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Chills of the Living

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“So, the man who killed you… wasn’t a man at all?”

The ghostly form of the eighteen-year-old girl shimmered as she nodded her agreement, “No, indeed. My murderess clearly had the form of a woman, but I have no idea who it was that pierced me with the blade, for they wore a cloak that concealed their face and hair. I recall no one with such a grudge that they could do this, either, so I cannot guess their identity or motive. All I can relate to you is that they were a few fingers shorter than myself and their cloak was of fine cloth and make.”

Nico di Angelo; Hero of Olympus, Son of Hades, Ambassador of Pluto, Veteran of the Second Titan War and the Second Giant War, Prince of the Underworld and Ghost King, let out a breath as he considered this new information and the ghost who had given it.

She was pleasant looking, in a summery sort of way with long, wavy, dark brown hair, the edges of which were pulled behind her head, so it wouldn’t bother her but was also free to fly through the air as she ran across sunny fields. Though it was difficult to tell with her ghostly pallor, Nico suspected that her shrewd, but kind, eyes had been a deep chocolate colour in life. Her skin was also a slightly darker shade than was common to find in genteel ladies from 19th century, England, but not so much that it couldn’t be explained away as a sun tan if her family grew uncomfortable – though that wasn’t too likely since, although her clothes showed she obviously came from wealth and class, they were not so ostentatious as to suggest true political power of influence. No, her dress was a pleasant scheme of what Nico guessed was white and forget-me-not blue that was too fancy to be worn by anyone less than a gentleman’s daughter, but too simple for someone of higher station than one of the lower ranking genteel families.

Yes, Miss Amelia Berkeley was the second child and first daughter of one, Mr Oliver Berkeley and his wife, Mrs Christine Berkeley. On October 19, 1872, Amelia had accepted the marriage proposal of one Mr Hugh Norton. Three days later, she was found by her mother on her bedroom floor, a stab wound visible on her left side, just below her ribcage. There were no suspects, and no one was ever accused substantially – in fact, the murder or Amelia Berkeley was still a mystery over a century later.

Nico had to admit that it was an interesting case that had been brought to his attention by the rogue spirits of Christine and Oliver Berkeley before he had put them to rest. He’d promised the couple that he would do his best to discover what had happened to their daughter, sparking his investigation which had lead him all the way to England. The case had proved more challenging to solve than Nico would have suspected, but he had had considerable advantages on his side. For one, the case itself had become quite famous in the village of Little Hangleton and the surrounding area, so it hadn’t been too hard to find information, despite the general mistrust that was to be found of a 14-year-old dressed in black wandering around the village and asking about murder. Of the information he had found, Nico had suspected that it was actually Hugh’s younger half-brother, Eldon who had killed Amelia.

But he could now dismiss that theory, thanks to his other main advantage; his ability to commune with the dead.

“Thank you, Miss Amelia. You have been most helpful,” Nico eventually said, still considering what she had told him as he politely dismissed her.

Amelia dipped her head respectfully in return, “No, thank you, My Lord. I shall rest easier knowing that my Prince is searching for my justice.” And with that, the ghost of the young lady vanished, returning to the Underworld.

Nico remained for a moment longer, before turning his back on the grave and preparing to make his way back to the village. It’d probably be a good idea to rest the night there before attempting to shadow travel, after he’d expended so much energy that day. Will would probably kill him if he didn’t-

WHOOSH

Nico jumped behind the nearest grave at the sudden noise, his battle reflexes already ensuring that his Stygian iron sword was drawn and ready for use should he be attacked. Nico drew in a silent breath, gathering the nearby shadows so that they concealed him as he risked a glance around the edge of the massive headstone. He hoped that it would be enough to not alert any potential monsters to his position, since he’d had a long, exhausting day and really didn’t feel like fighting at the end of it if he could help it at all. He hoped, but he didn’t really expect it to be that simple.

Fully prepared to see some foul creature with a taste for demigods as he glanced in the direction of whatever had made the whoosh noise, Nico paused in surprise at the sight of two teenage boys sprawled on the grass. What in Hades…? It was hard to see in the dim light, but both looked to be about his age or older, one with messy, black hair and a red and black shirt, the other with what looked like dark hair and a yellow and black shirt that was similar to his companion’s in style. They both had a sweaty, frazzled look that was common among his friends who’d just finished a battle with some heinous creature that had decided that it would like a taste of demigod. Or who’d just come out of a free-for-all sparring session with Clarisse and Reyna.

Truth be told, they both seemed to be just as surprised at their sudden appearance as Nico was. Which raised another question: how did they get here? Although, maybe discovering who they were and what they were doing should have been higher on Nico’s list of priorities. Nico decided to observe them for now – if he deemed they weren’t a threat and they appeared to require assistance, well… he’d go from there.

Eventually, Black-and-Red stood up shakily.

“You OK?” Asked Dark-and-Yellow.

“Yeah. You?” Was the reply, that was in turn answered by a nod.

“Where are we?” Dark-and-Yellow said after standing up, proving to Nico that their arrival was accidental.

Black-and-Red didn’t answer for a moment, instead moving past the grave that Nico was hidden behind, towards the large one situated in the centre with the massive statue of a grim reaper-like figure and an empty cauldron.

“I’ve been here before,” Nico frowned at Black-and-Red’s statement, but his attention was soon drawn to Dark-and-Yellow, who was crouched over a glowing, blue trophy that Nico had failed to notice before.

“It’s a portkey,” he could hear the grin in Dark-and-Yellow’s voice as he said this, “Harry, the cup’s a portkey!”

Subconsciously, Nico filed Black-and-Red’s name as ‘Harry’, but his attention had been caught by the word ‘portkey’, which was a term he recognised. Suddenly the identity of the interlopers clicked into place. Nico had been told by his father of an underground magical society that – much like that of the gods and demigods – had been hidden away in plain sight from the eyes of mortals (or ‘no-majs’, as they were apparently called in the wizarding world).

Apparently, when Prometheus had given humans the flame, he had also thereby awakened the magic of the Earth in them, so that even now, every human had magic in them. But the magic of each human was usually much too dilute to be of any consequence, and so only those whose magical core was condensed had the potential ability for magic, which had often lead to explosive responses caused by emotional stress, such as feeling angry or scared.

Hades had also said that eventually Hecate discovered what had happened – that mortals without her blessing were using magic unconsciously and therefore unintentionally disrespectfully. He said that for a while he’d believed that she would purge the ability from them in order to prevent this, but that instead she had viewed it as their birthright and resolved to teach them to use their magic properly. She showed them how to make wands and how to write spells, giving them the basic tools to build their own society.

Which they apparently did, away from the knowledge of demigods. When Nico had asked Hades why he hadn’t heard of them before, he’d discovered that the two communities had never met. Apparently, after all the war and bloodshed between the Greeks and the Romans, the gods had thought it best for everyone if both demigod groups and the magical community remained ignorant of each other. Nico had seen the wisdom in that, since at the time he’d just been appointed the Ambassador of Pluto at Camp Jupiter and he’d already noticed the prevalent hatred towards the Greeks that the Romans – particularly Octavian – seemed to harbour. Adding a third group to the mix didn’t seem like a smart idea at the time.

It had also not escaped his notice, that Hades appeared to have made a transgression by revealing to him the existence of not only the Romans but the magical as well. Nico would have asked why, but he suspected that Hades would not tell him if he did.

Since finding out about the magical society, Nico had been fringing the community back in America. He had interacted with the witches and wizards a few times, and he had gained a very basic understanding of common spells as well as the generic politics, the governmental and legal systems and a few other bits of culture. Nico had found infiltrating the society to be both easier and more difficult than doing it to Camp Jupiter. Easier because most people weren’t constantly suspicious of him like in New Rome and it was easier to blend in. More difficult because, unlike in Camp Jupiter, his common knowledge of Greek Myths and Ancient culture was practically non-applicable there. Everything was completely different in the wizarding world, although Nico was quite used to it by now.

Even so, after realising that the teens in the graveyard weren’t a threat but were just wizards here by coincidence and with a portkey to transport them elsewhere, Nico resolved to just stay hidden where he was until they were gone.

It had only taken Nico a second to identify the boys as wizards and to decide on his plan of action (or rather, non-action), but almost immediately he felt concern grow again as ‘Harry’s’ voice grew agitated and he said again, “I’ve been here before! In a dream.”

…That seemed rather ominous. And alarming. As far as Nico knew, wizards didn’t have prophetic dreams the way demigods did, although they did have some form of rather rudimentary fortune telling. Divination? He didn’t think that those incorporated dreams very much though. Perhaps Harry had had a dream about some other graveyard?

But the way the boy glanced at the name on the grim reaper statue with a horrified expectant acceptance said otherwise. Nico resolved to stay further on his guard after that. It seemed that trouble was likely brewing, and even if it wasn’t his own, it was likely he’d become involved in it soon enough.

“Cedric,” Harry addressed Dark-and-Yellow with a very deliberate sort of calm, but with a tinge of dread that suggested both that he was becoming scared and that he was used to situations like this, “we have to get back to the cup. Now!”

‘Cedric’ (gods, Harry and Cedric, could they be any more British?) moved forward so he was only a few feet away and the both of them were standing in front of the cauldron with the grim reaper statue to their backs. He looked at Harry in concerned alarm, clearly picking up on his tone, “What are you talking about?”

Before Harry could answer, their attention – and Nico’s - was drawn to the crypt just in front of them, where there was a slight creaking noise as a door opened, and a soft, orange glow spilled out from a room onto the previously dark, stone walls. They all watched as two men appeared in the light. One was short and paunchy, with rat-like features, a tattered, brown outfit and carrying a small, black bundle of cloth. The other was only slightly taller and slightly thinner, with blunt, crooked features, and a shabby, black attire.

As soon as they appeared, Nico became very aware of something completely wrong emanating from the bundle that the Rat-Man was carrying. It felt both tortured and torturous, like someone had ripped a black soul apart. Maybe someone had.

Nico was aware of flames alighting below the cauldron at the appearance of the men, but his and Cedric’s attention was more focused on Harry, who had cried out, hands clutching his head as though in severe pain, at the appearance of Rat-Man. He collapsed to his knees and Cedric, clearly confused and concerned for his friend moved to him.

“Harry! What is it?” He asked.

“Get back to the cup!” Harry ordered staunchly, which Nico had to admire as he was clearly still in pain.

The two men advanced, satisfied grins in place. As they did, Cedric pulled out a stick – his wand, Nico reminded himself – and faced them, ready to defend his friend.

“Who are you?! What do you want?!” Cedric bravely demanded of the clearly dangerous men, his wand moving from one to the other so as to be ready for either of them if they attacked. Nico was impressed by his bravery, as he didn’t hesitate, and his voice didn’t shake.

Several things happened next. First, a high, rasping voice shrieked, “Kill the spare!” – and Nico vaguely realised that the voice had come from the bundle Rat-Man was carrying, rather than either of the men. Secondly, Rat-Man immediately obeyed the voice, raising his own wand and yelling “Avada Kedavra!” and shooting a bright, green light towards Cedric, as Harry cried a denial.

Lastly, Nico – who had begun moving as soon as he heard the voice’s order – jumped through the air so he was between Cedric and Rat-Man and prayed frantically to both his father and Hecate that deflecting the spell with his sword would work. He remembered his father telling him about the Avada Curse, since it caused instant death and was therefore the most dangerous- but not necessarily the worst.

Since Nico was still alive by the time he landed, he figured that blocking the curse with his sword had worked. He had no idea if it was because the curse hadn’t been able to go through the metal or if it was because the spell had been absorbed by the Stygian iron, but he wasn’t in a hurry to test that out.

Instead, he took advantage of the four (five? Five-ish?) wizards’ shock as he landed in the middle of their confrontation, to straighten, ready himself for battle and order in a low, deadly voice, “Stay behind me.”

Nico didn’t have time to check on the teens to see if they understood, because the next moment he was engaged with Blunt-Man as he apparently got over his surprise enough to start firing curses. He responded by blocking with his sword as much as he could and gathering shadows, so he could retaliate. Blunt-Man soon noticed how he was effectively blocking all his attacks and sent a red spell towards him. Nico blocked it, as he had the others, but he felt his sword try to fly from his grip – it had probably been a disarming spell. Quickly, he formed shadows into shields that bound his sword to his hand and would hopefully absorb anymore spells attacking that region.

There had been a slight lull, as Blunt-Man had clearly expected that to work, but as soon as it was evident that it had not, the barrage of curses resumed. Nico knew that if he wanted to end this anytime soon, he’d need to get to cover and try something from there. But he couldn’t do that at the moment because moving now would leave the two boys open to attack. He’d have to get them out of danger first.

“Is he able to move?” Nico called to Cedric, referring to Harry.

“Uh-”

“I’m fine!” Harry cut over instead.

“Good, because you need to get back behind a gravestone before one of us gets hit, and I don’t know where Rat-Man went,” Nico responded, still not taking his eyes off Blunt-Man.

“We’re not just going to leave you!” Harry yelled.

“If you want to help, get away from the line of fire and see if you can find Rat-Man!”

“But-”

“Now!” Nico said with a tone that brooked no argument. He added some of his death aura into the mix, both to try and convince the teens to run and to help in his battle against Blunt-Man.

“We’re going!” Cedric called to him, and Nico spared less than a moment looking to see the blond stabilizing Harry before pulling him behind a gravestone as he’d instructed. Nico had a feeling, however, that it wasn’t his death aura but rather common sense that had convinced the teenager to do as he said.

With that out of his mind, he returned his attention to the fight. If he’d had more energy, he would have been able to finish it. As it was, he didn’t have time to block with his blade and send counterattacks with his powers. Blunt-Man was faster than he looked, and obviously an experienced spell-dueller, as he hadn’t hesitated of faltered yet. Nico knew, however, that he had the advantage in this fight, because he was something completely foreign and unexpected to the wizard and he had many tricks up his sleeve.

Now that the boys were behind cover, Nico knew he could afford to find some himself. He waited until Blunt-Man fired off another curse – this one purple – but instead of blocking this one, Nico dodged, and shadow travelled to the headstone he was behind before. He could here his opponent cursing as he thought that he had gotten away. Nico rested the back of his head against the stone for a second and took a breath before glancing to his left where Harry and Cedric were staring at him from behind a set of family graves. He nodded to them and prepared to give them further instructions, but they got there first.

“How did you do that?! Who are yo-?”

“Does any of that really matter right now?” Nico interrupted, not unkindly.

They hesitated, clearly curious but also realising that they had more important things to worry about.

“I suppose not,” Cedric eventually replied. “What do we do now?”

“You have a portkey, yes?”

Harry nodded, “What about Wormtail?”

“I don’t know who that is, and I don’t have time to care. When I say, you need to summon the portkey-”

“Stupefy!”

A red light suddenly hit Cedric in his chest, and Nico cursed himself as he realised that he still hadn’t accounted for Rat-Man’s position. It was a fool’s error, as the man had reappeared from behind the other side of Harry and Cedric’s grave. He must have been watching as they had made for cover before and had been lying in wait. Fortunately, due to his position not giving him a clear line of sight, he hadn’t expected for Nico to be there as well.

“Cedric! Rennervate!” Harry quickly cast the counter curse on his friend, as Nico shadow travelled past them to face Rat-Man, who was no longer holding the bundle. Nico wondered distantly in surprise if that was because he no longer had his right hand. How in Hades had that happened?

Rat-Man’s eyes widened in obvious fear at Nico’s sudden appearance before him, and he stumbled backwards as the son of Hades advanced. It was for naught, however, as Blunt-Man reappeared and yelled, “Diffindo!” and a pale green light flashed across Nico’s torso, creating a shallow, but long, cut.

Nico hissed in surprise, and stumbled for a second, forgetting about Rat-Man completely for a moment. Instead, he focused his anger and pain into solidifying the surrounding shadows into a spike which he then shot straight at Blunt-Man. Nico felt satisfaction as he heard a choking gurgle as the man was impaled. A few moments later he felt them man’s aura flicker out and knew that he would be headed to the Fields of Punishment when he finally reached the Underworld.

He heard a yell of pain from behind him, which sounded as though it had come from one of the teen wizards. Quickly, Nico absorbed whatever shadows he could in a sloppy but efficient way the stop the bleeding. It would definitely need better attention later, but it was good enough to see him through the fight.

Nico turned then, Stygian iron blade raised, to see Harry pressing on the underside of his forearm, which was clearly bleeding, implying that it had been his cry of pain that he’d heard. Searching for Rat-Man, Nico saw him on the ground next to the grim reaper statue, grappling with Cedric. It looked as though the latter had tackled him away from Harry and they’d ended up in the clear area right near the cauldron. Nico wondered why neither of them were using their wands, when he saw two on the ground by Harry – probably his and Cedric’s – while, Rat-Man was holding a bloody knife in his only remaining hand. Nico had a moment of panic, before he realised the blood was most likely Harry’s and not Cedric’s. But why wasn’t he using the knife on Cedric…? Oh.

Oh.

“Kill the spare!” Nico remembered what the cruel voice had said. If Cedric was a spare, then Harry was supposed to be here. Their attackers had needed Harry alive… for his blood? A spell, perhaps? Nico ran through everything he knew about blood magic in his mind when it clicked into place. Resurrection.

Oh Hades.

That had only taken Nico a second to work out, but by that time it was too late as Rat-Man stunned Cedric with his only fist to his temple, before leaping to the cauldron and flicking in the blood from the knife.

“Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you shall resurrect your foe!”

Chapter Text

Cedric stared in horror from where he was sprawled on the ground as the rat-faced man, who’d attacked Harry with a knife, shouted what was obviously the end of a spell. His mind was having a hard time processing what had happened over the last five minutes. One minute he’d been staring a Hogwarts victory in the face, Harry by his side, and the next he’d been transported to a foreign graveyard and had been attacked - and almost murdered – by a pair of evil-looking wizards.

And then he’d been saved by some random teenager wearing dark clothes who looked younger than Harry and appeared to be umbrakinetic.

Cedric had heard the spell, had seen the flash of green and known it for what it was. He’d thought for sure that the curse would kill him. So, the thirteen-year-old appearing out of nowhere and deflecting the most powerful Unforgivable Curse with a sword was completely unexpected. Unfortunately, due to the impending likelihood of their deaths, Cedric was unable to question his saviour about… anything really. He just had to trust him and hope they got out alive.

As soon as the rat-faced man finished the ritual there were dozens of cracks and pops, signifying the apparition of various wizards in dark robes and masks who circled the clear area of the graveyard. Cedric would have been more focused on them, but he was too busy staring in utter horror, at the indescribable atrocity that was the rebirth of… the Dark Lord. His mind struggled to comprehend it, searching for any other explanation, but Cedric knew, in his soul, that that was what he was witnessing.

He couldn’t – was unable to - look away as the cauldron set itself alight and melted into the darkness. He couldn’t look away as a grotesque, foetus-looking, pale… thing appeared in the air, forming and moulding into a skeletal, corpse-ish imitation of a human. He couldn’t look away as the shadows, hovering around it, surrounded it - him, now – and assembled to create pitch black robes. He couldn’t look away as the magic finally settled, and the Dark Lord – He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – took his first steps to greet his surrounding followers. He couldn’t look away as he prayed that Britain’s most feared wizard, who was only a few feet away, didn’t notice him and was distantly glad that he wasn’t facing him, so he didn’t have to look at his face.

Cedric was dragged out of his loop of horror as the unknown teenager, who had just saved him before, ran and planted himself between the evillest people in Britain’s history and the two Hogwarts students.

“Cedric, you and Harry need to go,” the dark teen hissed the order, not glancing at him as he glared at the congregation, readying himself for further battle. “Right now.”

The reminder of Harry was enough to cause Cedric to glance behind at the other boy. Harry was barely standing on his own, grasping at the famous scar at his head. His face was showing fear, horror, anger, determination and pain all at once and Cedric vaguely wondered if it was remembered trauma or something more magical and sinister that was causing him pain. He wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was the latter, considering Harry’s past and recent history with the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord who was standing right in front of him, and who was probably going to kill them all.

It was that last thought, strangely enough, that caused a wave of… not quite calmness, but… smoothness. Clarity. A wave of clarity to flood his mind, and with that clarity came a sense of determination and certainty that they weren’t going to die, or at least, if they were, they wouldn’t do so on the ground.

With that, Cedric had just enough time to catch Harry’s eye with a meaningful look, flick his own eyes in the direction of the portkey that had transported them, nod his head minutely before tilting his head backwards slightly, in the direction of the boy who had saved them, and receive a one-second stare followed by a determined nod, before he returned his attention to the… to Voldemort.

In the back of his mind, Cedric hoped that the younger boy had understood what he’d been trying to communicate, but he figured that he would, considering he was a quidditch player and would therefore be used to plans being similarly communicated on the spot. Cedric rose slowly, so as not to attract attention to himself just yet, as Voldemort spoke for the first time.

“My wand, Wormtail.” His voice was a cold, malevolent rasp, but Cedric’s attention was caught on the name ‘Wormtail’ as he recognised the name that Harry had mentioned earlier. It turned out Wormtail was the rat-faced man who had tried to kill him earlier, as he quickly stepped forward with the white, bone-like wand. Voldemort took it without a word and, in one graceful move, swiftly turned to face the teen who was standing against him. Cedric quickly took in the pale, serpentine features, the snake-like slits where the nose should be and the blood-red, burning, evil eyes of the Dark Lord, and was absently surprised at – and proud of - himself for not breaking down in terror. This time, when he spoke, Voldemort addressed his followers – his Death Eaters – although his words seemed directed at Cedric, Harry and the other boy.

“Well, my friends, look at what we have here. Three school boys who managed to kill one of my Death Eaters. What should we do with them, do you think?” The tone was cold and mocking, meant to scare them – and it probably would have worked but Cedric had already combatted his terror enough to put it away for the moment. His mind was calmer with the knowledge that he had a plan of escape, and a plan to die if they didn’t.

The Death Eaters laughed and jeered, with calls of “Kill them!” or “The Cruciatus!” but everyone’s attention was soon caught by the boy, who spoke confidently in a low voice with an accent that Cedric was not familiar with and couldn’t place.

“Are you done with your mobster impression?” Cedric noticed that the Death Eaters seemed both surprised and a little unnerved at the comment, which was completely devoid of fear. He himself felt his own eyes widen in surprise as he wondered how the boy could sound so assured of himself in this situation and marvelled at the bravery he was witnessing by a thirteen-year-old in the face of such evil.

Voldemort’s eye’s flashed with anger and he snarled as the boy talked back, but he quickly replaced his enraged expression with one of threat and a hint of amusement. His new demeanour was reflected in his voice when he spoke again.

“You must be very brave, boy, or very stupid. But I must admit, I find you intriguing. You managed to block Wormtail’s kill and hold your own against one of my Death Eaters.” His eyes narrowed, “But show me such disrespect again and I will not hesitate to kill you.” He continued again in what he must have thought was an amiable tone, “I will forgive you your previous transgression, generous as I am, and in return you may pledge yourself into my allegiance. I can always use strong fighters, especially ones so young.”

Cedric wanted to look at Harry to gauge his reaction, but he didn’t dare risk bringing attention to either himself or The Boy Who Lived, for fear of compromising their one escape plan. He was slightly nervous at the offer being made to the boy. He didn’t think that the boy wanted to be a Death Eater – he had just saved him and Harry, after all – and judging by his confident tone and battle stance, he would fight if he needed to… but if he had an option to survive, would he really pass it up for the sake of a couple of students he’d just met?

“Yeah… Nah. Pass. Hard pass, in fact.”

Apparently he would. Cedric felt relief wash over him at the boy’s easy and instant refusal of the Dark Lord, but that was accompanied by the beginnings of an adrenaline rush (he’d had a lot of those today, what with everything that had happened and was not looking forward to when he eventually crashed) as he knew that Voldemort would definitely attack after this. He prayed that his plan would work as he subtly readied himself for action and listened as the boy continued to metaphorically spit in the Dark Lord’s face.

“I mean, just because I always wear black, doesn’t mean I want to join a cult.” Cedric had a hard time not snorting at the boy’s comment there (and at the look of shock and belayed anger on Voldemort’s face) and then had to wonder what was wrong with himself for finding anything about this situation amusing.

“How dare you-?!” Voldemort snarled in fury, but the boy interrupted.

“You know, I actually get asked that quite a lot,” he mused nonchalantly. It was then that Cedric noticed how the shadows at the edge of the clear area of the graveyard were thickening, and he realised that the boy must be stalling for time; trying to gain enough power to stand a chance. Yep, he was definitely umbrakinetic. But how was he doing that unnoticed? Surely the Death Eaters would see him if he was waving his wand? Did it have something to do with that sword? Cedric was forced out of his pondering as the boy continued, “I guess I just like messing with evil twats.”

“You are a fool, boy,” Voldemort sneered, his red eyes blazing. “You have insulted me twice now, and I will not forgive you the second time.” He glanced to the Death Eaters then, “Kill them! But leave Potter! Let him watch his friends die! I want to have a word with him.”

Cedric couldn’t help but flinch as the Death Eaters immediately fired a barrage of curses in his and the boy’s direction. He would have cast a protego, despite knowing it would most likely be useless against the majority of the dark spell the Death Eaters were casting, but he was still missing his wand from where he had dropped it when he tackled Wormtail away from Harry. It didn’t seem to matter anyway as, before the first curse even came near them, the shadows he had noticed the boy manipulating before flew in from the periphery, creating a wall of darkness between them and the Death Eaters, which lasted for about two seconds, before dissipating. It had done its job though, as the majority of the spells had been sent in that time and were blocked by the wall, and those that hadn’t missed them anyway.

Before the wall had disappeared, however, Cedric had seized the opportunity and called, “Harry! Now!” He had then rushed to the umbrakinetic boy just as they were re-exposed and placed his right hand steadily, and with a firm grip, on his left shoulder. He could feel the boy start slightly in surprise at the unexpected touch, but a moment later he heard Harry’s shout of “Accio portkey!” just before his friend reached them and grabbed the boy’s other shoulder with his right hand. A fraction of a second later Cedric saw the cup zoom to Harry, who was facing Cedric side-on with his left hand in the middle of the three. The cup flew straight into his hand, coming into contact with Cedric’s right arm and the other boy’s back.

Cedric felt imtense, panicky relief as he instantly felt the familiar tug on his navel and they disappeared. The last thing he saw of the graveyard was Voldemort’s furious face and his red eyes full of hatred as he screamed “No!” in rage-fuelled denial.

0~0~0~0~0~0

Harry, Cedric and the other boy landed on the grass at the edge of the quidditch pitch just before the spectator stands for the Third Task and were immediately accosted by the sounds of cheering and trumpets. Harry was distantly relieved to hear the boisterous sounds of his schoolmates, rather than the cold jeers of the Death Eaters, but his mind was focused more predominantly on what he had just witnessed. On the fact that Voldemort was back.

He lay there, sprawled on the grass for a moment longer, before he felt something shift under him and he realised that he had landed on the mysterious boy who had saved them. That was enough to draw him out of his numbness for the moment, as he quickly moved to get off him. He was about to apologise, still reeling, when he felt Cedric – who was right next to him – grip his arm. He was looking at him with a concerned intensity which brought him out of his shock.

“Are you alright, Harry?”

“Y-yeah.” He took a breath, pushing his tumultuous thoughts back to deal with as soon as he could talk to Dumbledore, “Yeah. Are you? What about…?” He trailed off, glancing at the unknown boy who slowly turned himself over and began to rise.

He looked to be about Harry’s age, or maybe a bit younger – or perhaps that was just because he was so skinny. He had very pale, olive skin that was almost white, and shaggy, black hair which fell into his eyes and that almost reminded him of his own with how messy it was. His eyes were a dark brown – almost black – and both terrifying and ensnaring in a way that spoke to Harry. They said that he’d seen true darkness and that he’d had walked amongst it. Looking into them, Harry was reminded of a quote he had heard, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss will stare back into you,” and his instincts seemed confused, because he felt very on-edge and almost scared of what darkness the boy knew and had seen, but they were also urging him to trust and remain near him.

Continuing with his scrutiny, Harry took in the boy’s attire. He was wearing all black (‘well, he hadn’t been lying in the graveyard,’ Harry mused), from his boots to his jeans, shirt and leather bomber jacket – even his sword, lying next to him, was black! The only colour – if it could even be called that – was the silver skull ring on his finger, the white fluff on the collar of his jacket and the white skull print on his shirt, just visible between the edges of his open jacket. Harry stared at that last for a second, before his eyes widened as he noticed the rip, and red stains that had been obscured by the colour of the shirt. He quickly moved over, pulling Cedric with him as he still hadn’t let go, and glanced in concern at the teen, his hands hovering in front of him, unsure with how he should proceed.

“You’re bleeding,” he said, drawing Cedric’s attention and the boy’s surprise. “Are-?”

“I’m fine for now,” the boy interrupted softy. He glanced at them, checking them over quickly, it seemed, before casting a wary gaze around the raucous crowd, which Harry could understand. He somehow didn’t seem like the type of guy who liked being around lots of people, and it must be a shock to be unexpectedly transported into the midst of a group of people you didn’t know. Harry himself was finding it rather jarring, especially after what had just happened.

Although, the crowd did seem to have noticed the boy since, though they were still loud and cheering, Harry could make out a few people staring in confusion and pointing at the unexpected third boy. He looked again to the boy when he heard him quietly, but calmly, speak, “We need to get out of here.”

Harry had to agree. As relieved as he was to be here and alive, the weight of what he had recently witnessed was still very present in his mind. He wanted nothing more than to find Dumbledore and Moody and tell them what had happened – even though he was already dreading their disappointment in him for allowing Voldemort to rise again. It was his blood Voldemort had needed to resurrect himself with after all.

It was that last thought that cracked Harry’s composure. He was the reason that the murderer of his parents and countless others was now properly alive. He was the reason that many more of his friends were now going to die. He let out a dry sob and tried to move away from Cedric – he didn’t deserve his concern or comforting contact – but the older boy pulled him closer in a hug that provided as much physical support as it did emotional. He didn’t try to fight it again, and instead clutched tiredly at Cedric’s back and arm.

A moment later he felt Cedric move his arm and heard a surprised “Uh?” before he felt the unknown boy appear next to him, under Cedric’s other arm, obviously pulled into the impromptu hug by the older Hufflepuff. Harry could feel how tense he was at the contact and felt slightly embarrassed at not only breaking down in front of his saviour, but also for making him join the hug when he clearly didn’t want to be a part of it. After a moment though, Harry heard him take a fortifying breath and felt him forcibly relax himself, though he didn’t make any effort to reciprocate. Harry was more than OK with that, just glad that he didn’t make a big deal about what was happening.

As soon as Harry had regained enough control over his emotions he broke the hug, although he didn’t bother trying to stray from Cedric, who was still gripping him and the other boy in a manner that both provided and received support. He could now see a plethora of adults coming towards them, including Dumbledore, Moody, Snape, Fudge and Amos Diggory, and he was very glad that his little breakdown had not been visible to them. He had a feeling, from the rather urgent looks on their faces, that they wanted to discuss the appearance of the additional member of their party – who Harry realised with a start that he still hadn’t got the name of, although he suspected he’d find out soon enough.

Harry muttered a quick, but heartfelt, “Thanks,” that was meant for both the, as of yet, unnamed boy and Cedric. He doubted he’d be able to say entirely what he meant even if he’d had the time, but he hoped that they both understood what he meant to convey. From the slight, reassuring squeeze Cedric gave his arm and the minute nod he received from the other boy, he believed they did.

Not a moment later they were joined by the crowd of curious, wary, serious and, in Amos’ case, proud faces of the adults. As soon as he reached them, Dumbledore began questioning, but Harry cut him off immediately with the most important matter.

“Harry, what-?”

“He’s back. Voldemort’s back.”

Chapter Text

Harry watched as Dumbledore’s face immediately darkened and turned gravely serious to an extent he had never seen before. For a moment, he thought he would say more, but the ancient wizard just looked him over once, no doubt to assure himself that Harry was uninjured, before quickly passing him over to Moody, who began guiding him away.

“Cedric, wait! Where are you-?” Amos’ voice had Harry twisting around to see Cedric following him and Moody, a determined expression on his face, with his father looking on in slight confusion. Harry also noted that the mysterious, dark boy – whose name he still didn’t know – was walking casually beside him, his pitch-black sword now swinging from his side.

“I need to go with Harry, Dad. I’ll see you later,” the older Hufflepuff said in a deliberately calm voice, not pausing in his stride or bothering to look back. Harry was grateful for their presence. They’d been through a lot together, even though it’d only been a few minutes, and he didn’t particularly want to be parted from them just yet – not with what they had just witnessed.

Harry noticed Moody pause at Cedric’s declaration, and he saw him glance at Dumbledore who nodded decisively once. Moody didn’t seem too happy about the two extra additions, since he grumbled to himself before relenting and resumed pulling Harry off the field in the direction of the DADA room. As they passed under the quidditch stands, Harry could here Dumbledore announcing, to the now-confused crowd, some excuse for Harry and Cedric’s sudden disappearance, but he didn’t even attempt to explain anything about the dark boy. Harry was looking forward to hearing the rumours about that subject.

“Students, staff and other spectators, we appear to have a tie! The two victors will be with us again momentarily, but for now, let’s hear it for Cedric Diggory and Harry Potter!”

At once the thunderous, enthusiastic applause resumed, but Harry knew that their curiosity would not be sated for long. But as the sound tapered off into the distance, so did the thought, and Harry’s mind returned to the graveyard, his mind repeating the same few minutes over and over and over as he wondered what he could have done differently. He felt shame and guilt creeping upon him again, as well as terror for what was to come.

“Watch yourself, Potter!” Moody’s gruff voice cut into Harry’s thoughts and with a start he realised that they were at the door to the classroom. The ex-Auror limped in, leading the way through the class to his office, and was followed by the two Hogwarts students and the… whatever and whoever the other boy was.

“Sit,” Moody ordered upon entering his strange office, and Harry exhaustedly obeyed, flopping into the nearest chair. He watched as Cedric sat for a moment before immediately standing up and pacing, apparently having too much energy to sit still at that moment. The unnamed boy, on the other hand, steadily crossed over to another chair, so he was between Harry and Cedric but furthest from the professor – who had just vanished around a corner and could be heard rummaging for medical supplies. The boy looked around the room with the assessing gaze of someone trying to map out unfamiliar territory, before he too sat. He immediately gave a slight wince of pain before his face went blank, and Harry remembered the blood he had seen earlier.

Harry was distracted from his thoughts once more as Moody began questioning him, still behind the shelf.

“What happened?”

What happened? Harry almost snorted. What hadn’t happened? Voldemort was alive and arisen – because of Harry - and the Death Eaters were already assembling. Wormtail had tried to kill Cedric and had stabbed Harry’s wrist. He’d just come out of a bloody maze that’s sole purpose was to do its best to drive him out of his mind. And, oh, yeah, he’d just been rescued by some random, absurdly powerful teenager who he’d never even seen before.

Luckily, while Harry’s cynical side was ranting to him, Cedric had decided to answer the question.

“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is…” Cedric took a breath and let out an incredulous, hysterical laugh, “Voldemort is alive. That’s what we just saw, right?”

Harry nodded when Cedric looked to him, and he was glad that he wasn’t the only one who was aware of the implications of that statement.

“Yes,” he croaked, “that’s what happened. And he’s got the start of an army assembled.”

“An army?” Came Moody’s next question.

“As soon as he’d arisen a bunch of Death Eater’s apparated to him,” Harry explained.

“How did you get away? And who’s your friend?”

“Wormtail was there. He… Uh, he…”

“He tried to kill me,” Cedric finished when Harry faltered. At Moody’s questioning silence, he added, “The Killing Curse.”

“Ah,” Moody didn’t seem surprised, but Harry hadn’t expected him to be. The man had seen it all before.

Harry cleared his throat, “So anyway, after that… he saved him.” Harry looked over at the boy, once again wondering who he was and how he’d managed to do what he’d done. “Then he protected us until we got out.” He was about to ask for the boy’s name and an explanation about… everything, really, but Moody’s intense questioning reinitiated before he could.

“He did, did he? How’d a thirteen-year-old manage to escape from the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters with two other kids?” There was something odd about his tone… Harry couldn’t figure it out as he answered.

“He created a shield-” Harry was about to say, ‘out of shadows’, but he saw Cedric frantically shaking his head at him, an almost panicked gleam in his eye. Startled, but trusting the older boy, Harry changed track mid-sentence, hoping it wasn’t too noticeable, “-which managed to block most of the curses until I summoned the portkey.”

Moody finally appeared from behind the shelf, carrying various potions and ingredients, but if he noticed his stumble he didn’t mention it. He shuffled his way over to Harry, but both his magical and normal eyes were fixated on the other boy, who – to his credit – didn’t seem at all flustered under the intimidating gaze of the ex-Auror.

“Not many people would be able to hold a shield against the sorts of curses the Dark Lord would be using, certainly not many thirteen-year-olds,” he commented, and Harry could hear the suspicion lacing his voice.

“Not many thirteen-year-olds would be able to kill a- what was it? A ‘Death Eater’?” The boy met Moody’s suspicious, analysing gaze with one of calm confidence. Harry could practically feel the tension thickening as they stared each other down, before Moody nodded in acceptance for the moment. The boy then shrugged, looking completely unconcerned, before deadpanning, “Good thing I’m fourteen.”

~0~0~0~0~0~

Nico was not in the best of moods.

Getting caught up in the murder attempt of two teens? Meh. Scraping himself from the jaws of death? Done that every other day. Getting sliced along the torso? An irritating, but common, hazard. Failing to prevent the resurrection of an evil wizard or then subsequently killing them before they could do any damage? OK, that one sucks, but not the worst thing to ever happen. But being unexpectedly portkeyed into the midst of a bunch of screaming strangers? An-noy-ing.

And then there was this schist.

Granted, he was glad to be out of the eye of the crowd of spectators and – gods help him – reporters, if that camera flash was anything to go by. But he didn’t particularly feel in the mood to be catering to curious and suspicious adults. He had so many better things to do, like seeing to that gash across his torso, Iris Messaging Will and his friends and looking into that resurrection. He hoped that this wouldn’t take too long so he could get on with that and get out of here.

“You’re fourteen?!”

“You’re my age?!”

The simultaneous incredulous exclamations from Cedric and Harry drew Nico out of his internal grumblings. Instead of answering, he simply glanced at them and raised a brow, causing the tips of Harry’s ears to turn pink and Cedric stammer a quick apology. He gave a slight smirk at their embarrassed expressions.

“Sorry- I-”

“Forget about that,” the gnarled man with the whizzing, electric-blue eye cut across Cedric impatiently. “Who are you, boy?”

Nico didn’t like being talked down to or being called ‘boy’, but other than the slight narrowing of his eyes he managed to ignore the designation as he debated whether to give his name. Nico knew that it might be better to create an alias, but he didn’t normally bother to do that when he went to unfamiliar and potentially dangerous places. Ah, what the Hades.

“Nico,” he replied after a moment. After a moment’s further deliberation, he added his last name as well, because YOLO. “Nico di Angelo.”

The man – Eyeball - appeared frustrated, both at his short, unrevealing answer and at not being able to recognise his name. It didn’t last long, though, as Eyeball decided to ignore him for the moment in favour of discovering more about the night’s events, which was where he slipped up.

Eyeball turned back to Harry, “What did he look like?”

Harry frowned in confusion at the sudden topic change, “Who? Nico-?”

“The Dark Lord!” The man snapped irritably, “What did he look like in the graveyard!?”

Nico frowned, something about that was wrong…

Harry shook his head, clearly unable to describe what was being asked, “I don’t…” Then he paused, before slowly turning to look at Eyeball with sudden wariness and dawning realisation, “Professor,” he began slowly, and Nico noticed his hand creeping towards one of the wands on placed on the desk in front of him, “I don’t believe any of us mentioned anything about a graveyard.” Ah, Nico thought, as he realised the implications of that statement, before he was fighting once more.

Eyeball – who was a professor, apparently – snarled and whipped out a wand and cast a spell to quickly block the red light Harry shot towards him, before disarming the teen. Cedric, whose wand was still on the table where Harry had placed it before, immediately charged the man, who whipped his wand in the direction of the older boy and cast a red light that caused the boy to collapse. He didn’t have time to follow up with any of these, however, as Nico took the opportunity of the Eyeball’s distraction to blindside him with his sword.

He wasn’t trying to kill him, as he suspected that he might be needed for information – especially if he was someone that was apparently trusted around here – so he just tried to level the blade at Eyeball’s throat. But he had seen Nico coming, and twisted away, spitting red and green spells as he went so Nico would be preoccupied with defence.

It was a testament to Nico’s extensive experience in chaotic battles, where just about anything could happen, that he did not startle as what looked like an incredibly delicate metal contraption sailed passed his head towards Eyeball’s. Instead, he took advantage of the man’s fleeting distraction, as he batted it away with a curse (and not a magic one), to get closer, where he would have the advantage with his sword.

He had just come within range of Eyeball, when the man cast a spell that he blocked, but the force of which sent him slamming into a desk next to him. He grunted as he felt the shadows blocking the gash across his chest dissipate, and the wound began to bleed again. From across the room he could hear one of the boys gasp, no doubt signifying that Eyeball was about to murder him. Since this wasn’t how he wanted to next enter the Underworld, Nico pushed away his pain, rolled onto his back, and raised and lowered his sword in one fluid movement, just as the doors burst open with a bang.

“Nice timing,” Nico snorted and drawled sardonically, as a painfully old man, with a foot-long, fluffy white beard and bright blue robes, a severe-looking older woman in dark, green robes with a tight, greying bun, and a pale, vampiric man, with long, greasy black hair and all-black robes burst into the room, wands drawn, before stilling in surprise at the scene.

Nico amused himself for a millisecond by imaging the tableau they must have presented. The boys had just ducked out from (scant) cover and were alternating between staring at Nico, Eyeball and the severed hand on the ground, which was still tightly gripping the wand it had been holding when it was removed from its body. Chasing away thoughts of how this was the second hand-severing he had been associated with when protecting the two boys today, Nico decided that everyone had been staring for long enough.

“Right,” he began, bringing the focus back to him, but not taking his eyes off Eyeball (he was infinitely grateful that no one could here him make that pun in his head) as his sword was currently at his throat and he would most likely use any distraction on Nico’s part to make a break for it, “I imagine we have a few things to clear up, but I’m bleeding rather alarmingly right now, and interrogating Eyeball, here, is probably a priority. So, who wants to take custody?”

~0~0~0~0~0~

Cedric had no idea what was happening anymore, except for the fact that Professor Mad-Eye Moody, esteemed ex-Auror and war-hero, was apparently now in league with Voldemort, who he’d just seen arise and reunite with his army of Death Eaters, he’d been tortured with an Unforgivable by famous seeker and fellow Triwizard champion, Viktor Krum, who had been under the Imperious (most likely cast by the previously mentioned professor), he had almost been murdered twice - along with Harry Potter - in the space of twenty minutes, and he’d been saved both times by an umbrakinetic, sword-wielding, fourteen-year-old who he’d never even seen before.

To put it simply, this was not what he had signed up for when he’d dropped his name in the Goblet of Fire.

But… Even so…

Well.

He found he couldn’t – and didn’t - regret it. Not if his presence there had helped in any way. Not if Harry, and the other boy - Nico di Angelo – were still alive. Not if they – even though it was mostly Nico - had managed to catch Moody before he could do anything else.

No, staring at the sight of Moody, tense but still due to the sword edge sitting next to his neck, snarling as he roughly cradled the stump where his arm once was and said arm lying on the floor in a thick pool of blood, wand along with it, and di Angelo leaning against the back of the table, half arisen from when he’d been tossed – when Cedric had thought he was going to die – by Moody, still holding the unwavering sword and having just snarked at the three famous professors who’d burst through the door, Cedric found he didn’t regret a thing.

Everyone seemed to unfreeze after di Angelo’s statement, and not a moment later Snape was striding forward, wand drawn and wary, to answer the boy’s question by taking custody of their prisoner. He looked almost unsure, an expression Cedric had never expected to see on the potion’s master’s face, about di Angelo and whether he should trust him, but eventually decided to point his wand solely at Moody, before roughly guiding him to the wooden seat set up in the office for meetings. Another moment later and Professor McGonagall joined him, after glancing warily at di Angelo, pointing her own wand at Moody while Snape searched him. Dumbledore stood a few faces back, gazing at di Angelo with obvious curiosity, but it lacked the hostile wariness that the other two professors had exhibited.

Snape pulled out a flask – Moody’s famous flask, Cedric noted – before swiftly opening the top and taking a whiff.

“Polyjuice,” he announced, drawing everyone’s attention away from di Angelo for the moment. Cedric started. He knew what Polyjuice did, and that raised a whole heap of other questions and implications, the most prominent of which being, who it was before them, and, where was the real Mad-Eye?

Dumbledore was able to answer the second question soon enough, as he immediately turned to a formidable, metal chest on the side of the room. He strode over to it, calling, “Minerva,” and McGonagall instantly appeared at his side, her wand trained on the chest as Dumbledore flicked his own and the lid opened. Cedric was surprised to see smaller chests all open one after the other on the inside, like those little Russian Babushka dolls one of his muggleborn friends had once given him for Christmas. When the last and smallest one opened, both McGonagall and Dumbledore cautiously peered inside, before relaxing slightly.

Curious, and not completely aware he was doing so, Cedric sidled over to the chest to see what the professors were looking at. He startled as he felt something move beside him, and when he looked, he saw that both Harry and di Angelo appeared to have the same idea. The three of them peered over just as they heard Dumbledore call down.

“Are you alright, Alastor?”

Cedric was shocked to look down a long, metal shaft, and see the form of none other than Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody slumped in a heap. He was almost unrecognisable, so pale and more unkempt than Cedric had ever seen… well, not him, but whoever was using his body. His hand was covering the side of his face where the blue, magical eye he was renowned for was supposed to go, and he was dressed in faded undergarments. Cedric was horrified as he wondered how long the man had been down there.

“I’m fine Dumbledore, but I’m sorry. I failed,” Moody – the real Moody – said in a voice that was raspy from disuse and full of anger that seemed directed toward himself and his situation. Despite how weakened it was, Cedric noted the undercurrent of strength that laced his voice, proclaiming that he hadn’t given up the fight, and was reminded that this man was famous for a reason. “I’ve been a bloody thing for that Death Eater to harvest all year.”

“Don’t worry, Alastor, it’s not your fault,” Dumbledore reassured in a voice that was neither worried nor pitying, which Cedric suspected was a deliberate choice. No doubt Moody hated being pitied. “We’ll have you out in a second.”

“I can wait a moment, but don’t take too long!” Came the immediate response from the veteran and prisoner.

Without another word, Dumbledore turned back to face the fake Mad-Eye. Without taking his eyes off the prisoner, Snape reached into his robes and pulled out a small vial of colourless liquid, raising it in his hand almost like he was asking a question. Dumbledore responded in that patient tone he always had, “I think veritaserum is required in this case, Severus.”

Snape immediately uncorked the vial and forcefully poured it down fake-Moody’s throat. Cedric swore that, although he wasn’t smiling, Snape was vindictively gleeful at the opportunity to use his truth serum on someone.

Fake-Moody snarled and choked at the potion, but eventually was forced to swallow, looking particularly livid.

“Now,” Dumbledore said calmly, “let’s start with this. Who are you?”

Chapter Text

Well, Nico thought, as he mentally reviewed the last three minutes of dialogue, that was certainly… something.

Nico, Cedric and Harry had watched, the former interested and the latter two transfixed, as the three professors used some sort truth compulsion potion (at least, that’s what he gathered from the effects it had on Eyeball-who-wasn’t-really-Eyeball, as well as his own rough translation of ‘verita’ to ‘truth’ in Latin) to interrogate the prisoner. What had followed was a roundabout, glaze-eyed, discussion of the most convoluted and down right stupid plan that Nico had ever heard, short of his own life and bad fiction.

Apparently Eyeball-who-wasn’t-really-Eyeball was actually one Bartemius Crouch Jr, a crazy mass murderer, torturer and Death Eater, and he had kidnapped, impersonated and harvested from a well renowned wizard cop and war hero for ten months, taken over said wizard cop’s post as a school teacher while keeping him in a magic trunk, hoodwinked a magic cup to make a fourteen-year-old compete in a magic death tournament, and tricked him into winning said magic death tournament, all so Harry could be magically transported to a graveyard, used in a ritual to resurrect an evil cult leader and then be murdered by said cult leader.

(Nico wondered what it said about the security of the school that only the last part of that plan had managed to be foiled.)

Crouch had also admitted to several other crimes he had committed right under the noses of the school, such as casting the ‘Imperius’ (mind control curse) on some other kid and making him torture Cedric as well as stun another competitor, and committing patricide, transfiguring his father’s body into a bone, and burying him somewhere in the woods.

Unfortunately, they had had to stop the interrogation after comparing Harry’s stab wound with the guy’s evil snake tattoo on his remaining arm, which was black and looked to be throbbing. Nico guessed, from the wizards’ and witch’s horrified look, that there was some meaning there that he had missed. After a moment of maniacal laughter (the potion had apparently begun to wear off) at the expressions adorning the other wizards’ and witch’s faces, blood began pouring out of Crouch’s mouth, which shook the others from their stupor. The professor in the black robes quickly used a spell to clean the blood away and examined the prisoner before declaring that he had bitten his own tongue off. After knocking the man unconscious with another vial of unidentifiable liquid and dumping him in the corner, the four wizards and witch had turned to him, bringing Nico out from his thoughts.

Not one who was shy of awkward situations, Nico just raised a brow and awaited the questions.

~0~0~0~0~0~

Harry would say that he couldn’t believe what he had just found out but given his previous experiences with his last DADA professors… well, he wasn’t even overly surprised at this point. His fourth year at Hogwarts had apparently decided to stick to the usual trend: get sucked into and survive mysterious and dangerous events, find a mystery surrounding the new DADA teacher, solve said mystery and fight Voldemort at some point in June. Only, this year he hadn’t managed to stop Voldemort from succeeding.

And he’d managed to find another mystery to solve right at the end of the year. That hadn’t happened before.

Harry saw Nico raise his brow as he, Cedric, Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape all turned as one to look at him, the unconscious Death Eater no longer a threat.

He wasn’t sure what was going to happen then. Was Nico going to be interrogated with Veritaserum? Harry wasn’t sure if he liked that idea. On one hand, he could see the sense of it, as everyone had good cause to be suspicious now, but on the other… Nico had saved them, and he didn’t think that he deserved to have his secrets forced out of him by a bunch of strangers. He was drawn out of his thoughts in surprise as Cedric spoke first.

“Are you still bleeding?” The older Hufflepuff asked in concern.

Nico’s analysing gaze turned in Cedric’s direction. After a moment, he nodded, “I don’t have any potions on me…”

“Ah, not to worry, my boy. Severus…” Dumbledore trailed off, glancing at the potions master, who pulled out his wand and approached the teen.

“I was expecting to have to use this spell today, though I had thought it would be Potter I’d be using it on,” Snape as he raised his wand. “Describe the spell that hit you.”

Nico closed his eyes for a moment, before he replied, “Pale green. I think he said Diffindo.”

Snape nodded, and cast a healing spell, “Convervo.” Harry watched as Nico breathed out slowly, before he relaxed imperceptibly.

“We are most fortunate that you were not hit by a darker curse,” Dumbledore said, both warm and concerned. “I must also apologise for not tending to your injury immediately.”

Nico just shrugged, “It was minor.”

Before Dumbledore could reply, McGonagall interrupted with a quick, “Albus,” no doubt to get him back on track.

“My apologies, Minerva,” Harry noticed Nico blink once, in what he construed was shock, before recovering as Dumbledore continued, now again addressing Nico, “I’m afraid that due to recent events, we are all rather on edge and we would appreciate it if you could help us clear a few things up.”

Nico waved his hand in a ‘go on’ gesture and leaned back against the desk.

Dumbledore nodded, looking pleased as always, “Right then, let us start with introductions. My name is Albus Dumbledore, these are Professors McGonagall and Snape,” he gestured to the two teachers, “and I believe you are already acquainted with Mr Potter and Mr Diggory.”

The teen nodded, “Cedric and Harry. I’m Nico di Angelo.”

“Right then, would you boys like to take a seat?” Dumbledore looked at Cedric and Harry, who -surprised at being addressed – simply nodded and moved to a shelf and leaned against it. “Excellent, now, what can you all tell us about what happened tonight?”

So, once again, Harry and Cedric relayed the events of the night, beginning from hearing Fleur’s scream, though this time they were a lot more coherent. It wasn’t until he got to the bit when Nico first appeared that Harry faltered, remembering Cedric’s warning from before and wondering how he would explain the way the teenager had controlled the shadows.

“-and then Nico saved him. He, uh… he…”

“He blocked the spell with his sword,” Cedric put in, and Harry glanced at him gratefully.

In his relief, Harry almost didn’t hear the soft-spoken question that was asked by the potions master.

“And how did Mr di Angelo know to be in the graveyard in the first place?”

Harry blinked, not having thought about that, and he turned with the others to see what Nico would say to that.

“I didn’t know, I was there by coincidence.”

Stunned silence.

“I just often hang out in graveyards.”

Even-more-stunned silence.

Harry stared along with the others in incredulity as Nico di Angelo once again shocked him. He had said that so casually, like it was to be expected, that Harry found himself believing him, despite the craziness of the answer.

“Do you expect us to believe that you accidentally chose to ‘hang out’ in the graveyard that Voldemort was in, just in time for you to witness his resurrection and save Harry Potter?” McGonagall asked in disbelief.

“I don’t care what you believe. You asked the question, I told you what happened; your belief has no impact on my answer,” then Nico shrugged, “and honestly, this isn’t even the weirdest coincidence to happen to me today. I kinda have a habit of showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time, although this time I think my presence was a good thing.” Nico glanced meaningfully at Cedric.

“So you know nothing of Voldemort?” McGonagall pressed.

Nico appeared thoughtful for a moment, before saying aloud, “Vol-de-mort. Flight-from-death. Crude French, and, I’m going to guess, a completely made up name?”

Harry was not the only one shocked, for various reasons. Had Nico never heard of Voldemort before now? What did he mean by ‘Flight From Death’?

“That is correct,” Dumbledore’s voice had turned grave.

Nico nodded, “I’m also assuming he was that fetus thing that the rat dude turned into the gross, bald snake-man?”

Another stunned silence as those present tried to reconcile that description with the most dangerous dark wizard the world had ever seen.

“Yeah,” Cedric said breathlessly after a moment, “that… that’s about right.”

“And he’s the cult head of the wizarding world’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, going by the masks and hoods the other guys were wearing?”

More silence.

“…Yes…”

“That’s good to know, since I essentially just told him to get bent.”

Silence again.

“…..yeah…”

“…”

“…”

“So. Where am I?”

~0~0~0~0~0~

So, Nico was apparently in a magic school in Scotland, called Hogwarts.

Good to know.

After gleefully reducing the three professors to shocked silence with his descriptions of the evil wizard, Nico had found out a bit about where he was, and who the professors were. Dumbledore had informed him of the basics about how he had ended up there and what was going on and any other time Nico would have taken the opportunity to ask more. But, as it was, his thoughts were more focused on the resurrection and what he should do about it.

Apparently, Voldemort’s resurrection would have major political effects on wizarding England, which would most likely prompt a war, so it wasn’t like he really had to do anything. Others would handle the situation. But… that wasn’t really Nico’s style and… he was kind of curious. Maybe he would help out a bit by seeing what he could find out about Voldemort.

“So you were really at that graveyard by complete coincidence?”

Nico blinked once, letting go of his rumination, before turning to Cedric and Harry, the former having asked the question. The three adult magi (Nico had decided to use a gender-neutral term) were grouped together, falsely believing they were out of earshot of the three teens, as they discussed the information they had just received and the implications it would have on their world, et cetera, leaving the young wizards and the demigod to half listen in and talk among themselves.

“Yes.”

Cedric nodded, looking like he was actually considering that as a reliable answer, while Harry just stared at his friend.

“Oh, OK. Cool.” Nico waited a moment, brow raised, before Cedric eventually shook his head, “Nope, I don’t get it. Why?”

Nico allowed himself a moment of amusement at the older boy’s attempt at normalcy and the fact that he’d decided to ask such a perfectly reasonable question without a hint of suspicion. He truly sounded as though he were asking out of mere curiosity.

“I was being completely serious when I said I hang out in graveyards a lot,” Nico inwardly smirked as he saw Cedric and Harry do their best to not show their incredulity, before deciding to give them a little more information, “but, in this case, I was visiting a specific grave.”

“Whose?” This time it was Harry who spoke, and Nico turned amused eyes on him too before continuing. It wasn’t anything relevant to what was going on, and it wouldn’t do them or him any harm to know.

“Amelia Berkeley: died on the 22nd of October, 1872, at age 18, and buried in the Little Hangleton Graveyard. She was murdered three days after getting engaged to Hugh Norton and the killer was never identified.”

“That’s horrible.”

Nico nodded in agreement.

“I agree, but why were you visiting her specifically. Is she a distant relative of yours?” Cedric asked.

Nico shook his head, “No, I’m just good at playing detective. You might say I have a certain affinity for solving cold cases,” he shrugged, “It’s a family thing.”

“Why-”

“Potter! Diggory!” The boys’ attention was instantly caught by McGonagall’s thick, Scottish brogue as she cut Cedric off. “Come now… and you better bring Mr di Angelo, I suppose.”

The wizards immediately walked to the witch, Nico following slightly behind.

“Where are we going, Professor?” Harry asked.

“You three are going to be looked over in the infirmary while we deal with… the prisoner and Professor Moody.”

Nico inwardly groaned. He hated being a patient, and this infirmary didn’t even have the incentive of his boyfriend’s presence… but he also knew that being checked up was probably a good idea. His knowledge of spells was limited, and Will was in a completely different continent but would still kill him if he found out that Nico had not gone to the infirmary when it had been offered. And despite Snape healing his wound, Nico knew that he had exhausted his powers after the long day he’d had, and the two fights against wizards. He felt dull and his senses were off, so he conceded his need to get some rest, even if he didn’t want to.

It seemed he wasn’t the only one displeased by their intended destination, as Harry asked, completely aghast, “Do we have to? I feel completely fine!”

McGonagall cut off any further complaints with a quelling look that reminded Nico of Annabeth. “Mr Potter, you have just participated in an extremely dangerous tournament and have been attacked twice in the past half an hour by fully-trained wizards. You, Mr Diggory and Mr di Angelo will go to the infirmary where Madame Pomfrey will look you over thoroughly and make sure you aren’t suffering any injuries that you may not have noticed.”

After that they walked in silence, the three teens each deciding it would be in their best interests not to argue further with the strict woman.

~0~0~0~0~0~

Cedric glanced at the two dark-haired, fourteen-year-old boys again for the sixth time in one minute, before doing what he could to deliberately tear his eyes away. He had been doing so for the last fifteen minutes since they had been left in the infirmary, and he wasn’t entirely sure what his problem was… but every time he took his eyes off them he was soon assailed by panic and just needed to know that both were beside him, that both were OK.

Which was completely absurd, right?! Yes, they were only fourteen and yes, they had just been attacked by a teacher, Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and yes, they had even saved his life, but he barely knew either of them! He hadn’t felt this way when he and Harry had been doing the tasks, despite the tentative friendship that he’d felt he’d managed to cultivate with the younger boy, and he knew that Harry was more than capable of defending himself. And Nico… he had literally known Nico for less than an hour, and he’d definitely seen that Nico was able to take care of himself. So why was he so worried about losing sight of either of them!?

Cedric couldn’t answer that as he felt his gaze, once again, trail back to where Harry and Nico were sitting side-by-side on the hospital bed across from him and started slightly when he noticed the latter’s dark eyes catch his own.

“It’ll wear off,” Nico said after a moment, drawing Harry’s attention to them both.

Cedric himself blinked, “What? What will wear off?”

“The post-battle nerves,” Nico explained. “I’m going to guess that this was your first firefight? Probably your first time being tortured, too. It’s only natural for your senses to be overworking right now and for you to be jumpy or not want to lose sight of your allies. Even seasoned soldiers still get post-battle nerves, but it will eventually wear off.”

Cedric stared at Nico, wondering how the boy had realised that was what he was feeling, and also slightly horrified that a boy so young had such extensive knowledge on the subject. How many firefights had Nico been in for him to know the correct term for it? Trying not to let any of those thoughts show on his face, Cedric simply nodded, “Thank you.”

Nico nodded in acknowledgement, before woefully glancing down at the vial Madame Pomfrey had ordered him to drink and sighing.

“Wish me luck,” he joked, before downing the vial. A few moments later he sat up with a new energy while steam blew out his ears. “What the schist was that!?”

Cedric choked on a laugh at the startled expression on his face before replying, “Pepper-up potion. It’s fairly invigorating.”

“No way,” Nico muttered sarcastically, causing both Cedric and Harry to laugh again.

“We’re going to have to go back soon, aren’t we?” Harry said reluctantly.

Cedric nodded, “Yep. Though I don’t particularly feel like basking in any glory any time soon.”

“Me either.”

“Basking in glory?” Nico asked, his eyebrow raised.

“Remember what Professor Dumbledore said about the Tri-Wizard Tournament?” Cedric asked, and Nico nodded, “Well, it’s kinda a big deal. We’ll be expected to show up and celebrate our ‘victory’,” he said the last with air quotes and an eye roll, before sighing, “I would have almost been eager a few months ago… but after…”

Harry grimaced in obvious agreement and Cedric remembered the rumours surrounding his young friend’s first two years at Hogwarts, as well as the fame he received for surviving a murder attempt as an infant – a murder attempt wherein his parents were killed.

Nico nodded understandingly, “Yeah. I know what it’s like to not want to celebrate after a supposed triumph, especially when it feels like you’ve lost more than you’ve won. Good luck with that, by the way.”

Cedric snapped his attention to Nico again, this time in panic, and he saw Harry do the same, “You’re coming with us, aren’t you?”

Nico blinked in apparent surprise and Cedric realised that his reaction may have been a little strong, “Uh, no... Me and large, unfamiliar crowds where I’m the centre of attention don’t get on so well. Besides, I’m not actually, you know, from here, so I’ll probably have to clear off soon.”

All excellent points, a miniscule voice conceded in Cedric’s mind, but was squashed by his greater need to keep both Harry and Nico close, despite everything.

“Are you sure…” he asked desperately and trying to convince himself that he wasn’t whining.

“Don’t leave!” Harry blushed when their attention was brought to him after his outburst, “I- I mean… Even if you don’t come with us now… you can still stay after…” he trailed off hesitantly.

Nico looked like he wasn’t sure what to do with their reactions, but Cedric felt hopeful when he saw a considering expression appear on the boy’s face. He saw Nico open his mouth, probably prepared to ask question when suddenly his whole demeanour changed, freezing and stiffening. Cedric sat forward in alarm as Nico warily ran his eyes over him, then Harry, pausing for a long moment on the famous scar. This wouldn’t have been odd, except it had been visible before and Nico hadn’t reacted to it and he hadn’t shown even a hint of surprise before when Dumbledore introduced the Boy Who Lived. A quick exchange of glances with Harry showed the boy had had a similar line of thought.

“I have to go,” Nico said suddenly before rising from where he was sitting on the bed beside Harry. Cedric, who had just been about to ask what was going on, was startled into silence.

“Wait, what!?” Harry rose too, staring at Nico in confusion and concern. Cedric followed his lead as he saw Nico swiftly walk towards the wall of the infirmary. “Nico!?”

Nico stopped in shadows by the wall and turned to regard the two extremely confused and worried boys he had saved twice in the last hour. He made eye contact with Cedric, before shifting his gaze to Harry.

“If none of us die an unfortunate and untimely death, we’ll meet again. Hopefully soon,” Nico intently before turning and walking into the shadows, before Cedric or Harry could say anything in response.

Cedric stood in shock as he watched his new friend melt into the shadowed wall of the infirmary and disappear, his mind automatically going back to the unfathomable depths he’d seen in his dark eyes before he vanished and wondering what the hell had just happened.

Chapter Text

“If none of us die and unfortunate and untimely death, we’ll meet again. And hopefully soon.”

What the hell was that supposed to mean!?

Harry was sitting on his old bed in the smallest bedroom of Number 4 Privet Drive and agonised once again over the last words Nico di Angelo had spoken before disappearing into the shadows.

It had only been yesterday that he’d met the boy, but Harry had been unable to stop his mind from running over every interaction he and Cedric had had with him, trying to figure out what had happened for him to suddenly leave. And also who the hell he was, because he had soon noticed that he didn’t actually know anything about Nico, and what he had gleaned was actually highly suspect in retrospect, though Harry somehow still was unable to doubt it as truth.

Leaving the infirmary hadn’t been fun. Harry and Cedric had spent the first few minutes panicking slightly and trying to figure out what exactly had happened and where Nico had gone, and when McGonagall returned with Madame Pomfrey and they had eventually explained how and why the strange boy was no longer with them, both witches began freaking out and spent ages trying to discover how Nico had managed to apparate within Hogwarts. And as enjoyable as it was being questioned relentlessly by his Head of House, Harry and Cedric had eventually had to leave for dinner, which was far less tame.

All the champions had had to sit at a special and secluded table up the front, along with the various VIP guests and the Heads of their schools, and while Harry was guiltily grateful for the fact that it held off the questions that he knew his friends would want to ask, he found that the stares from everyone as well as the open curiosity displayed to be quite distracting. He could only be thankful that Cedric had refused to leave his side, despite the unhappy looks his father had sent him, and the not-so-subtle comments he’d made to simultaneously praise his son and mock the Boy Who Lived.

Harry had spent the entire celebratory feast miserable and wishing he were somewhere else, and he wasn’t particularly surprised to see the other champions looking similar. After all, at the end of the day the only victor had been Voldemort.

The only good thing to come out of the feast was when Viktor solemnly approached Cedric around the middle to quietly apologise for torturing him. Harry had felt Cedric stiffen in surprise (although he suspected that had more to do with being drawn from his own thoughts than anything) before softening and telling the Bulgarian that he was in no way at fault for being Imperuised by a Death Eater. In response, Viktor had given a slightly sad smile and replied that Fleur had said the same thing. Hearing her name, the French champion had looked up from where she was despondently twirling a fork through a Caesar salad across the table, before standing and moving over to sit with them, the movement drawing the hall’s attention to the small gathering of champions. The four ignored the whispers and the looks, however, and simply sat in silence that was only occasionally broken by one of them quietly asking the others a question. There was an unspoken sort of comradery that formed then, bonding them together through their shared misery.

But even then, Harry had been unable to keep his mind off the resurrection and the mysterious boy with the dark powers who had saved them, only to disappear just as suddenly and outlandishly as he’d appeared. What was worse was that he couldn’t help but think that it was his fault Nico had left.

It was obvious from his abrupt change in demeanour that Harry’s scar had triggered some sort of reaction in the other boy. It made Harry feel like even more of a freak than he usually did, and even more of a failure than he was for letting Voldemort rise again. Had his new friend suddenly realised what a waste of space Harry was and left because of that? He knew those old insecurities were ridiculous, but he couldn’t stop them when they reared their heads.

A part of him wanted to be angry at Nico’s abrupt disappearance, and although he logically felt that he had the right to be mad, he always found himself unable to linger on the emotion whenever he concentrated on it. He had seen the stiffening expression on Nico’s face, after all, so he knew that something must have happened. He just wished that the other had stayed to explain rather than vanishing into he shadows with a cryptic promise.

But on another note, it seemed as though Harry had made more than one new friend.

Cedric had sought him out before they’d left on the train to say goodbye and essentially declared that he would stand beside Harry with whatever came next. Harry didn’t know if he or Ron and Hermione had been more shocked by that, when the older boy had promised to correspond with him over the Summer and be there for whatever Harry needed. Even though he didn’t feel he deserved it, he couldn’t help but feel grateful. He was sure he’d go mad without some point of contact with someone who had gone through the same thing as him, since he couldn’t exactly talk to Sirius about it through a letter and he was being forced to go back to the Dursleys for the Summer.

(He was still feeling some resentment towards Dumbledore for that, no matter that everyone had tried to assure him that the Headmaster must have a very good reason.)

Harry sighed again. He still hadn’t had a chance to properly talk to Ron and Hermione about what had happened, as they’d been joined in their compartment by Neville, Seamus and Dean and Harry hadn’t wanted to go through that with them there. Hermione had seemed particularly frustrated by their presence, obviously wanting to be able to question Harry about what had occurred and Harry himself wasn’t sure whether he was grateful or not for the disturbance. He knew that he should probably talk to his friends as they deserved to know exactly what had happened, but he hadn’t felt like talking about it and reliving it with people who had no idea what it was like. As much as he loved Ron and Hermione, and despite all they had been through together, neither of them could truly understand what facing Voldemort actually meant.

Being trapped in Little Whinging was not really helping matters. Harry needed to know what was going on. He wasn’t stupid – he knew with Voldemort’s resurgence that there would be war, but he had no idea what was going on, what preparations were being made, or how they were going to fight him. Yes, it had only been a day, but Dumbledore had already sent Sirius off to ‘gather the old crowd’, so he knew that something was happening, and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t be a part of it.

“-we’ll meet again. And hopefully soon.”

“I hope you’re right about that, Nico,” Harry muttered.

~0~0~0~0~0~

“So, Harry is a vessel for a part of Voldemort’s soul, which is how he’s been cheating you for the last however many years?”

Hades nodded, and Nico sagged almost imperceptibly, “Yes, I believe the term in their world is ‘horcrux’.”

Nico frowned, “Horcrux. Boundary… between life and death? And… pain?”

Hades shook his head, “It’s Old English and means ‘evil container’.”

“Because the soul must be evil in order to do what is needed to create it in the first place,” Nico added in understanding, to which Hades nodded.

“They are rare and extremely difficult to create, part of which can be attributed to how difficult it is to find information on them in the first place. There have only been two successful attempts in creating horcruxes in the last thousand years.”

“But the piece of soul in Harry was so small.”

“Tom Riddle must have split his soul more than once,” Hades said darkly.

“What?!” Nico looked up in alarm.

“I can feel it when a soul splits, though I can’t tell who it belongs to without further investigation, and whenever a split soul arrives in my realm Charon always informs me and it is destroyed in the Styx. Two years ago a part of Tom Marvolo Riddle’s soul arrived and was burned, and I realised that it must have been the disturbance I felt from fifty years prior, since that was the only horcrux I’d felt be created in many, many years.”

Nico felt his eyes widen, “But then…”

“But if Harry Potter has a piece of soul attached to his own, then Riddle must have created more.” Hades frowned unhappily, “And it would appear that beyond the first split, I am unable to detect what happens to the soul.”

Godly father and demigod son sat in silence, with unhappy thoughts, and were completely unaware of how similar their expressions were. Eventually, however, Nico looked up again.

“Tom Marvolo Riddle? I knew Voldemort was a fake name.”

“Yes, it is a rather ridiculous thing to call yourself,” Hades nodded in agreement. “He’s not even French.”

“Can you get rid of the horcrux?” Nico asked.

“I could, but if you wanted me to leave Potter alive, you’d have to bargain with the death of a soul who has cheated me.”

Nico closed his eyes in dismay, “And I’m guessing I couldn’t use Voldemort because I’d need to have all of his soul and I can’t get all of his soul because A, I have no idea how many pieces it’s in, and B, a piece is in Harry.”

Hades nodded in confirmation, “A bit of a paradox. I can only bend the rules so much.”

“What about Daedalus? I didn’t ask for Bianca when I released his spirit… do you think…?”

Hades shook his head, “It was only due to that that I was able to turn a blind eye to Hazel’s resurrection.”

“Is there anyone else that has cheated death that I can hunt down? Anyone that isn’t Leo,” Nico hurriedly added when his father opened his mouth.

“There are always others, but none that I can tell you about, otherwise I’d have already sent you after them,” Hades replied, although he did seem sympathetic. “But there may be another way for the horcrux to be removed without killing the host. You will have to find it, however.”

Nico sighed, but nodded. He was about to ask for permission to leave when another thought struck him.

“You said that when the pieces of split soul reach the Underworld they are destroyed by the Styx, does that mean that my sword would be able to destroy the horcruxes?”

“That has never been tested before, but I suppose that would work.”

“Well that’s something, I guess,” Nico muttered before hesitating over something else he needed to say.

Hades clearly noticed, as he raised his brow, “Nico?”

Making a decision, Nico looked directly towards the god, “Father, I’m going to get involved in that mess.”

Hades looked surprised, “Beyond the horcrux, which I understand, it isn’t your fight. It isn’t even your country or really a part of your world,” he commented.

“There’s going to be a war there, and I don’t know how prepared the magi are for that,” Nico replied calmly.

“Not your war, though.”

“Then I’ll make it mine,” Nico said. “Bridging gaps seems to be a thing that I do now, and like it or not, I am a part of the mortal world – even if that involves magic. There’s going to be a war due to a lack of acceptance and if I feel that I can make any sort of difference then I need to be there.”

Hades looked at him for a long moment, but although Nico couldn’t tell what he was thinking he stood his ground by holding his gaze.

“I understand, and I appreciate the reasons for your choice,” he finally said, “you are right about it still being a part of your world as that is both the curse and blessing of the demigods, especially children of mine. Belonging in both worlds and neither.”

Nico nodded, intimately familiar with the sentiment.

“Thank you, father.”

Hades shook his head, “It is your choice, Nico. But… I want you to know that I am proud of you… You have already been through too many wars….. and… your mother would be proud of you too,” he added quietly, almost too quiet to hear. Almost.

Nico froze, his eyes snapping to his father who was now looking away from him. He… had no idea what to say to that.

“Thank you,” he got out again after a moment.

“Be careful, Nico,” his father said again after a moment.

Recognising the dismissal, Nico nodded, and his countenance hardened with his resolve as he pulled himself back from the vulnerability the praise had caused. He and Hades nodded at each other one more time in farewell, before he turned from the room in the palace and shadow travelled back to Little Hangleton – he wasn’t going to get involved in this war without some research of who he was up against after all.

But it was only after half an hour that he realised that he was still smiling.

~0~0~0~0~0~

“How is Harry?”

“I can confirm that he made it back to his Aunt’s house safely,” Albus responded to Minerva’s question.

“Good,” a little of the tenseness disappeared from his colleague’s posture, although it soon returned at what she said next.

“We still haven’t been able to discover anything about that boy, or how he managed to disapparate from Hogwarts.”

Albus inwardly sighed, “I had expected as much. It would seem that Mr di Angelo holds power of a nature that we are not familiar with.”

“It has to be dark magic,” Severus announced once again with his constant scowl.

The three of them were sitting in Albus’ office, both for the security it provided and for the alibi, as most of the teachers who still hadn’t departed for the holidays would automatically assume that a discussion about the house rivalry was taking place in the office. In reality, the three professors were trying to figure out as much as they could about the events that had taken place in the last few days – so far with little success.

“Perhaps, but even if it is, we have never come across it before,” Albus replied like he had every time the Slytherin Head had brought it up, “and since we were unable to find any faults in the wards, we can only assume that Mr di Angelo has some way of counteracting them.”

“Either that or whatever he did didn’t fall under anything the wards are set up to stop,” Minerva added and Albus nodded in agreement.

“If that is the case, then this may not have been disapparition, but a new form of travel entirely. In any situation, it is a hole in our security, and one that we must find a way to overcome.”

In a rare show of agreement, both Minerva and Severus nodded and Albus had to refrain from chuckling at the unconscious similarity the two were currently displaying. He knew that neither of them would appreciate the comparison, and as nice as it was when they agreed upon something, Albus never liked it when their ire both united against him. Turning serious again, he turned to Severus.

“I have no doubt that you will be busy in the coming weeks, but if you are able to spend any time on finding out who Nico di Angelo is and how he managed to do what he did, I would appreciate it.”

Severus nodded, and Albus knew that the potions master was just as curious as he was about the boy who had slipped through all of Hogwarts’ substantial wards with seemingly no problems. He would undoubtedly want to know how he had accomplished what had been an impossible feat.

“Do you think it is likely that he is working for Voldemort?” Minerva asked, and Albus took a moment to appreciate how his deputy didn’t doubt for a moment that the Dark Lord had returned. He wished that everyone could be that prepared for the idea, but alas he feared that it was a fruitless wish.

“I think that if Voldemort had been able to get through our wards with the ease that Mr di Angelo did, then he would have had no need for Crouch to disguise himself as Alastor, as he would have been able to send someone to kidnap Harry at any point of the year.”

Minerva reluctantly nodded, seeing his point, “Yes, but still… We can’t actually believe that it was a coincidence that the boy was at the graveyard that Voldemort resurrected himself in, can we?”

“Stranger things have happened, Minerva,” Albus knew his eyes were twinkling by Minerva’s annoyed huff and Severus’ eye-roll. “I cannot say whether or not it was a coincidence, or what it is, exactly, that Mr di Angelo wants, but I do not believe him to be in league with Voldemort.”

“He could be a spy,” Severus pointed out, before pausing, “but I doubt that he would send a fourteen-year-old who we’d obviously suspicious of, only to then pull him out immediately before he’d gleaned any useful information or managed to sabotage us.”

“But just because he may not be working for Voldemort himself, it doesn’t mean we should trust him,” Minerva said.

Albus nodded, “True, we do not know where his allegiances lay, and he could still be a threat. Wars often have more than two sides to it, after all.”

They all paused to consider that.

“But he wouldn’t be stupid enough to come back, not after disappearing in such a suspicious way,” Severus eventually broke the silence and both Albus and Minerva looked at him.

Albus shook his head, “I do not know, Severus, however I do have the suspicion that we haven’t seen the last of Mr di Angelo.”

“You think he will come back?” Minerva questioned.

“I have an odd feeling that he will play a major role in the events of the years to come, although to what end, I cannot say,” Albus replied, his voice growing distant as he thought about the strange character that was Nico di Angelo. He was still present enough, however, to note as his two friends, colleagues and comrades, exchanged glances filled with worry that ran deeper with the uncertainty of what would come next.

War was on the horizon, of that they were certain. But they still had yet to identify all the players.

Chapter Text

Draco was bored.

You wouldn’t think that would be possible, considering all that had happened in the last week, what with Dumbledore announcing at the start of the holidays that the Dark Lord had re-arisen in the middle of the Third Task and that war was afoot. It had certainly come as a shock to the majority of the British wizarding world and had sparked grand shifts in the political landscape. The press had had a field day with the chaos that had resulted from the Ministry’s damage control, wherein the old coot had been removed from his position as Chief Warlock – something that his father was endlessly pleased about.

But despite all that was happening around him, and all that changes that were being made – changes that he had advocated to all his fellow Slytherins on more than one occasion in the common room – Draco still couldn’t help but feel bored. And, if he were honest, a little bit scared.

As much as he enjoyed participating in the politics that his House was renowned for, Draco had never had much patience for sitting back and watching others. His father had insisted on him becoming more involved in the workings of the Malfoy family in the world, so he had been forced to come to the Ministry with him while the patriarch easily manipulated their fool of a Minister, Fudge. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had been allowed to witness the real discussions that he knew were taking place, but his father wouldn’t allow it, informing him that his presence would put other people off when less than legal deals were being made or valuable information being shared. So he had only been able to shake hands with stuffy old men who all told him that he looked just like his parents and that he should be very proud to have such a great man as his father, before brushing him off in what they thought was a subtle manner, so they could speak in private with said father. It wasn’t exactly the most entertaining way to spend his holidays.

As for the fear, well, Draco wasn’t above admitting to himself that he was afraid (he wouldn’t be a very good Slytherin otherwise), but Draco had never quite felt this kind of fear before. All his life he’d been educated to believe that anyone not pure of blood was beneath him and should be culled so they didn’t infect the true wizards and witches with their genetic stain. He had promoted those values at school, in front of both his friends and enemies and he had revelled in his victories whenever he had managed to ‘win’.

But that had been school.

This, this was real, and despite what the rest of the world thought, Draco knew the truth. He was back, and those schoolyard battlelines and alliances were suddenly a lot more tangible, and people were going to die over them. His political positioning among the Slytherins, where he was a leader, was now an asset that he couldn’t afford to lose. Those beliefs that he’d spouted at anyone who’d listen, over blood-purity, was suddenly a creed that he would now have to live by if he didn’t want to bring the Dark Lord’s wrath down on him and his family.

(And though he’d never, ever admit it, there was a tiny voice – barely kindled – that wondered whether he was OK with that.)

But that fear was currently dormant in favour of the boredom as he stood outside some courtroom in the Ministry, waiting idly for his father to reappear from where he was speaking to someone no-doubt important before some trial was supposed to take place.

“Is this where Jenkin’s trial is going to be held?”

Draco looked up quicker than he would have liked at the sudden voice. He hadn’t noticed the other approach and he found himself further surprised to see some kid, probably just a year younger than him, only a few feet away. His dark hair was shaggy, and he was dressed in a dark pair of pants, a black shirt with a grey skull design, and a long, black trench coat. This appearance had Draco automatically wrinkling his nose as they were obviously both muggle and plebeian. Looking at him and meeting a steady, dark gaze, Draco raised a haughty eyebrow.

“And why would you want to know about that?” He sneered on the word ‘you’ and looked the boy up and down to clearly show that he wasn’t going to entertain some mudblood kid looking for directions.

But the boy didn’t bat an eye at the obvious disparagement, though Draco knew the other must have noticed it, since he wasn’t trying to be subtle.

“Why? You too good to talk to me?” There was a glint of amusement in those dark eyes, and the boy’s lips slipped into a small smirk, however Draco could tell that it was an invitation, which surprised him. Happily intrigued and glad that he might have found something in the boy’s unusual reaction to stave off the boredom, Draco sniffed imperiously.

“Probably,” he replied, satisfied when the boy smirked again, not taking insult. “I am the heir to House of Malfoy, after all.”

The boy snorted in amusement, and the two stood there in companionable silence for a moment, each considering the other. Despite his appearance, Draco was now able to see something else in his demeanour that spoke of… something interesting. In fact, he wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the other was an heir himself, albeit a foreign one. Draco knew all the heirs in England and the boy did seem to have some sort of accent, but he found himself unable to quite place it.

He was about to ask where the other was from when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching from behind. He turned around to see who it was and was met by the sight of a man in dark robes and with long, brown hair tied back in a pony tail, purposely walking toward him. Not recognising the person, but able to tell from the quality of his robes that the man was working class with little money, Draco allowed a frown to form on his face.

He was about to open his mouth to address the man’s presence when he saw the man’s eyes flicker around the chamber, a small smirk forming briefly on his lips. Draco felt his own eyes widen as he realised that he was in trouble, caught alone in a chamber with no witnesses and no backup. He was quick in drawing his wand, thanks to the duelling holster he had purchased a few days ago, but not quick enough.

The last thought he had before the red stunner hit him was that he really needed to invest in some body guards.

~0~0~0~0~0~

“…about…Lucius…our Lord…”

“…favourite…coward…return…”

“…heir… What do you…”

“…witness…identify us…”

Draco was lulled back into awareness by the distant voices, and he felt his nose scrunch up at the uncomfortable position he found himself laying in. A few moments later he remembered what had happened, and he felt his eyes snap open in alarm.

Surreptitiously glancing around the room, Draco was pleased to find he was alone. He was laying slumped on the hard floor of a darkened room, with no windows and a musty, wet smell that made him immediately place his location as a cellar.

Well, he had definitely been kidnapped in the most cliché way possible. Really, he was almost embarrassed, and had his captors been in the room they would have been subjected to the haughty disappointment that Draco had learnt to display from both his parents. Sitting up, Draco was surprised – and a little insulted – to find that he had not only been left alone, but without any form of restraint, as though they didn’t consider him a threat. In fact, he almost wondered if it would be worth searching for his wand, but he knew that no one could that lucky.

But the despite the apparent unprofessionalism of his captors, Draco was still able to feel a thrill of fear run up his spine. After all, he was being held in an unfamiliar place after having been taken from the Ministry of Magic itself. Whoever it was who had taken him was bold, and that meant that he was in a fair amount of danger.

Deciding that he needed to know more about his enemy, Draco moved closer to the sounds of voices, moving his head closer to the door in order to hear better (although his dignity forced him to refrain from actually pressing his ear to the door). From there he was able to hear the conversation better.

“…don’t want to have to kill you boy, but I will if you try my patience!” An angry male voice growled.

“Right. You sure about that? Because I believe you, but you don’t seem too convinced yourself,” Draco was shocked to hear the strange accent of the boy he had been talking with before he had been kidnapped. Why had he been taken? And how come he managed to sound so nonchalant!?

There was a groan from another man, “What the hell are you going on about now?”

He heard the boy sigh apologetically, “Look, I can see you’re putting in the effort and I didn’t want to say anything because I can see how hard you’re all trying, but… well, the death threat would probably work better if you were a little less loud in your discussion about why you had to keep me alive until you know who I am.”

One of the men swore.

“Yeah, it kind of ruins the whole act. But, y’know, props for your first attempt and all that. I especially like the touch of the abandoned house…”

“…..”

“…Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to insult your interior decorating. I honestly didn’t think that any of you would live here-”

“Oh shut up!”

“A little touchy about the gloomy house? My bad. I did apologise though-”

“Oh, for the love of-! That’s it, I’m done trying to get anything out of him. Chuck him back in his room and then check on the Malfoy brat. If he’s awake, bring him out.”

“Are you tired of my company? Am I annoying you? Because, you did just kidnap two teenagers and bring them to your house, so you probably deserve it and so I’m not really sorry-”

“OUT!”

Hearing the sound of someone approaching the door, Draco quickly moved to lay down in the position he’d been in earlier, faking sleep and hoping that his raging heartrate didn’t give him away. He felt himself panic slightly when he heard the door open, not sure what he would do if they decided to bring him out, but after a cursory glance where the light from the door spilled over his form, he heard it close again.

“He’s still out,” he heard a masculine voice call out, walking away. The reply was muffled by the stone walls of the cellar, but he managed to catch the words ‘hour’ and ‘wake’. He was able to guess what was said from that.

Slowly, he rose from his slightly curled up position, wondering what he could do – unarmed, alone and without the necessary information – within the next hour. Draco wasn’t sure who had taken him, but he had a feeling that he was being held for leverage over his father. The timing was suspect, considering what was currently going on in the world after Dumbledore’s announcement, so he inferred that this had something to do with politics. Ergo, he was either being held by people who wanted to cripple his father or blackmail him, or someone had paid them to take him prisoner, so they could do so.

Either way, it was not looking good for Draco Malfoy.

He was sufficiently distracted from his thoughts when the boy he was talking to earlier materialised out of thin air. It was a near thing, but he managed to withhold the high-pitched yelp that threatened to come out.

“Oh, you’re awake,” the boy said softly, “Good, that means we can leave now.”

……………………………..

………….Wait.

Hold up…

“What!?” Draco’s (reasonably) hysterical voice cut through the silence of the room as he felt his mind began to work again after the sudden numbness.

“You. Me. Leaving.” The boy explained, but Draco was having a hard time dealing with that at the moment.

That boy had just appeared out of nothing!? Did he seriously just wandlessly apparate into the room he was being held prisoner in!? Why was he so calm!?!

And apparently, he had said that all aloud, because the next coherent thought he had was that the boy had clapped a hand over his mouth. Perhaps he had been a bit loud.

“I can do things,” was the lamest explanation that Draco thought possible, but that the boy deemed an acceptable answer. “Including teleporting. But, I have a really bad headache so we’re not going to be doing that.”

Draco stared.

And stared.

And continued to stare.

Before he decided to just accept it.

“Well how are we getting out of here then? We’re unarmed, I have no idea where we are, and I am still unsure as to why we were kidnapped,” Draco informed the boy, ignoring the… everything else.

“Well, you were taken because there was an opportunity to grab you, something, something, leverage against your father, something, something, pleasing the Dark Lord. I was just… there… and I didn’t see the other one coming from the back until I was already unconscious, and they couldn’t kill me because they had no idea who I was, and they weren’t dumb enough to just off some unknown kid in the Ministry.”

Draco, who had felt himself pale at the knowledge that he had been taken by followers of the Dark Lord, found himself blinking at that. Oh yeah, he thought as that reminded him, and he quickly interjected before the boy could continue speaking, “Actually, I don’t know who you are either.”

“Nico di Angelo,” he immediately introduced himself, but Draco didn’t recognise the name. “Any other questions about me are a bit more complicated. Draco Malfoy, right?”

Draco simply nodded, and di Angelo continued.

“Right, well, as for being unarmed…” Draco stared as the other pulled a long, black sword from his side.

Where the HELL had that come from!?

“Is this one of those things that’s a bit more complicated?” he heard himself ask. Di Angelo simply shrugged non-committedly. “OK then, moving on. Escape plan.”

“Sneak out and hope for the best,” di Angelo informed him.

Draco stared, horrified.

“It usually works in these situations,” Nico said in an unapologetic response. And then he began making his way to the door, “Let’s do this.”

Draco stood in stupor for a full eight seconds. Then…

“Fine. Why the hell not,” he muttered.

And he followed.

…Without a wand.

~0~0~0~0~0~

This is getting ridiculous, Nico thought as he snuck out of the cellar. Seriously, I get that I have a bad case of demigod’s luck, but accidentally finding myself in the centre of an intrigue twice in less than a fortnight is a bit much.

Still. I did get some interesting information from these guys.

He felt the boy – Malfoy – appear by his side, as he glanced around the room, making sure that no one was there.

“Do you know how many there are?”

“Three that I saw, but I think there’s one or two more,” he whispered back. The room was clear, so he continued on, walking quietly through a door and down a corridor.

“So how exactly are we supposed to take on five adults without a wand between us?”

Nico held up his sword.

“You can’t be serious. You can’t- How is a sword supposed to do anything against a wand!?”

Nico smirked at the incredulous tone, “By the end of this my sword will make your wand feel inadequate.”

“…Did… Did you just make an innuendo?” Malfoy said in disbelief, “Right now? As we sneak our way out of a house of kidnappers?”

“You sound flabbergasted,” Nico replied, then paused as he heard the sound of voices from a nearby room. Satisfied that they weren’t in their path to freedom, he continued on walking.

“I sound… You aren’t the usual sort of person, are you di Angelo?”

“I doubt it.”

The door next to them opened and the lackey of the guy that had been questioning him before – who he’d dubbed Ponytail - stared at them.

“Schist.”

~0~0~0~0~0~

Half an hour later, Draco was standing outside a an old and rather decrepit house, clutching his recently regained wand and panting slightly. Annoyingly, di Angelo looked completely collected leaning against a wall, long trench coat swaying slightly in the breeze and that bloody sword hanging from his side.

“I cannot believe I went along with that,” Draco said after a long moment, clear disbelief colouring his voice. He blinked, “I cannot believe that actually worked.”

Di Angelo smirked, “It worked for us, but I doubt those guys are going to be happy.”

Draco snorted. That was certainly an understatement. He still wasn’t completely sure how half of that had happened, but somehow di Angelo had managed to block the spells the kidnappers had been shooting at them with a sword. He’d thought that had been a pretty intense thing to watch. But then di Angelo had started controlling the shadows.

Umbrakinesis was not a power that you saw every day, even among the darker parts of the wizarding world. So for a boy his age to be wielding it with that degree of control… Draco was half impressed, half terrified.

It spoke of an enormous power, as well as insane amount of control, but Draco didn’t know what it meant. It couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that an umbrakinetic teenage shows up just as the Dark Lord returned, could it? But… if he was an ally of the Dark Lord, then why had he not killed his followers? Draco had been told that when the Death Eaters fought among themselves, it was acceptable to their Lord for them to… finish their opponents if they had the opportunity. So long as the Dark Lord’s agenda were not affected, he didn’t care who stood beside him. Besides, he didn’t seem like the kind of person who would be happy to follow the Dark Lord.

But that begged the question; if di Angelo was not working for the Dark Lord, then what the hell was he doing in London?

“When you get back to the Ministry, make sure you alert the Aurors to the pile of idiots locked inside their own basement.”

Draco blinked.

“Wait, what? What do you mean when I get back to the ministry?” He asked.

Di Angelo looked at him as though it were obvious, “We missed the trial and I have things to do; I’m not going back. Besides, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s bureaucracy, so I’ll skip the stage where we get questioned endlessly by the same incompetents who let two teenagers get kidnapped in their headquarters, thank you very much.”

“But-” Draco would forever deny that he sputtered – Malfoys didn’t sputter. “Why-? Wh-? Will I see you again?!”

Di Angelo paused at that, as though seriously considering the question, which left Draco relieved – he had been afraid that the other would just take off, leaving Draco with no way to ever get any of his questions answered.

“Probably,” he eventually decided, “I’m going to be sticking around a while, so it’s likely we’ll run into each other again.”

Draco breathed out in relief, glancing down the street. He was vaguely surprised to see that it was still morning – it felt as though a lot more than a few hours had passed since he’d been waiting for his father outside the courtroom. Turning back to di Angelo, he opened his mouth to ask another question-

-only to stare at the empty space beside him, a group of shadows at the wall lightening as they dissipated. Draco glanced around, but he already knew that the other had left.

“Seriously!?” he asked the now completely normal shadows on the now completely normal wall.

When no answer came, he sighed in vexation, before turning and walking back into the house. He figured the least the kidnappers could do was lend him the use of their Floo.

Chapter Text

Two weeks really wasn’t enough time to properly get to know the nuances of an entire foreign society, Nico thought ruefully. He would have preferred to have a few more months in which he could learn more about the culture and the history, as well as the technology – or the magical substitutes – but his instincts, carefully honed as only someone who grew up with social and political tension constantly leering over them (yes he was young at the time, but he hadn’t forgotten the fear in the streets during Mussolini’s reign, however much his mother tried to shield him from it) told him that action needed to be swift. So, regretfully, Nico found himself having to wing it.

Since his talk with his father, Nico had known that Harry was going to be deeply involved in the coming war. Both he and Hades suspected that a prophecy was in play, especially considering the fact that Harry was carrying part of another’s soul. That was part of the reason why Nico decided to make contact with him before he went to anyone else. He wanted to talk to the other boy about what was going on.

That was how he found himself, a little over a week into July, sitting in the back of Jules-Albert’s car as he drove through disgustingly boring suburban streets. Tracking down Harry had been annoyingly difficult, and Nico had had to resort to breaking into one of the record files at the Ministry of Magic, but even that had been a piece of cake compared to finding the ‘Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix,’ and yes, Nico had snickered at the overly dramatic name. Honestly, they should have just called themselves the ‘Freedom Club’ or the ‘Libertines.’ Perhaps the ‘Dumblets.’

He’d only found out about the elusive group’s existence from carefully whispered rumours in seedy alleys and (almost) deserted corridors, but what he’d heard had been enough to snatch his attention. After a lot of digging, and several revelations, such as the belief that Dumbledore was the leader - and that the members included the Professors and the real Moody - he’d come to the conclusion that it was the best group to ally with at the moment and the most likely group that Harry and Cedric would go to for the same reason. Of course, tracking them down had proved to be nigh impossible, until Alecto had shown up with a slip of paper revealing their location; a favour from his father. Apparently, they were based somewhere in London, but were hidden by a very strong type of cloaking spell.

After he’d met with Harry, Nico was planning on paying the Order a visit, even though he figured that he’d have to face many paranoid questions about who he was – especially if the rumours were true and its members included the Hogwarts staff. He doubted they would have forgotten his disappearing trick.

Nico got out of the car immediately as Jules-Albert pulled up to Number 4 Privet Drive, a boring white-picket house in amongst a bunch of other identical boring white-picket houses. The heat was insufferable, and the sun was as bright and obnoxious as one of Apollo’s haikus. Shuddering at the scene, Nico rapped on the front door.

~0~0~0~0~0~

Petunia was having an awful week. Between the return of her sister’s horrid little son and the repulsive heat that had plagued them that summer, she barely mustered the energy to leave the house, much less socialise as she usually loved to do. It wouldn’t have been so bad if only Vernon had listened to her and fixed the air-conditioning sooner, but as it was Petunia felt herself wilting as much as her beloved flowers outside in the heat.

All of this had of course contributed to Petunia fraying her nerves, giving her a fuse much shorter than usual. Vernon had already felt the affects of her wrath as she had taken to ignoring him whenever he made excuses for himself not getting the air-conditioner fixed when she had first suggested it.

So, when the knocking on the door came in the late afternoon that day while she was fanning herself from the couch, Petunia simply shot her husband a scathing glance, unwilling to relinquish her meagre comfort for the sake of her usual propriety. To his credit, Vernon merely grumbled under his breath before rising to get the door.

It proved unnecessary, however, when they heard their charming son – apparently already on his way out – open the door and they could make out how he greeted the stranger.

“Who’re you?”

Normally Petunia would have taken that moment to appear and do her best to smooth over any offense that her Dudley’s bluntness may have caused their guest in case it was one of Vernon’s business partners, but when the person at the door replied, she realised that it was simply a teenager and therefore of no consequence. It wasn’t until the voice made a second claim that Petunia finally reacted.

“Nico. I’m here to see Harry – he lives here, yes?”

Petunia exchanged an alarmed look with her husband before scrambling up, feelings of fear and anger rolling through her. If he was here to see her sister’s son, then the boy was most likely a friend of his – and the only friends the little freak had were other little freaks!

Petunia and Vernon arrived at the door just in time to hear their son ask the boy why he wanted to see that freak.

There was a silence that comment garnered, which neither adult quite recognised the calculating intensity of until they peered out the doorway.

The boy standing there was a skinny, wretched-looking thing with dark, shaggy hair that was frankly disgraceful in its appearance. His clothes were so barbaric that had Petunia seen him walking around the neighbourhood, she would have called the police. But none of those thoughts actively engaged her when she caught his dark, shadowed gaze. She felt her breath leave her in a gasp at the sheer, directness of it.

But then she remembered herself and that this was her threshold they were standing on – where her neighbours could see her – and snappishly told him to get in, closing the door with a suspicious glance around the street to make sure that nobody had seen.

“Your kind is not welcome here!” She heard her husband hiss harshly, his face turning red with rage while the boy stood, unaffected apart from some unreadable expression tingeing his face. “The boy is not to have any of his- his- freak friends in this house! I demand that you leave this house at once!”

The silence turned ringing after Vernon finished, the boy utterly still as he gazed at them. Petunia could see that the complete non-reaction was leaving both her husband and her son feeling greatly unsettled. She felt the same.

Finally, after what felt like half an eternity had passed, the frozen silence was broken by a soft accented lilt.

“‘Freak.’”

Dark, dark eyes stared at them, so dark they were almost black. It felt like those eyes were staring through her flesh and into her mind – her very soul, even - just to see what was there. A glint of something was present in that gaze. There was another long pause that, despite herself, Petunia was too afraid to break. A glance at Vernon showed that he was feeling the same, although there was also a large degree of confusion over what it was about this child that was causing him to feel that way.

But then, like turning off a tap, the intensity of the gaze shut off and instead of a dark, unknown power, there was simply an impudent teen standing before them, glancing around the living room as though trying to commit it to his memory. But still, Petunia couldn’t help but shiver.

“I’m taking Harry.”

Petunia blinked a couple of times, surprised at the fact that the silence had been broken again before she finally processed what was said.

“Now wait just a-”

The boy cut Vernon off simply by glancing at him.

“When I arrived here, I planned on asking. Or cajoling, more like. I would have tried to be persuasive but polite at the very least, respecting your authority in his life. But, now there’s no way I’m leaving here without him. You won’t stop me – it’s clear you don’t want him here – and I doubt Harry will argue much, despite the fact that he’s only known me for a couple of hours in total.”

Petunia could feel herself shrink – felt herself be swept away by the tone of quiet certainty within her own home.

“Is he here?”

No one spoke.

But the boy did not repeat himself, he simply stood calmly, a spark burning in his eyes as he waited for the compliance that Petunia gave not a moment later. At this point she didn’t care what happened to her nephew – she just wanted to escape the dark power of those eyes.

“I don’t know, he might- he might be upstairs…” Petunia trailed off as the boy’s face singled her out for a moment before turning to Dudley, who looked quite unsure about what was going on.

He nodded at her son, “Go see if he’s there. Bring him out if he is.”

Dudley gave her and uncertain glance, juvenile fear and anger and confusion clear on his face. She gave him what she hoped was a confident nod and watched as he turned toward the stairs.

The silence was stifling.

“I am not planning on either of us returning,” the boy announced, drawing the gaze of both Dursleys. “And I truly hope for both your sakes that the worst thing you have done to him is neglect. That will be bad enough, for you. But…”

Petunia met her husband’s eyes as he paused and shuddered. She had no idea if the coldness she was feeling was some kind of magic on the part of the boy, or just a natural intensity. She had no desire to know, either.

“We will never meet again like this. Do you understand what I am saying?”

Petunia froze entirely when they were addressed. Fear flooded her and triggered her flight instincts, but she found herself unable to move.

But, once again, the boy did not repeat himself. Staring, staring, staring until, silently, Petunia nodded.

~0~0~0~0~0~

Harry was lying spreadeagled on his bed, watching a fly crawl along the ceiling, when he heard the front door open and close. Truthfully, the fly was a rather poor excuse for a distraction but, other than the brief moment half an hour ago when he’d heard someone’s car backfire, it was the most interesting thing around him. Thinking the slam of the door was either Piers coming in or Dudley going out, he simply rolled his eyes but did not bother to move.

So, when Dudley shoved the door to his room open a few minutes later, Harry was quite surprised. But before he could do more than startle upright, his cousin spoke.

“You need to come downstairs.”

Harry frowned, but it was in perplexity rather than annoyance or apprehension. The reason for this was Dudley’s own confusion, painted across his face and seeping through his tone quite blatantly. Something was going on beyond his aunt and uncle wanting to yell at him for something.

“…Why?”

Dudley frowned a stupid frown, “I dunno. I think one of your freak friends are here-”

Harry was up like a shot, ignoring Dudley’s startled yell. Was this it? Had Dumbledore sent someone to collect him in preparation for the coming battle?

He stumbled through the door to the hall, accidentally clipping his cousin with his shoulder as he did so, and almost tripped down the stairs in his haste. He was halfway down the stairs when he glanced into the living room and halted in stupefaction at the sight below.

“Nico!?!”  (He tried not to focus on how high-pitched his voice was, with marginal success.)

Nico di Angelo was standing in the Dursley’s living room and facing off against Harry’s relatives with a coldness on his face and in his eyes that reminded Harry of when Sirius was thinking about Wormtail. Even from all the way up there, Harry could feel the rather frightening aura of deadly, precise control that the other teen was exuding, and he wasn’t surprised to see that Petunia and Vernon were fearful of him. But all of that (mostly) vanished when Nico looked up at Harry’s cry.

“Hey Harry,” Nico nodded in a reserved but friendly greeting, as though it was perfectly acceptable for first contact after disappearing out of the Hogwarts infirmary. “Pack your stuff; we’re leaving.”

Harry blinked.

Then blinked again. Several trains of thought as to why this was a crazy, stupid, dangerous thing to do crashed blaringly through his mind. However, after being left alone in a house with people he hated for a week and with no contact with his friends or godfather and no knowledge of what was going on in the wizarding world, each of these were unable to get passed the most important barrier: the boredom of a frustrated teenager loaded with angst.

Harry looked from Nico to the Dursleys, back to Nico, then to the Dursleys and back to Nico again.

Eh, it beats sticking around here.

Harry turned right around to his room and grabbed his trunk.

~0~0~0~0~0~

Nico began walking out of the revolting household as soon as Harry reappeared from his room, dragging a large case behind him and holding an empty bird cage.

This… was an unexpected development, although Nico found he wasn’t as surprised as he should have been. Almost all his friends’ human parents were dead, and about half the ones left alive were either physically and/or emotionally abusive, neglectful or just a plain deadbeat. Unfortunately, not everyone could cope with being on the fringes of a world of monsters and magic and raising a powerful, endangered child as well as Sally Jackson could, and he didn’t doubt it was similar for magi with non-magical parents. Really, he should have seen it coming as soon as he stepped onto the street.

Although, it did raise a few questions, the first of which being why nobody in the magical world had done anything about it when Harry was supposed to be their saviour. If he was as famous as Nico had been led to believe, there should be plenty of alternate custody arrangements available – it wasn’t like those… people were going to put up a fight for him.

Ugh, he’d have to throw it on the question pile for later. As much as it sucked, there were more important things to focus on right then.

It was then that Nico realised that Harry was no longer next to him, and he turned to find the boy staring at Jules-Albert’s car, mouth agape.

“You… You own a limo?”

Nico shrugged, “I can’t teleport around all the time. You coming, or what?”

Harry snapped out of it and continued lugging his gear towards the vehicle. “Teleporting? Is that how you… disappeared like that?”

“Well, the technical term is ‘shadow travel,’ but it still fits the definition of teleportation. It’s funny, all my childhood I wanted to live in an ancient adventure with swords and magic, but now that I do, I keep catching myself making sci-fi references.” Nico sighed, “I blame Will.”

He could see that Harry had no idea what to say to that statement, and decided to spare him the effort by grabbing his case and shoving it in the car – there was plenty of room left, after all, and the sooner they were out of there the better, as far as he was concerned. With that in mind, he shoved Harry in after the case, before following himself.

“Harry, Jules-Albert. Jules-Albert, Harry.”

Thankfully Harry didn’t get a good look at Jules-Albert when the driver nodded in the mirror in greeting before pulling out, since Nico didn’t fancy having to explain the zombie on top of everything else. When he finally looked over at the other boy, he found himself looking at a pair of bright, green eyes that were almost as round as they glasses they were sat behind.

Nico looked back out the window and paused for a moment.

“I’m gonna guess you have questions.”

There was a brief moment of startled silence before Harry burst out a, “You think?! Nico, what the hell is going on!?! Where the bloody hell did you disappear to!? Where are we going-!?”

“Alright! Alright!” Nico cut Harry off, before huffing a breath. “Hades. Ok, first things first. I’ve been looking around magical England for the last week – seeing what I can find out about the current political climate, trying to get an idea of what Voldemort’s up to, that sort of thing. I also had to contact a few people about something – which I will need to talk to you about later. Right now, though, we’re on our way to meet with the next people I was planning on visiting. Here,” Nico pulled out the slip containing the written location for the Order of the Phoenix and handed it to Harry, who frowned as he read it.

“What’s the Order of the Phoenix?”

“It’s a secret resistance group rumoured to be dedicated to fighting Voldemort. Those rumours also say that it’s led by your Headmaster and that it’s made up of some of your teachers.”

Harry looked up, alert, “Dumbledore leads it?”

Nico shrugged. “Supposedly, yes. I guess we’ll find out when we arrive. I haven’t exactly met them yet, myself, but we at least know that they’re real.”

“How did you find out where they were anyway? Y’know, since they’re supposed to be a secret organisation and all?”

“Scoured everywhere for a location, and when that didn’t pan out, I called in a favour – don’t worry, though. I know for a fact that no one else can find out the same way I did.”

Harry jolted, as though that hadn’t occurred to him yet, which, fair enough. There was a lot to heap on the kid already. But then he paused.

“Wait, so if you haven’t met any of them, do they know we’re coming?”

Nico froze.

Harry stared.

Nico stayed frozen.

“…Nope.”

“…Will that be a problem?”

“…”

“…”

“…Nah, it should be alright.”