"Harry, believe me, it's important", said Hermione, as she opened the door to her office.
Hermione's office at the Ministry of Magic was always full of papers and books, and, to no one's surprise, she was always working. Since she had been appointed as Head Magical Advisor to the Minister of Magic, her worked had doubled. She was in charge of the most important matters in the magical world, which at the time were linked to a handful of mysterious disappearances. No one was really sure why these were happening, or if there was a pattern involved. They appeared to be random, with the missing witches and wizards having no real connection. However, all had happened in the last few days. Since she was always busy at work, the fact that she had interrupted Harry's meeting with the Head of International Magical Cooperation was definitely a sign that this couldn't wait.
"The pensieve", she said, pointing towards the black stone basin that sat at the far end of the room.
Harry placed his head in the shiny liquid and sunk into the light, which rapidly took the form of a long corridor. He realized that he was in some sort of old manor. Judging by the high ceilings, torn wallpaper and dirty rug, it had seen better days. There were closed doors at each side of the hallway, Harry could see a number on each: even numbers to his right, odd to his left. The lamps were electric, which was a sure sign that this was a muggle house.
"Right this way", interrupted a female voice. Harry turned to see a woman -old, short and wrinkled- leading a man down the corridor. The man was not much taller than her, but was fat, balding and with a full mustache.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, we are really worried about Abigor", continued the woman. "He's been very irritable and has attacked the staff and other children".
"I'm here to help", replied the man politely as they walked down the corridor and past Harry.
He followed them down the long corridor until they reached the door marked 11. The woman opened the door and signalled the man to go in. Harry entered behind them and found a small room with not much more than a bed, a simple desk and chair, a closet and a light bulb. A small window pointed towards an inner courtyard, where snow had begun to cover the lawn. Sitting on the chair was a boy, Harry guessed about 10 years old. He was looking at the stranger that had just entered his room.
"Abi, this is Mr. Redmond, he is a psychologist, here to help" said the woman. This wasn't the first time a psychologist had been called, Harry could tell from the boy's reaction.
"I think we need some time alone Ms. Williams", said the man calmly. Ms. Williams closed the door and left them.
Redmond waited a few seconds before speaking, making sure that Ms. Williams had gone away.
"Abigor, right?", asked the man.
"Yes", replied the boy, almost inaudibly.
"My name is Ron Redmond, I was told that you are finding yourself in trouble, acting a little violent towards others", said the man.
"It's not my fault", replied Abigor, "they are mean to me. They say I'm crazy, that I'm a weirdo..." Tears started to form around his eyes.
"You're nothing like that Abigor", responded Redmond, "in fact, you're very special. You see, I work at a place called the Ministry of Magic, where we deal with all things magic for wizards and witches. Abigor, you're a wizard."
Harry remembered that night so many years ago when Hagrid had spoken those same words to him. He had been an orphaned child forced to live with his muggle aunt and uncle who treated him like everything but a human being. He had been so unhappy with Petunia, Vernon and his cousin Dudley, never understanding why unexplainable things happened to him. That night, on his eleventh birthday, in a shack in the middle of nowhere, his life had changed completely. Harry's reaction was that of pure joy, a surprise that knocked him off his feet. He could feel what Abigor must've felt after hearing Redmond. And yet, the boy's reply was completely puzzling.
"I know", Abigor said.
The look on Redmond's face was pure shock, as was Harry's. Neither of them could believe what the boy was saying. He knew he was a wizard? How could he know? Why was he living in a muggle orphanage instead of a Ministry home? But, more importantly, how could the Ministry not know of the boy before?
"How?", stuttered Redmond.
"They told me, the man and the woman who came to see me before you", replied Abigor.
"Who were they?", he asked.
"Ms. Williams said they were psychologists too", explained Abigor. "They were here to help me. They said that I am a wizard and that they would teach me to do magic. The only condition was that I had to keep it a secret or else they wouldn't come back."
Redmond was completely puzzled. How could this boy be a wizard? Who was teaching him behind the Ministry's back? Why in secret? He would have to report this back to his boss at the Improper Use of Magic Office. This type of underage magic was completely against the magical laws and whoever was teaching Abigor was surely going to face harsh punishment.
"How long have you seen these people?", inquired Redmond.
"They come every few days", the boy explained. "They teach me about magic and help me practice. They even gave me a wand."
"What?! A wand?!" Redmond's eyes opened as wide as they could. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Harry could have swore he even heard Redmond cursing beneath his breath, holding himself from screaming.
"Yes, it's hidden beneath one of the floorboards under the bed", said the boy calmly. "The rug is peeled off. I use that spot to hide my magic stuff."
Harry was no stranger to loose floorboards. After all, he himself had hidden his books and magic supplies under a floorboard at the Dursleys in Dudley's spare room. He felt that this boy was surprisingly similar to him in so many ways. Perhaps that is why Hermione wanted him to see this memory, needing someone who could talk to this boy. But he knew he was a wizard and was practicing underage magic without the Ministry knowing, that was very strange indeed.
"Would you show me your wand?", Redmond asked the boy.
Abigor hesitated. "It might get me in trouble with them, I had to keep it a secret..."
"I'm a wizard Abigor, like them, like you. I understand, and I will not tell Ms. Williams, I promise."
The boy agreed. Redmond took out his own wand from inside his muggle jacket ("How can muggles live with these uncomfortable clothes?!"), flicked it in a very familiar manner and said "Wingardium Leviosa". The bed rose towards the ceiling, exposing the rug underneath. Redmond could see the tear in the rug. He approached it and peeled it back, revealing the loose floorboard. He pulled it, reached inside and took out a wand. It looked remarkably standard: a simple wooden wand, possibly redwood as far as Harry could tell.
Harry expected Redmond to question Abigor on the wand, but he tucked it in his jacket and reached into the floor again. Surely, something else was there. Redmond pulled out a book. Old, covered in black leather. It looked very worned out. Redmond turned it around. His face changed completely. It was as if he had seen a monster, his facial expression changed into terror. His eyes wide, his skin white.
"Where did you get this?!" Redmond was no longer a calm wizard that knew how to deal with underage wizards. This was now full Ministry questioning.
"They gave it to me. I practice with it", said Abigor nervously.
"This is not something you should have with you!", yelled Redmond. "This is dangerous stuff! Why do you have it?"
"The last time they came they said I should keep it. They didn't know if they were coming back and I shouldn't stop practicing."
"Do you know what this is?", asked Redmond, showing the book's front cover to the boy. He moved his head to say no.
Abigor might not have known, but certainly Redmond did. Harry also did. He felt as if he was going to pass out, he felt his blood leaving his body. A cold feeling he hadn't felt in years... not since the first time he had seen that image, high in the sky, the night that Ireland had won the Quidditch World Cup for the last time. The Dark Mark.
"You will wait here, talk to no one about this", commanded Redmond. "I will take this back to the Ministry and you will be taken to a safe place. I'll be back soon."
"No!", yelled the boy. "You can't, that doesn't belong to you. They will leave me here and never come back!"
"Abigor, this is dangerous", said Redmond, apparently returning to his calm self. "This is not magic that you should be learning. I must go."
Redmond stood up, the bed landed softly in its place as he tucked his wand back in his jacket. He reached for the door and pulled. It didn't move. He tried again, a stronger pull this time, but the door was firmly closed.
"What on earth?", he mumbled as he turned around to ask Abigor if there was a trick to the door. He was instantly frozen. The boy was standing up, a wand in his hand pointed straight at the door. This wand was different. It was long, almost like a bone, completely black and adorned with carvings. Harry had never seen anything like it before, but it looked like something that would be sold at Borgin and Burkes. The boy remained silent, but his face was no longer that of a scared little child, his eyes fixed on Redmond, holding his wand with resolve, threatening and dangerous.
"Abigor, put that wand down", said Redmond, visibly shaking.
"I can't do that", replied the boy. "They said I would have to face a test soon. That someone was coming to get me. That I would have my wand and magic book taken away and I would be left in this miserable place for good."
"No, I'm here to help Abigor", Redmond said as firmly as his trembling voice allowed. "Put down that wand and I promise that I will come back. You will be taken to a house full of wizards, like you. You will ever be called a weirdo again. You will learn magic, go to school. I promise."
"They said that you would say anything for me to trust you, they warned me about this" Abigor said, without changing his menacing expression. "I can't let you do that. I must do what they said. This is my test, I will prove myself to them. I will not be left here, not abandoned, not again. I have trained for this."
Before Redmond could say another word, and before Harry could fully process what was happening, Abigor muttered two words. A flash of green light filled the room and Redmond's body hit the floor. The black book fell to the ground, Harry saw the dark mark, almost faded from the wear and tear, one last time before everything spun around.
He lifted his face from the pensieve, his heart pounding fast. "What was that?"
"A memory from Ronald Redmond. He worked for the Ministry and disappeared 30 years ago. He was supposed to visit an underage wizard living in a muggle orpahange, but never returned. Ministry personnel were sent to the orphanage, but the woman in charge assured them that he had never arrived. They asked about the boy that he was looking for, but she said that there were no appointments for child psychologists that day. They also asked for a list of all children in the orphanage and interviewed them. None of them was a wizard."
Harry looked even more puzzled. "So there is no record of this visit?", he asked.
"None", said Hermione, sitting on her chair. "No record of a boy named Abigor, no record of Redmond visiting him. His disappearance is still unsolved."
"How can it be unsolved?", asked Harry, taking a seat across Hermione's desk. "We know what happened to him, it's right there."
"Yes", she replied, "But we only know this now. This memory was not in Redmond's file. It was found this morning. The vial was cleverly hidden in the archives. It was in a corner behind two cases of disappearances, very old solved ones. I asked one of my assistants to bring all cases back, maybe we could find a pattern there to help with the recent ones. He spotted the vial and brough it up to me."
"I don't understand", said Harry. "Who took the memory from Redmond? Why bring it here?"
"That is something I want to find out too", Hermione responded. "But I'm more interested in how that boy got that book. Many dark magic researchers believe that dark wizards have a forbidden book that has been passed to those deemed worthy. It has always been hidden and only those with the most corrupted souls could ever get it. The book is full of dark spells, it takes a toll on anyone just to read it. Some speculate that You-Know-Who heard the legend at Hogwarts and started to look for it. That is why he went to a forest in Albania; a forest so dark and evil that only reveals itself to those that are too deep in darkness to ever return to good."
"Let me guess", added Harry, "no one had ever seen it before."
"Exactly", Hermione replied. "But now, we have proof that it exists."
"It had the dark mark on the cover", Harry said. "Was it written by Voldemort?"
"If the stories are true", she replied, "it is more likely that he learned to cast it from the book and adopted it himself as his own personal mark."
"We have to find this boy", Harry said.
"I agree", replied Hermione. "But it appears that there is no sign of any Abigor who would match the description. I have every available witch and wizard from the Department looking for anything, no record of him at all."
That was very strange indeed. Who was this boy? How could he learn the dark arts so well as to kill a man while being just a child? Where did that book come from, and what was in it? But, more importantly, why had this memory appeared just now when witches and wizards were starting to disappear?