Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Return

Chapter 3

by Taure 3 Reviews

It's 2200, and the world has known peace for hundreds of years. Now, a dark power thought to be destroyed is returning, and the world shall find itself woefully unprepared. Meanwhile, at Hogwarts, ...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Harry - Warnings: [!!!] [V] - Published: 2007/04/18 - Updated: 2007/04/19 - 8818 words

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~Chapter 3~

Oliver's first impression of Siberia was the white. Snow was everywhere, smothering the landscape like a blanket, clinging to every feature in sight. He was in the middle of a vast and flat plain, broken only by a dense snow-covered forest in front of him and a tall range of snow-covered mountains that reared up in the South. He had arrived there by portkey, discreetly and without a trace, trading the relative warmth of England for the biting cold of Siberia.

It was with relief that Oliver started walking towards his destination: the forest. It was from there that the strongest concentration of Dark magic was coming, and it was into the forest that Oliver had to venture. Luckily for him, it would also provide some comfort from the cold, and protection from the snowstorms that would no doubt occur regularly.

Crossing the eves of the forest, Oliver began to wonder what he had got himself into. The tall pine trees quickly became dense enough to block out almost all sunlight, and in the shadows of the forest it was quickly becoming obvious to Oliver how alone he was.

After at least thirty minutes of wandering aimlessly around the maze of trees - not a single Dark creature or wizard to speak of - Oliver began to doubt that he would ever find anything in the forest other than the sounds of twigs snapping beneath his feat and the oppressive atmosphere that made him want to run far, far away. Of course, the moment that Oliver began to think that he was alone was the moment that this illusion would come crashing down.

He did not notice the strange lengthening of the shadows, nor the way that the sounds of the forest began to dull and fall silent, nor did he notice - as an Auror should have - that strange tingling sensation on the back of his neck that signified that he was being watched.

So, convinced that he was alone, and blind to the increasing warnings that this was in fact not so, Oliver stumbled on a winding path through the thickening trees, the heat and closeness of the air lulling him into a stupor. He had just passed out of a narrow gap between two exceptionally wide trees and into a small, shadowed, circular glade when his watcher made itself known.

"What...do we have here?" Hissed a voice from outside the glade, both quiet and excited at the same time, and as the voice floated languidly through the thick air, a figure, cloaked completely in darkness but for the sharp, pale face of a man, dropped down from one of the bigger trees on the edge of the glade, landing on the soft ground with a spring in his legs.

The voice at last broke Oliver out of his daze, startled as if waking from a dream. Mentally kicking himself for his carelessness, he quickly drew his wand and pointed it at the figure, trying to assess his situation. He was alone in unknown territory, against an unknown foe, in a magical glade that he had no doubt been led to by the shadowy figure in front of him. This was not good.

"A wizard!" Giggled the figure as the wand was drawn. Oliver became worried for the figure's sanity. Insane enemies were unpredictable. "Oh, I haven't had a wizard in a long time! This...should be fun."

And without any warning, the figure attacked.

Oliver had no time to react as the man - a vampire, he realised - leapt towards him, travelling through the air at inhuman speed and knocking him hard into the ground, his wand falling from his fingers. Oliver quickly jumped back to his feet, uninjured, and tensed himself, ready for another attack.

Nothing happened.

Casting his gaze around the forest floor, he tried in vain to find his wand while still trying to keep his eyes on the trees around him. The silence was beginning to unnerve him. Just as he was about to make a run for it, the attack came.

Though he was more prepared for it this time, Oliver's readiness did little to help him. He spun around as he heard a creaking sound above him, and was fixed to the spot as out of the shadows of the canopy the vampire attacked once more, swooping down from above, with deep black eyes magically fixing Oliver in place. The vampire took Oliver down again, but this time did not disappear. Oliver was on his back, pinned down to the forest floor by the vampire above him, who was starring expressionlessly into Oliver's face. Suddenly he giggled again, though there was little humour in the vampire's face.

"I had expected better, little wizard," whispered the vampire, a grin spreading over his face as his teeth began to lengthen. "But who am I to complain?"

Just as the vampire was lowering its teeth to Oliver's neck, he began to regain his wits, and everything happened at once. Grasping around with his hands on the forest floor, Oliver grabbed the first stick that his hand came across, picked it up, and rammed it into the vampire's back as hard as he could, just as he could feel the sharp pressure of teeth on the skin of his neck.

The vampire leapt up, screaming, a look of disbelief and pain on his face as his features contorted. Surprised, Oliver rolled over and pulled himself up, and managed to see the last of the vampire's primal screams before it feel to its knees, hands clawing at its own face. In moments it was over, and the vampire fell to the floor - dead - its body shrivelled up as if it was just another long-dead corpse.

Oliver let out a breath that he didn't know he had been holding, and approached the dead body, covering his nose. It was safe to assume that the vampire was not just playing dead, Oliver thought as he picked his wand out of the vampire's back with a nasty squelching sound.

He had survived.

*

Arctarus was having a good day. He was - finally - going to Siberia. It had taken him a while to figure out how to get there - after all, sixteen year-old boys do not simply ask to go to Eastern Russia - but in the end he had managed to weave a web of deception so great that even he was confused by it. As far as his family knew, he was going to spend his summer in Birmingham with his uncle, an ex-auror. But as far as this uncle was concerned, he had been accepted into a summer internship in the Department of Mysteries, who were completely ignorant of this fact - a minor detail. Obviously, the amount of Floo calls that this had taken to achieve, while all the time keeping the various victims of his scheme ignorant, was considerable, and there had been many times when Arctarus had thought that he would be found out.

Nevertheless, they were all fooled, and Arctarus was almost about to depart. Acquiring the actual method of transportation had also been difficult to sort out, as he could not apparate (not that many wizards could apparate that sort of distance anyway), nor did the Floo extend beyond the British Isles, and Portkeys were restricted. In the end he had been forced to buy a ticket for the East-line train, departing from Platform Ten and a Half on the twentieth of August, at eight o'clock in the evening. That was in ten minutes.

Rushing with his trunk through the throng of Muggles, and ignoring the endless jabbering of the lady on the other end of the PA system, Arctarus approached a stone pillar on the walkway between platforms ten and eleven that was the barrier to the hidden platform; a barrier that was almost identical to that of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. Leaning against the red brick, Arctarus looked around at the unobservant Muggles, sneered, and passed straight through the brick to the platform beyond.

The train on the platform was not too different from the Hogwarts Express - it was a steam train of similar design, though it was painted green, not red. The platform was surprisingly full, but Arctarus supposed that it was close to the time of departure. He once again pushed his way through the crowd, and as the multitude of wizards would prevent magic detection from the Ministry, he whipped out his wand and flicked it at his trunk, risking a levitation charm. Sending the trunk a mental command to follow him, he climbed into the carriage and shut the door behind him with a loud bang.

He turned from the door into a long carpeted corridor, windows on his left and the doors to cabins on his right. It was quite a luxurious carriage, with wooden panelling on the walls and the cabins being of the highest quality: the journey was, after all, a week long and Arctarus wanted to be in comfort. Glancing at his ticket, he checked his cabin number and walked down the magically lengthened corridor until he found it and went in. Once he saw the inside Arctarus found that he was warming up to the idea of train travel - the fee of one hundred galleons had been well worth it.

After dropping his trunk down and closing the door, Arctarus set about exploring the "cabin". The main door led into some sort of living area, with an open fire, several sofas, and even a bookshelf. Other doors leading away from the main room revealed a bedroom, with a bathroom attached, and a kitchen. There were no windows, but for in the bedroom, and Arctarus was glad for it, as no doubt many parts of the journey would be disconcerting. He seemed to remember something in the brochure about an underwater stage.

Settling down in one of the sofas, Arctarus got out the diary as he felt the train begin to move. He would inspect the bookshelf later, but he assumed that the diary would be all he needed - it was his suspicion that he had not even uncovered half of the diary's secrets. Opening the diary up where he had left off the previous night, Arctarus read into the night, skimming over the boring bits and paying close attention to those parts he deemed worthy of his attention.

August 31st, 2003

Despite my reservations, I have accepted the post of Defence against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. I couldn't really say no - Minerva was begging me, and I could not tell her of the reasons why I should not take the job. She wouldn't understand, having spent so much of her time with Dumbledore. I seem to be admitting this more and more lately, but I am afraid. This time not of Voldemort, or any other wizard, but of myself. I feel the itch, all the time, night and day. Within the walls of Hogwarts, with such a trove of magical knowledge and power at my fingertips, I dread what I may do - what I may become. Dumbledore was wrong, in my sixth year, when he said I could resist the Dark arts. No one can. I should not have listened to him, for he made me too bold. If Dumbledore said that I could resist the Darkness of magic, then who was I to argue?

I submerged myself in Dark magic on that ill-advised quest, and it sunk its claws into me. What a fool I was to think that I could control it - even with Occlumency, there is no hope. For I had touched not only the magic of the Night, but also the darkest of magics - Black magic. It is true, that those, like myself, who have mastery of their mind have greater control than others, and to the outsider it may look like they have tamed the magic, but eventually the darkness wins. Every day is defeated by the night, after all.

I didn't really have a choice, what with the horcruxes and all, but I still regret it. And now I shall be off to that place which I should have avoided - Hogwarts, the seat of British magic, both Light and Dark. Every day I tell myself that I will not give in, but every night I dream of what secrets await me in the Headmaster's library, which Minerva will no doubt let me access. I fear for my soul, but I shall go nonetheless, and teach those children how to defend themselves from one such as me.


*

In the two days since Oliver's encounter with the vampire, he had not seen or heard a single soul. In fact, for a forest that was supposed to be infested with Dark activity, it was surprisingly quiet. He had even begun to think of turning back and returning to the Ministry empty handed, when he found The Tree.

It had not been from any skill on his part that he had found it - quite the opposite, he had almost missed it completely. He had simply been on yet another blind walk through the mess of trees when the forest had begun to thin out, and he found himself in another glade like that in which he had fought the vampire. The difference was that this glade, instead of being empty, had a tree of enormous proportions at its centre, and it was so clearly magical that only one as bored as Oliver could have almost missed it.

He quickly began inspecting the tree, instinctively knowing that it was what he had been sent to Siberia to find. Apart from its huge size, and the fact that it looked like it would be more at home in an English wood than a Russian forest, there was something else about it that called out to Oliver, some intrinsic magicness that only a trained wizard would be able to feel. For all his efforts though, Oliver could not discover its purpose. He had determined that it had something to do with movement, and that there were very complex enchantments placed on it - too complex for Oliver to understand - but as for its specific use, Oliver had no idea.

He was stumped, and for all his auror training he could only think of one way to discover the tree's purpose: to touch it. Glancing around the glade in desperation, he tried to find some other clue that might give away the Tree's secret, but it was a hopeless search, and steeling himself for an undoubtedly painful experience, Oliver reached out his hand and gingerly touched the dark brown bark of the trunk.

The world fell away.

It was as if he and the Tree had stayed still, but the rest of the world had dropped out of existence, leaving Oliver hanging in an empty black void, Oak tree standing firm in front of him. For a moment Oliver thought that he might be dead, but then as quickly as it had gone, the world came back in a burst of colour and sound and smells, and Oliver fell to the grass next to the tree in relief. When he pulled himself back to his feet and looked about him, his jaw almost dropped in amazement and surprise.

The world had changed. He found himself on a wide promenade - the high street of some sort of Wizarding settlement - made not of cobbles like Hogsmeade but of dirt, and every building in sight was wooden. There was very little order in the street, as if it had been put together without any planning, and most of the structures seemed to be houses. There were many tracks and alleys leading off the main street, and at the end of the promenade was a building, surrounded by a wall, far larger and sturdier than the others - most likely the home and stronghold of whoever was in charge.

To Oliver's relief, no one seemed to bat an eyelid at him popping into existence next to a tree standing in the middle of a street, and this was good for him, as he quickly took note that most of the denizens of the town appeared to be of a Dark nature: werewolves, vampires, hags and all sorts of other Dark creatures, with the occasional Dark wizard scuttling around. It was safe to say, Oliver thought, that he had found the haven of all the Dark forces of the world.

Making his way as unobtrusively as he could through the bustle of people selling their wares - and the occasional fight - Oliver aimed for one of the smaller paths leading from the main street, keen to get away from the hotspot of creatures that would want to kill him if they knew who he was. As he walked away from the high street, the buildings became more and more irregular both in construction and placing, and Oliver realised that the world had not changed as much as he had first thought: every so often he would spy a tree that still stood, and in the distance he could hear the rustle of leaves in the wind. Obviously, he was physically in the same place as before, but he could not quite understand by what process everything had come to be different. No doubt the Minister would know.

Eventually, Oliver reached what could be called the outskirts of the town, where most of the dwellings were pitifully made, the ground uneven, and the forest encroaching on the territory of the houses. For a brief moment Oliver wondered what to do next, having found what he was looking for, but the solution revealed itself to him almost immediately. He had been sent to infiltrate, so infiltrate he would.

He would need to start by building a shelter.

*

Just like the past two days, when Arctarus woke in the morning it took him a few moments of confusion to remember where he was. Despite the thin curtains on the window, the small, square, bedroom of his cabin was filled with the bright sunlight of dawn, made even brighter by the reflective white walls.

This morning though, there was something different: the light was even brighter, and there was an eerie silence about the train, as if it were not moving. Curious, and wondering if the train had stopped, Arctarus sat up on his bed and reached over to the curtains, yanking them open. Though he had guessed what was coming, he still gasped, speechless at the sight before him.

A glorious vista met Arctarus' eyes: the train had left the ground, and was flying in the air, a thick blanket of white, fluffy, cloud beneath it, and nothing but clear blue skies above. If Arctarus squinted in a certain way, he could see hanging in the air, just above the clouds, a ghostly train track made of light curving into the distance. In his opinion, this was just yet another reason why wizards were better than Muggles.

After staring out of the window for a good twenty minutes, Arctarus finally broke out of his staring contest with the sky and shook himself awake, climbing out of his bed. He went for a quick shower, and ten minutes later was back in his lounge, lying on the sofa, bored. He did not feel much like socialising with the other passengers - especially as he technically was not supposed to be there - and as interesting as Harry Potter's life was, reading about it constantly was a bit much. Still, with nothing better to do he retrieved the diary from his room and took it back to the sofa, not really planning on reading it - just holding it while he stared blankly at the ceiling.

After some time, he started flicking through the pages, running his thumb through them unconsciously, thinking about nothing. Eventually, deciding to actually do something worthwhile, he sat up and turned the diary to its last page, which was completely blank. After summoning a quill and ink from his trunk with a flick of his wand, Arctarus thought for a bit before writing on the page in front of him,

"Wandless Magic"

As the words faded into the page and out of sight, Arctarus put the quill to one side and waited to see if he would get a response. It was another feature of the diary that he had found in his third year, and one that was particularly helpful for homework and research. It did not produce any particular entry in the diary; instead, it used the not-inconsiderable intelligence of the diary to formulate a new entry, pulling information from the collective knowledge of the artefact. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Wandless magic was a subject that Arctarus had seen mentioned a couple of times, but he had never read anything about it in any great detail, and it was as good a subject as any to read about to fill up the time. Eventually, the diary started to write.

Wandless magic is one of the hardest feats of magic to perform; though it requires no greater level of magical strength than performing spells in the usual manner, spell casting without a physical and magical focus is extremely demanding on the mental powers of the user, and few wizards have the necessary strength of mind to be able to perform even the most simple wandless spell. The theory behind wandless magic is very simple, and is very similar to the theory behind non-verbal magic: you are not removing the focus, you are simply changing the focus from a physical wand to a mental focus. So, to perform wandless magic, just as to perform non-verbal magic one simply has to incant in one's mind, all you have to do is imagine the wand movements in your mind instead of performing them physically. There is, however, one addendum: spells such as the Avada Kedavra, the Lumos, the Incendio...all these spells are incapable of being performed wandlessly, as they need an "exit point", usually the end of the wand, which the human body does not have...

The writing stopped, and Arctarus read what the diary had explained several times through, not believing the simplicity of what he had presumed to be a vastly complex and mysterious task. Putting the diary to one side, Arctarus quickly got into a comfortable position, intending to get the hang of wandless magic while he had time to kill. Better start simple, he thought, and he cast his gaze over to the quill that he had put down earlier. Thinking of a swish and flick movement, he spoke out in a loud voice,

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

Nothing happened. This was a new experience for Arctarus, and so shocked was he by his failure that he sat there staring at the feather for a good five minutes, as if waiting for it to move. When it did not, he tried again.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

Cursing, Arctarus turned away from the feather and picked up the diary again, reading through the entry and wondering what he was missing...he was an Occlumens, mustering the mental power needed should have been easy! Calming down, he put the diary down and concentrated, not rushing the process this time. His problem, Arctarus decided, was that when he said the incantation he lost focus on the wand movement, but he could not focus solely on the movement, as he had to say the incantation too. He had to learn how to be able to think, with all his mental power, on two different things at once.

Mustering all his powers of concentration, and slipping into an Occlumens' trance, he tried again. Swish and Flick.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

Swish and Flick.

"Wingardium Leviosa!"

Swish and Flick.

"WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!"

The feather was decidedly unmoved. It was going to be a long day...


*


Oliver was quite proud of his house. It was, perhaps, a bit extravagant for his mission purpose, but there seemed to be some sort of impulsive desire ingrained into all wizards to continually modify and add to their properties, until the level of customisation became ridiculous.

He had constructed it far away from the hub of the town, trying to keep a low profile, and it far outclassed the crude shelters that he had for neighbours. At first, he had cut down several trees and transfigured the wood into walls and a roof, intending to keep the structure simple, but after ten minutes of sitting in his makeshift hut he had felt the need for change.

So, the grassy floor had be transfigured into soft, fluffy carpet, the wooden walls quickly became stone, and several expansion charms later his hut had become a small flat. And then he gained a second storey, to have a better view of the town. Next came a property line and anti-apparition wards; colour charms were applied to the outside of the hut to make it more exciting; simple pieces of furniture were conjured and transfigured and, to top it off a surprisingly complex plumbing system was installed in the house, complete with heating charms for hot and cold water.

He must have picked up more from Hogwarts than he thought.

He was just adding the finishing touches to the fountain outside when he received a mental prod from his property line, alerting him that he had visitors. Apparently he had attracted more attention than he had planned.

Three people were heading towards him from the direction of the town. Their small gang was led by a tall man, gone to seed, and he was flanked on either side by two rather stumpy yet muscular men with ugly faces and large teeth. Oliver took the sidekicks to be werewolves in their untransformed state, but it was the man who concerned him: though physically unimpressive, he had the look of a Dark wizard about him. Oliver prepared himself for trouble.

"Well, boys, look what we have here," drawled the wizard, as he walked towards Oliver, "A wizard who thinks he's too good for us, eh?"

Oliver said nothing, knowing that they were spoiling for a fight, but just in case he put his hand in his pocket and gripped the handle of his wand, ready to pull it out at a moment's notice. He wasn't an Auror for nothing after all.

"Nice place you've got here," continued the man as he took a look at the inside of the hut through the door, "I've been hearing things all afternoon 'bout some of the fancy spellwork on this place! News travels fast in The Glade, and nothing happens 'round these parts that I don't know about."

Oliver doubted that: he may be a Dark wizard, but if he were a strong one then wands would have been drawn already. No, Oliver thought it much more likely that this was just a minor Dark wizard, snooping around for someone else.

"I'll tell you what, wizard: I'll make you a deal."

As he said this he waved to the two werewolves who had previously hung back and they came forward to stand, once again, on either side of the wizard. Oliver slowly started to pull his wand out; things were about to get nasty.

"You let me have this little set-up you've got here, and my friends here won't have you for their lunch. How's that sound?"

Oliver sprang into action, whipping out his wand and thinking, Stupify! A bolt of red light shot from the end of his wand and hit the werewolf to the left of the wizard before they even realised what was happening. Oliver quickly sent off two more stunners, but his opponents had finally woken up and managed to dodge them.

"Bad move, wizard!" snarled the Dark wizard, pulling out his wand and aiming it at the werewolf who was still dodging Oliver's spells. "Alutus Lupio!"

No visible spell came from the Dark wizard's wand, but the effect of his magic quickly became clear to Oliver who watched, horrified, as the man who but a moment ago had been dodging his spells transformed into a giant grey wolf.

The wolf quickly charged at Oliver, who had to jump to one side to prevent himself getting mauled by the beast, winding himself as he hit the floor. Luckily for Oliver, the wolf had judged its leap badly, and had flown right into the stone fountain that Oliver had made not ten minutes before, both smashing the fountain and knocking itself out. Oliver shot a stunning spell at it for good measure.

/Right/, thought Oliver, /two down, one to go/.

However, the enemy wizard had not been idle while Oliver combated the werewolf, and even as Oliver was getting up a variety of spells shot towards him, and he had to roll out of the way to avoid being hit by some nasty-looking curses. Thinking quickly, Oliver kept hold of his wand and, just as he was coming out of his roll, pointed it in the direction of the Dark wizard, thinking, Exicio!

A bright blue light flared at the end of Oliver's wand and the Dark wizard was hurled into the air, as if he were attached to a string in the sky and it had just been given a good yank. After he had flown about ten metres he landed back on the ground with a thud. Oliver prepared himself for another attack, but it never came, the injured wizard instead standing up and shouting,

"You'll regret this, wizard! Just you wait!"

And with that he ran off.

It was not over yet.

*

When Arctarus came up with his plan, he was certain that it would work. Now, however, he was beginning to have doubts. Being completely lost in the middle of a vast snow-covered plain with no signs of civilization in sight will do that to a person. He had got off the train by broom, as there was no train station for the magical locomotive in Siberia, and it had been a rather interesting experience, to say the least. Flying out of a window on a broom was hard enough as it was, but the problems of a trunk in tow and a fast-moving train to avoid made it all the harder. Nevertheless, he had managed to reach the ground, roughly where he had intended too, so he had been happy.

Until he looked around that was. Nothing made Arctarus so glad that he was a wizard than that moment when he realised that he was all alone in a dangerous and unforgiving country.

Sitting down on his trunk with a sigh, and casting a Warming charm on himself, he pondered what his next move should be. Looking back, Arctarus realised it had been rather foolish running off to Siberia on a whim - on nothing but a feeling - but he had become used to trusting his instincts. At least he could survive with magic, Arctarus thought. For a while, at least.

Deciding that he wasn't going to have a sudden revelation as to what he should do, Arctarus stood up and started walking in a random direction - the direction he felt the best about. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he liked this direction; it was as if it were pulling at him. Smiling, Arctarus realised his instincts had been right: there was something here, and it was calling to him. For now though, he had some walking to do.


*

The dark of night pressed in on Oliver as he crouched in a bush, keeping watch from the tree line by his hut. He was not a fool: he knew the Dark wizard would be back, and he wasn't willing to sleep somewhere where his enemies knew him to be. So he had retreated to the trees, waiting for the wizard to come back. He had been there for several hours now, sitting under the starlight, wand in hand and with a tree to his back. Every so often he would almost drift off to sleep, but then he would jolt awake as if he were burnt: a useful hex to use on yourself, if you knew the counter.

He was beginning to think that he had just been paranoid when he heard it: voices, so quiet they were almost whispers, approaching from the direction of the town. He clutched his wand harder as he waited to see who it was.

A group of people, five strong, appeared from behind the shack closest to his hut and started to walk towards his dwelling. The Dark wizard was there, but it was clear that he wasn't in charge of this group; this time, he was the sidekick, cringing in the shadow of a wizard of much greater stature, who had stopped to stand next to the fountain that Oliver had fixed after the fight. The new wizard - for Oliver was sure the new leader was a wizard - was tall and thin, almost skeletal, and his skin was waxy and pale, like a vampire's. The three other people with him appeared to be vampires themselves, two male and one female, all of them as pale as the moon above, their skin glowing with some unearthly light. Were she not an unholy creature of the Night, Oliver might have thought the woman beautiful, and the men were all regal-looking, as if they were royalty. All of the party, but for the wizard Oliver had fought earlier, carried with them an air of power and authority, and Oliver was glad that he was hidden.

"Anton, search the house," the lead wizard commanded in a whisper, and the fat wizard grinned, taking out his wand, and shot a spell at the door of the hut, smashing it open. One of the vampires - the female - clucked in disapproval, but said nothing.

"Come out, come out, little wizard!" Anton taunted gleefully as he entered the hut, and for a moment there was silence as he looked around, but then a call came from inside the house,

"There's nobody here!"

Anton came back out of the house, a scowl on his face, and waited at the doorway for his next orders.

"Don't worry, Anton, we'll find your wizard," said the leader, speaking in a louder voice now. He was smiling, as if he were pleased by Oliver's absence, and his voice had a melodious quality to it, now that he was speaking above a whisper.

Oliver stiffened in his hiding place as the lead wizard took out his wand, wandering what magic was about to be done to find him. This new wizard looked powerful, as far as looks can tell these things, and though he had placed wards about his hiding place, Oliver was uncertain as to how they would hold up against this unknown force.

The wizard brought his wand up to point at the sky in a grand sweeping motion and cast a spell, the power of which caused the hair on the back of Oliver's neck to stand on end. A tiny pinprick of red light shot up from the wand into the night's sky, and there it hovered for a moment, before it started to swirl into a large glowing vortex of red and green light. /The whole of the town must be able to see it/, Oliver thought as the spell began to take shape: the vortex flattened out and stretched until there was a thin, glowing, blanket of sparkling magic hovering above the town like the Aurora Borealis. Then the wizard brought his wand down again with a /swish/, and the blanket of light fell down upon the city without a sound.

Oliver could see it getting closer, and began to panic; there was no way to escape, he was certain he would be found; it was falling now onto the roofs of the townhouses and soon it would wash over him. Now it was smothering the lead-wizard with its power, and slowly, ever so slowly, it reached down to the level where Oliver was sitting, and clothed him in light for a just a moment, before it dissipated on the grassy floor. Nothing happened.

Did it not work?

But this was a foolish hope, and the wizard turned instantly to where Oliver was hiding as soon as the spell was finished. He smiled, showing a mouth of gleaming white teeth.

The vampires seemed to pick up on the wizard's intentions, and started to advance towards the bush where Oliver was hiding: the game was up. Deciding that it would be better to go out fighting than sitting down, Oliver gathered his courage and stood up out of the bush, holding his wand in front of him, and said in what he hoped was a firm voice,

"Come no further."

The vampires stopped walking; Oliver was surprised that they had actually done what he commanded. Perhaps he was firmer that he had thought.

"Peace, wizard! We mean you no harm!" This was spoken by the lead wizard, and though Oliver doubted his words, there was a soothing element to his voice, and Oliver's wand began to point closer towards the ground.

"I am Cain," he said, gesturing lazily at himself, "And these are my associates, Kyran, Nahum, and Eve. I believe you are already...acquainted with Anton."

Oliver took in their names, committing them to memory, and noticing the slight curling of the lip that appeared on Cain's face as he mentioned Anton. He was clearly the odd one out. There was silence for a few moments, and Oliver realised that he was supposed to speak next.

"Why are you here?" He asked, and indeed he did wonder, for if they meant to kill him then Oliver suspected that he would already be dead.

Cain smiled. It had been the right question.

"You are quite skilled with a wand," he began, nodding towards Oliver's hut, "and yet you hide all the way out here, far from the centre of my town. A man of your talents could be of some use to me - I often find myself in need of competent help."

The last, jeering, remark was aimed at Anton, Oliver knew, and it was with some satisfaction that Oliver saw the scowl on Anton's face intensify.

"You're offering me a job?" Oliver asked, surprise in his voice. Dark wizards were not supposed to offer Aurors jobs, they were supposed to fight. He then looked at Anton. "Don't you already have people for that?"

Cold laughter rang out into night as Cain followed Oliver's gaze to Anton, who was looking like he was itching to curse Oliver where he stood.

"You mean Anton?" Cain asked, disdain now clear in his voice. "He is expendable. /Avada Kedavra!/"

Oliver's eyes widened with shock as a violent jet of neon-green light shot from Cain's wand and slammed into Anton, who slumped onto the ground, dead. Cain took a deep breath, as if he were savouring a good smell.

An Unforgivable Curse! Oliver thought, his mind numb, no man dares to use them!

Cain seemed to notice Oliver's shock, and laughed again.

"Yes, I dare use them," he said, speaking gravely, "And what power! That, wizard, is what magic is about.

"Now, I grow weary of this place. Come with me, wizard, we have work to do."

Not even thinking of disobeying after that casual display of the Darkest of magics, Oliver fell into step behind Cain as he swept back towards the town. The vampires stood on either side of Oliver. Were they guarding him, or keeping an eye on him, Oliver wondered, but there was no way for him to know. They slipped into a dark alley as the buildings grew dense enough for alleys to form, and soon enough they were on the main street, heading towards the large residence at the end of the road.

The vampire named Eve was walking - swaying - to his right, and as he looked at her she smiled at him: not a warm smile, but the sly smile of seduction. For a moment the image of Marie's face entered Oliver's head and for some reason he felt guilty for appreciating the vampire's beauty.

"You must forgive Cain's manners," Eve purred, her voice low and her breath hot as she whispered into his ear, her hand on his arm, "He is a busy man, and cannot afford pleasantries. But now, we have time. What name do you go by?"

"Oliver," said he, and he instantly regretted it, wishing he had come up with a false identity. Too late for that now.

"Oliver...that is an English name, is it not?" called Cain from in front of him; he had obviously been listening in to every word. Oliver began to panic, his heart racing - something the vampires would no doubt notice - and he mumbled some incoherent answer. He needed to be more careful, or he would end up dead.

They continued on in silence, and soon enough they reached the wooden gates of Cain's headquarters. The gates appeared to be the only way in through the tall wall that surrounded the large building, and they opened automatically as the group approached, letting them in to the grassy hillock on which the building sat. The building itself was, like everything in the glade, made of the wood of the forest, but it was on a much grander scale. It was built quite clearly with magic, and though the main structure was a reasonably stable rectangular shape, several stories high, there were also a variety of towers and turrets sticking out of the building in odd places; no doubt they were later additions to the original building. There were very few windows, and none whatsoever on the ground floor.

The sinister group headed towards the front entrance to the manor: a large arched doorway set into a porch, covered in runes. Cain stopped in the porch and the rest of the group followed his lead, waiting for him to speak.

"You go on ahead," he said, speaking to the vampires, "I'd like to have a little talk with Oliver here, alone."

The vampires nodded and they opened the door with a creek. Oliver caught a glimpse of a large and stately entrance hall before the vampires entered and the door was closed again. Oliver turned to look at Cain, his mind racing, wondering if he was discovered already.

"Before you join us, there is a small job I'd like you to carry out for me."

Oliver was relieved, yet a new fear had come upon him: what if he was asked to kill?

"Anton was to carry it out tonight, but I think, as he has moved on to new employment, that the job should suit you just fine."

"What is it?" asked Oliver, impatient to get it over with. Cain looked annoyed at being interrupted, but answered Oliver's question regardless.

"There is an intruder in my wood: a young wizard, yet he brings with a power that is unknown to me. I have attempted to scry its nature, but it eludes me. I want you to go into the wood, and catch him - it should not be hard for one of your talents - and bring him to me, alive. You will find him camped West of the gateway into this realm."

Having said all he was going to say, Cain promptly turned his back on Oliver and entered into the house, and Oliver got another glimpse of the entrance hall, this time feeling the heat of a fire too, before the door shut him out. Obviously, he was the lowest ranked of the group.

Sighing, Oliver turned from the mansion and walked out of Cain's castle, heading towards the Tree that had brought him to The Glade. Though he was reluctant to do so, he had a boy to catch.


*

When Arctarus had finally come upon a forest after hours of walked, he knew it to be what he had been looking for. As soon as he crossed its borders, a sense of rightness overcame him, and as soon as he found somewhere suitable, he set up camp. Which basically meant that he cast a basic ward-spell and then slumped against a tree, exhausted. It had not taken him long to fall asleep, made drowsy by the swaying of the trees and the rustling of the leaves. He was completely oblivious to the worry that his appearance had caused a powerful Dark wizard, and unaware that his very presence in the forest was causing the power that resided there to begin to stir.

Were he awake and not exhausted, Arctarus might have been more careful, but as it was he was dreaming.

He was back in Hogwarts, yet not...everything was different; he was different: taller, more powerful-feeling, with messy black hair and shocking green eyes that stared back at him from a mirror in an office. He was sitting at a desk - the desk in the old Defence office, Arctarus knew - and was scribbling notes all over a scroll of parchment, muttering to himself, yet not controlling the words that came out.

"Yes, yes, that's it: mind, body, and soul act as anchors...won't have to split...body is the problem, how to control it?"

Arctarus knew he was hearing something important, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what: he had the feeling that, even were he to hear the full explanation as to what he was muttering, he would still be as confused. Perhaps if he were to ask the diary...

"The diary!" His body shouted, though it was not through his own will. "Yes, the mind and the body meet, and then the soul makes it one.... Minerva mustn't know, she wouldn't understand...pushing back the boundaries of magic..."

The dream seemed to go on, but Arctarus lost his awareness of it, and it occurred to him that he was waking up. He drifted happily through the blackness of sleep, the void between waking up and dreaming, but suddenly a warning screaming in his mind, and he knew something was wrong: his ward! Something had broken through!

His panic breaking him out of his slumber, Arctarus woke with a jerk, opening his eyes to see the figure of a man starring down at him though the black of night. He was about to reach for his wand, when the figure moved, and Arctarus had no chance of moving before the figure raised a wand and a red light shot at him. Arctarus fell back into the darkness of sleep, but this time he would not dream.


*


It had not taken long for Oliver to find the boy. He was barely out of the glade when he came upon him, sleeping up against a tree near the Western edge of the forest. Similarly, it had been easy enough to subdue him: the presence of the ward had surprised Oliver, but it was a harmless one, meant to act as a warning to its owner only, not protection. He had been forced to act quickly after the ward was tripped though, and before he could think about the meaning of the boy's presence he had stunned him, just as the boy was waking.

Now he had to decide what to do.

His mission was clear: to infiltrate the Darkness in the Siberian wasteland, and either neutralise it or report back to England with information on it. So far, things had gone relatively well: he had survived several attacks, and was now in the inner circle of the leader of The Glade. This boy complicated things. Oliver was loath to let any child come to harm, even if they were budding Dark wizards, but to do anything other than obey Cain would compromise his situation. So he had a choice: save the boy and return to England empty handed, or hand the boy over to Cain, and continue to gather information.

/What a choice/, thought Oliver, yet deep down he knew it was no choice at all. The needs of the many came before the needs of the few. Hardening his will and trying to ignore his conscience, he gathered the boy's things and levitated them, along with the boy, back to the Tree. Unlike his first visit, the journey between the two realities was instantaneous, and soon enough Oliver was back at the gates of Cain's mansion, boy in tow.

Surprisingly, the gates opened automatically for him, and he walked slowly towards the only entrance he knew of. Letting the boy down and putting his wand away lest he be perceived as a threat, he knocked on the door and waited. He did not have to wait long.

It was Cain himself who answered, throwing open the door, causing warm light to pour out into the night, and rushing out onto the porch, where he ignored Oliver completely and went straight away to the boy.

"I felt you coming as soon as you entered the Glade," he said as he searched the boy's pockets, taking his wand and a small black book.

"Kyran!" the vampire answered Cain's call instantly, appearing at the doorway like a wraith. "Take our guest up to one of the more secure bedrooms." Kyran nodded and obeyed, moving over to the boy and picking him up with one hand, as if he were a doll. Flinging the boy over his shoulder, he went back inside, presumably taking the boy upstairs. Before he could follow, Oliver's attention turned back by Cain, who began to speak.

"You have done well, Oliver," said Cain, smiling that white smile, "You may sleep in my house tonight; I think you shall find the accommodations most comfortable. But first, I wish to show you something, wizard to wizard. "

Cain walked inside and finally; Oliver got to enter the house, warmth washing over him as he entered, the door sweeping shut behind him. He was in a large room with a high ceiling and lavish furniture. Everything was made of wood, and yet it did not burn as a large fire blazed in a fireplace set into the East wall. There were many seats facing the fireplace, and tables for drinks, and in the corner of the room was a grand piano. Oliver doubted that it had ever been played. On the West side of the hall was a wide staircase leading to the higher floors, but Cain did not take it, instead crossing to the North wall and walking through a part of the wall as if it were not there.

Oliver hesitated for a second, and then followed. As soon as he came out the other side, he knew he had travelled far more than just the length of a wall: he was now underground, in a small tunnel made of earth and held up by wooden supports, just big enough for him to stand in. There was no lighting, yet Oliver could just about see through the darkness: Cain was ahead of him, walking up the tunnel towards what looked to be the source of light.

Oliver followed him and as he walked further and further the light got brighter and brighter, and with it came a sense of overwhelming power: the air was saturated with magic, and it almost became hard to breath, so thick was the air with it. By now Cain's figure was silhouetted against a wall of white light, and he had stopped at what looked to be the end of the tunnel. He turned back to look at Oliver, smirked, and walked through the wall of light. Showing no hesitation, Oliver followed him and once he was through, the light seemed to dim, and Oliver found himself able to see clearly. He was in a massive underground cavern, at the shore of a large underground lake. Yet it was no ordinary lake. It was filled not with water, but with some sort of glowing silvery substance - the source of the light, Oliver realised - and it cast strange shadows over the cave. Cain was standing right at the edge, just inches from the liquid, but he seemed unwilling to touch it.

"What is it?" asked Oliver, his voice echoing loudly even though he had tried to whisper.

Cain seemed to ignore the question.

"When I first arrived here," he began, still facing the lake, "I was the first. It was I who discovered this place, I who built it and protected it from the eyes of those who would wish to harm it. And yet, this was here before me.

"I do not know what it is, young wizard," he continued, turning around now to face Oliver, his face lit up with a dark light, "But whatever it is, it is powerful, and it is waking up."
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