AN: This will be set during the fourth year at Hogwarts. It's between The Lost Colony and The Time Paradox, when Artemis is 14. Please review even if just to say you like it! Crit is also appreciated (as are title suggestions)! It's my first fic, so it's probably not the best. But I'll stop talking now so you can read...
Artemis was in the middle of working on a complicated paradoxial equation when the large ring on his hand vibrated and the stone in it flashed slightly. He sighed in frustration, mismatched eyes narrowing, twisted the ring into his palm, flipped it open, and put his hand to his ear.
"Yes?" He drawled, voice cold.
"Mud Boy, you there?" came Foaly's voice, crystal clear although he was calling from the depths of the earth.
"I'm here," Artemis said in the same icy tone. "And this had better be important."
"Oh, it is," Foaly said, and the seriousness in his voice made Artemis focus completely on the call. "I'm sending Holly up," Foaly continued abruptly. "She'll fill you in on the details." Then the centaur was gone.
Artemis frowned. If it couldn't be spoken about over the fairy communicator, and Holly had gotten a surface visa just to come explain the situation, then whatever this was, it was most definitely important.
Half an hour later (which Artemis spent thinking of various possible situations and calculating the probabilities of each one happening) there was a quiet knock on the window frame of his office. Artemis opened the window.
"Come in, Holly."
A slight, shimmering haze drifted in from the window, settled on the floor, and a small, lithe, black-clad figure flickered into sight. The figure pulled off a helmet, revealing large mismatched eyes like Artemis's, pointed ears, and short auburn hair.
Captain Holly Short of Section 8, LEP, massaged the tips of her elfin ears with long fingers, never taking her intense stare off Artemis.
"Hello Mud Boy," she said cautiously. He returned the greeting, accompanying it with a small, rare, genuine smile. Holly relaxed somewhat and allowed an answering smile to tug at her lips.
"So, what do you need me to help with?" Artemis inquired, curiosity burning in his steady gaze.
"I honestly don't really know. That's part of why we're coming to you," Holly sighed, pulling out a USB flash drive from her pocket and looking at it with faint distaste and condescension. Artemis exhaled, plucked it from her hand, and quickly powered up his slim laptop, slotting the flash drive into it.
Immediately onscreen a high-resolution satellite image of a portion of Britain popped up. Superimposed over the trees and towns were different colored splotches of varying sizes. Artemis raised an eyebrow at Holly in a silent question.
"These are pockets of magic that came up on a scan," she explained. "Blue means very weak, probably left over from the past, green stronger, and so on until you get to red, which is the strongest it can be."
Artemis's gaze was immediately drawn to the large, bright red circle on the map. Holly grimaced.
"Yep. That's our issue."
"This is not natural," Artemis muttered, finger tracing the smooth, regular line of the circle. "Opal?"
Holly shook her head, lips a grim slash in her face. "Nope, she's secure. And trust me, we aren't falling for that clone trick again anytime soon."
Artemis glanced up from the screen, brows furrowed as a thought occurred to him. "Why haven't you noticed it before?"
"This scan was with a new, much more advanced scanner. Foaly thinks that this spot was purposely meant to be hidden, that's why we missed it before. I guess the new tech overrode whatever was keeping it hidden."
Artemis nodded. It made sense, thought the 'something keeping it hidden' part was a bit worrying. "Have you done any reconnaissance?'
"We sent a team up. They couldn't go past the edge. Got some pretty weird video though." She clicked past the photo on the laptop screen and clicked on the play button for a video clip.
It was the feed from a helmet cam. The wearer swooped down from the sky, alighting upon the short, scrubby grass below. A small map in the corner of the screen showed five green dots- the recon squad- just outside the edge of the huge circle. The agent walked forward cautiously. In the distance, in the center of the circle, was a crumbling, abandoned wreck of a house with the sign DANGER- KEEP OUT prominently displayed outside. The five LEPrecon agents slowly continued walking forward, toward the circle, until they reached the outside edge.
Artemis's eyes widened as they seemed to run into an invisible wall, stopped in their tracks. For a split second when they collided with the unseen obstacle, the empty ruin was gone and in its place was a huge, towering, stone castle perched on a hill above a large lake, with a thick forest on the other side. Then the crumbling house was back.
"Impossible," Artemis murmured, but already his mind was racing to find explanations for the anomaly.
"I guess not," Holly replied. "We tried everything we could think of to get in, but we just couldn't. And the castle never reappeared again."
"So why exactly did you tell me about it?" Artemis finally asked. If there wasn't something they needed him specifically to do- their only human contact- the fairies would have just stayed as far away from him as possible, no matter his I.Q.
Holly avoided his eyes for a moment, then met them resignedly.
"Well, we stationed a small team outside the circle to see if anything went in or came out. Three weeks ago, an empty train arrived. If we hadn't had fixed cameras, we'd have missed it. A strange compulsion came over the team to look the other way and leave. But later, the train came out again. Filled with human children."