It was hot, dark, and oppressive this night. It was also dead quiet out here on the moors, except for the nervous shuffle of many feet and nervous puffs of breath.
Lord Voldemort could not have chosen a better night.
He breathed deeply, relishing the feeling of possessing his own body and senses, rather than relying on another, or on a feeble form such as his last. This new body was hardly two months old yet, but already he could feel the strength of his magic and will flowing through every vein and muscle. And soon enough, like this body, his power would spread throughout the wizarding world.
His red eyes snapped open as his mind alighted upon the one factor that yet stood in his way to eventual seizure of the magical realm, and what had already altered his plans at their very beginning. Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived.
That night in the cemetery, Voldemort had underestimated him, just as he had erred all those years ago. The boy had escaped, and had no doubt alerted Dumbledore to everything. Thankfully, the incompetent Ministry were not acknowledging whatever Dumbledore might have told them. It gave the Dark Lord time to adjust and come up with a plan to deal with the boy permanently. This time, he wouldn't underestimate him.
That was why he and his steadily returning Death Eaters were here after all, out in these bleak lands in the dead of night. It had taken long digging through ancient texts buried deep within vaults and abandoned libraries, the search taking him down to the very roots of wizarding history itself, but he finally had it. The knowledge, means, and potential allies to wipe Harry Potter from the annals of history and ensure his victory.
The Dark Lord glided forward, away from his large semi-circle of followers, his bare feet brushing first over grass before they scraped over warm gravel. He did not stop until he stood at the very center of the isolated, long-since-forgotten crossroad.
"Malfoy," he called, raising his arm and turning his head to look as he summoned the pureblood patriarch. The pale man hesitated for the briefest moment from where he stood beside his shrinking wife, before he came forward as ordered. In his wiry hands he held a small, ornate chest, pre-prepared by Voldemort himself.
Voldemort drew his wand, caressing it lovingly as he stared with distaste at the chest his servant held. Ancient, unsophisticated magic permeated the contents and the ritual surrounding that box, the whole thing stinking of primitiveness and the dark age of wizardry, but it was powerful magic nonetheless, and it was the only thing that could call up the power he sought.
His wand swept through the stagnant air in a graceful arc, drawing up a large cloud of gravel and dirt in its wake. A hole just large enough to accommodate the chest was left at his feet. A second wave and the box levitated from Malfoy's hands and down into the hole, which was promptly covered.
Utter silence fell upon the dark-robed gathering. It hardly seemed as though the Death Eaters were breathing at all. Only Malfoy's hurried footsteps broke the silence as he scrambled back to his wife. Narcissa clutched at his arm as he returned.
For several moments, there was nothing.
"Well, well, well. Isn't this a marvelous surprise?"
Almost every head spun rapidly toward the smooth voice. Lord Voldemort turned slowly. He was not entirely sure what he had expected, but this was certainly not it.
A tall, long-legged woman stood at the edge of the crossroad, pale visage almost glowing under the light of the moon. A dark blue dress of shiny material wrapped around her torso, leaving skin and cleavage available to appreciative eyes. Short, cornsilk hair hugged her cheekbones, and dark blue eyes blinked lazily at her tense audience. By her attire, she seemed very muggle, but her sudden appearance and a bitter smell that hadn't been present before suggested very much otherwise.
The Dark Lord stepped closer, and the woman shifted all attention to him.
"Are you the one to respond to my summons?" he asked as he took this creature in. He was…underwhelmed. The delicate frame of the slight woman, dressed in muggle clothing no less, did not at all live up to what he had read of these creatures, if that was indeed what she was.
In response, the woman's blood-red lips curled upward in a very toothy grin. "The one and only, darling," she purred, accented voice growing deeper as she sauntered toward him. For a brief moment, her eyes flashed red. "And don't mind the outfit. It's a habit, really. Makes negotiations easier most of the time. Although," she said with pursed lips as she stopped some feet away, "I have a feeling that it won't factor into tonight's dealings. Still, a girl likes to look her best." She flashed another white smile, a hand trailing over her hip.
The Dark Lord had no time for this creature's ramblings; he had summoned her for one purpose only, and he wasn't out here to waste time. "Your purpose is to grant me any request I ask of you?" His tone was cold and clear.
That predatory smile didn't falter for one second. She moved even closer, so close that when she stopped she was almost flush against the dark wizard. Several Death Eaters were silently gaping amongst the ranks, but they didn't dare speak up against this disrespect.
"Any wish or desire that black, twisted little heart of yours can conjure is my command." She paused, tongue clicking against pearly teeth. "For the right price, of course." Her eyebrow twitched upward, and the grin widened, if that was possible.
Voldemort stared stonily down at the crossroads dealer, even as she shot him a wink. The Dark Lord was no fool. He knew what she wanted in return for her favors. So he had a plan, one that involved a sacrifice that was risky, but would no doubt bring rewards tenfold. He would just need to seal this deal quickly.
"As you ask, I shall pay. In return, I want the allegiance of your kind as I claim domination of the wizarding world. And I want the boy Harry Potter eliminated," he hissed.
The Cheshire grin of the dealer became close-lipped, and her eyebrow cocked up again. She shifted backward, letting out a slight chuckle.
"Ah, I do so love your type. The 'go hard or go home' variety, if you understand. I will most certainly be glad to grant you everything you ask, but… well, large askings for such a small price. As it stands now, this is a deal I can't accept." She waved a long hand against the poorly stifled gasps of shock and indignation that rose from the audience. "However, that's nothing a little bit of negotiation can't fix. I suggest sending your entourage on a little walk while the adults have a chat."
Such a dismissal would have been met with fury and threats from the Death Eaters had their lord not immediately waved them away as protests began to rise. One by one, the cracking noises of apparition split the air until only two were left at the crossroads.
The moment they were alone, the dealer turned to the wizard with a light laugh. "Really, Tom. I have seen your work, and it is truly admirable for one of the living. Or, almost-living, I suppose. I expected more of you. Did you honestly think I couldn't tell from the moment you summoned me that you had something of a…split personality?" she asked with a simper, crossing her arms in a chiding manner. Her eyes flashed red again.
Lord Voldemort's hand tightened around his wand. Despite his urge to curse the filthy creature to oblivion for using his former name in so blithe a way, he wasn't about to give up. This was a power play he wasn't going to sacrifice easily, and if it meant putting up with the insolent thing, so be it. Deep down where the wizard refused to acknowledge it, a small part of him might have felt wariness as well. The dealer knew his most closely kept secret, and his ultimate defense against defeat and death. Who knew what she might do with that knowledge if crossed too severely.
A cold hand grasped the fist that clenched so tightly on the wand, and he could have struck her for that, if not for the fact that he couldn't move his arm at all. It seemed like his hand had been caught in a steel trap, and the sheer strength holding him still gave the Dark Lord the smallest second of fear.
"There, there. No need to be testy," she cooed, a razor's edge tingeing her voice. Dark eyes stared unwaveringly into his own. "I know what you must be thinking, but I'm not your enemy. I'm just here to do my job." She released him, turning away and pacing to the edge of the road as she continued to talk.
"Now, let's get one thing straight. I like you, Tom." She cast him a sultry grin over her shoulder. "I like your type and the work you do; it's marvelous entertainment. But I have a quota to fill, and my overseer is not going to be very pleased if he finds out I let you off with a discount price. As I said, one small fragment of a soul isn't going to be enough to cover your bill. However," she said, turning to him again, "there are alternative options of payment, some of which I imagine you'll find quite fair."
Voldemort paused. The deal was still within reach. Giving up one horcrux as payment was something he'd been willing to sacrifice, but more than that would have been too much of a risk. But now, there were new game pieces on the board. He might just come out on top after all.
"And what exactly are the natures of those options?"
She smiled again, oh so brightly. "That's the spirit. First we'll discuss, and then hopefully we can finish off the night with a kiss to seal the deal. What do you say?"
Her eyes gleamed.
A/N: So, some of you might remember a fic by Raye Black called 'A Demon, Muggle, and a Wizard Walk into a Bar'. When I read it, I really liked the set-up, but unfortunately, the story's been on hiatus for nearly four years, so I don't see much hope of seeing it finished. So I decided to jump off the diving board of this premise myself, as a way of paying homage to Raye Black and of seeing this thing through. Credit for some ideas in this thing will go straight to her/him, but beyond the premise I'm going to try to make this its own thing.
Chapters following this prologue will start coming out after I'm through with finals. This is just going to be a fun read, nothing too insane or long (a summer popcorn fic – heh heh), so hopefully updates will be fairly quick. For whoever decides to read along, welcome to all and I hope you enjoy :)