Disclaimer: This story is based on characters created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoat Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
The following day, on Sunday, after his last class of the weekend, Orion had surreptitiously cast a parsel-invisibility spell on himself and gone to the wizarding village of Sølvanghøj, well outside Durmstrang's anti-apparition wards.
Once he stood at the outskirts of the village, he had used the time-turner to go back in time three hours –knowing that his other would be seen in class- and he had summarily apparated into Black Manor. From there, he wasted no time in flooing directly into Potter Manor.
It was a convoluted way of getting there, since apparating directly into Potter Manor would have been much easier, but he rather take the precaution of triangulating through Black Manor in case someone had the idea of tracing his apparations. And since the use of the floo network at Black Manor couldn't be detected thanks to the Manor's ancient wards, his method was the best option available to him, so that no one could ever find out that he accessed Potter Manor; which no one knew was available to him, since only Grindelwald and he knew that he had Potter blood in him.
The instant he stepped out from the fireplace and flicked his wand to clean his robes from dust, he glanced around the beautiful main parlor of Potter Manor, his mind still swirling with the thoughts which had revolved in his head during the day.
After making his final decision the previous night, he had felt a new sense of purpose, as if he was entering a new stage in his life, but that hadn't quelled the influx of questions which had popped into his mind.
At last, Orion caught sight of Grindelwald, who seemed to be calmly expecting him. His eyes marginally widened as he inspected the older wizard; it still surprised him that the maturely handsome wizard before him was the same he had rescued from Nurmengard.
The wizard looked like a bastion of power, confidence, and strength; and he had a debonair, suave air which still disconcerted Orion.
Grindelwald was elegantly sprawled over an armchair, besides a blazing fireplace. In addition to dark trousers, riding boots, and a partially unbuttoned shirt, the wizard wore an expression surely inherited from some debauched aristocrat ancestor who had only narrowly cheated a burning pyre during the witch-hunt era. As he idly tapped a riding crop against the boot swung over one of his knees, he smirked at Orion, and gestured for him to take a seat at a damask-covered chaise longue.
Pulling a nonchalant expression over his features, Orion sat down, and stared back at him, doing his best to not trail again his inspective gaze over the wizard.
"You went out for a ride?" said Orion, arching an eyebrow.
Grindelwald's smirk widened. "I did. You have a good stock of horses and pegasi in your stables, and it has been some time since I've indulged in one of my favorite pastimes. But don't fret, mein junge, the wards make it impossible for anyone to see me riding or flying around your manor's grounds."
"Yeah, I know that," interjected Orion calmly. "It doesn't worry me. You have the liberty to do whatever you want whilst you're here."
"That's very generous of you," said Grindewald, his lips quirking into a crooked smile. Suddenly, his features turned grave, and he said sternly, "I expected you yesterday, to begin your training."
Orion straightened his shoulders, and said curtly, "I had some things I needed to take care of first."
"Ja," said Grindelwald conversationally, though he stared at him hawkeyed, "I know."
"You know?" repeated Orion, frowning at him.
"I've been informed," clarified Grindelwald, tapping his forehead.
Orion gazed at him intently. "The spirits told you about our… discussion."
"They did," said Grindelwald calmly. "I was quite certain that you would tell them that I was with you, and I was sure that your meeting with them wouldn't turn out well. Therefore, I opened my mind to grant them access, in case they wanted to communicate with me." He broadly smirked at him. "And I was right in all accounts. They contacted me the second you left the Crypt; you left them in quite a state. Morgana, particularly, was quite… shall I say, twitchy. And she wants you to go back."
"I'm not going back," snapped Orion crisply. "Besides, if she wants to speak to me she can materialize before me in Durmstrang, with no need for me to go into the Crypt; she has done it before."
"Yes, but each time she materializes, she consumes much of the magic they have left, and she can't afford to do that. They spend less magic if they materialize inside the Crypt, close to their bodies." Grindelwald quirked an eyebrow. "I expected you to have already realized this."
"I hadn't thought about it," said Orion, with a slight frown on his forehead. "So that's why she has only materialized twice before outside of the Crypt…"
"Exactly," said Grindelwald. Abruptly, he shifted forwards in his seat, his expression animated with relish, as a crooked smile spread over his features. "Is it true that you promised to kill them?"
Grindelwald's smile turned into a satisfied smirk. "Why?"
"Revenge," said Orion gravely.
Grindelwald quirked an eyebrow. "For revenge?"
"Yes," said Orion curtly, "because of what they did to my mother, to Tom, to Cadmus, and to Slytherin; so that they can never do anything like it again. Is there a better reason to kill someone than revenge?"
Grindelwald widely smirked at him, and strongly patted him on the shoulder. "There isn't, mein junge."
"I've turned rogue, Gellert," said Orion quietly, piercing him with his eyes. "That doesn't matter to you, does it? You'll still train me?"
Grindelwald chuckled under his breath, and said rambunctiously, "Of course I will! I had been hoping that you'd break away from them, and you have done it quicker than I had foreseen, mein junge. Now you'll truly be able to carve out your own path, you'll be able to become an independent Dark Lord if you wish!"
"Yeah," said Orion dismissively, though he felt immensely relieved. He glanced at him, and said with a small frown, "How much did they tell you about what we discussed?"
Orion's frown deepened. "They surely knew that you would still help me out, since you also parted ways from them, so why did they contact you? Why did they tell you what we discussed?"
"Because they're desperate to have you back in their grasp," said Grindelwald, chortling with vicious amusement, "and they would resort to the measure of asking me for help, since they know that I also want you to become the Vindico. And because I'm the only one in a position to influence you, since they know I want to mentor you."
"Is that what you're doing, influencing me?" said Orion briskly, immediately stiffening. "Do you also want to use me?"
Grindelwald frowned at him, and said sharply, "I don't want to use you. It's smart of you to be suspicious about everyone's motives, mein junge, but not mine."
"How can I be sure of that?" gritted out Orion, intently scrutinizing him. "In the last few days I've discovered such an expansive web of manipulations that I no longer feel that I can trust anyone. I wouldn't put it past you to be involved in things I'm not aware of. You told me, that besides wanting the Vindico to arise at last, you had your own reason for mentoring me-"
"That reason is my own," said Grindelwald sharply, pulling up to his full height as he stared down at him, "and I'm not obliged to disclose it to you. Never forget, junge, that from now on, I'm your mentor and you're my apprentice, and I demand that you behave as such. Beware of the way you deal with me."
"That doesn't answer my question-"
"I told you that I'm not using you," snapped Grindelwald, darkly scowling at him. "I'm offering my time to train you, when I could be doing anything else I wished. I even offered you the possibility of killing me first, so that you can try to spare your spouse's life. I can leave and you can manage on your own if you feel you can't trust me."
"No!" said Orion immediately, swiftly standing up and grabbing Grindelwald's arm when the wizard made a move to leave the room. "I'm sorry, it's just that-"
"If you don't fully trust me," interrupted Grindewald, his expression hard, "this will never work. Decide now; I won't waste my time with you if we have to work with this impediment."
Orion released him and tiredly rubbed his forehead, before he glanced up at him and said quietly, "I trust you, Gellert. It's just that this whole day I've been thinking over and over again about all what the spirits have done. I might know all the relevant information regarding the VA, but I still have many questions in my mind-"
"Such as?" interrupted Grindelwald shortly.
"I…" said Orion uncertainly, before he gestured for them to take a seat. "Please, let's sit down to discuss this more comfortably."
Grindelwald curtly nodded, before calmly stretching on his plush armchair, as Orion sat across from him, trying to order his thoughts.
"All right," said Orion quietly. "I know that the spirits, by the use of the Aux Atrum and their own mind-magic, have been manipulating the lives of countless wizards and witches throughout history, to create VA candidates, and to create Dark Lords which would lead the Dark in the absence of a candidate, and who would be killed by a candidate who wished to undergo the VA test. Furthermore, they also compelled other wizards and witches to research matters important for them, like they did with Slytherin and his research in blood. They also compelled others to create powerful magical objects, like they did with the Peverells, and..." He gazed up at Grindelwald, piercing his eyes into his. "And like they did with Voldemort, to make him find a way to create more than one horcrux. Did the spirits tell you about that as well?"
"They did," said Grindelwald nonchalantly.
Orion scrutinized him, before saying, "Yet you don't seem surprised. You suspected it already, didn't you? But you didn't tell me-"
"I suspected that they had used the boy," said Grindelwald impassively, "ever since I met him when he dropped in my Berlin Headquarters. I could detect something strange in him; that he wasn't completely human, if you will. And I knew the spirits had also him tagged as a possible Vindico candidate. Furthermore, I knew you were his horcrux the first time I saw you. So, nein, it didn't surprise me when the spirits told me about it yesterday. I didn't tell you my suspicions, because quite frankly, what they did to him doesn't matter to me. Moreover, I wasn't completely certain if I was right about what they had compelled him to do." His lips twitched, and he added coolly, his voice carrying veiled amusement, "And I preferred that you discovered it during your confrontation with the spirits, since I didn't want to be subjected to an explosion of that infamous, nasty temper of yours."
"My temper isn't infamous or nasty!" huffed Orion indignantly, before waving a hand dismissively. "Oh, never mind. My point is that they have influenced every important dark bloodline there is, but…" He gazed at him intently, before continuing, "They didn't mention my father. He was the Head of the main Black line; he was Cadmus Peverell's and Ursula Black's direct descendant. His bloodline is even more important than the Malfoys and the secondary Black line, and I know they planned on compelling Draco Malfoy if it was necessary… So, did they do something to my father?"
Grindelwald frowned at him in deep thought. "This is what has been on your mind?" When Orion nodded, he continued pensively, "Given the information I have and that you've supplied to me, I would say that they would have compelled him if they could."
"What do you mean?" said Orion, deeply frowning.
"Well," said Grindelwald conversationally, "think about it, mein junge. Your father certainly entered their plans; they certainly wanted to match him with someone dark and powerful in order to strengthen the Black bloodline, but he truly loved your mother, according to what you've told me. If he was already in love with someone, even if an Aux had cast a compulsion on him, he wouldn't have forgotten his love for your mother easily." His features adopted a distasteful expression. "At the risk of sounding like a sappy light witch, I have to say that love is one of the most powerful emotions; the Light is right in that account. Love isn't easily manipulated, not real love, at least. The spirits couldn't control your mother either, could they? It is because of that very same reason that, perhaps, they couldn't influence your father. Maybe, if the spirits had had more time to work on him, they would have accomplished it in the end, but never forget that your father was imprisoned in Azkaban not long after leaving Hogwarts, when he was still young-"
"So they didn't have the chance to influence him," interrupted Orion, his eyes widening, "because in Azkaban his mind was being assaulted by Dementors… A compulsion wouldn't last too long in a mind being affected by Dementors! And he was young, yes… perhaps they didn't cast a compulsion on him during Hogwarts because they thought they had time to influence him, they couldn't know that he would be imprisoned-"
"Precisely," said Grindelwald. "We can't really know if someone casted a compulsion on your father during his Hogwarts years, but if they did, it certainly didn't work, since he had a child with a witch of his choosing. And it's also possible that the spirits still hadn't found the best match for your father at that time, so they could have been waiting until then to compel him. But he was imprisoned not long afterwards, and by then –by being a wizard who supposedly was going to spend the rest of his life in Azkaban- they couldn't use him any longer. Even if he was very important to them because of his bloodline, you have to remember that the spirits can only use mind-magic, and the Aux Atrum operate covertly, so they couldn't afford to break out someone like your father just because he was important for their designs, since questions would have been asked, and actions like those could reveal their existence. And one of the things the spirits treasure immensely is the secret that they still exist."
Orion nodded in agreement. "Yes, I see it now." He frowned, and added pensively, "But Gellert, doesn't it seem to you that they always target certain bloodlines?"
"Ja, of course they do," said Grindelwald, arching an eyebrow. "I thought that you had discovered that they have been using Slytherin's-"
"Yes, yes," interrupted Orion impatiently, "I know that they have been using Slytherin's methods to detect magic in blood. I read his journals, I know which potions and dark spells can be used to analyze blood and detect its composition and magnitude of power. And I know it's fairly simple to get hold of a blood sample of anyone. What I meant is that they have been trying to 'fix' bloodlines even before they really knew how; even before they made Slytherin research the subject. So before Slytherin's time, how did they know which bloodlines to manipulate?"
Grindelwald sternly frowned at him. "And I thought you were bright… How do you think they knew, junge?"
"Er, I…" said Orion uncertainly. In a second, he looked at him sheepishly. "Oh, yeah, I forgot. They've been around for ages, since the time when the bloodlines were purer and stronger than now. So when they lived they could already see from which bloodlines powerful wizards and witches came from, and they could trace those lines throughout the centuries. Even if the lines have been convolutedly mixing together, they could have traced them because they've lived throughout all those centuries, and they did say that they were always gathering knowledge. They certainly gathered information about how the lines have been merging and crossing. But that's a gigantic task, so much information spanned through the centuries-"
"That's what the Archive is for," interjected Grindelwald casually.
Orion blinked at him. "What archive?"
"Seriously, mein junge," said Grindelwald gravely, "all knowledge must be catalogued and preserved; especially precious information on the origins and crossings of our bloodlines. Did you really believe that the spirits were able to keep all that information in their minds?"
Orion's mouth hung open, before he snapped it shut, and shifted forwards, his eyes shining eagerly, "There are books with that information? Merlin's staff! Houses nowadays can't trace their bloodlines more than seven centuries back; not even the Malfoys can, and they are one of the houses which have spent more resources and energy in the matter of tracing their ancestry way back! And you're telling me that there's an archive with information on bloodlines since their origin! Where is it? I need to-"
"Don't get excited, junge," said Grindelwald, his lips twitching with amusement, "no one except the spirits and the Aux leader has access to the Archive. They zealously guard it, and no one has been able to discover where it is or how to access it."
"But do you realize what could be done with that information?" said Orion, breathlessly. "It's precious! By Merlin, I would give anything to know where my bloodlines come from and how they have been mixing with others. The most I know about my Black and Potter bloodlines is that Ursula Black, Cadmus and Ignotus Peverell were some of its ancestors, but who was there before them? I could learn so much from-"
"Of course I realize the vast potential of what can be done with the Archive," interrupted Grindelwald, smiling at him understandingly. "Knowledge is power; even for more reason when it regards blood and you are one of the few who wields it. Dunkelheit knows that I repeatedly tried to get my hands on the Archive in the past."
Orion lurched to his feet, and stared at Grindelwald with wide, bright eyes. "I don't think you realize the full potential of the Archive! If the spirits have been gathering information on the origins and crossings of all relevant bloodlines, then the Archive is not only a historical compendium of our lines, but also, from the point when the spirits started using Slytherin's theories, it's a detailed account of Slytherin's research put into practice! It contains endless observations of the results of research experiments conducted throughout the ages on all wizarding kind!"
He started to animatedly pace in front of the wizard, continuing exultantly, "I only have one chapter left to translate of Slytherin's journals, and then I'm giving it to Severus and I know he'll jump at the opportunity of replicating Slytherin's experiments, and he's an accredited Potions Master! If he proves that Slytherin's methods are correct, then his results will be believed by everyone. And the information of the Archive is the proof to back the theories! Then all that can be made public, and people will see that the Dark has been right all along, and-"
"And they still wouldn't necessarily believe what they don't want to believe," interrupted Grindelwald sternly. "Even if they did, what do you think would happen when some lines discovered that perhaps they aren't as pure as they thought? Or when some dark bloodline saw that they came from a light ancestor? It would be a mess, it would be chaotic. Usually, knowledge is best handled by a few, and not by the public. With that information you could sink the social standing and political power of many houses, both light and dark. It's best to use that information as a bargaining chip to control those houses, instead of just freely giving it out to everyone."
Orion spun around to look at him, with a wide grin of triumph on his face. "It doesn't matter if they don't want to believe it, or if they don't like what they find out about their lines. By Merlin, if they don't want to see the truth, then let them remain ignorant and suffer the consequences! I couldn't care less; there are other ways, just as you said. But I'm not referring to blackmail, as you suggested, though that could be useful, I'll have to think about it…"
His grin turned into a beaming smile as he placed his palms on Grindelwald's back rest, at both sides of the wizard's head, while he inched his face close to his, and said excitedly, "Don't you see? If I had that information and studied it, I would know exactly how blood crossings work! That registry of applied Slytherin research, spanned through the centuries, would tell me precisely what measures have to be taken to solve the problem between the Sources! Magic is all about blood, after all!"
Grindelwald shook his head. "The spirits would never grant you access to the Archive, not even if you became the Vindico. The Archive holds a detailed account of all what they have done; of how they've manipulated every single bloodline, including yours. You would discover many other of their disagreeable dealings. They will never give that information to you."
"Then I'll take it from them," snapped Orion, pulling away from him.
"And how do you plan on doing that?" said Grindelwald coolly.
Orion crossed his arms over his chest, and said sharply, "I told you that I would kill them. But not before finding out about the test and what to do with the Hallows, and certainly not before they tell me how to access the Archive."
Grindelwald arched an eyebrow, and pierced him with a hawkeyed gaze. "Are you aware of what you'll have to do to be able to, not only kill them, but rip that information from them?"
"Yes," said Orion, his jaw tightening. "I can only do either of those things if I'm a Necromancer."
"Precisely," said Grindelwald gravely, "only a full-fledged Necromancer can kill and manipulate spirits, mein junge. Are you telling me that you've already decided to become one?"
"I wasn't going to decided on that yet," said Orion stiffly. "But this is one more reason to consider doing it."
"Then I suggest you make your decision soon," interjected Grindelwald sternly. "The longer you take the harder it will be for you later."
"I know," said Orion, heavily sighing as he dropped his arms to his sides and took a seat. He gazed up at him, and said quietly, "What would you do?"
"In your place," said Grindelwald, smirking at him, "I would become a Necromancer without a second thought, but that's because I consider the accumulation of power to be the most important goal in life." He stared at Orion, and added, "But you're different from me. You don't consider power as an aim in itself, but as a means to help those you care for. The decision has to be your own."
Orion nodded and raked his fingers through his hair. "Alright, I'll seriously think about it. But I… well, I don't feel prepared to make the choice, yet."
"I can understand that," said Grindelwald, offering him a crooked, supportive smile. "Take your time in choosing, knowing that you won't regret it, because there isn't a point of return when you start taking the path of becoming a full-fledged Necromancer."
"I know," said Orion grimly.
"You should also consider," said Grindelwald quietly, intently regarding him, "that if you're planning on only killing me, you'll have to find a way to become more powerful. If you want to spare your spouse, then you must gather power by other means. By becoming a Necromancer you would be doing just that. Not to mention that the ability will be highly useful in battle." His hazel eyes shone with excitement, and he added, "You could raise armies from the dead of the battlefield, you could trap and destroy the souls of your enemies, you could-"
"I know," interrupted Orion sharply, rising up a hand. "I know perfectly well the damage a Necromancer can do in battle, but if I become one, I wouldn't use my abilities in such a way." He pierced the older wizard with his eyes, and said sternly, "Souls are the most precious component of our being, Gellert, I wouldn't destroy them, not even the souls of my enemies."
Grindelwald frowned at him, and said with sharp exasperation, "Then you would be wasting your abilities, mein junge." He heavily sighed, and waved his hand dismissively. "Never mind, you'll eventually realize that not using all your powers and abilities is the worst thing you can do in battle, if you're trying to obtain a swift victory. Scruples are an impediment in war, junge. Scruples get your followers killed."
Orion shook his head in disagreement but decided to drop the subject.
"What will the spirits do now?" he said with a troubled frown.
Grindelwald smirked at him. "They will observe every step you take, they will make the Aux watch you like hawks, but they won't intervene unless you give them reason to. And it seems to me that you're already resolved in becoming the Vindico, so they'll leave you alone until you've gathered the last Hallow." His smirk widened, and he said conspiratorially, "It's a good thing you haven't told them that you're also a Potter, mein junge, because if they knew, they would do everything in their power to have you in their grasp again. As things stand now, they know you are a Vindico candidate with fairly good chances to undergo the test, but they don't know how much you really are."
He chortled with amusement. "If they really knew, by Dunkelheit, if they really knew you wouldn't have been able to leave the Crypt so easily!" He squinted away a tear of mirth with a fingertip. "Ah, I would have loved to have seen that scene playing out!"
"Yes, yes," said Orion with a roll of his eyes, "it would have been infinitely amusing for you and torture for me, I'm sure." He sighed and rested his back on his chair, before grinning at him. "Well, the issue is that they'll leave me alone for the time being, that's good enough for me. I have much to do and I rather not have them breathing down my neck."
"Quite," said Grindelwald, before he clapped his hands and stood up. He broadly smirked at Orion with lively eagerness. "Shall we finally begin our first lesson?"
Orion gazed up at him, and he couldn't help thinking that there was something of a sadistic pleasure in the wizard's smirk, and he inwardly groaned; the lessons would be hell for him, he knew it.
Orion writhed on the floor, as blood spewed from his mouth and needles of agony seared through his entire body, curling in on himself as he attempted to protect his body from an onslaught of curses.
"St-op!" he choked out. "Please - Stop!"
Grindelwald darkly scowled, and jerked his wrist to halt the assault of wandless curses on his pupil, eyeing him with a dissatisfied expression on his face.
"You have to be able to think beyond the pain!" he snapped impatiently. "You have to become used to the pain, junge. You can't ask your enemies to stop while they're attacking you! You have to be able to use your dark magic even when you're agonizing. Clear your mind from the pain; you know Occlumency, junge, use it!"
Orion coughed out a spurt of blood as he weakly crouched on his hands and knees, feeling tears prick the back of his eyes, but holding them in.
He picked himself up from the floor and staggered a step back; he was exhausted, they had been at it for hours and he still didn't understand what the older wizard expected of him. He wasn't allowed to use his wand, and he had been subjected to fierce attack after attack, the other wizard giving him no quarter and no time to respond. He had been writhing and screaming his throat raw on the floor more time than he had been standing up.
Orion eyed the wizard with exhaustion, and said hoarsely, "How do you do it? You've been continuously using wandless magic for four hours and you're not tired, how-"
"The more you practice your wandless magic," interrupted Grindelwald curtly, "the easier it is to use and the longer it takes for you to feel some level of magical exhaustion." He eyed him critically, and added, "I'll make you practice on that as well, so that you can last for hours on end without feeling any magical fatigue." His expression turned hard, and he said sharply, "You need more training than I suspected. We'll need to considerably widen your threshold of pain before your mind shuts down and you're rendered useless and unable to cast magic-"
"So you're going to keep torturing me?" interrupted Orion crisply, wiping the blood from his mouth with his sleeve. "And I'm still not supposed to defend myself with my wand?"
"Ja," said Grindelwald sharply, "I'm going to torture you until you're able to use your dark magic against me even when you're agonizing on the floor! At present, you wouldn't stand a chance against Dumbledore!"
Orion heavily sighed and fiercely rubbed his forehead. "I told you that my dark magic doesn't work like that. I cannot simply call it forth and use it offensively on a whim-"
"Then I'll keep torturing you until you can," said Grindelwald harshly. "I know you can do it, you did it in Nurmengard-"
"That was different!" interjected Orion with tired exasperation. "The circumstances were different-"
"Explain," demanded Grindewald, frowning at him.
Orion sighed and carded his fingers through his hair. "It's easier for me to use my dark magic when I'm under stress, when my own magic feels my need to use it. I… er, I don't know how to explain it, but each time I've needed it, my dark magic has risen to the occasion. In normal circumstances, I need to be very concentrated to be able to use it offensively without anything threatening me-"
"Don't I seem menacing enough to you?" interrupted Grindelwald, arching an eyebrow.
"Er- not really," said Orion sheepishly. "I know you're training me, so I don't feel threatened by you."
Grindelwald smirked manically. "Well, let me correct that. I can certainly come up with nastier curses, mein junge."
"Ja, good, gut!" cried Grindelwald jovially, from within a blazing prison of black flames which surrounded him.
Orion weakly chuckled from his kneeling position on the floor, and dropped his hand, making the walls of black fire summarily disappear.
"You're improving, mein junge," said Grindelwald with satisfaction, calmly walking towards him. "I'll make you practice until you can do it without a thought and without the need to feel threatened!"
"Oh, great," sarcastically grumbled Orion under his breath, "more incoming torture..."
He finally stood up with great effort and glanced down at his body. His robes were completely bloodied and shred to pieces, and he didn't even want to think about all the new scars Grindelwald had given him. Those would heal eventually, that didn't matter to him, but he felt he was about to collapse; his nerve endings still tingled and snapped with all the ravaging pain he had experienced, and his mind seemed about to close in on itself. He really hoped Grindelwald was right when saying that he would get so used to the pain and that he would stop feeling it at some point.
Even now, after having obeyed the older wizard and having used his skills in Occlumency to compartmentalize his mind and exclude the pain, he still couldn't manage to quickly cast wandless spells, or use his dark magic to defend himself against an onslaught of curses. The pain still felt too raw and intense, and no matter how much he tried to push it away from his thoughts, his mind still lost itself in a fog of incoherence in the midst of searing waves of pain.
Orion sighed and stumblingly straightened his shredded robes, his mind dizzy with lightheadedness. Grindelwald said he would get used to it; he had to have some faith.
"Good," said Grindelwald, when he had reached him. "We'll continue this lesson next time. Now I want to start on something new."
Orion glanced at his watch with worry. "It's already three in the morning, Gellert, and at eight I have to be in Hogwarts-"
"One more hour," interrupted Grindewald sternly. "This is important. You asked me to teach you how to duel with the simultaneous use of wandless, nonverbal and wand magic, and you asked me to help you control your dark magic. And I'll do all that in the subsequent lessons; it will take time, but you'll eventually learn how to do it. But this is much more important, and it will be more difficult for you than the rest. We have to begin with this as soon as possible."
Orion arched an eyebrow, intrigued. "What is it?"
"It's easy for you to call forth your dark magic with no offensive aim, correct?" said Grindelwald, piercing him with his eyes. Orion nodded, and he demanded, "Show me."
Orion blinked at him, disconcerted, before he simply raised up a hand and extended his palm, swiftly conjuring a swirling orb of undulating dark water.
"Why water?" said Grindelwald calmly.
Orion frowned at him. "What do you mean?" He closed his hand, the orb disappearing as the magic seeped into his body again, and he quickly opened it again, his palm now holding a small, blazing column of black flames. "I can also produce fire, wind, or the water in ice form, and-"
"And you'll learn how to use your magic in earth form as well," interrupted Grindelwald impassively, "as you did in Nurmengard. Ja, and you'll learn how to use all of them for offensive purposes, without needing to concentrate too hard for it or without the circumstances mattering. I didn't mean that. What I asked was, why those forms?"
"Er, I…" said Orion uncertainly, with a frown of puzzlement and deep thought spreading on his forehead. "I'm not sure. The first time I was able to call forth my dark magic, it happened as fire, then as water, and later as wind. I suppose… well, I suppose it's that way because Dark Magic comes from nature, from the Earth, so it takes the forms of the elements-"
"All Magic comes from the Earth, the distinction is the nature of it," interrupted Grindelwald curtly, "but that's not the point. You're molding your magic into preconceived forms you already know. You did it subconsciously, without giving it much thought, but by giving it form, you're limiting it, making your dark magic come forth weaker than it would be if it was unrestrained."
Orion gawked at him.
"But all this time I've been practicing to shape my magic into these forms! Magic has to be controlled, if not, how can I use it? In what other way should it come forth? Are you telling me that I've spent all these years trying to control my magic in a way that's useless? I don't understand-"
"I didn't say it was useless," interjected Grindelwald sternly. "Giving your magic the forms of the elements is highly useful, as you've just proved when you imprisoned me with fire. But skilled and powerful wizards can find a way of fighting against that. They'll eventually find a way to protect themselves from your magic in that form. Don't you understand what I'm trying to tell you?" He pierced him with his hazel eyes, and said impatiently, "Think, mein junge. I told you once that I couldn't transform my dark magic into its most powerful state, but I know you've done it before, they told me about it."
Orion frowned at him, and suddenly, his eyes widened.
"That first time, in Azkaban… In that occasion, my magic was wild! It was destroying everything around us, but it wasn't doing anything to me or my father-"
"Exactly," said Grindelwald with satisfaction. "Powerful wizards are able to cast wandless spells, but to take magic from their very own inner core, to draw their magic and make it leave their body and obey their commands without spells, just with thought, that has only been done by a very few in the past. I should have been able to do it, but I never could, I didn't have the intensity of power required for it." He crookedly smirked at him. "But you can, and there lies your true power, mein junge. There lies the difference between us; between you and the rest of the failed candidates. That's what a candidate with real chances of succeeding has to be able to do-"
"But I never could!" interjected Orion in agitation. "Whatever they have told you is incorrect. I've never been able to do it often, and when it happened, it was always out of my control! I've never learned how to do it, and I don't think I can." He jerkily carded his fingers through his hair. "I told you that my dark magic easily arose in certain situations, but what you're referring to has only happened three times before, and I had nothing to do with it!" He grimly shook his head. "If this is what you expect of me, you're going to be vastly disappointed. I don't know how it happened!"
"Then I'll help you realize it," said Grindelwald calmly. "I know about your display of dark magic in the Death Chamber; I was told by the spirits, who in turn, where told by Vagnarov. Those ravaging waves of dark magic which shot from your body are the real form of dark magic in its rawest, purest, and most powerful state. That's what dark magic should always be like. Unleashed but subconsciously controlled by you."
"But I didn't control it," insisted Orion, frantically shaking his head. "I didn't know what I was doing! When my dark magic explodes from me like that, it's never intentional. It's always under very pressing and desperate situations."
"Then you have to learn how to do it while being aware of it, and in normal circumstances," said Grindelwald sternly. "Have you never controlled it? Not even once?"
"Er- only once," replied Orion faltering. "At first, it was wild, but then it obeyed my desires." He shrugged his shoulders. "It was as if it understood what I wanted and simply followed what was in my mind."
Grindelwald arched an eyebrow. "Tell me more about it."
Orion clenched his fists, and said quietly, averting his gaze from the wizard, "My muggle uncle attempted to… er, molest me… and then my magic just violently exploded from me. I was angry, furious, filled with dread, fear and hatred, and I wanted him to suffer – I wanted him to die. My dark magic rushed out from me and trapped him; it was like a burst of swirling black waves… It didn't have much form… I don't know, it was simply dark magic… It tore his body to pieces, bit by bit…"
"And you enjoyed it," said Grindelwald, his lips quirking into a wide smirk.
"Merlin, yes," said Orion breathlessly. "I have never felt so powerful as I did at that time. It was strange… It was as if my magic had a mind of its own, but yet, it obeyed my deepest wishes... even if I didn't really do anything…"
"Exactly," said Grindelwald. "That's what you have to learn. Tell me about the other times in which you couldn't control it, and what your emotions were."
"The first time was when I saw my father in his cell in Azkaban, after he had been Kissed," said Orion somberly. "In that occasion, I was filled with sorrow and anger, and I only remember that my magic seemed to consume everything around me, leaving my father and I unharmed. But I wasn't aware of what was going on until Voldemort snapped me out of it. Then it happened at the Death Chamber, when I was trying to pull out Lezander from the Necromancer's Gate. I was desperate, sorrowful, and ridden with guilt. The waves of dark magic threatened everyone around me. I wanted to hurt them; I didn't care about anything but getting Lezander out of the Gate. I wasn't controlling it, but it didn't threaten Calypso. I discovered that later. So, somehow, my magic knew that I didn't want to harm her. And the last time was when my uncle attempted to molest me, which I already explained."
"That second time," said Grindelwald musing aloud, "in the Death Chamber, it seems that even if you weren't aware, you had some slight control over it, since it didn't threaten your friend. So it's clear that you've progressed, though very slowly." He clapped his hands, and said cheerfully, "Well, now we're here so that you learn to master it in a few months."
"A few months?!" said Orion, gaping at him. "It has taken me all my life to control my dark magic! And now you expect me to do it only in a few months? And to do something not even you have done before?!"
"Yes," said Grindelwald, smirking widely. "And not only that. We aren't talking about controlling your dark magic; we're speaking of letting it go free and wild, while just directing it with your thoughts and desires. Dark magic reacts to strong emotions. To cast the Killing Curse you have to feel the hatred inside you; you have to wish that person dead. To cast the Cruciatus Curse, you must yearn to inflict pain, to hear the other person screaming and writhing, you must wish to break them. All dark spells are based on emotions. And your dark magic, as evident from what you've told me, comes easily to you when you feel intense emotions. But that's not our objective. If you can only summon your wild dark magic when you're in life threatening situations, towards you or someone you love, then it's of little use since you would be only wielding it for defensive purposes. You need to summon it without emotions, in order to use it for offense. In a duel, you can't be blinded by rage, or wait until your enemy has you cornered, in order to unleash your dark magic. Therefore, you have to learn how to do it while you're calm and clear-minded."
"How on earth will I do that?!" demanded Orion frantically. "It only obeyed me when my uncle was about to rape me, and now I have to somehow manage to make it obey my thoughts when I'm calm, or when I'm dueling and it doesn't bring up intense emotions?!"
Grindelwald smirked at him. "The answer is simple. You'll practice until you get it right."
Dejectedly, Orion plopped on an armchair and scowled at the wizard.
Suddenly, he turned thoughtful, and he looked up at him hopefully. "What if I try using my Necromantic abilities? I'm always calm when I'm infused with them and my dark magic also rises and fills me up-"
"Nein," interrupted Grindelwald sharply. "That's cheating."
"It's not!" retorted Orion hotly. "It's simply using an ability which comes from my dark magic anyway!"
"You can do that when you've learned how to do it without the need of using your Necromantic powers," said Grindelwald, offering him his most toothy and sadistic grin. "Until then, you'll have to focus on doing it the hard way."
"Fine," sighed Orion, while he jumped to his feet. "Let's start, then."
"Very well," said Grindelwald, crookedly smirking. "First, you need to understand how it works."
He snapped open a hand and, immediately, a large swirling sphere of black water spun above his palm.
"Magic has a mind and will of its own. Dark magic comes from the Earth, it's wild, unbridled and much more powerful when it's unleashed without restrictions."
He opened his other hand and created large black flames which licked his palm and forearm without burning him. The wizard moved his two hands forward, with the orb of water still swirling and the flames still burning, each time higher.
"These preconceived forms of magic are too contained, too defined, too limiting… Dark Magic shouldn't be restricted like this… And that's what you need to learn… With Dark Magic, unruliness and chaos means power. And the wizard who controls the wildest form of Dark Magic is the wizard who will triumph over the rest."
Suddenly, the sphere of water and the flames shot from his palms rising and clashing in mid air, creating a violent swirl of black wind which blew Orion's locks of hair away from his face.
Grindelwald closed his hands and the swirl of wind instantly disappeared, leaving the air briefly buzzing with energy, before everything suddenly stopped.
He pierced Orion with his eyes, and said gravely, "When you first started to control your dark magic, you gave it the form of the elements because it's the simplest way to concentrate our magic, but it's the weakest conduit as well. Our type of dark magic is more powerful if you let it run free and if you only have a mild control over it. You mustn't give it shape, but purpose. You must let the magic understand what you desire, what you want it to do, and it will do it without the need of you giving it any form. Think of it as if it were a force in which you convey what you want, and with which you can do anything when it obeys your thoughts. You must let it run wild, and give it directives, but don't force it. It's Earth Magic, pure Dark Magic, it's meant to be indomitable. You must only guide it; you have to express and focus your desires towards it."
Orion nodded, his expression thoughtful. "I think I understand."
"Then, try it," said Grindelwald, gazing at him expectantly.
"I can't!" screamed Orion with frustration, just when another curse struck his chest and he dropped to his knees, gnawing his teeth together when a wave of searing pain coursed through him.
He gasped in pain and supported himself with a palm against the floor, as he tightly wrapped an arm around his chest.
"Are you trying to kill me?!" he gritted out through clenched teeth, glaring up at the wizard. "Or just turn me into a crazed, mindless automaton? Stop crucioing me! What good does it do?!"
"First," said Grindelwald utterly unfazed, "it's helping you withstand larger doses of pain, and that will be useful for you in the future, believe me." His expression turned hard, and he added sharply, "And secondly, by attacking you, I'm attempting to make you respond, so that you use the power in you, junge!"
"Well, it isn't working!" snapped Orion heatedly, taking a stumbling step to stand up. "I need to rest. It's already five in the morning, you said one more hour!"
"There's no rest for the powerful," said Grindelwald sternly. "Stop being lazy."
"I'm not lazy," grunted Orion, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his torn sleeve, "I'm demolished!"
"Don't whine, junge. Whining doesn't suit a Dark Lord," said Grindelwald sharply, "even less someone who wants to become the Vindico. If you show any sign of weakness, however insignificant it is, other dark wizards will crush you."
"I already know that; you've told me a thousand times. And I'm not whining," snapped Orion indignantly. "I'm stating a fact!"
Grindelwald snorted. "Well, during a battle you can't afford to feel too tired or too exhausted. You have to keep on fighting, mein junge! So buck up and continue."
"You're a slave driver," darkly grumbled Orion under his breath.
"I'm a Dark Lord," said Grindelwald with a wide, crooked smirk. "What did you expect?"
"Now you sound like Voldemort," muttered Orion, dropping on a couch, completely exhausted. "With one I have enough, thank you very much."
Grindelwald scoffed. "I'm much, much worse than your crimson-eyed pet."
"My pet, indeed," sniggered Orion, broadly grinning at the wizard. "Voldemort would love to hear that."
"If I have the chance, I'll call him that to his face," said Grindelwald, smirking widely as he took a seat across from Orion. He checked the time, and grumbled, "Well, I suppose I should allow you to leave, it's quite late." He glanced at him, and said with a veiled hint of pride, "You haven't done badly for your first lesson, mein junger Gebieter."
"Your young Lord?" scoffed Orion. "Is that my pet name?"
"Are you my pet?" countered Grindelwald with a crooked grin, amusement glinting in his hazel eyes.
"You wish," snorted Orion, rolling his eyes.
"I would," said Grindelwald, shooting him a wicked smile. "If I was about fifty years younger, I certainly would."
Orion choked while a deep flush covered his cheeks.
Grindelwald let out a crow of laughter, slapping a hand on his knee. "Ah, so innocent still…"
"I'm not!" snapped Orion hotly.
"Oh, please do tell," said Grindelwald with a chuckle, his eyes glinting. "This is definitely interesting. Who defiled your virtue?"
"I'm not telling you!" cried Orion indignantly.
Grindelwald's hazel eyes flashed with amusement. "You can think of me as your cool and hip uncle; you can tell me anything."
"Uncle?" snorted Orion, smirking at him. "More of a great, great, annoying and pestering, grandfather, I'd say."
"Watch it, mein junger Lehrling," snapped Grindelwald, darkly glowering at him. "I might be older than you but I can reduce you to smithereens at present." Suddenly, he smirked, and added, "Never cross an old man like me, junge. Now, answer my question."
Orion scowled. "My personal life is no business of yours."
"It isn't," said Grindelwald, his smirk widening, "but as your mentor I have some rights over you, and if I want to stick my nose in your affairs, then there's nothing you can do about it. I can make my lessons hell for you if you don't satisfy my questions."
"They already are; they're no pleasure cruise, that's for sure," grumbled Orion. He sighed, and rubbed his chest, which still ached with lingering pain, before he glanced up at him. "Why do you want to know?"
"Curiosity," said Grindelwald, crookedly smirking. "I have no personal life of my own, so I'm interested in yours. It's the right of the elderly. Now, answer."
Orion rolled his eyes, and replied shortly, "Voldemort."
"Voldemort," repeated Grindelwald, frowning at him. "And who else?"
"Who else?" said Orion, blinking at him, before he snapped heatedly, "No one else, of course! What do you think - that I go around jumping at everyone I fancy?!"
Grindelwald's frown deepened, and he said sharply, "Ja, you should at least enjoy that aspect of your life, junge. You're too young to be tied down to anyone, and let's not mention that your future with him is uncertain, at best, given that-"
"My future with him isn't uncertain," bit out Orion. "I have it all planned out, and-"
"Plan all you want," interrupted Grindelwald curtly, "but if you're serious in becoming the Vindico, you'll have to do what is necessary, and the possibility of sparing him isn't certain. I've already told you that. You can try it, but if you sense that you're not powerful enough, then you'll have to kill him before attempting to undergo the test. It's either that, or you die in it. Therefore, you should open yourself up to the idea of having other partners-"
"We bonded!" snapped Orion angrily. "He's my spouse!"
"So?" said Grindelwald, arching an eyebrow. "I was told that there wasn't a fidelity bind in your magical bond."
Orion glared at him indignantly, and spat, "But there was in the vow I took; and even if the words weren't binding, I wouldn't break them! Are you honestly telling me that I should cheat on him in the eventuality that I'll kill him? I'm not going to kill him!"
"Whether you kill him or not is inconsequential in the matter we're discussing," said Grindelwald sternly. "You shouldn't have tied yourself down when you're so young. And, ja, that's precisely what I'm telling you. The idea of being with others shouldn't be appalling to you. You always have to think what's best for you, and that certainly isn't being the faithful spouse of a Dark Lord you should be ruthless enough to kill. You shouldn't give your loyalty so easily, especially to a wizard who wouldn't think twice about killing you if he knew what you are; if he knew he could take your dark magic."
"You don't know that," bit out Orion incensed. "He's not how you imagine him. He cares for me-"
Grindelwald let out a mocking bark of laughter, before piercing him with a hard gaze. "Don't be naïve, mein junge, he might 'care' for you, but the accumulation of power will always matter much more to him than you."
"You don't know-"
"Of course I do!" snapped Grindelwald angrily. "He's not that much different from me when I was younger, and power was all that mattered to me. He's precisely what a Dark Lord should be; never fool yourself about that, never forget it, or you'll find yourself at the wrong end of his wand!"
"I refuse to discuss this," said Orion stiffly, briskly standing up. "I'm leaving. I need to get to-"
"Nein, you're not," said Grindelwald sharply, before swiftly shooting his hand forward.
In a blink of an eye, before Orion knew what had happened, he found himself tied down to his chair, unable to move an inch.
"What are you doing?!" he snapped, darkly scowling at him.
"I'm doing you a favor," said Grindelwald coolly, relaxedly lounging in his armchair. He calmly raised his hand again, his palm spread before Orion, as his lips parted.
Orion's eyes widened, and he desperately struggled against his binds. "Don't! Don't-"
The wandless spell inevitably struck him, and suddenly, his mind felt inexplicably light, like a feather floating in space, while a kind of peaceful fog spread throughout it.
Grindelwald gazed at Orion's unfocused, dazed, green eyes, and nodded with satisfaction.
"Gut," said the wizard, scrutinizing him. "Now, tell me, junge, are you truly in love?"
"Yes," said Orion immediately, his voice sounding far away and monotonous.
Grindelwald heavily sighed, before he demanded, "Have you felt attraction towards others?"
"Yes," replied Orion, his jaw suddenly tightening as his mind struggled to come back to him.
Abruptly, Orion jerked his head to a side, his hands fisting into balls as his whole body trembled.
Grindelwald frowned, and said sharply, "Towards whom, junge!"
"Lezander Zraven," blurted out Orion, his body now rigid as his eyes focused on the wizard's face, his expression turning darker and darker each passing second.
Orion clenched his jaw, and gritted out, unable to hold his tongue, "Sebastien Valois."
"Hmm, ja," said Grindelwald pensively, nodding with satisfaction, "I knew his grandmother… Powerful bloodline and very influential House… He could help you, he could be useful to you… What are your feelings regarding him?"
Grindelwald expression became disappointed, before he pierced Orion with his eyes, and demanded, "Is there someone else?"
Orion jerkily shook his head, but his lips moved on their own accord, "Yes."
"I – no… I…" muttered Orion, fiercely biting down on his lower lip, as he tried to control his speech, his head shaking repeatedly. "Yes.. I… Dr- Draco Malfoy."
Orion's eyes widened and he held very still, as Grindelwald gazed at him with an arched eyebrow.
"What do you feel towards him?"
"Friendship. Attraction - Love," blurted out Orion, his face paling as his body became as rigid as a board.
Grindelwald's eyebrow shot to his hairline, before a small smile tugged the corner of his lips.
"I see," said the wizard, calmly raising his hand and flicking his wrist.
Abruptly, the great strain over Orion's body disappeared, his mind swiftly rushing into instant clarity, as his eyes completely focused back.
He jumped to his feet, swiftly aiming his wand at Grindelwald, and he roared enraged, "YOU HAD NO RIGHT! You had no right at all, old man! How DARE you-"
Grindelwald gazed at him impassively. "I wanted you to realize that there are other options available to you-"
"I DON'T WANT OTHER OPTIONS!" yelled Orion furiously. "I told you that I love Voldemort!"
"But he's not the only one, is he?" said Grindelwald nonchalantly, pointedly staring at him. "Did my ears deceive me or didn't you just admit that you love Draco Mal-"
"Of course I love him!" spat Orion angrily, jerkily carding his fingers through his hair. "He's my best friend, he's like a brother to me!"
Grindelwald arched an eyebrow disbelievingly. "It doesn't seem that way to me-"
"I don't care what it seems to you, you old codger!" hissed out Orion, inching his wand's tip closer to the wizard's face. "If you ever again dare to cast on me a truth-saying spell, I'll have you begging for mercy, you hear?!"
"Believe it or not," said Grindelwald, completely unfazed, "I did it with your best interest in mind."
"You did it," snapped Orion heatedly, "because you don't want me to be with Voldemort, because you want me to kill him without a thought, just because you want a Vindico to emerge!"
"True," said Grindelwald calmly, "but also because I think that you're allowing yourself to be blinded by emotions, and that's always dangerous for people like us, mein junge. We can't afford it. Trust me when I give you the advice of never falling in love with your enemy-"
"Voldemort isn't my enemy!"
Grindelwald snidely scoffed. "He is, and the problem is that you don't see it." He pierced him with his eyes, and added gravely, "Someone who would harm you to attain his own aims IS your enemy. Can you truly tell me that Voldemort has never hurt you? Can you tell me that he has never attempted to kill you?"
Orion frowned at him, before he clenched his jaw, and said stiffly, "That was before we bonded. That was when he thought that the prophecy…"
He clamped his mouth shut, just as Grindelwald shot him a pointed glance.
"Exactly, mein junge, when he thought the prophecy was real," said the wizard sternly, "and it is."
"He doesn't know that," said Orion crisply.
"You told me yourself that he believes in it."
"He does," said Orion, deeply frowning at him, "but he doesn't know what we do about it."
"And do you truly believe," said Grindelwald, arching an eyebrow, "that he hasn't taken any measures to protect himself from what the prophecy foretells?"
Orion's frown turned troubled and uncertain. "I… er… he hasn't-"
"I assure you that he has," interrupted Grindelwald sharply. "That we aren't aware of it, doesn't mean that he hasn't done something about it." He pierced him with his eyes, and said gravely, "Be careful, mein junge, you're playing with fire. I can only hope that you'll realize it before you get burned."
"I'm well aware of who my spouse is," said Orion curtly. "I know who I'm dealing with."
"Do you really?" retorted Grindelwald, arching an eyebrow. "If you don't believe him capable of hurting or killing you, then I dare say that you don't know him at all."
"I know him much better than anyone else," snapped Orion crisply. "He would never hurt me, and I'm not going to discuss him with you anymore. I know what I'm doing."
With a stiff back, he pocketed his wand and straightened his ruined robes, before saying curtly, "I'm leaving. Thanks for today. I'll see you next weekend."
Grindelwald nodded at him, and Orion closed his eyes and concentrated to apparate to Black Manor as quickly as possible, from where he would get back to Durmstrang.
Just as the tightening of space clenched around his body, pulling him away, he heard Grindelwald's last, grave words.
"Consider the Malfoy boy, mein junge, he has potential. He would be the best partner for you, for what's to come."
February moved towards March with no change in the weather except that it became windy as well as wet.
And for Orion, days flashed by so quickly in a flurry of activity that, before he noticed, he was already preparing himself for the meeting with the Necromancers Guild on the fifteenth of March.
After more excruciating but highly formative lessons with Grindelwald, he was progressing much better than either of them had expected after the rather disappointing first lesson. Orion had to admit that Grindelwald's sadistic methods seemed to be yielding results.
He could withstand much more pain than he had ever before, he could break through it in order to cast spells, he could neatly compartmentalize his mind with the use of Occlumency to help him order his thoughts to be able to improve in his abilities to simultaneously duel with wandless, nonverbal, and wand magic, and now, he could quickly call forth his dark magic to transform it into elements.
The only snag in the road was the use of what Grindelwald had pegged as his 'rohe dunkle Magie'. Only once had his dark magic exploded from him in a burst of searing waves, and that had been when Grindelwald had relentlessly jeered about his pathetic need for love which had driven him to become the plaything of the wizard who had killed his mother.
After hours of quietly taking countless snide remarks, Orion had simply lost all measure of restraint over his temper and over the angry sizzling of his dark magic. Before he knew what had happened, he saw Grindelwald being flung through the air in a sea of scorching waves of pure dark magic. The older wizard had crashed against a wall and lost consciousness for a few minutes, before he had nonchalantly stood up with a crooked, satisfied smirk tugging his lips.
Orion attributed the success more to his temper than anything else, but at least it had happened once. He had to admit that it was an improvement, since, before, it would have taken a very dire situation for his raw dark magic to come forth. But he recognized that he still had a very long way to go.
Even though Grindelwald had been right in all accounts, given that he had developed a wider threshold of pain and that the use of wandless magic had started to not tire him as much as before, he still needed a lot of practice in dueling and in using his dark magic for offensive purposes.
In each lesson, Grindelwald taught him new ways of using his dark magic in elemental form for duels and battles, and he practiced it further whenever he had a spare moment in Durmstrang, since he got crucioed every time the older wizard didn't see an improvement in his skills from one weekend to the next.
Nevertheless, he paid a high price for all his progress. There wasn't an inch of his body which hadn't been covered by some scar at some point, and he had to constantly use glamours to cover them while they healed. Moreover, the house-elves of Potter Manor were spending a fortune in buying him healing potions, and it didn't pass a day in which he didn't wince each time he sat or each time someone patted him on the shoulder.
Not to mention, that even with the constant use of the time-turner, he barely got a few hours of sleep each day. If it wasn't class at Hogwarts or Durmstrang, it was lessons with Grindelwald, study session of Cadmus' journal, translating the last chapter of Slytherin's research journals, or being occupied with the DA's lessons.
He barely saw his friends anymore. Calypso still kept to herself and was frenziedly studying at all times, which such a focus that only served to confirm his suspicions that something was heavily burdening her and that she was just trying to escape from it; Kara and Evander were so wrapped around each other that they barely cared about what happened around them; Viktor was finally dating Titania, and had little time for anyone else; the Elite continued to treat him with a respect that grew every day, and inevitably, which set him aside from them; he never saw Draco except the few times they talked about trivialities through the use of the two-way mirrors; he avoided Ron and Hermione as much as he could; and he quickly fled whenever he saw Lavander in the hallways, since the girl had taken to ambush him whenever she could, to discuss their relationship and feelings.
It all served to make him feel more isolated than ever.
The only person with whom he spent some time at school was Luna, since being with her filled him with a sort of simple peacefulness, and she never demanded anything from him, but always seemed willing to listen, if he ever wanted to discuss his troubles with her; he never did. Nonetheless, it was her quiet companionship, as they fed thestrals or sat in the library to do their homework, which filled him with some measure of contentment.
The only other person he saw as much as he could was Voldemort, though their interaction had inevitably changed. The wizard seemed as busy as himself, and whenever he portkeyed to Riddle Manor to see him, Voldemort was occupied studying the Mayan Stone, preparing some attack or other to be conducted in England by his Death Eaters, or planning the next steps the Dark Allies had to take in order to prepare for the eventual European war.
Furthermore, Orion was just as, or even more, exhausted than him, so usually, they simply shared tranquil moments of companionship, each lost in their own thoughts and plans. And sometimes, they shared moments of deep desire and fiery passion, but Orion couldn't help thinking that there was always something desperate and abruptly urgent every time they had sex; as if each thought that their time was running short.