Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Shadows Rising

Chapter Three: In the World of Darkness

by Random_Shinobi 0 reviews

Lord Voldemort's grip on wizarding Britain tightens. Even Hogwarts is no longer safe as Death Eaters turn it into a battlefield. [Sequel to "The Path Chosen."]

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Harry - Warnings: [V] [?] - Published: 2007-06-30 - Updated: 2008-03-20 - 12088 words

Lords of the Dark Trilogy, Book II: Shadows Rising
By: Random Shinobi

Summary: Lord Voldemort's grip on wizarding Britain tightens. Even Hogwarts is no longer safe as Death Eaters turn it into a battlefield. [Sequel to "The Path Chosen."]

Genre: Action/Adventure

Rating: R

Author's Notes: This is the longest chapter I have ever written! Unfortunately the chapter is unbetaed.

Disclaimer: If you recognize it, then it might well belong to J.K.R or to some of her affiliates. Or to some random people out there. I only claim my OCs and plot.


Chapter Three: In the World of Darkness

Although Dark spells may change you...
While Black magicks can freeze your heart...
Though the Darkest of Arts could claim your soul...
It's the Darkness that hides you, and the Light that blinds you...

It was a late evening and Harry was walking on the dark streets of magical London, dressed in nondescript black robes, moving from a shadow to a shadow in an attempt to avoid all attention. He wasn't exactly sneaking around as that if something drew attention, instead he tried to appear as inconspicuous as possible. He walked quickly but not too quickly, his heels clapping softly against the stone pawing of the street.

Only a few witches and wizards were out in the streets and most of them belonged to the lower class of wizarding world. In a normal situation these streets would be full of wizards, witches and all manner of other magical creatures, but now as the magical community was crippled with the absolute terror spread by the Dark Lord, whom they feared so much that they couldn't even say his name, which wasn't even his true name, but a mere anagram of it. Cowards, all of them!

The England's capital had a fairly large magical section. Over twenty thousand witches and wizards lived here. It was also the centre of magical Britain's commerce. Here you could see the richest and the poorest of the wizarding community... And it wasn't pretty. The gap between rich and poor was much wider in the magical community than it was in the Muggle world.

While Diagon Alley was the most famous magical street in London, it was neither the largest nor the most important. The largest street was spiralling, over three miles long Copper Coronet. Nearly seven thousand people lived in that street and the majority of magical artisans of Britain had their premises there, and it was probably the greatest place in the whole world to purchase specially made magical gear. Most of his equipment originated from there. Only the truly illegal things had to be purchased from elsewhere, primary from Knockturn Alley. It could be argued that Knockturn Alley was the most important street in the magical London. It was far more than a simple shopping street for Dark wizards and witches, for it was the centre of all shady commerce in whole wizarding Britain. If you wanted could get it from Knockturn Alley... For a price, of course. Usually for a very high price.

However, Knockturn Alley operated highly discretely. While low level Dark stuff was very easy to come by, everything highly illegal could only be bought if you knew the ropes. You couldn't just walk into the nearest shop and say that you wanted to buy human body-parts or distilled basilisk venom. It just didn't work that way. Otherwise Aurors would storm some random shop there every other day.

Little more than a quarter percent of United Kingdoms' population was magical, meaning there were about 170000 witches and wizards living in the Great Britain, making it the country most densely populated by magical folk in the whole world. All in all, the whole wizarding population was little less than four million and over half of them lived in Europe. The rest where scattered all around the globe. As a result, Britain and had the strongest economy and was the strongest country in the whole Wizarding World. However, most of the political and economical power was in the hands of the small pureblood elite.

The British Ministry of Magic was clearly an oligarchy, even if it pretended to be something else and the old pureblood families controlled most business in the magical Britain. While Harry didn't really like it, he wasn't about to complain as his father had left him the Potter estate of which liquid value was nearly one point seven million galleons. While it was less than a quarter of what Malfoys possessed, it was still a huge mountain of gold; far more than what an ordinary wizard spends in his whole lifetime. What he complained about was the widespread corruption the oligarchy had brought. If you were a rich pureblood and had the right connections, you were effectively above the law. And even the laws themselves favoured purebloods...or at least the rich purebloods. No wonder really - it was them, after all, who had made the laws in the first place.

About forty percent of magical population were purebloods, another forty percent were half-bloods. The remaining twenty percent were muggleborns, and that was a huge amount. As the Muggle population had grown incredibly fast, the amount of muggleborns had sky-rocketed too. Still, in reality there were much more muggleborns, but only the most powerful of them were invited into the magical world, the rest were left to live their lives as Muggles, and to spawn an another generation of muggleborns.

As only wealthy and talented muggleborns were accepted into the magical world, many of the lower class were jealous of their power and money. That was one of the true reasons why so many purebloods loathed muggleborns. It wasn't really about purity of blood at all. They simply hated the fact that people new to whole wizarding community had a chance to go to the schools and learn things when they could not, as they couldn't pay the school fees. The other reason for their hate was simply fear. They feared that muggleborns would 'corrupt' their society or reveal them to 'abominable' Muggles, and Harry had to say that their fears were at least somewhat justified. After all, muggleborns did have far more ties to the Muggle world than other witches and wizards. Fear and jealously were a powerful combination. Only the richest and snottiest purebloods hated muggleborns by a principle.

And now when they hated muggleborns for their selfish reasons, they had to somehow justify it. They came up with the classical 'we-are-better-than-those-filthy-sub-humans' -solution. Undoubtedly they could have made Hitler proud. But then again, unlike most other racists, purebloods did at least have one real reason for their superiority complex, however stupid and insignificant the reason was.

Muggleborns never had any Talents, only half- and purebloods did. Talents were special, inborn magical abilities like the skill to speak Parseltongue or the power to conjure flames with mere thought. Most of Talents were so-called Latent Talents, meaning that they would never manifest without a proper training. The most common Latent Talent was the ability to become an Animagus, followed by Latent Sight and Latent Legilimency. About a quarter of half- and purebloods were born with the potential to become Animagi, but most of them never actually managed the transformation and even fewer ever activated their Sight or Legilimency. Of course, history has seen a few people who have been born with an active 'Latent' Talent like, for example, Cassandra Trelawney who could, at the tender age of four, accurately predict tomorrow's weather from a plate of ordinary porridge. Interestingly enough, this Cassandra happened to be a great-grandmother of one Cabal member...and also a great-great-grandmother of Hogwarts' current divination teacher.

During old times, these Talents had been 'traded' amongst wizarding families in a form of arranged marriages. Even today arranged marriages were still pretty common in magical community, especially among purebloods, although the reasons behind them had changed in the passage of years. Nowadays arranged marriages weren't really to cultivate magical potential, but to play political and economical games. Of course, many of these marriages also aimed to keep the bloodlines 'pure', which was a laughable aim. Why should it matter from where your spouse got the magic flowing in her veins as long as she had it?

Harry had been very disappointed when he had learned that he couldn't become an Animagus, especially since his father and paternal grandmother had both actually been Animagi. His father had been able to turn into a stag, or more specifically, into a white-tailed deer, while his grandmother could assume the form of a hyacinth macaw. Neither of them had ever registered.

Actually, it was an open secret that nobody expect those who managed the transformation in their seventh year Advanced Transfiguration classes or those who wanted to use their Talent in public ever bothered to register. There were at least couple hundred unregistered Animagi running wild around the country. While the repercussions from getting caught of being an unregistered Animagus were severe, it didn't really matter as it was next to impossible to get caught, and even if you somehow managed to get caught, you could always claim that you had just recently achieved the transformation, as there was a two months period to register after the first full transformation. Nobody could ever prove you wrong.

Most people in the magical world were very poor in the monetary sense. But then again, wizards and witches had a very little need for money. They didn't need any transportation as they could Apparate. They didn't need electricity or any Muggle machinery as they had magic and they could always Transfigure or conjure most things they would ever want.

The only problem with Transfiguration and its sub-branch of conjuration was that Transfigured objects eventually reverted back to their original forms. For this reason people couldn't eat Transfigured food (unless they were feeling particularly suicidal) and generally avoided wearing Transfigured clothing, as it would be highly embarrassing if the clothes suddenly turned into something else in public. Also, wearing Transfigured things was generally taken as a mark of the wearer's poverty, and so wearing Transfigured clothing or jewellery was nearly a taboo in magical community. It was done only a very rarely, mostly when there was no time or option to get proper clothing.

Those with magic in their blood could live fairly comfortably with a very little money, but those without, were in a very bad situation, especially because there was no social safety-net like in the Muggle world. If you or your family couldn't provide for you, no one would.

Harry looked around him. He could see a few hookers standing in the shady corners, wearing very revealing robes. The young wizard shook his head sadly. That was the fate of many female squibs. Harry couldn't decide whether male squibs had it better or worse. As they couldn't really whore themselves out like their female counterparts, they usually had to resort to something illegal to scrape their living, and thus frequently ending in the Azkaban Prison. Most squibs couldn't even flee to the Muggle world as they had no education nor legal identity there.

Squibs were loathed - especially by purebloods. And even those who didn't detest them looked down on them, which was probably even worse as hatred was so much easier to withstand than pity. Even nowadays it was still considered as a great shame to have a squib child and so they were usually disowned and send into orphanages as soon as discovered and once they turned seventeen, they where kicked out from there too, completely unprepared for the outside world in which they had no place. Harry grimaced and exhaled loudly. When he had lived with Dursleys, he had thought that he had it bad... How wrong had he been.

Not all squibs were poor second-class citizens, however. There were many acclaimed squib potion-masters and businessmen. Nevertheless, they made up a very small minority. Most of those squibs who managed to scrap a decent living had somehow managed to escape unsympathetic magical community and get into the Muggle world, usually with the help of some muggleborns, who as a rule were outraged of how the wizarding world treated some of its own.

Muggleborns typically harboured interesting ideas about equanimity and democracy. Harry couldn't understand how some people could seriously believe that every person was born equal. It was sheer insanity. Not everyone came into this world bearing similar gifts of magic, intelligence and appearance. People were not born equal - everyone should be able to see that. This, however, didn't excuse the cruel or impolite treatment of the lesser. After all, it was the civilisation that differed humans from animals.

The young wizard stopped momentarily and his eyes carefully scanned a smaller and darker alleyway connecting Peddler Street - the street that he was currently walking on - to Knockturn Alley. He didn't see anything suspicious and so he stepped into shadows of the alleyway. After walking a few dozen yards forwards the dark lane, he arrived to the large wood and stone building he had been looking for.

Night's Embrace, Harry repeated in his mind as he read the plaque over the door of the shady building. What total a cliche! Vampires really do lack creativity. The large structure lacked any windows, but in case of this building the reason for it was obvious. It was simply to protect some of the inhabitants from the 'deadly' sunlight. Vampires were forever chained into night, as they couldn't stand the purity represented by the sun.

The Children of the Night, as they were poetically called, were chained into an eternal stagnancy - doomed to remain untouched by the passing time. That was the true curse of vampirism. The inability to change when everything else changed around you. Forever cursed to think the way you did at the moment of death.

The price to pay for becoming a vampire was great, but so were the benefits of it. While they lost their spark of life, and thus the bulk of their magic and the ability to cast wand magic, in addition of becoming dependant of fresh human blood, they gained many other things. They gained superior senses; their noses become as sharp as a wolf's, their night vision rivalled that of an owl's and even their sense of touch was enchanted to inhuman levels, which subsequently made many of their numbers into very sensual beings. Vampires were immortal and far stronger, tougher and faster than normal humans could ever hope to be. They had natural Occlumency walls, possessed the capability to become Animagi and had the knack for minor wandless magic. In addition, many of them had a Veela-like charm. It usually wasn't nearly as strong as true Veelas had but it was strong nevertheless - only the strongest minds completely could shake off its effects.

While the vampires were in many ways superior to wizards and witches, there were definite reasons why no one actually ever sought to become one. You really died the moment you joined the damned ranks of the living dead. A vampire was neither alive nor dead, unable to find respite in either. They certainly were cursed, no doubt about it.

He checked that the minor Glamour he had woven around himself was still holding with a small pocked mirror. It was an useful armaments in recognising vampires, as the bloodsuckers had no reflections in non-magical mirrors. Harry pocketed the silver mirror as he stepped inside the shady pub and walked to the counter and sat onto a free chair. The elderly barman was looking at him curiously, and the young wizard flashed him a wide smile, showing two rows of white teeth.

"What do you want, boy?" the old man behind the large counter asked, his tone was stern, but not exactly hostile, perhaps there was even a hint of concern in his deep baritone. Interestingly enough the barman didn't appear to be a vampire. He was a very tall man, standing something like 6' 5''. The man had a short black hair with no traces of white, brown eyes and suntanned skin. Perhaps he was a dhampir; the spawn of a male vampire and a witch. While female vampires couldn't get pregnant, male vampires could sire children while they were still very recently dead. Although as vampires spent their first days in a red haze, desperately craving for both blood and sex, for something that could make them feel warmth again, their victims of those days hardly ever survived to bear the possible children. Therefore it was no wonder that the older vampires usually locked the new ones into fortified basements for the firsts few nights of their un-life, but sometimes accidents did happen... Sometimes not even accidentally.

Harry dropped a single silver sickle on the dirty table. "Firewhisky." The barman looked at him for a second before taking the coin and putting it into a pocked of his dark brown robes. Then the aged man took a glass and a bottle from under the wooden counter and poured the reddish-brown liquid into the glass.

"Here you go, lad."

"Thanks," Harry muttered as a reply. He casually spun the fiery liquid in circles around the glass, watching the small clouds of smoke rising from it. The young wizard hoped that his contact would arrive soon as this was not exactly a place he wanted to be any longer than was absolutely necessary. A vampire hangout most definitely wasn't a place for a Potter to spend his time. There was quite literally too much bad blood between the House of Potter and half dozen vampire clans. Harry looked around the bar. No sight of his contact, and the man was supposed to be here before him.

The bar was full of people, which was evident in the heavy air. The stench of tobacco, sweat and alcohol was nearly overwhelming. Most of the people there were obviously vampires, but Harry could see many who were still actually living; more than he would have excepted, really. From personal experiences, he could say that vampires were very unnerving. But then again, he had only met one vampire and Damien could be quite far from an ordinary bloodsucker.

In a corner table near the blazing fireplace a few middle-aged men were drinking very cheap beer and speaking loudly, nearly yelling. They were clearly more than a little drunk, but as Harry had no better things to do, he begun listening their lurid chatter. Not that he could have stopped himself from hearing them anyway, as their loud voices easily rang over all other noise in the bar.

"So, this guy Floos to his boss and says that he is sick and cannot come to work."

The man took a gulp from his large mug before continuing, "'How sick are you?' his boss asks. And then the wizard answers, 'I just raped my four years old daughter.'"

There was a second of silence after which everyone around the table burst into laughing. Even Harry couldn't help snorting. The perverted joke was quite amusing in a very sick way. Well, at least he hoped it was a joke...

"Well, what do you think about this one," the same man spoke after taking another sip of his cheap drink. "What's the best thing in fucking twenty-nine years old witches?"

After a few seconds' pause the man continued. "There's twenty of them!" Again the bar was full of drunken laughter.

Harry shook his head slightly, inhaling deeply. The bar seemed to be full of vampires and paedophiles... What a fine company! He sniffed the steaming whiskey in his glass. It smelled just like it should - a weird mixture of ethanol, chilli and smoke. While the strong drink itself was probably completely safe, Harry wasn't going to drink it; not in this company. He drummed his fingers softly against the wooden table, deciding that he would wait for no more than five minutes, and he knew even that was risky, but as he really needed the information the man could offer he had now choice but to stay, no matter how stupid it was.

When the rowdy wizards at the corner table begun to speak about Ministry politics and stove sex - in the same context - Harry stopped listening as he was getting terrible mental images about Umbridge...

Suddenly some woman, looking to be in her early twenties sat next to him and sneaked her arms around him. Harry felt an urge to blast the woman away with a Banishing Charm from disrupting his personal space, but causing any commotion wouldn't further his aims, and so he reined his instincts. Her unnaturally cold skin and the supernatural, alluring aura crashing against his mental barriers told him that she was a vampire. Not a wonder really, considering that he was in a vampire bar. His training was screaming to remove the possible risk, before it ever managed to become a real threat.

"So what are you doing here all alone?" she purred seductively into his ear. Her voice was very pleasing to the ear and - most surprisingly - her breath felt very warm and nice against his cheek. It was quite interesting phenomenon considering that vampires didn't produce any body-heat. Harry could smell faint traces of vanilla coming from her curly, chestnut coloured hair that went past her shoulders. Apparently she wore a perfume or used a scented shampoo. Probably shampoo, though, as nobody would put on perfume when going into a place like this. Besides she was already overdressed as it was. "Want to come upstairs with me?"

"So that you can drink my blood, rob me and then leave my unconscious body to some random dark alley?" Harry asked sarcastically, his hand moving slowly towards the concealed stiletto attached to the underside of his left forearm. The thin blade was coated with a very strong magical poison, which should work on vampires too... While most normal poisons failed against vampires for a simple reason that the living dead lacked any sort of mundane metabolism, magical poisons should still work fine... At least in theory. Hopefully he wouldn't have to test it. "Not bloody likely," he added, his fingers curving around the ivory handle, unseen by the female vampire.

The woman looked mildly surprised at his rebuff, but only for a second. Then her lips turned slowly upwards and she smiled. Perhaps even genuinely, but Harry wouldn't put his money on that. After all, most vampires could smile, looking completely sincere while simultaneously injecting a dagger into your back. "Well, you are an interesting specimen," she said calmly. Her voice was musical - holding a nearly hypnotic quality. "Care to offer lady a drink?"

Harry released his tight grip of the concealed dagger and brought his hand out his left sleeve, turning his head slightly, so that he look directly into the vampire's pair greyish-blue domes. "I just might if you get your hands off me."

She flashed another dashing smile at him, showing her unnaturally long canines, before releasing her gentle hold of him and crossing her arms below her breasts. For some unexplainable reason Harry instantly missed the feeling of her arms around him. The young wizard then snapped his fingers at the barman and said, "A Very Bloody Mary for the lady," before dropping another small silver coin onto the dark wooden table.

"Here you go, lass," the barman said as he put a goblet of red liquid in front of the brown-haired woman. It smelled like the blood from which it was mostly made of. It probably tasted like blood too. Harry quelled a shudder. He had once accidentally eaten a bloodpop... It had a taste that one won't forget for any time soon.

The pretty, female vampire sipped her scarlet drink, looking at him intently. Obviously she was appraising him. Harry also took this as an opportunity to take a better look at her. She wore a blood-red corset that truly hugged her curves and showed charitable amount of bare skin. A thin golden thread with a large ruby on it circled her neck, the crimson gem glittering hypnotically in the candlelight. Her perfectly smooth and spotless skin wasn't milky-white like most of her blood-sucking brethren had, instead she looked nearly normal, if bit pale. Over the corset was hanging open a jet-black silk coat with images of thorned roses inlaid in gold. Her black cropped jeans had been rolled up to mid-shin and she had gleaming black peep-toe shoes with heels of around two inches, the shoe-straps circling a few inches upwards her ankle. She was about his height, perhaps standing an inch or so taller, but was more lithely build and thus probably weighted considerably less than him. From the little he could look without appearing to be staring, Harry guessed she was probably a B-cup. "You are not drinking?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

Harry snorted and met her gaze. "Do I look like stupid to you?"

"Don't get me wrong," she said with a casual wave of her hand. Harry's eyes fixed on her long, well manicured nails, that looked sharp enough to do some serious damage. "But if you are confident enough to just walk here, you should be confident enough to drink."

The young wizard's lips curved into a small smile. "No, I may be stupid enough to come here, but I'm definitely not stupid enough to drink here. That's where I draw the line."

The woman gave a small silvery laugh. It sounded very nice. A small shiver of desire ran trough his body, but Harry crushed it mercilessly. He couldn't allow any distractions. "Being witty, are you?" she said in her melodic voice. "I like it."

"I try," Harry said, his smile widening a few degrees.

"The young ones are always enthusiastic," the brunette vampire said, chuckling slightly. "But older ones have the experience on their side. That's true both in witty conversations something else entirely." By the end of her sentence her faint smile had changed to almost predatory in nature.

Suddenly Harry caught on what the woman was doing, and his smile vanished. She hadn't shut down her alluring aura, merely diminished it for a moment, before continuing with subtler techniques. She had nearly gotten over his Occlumency walls without him noticing anything. Damn... She's good.

"Good for you. Now, would you please stop it?" Harry asked sharply, his voice carrying a definite threat of violence. "I'm not going to fall for it."

She tilted her head slightly, again looking at him appraisingly, perhaps even with a some degree of respect. "I would have been sort of disappointed if you had," she said and dropped her mind-bending aura. The teen wizard blinked as a pressure he had even felt vanished from pushing against his mental shields. "It's so rare to meet interesting wizards here." She said while leaning forwards, giving Harry a generous view of her fine bosom. "If you were a few years older I might really keep up to my first offer."

Harry was thankful for his Occlumency as without it he would have blushed. However, he couldn't allow himself to be beaten in this duel of words. "Then, perhaps, I will return within a few years."

She smiled brazenly. "Feel free to do so. I migh-"

"Now, what's here? A young wizard all alone? And not bearing a sigil of any clan...," a strong male voice said from behind him. "How stupid can people get? Well, his loss, our gain." Harry turned is head to see the speaker, who was flanked by two other men. All three were obviously vampires - that was easy to tell, considering their deathly pallor and the fact that they didn't breathe. The man in the middle was wearing an expensive looking, dark, business suit while the two other vampires were wearing blue jeans and black leather jackets. Not good, Harry thought. Not good at all.

"Don't do anything stupid, Strigoi," the woman, whom Harry had been speaking with said coldly. "I'm not sure if you want this fight. Besides, isn't mugging wizards bit old-fashioned? Don't tell me you still kill your victims too."

"Why are you defending a human boy whom you don't even have under your thrall, Selune?" the man asked. His voice was conversational, but the cold glare he shot at the female vampire could have frozen the nine layers of Hell. Harry readied himself for the imminent assault as apparently the vampire woman's words couldn't stop this from escalating into combat. The next words spoken by the male vampire in lead confirmed his assessment of the situation right. "Anyway, stay away from this. Get him, boys!"

The two enthusiastic henchmen lunged at the young wizard, insane smiles plastered on their pale faces. Harry nearly snorted at the sight. The low-level vampire trash were all too eager to please their master. Well, he would teach them a lesson about wizard's power as they had obviously forgotten it.

Harry swayed to his left, simultaneously giving the wand holster strapped to the underside of his right forearm a mental command. The charmed holster reacted immediately, shooting a wand out into his waiting hand, while Harry dropped himself from the chair, doing a somersault on the pub's hard, wooden floor. Before he was even back on his feet, a strong Banishing Charm left his wand and hit one of the attacking vampires squarely into his chest, slamming the walking corpse against the wall behind him with a bone-cracking force.

Harry had hardly managed to stood up, before the second bloodsucker reached him and grasped a hold of his wand arm, obviously thinking that wizards were harmless if they didn't have their wand-arm free, while simultaneously aiming a strong punch at his face. Stupid. Harry dived under the punch, while taking a step forwards. He reached out and grabbed the vampire's wrist, twisting it up as he spun his body. Harry bent his knees as his back came into contact with the vampire. A heartbeat later he stood up, while simultaneously pulling violently on the wrist. The dark-haired vampire was hurled through the air, hitting hard into the wooden wall next to the front door. Had this been a normal bar, the vampire would have just been slammed through a window, but as it was a vampire pub it lacked windows and so the vampire got into contact with the hard wall instead. Whether this was better or worse for the vampire in question remains debatable, but at least Harry wouldn't have to pay for a broken window.

The fight - if it could be called as such - had lasted only a few seconds. Harry hoped that they wouldn't try again after such swift defeat, but that was probably just a foolish wish as neither of the vampires had suffered any serious damage expect to their pride, and they were back on their feet in seconds, ready to continue the fight. They both had bared their sharp, yellowish teeth and acquired crouched stances. It was like a scene from some poor B-class vampire movie made by ignorant Muggles who had never seen a real bloodsucker. But then again, it seemed that those Muggles had been right all along.

Harry whirled his wand in an elaborate loop before slashing it downwards. A transparent purple dome surrounded him in a split second. It was an advanced version of already advanced Contego Charm. The young wizard doubted that the vampires could penetrate it unless they carried enchanted weaponry with them... What they undoubtedly did. Still, any shield was better than none at all... Even if only marginally.

Everyone in the suddenly silent pub was now staring Harry, who stared them back. Despite the fight, no one had actually risen from their chairs. If anything, they were watching the combatants with bored expressions, as if things like this happened everyday... Which probably was indeed the truth. There were few who had reacted more forcefully; the old barman and the wizards in the corner table had all drawn their wands, all of them keeping the wand-hands hidden under the tables. Harry had only noticed this because their drawing motions had been very distinctive, even if their hands had been concealed. They were amateurs after all - and he was a professional.

"The next one who attacks me dies," Harry said evenly, speaking far more casually than he really felt. He was fully aware that he couldn't display any weakness in a place like this; amongst people like this. "So for your sake and mine, keep your hands off me. Thank you."

"Well, that was certainly interesting," Strigoi said conversationally, while motioning his two henchmen to stay back. "I'm Hans Strigoi of the Calavanni Clan. What's your name, boy?"

Harry knew that the Calavannis were one of the Seven Great Vampire Clans of Europe, and that they had been Voldemort's allies before his temporary exile. Whether they served the Dark Lord now or not, he didn't know. And so the young wizard pondered his options for a moment before answering, "The name is James." It was a truth, that was his middle-name after all, and so it wouldn't set off any possible lie-detectors the vampire might carry. He couldn't use his full name or even his alias here as the majority of vampires supported Voldemort. Not that he would have used either of them in a place like this anyway.

"So what do you want, James?" Hans asked, his tone managing to seem almost casual. The vampire took a few steps so that he was standing next to Selune, who was looking the male vampire with a barely noticeable look of antipathy on her pale face. "You must have a reason to come here."

Harry dropped his shield as it seemed that the fight had stopped for good and answered, "I came here to see Mr. Roskild."

Mr. Roskild was one of Sirius' associates. According to Black, the man possessed a detailed knowledge about the Malfoy Manor's wards and other defences. Any information about the wards could spell the difference between the success and a swift death and so it was imperative to acquire the knowledge.

Selune looked thoughtful. She licked her full, red lips and spoke, "I think Rose took him upstairs a few minutes before you came here."

Harry blinked. That bloody idiot! Firsts setting a meeting into a vampire pub and then getting seduced by a vampire? How can anyone be so frigging stupid?!

The young wizard took a few steps forwards and clasped a hold of the glass of steaming firewhisky on the counter, downing it in a single gulp.

Tears came into his currently dark-brown eyes and steam burst out of his ears. He slammed the cup back onto the dirty table, nearly shattering it in the process. Harry swept the tears off his eyes and exhaled a few clouds of smoke. Firewhiskey had most extraordinary taste...

Harry shook his head sadly. Really, the man is a bloody idiot - perhaps even literally, seeing how the things are going... Hopefully the situation can still be salvaged...

It appeared that Strigoi agreed with his silent assessment. "James, it seems that your friend is a moron. Much more so than you." The vampire made a quick gesture towards the elder barman, who instantly begun making a crimson drink for him. "Oh well, I guess it's better this way. Rosalie had been getting hungry last few days."

Harry sighed. "Selune, could you take me to him?"

She shrugged. "I don't see why not. Rose has probably already finished."

The teen wizard sighed again, this time more loudly. Great! Now he would have to deal with a man delirious from blood loss. Just great. However, that would be easily remedied. A simple Blood Replenishing Charm or better yet, a quarter pint of Revitalising Elixir would be enough.

Harry followed the female vampire upstairs, his hand clasped tightly around his wand, ready cast spells the moment something would happen. He knew he could very well be walking directly into an ambush.

It didn't take long before they arrived to an old looking wooden door. Selune knocked thrice, and Harry could tell from the sound that the door was solid wood. "Rose, you have a visitor," she said loudly.

"I'm sort of busy now, give me a few minutes," came a faint feminine voice from the other side of the sturdy door.

Harry cringed at the thought of what kind things one could do to dispose a body and thus the evidence in a few minutes. None of them were very pleasant and so he lifted his wand and pointed it at the oaken door.

A greenish-yellow Disintegrating Hex left his wand tip and hit the door, which silently exploded into a cloud of fine dust that filled the air all around them. A second later Selune was hit by a Full Body-Bind Charm and she collapsed on the wooden floor, her legs bound together and her arms glued to the sides.

Harry stepped inside the room, his wand pointed at the red-headed vampire standing next to an extremely pale wizard, who was laying on the middle of the floor. Harry quickly noted that the wizard was nevertheless breathing. Needles to say, he was delighted to see that the idiot was still alive.

"What do you want?" the vampire asked, her brown eyes never leaving his wand. It was an amateurish mistake. One shouldn't watch the opponent's hands but his whole posture, and most importantly, his eyes. Eyes told where the enemy was striking next. That was the first thing taught in boxing.

"Nothing from you, Rosalie," Harry said calmly, lowering his wand to appear a little less threatening. "I'm merely taking that man with me, but I would like if you gave me everything you took from him... Expect the blood, of course."

"Why would she want to do that?" a feminine voice asked softly from behind him. The young wizard instantly spun around on his heel, and saw that Selune was standing on the hallway, a small smug smile on her red lips.

"So you resisted the spell," Harry said, lifting his eyebrow. "Unexpected, but not unheard of. Though I had thought that Belial's breed had been hunted into extinction many decades ago, during the Second Muggle World War."

Selune's greyish-blue eyes pored into his. "I survived unlike most of my brothers and sisters who were killed by that despicable Potter family." The brunette vampire's voice carried an immense amount of scorn as she continued, "Even after all atrocities that the family has gleefully committed, people still call them as the noble House of Potter."

Harry snorted. "Like you hadn't joined Grindelwald first. Besides, Potters were pretty much eradicated too. People die in wars. It's unavoidable."

"That doesn't make the pain of loss any more bearable."

"I know," Harry said more subdued than usual. "I know. But don't try to excuse your kind's actions. You started a war and so you shouldn't be surprised that you got a war."

There was a moment of silence, broken only by the muffled sounds coming from downstairs before Selune spoke, "Take the man and go."

The young wizard looked at her coolly, his face betraying no emotions, but his fingers were squishing his holly wand so tightly that it was almost painful. "Not before you give me all items that were taken from him."

"Lady Selune, who is this boy?" the other vampire asked, her words heated. "Why are you letting him to speak like that to you?"

"I don't know," Selune answered to Rose. "And I'm letting him speak like that because I don't even want to know. It would be stupid to get into a fight just because of lack of politeness, no matter how rude it is."

Harry sighed. The vampires were arguing about his bad manners, when he had just annihilated the door and hexed one of them. It seems that being immortal gives unique...outlook. "Just give me his stuff and we will vanish. You will never see me again," he tried to reason.

"I didn't have a time to rob him," Rose said, spreading her arms to her sides in an attempt to appear sincere. Harry wasn't fooled for a second. The day he met a sincere vampire was the day he would declare his undying love to the Dark lord. "You have my word," the vampire added, with a small, obviously faked smile.

Harry blinked. Her word? Like that would mean anything. Everybody lies when it suits his or her purposes. Expecting anything else would be stupid in the extreme. But in this case he didn't really have a choice unless he really wanted to fight a bunch of vampires. "Very well, I will see how trustworthy your word is." He had a bad feeling about this, but he couldn't really do anything without starting a real riot.

He walked to the body laying on the floor, keeping his eyes on the two vampires, before taking a hold of the unconscious wizard and Disapparating.

Or more accurately, he tried to Disapparate. He blinked out for a second before reappearing at the exactly same spot. Someone had warded the area against Apparation. Harry reached into his pocked and took out a thin, white silk-glove and tapped it with his wand. The glove flashed blue, but nothing else happened. Harry cursed. Not even portkeys worked. It promised nothing good - in most cases it promised something very, very bad... Something bad enough to easily get you killed.

The two vampires realised that something was very wrong and immediately came into a conclusion that they didn't want to be here to see what happens next. They both quickly assumed their Animagus forms. Selune turned into a small grey bat and Rose assumed the form of a large rat. They quickly vanished from sight, leaving Harry wishing he could do the same.

There was a small chance that the wards hadn't been raised to stop him from leaving, but Harry didn't even truly hope for it as he would never be so lucky. If anything, fate seemed to take a perverted pleasure in fucking with him. Metaphorically, of course...

He pointed his wand at the unconscious man and turned him into a hamster, which he quickly pocketed. Generally it wasn't wise to Transfigure hurt wizards or witches, but he didn't have a time to perform the proper Healing Charms. Those would have to wait for a better time.

The building was undoubtedly surrounded. That left two options. He could escape either by Floo or by rooftops. Floo was safer and quicker, and so it was the first option. Now he would have to find a fireplace connected into the Floo-Network.

He stepped out of the room only to step back to avoid a barrage of multicoloured curses. Two black robed, white-masked men - or women, as it was impossible to tell their gender due the flowing jet-black combat-robes - had arrived into the hallway. More would almost certainly follow and so fighting was only the last resort.

Harry tapped his shoulder with his wand tip, silently casting a Gravity Inverting Charm on himself. He felt the most curious feeling of his gravity reversing, and he begun falling upwards, doing a somersault in the air and landing softly on the white ceiling into a low, crouching position. Not a second later an onslaught of high-powered Dark curses blasted through the wall between him and the enemy wizards, filling the room with dust and pieces of wood. If he had remained where he had stood a second previously, he would have been ripped apart.

He cast a Disintegrating Hex on the ceiling below him...or above, whatever, which promptly turned into dust under his feet and he fell upwards through the cloud of dust. Before he hit the next ceiling he dispelled the gravity spell and landed gracefully on the floor next to the roughly circular hole his hex had created.

It had taken him over a week to acquire enough control over the gravity spell to be able to uphold it while casting other spells. Most spells were something that could be called cast-and-forget -type, meaning they lasted as long as they had magic, which was poured into them at the moment of their creation. However, spells like the Gravity Inverting Charm and most shields, required a constant stream of magic to sustain them, which made them extremely tricky things to keep up while casting other spells. Because a wand could channel only one spell at the time, you had to shift the magic from travelling through your wand to travel just through your body to free your wand to focus another spell. It was essentially the easiest kind of wandless magic. When he had initially learned the spell over two years ago, he hadn't seen a need to master it to the higher degree, but his recent encounter with his dear uncle had changed his opinion.

In many ways, things hadn't been truly real to him before. He had spend most of his time training and the few missions he had taken part in hadn't been life-threatening or even very illegal. They had never met any serious resistance - He had only had to stun a few people. It had been nothing but an exciting game for him, but then all of it had changed with the fated journey into Grinngotts' dark depths and Kheiron's subsequent capture...and death

Harry looked around. He was in a some kind of conference room. In the middle of the room was a large wooden table surrounded by two dozen chairs. Above the table were three large chandeliers. None of the thick, red candles on them were burning and like the other rooms in this vampire pub it had no windows. The only light source was the hole on the floor from which he had just emerged.

Harry activated the charms laid on his eyes by pouring magic into them, and the room become much more detailed. He could see the flower patterned tapestries; black roses on a dark red base, the walnut panels on the wall and the tiny copper nails on them. A few items on table shone with an inner light, signalling that they were enchanted, but otherwise the room appeared to be very magic poor. There was a large black door with a silver handle, shaped into the form of a female human, a few yards to his right. The floor was recently waxed, reflecting light as a mirror and Harry could see his own reflection. The Illusionary Charm was still holding and he barely recognised himself. His reflection had a dark brown hair, hazel eyes and slightly more darker skin tone than he really had. His famous, lightning bolt -shaped scar was nowhere to be seen.

Suddenly two electric-blue curses tore through the floor and Harry dodged instinctively to his right, the bolts of light missing him by inches. Harry whirled his wand, casting a Delayed Implosion Charm. A huge amount of magic left him and a small, pulsating sphere of violet light spurted out of his wand tip and hovered in the air, bathing the room with its soft light.

Harry smiled wickedly. When that little beauty would go off he didn't want to be anywhere near it, and so he darted to the black door, kicking it open with a loud crack and stepped into the dark corridor behind it, sprinting quickly as far as possible from the spell-bomb.

The young wizard didn't manage to run more than a dozen yards before his spell went off, sucking everything including, but not limited to walls and furniture within five yards into itself and then exploding outwards with a slightly lesser force. The whole building shook violently and Harry was first jerked backwards and the blasted forwards.

He hit the floor with loud thud and rolled a few feet before slamming into a wall and stopping. Harry rolled to his back and watched the curiously spinning ceiling. A long string of non-magical curses escaped his lips. The implosion had been bit premature.

He rose shakily back to his feet. Harry knew he couldn't waste time by laying on the floor. Even if he had got those two Death Eaters, he was still far from being safe.

Suddenly a distinctive cracking sound echoed in the corridor behind him. Whirling on the spot he saw a short figure standing about four yards from him, dressed completely in black and wearing a silver mask. The magicians cerulean eyes bored into his, and Harry could feel gentle fingers brushing softly against his mental barriers, searching for any weaknesses in his Occlumency.

Are the wards broken? Harry thought and instantly tried to Disapparate. It didn't work. So... That's the keeper of the wards? Wards lasted only as long as someone or something poured magic into them and Harry seriously doubted that they had had enough time bind the wards into the ley-line below this part of London, and thus somebody had to provide the magic for the wards to work. And because this Death Eater wasn't affected by the wards, he was most likely the keeper.

The dark figure had already pointed its wand at Harry "Avada Kedavra!"

Years of rigorous training saved Harry from being killed by the life-reaping curse and becoming yet another notch on the enemy wizard's wand. He swayed to his right, barely avoiding the green bolt of deadly magic. The Killing Curse went by so close that it billowed his messy, now brown hair. In a span of three seconds the Death Eater wordlessly send three other high-level spells at him, all Dark. Skin Shrivelling Curse, Flesh Ripping Curse and Entrails Expelling Curse, Harry mused in his mind. This guy seems to be bit more imaginative than most of his brethren...and much more capable.

Twirling his wand frantically and skipping the final slash downwards, Harry managed to cast a shield charm just in time to avoid being killed in a very painful manner. With enough skill and focus, incantations and wand movements could be ignored, but doing so usually weakened the spell and so it was essentially trading power for speed, which was usually far more important in wizarding duels than the raw strength behind the spells.

The downpour of Dark curses hammered against his hastily produced shield with a tremendous force, nearly ripping it apart. The shield managed to absorb the spells, but it was already fluctuating heavily. It would withstand this of punishment for long. The Death Eater whom he was fighting against obviously wasn't lacking in the power department. Well, neither was he...

Quickly deciding that hiding behind a shield charm would be a pure foolishness in a fight like this, Harry cancelled the charm and exploded into motion, gracefully avoiding the lethal spellfire the Death Eater kept hurling at him. The multicoloured hexes and curses impacted against the walls all around him. A few of them packed enough power to blast straight through, while the rest detonated against the wooden panels, filling the air with dust, burning debris and fiery sparks of magic.

As Harry neared his enemy, a flicker of his wand sending a fiery, orange bolt towards the Death Eater, who easily sidestepped it, while continuing the relentless assault with another Killing Curse. It certainly seemed that 'Avada Kedavra' ranked very high in Death Eaters' vocabulary, probably right after 'mudblood' and 'filthy'.

Harry had, however, expected it, and thus he gracefully bypassed the twisting green bolt of vile magic and approached the silver-masked figure blindingly fast. He aimed roundhouse kick on his opponent's wand hand. The kick connected with a bone-shattering force, breaking couple wrist bones and blasting the wand away from the Death Eater's broken hand. The wet snapping sound was somehow very gratifying, causing Harry to grin in elation.

Then a wandless Banishing Charm caught Harry unaware, hitting him squarely to his chest. He flew backwards through the air as if thrown by an invisible hand and slammed onto the wall behind him. When he got back on his feet, the dark figure had already summoned his wand back, and was holding it in his still functioning left hand.

"Fighting like a filthy Muggle, aren't you?" the silver-masked figure stated, his tone was both hateful and snobbish. Harry blinked. He could tell that the voice belonged to a prepubescent male and he could hardly believe that someone younger than him could use wandless magic or have so fast casting speed. Most wizards and witches never mastered even the simplest spell without a wand, and this guy had just casually blasted him away with a wandless Banishing Charm during a battle. Doing so required an immense amount of skill and concentration. Kheiron had been the only sorcerer he had ever seen to perform such a feat.

Harry shrugged and lowered himself into a better duelling stance. "If it works."

The other wizard snorted. "Muggle tricks will never be enough against a true wizard."

"We shall see," Harry said coldly, before adding in Gobbledegook, "launch." As soon as he had said the command word, six enchanted darts shot from the bracelet on his left hand towards the silver-masked wizard with a lethal speed, ripping his black robe's sleeve in the process.

The Death Eater conjured a two foot wide shield made of solid silver, blocking five of the six missiles with a series of gong-like sounds. The sixth dart scratched his right shoulder, ripping a hole into his fine robes and drawing a few drops of scarlet blood. The boy wasn't as fast with his left hand as he was with his right. Harry smirked, which seemed to make his opponent even more furious.

Harry hadn't stayed idle while the Death Eater had been conjuring the shield and deflecting the darts, he had been busy making the dozen complicated wand motions of Juiblex Charm. His wand made the final sweep of the spell and a huge sickly-yellow crescent-shaped arch erupted from Harry's wand tip. The Dark curse sizzled with malicious energy as the oily strands of tainted power flew towards the Death Eater, filling the air with a sweet, nauseating stench. It was like someone had decided to burn rotten flesh and sugary incense in the same room.

The strands of the Dark magic came into a contact with the silvery shield and those parts that touched it seemed to stuck onto it like an adhesive tape, the rest of the strands bending around the corners of the shield, swinging towards the enemy wizard hiding behind.

The Death Eater dropped onto the floor, the deadly, yellow strands going over him and coiling tightly around the shield made of spellsilver. Then the enemy wizards quickly hurled a strong Blasting Curse at Harry, who was not fazed by this. He simply danced to one side, gracefully avoiding the brilliant bolt of magic and continued his assault with a barrage of Pyroprojectile Charms. That particular spell was highly useful because of its very short casting-time. The spell's incantation 'Incendio Incide' was far too long to be practical, but when cast silently the spell become insanely fast - so fast that a competent dueller could send the fiery bolts faster than one could clap his hands.

The younger wizard easily avoided the arrows of flame, either by dodging them or by blocking them with his silvery shield, that moved with amazing swiftness accordingly the wizard's wishes, but they weren't even meant to hit, Harry was merely keeping the boy in defensive.

Harry's left hand reached inside his robes and a second later a black, carbon-steel dagger flickered through the air. The silver-masked wizard Disapparated a split second before the heavily enchanted blade tore thought the strong spellsilver shield like it hadn't even been there... And then sunk into a wall to its handle.

The dagger had been especially enchanted to cut spellsilver. Harry had taken a habit of carrying it with him all the time after he had seen Bellatrix Lestrange using spellsilver as apparently both Kheiron and Voldemort had decided to teach those spells to their close associates...

The enemy wizard reappeared a few yards behind Harry, waving a wand at him. Harry spun on his heel, swaying to his right to avoid a deadly bolt of green light. He continued his movement by taking a few steps diagonally, sidestepping a storm of brilliant streaks of light that the Death Eater was wordlessly pouring at him. Once he was near enough, Harry kicked out savagely, but his boot impacted onto an invisible shield. It felt like hitting an iron wall.

Quickly switching his wand from the right hand to his left, Harry snapped his fingers, activating the powerful enchantment laid on the gold-ring of his right index finger. The magical ring instantly Transfigured into a golden, somewhat curved sword. It was similar in design to his Japanese katana, only slightly shorter and bit curvier.

The silver-masked wizard once again Disapparated, this time reappearing on the other end of the wrecked corridor. Obviously the boy didn't want to test his shield against Harry's razor-sharp magical blade. It was a wise decision.

With a casual flick of his wand and one whispered word, the enemy wizard shot a purple Entrails Rotting Curse at Harry. It was a very nasty piece of black magic; offering one of the most excruciating deaths imaginable. In addition it had a very good spell-penetration and it was almost impossible to cure. All in all, it was a very good spell, if bit slow travelling.

Harry spun away from the pernicious curse and simultaneously swept his wand horizontally, releasing one of the higher lever Dark Arts spell. A three feet wide, spinning disk of black fire soared out of his wand tip, zooming like a large shuriken towards the enemy wizard, who flourished his wand elaborately and softly murmured something cryptic, causing a soft, golden glow to surround him.

The flaming disk went through the silver shield like it wasn't even there, leaving no mark of its passing, but as soon as it touched the golden halo, the Dark curse was rebounded towards Harry, passing through the spellsilver shield again.

As Harry sidestepped his own ricocheting curse, the Death Eater made an angular gesture with his wand towards the abandoned silvery shield that still hovered in the air, a few feet from Harry. The shield turned into a large, hissing snake with a faint popping sound.

The silver serpent fell on the floor, and hissed a string of highly colourful obscenities, of which Harry tried his best to memorize. The snake quickly drew its angular head back to ready a strike. Its ruby-red eyes were fixated at Harry and its poison dripping fangs were bared, but the young wizards was faster and a single sweep his golden sword promptly beheaded the offending serpent.

A second later he was forced to dodge a pulsating blue streak, that went so close that it billowed his black duelling-robe. Harry brought his wand down in a slashing movement, unleashing a twisting, yellow ribbon of light at the Death Eater, who sidestepped the noxious curse while casting his own equally nasty spell.

Multitude of arched, shadowy blades appeared out of nowhere and zoomed towards Harry, who near instinctively brought up a transparent purple shield to absorb the vicious Dark Cutting Hex. The shield trembled only slightly at the impact, but the Cruciatus Curse that hit it less than two seconds later nearly ripped it apart.

Harry dropped the severely weakened shield instead of trying to re-power it and dodged the next, lethal curse hurled at him and banished the heaps of rubble laying on the floor towards the other wizard, who was forced to cast a Proteus shield to avoid being bludgeoned or shred to death by the impromptu projectiles.

Seeing this, Harry decided to try his luck, his wand quickly flashing through the complicated motions of the dreaded Killing Curse. A bit over two seconds later a twisting bolt of sickly green light emerged from his wand tip, but the enemy wizard was already on the move and the deadly spell missed by nearly two feet.

The Death Eater swung his wand horizontally, sending a silvery mesh speeding towards Harry, who instantly replied with the proper counter-spell, causing the silver strands to dissipate into dust mid air, which led to Harry being showered in the fine spellsilver powder. This was only a small victory, however, as the silver-masked wizard had already hurled yet another Dark spell at him by the time Harry had finished the counter.

The Potter scion swayed to his left, but it was too late and the bright yellow curse nicked his arm just below his right shoulder, sending a few drops of blood into air and splitting his robe and the expensive, bespoke acromantula-silk shirt beneath it, the harmful magic seeping into his system through the small flesh-wound.

Burning pain surged through his injured arm and he faltered for a second and it nearly spelled his end. At the last moment Harry threw himself onto the floor, barely avoiding yet another Killing Curse blasted at him.

He rolled into a crouch and turned to face the enemy wizard, bringing his wand's tip on the wound and muttered the incantation of the Purging Charm, "Defaeco." The magical word was accompanied by a dazzling flash of light-blue light, and then he pulled his wand away from the gash. With his wand came a few yellow strands of magic, now attached into the tip of the wand. A simple wrist movement detached the strands from the wand, causing the deleterious magic to dissipate harmlessly into the air.

Harry stood up and the two wizards begun once again the furious exchange of lethal spells, neither of them aiming to stun or capture the other, but to maim and kill. Volatile curses, hexes and charms detonated with loud explosions, ripping up floorboards and sending wooden shards flying high in the air, rebounding from walls and the ceiling and raining down in a cascade of smoking splinters.

The two expert duellers moved with a perfect, synchronized precision as spell after spell was met with the proper shield charm or a swift dodge. Had the situation been any different, it would have been a truly amazing display of magical duelling exhibited by both young wizards, whose skill and power went far beyond their years.

After a minute or so of uninterrupted duelling the silver-masked wizard spoke, "I see you are already tiring, blood traitor." The tone was arrogant and Harry could tell that the wizard was smirking under his mask. "How long do you think you are going to last?"

"Longer than you," Harry snarled as a response. He was already breathing heavily and a few beads of sweat glistered on his forehead. Even with his magically enchanted body, the constant dodging and movement was proving to be very exhausting - he felt like he had just run a Muggle marathon. Magically, however, he wasn't very drained yet, even though the duel had lasted for minutes already. With his large magical reserves, Harry could go on like this for at least three times more than he had already, despite the fact that he was expelling much more magic per a minute than what a normal wizard spends a day.

This is not to say that he was an extraordinary powerful wizard - Harry was powerful, yes, but not truly exceptionally so, at least not yet. He was not too much above an ordinary wizard in power levels, however, he had yet to reach his magical maturity. It merely meant that wizards and witches normally used only a small fraction of the power that was laid on their hands. People simply didn't need that much raw magic in their normal lives.

Witches reached their magical maturity couple years before their male counterparts, usually reaching it shortly after their fifteenth birthday, when wizards would have to wait to their late teens. On the other hand, when wizards finally did reach their magical maturity, they tended to be slightly more powerful than witches. The difference was nearly negligible and completely meaningless in a normal life, but it was there, no matter what some feminists wanted to claim.

Harry looked at his opponent. The other wizard was wounded too, but showed no signs of being fatigued. It was impossible of course. He had to be tired! Nobody could hold anti-Apparation and anti-portkey wards while duelling and not feel tired. Although it was starting to seem that this Death Eater could...

Nevertheless, Harry would never accept a defeat in the hands of a Death Eater scum. "Viscus Desino!" he yelled, brandishing the holly wand in his left hand while he run towards his opponent.

The grey bolt of twisting light erupted from his wand tip and zoomed towards the Death Eater, who swayed to one side, avoiding the Heart-Stopping Curse by mere inches. Harry followed his initial spell with a Blood-Jellying Hex, then with a Killing Curse, two Lung-Collapsing Curses and an Electrocuting Curse, all launched in a rabid succession. The silver-masked wizard managed - barely - to avoid Harry's onslaught of Dark magic until the blue ray of an Electrocuting Curse hit him to his right tight.

The boy screamed, an electric-blue magical lightning snaking over his body. His battle-robes took the brunt of the attack, but even still, the silver-masked Death Eater hardly managed to stay conscious... Hell, he was lucky to be alive at all. His pitch-black robes were smoking slightly and his pale skin was badly burned on many places due the extremely high voltage that had just passed through him.

In a little more than a second Harry reached the wounded wizard and swung his blade, the magical steel cutting effortlessly through the flesh and bone, and sending hundreds tiny droplets of crimson liquid into the air in a beautiful arc. The Death Eater's severed hand, still holding a wand fell to the wooden floor with a wet thud. Then the boy fell to his knees and screamed some more. The sound leaving his lips was nearly inhuman.

Harry grinned manically, chuckling faintly as he enjoying his opponent's pain. A heartbeat later he planted his boot on the Death Eater's side with all the force he could muster, cracking couple ribs and sending the damned brat rolling on the floor. The Siren's song of the Dark Arts beckoned Harry like never before. He felt invincible. Raw power flowed through his veins and he had never felt more alive. While he had tried to avoid using too much black magic during the fight, the last barrage had been pure Dark Arts; the real, soul-tainting Dark Arts, not just stuff that the Ministry in all their wisdom has deemed as such. And like countless wizards and witches before him, lost himself to the exquisite feeling the Darker magic offered. Smirking gleefully, he lifted his holly wand to offer an excruciating death to the pathetic Death Eater... And to prove his superiority; his dominance over this pitiful follower of the Dark Lord. "Cru-"

Then he caught himself, his tongue stopping mid-incantation. The unadulterated elation he felt quickly changed into horror. He was not about to kill the boy because he needed to die, but because of the sheer exhilaration of using the Dark Arts... And he was just about to torture someone to the death. He felt sick, and mentally berated himself; he should have more self-control than that. Harry had never tortured anyone and he didn't intend to. That was something only Death Eaters did.

He quickly cleared his mind and rewove the decayed Occlumency walls, and once again enjoyed the blissful serenity they offered. He hadn't even noticed that his mental barriers had been slowly decaying over the duel. Harry sighed. He was losing control, and he knew it. The young wizard knew that he had never been a paragon of morality, but he most certainly shouldn't let himself fall to Death Eaters' level either.

He pointed his wand again at the defeated enemy wizard, this time intending to give a quick, painless death. Not that the bastard truly deserved such mercy...

But during the few seconds of hesitation and mental self-berating, the Death Eater had managed to scrape enough focus for the three Ds and he vanished with the distinct crack of Apparation before Harry had a chance to pass judgement on him

Harry took a few deep, fortifying breaths before walking to his dagger sticking out of the wall, while putting his wand back into its proper holder, and then yanked the short blade off the wooden panel. He slowly sheathed the black dagger after which he snapped his fingers and the golden sword reverted back to a simple ring, which put back on his right index finger. He stood there for a some time trying to think what the hell had just actually happened, while unconsciously playing with the golden band on his finger.

Closing his eyes in concentration, he Disapparated away. The anti-Apparation wards had failed when the boy had fled or perhaps even before that.


Harry reappeared in a large, circular, stone chamber. It had took him over ten minutes to arrive here as he had Apparated thrice to some random places around England before Apparating here, running a mile or so before Apparating again, just to make sure they couldn't track him. This time he was sure that somebody would try. Not for the first time Harry wondered why Kheiron hadn't build his home in Britain as Apparating across the gulf wasn't exactly easy or enjoyable. It drained lots of magic and was very uncomfortable, and not to mention, quite hazardous.

Most of the room in the chamber was taken by a large stone table. Around the table were dozen seats, of which only two were currently taken... In addition, one house-elf was standing on the table.

"How did it go?" Amaterasu asked, her blue eyes slowly travelling over his sweaty face and torn, blood-stained robes.

Harry didn't answer the softly intoned question, instead he took a seat next to her and slumped into it.

"That bad?" Sirius asked, looking at his godson worriedly. The scion of the Black family was sitting opposite the younger wizard.

"Well, it wasn't that bad. I got what we wanted," Harry said tiredly and reached into his pocked.

He blinked as his fingers curled around something wet and sticky. Oh, No! He withdrew his hand from the pocked, and...

"You got us a squashed hamster?" Ama asked, raising her eyebrows while looking curiously at the bloody carcass of a hamster. "Jolly good!"

Harry hit his head against the table with an audible thud. He must have been squashed when the brat blasted me against the wall... Damn. He could hear the small elf muttering something about 'an exceptional success' under his breath and the young wizard felt a sudden urge to throttle the little bugger. Why were everybody insisting on being so damned sarcastic on him?

"Am I right in assuming that that squashed rodent is what is remaining of William Roskild?" Sirius asked, looking at the tiny bloodied shape with an unreadable expression.

Harry sighed. "Yeah..."

Next few minutes passed in silence as everybody wondered what the hell would they do now. Attacking Malfoy Manor without any information about its defences was not the smartest thing to do, but on the other hand they could hardly leave those unfortunate students to the Dark Lord's hands. Of course, the students might not even be held there, although it was certainly the most likely location... But whether or not they were there, Lucius Malfoy would definitely know where they were held... And offing an Inner Circle member was always a great bonus.

It was the young Pyromagus who spoke first, "So, what are we going to do now?"

Before anyone could say anything more, a loud alarm suddenly rang in the manor, signalling that the outer wards had just been broken.

Harry nearly laughed in exasperation. The universe really did seem to have something against him...
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