that night, Harry had Guts's full attention.

"What?" his voice was low, sounding almost like a dog's growl, but it was one of concern rather than anger. "Casca… she's with Rickert, Erica, and Godo."

"I know," Harry said, trying to calm him down before he did anything reckless. "But Erica is just a child, Godo's an old man, and Rickert would be busy working the forge all day. She could have wandered off."

"And you saw this in a dream?"

"Schierke and I both did, yes."

Guts' face seemed to be teetering on the verge of contorting into concern or anger. "The Tower of Conviction, that's what you said?"

"It is," Harry feared he had just woken a sleeping beast, but Guts didn't seem entirely focused on Harry, or anyone for that matter.

"Tower of Conviction," Guts repeated to himself. "Tower of Conviction." He chanted it like a prayer for the rest of the night until sleep finally took him.

For once, Guts did not dream of his and Casca's corrupted child. No, instead his thoughts were filled with Casca, bound and helpless tied to a stake. Her eyes were filled with disregard to the flames that were licking at her feet, slowly climbing up to the rest of her body. Two voices seemed to be calling to him, one was of Nosferatu Zodd. The great beast of an apostle snarled down at the sight of Casca burning.

"A death you will never be able to escape."

The second came from the Skull Knight, sitting tall and strong atop his skeletal mount. "Struggle, for that is in your nature."

The way that the smoke billowed upward partly covered the sight of the looming tower behind all of them. From what he could see, the smoke made the tower look like a giant open hand reaching up for a darkened sky.

His singular eye blinked, and Guts woke. It was morning; the somewhat obscured rays of sunlight streaming through the broken roof let him know that. He made a move to rise, but a weight on his legs stopped him short of doing that. The girl- Jill, must have shifted in her sleep as her head was now rested on his legs. Soft breaths escaped from her mouth as she curled into his cloak further. It was, it was… he reached out a hand to push her off, but stopped himself.

Why? Why stop himself from moving this girl? If he had known she needed something to snuggle up to during the night he would have told her to go back to her home already. She was clearly an idiot if she was this comfortable resting her head on a stranger's lap, what was he to care about some stupid girl resting on him. It was a nuisance, one that got his aversion to being touched flaring up once again. He was younger than this girl when that insecurity first came about thanks to Donovan. Just force her off, it doesn't matter, she'll wake eventually. And his hand went back down to his side. Guts stared off toward the door to the tower, more frustrated with himself than this stupid little girl.

From out of his satchel, Puck flew. The elf stretched his tiny limbs and glittering blue wings. "Ahhh! Finally, a night when we could get some shut-eye. Am I right, Guts? Guts?" he took notice of Guts' predicament. "I knew you had a soft side buried under all that ang-!"

Guts caught the blue pest in his hand. "Careful. You wouldn't want my good mood to disappear, would you?" the elf managed to shake his head. "Good." He let Puck go free. "Wake up Harry, this brat needs to go back to her house already."

Puck coughed a few times before glancing over at where Harry was. "I think he already is." Guts inclined his head to where the mage was to his left. Indeed, Harry had his eyes open and was staring at Guts with a worried expression, probably because of what he had done to Puck. It wasn't a big deal, of course. The blue elf was used to his treatment, this was nothing compared to being thrown into a puddle.

Thankfully, at last, Jill elicited a wake-up yawn, and she began to stir. As soon as he felt her head move, Guts rose abruptly, causing Jill to act fast to catch her balance. "Oh, good morning, Mister Guts; Harry."

"Yeah, morning," Harry rubbed a bit of sleep from his eyes.

"So now that we're all awake, you ready to go back to your home, Jill?" Puck asked the girl.

"Yes," she answered. "I've been away far too long, I suppose. I don't want to cause any more trouble than necessary."

"We can explain what happened to your mother," Harry offered. "Well, without mentioning magic or anything of that sort."

She still seemed a little hesitant. "If you believe that would help."

Inside the village was just as unimpressive as it appeared on the outside. Unkempt vines grew over the sides of some of the homes and shops, an indication that either the owners were not there any longer, or they had simply stopped caring. The fountain in the square held water only two inches deep, it was dirty and green with algae, the birds didn't even seem to want to bathe let alone drink from it. No one seemed to be out and about, the exception being one old woman sitting outside her house with a spinning wheel. She only gave a passing glance to Harry and Jill, not paying much attention to Guts.

Jill had told them that the people here were deathly afraid of elves because of the attacks from the Misty Valley, so Puck had been ordered to stay confined to the inside of Guts' satchel. Harry suspected that he had no qualms about that. Peculiarly enough, Harry caught a glimpse of a behelit from inside. Guts caught him staring and told him it was from one of the apostles he had encountered.

"This is it," Jill said, stopping in front of a small house. "Thank you both again." She had barely finished knocking on the door when it was flung open by a woman who had to be no older than thirty. She looked almost like a carbon copy of Jill except her hair was not a brown like her daughter's.

"Jill!" she exclaimed, grabbing her daughter and pulling her in for a hug. "Thank goodness! When you ran off… I thought you had been taken by elves!" Jill hugged her mother back.

"No. There was no elves mother."

"And what is the meaning of this cloak?" she ran her hand along the dark fabric that covered her daughter. "How did you rip your clothes?"

"I… ran into some trouble," Jill chose to leave what kind of trouble unmentioned. "These two saved me and escorted me back." Her mother's eyes were lined with moisture and she looked between both Guts and Harry.

"Thank you, Sirs!" she made a move to kiss the both of Harry's hands as thanks. "You have done our family a great service. Guts pulled his hand back before she could grab it.

"…Sure."

"You don't have to thank us for that," Harry explained to the overjoyed parent. "We just did what any decent people would have done."

'Don't let it go to your head.' He could almost see Schierke rolling her eyes. 'Where's her father anyway?'

I'm pretty sure that's a touchy subject.

"Mother… is father home?" she sounded almost hopeful.

Jill's mother shook her head. "No, he's with some of his friends. You know how he gets when he's worried."

Not looking for his daughter when she went missing, Harry noted.

"I do," Jill said.

"Won't you come in?" she offered them. "Jill, you go change into your other clothes, you gentlemen is welcome to some of the stew that I made. It's the least I can do to show our thanks."

"Gentlemen?" Harry heard Guts mutter.

"Please, I insist."

Inside the house, much like the rest of the village didn't have much to offer. It was about as unimpressive as the outside would suggest. There was a single kitchen area that shared a space with the living lounge, the only two doors must have led to the bedrooms, as Jill disappeared in one to change out of her torn clothing.

The mother sat them down at the table and presented the both of them with a bowl of stew. It could have used a bit of salt, in Harry's opinion, but he wasn't a master cook himself, so who was he to judge. A hot meal was a hot meal. "Is it to your liking?" she asked.

"Yeah, it's good," Harry replied.

Guts barely touched his but said, "Yeah, good."

Jill came out of her room with a new set of clothes, Guts' cloak folded in her arms. "Your cloak, Mister Guts." He wordlessly accepted it back and draped it over his shoulders.

They ate in silent for a while before some laughing from outside drew most of their attention. The door to the house opened to reveal a group of three men. Two of them stayed in the threshold while the third hobbled in on a wooden cane. He wasn't a tall man, he was actually quite short, and had unkempt stubble growing as a beard. Jill's mother put on a very strained smile.

"Zepek, dear, you're back." This must be Jill's father then. "I've got terrific news; Jill's back!"

His bloodshot eyes landed on his daughter. "So she is. Gave us a good scare, didn't you?"

"I didn't mean to, Father." She was uncomfortable, but didn't appear to want to show weakness in front of him. One of the men in the doorway laughed.

"Good to see you back, Jill." She seemed more nervous now that this man was talking to her. "Sorry if I gave you a bit of a scare last night, I didn't know you would run off on me. You know how I get when I have a few drinks. Haha!"

'Does he mean what I think he does?' she did not sound happy at all.

Yeah, Harry's finger's clenched around the table knife. I think he does.

Zepek waved the concern aside. "Don't worry about it. We all go a little crazy when we have a few drinks in us."

"Convenient excuse," Harry didn't try to keep his voice all that low. Zepek just now seemed to take notice of the two strangers in his home.

"Who are these people?" his tone was suspicious.

"They saved Jill, dear. They escorted her back not too long ago. I was just extending our hospitality." She smiled, but the twitch at her lip suggested she was nervous she had said something wrong.

Zepek adopted a condescending tone. "Honey, you're the light of my life, but you know how tight our funds are. When you go around "extending hospitality" you're cutting us short. We need to save money for the things that matter most."

"Like your drinking?" Jill's voice came out much louder than she intended.

His jowl twisted up in a sneer. "What did you say? What did you say to me? You think you have the nerve to run off like you did, bring back a couple of deviants, and insult me in front of my friends?"

"Were you out with your friends when your daughter was missing?" Harry cut in. "If your answer is a "yes," then you have no right to tell her off."

"The hell do you know about being a parent?" Zepek barked at him. "Don't think I haven't noticed that my daughter is wearing different clothes than what she was last night. It makes a father wonder what you two did before returning her home."

"Zepek!" his wife cried. "That is a bit uncalled for. These men have been nothing but – eep!" she involuntarily flinched when Zepek raised his cane. The anger Harry was feeling toward this man started to intensify, and he could tell Schierke was having much of the same thoughts. Harry could tell that despite Guts' lack of reaction that he didn't much care for the man either.

"Don't you start," Zepek threatened. "You live a sheltered life in here, you don't know how twisted people are out there."

"You must be speaking from experience then," Guts remarked. "It takes one to recognize one after all. Though I doubt a cripple like you has seen much beyond the tavern of this village. Why not go back there and drink to your glory days? Spend your funds like they were meant to."

"You insult me in my house?!" Zepek yelled causing spittle to go flying. "I'm a fucking war veteran, you cur! My injury is a sign of my duress, and I won't stand here and take that from some-!" Guts kicked the cane from Zepek, causing the small man to fall to the floor.

"So don't stand," Guts glowered down at the man. "It's your home, take a load off." The two men in the doorway appeared unsure of what to do. "Why not invite your friends inside? You can all enjoy yourselves in your rightful spot.

'He's a bit extreme.'

You don't know the half of it.

'No, for this situation, it may be for the best.'

Guts got up from the table. "But I can see when I've overstayed my welcome." He looked at Harry. "You coming?" Harry sat up as well. The two men in the threshold parted as they exited and Harry "accidently" brought the blade attached to his staff down through the foot of the man who had made the remark to Jill.

"Yeoww!" he cried in pain.

"Oops, didn't see you there." He followed after Guts. It wasn't until they got back to the abandoned watchtower until they heard the voice calling after them.

"Wait!" it was Jill.

"What do you want?" Guts asked. "Is daddy being mean to you?"

She fiddled with her thumbs. "No. I just wanted to say, thank you for what you both did back there. My father gets like that sometimes."

"All of the time?" Harry corrected.

"Yes, a great deal of the time. What you did back there, maybe it'll make him rethink how he treats others."

"You shouldn't than us," Guts told her. From his satchel, Puck flew to freedom.

"What do you mean, Guts? You showed that punk what for."

"The man's an abusive asshole," Guts explained. "Harry and I just emasculated him in front of his family and friends. Chances are he'll be an even bigger pain. That's why I say don't say thanks; your life isn't any easier because of it. You want him to stop, do it yourself."

Puck didn't seem convinced. "Well that just sounds like… elves!"

'Elves?'

"I hear elves!" Puck looked up to the sky. What appeared to be a mass of insects flying overhead were being guided by a child sized being, feminine in appearance with a luminous green color to her body and pair of butterfly wings. Jill looked up on them in fright.

"That's them. Those are the Elves of the Misty Valley."

A few miles away, the traveling party of the Holy Iron Chain Knights rode along the main road. Farnese, the leader of the group of noble knights, was insistent on following the trail of the Black Swordsman. For two years, the Holy Iron Chain Knights had followed the trail of rumors and stories that they heard about this mysterious swordsman. He had been a topic of controversy ever since they came upon that lake of blood. If he was the Hawk of Darkness, or bore some relation to it, he had to answer to the Holy See. And if the rumors were to be believed, wherever he went, death was quick to follow.

There had been tales of demons and monsters involved in nearly all of the stories, but Farnese knew that they were just that; tales. Common folk would say many things if they thought they might get something for it. The most recent of stories had sightings that the Black Swordsman had been traveling north, straight to where a portion of the plague had broken out. Some of the men under her command had been hesitant about traveling to such an area, but her two most loyal subordinates supported her all the way.

The first of them was Sir Azan, a former hedge knight whose most notable deed had been holding up traffic over a bridge so an old man could cross without hurry. He was an older knight to be sure, and his righteous attitude often annoyed some of the other knights, but he followed her command to the T.

The second was her personal attendant, Serpico. A youth of her age who detested gory sights, but had been her companion since childhood. He usually kept his eyes closed which often begged the question of how he could see, but it had never impeded his ability to serve and was just deemed as a quirky trait of his.

"The north really does offer some of the best air," Sir Azan cheerfully commented.

"That it is," Serpico agreed. "But I can't say much for all these bugs." He swatted a fly away, careful not to kill it.

"Bugs are the least of worries," she told her two attendants. "The query of our search is close."

She could see the two look at each other in a similar fashion. "You seem awfully sure of that, Lady Farnese." Serpico told her.

Farnese briefly looked over her shoulder. "Of course. I believe it as I believe in the Holy See; the Black Swordsman is close."

A/N: Happy New Year! I promised that I would have this chapter up by then, so thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

The formation up above was too erratic to any formation of bugs, but at the same time, there was a presence of a hive-mindset of thinking to serve as the basis for how they behaved. Their patterns were wild and un-choreographed, yet they never seemed to collide with one another or lose sight of the apostle guiding them. Even from down on the ground, Guts could hear the high pitched squealing coming from those bugs.

Puck was fluttering close by, but he wasn't about to get up close the swarm up ahead. "Those are the Misty Valley Elves?!" his tone was clear that he refused to believe it. "There are so many of them."

The mark Harry had drawn over his brand had worked fine for the night, but with an apostle in this close a range, the brand began to become irritated once again. "You really do have a pest problem." His eye trailed the flight path of the leading apostle. It was a bit hard to see, but it almost looked like it was bobbing its head to some sort of tune that it was humming. The apostle pointed a finger at the village below and the swarm descended.

What followed was a series of loud thuds being elicited from beyond the crumbling wall of the village. Seeing the impending swarm, the villagers must have fled into whatever shelter was available to wait out the attack. The apostle flying up above gave a cheerful clap at the sight of her bugs terrorizing the people below. This one might appear small and innocent, but it was no different than the others; just a maniac who likes watching people suffer. Not that Guts actually cared about any of those villagers either, he had probably torn countless families apart during the war and never spared a second thought about the men he had killed. No, these villagers did have some usefulness to them; they had the apostle's sole attention.

Not wanting to waste a cannon shot, Guts equipped his prosthetic with his repeating crossbow and took aim. The bolts went flying as fast as Guts was capable of cranking the lever, he kept count of how many he was firing up into the air, stopping when the quantity of ammunition began to drop to the point of having to reload. This was enough to catch the attention of the apostle; some of the bolts had managed to graze the dainty legs. Sensing the new danger, the apostle pointed down to where they were by the watchtower and a portion of the swarm obeyed an unspoken command and changed course for their new targets.

As they got closer, Guts was able to get a better look at what these "elves" looked like. They were actually smaller than Puck, a clear indication they weren't true to what they had these villagers believing. Like the apostle they served under, their flesh had a bioluminescent gleam to it, and their faces looked young but their eyes were that of a bug, with a pair of an antenna to top it off. Yeah, definitely not anything to what Puck looked like.

"Hey!" one of them spoke, pointing an accusing finger at Guts. "You attacked our leader!"

"Yeah!" others began to join in on their call. "She's nice, she lets us be free! You're mean for shooting those arrows!"

"Just a mean grown-up!"

"Grown-up's ruin everything! They always try to ruin our fun!"

"Ruin our fun! Ruin our fun!" the chant was taken up by nearly the entire section of the swarm.

"We won't let you! No, we won't! Just because you don't like to have fun doesn't mean you should ruin it for the rest of us!" their youthful features which resembled a human, began to change. Their voices were getting deeper. "We won't let you!" their jaws were now pincers, their antennae more prominent; and from their lower back, a stinger began to protrude. The sound of their wings beating now sounded like a swarm of angry rapier wasps.

So they can change their forms for combat, Guts mentally noted. He had to admit, their current design was much more effective at conveying fear than they would be looking like Puck. Dragonslayer left its sheath and was now at the ready. "Alright, you pests want fun? I plan on having a lot of it when I'm killing you."

"A challenge."

"He challenges us."

"Charge! Make him feel the pain of dozens of angry stings!"

The angry buzzing intensified as the wasp-elves flew stinger first toward the group of them. As they neared, Guts switched his hold on Dragonslayer. The massive blade was now ready to be swung with the flat of the blade at the ready. To his left, Harry was uttering some sort of gibberish, but Guts felt the air around them start to get a bit warmer. Waiting until he could see their bug-like eyes up close, Guts swung Dragonslayer a full ninety degrees, squishing over a dozen of the pests against the flat of his blade. Much like squishing a bug, their bodies were a twisted mess after, some had lost halves, and others were flattened. With a flick of his wrist, Guts was able to toss their disfigured bodies aside.

The portion of the swarm that had gotten close to Harry was thoroughly surprised when after he struck the ground with his staff, a sudden combustion engulfed them in flame. It spread out in a three-foot radius, charring the pesky bugs into a blackened state and their bodies dropped into a pile next to the ones he had killed.

"Killed them!" more angry voices of the wasp-elves shouted. "You've killed our brothers and sisters!"

A whole new swarm was charging them now, this one even larger than the last. Guts took a position in front of the old watchtower. "The both of you get behind me," Guts instructed both Harry and Jill. "When I give you an order, do it."

"Got it," Harry answered.

"A-alright," Jill said, sounding less confident.

The swarm got closer, and their unified chanting became stronger. "Skewer you! Skewer you all! Skewer you all like pigs!" it was a twisted chant that was especially off-putting when all of their voices chanted it in a sing-song voice. "Playing hunt is fun."

"Get down!" Guts instructed, ducking as the swarm passed by overhead. The two behind him followed his example, leaving them unscathed and the swarm confined in the watchtower. "Perfect." Guts took aim and fired one of his cannon shots into the tower.

Baboom! The fire caught on the dry bits of hay that lay scattered on the floor; the ascending smoke momentarily blinded and confused the winged menaces. There had been too many to kill out in the open, but now the tide of battle had turned. Wings were only good if you have someplace to fly with them. If you clip the wings and keep them confined, then victory was all but certain. But, this tower was made of stone, only the wood and hay inside was actually flammable. Guts had managed to kill a decent amount with that confined shot, but more than a fair amount still remained, and the tower was very worn out.

"Harry," Guts said, his eyes not leaving the sight of the disorientated bugs. "Use that gift of yours; bring the tower down on top of them."

He saw the end of Harry's staff point at the midsection of the tower. "Memonterum, descanda." It all sounded like a foreign language to Guts, but the results were not to be questioned. Harry must have been concentrating very hard as he repeated the same spell twice more before the weathered stones gave way. The tower collapsed in a tumble of rubble and dust.

"Fun enough for you?" Guts asked, posthumously.

Puck stared at the damage that had been done. "Yeah! You guys showed them! Maybe now they'll think twice about disgracing the noble name of the… elf… oh no…"

"What is it?" Guts asked, not really in the mood for a lecture from the one real elf. "Don't tell me you wanted to talk things out with those… Harry?" Puck wasn't the only one who had a far-off look in his eyes; Harry seemed to be in a similar state. He looked white, and he was shaking. "What the hell's wrong with-?" he never finished his question; he saw what it was.

On the ground where the bodies of the "elves" they had killed previous had been, something entirely different littered the stonework. Children's bodies were everywhere in a massive heap of severed limbs and torsos to charred crisps. The creatures they had slaughtered so easily, they had all been children. It had been something Jill had said previous, about how the people were scared of elves, how she would have been taken if Puck was one from the Misty Valley, somehow, it all fit. They were not elves, they were children. Something inside of Guts recalled that this was not his first time he had killed a kid, no. He had done so only once before, back when he was asked to kill the king's brother, there had been that boy – Adonis, that was his name. Guts hadn't meant to kill the boy; he had just gotten in the way. That's all it was, he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of course, Guts had felt sickened after doing so, but he had offered to give Harry tips on how to better work the sword, he had made sure another kid wouldn't have to die an early death. Why should he feel… guilty of these kids, before was a different story. These children were ready to kill for the apostle they served, yes, that was it; as they might have been kidnapped, but to become an apostle, or in this case pseudo-apostle, you had to be willing to become one.

Yes, they had made their choice. They chose to give up their humanity, they were no better than any other regular apostle. Just stupid, naïve children who put their faith in someone who was untrustworthy, to begin with. Gambino. Guts scowled, either at the sight, at the apostle, or at himself, even he didn't know who yet. It's not the same as Gambino, damnit.

And then Guts felt it - fresh air on an open wound. He glanced down at his right forearm to see a cut. It wasn't deep, but his arm holding Dragonslayer began to feel very heavy. A gust of wind passed by, and Guts was able to see a green blur dart past Harry, a cut appeared on his arm as well. The apostle had made its move at last. Casting an innocent look over the shoulder, the apostle stuck out its tongue in a teasing manner. Between the two bug-like antennae, a curved barb was extended and folded in on itself now resulting in a curl.

Jill took a few haphazard steps away from the apostle, but the antennae perked up and soon the apostle was holding onto Jill by her arms. "Gotcha! You weren't thinking of running off and – Jill?"

Confused, Jill tried to wiggle free from the grasp that the apostle had on her, but to no avail. The apostle seemed to recognize Jill and wasn't about to let her go. "Y-you know my name?"

The apostle lets go of Jill's arms and instead wrapped her arms around her in a hug, rubbing their foreheads together. "Don't tell me that you don't remember. Although, I suppose I do look different from the last time we saw each other. But I was finally able to become an elf-like I always wanted."

A horrified look of recognition overtook Jill. "…Rosine?"

"The one and only! You've grown in the past few years, but I'm willing to bet that I still look the same. You tell me." Rosine's facial appearance began to change in complete opposite to the pseudo-apostles had done. Her skin became much less bioluminescent; her bug eyes were now human. Locks of blonde hair grew out from her head, but her two central antennae remained along with a pair of pointed ears like Puck had. "Well? Do I look the same age as before?"

"Rosine… y-you… what happened to you?" Jill tried backing away once more. "This isn't you. You went missing; we all thought you had died. No one saw your parents after they went out to search for you. How? Please, let me go!"

Rosine seemed a bit distraught that Jill was not reacting in the way she had intended. She loosened her hold on the girl. "Alright, Jill. But you have to admit that this body is much better than the one I had before. With it, I can fly as free as the elves we used to tell stories abo-," her antennae perked up, and Rosine barely had time maneuver herself out of the impending danger. Harry and Guts both went to attach her from the back. Guts' Dragonslayer nicked a portion of her wing, and Harry's elf sword cut across her Achilles tendon. "AGGhh!"

"So a kid is using other kids to do her dirty work," Guts glared at the apostle in front of him. "What's wrong; can't fight your own battles?"

Even with her injuries, Rosine managed to gain some distance by taking to the air. "Hmm. You boys must really hate me. You're powering through the toxin that was in my stinger." She suddenly smiled. "I think that you're the first to ever do that! All the other adults just lie down and die, you'd be great to have in some of the games that we play back home."

"How can you say something like that, Rosine?" Jill demanded of her friend. "Why are you attacking our village? This is your home."

"No," Rosine said with certainty. "You know what it's like, Jill; you knew exactly how I saw this place. The only home that we have id the one we make for ourselves. I chose to make a fantasy come true, and my sacrifice made it a reality."

"Sacrifice?" Jill wondered.

A blast of fire rocketed past Rosine, causing her to roll around it. Harry sent another blast of flame her way, and Guts was loading his repeating crossbow, quickly firing as many bolts as he had stocked.

Rosine quickly became overwhelmed and was forced to call her swarm of pseudo-apostles to her. "Jill," she said to her friend. "If you want to know the truths of this world, come to where the fantasy became a reality." With a beat of her butterfly wings, Rosine went soaring away as fast as she had come.

With the threat gone, for the time being, Puck came to offer his services to the two wounded. "Geeze, she got you guys good, huh? Stay still; let me work my dust on those cuts of yours."

"Damn apostle," Guts grit out. "Little bitch has speed, that's for sure."

Puck coated Harry's cut in his dust as well to help counter the lingering effects of the stinger venom. He accepted it without acknowledgment. "Not even a 'thanks' from either of you?" Puck crossed his arms. "If you have another faster way of tending to those wounds, I'd love to see it."

"Oh, right. Thanks, Puck." Harry said to the elf. That seemed to brighten him up a little bit. It wasn't the toxin that had Harry feeling out of it. No, it was more to do with the mass of dead children that lay just a few short feet away. The sight of it left him feeling sick to his stomach, everyone, and everything that he had killed before had been full-grown adults, undead spirits, or fully-fledged apostles, but not children, never children. From what he knew, they had been kidnapped, they probably would have agreed to anything if they thought it would help keep them alive. And he and Guts decimated them.

"Because as long as they acknowledge what they've done is wrong, and it wasn't easy for them to do, they still might be a good person." Those words that Judeau had spoken to him echoed throughout his mind. But it had been easy for him to do. When he thought that they were regular pseudo-apostles, Harry had killed them without a second thought. He acknowledged what he had done, but it had still been easy. Just what did that make him?

'Hey, Harry?' Schierke picked up on his distress. She had been quiet for some time after he had seen just what it was that he and Guts had done. 'Harry?'

…Yeah?

'You didn't know about what they were.'

I do now.

'You do.' She waited to see if there was anything he was going to add to continuing. 'Look, I don't know what it's like to kill a person, especially a child, but in the moment you did as you would have before. I'm not trying to justify killing children, I'm not, and there is no spell that can reverse time to undo what the two of you did. But the least you can do is make sure that no others like them have to die. It's something.'

Stopping Rosine.

'Yes. An apostle granted them pseudo-apostlehood, maybe there's a way to reverse that, and you know where she's headed.' To the place where fantasy became a reality; the Misty Valley.

Guts'll be on board with that idea, at least. I don't know how he does it, even after seeing those kids he was still willing to fight.

'Did you get a good look at his face? That's not what I saw.'

What do you mean?

'I'll admit, when you and he reunited, I didn't think too much of him. He fit the mold of the barbarian I had built up as an outsider stereotype. From how he fought, to how he talked to Puck, he just seemed like a brute.'

I'll tell him you said that.

'No! I mean, I saw something else to him as well, and I think Jill did as well. He still risked his life to help you in that fight with the possessed, he stood up to her father, and just then it looked like he was deeply disturbed by what he had just done even if he'll never say it. I guess he just has a quality to him that lets people know they can depend on him.'

Harry cast a look over to the Black Swordsman; he was flexing his arm, making sure that it had healed properly. In between flexes, his eye would dart to the pile of corpses. His thoughts, like Harry's, seemed to be a bit scattered. Yeah. I see it. He felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Jill. "Excuse me, Harry, but did you hear what I said? You looked a bit spaced out."

"Oh, no I didn't," he admitted. "I was just a bit distracted. What was it?"

"I asked if you were planning on tracking down Rosine."

Guts glanced over to where they were. "The Misty Valley," he said. "She wasn't exactly smart about hiding where she was going. Then again, what do you expect from a kid with an inflated ego?"

Jill paused to think over how to word her next sentence. "If that's the case, will you allow me to be your guide to the Misty Valley?"

Guts regarded her with skepticism. "Are you living in a fantasy world? You saw what it was your friend was. You must have some sort of death wish."

Puck sided with Jill. "Hey c'mon, she's offering to be our guide. I mean it's not like any of us know the way there ourselves."

To Puck's surprise, Guts chuckled. "Heh. I would never have taken you for the twisted type. You really want to see another child dead?"

"Please," Jill insisted. "I promise not to get in your way, and I owe you both for saving my life."

"You know why we're tracking her down, don't you?" Harry asked. "You saw what she had done to those children, who's to say she won't try to do the same to you?"

She looked conflicted. She was offering them her aid, but as a result, it would mean the life of her friend. It was a lot of pressure for her to simply give a straight answer to, and she knew that. Perhaps she just thought that things would just work out along the way, that she could somehow redeem Rosine for what she had done. Opening her mouth to speak, Jill's answer was overshadowed by the sound of many footsteps running from the inside of the village. No surprise there. The brief fight they had with the pseudo-apostles must have caused quite a bit of noise. And with the immediate threat of the swarm gone, the citizens were free to investigate what had happened outside of their wall.

"Look, the watchtower!"

"It's been destroyed!"

"Oh shit! Are those children's bodies?!" they finally noticed the group of them standing nearby the scene of the massacre.

"Watch out! One of them is still here!" they had caught sight of Puck, who was looking to the sky trying to spot one of the pseudo-apostles.

"Huh?" Puck looked around. "I don't see anything."

"They mean you, bug," Guts informed.

"Ohhh. Got it."

"Get the elf!" the mob yelled, brandishing farm equipment as makeshift weaponry.

"Well, what do you know," Guts made ready to draw Dragonslayer once more. "These people do have a backbone after all."

" Jill!" a woman's voice cut through the crowd. It was her mother. "Jill get away from that thing!"

The girl's eyes looked up at them both pleadingly. "Please. Let me help." The mob was getting closer.

"Damnnit!" Harry hurriedly reached in his satchel and retrieved what he was looking for; golem talisman. He tossed two along the ground and watched as they grew to be six feet in height. They linked arms with one another to form a makeshift protective wall around the group. The mob backed away in caution of this new development, buying Harry enough time to grab Jill by the hand to lead them away from the angry villagers.

"What are you doing?" Guts asked, sounding irritated at the change of things as well, but he still followed them as well away from the village.

"I bought us some time," Harry stated. "Those golems will only last about five minutes each before they disappear, that's more than enough time to get a head start to the Misty Valley."

"And you're seriously bringing her along?" Guts questioned. "I thought you were smarter than that."

'He has a point,' Schierke admitted. 'You could track Rosine by her od, you're only putting Jill in danger this way.'

I could track her by od, but to that, I'd need something to base it off of, and the bodies of those kids are back by the village.

She sensed where he was leading the conversation and didn't raise a counter argument. The four of them stopped when they reached a babbling brook that must have marked a borderline for the village behind them. "Do you know where we are, Jill?" Harry asked her. "Can you lead us to the Misty Valley from here?"

"I believe so, yes." She said, sounding somewhat confident.

"Well, isn't that reassuring," remarked Guts.

"Hey, go easy on her," Puck stuck up for the girl. "She's just a kid, let her prove herself."

"You know what, bug, you're right. She is just a kid. And she'll die a kid, do you know why? Because the world isn't easy, this isn't like an abusive home where if you keep your head down, you might survive, all it takes is one mistake and she'll end up like that pile of corpses back there."

"Guts-," Harry began to say.

"-But what do I know. Let her do what she wants, just don't come back to haunt me when she's dead in a ditch." He turned his back to them. "I'll work on starting a fire; the three of you scout ahead." Seeing that Guts put his walls up, Harry knew it was better to comply now than to have a one-sided conversation.

"Yeah, alright. Let's go then, Puck, Jill."

The three of them journeyed ahead through a grove of trees as Guts went to work on lighting a fire. "Talk about a stick in the mud," Puck seemed to fly a little lower. "I don't get why he can't just be happy that he has people willing to help him out."

"Has he always been so distant?" Jill asked the both of them.

"Most of the time," Harry/Puck both answered. "Sorry," Puck apologized. "You go first."

"Well… yeah, he has a tendency to keep to himself. He has lone wolf traits, but he worked well with others before."

"What?!" Puck almost stopped flying. "You're bluffing!"

"I'm not. The both of us, we had good friends for a while. Then things changed." His own change of tone conveyed an unspoken message to the both of them.

"I wish I could have met him back then," said Puck. "I bet I could have put a smile on his grumpy face back then."

"You should be careful what you say about him," advised Harry. "He can always squash you."

"Hm? Kehuhuhu!" Puck chuckled. "Now that's funny."

Jill didn't seem to understand. "How's that?"

"I've been following him around for the past two years. If he wanted me gone, he wouldn't have just kept tossing me aside."

'I don't think he's aware of how to take an obvious hint then.'

"I don't know much about why Guts is the way he is, but that doesn't mean I won't try to brighten up his life now. Guts might not always want me around, but when the time comes, I'll be there when he needs me."

That was certainly unexpected coming from the elf. Up to this point, he had always come across as a jokester. Knowing that he would always stick by Guts despite his standoffish behavior was a comforting thought. And maybe Guts was aware of that as well, and it was something the swordsman couldn't stand. Harry was well aware that the experience during the Eclipse changed everything. Both he and Guts had taken their own paths, Harry wanted to try and escape the sense of dread and he had found new comrades through magic. Guts went and surrounded himself in darkness, he deliberately pushed others away because of what had happened; he didn't want to get close because he didn't want to experience that feeling of loss ever again.

"As insightful as you are, Puck, Jill, what can you tell us about Rosine?" Harry asked, changing the topic.

"The both of us became friends because we were outcasts," Jill began, seemingly a little nostalgic for her friend. "Her home life… was similar to mine." They all knew what she meant. "Before she was born, a tribe of bandits raided and attacked our village. Rosine's mother wasn't fast enough to escape with the rest of the women, and her father began to question if Rosine was actually his daughter after she was born. He hated her just because he thought she was another man's daughter. I saw it when we go out to play, she would have bruises on her arms and neck, but she always put on a happy face when she went out. Then one day, she must have had enough. She stopped by my house and told me that she was leaving to go find elves, which they were going to become her new family."

"And her parents?" Harry had to know.

"They… went off after her the next day. Nobody ever saw them after that."

'They were probably who she sacrificed,' Schierke took note.

You're probably right. But how would that have worked? From what Jill just told us, it doesn't sound like Rosine would very much care for her father and sacrifices need to have to mean in your heart.

'I don't have an answer for that. But she was still very young when she became an apostle. Children's minds work in strange ways, maybe she still perceived her parents as being family if only by blood.'

Her explanation reminded Harry of something the Skull Knight had once said about how all children yearn for their parents, even demons. Rosine wasn't a demon by birth, just a normal human child. And that was the most uncomfortable fact to think about.

The fire crackled as Guts tossed a few more twigs on top of it. By no means was it special, the flames would flicker and die just as easily as they had been started, they were not meant to last, just to serve their purpose. He sat himself down on a rock, letting the fire warm him. It was only just past midday, but the weather was changing with the seasons. It was fall, and the days were growing shorter. The cloudy overcast didn't help ease the growing cold that would surely be upon them in a few weeks time.

The three of them should be back soon. If they were lucky enough to stumble upon any berries or maybe even a rabbit, they could enjoy a decent enough meal. It probably wouldn't be enough to feed all of them, but that's what happens when there's another mouth to feed. Once that girl led them to the apostle, she was gone. Her close connection to this, Rosine, would only serve to complicate things. Harry probably hadn't thought of that before he went and dragged her along on this journey.

Something shifted in the firewood, catching his attention. A shape seemed to float amongst the flickering flames. A blobby, deformed body floated, staring at him with that singular brown eye.

"Oh, it's you." As expected, his "child" made no sign of acknowledgment. "What? Are you here to follow me around like a little lost puppy?" it continued to stare back at him. "What? Not going to answer? You yearn for your parents, is that it? That's what that bonehead said. Have you come to pay me a visit, because it feels overdue?" The open, toothless mouth seemed to quiver.

"Guts?" a voice spoke. Faster than lightning, Dragonslayer was drawn, and Guts' eye widened. He stopped his arm; the blade was close to lopping Harry and Jill in two.

He composed himself, strapping Dragonslayer onto his back. "Oh, you surprised me."

"Who were you talking to?" Harry inquired.

"Just talking," Guts said. He cast a glance back to the fire. Sure enough, the child was gone. Strangely enough, the brand on his neck didn't even prickle. It could have been the rune Harry had drawn, but when Rosine had attacked with her swarm, he had felt it then. Of course, it wasn't sundown. The child couldn't have appeared to him. He really had just been talking to himself.

At last, they came to a village. It was worn, run-down, and isolated, but it could provide the ideal hiding spot for the elusive Black Swordsman. Farnese could feel it this time; they were closing in on this enigma of a man. "Don't sound our horns on our approach," she instructed her attendants. "If he's here, we don't want to let him know we're coming."

"Of course, Lady Farnese," Sir Azan saluted. "Often times the best way to success is to have the element of surprise."

"I was not aware you partook in any stealth operations," Serpico conversed.

"Well, er… no, I haven't. But that does not mean I do not possess the knowledge of that particular battle strategy."

"Knowing is half the battle, I suppose," Serpico admitted.

"Wise words from the youth," Sir Azan smiled, his large mustache moved up with his mouth. "I only wish I could have been as insightful in my own prime."

"Time has its effects on all of us," furthered Serpico.

"Too true, lad. Too true."

"Formation halt!" Farnese held up a mailed fist to signal her command. There was a sight to behold just outside of the old village; a watchtower looked to have collapsed. A multitude of villagers have gathered around, sifting through the rubble, they looked to be pulling out bodies from the ruins. Much to Farnese's horror, they appeared to be the bodies of children. As they removed the bodies, they were laid down next to another set of corpses, all children as well. They were mangled and burnt to the point not even their parents would have recognized them.

"Oh, my…" Serpico looked very pale. Farnese knew of her attendants fear of blood and fire, and seeing such wounds inflicted on children was just sickening to him.

"Good God!" Sir Azan gaped at the horrific scene. "What could have done something like this?"

"Not what, but who." Farnese had a creeping suspicion. "Dismount. We'll question some of these villagers." Her Holy Iron Chain Knights complied with her order, and the questioning process began. Something that Farnese quickly came to realize, was that the villagers were clearly traumatized by whatever had occurred. They told stories of elves who abducted their children, a clear sign they were just trying to cope with what had been done. None of it was useful information, there was no such thing as elves; didn't these people know the text of the Holy See? Only pagans and heretics believed in the tall tales of children.

She changed her topic of questioning to if any strange individuals had passed by here as of late. The responses were much more valuable; they confirmed her suspicions on point. One short man with a cane and who smelled like a tavern was quite vocal. "There was this big brute dressed all in black; he had a puck teenager with him as well. The boy had a staff like some kind of wizard."

That last bit was new news to her. Of course, leave it to someone like the Black Swordsman to go around associating with heretics. "Thank you, Mister Zepek. Your assistance has been quite helpful."

"W-wait! There's more. The two of them took off with my daughter, they looked to be heading to the Misty Valley." Kidnapping a young girl, is there nothing this monster wouldn't do?

"You know, I used to be a soldier myself. If you're hunting this man, I'd be of great help on your way. Why, before my injury, I was one of the best crossbowmen Midland had ever seen." Farnese began to lose interest the more Zepek bragged. He seemed more occupied with wanting to relive his glory days than he was with finding his daughter. "Just one word to my wife and the ol' crossbow will be ready and-,"

"-I'm sorry to stop you, Mister Zepek." She wasn't. "But this is a dangerous task we are undergoing. The loss of one of Midland's citizens is the last thing we want to see happen." Please take the hint.

Zepek's haggard face fell. "Oh, uh, of course. But, at least let me offer to be your guide to the Misty Valley."

Sir Azan, in all his gullible quirkiness, seemed to believe Zepek was offering to guide them for righteous intent. He began to sniffle. "A father's love for his daughter… there truly is good for every bad."

"Yeah…" Zepek trailed off. "Something like that…"

The first thing they noticed about the Misty Valley was that the name was very fitting. A layer of fog seemed to hang above their heads, making them feel lighter; almost like any minute they could jump and fly into the air. The tangled mass of trees that they trekked through looked more like the setting of a horror story, serving as a reminder that this place was far from the paradise it appeared. Jill had been a faithful guide to them, going off directions she had heard before from people who had visited before Rosine had made it her new home.

Harry could tell that they were getting closer to the now apostle Rosine, his brand, and Guts' too were beginning to prick, not bleed yet, but they would be soon. Needless to say, neither of them was actually looking forward to the prospect of killing more children, and Schierke had done some research back at the spirit-tree mansion to try to find a way to avoid it.

'You're familiar with the Four Elemental Kings, you summoned Ate for a time.'

Any chance of them being able to reverse whatever Rosine did?

'No, that is beyond their power. But if the power of all four is summoned at once, you'd be able to make a magical defensive barrier that no supernatural being can trespass through.'

Good to hear. When the fight breaks out I can perform it around Jill so Rosine doesn't try and grab her.

'You could, but there are downsides to it.'

Of course.

'For one, the barrier will have to be stationary. Second, it will keep out supernatural beings, but it won't protect against physical attacks. If Rosine were to toss a rock, it would go right through.'

But you mentioned it being used against those pseudo-apostles. If it can act as a barrier to keep creatures like them out, can it also keep them trapped inside?

'You'd have to lure them to a spot first and then perform the ritual. That's the last downside.'

Still, it was better than nothing. If it meant that he wouldn't have the blood of more children on his hands, Harry would gladly use it. Guts was probably going to deal with Rosine as soon as he saw her which wouldn't leave Harry the necessary time he needed to perform his spell. "Guts," Harry asked, "what exactly is your plan for when we find Rosine?"

"The one I've been doing. It's worked well so far." He could see Jill stiffen a bit at his answer. She clearly was not eager for what was to come with the confrontation. "If I may ask, why do you hate her so much?" Guts regarded her momentarily. "I mean, I saw what happened to those children she had with her, and anyone would hate her for that; but you seemed to hate her even before that."

"She isn't special," Guts told her. "There are lots more of her kind out there; each of them has done something to become those monstrosities."

"And that's why, because they're monsters?"

"I don't hate them for that, the things I've done; I'm not that far from a monster myself. No, I hate them because they exist." The tree line ended and they all instantly knew that they had entered the true Misty Valley. There was definite moisture to the air, almost like a tropical rainforest, and the climate seemed to have changed a season as well. Before there had been a cold chill in the fall air, now it was like it was a warm summer evening. A large lake was located near the center of the valley with a waterfall dumping in more from the side of a cliff. Surprisingly, the valley seemed almost devoid of trees, save for one cherry blossom tree on a ridge near the lake. As soon as Harry spotted the tree, an unfamiliar wave of od washed past him.

That od! Did you feel that?

'Just a part, since I'm not actually there.'

It felt… it felt new and old.

'The old od might be the tree. It could have magical properties like the one where Mistress Flora and I reside.'

And the new… if that tree has magical properties, could that be how Rosine is creating pseudo-apostles?

While Harry pondered that possibility, Guts was all ready to start searching the valley for the apostle. "Stay here, kid," he ordered Jill. "Unless you want to be used as bait."

"Guts, wait!" Harry urged.

He could tell Guts was starting to get impatient. "What?"

"I have a plan, but it'll require all of us." Guts didn't look enthused, but he still heard Harry out. To begin, Guts would take the cherry blossom tree, if that was truly how Rosine was creating her pseudo-apostles, he would take care of it. While he was doing that it would buy Harry enough time to begin his ritual of summoning the Four Elemental Kings to contain the apostle-like children.

"What about me?" Puck asked. "What task shall I undertake?"

"I'm going to need someone to lure that swarm into my trap," Harry explained. "Fly around the valley. Once you spot that swarm, bring them back to where I am."

Puck happily accepted. "I won't let you down, Captain! But… what about a weapon for me?"

'What does he need a weapon for? He's just being used as a distraction.'

Beats me.

"Uh… here!" Harry picked up a burr and stem from the ground. "It won't kill them, but it'll get them angry enough to follow you."

Puck stared at the burr for a moment before brandishing like a knight would a sword. "With this almighty weapon bestowed upon me, I, Puck the Conqueror, will not fail in my heroic mission! If I should fail in my task, then let one of my brothers wield this burr in my stead!" No one had any response to his dramatic.

"Harry, what about me?" Jill asked. "You said you would need everyone, does that include me?"

"You do have a part," Guts said, "go home. You've lead us here, that's what you contribute. You really want to see the girl you knew end up dead?"

"That's not what I had in mind," Harry corrected. "We still don't know where Rosine is, and if Jill was agreeable to it, she could lure her out. Rosine knows what we plan to do, but she wouldn't suspect anything from Jill."

"Heh! You've shown yourself to be smart before in the past, Harry, but at what point did you lose your fucking mind?" Guts' tone and laugh held no feeling of mirth.

"What I'm saying is-,"

"-What you're saying is going to get another little girl dead. Saying stuff like that, you sound no better than all of us twisted adults."

"It's far from the worst you've probably done."

"No denying that. But I guess I just thought you better than that. Shows how wrong I was." His words cut deeper than Dragonslayer.

Guts… thought that highly of me?

'You did use to be in the same mercenary band if you're among the last survivors, I'd imagine he'd feel a certain degree of respect. And… I don't really know anything about his life before, and I'm sure you don't, but maybe he wants others to turn out differently than he did.'

"Um," Jill's voice brought Harry back to the present. "Mister Guts, I… would like to help some more. Rosine was my friend, but I don't know how much is still her and how much is an… apostle. She was always a bit strange, but never crazy. Please, let me try and talk to her as a distraction. That way… I'll know if she really is the Rosine I remember."

Guts didn't look satisfied; he turned on his heels, ready to make a beeline for the tree. "Just be ready to dig your own grave then." His black cloak hung to his shoulders as he stalked off.

Jill found herself alone as she walked the field of the Misty Valley. The scenery was so surreal that in any other situation she would have been happily running through the grass and maybe even dipping her feet in the water of the lake. There were probably secluded places like this all over Midland, but this one just held an otherworldly feel to it.

"Rosine!" she called out. "Rosine, are you here?!"

From above, a shadow passed under a cloud, zooming down at incredible speeds straight towards her. "Jilllllllllllll!" just as it seemed it was going to tear her in two, the figure slowed down its speed, and a pair of arms wrapped around her in a hug. Rosine touched her forehead to Jill's. "Hi!"

Shocked, Jill slowly moved her arms, patting Rosine on her back as she reluctantly returned the embrace. "Y-yeah. It's me, Rosine."

Rosine's features shifted again to become more human. "I'm sooo happy that you came! Isn't this place wonderful? To think elves actually used to live here so long ago – real elves! This place is a dream come true."

"…It really is nice." She could think of no better thing to say than that. "But there aren't any real elves here anymore, are there?"

Rosine pouted, as expected. "No. People stopped believing in them, and they just… poof! They vanished."

"That… sounds like magic."

"Well, magic is all about believing in the impossible, isn't it?" Rosine guessed. "And belief is a powerful thing, everything that is or was, existed because someone believed in it."

Those were wise words, something Rosine had never been too fond of. "Where did you hear that?"

Rosine smiled proudly. "The four angels told me that. Although, I suppose there are five of them now."

Five angels?

"But enough about them," Rosine seemed eager to change topics. "What's going on in the world of Jill? Have you made any new friends since I left?"

"Not really. It was always the two of us since we met."

"True enough," said Rosine. "But what about more than friends?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't try playing coy. When I was at the village earlier, I saw you by the watchtower with those two guys. What's the story there?"

"There is none!" she said a little too quickly. "I met them, and they helped me out of some trouble in the woods, and then with my father as well."

"You were never any good at lying, Jill." Rosine smiled like she had won a great victory. "It is a bit romantic that you would have a little crush on the guys who helped you out. That one boy looked only a year and a half older than you, I would never have figured you'd like older guys."

"I-I don't!" she denied. "Harry is just… a friend."

Rosine wiggled her finger teasingly. "Didn't you say that you didn't have any other friends?"

"Not any from the village," Jill countered, feeling very humiliated. "But you'd know why that is, wouldn't you?"

"Hm?" Rosine tilted her head. "Oh yeah! Some of them joined me here in paradise! Now they know what it's like to live the free life of an elf-like I do!"

"But they were kidnapped!" Jill argued. "Why? Why would you terrorize your old home like that?"

Rosine's happy demeanor began to fade. "Jill, you're the last person I would expect to ask that question. You knew what my home was like, you live just like it. No, the only home we have is the one we make for ourselves." She took both of Jill's hands in hers. "You can be a part of that home too."

"Rosine…" has this been the real you all along?

"You can be just like me; just like the stories, we used to share. We just have to go to the tree over there and – the tree!" Jill looked to see the cherry blossom tree in flames, and silhouetted against the flames was a tall, imposing black shadow holding an even larger sword. His lone eye shone with the flames giving him a demented look. "An intruder!" Rosine's appearance changed back to her insect-like one. "Stay here, Jill. I'll show him what happens to those who aren't invited."

"Rosine, wait!" but she was already flying off to engage with Guts.

He saw her coming, his eye tracking her every movement. She zigzagged low across the air, trying to make him lose his focus. She broke her formation when she dipped low and popped back up with her head stinger extended out, looking to stab him through. "Surprise!" she gleefully cheered as her stinger neared his face.

Her face quickly fell when she saw that her stinger bounced harmlessly off of his prosthetic arm. A predatory grin slid on Guts' face. "Surprise yourself." He thrust Dragonslayer forward and the blade poked a hole through one of her wings. She had folded them in front of her body to act as a shield.

"Gnnuuhh!" she winced from the pain. "That hurt!"

"Good, it was supposed to." He raised Dragonslayer again, but even with a torn wing, she managed to get away from him. She was shouldering the burden to her surviving wing; it was enough to glide back to evade his attack. "Where do you plan on going with that clipped wing? You should be smart enough to know that you're beaten."

She snarled up at him. "Says you!" her antennae began to twitch, sending out a signal to the rest of her swarm. "I don't plan on fighting alone. This is my valley, and here we play by my rules!" a dark mass appeared overhead. "This game is already over, enough stings will kill anyone." But the swarm did not come to Rosine, they continued flying back to where the surrounding forest was. "What?!"

Guts could faintly hear the voice of Puck shouting; "Hurry, Harry! Hurry, Harry! Hurry, Harry!" as he led the swarm toward the awaiting Harry. The young wizard had the time to use his staff to draw some sort of circular symbol in the dirt and was now chanting some spell or another. He appeared to be in deep concentration, but he was aware of Puck flying to safety under his cloak, an indication that the swarm was closing in. As soon as they were within the confines of the drawn circle, Harry finished his chant. A glowing circle of light erupted from the ground; four luminous beings appeared to have linked arms with one another. Confused, the swarm of now wasp pseudo-apostles tried to fly out but were repelled back by some sort of invisible force.

"My elves!" Rosine cried out.

"Can't handle your toys being taken away?" Guts sarcastically mocked. "But I guess you are just a stupid child at heart."

Her body began trembling. "You… come into my paradise, capture my elves, tear my wing, you're just some mad dog!" she was changing once more. A new set of wings were growing from her back, a large thorax sprouted from her back, working to encase her legs. "And I'm the queen of this valley."

Guts rushed her, Dragonslayer at the ready to cut her down before she finished her second transformation. Rosine was faster. Her wings were much stronger now than they had been previously. She flew forward at deafening speeds, completely running him over, knocking him off of his feet. She flew into the sky, her shape a giant shadow before shooting back down to the ground again, straight toward him.

A crazy idea popped into Guts' head, he stood ready with his arm cannon pointed at Rosine, and Dragonslayer held in one hand. He waited until she neared, before using his teeth to pull the string to fire his cannon. The cannonball struck Rosine, but Guts made no move to brace himself from the recoil of the blast, he let it spin his body a full one-eighty, ending with Dragonslayer cutting her across her thorax. It wasn't without its downside though, without bracing, Guts felt his left shoulder become dislocated.

"You big meanie!" Rosine shouted at him. "Look what you did!" like a hornet, his attack only seemed to enrage her. Her new wings were still undamaged, and they carried her toward like a speeding arrow, her head stinger at the ready. Once more, Guts used his prosthetic to block it from hitting his face, but Rosine was able to curl her stinger. The barbed stinger now pierced through his forearm holding Dragonslayer. "Your sword isn't going to help you now! Let's go for a little flight!"

Her wings were strong; they were able to support her new body as well as his added weight and Dragonslayer. She slammed him against the burning cherry blossom tree, the heat of the flames began to singe his black cloak and some of the skin on the back of his neck. Rosine shot herself higher into the sky, taking Guts with her. She began to twist and turn her body, looking to shake him off.

"Guts!" he heard Harry yell from the ground. "Get ready to brace yourself!"

"Whatever it is, just do it!" as long as she took the most of the attack, that was all that mattered at the moment. This was just another battle, he had to be willing to take punishment to win.

From below, Harry began another chant, the clouds high above them started to cluster closer together. A rumbling began to ensue, and a sudden burst of lightning erupted arcing its way straight toward Rosine. The blast struck her, and Guts felt some of that raw energy pass through his body as well. But it worked, Rosine was falling from the sky.

Harry made ready to perform another spell to slow their decent, But Rosine seemed to still have enough control over her body to an angle where she wanted to go, and that was straight toward Harry. Before he could roll out of the way, the joined Rosine and Guts slammed into him, the momentum of the fall sent the three of them sprawling in the waters of the Misty Valley Lake.

A/N: That's it for this chapter, the next one will feature a large look at what's going on in the HP side of things. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, October 31st, 1994

The great hall was filled with the chattering and daily gossip that was to be expected of students both new and senior. A sort of palpable excitement and tension filled the air, and many of the food prepared down in the kitchens remained largely untouched; save of course for some of the students over at the Gryffindor table. The Weasley twins were a source of jovial attention as always, having been released from the hospital wing the other day after having their beards removed.

The two of them were clever, but not clever enough to fool an age line simply by drinking an aging potion. That wasn't to say that their failed attempt hadn't swayed others from coming up with their own harebrained schemes of fooling the aging line Dumbledore himself drew. No, there were still conspiracies going around even after the twins' mishap, which they took with surprising humility. Some of the professors had wanted to be a bit stricter when it came to suggesting punishment, but the concept of public humiliation was one that was far too overlooked in this day and age. Although, Dumbledore could understand the mindset of where his professors were coming from; Hogwarts was playing host to two other wizarding schools this semester – Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.

Madam Maxime, the Headmistress of Beauxbatons, towered over everyone else, even Hogwarts own Keeper of Keys, Game Keeper, and Care of Magical Creatures Professor, Hagrid. It appeared that Hagrid was actually intrigued at the prospect of meeting another who shared giants' blood, although Maxime would never admit to it. No, she knew of the discrimination against half-breeds and the like within Magical Britain, and she had the aura of a proper French Madam to uphold.

Then there was Igor Karkaroff, the Durmstrang Headmaster, a former Death Eater granted pardon after Voldemort's downfall by granting valuable information to the Wizengamont. He sat next to Severus along the staff table, something that didn't escape Dumbledore's notice. The Potions Master rarely acknowledged the presence of the Durmstrang Headmaster; Severus had an image of his own to keep up. Karkaroff probably would have been more annoyed with the lack of attention, but his focus more on the main event of tonight.

Further, in along the staff table, the figures of Barty Crouch and Ludo Bagman sat in accordance with the tradition of the event – the Triwizard Tournament. It had been decades since the last tournament, having been put to an end due to too many student deaths, and now Hogwarts would be hosting the legendary event. Dumbledore had no heavenly idea what the Ministry of Magic was thinking by bringing back this tournament, but with Crouch and Bagman promising a much more controlled environment and by raising the age limit to only those seventeen and above, it was eventually deemed plausible. No doubt Cornelius agreed to the terms because he thought it would boost his popularity in the polls.

Dumbledore had warned him of something going wrong, but the minister was adamant. Even with the recent happenings over the previous years, Fudge still chose to remain blissfully ignorant of the growing dark. For starters, after Voldemort's failed possession of Quirrell, the fabled Chamber of Secrets had been opened after fifty years of stagnation. Wanting to be seen doing something, Fudge chose to arrest Hagrid due to his record while attending Hogwarts. Things became even more complicated when Lucius Malfoy had the school governors suspend his term as headmaster. It was only after the youngest of the Weasley children had been abducted had Dumbledore been granted his position back to deal with the situation. The chamber was discovered after an interrogation with the ghost of Moaning Myrtle, the only dead victim of the creature from fifty years prior. Dumbledore and a few other professors had forced their way into the chamber to rescue the young girl and destroy Riddle's diary. The Weasley girl was deeply traumatized by the experience and had taken the next semester off for treatment at St. Mungo's.

To complicate things even further just a few months after that, it was discovered that the Weasley family rat – Scabbers, was actually Peter Pettigrew in disguise. The marauder had been an unregistered animagus since his Hogwarts days alongside James and Sirius. Pettigrew managed to escape capture, but there was a silver lining to his escape, there was now enough evidence to get Sirius Black released from Azkaban Prison. An actual trial found him cleared of all charges from the Wizengamont and allowed him to take the seat as Head of House Black.

Managing to secure an actual trial for Magical Britain's most feared Azkaban convict had not been easy. Fudge and his undersecretary were largely against the notion, the incarceration of Sirius Black marked an important milestone in Fudge's start as Minister of Magic, and to go against that would be an ugly mark on Minister Fudge's record. With the help of Madam Bones and the ICW, a trial was able to become a reality, and by the end, Sirius Black walked out of the court a free man.

The years spent on that horrible island prison would have driven any other witch or wizard insane, but somehow, Sirius had managed to fight off the soul-sucking madness of the dementors. Sirius had chalked it up to being that he was always a bit crazy anyway and that he had something to look forward to upon his release. The first things Sirius had inquired for after his release had been and Dumbledore recalled, "real food, some new clothes and a comb for my hair, and most importantly – to see my godson."

The first two were the easiest to come by, the last request, well… Dumbledore was unsuccessful in his attempts at locating young Harry. Sirius, understandably, had been quite distressed to learn of what had transpired during his imprisonment. Dumbledore had tried to assure the now Lord Black that wherever Harry was he was alive, the multitude of magical instruments decorating his office served as proof. Although, there had been an instance two years prior that had multiple instruments going off, specifically ones pertaining to mental trauma, increase in emergency magical reserves, and the addition of a malicious presence. When Dumbledore saw this, he feared the boy would die, but when the instruments stopped reacting, the one monitoring Harry's normal heart and brain patterns continued spinning whirling respectively.

Dumbledore had kept a close eye on all of his monitoring instruments from that point on, careful not to miss any new developments. Thankfully, the only other activity that came about from his instruments had been showing the growth of Harry's magical core and advancement in magic. The readings were extraordinary, far beyond what a core should look like for a boy his age, no, it could even rival the power of some fully grown wizards. And that begged the question, where was he learning it? Dumbledore had gotten in contact with every magical school the worldwide, and none of them were harboring the boy. It was alarming, while he was not opposed to Harry learning magic; the idea that it was a complete unknown troubled the headmaster. If they were dark, then the Boy-Who-Lived, an icon form many young wizard children could potentially rival Voldemort in terms of power. That was why the need to find the boy was all the more pressing, it was better to keep him closer than risk his young mind corrupted.

Sirius had been quite vocal in his support for locating his missing godson, it was effort Dumbledore wished he had shown more of in his schoolwork while in Hogwarts. "I find it hard to believe, Dumbledore, that in all of this time, you haven't come across one piece of evidence that might suggest what happened to Harry."

"That is not true, Sirius. I have already shared with you my theory of Merlin."

Sirius hadn't been entirely convinced. "And what proof do you have of that theory being true? What was it Merlin even wrote about after his supposed "journey beyond the layers of magic?""

"The original text was hard to come by, and I had to call in a few favors within the Ministry to gain access to that level of the Department of Mysteries. Merlin's writings seemed cryptic; the first thing he mentioned once he managed to cross over was being greeted by a knight of skeleton."

"Like an inferi or dragur?"

"Not quite, but that opening left much thinking he had actually journeyed into the afterlife. He talked about how our world was a branch of a larger tree and other nonsensical things that only made sense to him. In Merlin's later years, he became quite the recluse, studying on ways to combat a larger force than anyone could comprehend. From what I've gathered, he was trying to create a powerful magical item."

"I bet the old coot is laughing at us from somewhere," Sirius said. "Our shortcomings must be an amusement for a genius. But forget about your theory for a moment, Dumbledore, I have one of my own."

"And that is?"

"As the recently anointed Lord Black, a title that is quite the hit with a few witches, I now have access to the Black Family Library. There's bound to be something about rituals for summoning-"

"-Let me stop you right there, Sirius. I don't mean to quell your desire to find young Harry, but you are aware of your family's darker history."

"Meaning?"

"Only that some of these rituals you speak of could very well be dark in nature. And I wouldn't want you paying a price that you can't afford."

The conversation hadn't continued long after that. Sirius had become rather heated and told him off for having no right to interfere with a family business. If Sirius had actually found anything or attempted to try anything was inconclusive, but the fact that the Black heir was not celebrating led him to believe he was stuck, the same as Dumbledore.

A cough came from Dumbledore's right, and a turn of his head revealed the scarred face of Alastor Moody, current Defense against the Dark Arts Professor. Moody's magical blue eye was scanning the hall for any trouble. "It's time, Albus."

"And so it is." As soon as Dumbledore rose, the hall went silent. The moment of truth for many students was now at hand, the drawing of the three champions. The impartial judge – the Goblet of Fire was placed in the very center of the hall, the blue flames emerging from the top glowed brighter than ever. "Good evening to all of you! As you're all very much aware, this is the night your three champions will be selected to participate in the fabled Triwizard Tournament. If your name is called I ask you to please head to our trophy room to await further instructions about the events to come. Now, let us begin."

Dumbledore placed his hand on the goblet to signal that the time was right. The blue flames turned a startling crimson and single piece of parchment shot out from the fire. With his hand reaching out automatically, Dumbledore caught it. "The champion of Beuaxbatons is Fleur Delacour!" a polite round of applause was elicited from the French students, while many of the Hogwarts males gave standing ovations, completely charmed by the girl.

Once again the flames turned to red and a name was shot out. "The champion for Durmstrang is Victor Krum!" the Quidditch fans all cheered in approval, with Karkaroff being loudest of them all. His star pupil would be representing his esteemed school.

The goblet glowed a third time, shooting out the last name. "And our Hogwarts champion, is Cedric Diggory!" a massive cheer erupted from the Hufflepuff table; each badger was looking to shaking Cedric's hand to congratulate him. Professor Sprout clapped as well, her eyes watery with the excitement and joy. Making his way to the trophy room located adjacent to the great hall, the schools all had a representative. "Excellent! We now have our three champions. I am sure that they can all count on our continued support while they-,"

The goblet was not done. For a fourth time, its flames grew red, all eyes now on it. Alastor had his real and magical on it as well. From its fiery depths, a piece of parchment shot out. Acting like a seeker, Dumbledore's hand reached out to catch the smoldering parchment. The hall was dead silent now making it all the easier for them to hear the name he was about to read out, even it was just above a whisper. "Harry Potter."

Hundreds of sets of eyes began roaming the hall. No one came forward. His hands almost trembling, Dumbledore read again, a bit louder this time. "Harry Potter."

Whispers began to break out. "Did he say, Harry Potter? The Harry Potter?"

"That's what I heard."

"I didn't know he went to Hogwarts, I've never seen him."

"Hogwarts has two champions now?"

"Harry Potter," Dumbledore read again.

More whispers, this time they were more agitated. "Where is he?"

"Why isn't he going up?"

"He must be a coward."

"How'd he even get his name in? He doesn't go to Hogwarts, and he isn't even seventeen."

"He's a cheat then!"

The judges for the tournament were coming up behind him to read the parchment for themselves. "What is the meaning of this, Dumbledore?!" Karkaroff hissed in his ear. "Two champions? Hogwarts has two champions? I demand an explanation!"

"As do I," Maxime agreed with the other headmaster. "Eet is not 'osible."

Ludo Bagman was the only one with a genuine smile on his face. "The actual Harry Potter! Dumbledore, where have you been keeping him all these years? No doubt you wanted to make an entrance for our savior, let's bring this young man out!"

"It's not possible," barely anyone was listening to Dumbledore at this point.

Bagman cleared his throat and magically amplified his voice so all the hall could hear. "Would Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, please come forward so he may join the other champions." No one, not one person in the entire great hall or otherwise made any move to rise. "Come now, we require Harry Potter, please come forth." Bagman was met with the same result as before, absolutely nothing. Moody's magical eye was moving around in his socket, Dumbledore thought it might fly out. For once in his career, Bagman had no idea what to say next. "Harry Potter, are you here?"

By that point, there was nothing anyone could say to stop the outbreak of gossip. The Gryffindor's were loudly talking amongst them demanding explanations from the staff. The only students from that table who weren't taking were the nervous first-years and Neville Longbottom. The Hufflepuff's were in a clear uproar, they didn't want another champion to take away the glory the Diggory lad was tasked with bringing to them. The Ravenclaw's were more hushed, but each was coming up with a theory of their own on where Harry could be and how his name was drawn. The only Raven who wasn't was a third-year girl, Luna Lovegood; her focus was up at the enchanted ceiling. The Slytherin's were the most composed of the Hogwarts Houses, students like Daphne Greengrass and Tracey Davis kept neutral expressions. Draco Malfoy however, tried to remain as composed and cool as a pureblood heir could be, but even he couldn't stop the sneer from working across his face.

It was becoming painfully obvious that Harry Potter would not be joining the rest of them in the great hall anytime soon. Whoever had put Harry's name in the goblet, had clearly done so to bring the boy to Hogwarts for this tournament, and Dumbledore doubted that it was just for a friendly competition. Something sinister was behind this, and Dumbledore had a guess as to whom. If Voldemort was truly behind this, then maybe Dumbledore should take it as a good sign then. Wherever Harry was, he was far from Voldemort's reach. But that again begged the question of where Harry was and why he was not here now. The Goblet of Fire was an ancient form of magical creation, whatever was preventing it from bringing Harry here had to be an even more ancient source, something beyond their comprehension. But what?

The lake water had washed away the ink-drawn rune covering Harry's brand and scar. A trail of blood leaked from where the brand was on his neck, and his head felt like there was a fire burning inside of it. He was seeing spots by the time he managed to break the surface, gasping for air. The impact of Rosine slamming into him at her speeds had bruised or even broke a few ribs. He, Rosine, and Guts had all taken a tumble into that lake; only two heads were above the surface.

Guts coughed up a bit of water and looked over to affirm that only he and Harry were the only two that had surfaced. "Guts-," Harry began.

"-She got out already. Her wings got weighed down, had to transform back. Saw her swim out of this damn lake." He pointed to a place beyond the shore where a trail of water was. Doing so, Guts' arm was visible to Harry. It was shaking, and it had nothing to do with the water being cold; the point where Rosine had skewered him with her toxic barb looked a sickly shade of orange. Dragonslayer rested near the shallows, wedged between a few rocks. "I got this, you go after that thing."

Harry nodded and began to trudge his way out of the lake, his soaked clothing weighing his movements down a peg. Luckily, he had managed to keep a hold of his staff and sword, he would need them if Rosine had any additional fight left in her, and he would need to finish it fast. The barrier he had used to trap the pseudo-apostles would not last forever, and the magic was at its strongest when he was close by. Glancing over to where he had drawn the entrapment, Harry was pleased to see that the circle of light was still encompassing the swarm, but the light was much less bright than it had been when he first cast it.

Puck flew over to him looking tired but accomplished. "Mission… complete…" he said, exhausted.

"Yeah, you did well, Puck." Harry thanked the elf. Thankfully Puck seemed a master at getting people's attention, so the task had been idly suited for a creature of his nature.

"Wow. I've known you a few days and you're already giving me compliments. I like you already!"

"Don't get too comfortable," Harry advised. "Rosine's still alive."

"Still?" Puck asked flabbergasted. "Between Guts cutting her and you zapping her with lightning, what's it going to take?"

"Hopefully just one more strike." And then it would all be over.

'Be careful,' cautioned Schierke. 'If she's cornered and threatened, she might put up an even bigger fight.'

But the sight of a bloodthirsty beast was not what Jill came across. There, lying on her back in the grass next to the burning cherry blossom tree was Rosine. The girl no longer appeared to look like her second transformed state, she was as she had talked to Jill, a bio-luminescent body with a pair of wings sprouting from her back. This time, her one wing was severely damaged, the webbing was working on repairing itself, but it wasn't fast enough. Rosine's eyes were staring up at the night sky, not even moving to acknowledge Jill's arrival. She looked… defeated.

"…Rosine?" Jill took a few cautious steps forward. She wanted to believe that Rosine would never harm her, but she saw her fight between Guts and Harry, she had been aiming to kill.

Rosine's lip quivered, and her eyes became misty. "It's a lie, Jill." Her voice sounded close to breaking. "The stories, the elves, this place, and especially me; it's all a lie. I'm not an elf, I'm just a stupid girl who dreamt up a paradise to escape, and now that's gone." Her eyes were very watery now. "I just wanted… I just wanted to believe that life could get better, and look at me now. I gave up my parents to the angels, most of my swarm is gone and the other half…" her eyes moved over to where the others were encased by that glowing circle. "They can't help me any more than I can help myself."

"You had me before. I was your friend in a place where no one cared about us. Didn't that mean anything to you?"

The saddest of smiles graced Rosine's face. "More than anything. And I'm all the more stupid for not seeing it before. You deserve better friends than me. Please, go home, Jill. I don't want you to see what happens."

"Listen to her." Harry leaned against his staff, still feeling the ache of Rosine crashing into him.

"Wait!" Jill pleaded, moving to stand in front of him. "Rosine's done terrible things, I know, but somewhere inside of her, she's still my friend."

"And what about all of those children over there?" Harry pointed with his thumb over to where they still remained trapped in his circle. "What about all of their friends, their families? I think they have a right to be angry if they weren't under her control. Step aside."

"Jill?" Rosine sounded far off. "What is that? It isn't one of mine." She was looking at Puck, who scratched his head in embarrassment.

"Uh, hi there." Puck gave an awkward wave. "Name's Puck. I'm, uh, here with the guys who want to kill you. Oh, I'm also an elf – a real elf by the way."

Rosine tried to sit up so that she could see him clearer. Her eyes began to brighten. "A real elf." A happy sob escaped her. "Where were you this entire time? I always wanted to know."

"What? Are you happy?" Harry asked. "You finally got to see an elf, that's always been what you wanted?"

Rosine nodded. "I don't suppose you're taking any last words?"

Jill was shaking her head. "Rosine, don't say that!"

"If it's about you wanting to be one with the elves, you can save it," Harry said, his sword at the ready. "I don't want to hear anything about that."

She slowly hung her head. "Just make sure Jill has better friends than me. And don't let her look when you do it."

"Don't let her look?" that was what this apostle was asking of him? With everything she's done, all the horrible acts, her last will is to make sure her one friend doesn't get to watch her die. She doesn't deserve it, why should she? Jill certainly didn't deserve to watch her friend die, but Rosine has no right to request that she doesn't, Harry would have seen to it on his own. An apostle making a request like that, was she purposefully trying to sound human, to sound regretful of what she had become? She was an apostle; they had forsaken their humanity for a demonic form and he had told Schierke once before that they deserved no mercy, they knew none themselves.

"Don't look!" the same words Casca had shouted to Guts during the Eclipse when the newly born Femto had… Harry's head felt like it was going to split open. Lying at his feet was a pitiful excuse for an apostle; she wasn't even going to put up a fight. Had the destruction of her paradise caused that great a snap in her mind? A dream that had been snatched away and she was now left with the sad reality of how meaningless she truly was. Harry's sword came down, but not on Rosine, to his side. He could feel three pairs of curious eyes on him.

'Harry?' Schierke inquired.

I know what I'll see if I do it. There'll just be another dead kid. And that's blood I don't want on my hands. No, despite everything Rosine had done, at her core she was a frightened child lining in a fantasy world, delusional, but a child all the same. She dreamt of something incomprehensible, and it had just now been yanked away from her, Harry knew that pain, and so did Guts, although he would not show the same act as Harry was about to. Perhaps Rosine did deserve to die but living with the shattered reality that her dream was gone, that was a far worse existence.

"Get out of here," Harry ordered plainly.

Rosine looked as if she had been smacked. "W-what?"

"Go. Get out of here."

Jill was looking at them, fearful that one would suddenly attack the other. "You're letting her go?"

"Your dream is gone," Harry told her. "It was what you lived by, and you're nothing without it. Never forget that."

'Harry, there are lights amongst the trees!' He focused in on the tree line. Indeed, pairs of lights seemed to be coming closer to the valley clearing. 'Maybe it's the mob from before at the village. They might have mustered the courage to finally attack back and come for the missing children.'

He turned to look at Rosine. "You say Jill's your friend, prove it." He pointed out the lights. "Draw their attention away, it's probably you that they're here for anyway. Maybe one of them will kill you instead, that way you can die knowing you helped out a friend. And I recommend you do it fast, Guts won't give you the option like I did."

The butterfly wings on Rosine's back flexed as she tested how long they would last. She pulled Jill into one last hug. "Bye, friend." Much slower than she had flown before, Rosine still managed to gain air with her wings. She shot off toward the surrounding forest, a distracting green glow. The torchlight's stopped their advance, and changed direction all of a sudden, disappearing back the way they had come.

"She's actually gone then?" Jill asked, her tone sounded sad, but… something else as well.

"Gone where?" standing behind them, was Guts. He was soaking wet, his usual spiky hair was worn down by water, and he was hunched over slightly, using Dragonslayer as a support. The cut on his forearm he had roughly tied with some fabric from his cloak, but blood still stained the dark material. The way his lone eye gleamed and the way his bottom teeth were barred, he looked almost rabid.

"She left," Harry told him.

"And you just let her?" it sounded like he had growled.

"I had her," Harry explained. "I was going to kill her, but I didn't want to look at the corpse of another child. And she has it worse than if I were to have killed her."

Guts' nostrils flared. "Oh? And what's that?" he was staring Harry down, his sole eye fixated on him, Harry could feel Guts' hot breath in his face. The anger Guts was displaying right now, it was beyond mad, he was demented. And just for a minute, Harry feared that Guts would turn Dragonslayer on him.

Harry was very careful to respond. "She has to live knowing that her dream is gone."

Guts was shaking now, a combination of rage, disbelief, and the wetness of his person all working together and simultaneously competing to see which one would come out on top. His arm seemed to be working to raise Dragonslayer, and Harry backed up, ready to defend himself if necessary.

'Is he actually going to…?'

Guts sheathed Dragonslayer on his back, turning away from all of them, his hand was clenched so hard that his knuckles were turning pure white, and his nails dug into his palm. His shoulders rose and fell with each consecutive breath. No one dared to approach him.

"Well isn't that a bitch." He stalked off toward where Harry had drawn the entrapment of the swarm. They all waited before following after him, fearful of what he might do or say next, but the question was present in each of their minds; what did Guts plan to do? As they neared the circle, they discovered the pseudo-apostles were no more. In their place was a bunch of naked children, boys, and girls alike, all of which were scared and confused as to what was going on.

"They changed back," observed Puck. "Did you do this, Harry?"

"No, this wasn't me." How'd this happen?

'Probably Rosine. Either she died and that somehow reversed what she had done to them, or like you said about her dream; it all just fell apart.'

So, what? Did she decide to willingly reverse their pseudo-apostlehood?

'Maybe. If she perhaps believed that's what Jill would have wanted her to do. It would have made one last act of a friend on her end of things.'

Harry dispensed of the barrier surrounding the children, causing them to cower at the sight of the arrivals before them. "It's alright," Jill tried to assure them. "You're back to how you normally were now."

They still appeared startled and dozens of questions were being asked. "Where's mama?"

"How do we get out of here?"

"Who are these people?"

"Please, try to keep calm," Jill tried to ease their worries. "Harry, Mister Guts, what are we going to do with them?"

With the pseudo-apostles now reverted to their original state, Guts' bloodlust seemed to be diminishing. "You know the way back to your village?"

"Well… yes, but-,"

"-Then go," Guts cut her off. "Take them back there. It's time that you go home." Realization began to sink in for Jill.

"I was hoping that… I might be able to come with you."

Guts looked more tired than he did angry. "Go home, I won't say it again. Your home life is a fight, but it's your fight. My fight is with those who won't care if you're a kid or not, one wrong move and you're dead, it's an endless fight. Go back to your fight, the one that you can win."

Jill looked at Harry, hoping that he would argue against it. "Listen to him, Jill, he's right."

"Finally agreeing with me?" Guts said for him to hear.

"Out there, it isn't going to be any easier. But back at your home, you at least stand a chance." Harry reached into his satchel to pull out a golem talisman. He handed it to Jill. "This is like the ones I used back at your village. If your father or any of his friends give you a hard time, just toss this on the ground and they'll be in for a surprise."

Jill looked at it with an odd fascination. "You're giving me a magic item?"

"For emergencies, yes. But it's up to you to use it, it's your fight."

Harry was thoroughly surprised when Jill wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you," she said.

"Uh, yeah, of course."

'Lucky you.' Schierke sounded a bit irked.

For Jill, it was more bitter than sweet to know that she would be going home once again. Her mother would be worried, and Jill was sorry for having given her such a fright, to begin with, she was barely a teenager and to have taken off all of a sudden with two newcomers would have been concerning for any parent who cared. As she led the confused group of children back through the woods she had traversed with the Black Swordsman and Harry not too long ago, she considered what some of these children's parents would say or react when they saw their children after believing them to be dead. It would no doubt liven up the state of things back at the village, something which they desperately needed. Knowing her mother, she would shed tears of joy that Jill had returned safe, her father would… actually, and she did not really care what he would do.

He would not show her concern, she knew that, if anything, he would be disappointed he wouldn't be able to bust out his old crossbow and come to lead a raid on the Misty Valley himself. With his glory stolen away, he would be let down, let down in her and even more in himself. He didn't deserve the pity and sympathy her mother would show him, anything he would have done would have been out of his own self-interests, nothing more, and nothing less.

It was in that what Jill found to be the irony of the situation. Her father would only ever show her care when he benefitted from it, and yet someone like the Black Swordsman, while distant and brooding, had shown genuine care in his own personal way. Saving her from bandits, standing up for her, and knowing when enough was enough for her to continue on, in a way, he had shown more care in two days than her real father had in her entire life. And she smiled the most bittersweet of smiles at the thought.

In another part of the Misty Valley Woods, Harry and Guts, along with Puck stopped alongside a stream. Both the wizard and elf made sure to give Guts some additional space, he was being unusually quiet, more so now than ever and Harry had to wonder if he was giving the silent treatment. With Harry's decision to let Rosine go free, Guts seemed to take that as a blow to himself.

"Um," Puck nervously began, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news on this one, but are you guys up for another fight?" wisps of shadows seemed to dance around the trees, the brands on both of their necks bled once again. Damnit! The ink that Harry used to draw the runes had been washed away after the tumble into the lake, they would just have to fight their way through tonight.

Guts' arm was still shaking, the venom still having a lingering effect on him. "Just tell Harry not to let any of them get away. We wouldn't want them coming back to haunt us later on, would we?"

"I appreciate the subtle effort," Harry sarcastically responded. His wounds still hurt as well, and at least there were two of them to handle this situation. They gave each other space as they swung their swords, cutting down the shadows that sought to torment them. Guts' swings were sloppier than his usual standard; his arm was constantly shaking, so to counter this, he rested the flat of his blade on his prosthetic arm to lighten the load. Harry's own movements were not quite up to par either, relying more on simply swipes and cuts than any further movement. Even his use of magic was limited at the moment, he felt like he would pass out if he used too much of it. Keeping up that magic circle for that amount of time had taken its toll.

If there was a plus side to their predicament, it was that the spirit shadows were very weak. So weak, in fact, that the one who was managing to slay the most was Puck. The blue elf still had the burr and stem Harry had gifted to him, and it seemed to be doing the trick. He was flying around; waving the prickly weapon around and the shadows seemed to evaporate when hit. "Cower before the full might of a master of Elf Dimension Style!" the elf seemed to have an endless amount of energy, he kept going until the first signs of the morning dawn.

Puck wiped a droplet of sweat from his forehead. "Whew! What a workout! No wonder you stay in such great shape, Guts. I can feel the burn in my stomach and arms."

"Good going back there, Puck." Harry leaned against his staff for support.

"'Twas nothing," he seemed to relish in the praise. "Now, you two sit on down and let me work my dust powers, you both look like you need it. Let me start with your arm, Guts."

Guts extended his still shaking arm, and Puck began to sprinkle some of his dust on the open wound. "I needed that. Thanks, bug."

That instantly caught Puck's attention. "Did you just… thank me?" his face lit up brighter than the sun, he flew forward and hugged Guts by his face. "Oh, I knew that you'd come around and be friendly, I just knew it!"

"Get off me before I squash you."

"Okay," Puck complied, wiping away a tear of joy. He flew over to tend to Harry next. "That was one of the best moments of my life." Once Puck had tended to Harry, he slowly rose to his feet. "Where do you think you're going, mister?" demanded Puck. "As your temporary caretaker, I can't have you up and walking around."

"I was just going to see if there was any food I could scavenge up. maybe find some herbs for Guts' arm to help the healing process."

"Don't you know what patient compliance is? That would be really-,"

"-Let it go, bug," Guts interjected. "If he's going to do something, he's going to do it. Especially if it goes against what you want."

"Look, Guts," said Harry, wanting to make amends.

"If you're going, just go. I'm not going anywhere." He rested Dargonslayer across his lap, letting his arm soak in the stream water.

"… Alright then." Harry took that as his cue to leave. Guts would be able to get past what had happened with Rosine, at least, Harry hoped that he would. Although, it was more than an odd situation that had fallen between them. Throughout their time with the Hawks, they had always been on relatively good terms, with Harry admiring Guts for his talent with a sword like how a kid brother would. Guts would distance himself at first, but had always shown a degree of concern for those he considered a friend. This Rosine thing was the first real disagreement that they had really had, and with everything that had happened after the Eclipse, would Guts be willing to overlook Harry's decision?

Harry found that was not something that he wanted the answer to right now. For the moment, he would focus on collecting what he could find in these woods. And the more he searched, the more he was able to gather. Having been largely untouched by humanity, the woods surrounding the Misty Valley had managed to remain relatively untouched. He found a variety of different leaves and herbs, along with some berries that he could use to make a healing salve for Guts' arm. He stored them all in his satchel, and made ready to head back to the stream when an unexpected noise caught his attention.

He took cover behind a nearby tree, poking his head out slowly to see what it was. It was a horse and rider wearing a shiny suit of armor; he carried a banner with a chain design embedded on it. 'What insignia is that?'

I don't know, I've never seen it before. More clopping rang throughout the woods, and a second rider came into focus.

"Have you seen anything?" the second one asked.

"Not a thing. Whatever it was that flew past us during the night is long gone."

"Understood. Ready to report back to Commander Farnese?"

"Nearly. Let's go a little further, just to be sure."

The first one grumbled. "If you believe it necessary, I'll follow your lead." They steered their horses forward toward the stream, right to where Guts was. Knowing Guts' condition, he could still kill these soldiers with ease, but if they were with a larger unit, it could spell trouble for the both of them.

Acting fast, Harry discreetly directed his staff at the two knights. "Homelio dicerto." It was the spell used for od manipulation. He could make the knights think they saw or heard something in the opposite direction of where Guts and Puck were.

"Hold up!" the second commanded. "Did you feel something just now?"

"Something from behind?"

"Eactly. Quiet, we don't want to spook whatever it is." They dismounted and began creeping to where they thought they heard a noise. Harry cast the spell again, this time further away from where they were now. Again, they fell for it; moving quietly as if not to scare this imaginary thing. If Harry kept this up, they would be well on their way without ever knowing what hit them.

Thunk! An arrow embedded itself into the tree he was hiding behind. He whipped his head around to look and saw a second grouping of knights had been making their way towards him, presumably to meet up with the two he has redirecting. Not good.

"We got one!" a mounted knight shouted. "Signal the others!"

Bwahhhh! Bwahhh! Bwahhhhh!

Three horn blasts in quick succession rang out into the air, flocks of birds scattered from the trees upon hearing the commotion coming from below. The sounds of galloping hooves filled the air, and soon, a small platoon of knights wielding their chain banner came to encircle him in a tight formation. Riding up last was a blonde teenage girl in an antiquate suit of light armor, flanked by a blonde youth of around her age and an older, stout, dark haired knight with a large moustache. The girls eyes zeroed in on Harry before addressing him.

"We heard rumors from the nearby village that there was a teenage youth dressed in the garb of a wizard. I assume that's you?"

"It's not a crime to dress like one, is it?" Harry replied with a question of his own, trying to think of a plan to get out of this. "And aren't you a teenage as well?"

She narrowed her eyes at him. "My age is nothing of your concern, and it is heresy to purposefully dress in such garb as stated in our holy text."

'They're with the Holy See.'

"These clothes are all I can afford, and I wouldn't want to go and steal new ones. I'm certain that it says stealing is wrong in your text."

"You're hardly in a position to be cheeky," she warned. "The locals of that village reported that two outsiders had stopped by. You fit the one description perfectly, and the other was of a swordsman dressed all in black. Sound familiar?"

"He already took off," Harry lied. "If you're looking for him, then you're wasting your time."

"He's gone, you say?" she questioned, Harry nodded. The knights had not pressed in on him yet, but looked close to doing so. "And this was after he slaughtered all of those children and kidnapped that young girl?" Harry's blood ran cold. "We saw that grisly scene back at the village. That was a sight better left forgotten, and yet you cover for a monster such as that. So I will ask you one last time, where is the Black Swordsman?"

"Answer the question, boy," the moustache knight advised. "We'd be forced to take you into custody if you don't comply."

'Please tell me you have a plan to get out of this.'

I do. It's hastily thought out, and I'm all but dead if it doesn't work, but I have a plan. "Alright," Harry heaved a sigh of defeat. "I'll tell you, but I'm only going to say this once." She raised a brow. "Floras locomotus." He tapped his staff on the ground, and woods became to come to life. Branches bent down to swat the nearest of the knights away from Harry, and roots sprung up from the ground to hold some of the farther ones in place.

"Witchcraft!" was echoed amongst all the knights assembled, and they cowed away from his staff. It wouldn't hold them for very long, the strain from before was still with Harry, and he needed to get out fast if he was to survive.

Some knights had began to hack their way free of the wood restraining them, ready to make for an all out retreat, but their commander shouted otherwise. "Desertion will guarantee you the might of the Holy See alliance bearing down on you! Stand and fight! He is only one." The moustache knight took her words to heart.

"You heard the Commander! Fight!"

Some of the few braver knights had begun to circle around Harry. Using his staff, he drove the blade at the end into the weak spots of their armor, just at the knees. They cried out in pain before he used the hard crafted wood to knock each of them across the face. They stumbled backward, clutching onto their bleeding faces or trying to keep some of their teeth in place.

"Watch out for the staff!" two spearmen charged him next. Harry used both blades to knock their attacks up before rolling and stabbing them both through their legs. He might have nicked a major artery by doing so, but there was no time to think about how serious their injuries really were.

An iron club smashed right in front of him, it would have smashed his head in had he not taken a step back. The stout moustache knight had joined the fray. "For a heretic and a heathen, you avoided that attack well." Some of the knights looked amazed that this knight was joining the fight.

"Sir Azan is really doing battle?"

"I've never seen him fight before."

"I never would have took him for a fighter."

Azan twirled his club above his head, bringing it down to his offensive stance. "I might not be as young as I used to be, but don't assume that you have the advantage because of it. I've got experience on my side, and the courage and motivation that come with serving under the Lady Farnese."

Farnese, huh? She was the clear leader of these knights, the fact that she sat up on her horse instead of fighting alongside her men said one of two things; one, she was withholding her strength, or two, she had little actually experience with fighting. Actually, some to think of it, none of these knights seemed to be too skilled in combat. They went down entirely too easy, even with Harry's injuries taken into consideration. It was like they were a bunch of noble kids who have never been in an actual fight before. If he could take out Farnese, or even take her as a hostage, they would be scrambled.

With an idea forming in his mind, Harry brought up both blades to block Sir Azan's sweeping blow. Harry let the momentum of the swing carry him, putting him on a straight path to where Farnese sat on her horse. A flash of fear crossed her features, he had her, and she knew it. "God…" Farnese half whispered.

Riddle Manor

Triwizard Scandal

By Rita Skeeter

Hello, dear readers, you read that title correctly, an act of unimaginable proportions created waves last night during the drawing of the three champions for the schools participating in this year's Triwizard Tournament. Just when we all thought that the three champions had been chosen, a fourth name emerged from the famed Goblet of Fire. It was none other than Harry Potter, te Savior of the Wizarding World, and the Boy-Who-Lived. As you are all aware, Harry Potter has been absent from these past few years at Hogwarts, leading many of us to theorize where he could be.

It would seem that we aren't going to be getting answers to that anytime soon, as Harry Potter never appeared when his name was summoned. This of course has led to shock and outrage, and more questions than ever being asked, questions that his reported plans to get the answers to.

Headmaster Albus Dumbledore has declined any interviews with members of the press, which asks the question; how much does beloved headmaster really know? For more turn to page-

"Get that out of my sight, Wormtail!" Voldemort ordered his servant. He was not alone in the house of his filthy muggle father. Wormtail had been with him for some time, but Barty Crouch Jr. had been the one to deliver the paper. Crouch had managed to secure a copy before apparating to this hideout the morning after the drawing of the champions. Everything had gone according to plan, Crouch's position was secure in Hogwarts thanks to polyjuice potion, and the boy's name had been drawn as intended. So where was the blasted boy?!

The Goblet of Fire was one of the most powerful magical objects in existence, no one should be above its power, and Potter should have been pulled from wherever he was, straight to Hogwarts where he would be forced to compete. What power could possibly trump that of the goblets?

Crouch hung his low in shame. "I am sorry, Master. I will take whatever punishment you see fitting to give me."

"As you should. Crucio!" Voldemort held Crouch under the torture curse for as long as he was able to keep his feeble arm in the air. Pathetic, without Potter, he would be in this weakened form for an unforeseeable amount of time.

"Master," Wormtail raised a shaking hand. "Perhaps, if we to do it without the boy-,"

"-Don't tell me you're getting cold feet now, Wormtail, you coward." Nagani hissed at the rat-faced man. "Or perhaps, does some affection still linger in your heart for the boy's parents, for your old friends?" Wormtail paled further.

"No! Never, Master! I serve you, only you."

"Pick yourself up off the ground, Wormtail. You're filthy enough as it is." The head of Nagini slithered under her master's hand, and he stroked her. In his other hand, the strange egg bauble was held. "You suggest we use another, but whose blood would make me stronger than Potter's? He is the one, the only one who can make me the lord I was and more. Without him, everything goes up in shambles." The features of the bauble began to slowly rearrange. "Do you enjoy seeing me in this pitiful state, Wormtail? And don't you dare lie to me!" the eyes began to open.

"N-no, Master," Wormtail shamefully avoided his gaze.

"You lie. Crucio!" he held Wormtail under the torture curse longer than he had Crouch. Even with Crouch's failure at Hogwarts, he still remained loyal out of belief, not fear like Wormtail. He lifted the curse from the rat, who began to whimper softly, his voice having gone from screaming under the pain. Even though Potter's whereabouts still remained a mystery, the least he could do was to take enjoyment in the sufferings of his two followers. The eyes on the bauble were fully open and in an anatomically correct order. How dare they have the gall to suggest that he use the blood of anyone else but Potter? There was no doubt that Potter was the child of prophecy, a prophecy that he only knew a part of. That scar of Potter's had almost become as famous as he, Lord Voldemort, was. The mouth was beginning to open.

"Oooooooooooooooooooooo!" the otherworldly scream startled all occupants of the room, Voldemort included. He weakly turned his head to see the now fully formed bauble. The mouth was open, still releasing that loud yell, but it looked almost like it was smiling.

"M-master?" Wormtail cowed before the yell coming from bauble, while Crouch took a different approach. His wand was drawn and aimed solely at the shrieking bauble.

"Let it drop, Master! I will take care of it!" but no curse ever escaped from Crouch's mouth. The fireplace erupted in sickly green flames, making all of them assume that the DMLE had somehow learned of their location and was flooing in at full force. The flames seemed to have a mind of their own, crawling around the walls of the room, changing them into something else entirely. The walls seemed to fade into an infinite amount of staircases, each going a different way than the next; it vaguely reminded Voldemort of the work of that one muggle artist, Escher, or something.

"What is this magic?!" Wormtail cowered behind Barty Crouch.

"We have been summoned at last." A voice, feminine and curious seemed to originate from somewhere on one of the staircases. Five shadowy figures began to materialize on a separate staircase each. The first was of a woman whom the voice belonged to. Her appearance bore resemblance to the Greek myth of Medusa, with a pair of bat wings sticking out of her back. An amused and unconcerned expression marred her flawless features. Two others were rather stout and rounded. One had closed eyes and a gaping maw, and the other hovered in the air, a sick grin on his bluish features, and the sight of the three below him reflected in the glasses that seemed to be a part of his face.

Next came a raven black figure, with a leathery cape draped over his shoulders, standing tall and powerful. His head resembled a bird of prey, but there was soft, smooth flesh visible from beyond his eye and mouth holes, giving the impression that the armor was an outer skeleton of his body and something more human was attached on the inside. His eyes were red, just like Voldemort's own, but like the woman, his pupils were slits. The eyes of this being were entirely unreadable, if he was planning something, Voldemort found he did not know what it was.

And then the final form came into being. It was the tallest of all of them, wearing a leathery cloak that covered his entire body, but keeping his six finger hands exposed. His high collar did not hide his facial appearance, or the abnormally large brain that seemed to have broken free of his skull. Out of all of them, Voldemort felt the most power coming from this one and the raven.

The one with the brain spoke without moving his mouth, his voice filled their heads almost telepathically. "Welcome, guests, you bear witness to the summoning of the Godhand by your lord and master." A dead looking finger was pointed to the chair in which Voldemort sat. "We are the five, Ubik, Conrad, Slan, Femto, and Void. Your plea has been heard, and we have answered."

Crouch was panicking. "Avada Kedrava!" a jet of green light soared toward the one named Void, but never met its mark. The raven one, Femto, raised his hand and the spell seemed to freeze in the air.

"No matter where they are, humans never seem to comprehend that their existence is futile compared to the powers at work."

"Come now, Femto," Slan eyed the three humans with interest. "Their ignorance has made them bliss. Their concerns are so miniscule that it's downright amusing."

"But here and now, that may all change." Conrad's voice echoed. "With the behelit granted to this man, the possibility for his eyes to be opened are now possible."

"Yes," Ubik agreed. "But first, he must be willing to accept our offer. Nothing will change if he does not."

Void inclined his head. "My kinsman speaks the truth. You, Tom Marvolo Riddle, the Dark Lord known as Voldemort, are presented with a choice. Decline, and continue to exist in your pitiful state, or accept our offer to be remade into the body you once had. In this world, you would be our prodigal son, an apostle amongst sheep. Your servitude would prove invaluable."

An old flame rekindled inside of Voldemort. How dare they call me by my father's name! "I serve nobody!" he hissed up at the Godhand.

Ubik floated down until his face was only feet from Voldemort's own. Nagini hissed as well, but she did not strike. "Your defiance is expected, as of most humans."

"I am beyond human!"

Slan couldn't hold back a dry chuckle. "That you are. One foot is already in the grave."

"You are as broken as they come," said Femto. "You cling to a past memory, a dream of what you once were. That is your folly."

"Silence!" Voldemort yelled. "I will not be talked down to by the likes of you! I, Lord Voldemort, have transcended death!"

Femto smirked. "And yet, you still try to summon a boy so that you may be reborn."

"How did you-?"

"-Do you wonder why he is not here? Your arrogance in magic has clouded your eyes. If you believed a mere goblet could break the power of my brand on the boy, you were mistaken."

"You! You know where the boy is!"

"His body, blood, and everything else belong to me. He was to be my sacrifice, but not mine to kill."

Void continued where Femto left off. "The scar on his forehead, which is your work. You have branded him in your own way, by means of fate. Worlds separate you both, but causality still works its lasting effect."

Slan spoke next. "But in your vain attempt to cheat death, you never thought what might happen to the boy. Not only did you brand him, you left a trace of yourself behind."

No, it couldn't be. Harry Potter, a Horcrux? "You lie." It lacked his usual amount of venom.

Conrad spoke again. "You have let ignorance cloud your views all your life, believe it, or don't, the truth is all the same." Vooldemort did not want it to be true. If it was, then he would have to kill part of his soul before killing the brat. It was a humiliation that he couldn't stand for.

"We offer you the choice to make it all null," Ubik's glasses seemed to shine brighter. "Accept, and your body shall be restored to you."

"That is not possible," Voldemort denied the claim. "Only the blood of Potter can-,"

"-That is not how our power works," Slan eyed him. "Anything and everything is possible when something you hold dear to your heart is sacrificed."

"Indeed it is," Ubik floated around the chair, making Wormtail and Crouch back away. "But you have never known friends or family." And Voldemort saw in the reflection of Ubik's glasses, the image of Wool's Orphanage. "All your childhood, all your school years, there was not a single person you held close to you, only yourself."

"And your soul lives," Conrad added. "Split beyond recognition, but still in existence."

"Accept our offer, and you will receive your body in exchange for the nullifying of your soul anchors," Void concluded.

"My immortality…"

"You will be immortal to the effects of time, but should the boy confronts you as is prophecy, your life is in your own hands."

"And what of the boy?" Voldemort asked. "If I accept, will he be destroyed as well?"

"His body still belongs to me," Femto reiterated. "He will still be branded, but that piece of you will be gone. He will be as killable as any other."

Nagini's tongue flicked out nervously. She seemed to know what Voldemort was already considering. "…And when will the boy be delivered to me?"There could be no one to stand in his way. If he had to accept the aid of these… Godhand, so be it. As long as Potter would eventually wind up dead by his hand. So what of he had to null his Horcrux's? once Potter was dead, he would make more, there was no guarantee these Godhand would stick to their word, he had to look out for himself.

"The worlds are close to changing," Void answered. "The veil separating your worlds will become as thin as parchment, and then, he will come to you."

"…" Wormtail and Crouch remained huddled together, too scared to even move, or maybe the power of the Godhand was keeping them like that. "…I… accept your offer."

Void spread his long, thin arms from beneath his robe. "So it shall be, by the will of causality." Nagani hissed one last time before thrashing around on the floor. In Gringotts, the cup of Hufflepuff began to shake and rattle of its own accord; goblin keepers were already detecting signs of dark magic because of it. In number 12 Grimmauld Place, a locket was having a similar reaction, same with a diadem hidden away at Hogwarts and a ring buried away in the House of Gaunt. And in another world, Harry Potter felt it as well.

The last thing Harry remembered, before his head split open with unimaginable pain, was being within arm's reach of Farnese. The shock and fear was evident on her face, the both of them knew that he had her in that moment. "God…" that was the only thing she was able to say, the only thing that came to mind for her, the belief that God would somehow protect her from the impending attack. But before his blow could even strike, a pain like no other erupted from Harry's scar.

"AAhhhhaa!" his staff and sword fell alongside him, both hands moving to clutch at his head. He was losing conciseness, he wasn't even able to hear Schierke's voice calling to him, and he was only faintly aware of the blood oozing from his scar. Even the world around him seemed to be in a haze as he was seeing spots through his half-lidded eyes. Farnese only stared down at him in a trance-like state, she knew she had been close to death in that moment, and the shock was still with her.

"Lady Farnese!" Serpico ran to her side. "Are you alright? Did he harm you?"

She seemed to be having trouble finding her voice. "N-no," she cleared her throat. "He seems to have worn himself out from the fight. I consider myself thankful for that." The rest of the Holy Iron Chain Knights formed a hastily made circle around the fallen wizard.

One raised his sword. "Die, heretic!"

"Wait!" Farnese halted his blade. "Get a moveable stock, we're putting him in chains." Some of her soldiers seemed displeased with her decision.

"But, Commander, this vermin crippled some of our men! We should kill him where he is!"

"He will be killed, I assure you," she told them. "As it stands, he is an accomplice of the Black Swordsman, we'll interrogate him first, and after that we take him to the Tower of Conviction. Father Mozgus travels there as we speak. He'll make a display of this riffraff." She ordered for the boy's staff and sword to be confiscated along with his satchel. She didn't want any more surprises coming from this heretic. The wizard's head and hands were put in a stock, and he was hauled to his feet and tied to her horse. She would ride slow, it wouldn't do well if he were to die before she questioned him.

A/N: I hope you all enjoyed seeing the Hogwarts side of things again after such a wait. And while the Triwizard thing was a bit of a red herring on my end, that isn't to say Harry won't be returning to the HP side of things, I already have an exact moment planned out for when that will happen. Thank you for reading.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer- Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and Berserk is owned by Kentaro Miura. I own nothing.

"Guts!" his wings were beating as fast as they could go. "Guuuts!" he was feeling exhaustion, but somehow had the air capacity in his lungs to shout his companions name. "Guuuuutssss!" he appeared more like a blue blur than he did an actual elf, but that didn't matter, what did was telling the swordsman what he had just bore witness to.

It had gone a little something like this; Puck had just been flying around, looking for anything that might further heal Guts' injuries, when all of a sudden he hears this big commotion going on. Being the curious little elf that he is, Puck decided to go and check it out for himself. When he got to the source for the entire hubbub, he was startled to see that Harry was in the center of it. A group of knights had managed to ambush him, and he was putting up a fight against them. Even with the injuries, he sustained during the previous fight, the young wizard was managing to hold his own for the most part. Seeking to end the fight, Harry had made a beeline straight for their leader, a blonde teenager a few years older than him, and he would have gotten her too if he hadn't collapsed within arm's reach of her. And that was the thing; Puck didn't see any of the knights lay a finger on him. A blonde teen that looked similar to the girl had been rushing to her defense, but he hadn't made it in time, and it certainly hadn't been the blonde girl who stopped him; she had been so caught off guard that she hadn't even drawn her sword.

As Harry collapsed, he had been clutching his head, right where that lightning scar was. Something didn't sit right with Puck about that scar, it couldn't have been his imagination, but Puck felt a dark presence become dispersed as Harry writhed in pain. Puck would have been compelled to solve this mystery himself to showcase his true elf insight, but there was no time for that! Harry was being dragged off to who-knows-where, by who-knows-who to do who-knows-what to him. Puck didn't claim to have known the wizard for long, but he didn't have to in order to consider Harry a friend. And the best way of going about getting him back was with – "Guuuuuutttssss! Ow-!"

He had flown down right onto Guts' face. His eye was closed and he was soaking his arm in the stream, letting the water help with the toxin in his system. "Watch where you're flying." Guts barely opened his eye. "It'd be a shame if you crashed into anything."

"Guts!" Puck exclaimed.

"What?" he didn't look amused.

"Well… I went off to find you anything else that could help you, see. And all of a sudden, guess what I stumble across? Knights! A whole bunch of 'em! They came out of the trees like… like… branches! They were everywhere and there was this blonde girl leading them, and a blonde boy too, and then there was this one guy with a really stupid mustache who-,"

"-Slow down." Guts caught Puck in his hand, trapping his head under a thumb. "Now, I'm going to let you go, and when I do, I expect you to say whatever you have to in a way that makes sense; got it?"

"Mmhmm!" muffled Puck. Guts released him from the hold. "Thank you. So, this is what happened…" and Puck began to recite to Guts all that he had seen happen, from Harry fighting the knights to his sudden collapse, and the end of the boy being hauled off in stock and chains. "Make sense now?"

"…Yeah, I see what happened."

"Good, because I sure don't!" yelled Puck. "Just who were those knights anyway? And what did they want with Harry?"

"The insignia on their flags, it was of chains," Guts inferred.

"They were," Puck affirmed.

"Then he got tangled up with the Holy Iron Chain Knights," Guts deduced. "He couldn't have picked a worse group of knights to have been found by."

"Why? What's wrong with them?" Puck asked. "They have 'Holy' in their name."

"You really don't know," Guts said irritated. "The Holy Iron Chain Knights aren't restricted to any one nation; any country that upholds the Holy See Doctrine is fair play for them. And they're zealous to a fault. They're made up of a bunch of nobles' sons; their armor and weapons have never seen true battle, save for maybe a few. All the trials for witch burnings and heretic raids are headed by them."

"I thought I heard something about them making him stand trial," Puck mulled over what he remembered. "They said they would take him to the Tower of Conviction, and about how a Father Mozgus was traveling there to any idea who that is?"

"Just by the name," Guts said. "And if that's true, Harry's as good as dead."

"Huh? Hey! Don't go talking like that! How bad can he be?"

"Because he oversees most of the Holy See's witch hunts. One toe out of line and a fate of torture or being burned at the stake awaits you. No one lives if he decides they're guilty."

"Don't tell me you're giving up on him then!" Puck urged. "You wouldn't really sit here and let him die, would you?" Guts' face was impassive, but Puck could tell that Guts was still angry about before. "Okay, yeah, you two had a disagreement about what should have been done with Rosine, but you've known each other for years, doesn't that mean something to you?"

"You shouldn't go putting words in my mouth," Guts warned.

"Well that's what it sounds like to me," Puck defended. "I know how you are when it comes to your apostle hunting, don't you think it's gotten a bit stale? Before when you first met up with Harry, you seemed interested in heading to this Tower of Conviction when he brought it up. Then Rosine came along and we got sidetracked. If you want my opinion, then I think that-,"

"-I'm not asking for your opinion," Guts cut him off. "And I sure don't need a lecture from you about any of this stuff. I get why he did what he did, doesn't mean that I agree with it."

"So… what are you going to do? You're not actually going to leave him to be tortured and killed, are you?" Puck wanted to believe that Guts wouldn't do that to Harry, but the elf knew of some of the darker things that the Swordsman had done, and leaving someone to fend for themselves was near the bottom of that list. "If you seriously plan on doing nothing, I won't forgive you for that."

"You're giving me an ultimatum?"

"I'm just telling you how I would feel. If you aren't going to do anything to help him out, then