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.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed the previous chapter! I hope you enjoy this one.
"Do you see any mists?!" cried Calypso excitedly, wildly glancing around with wide, hopeful eyes filled with anticipation.
"No," said Orion for the umpteenth time, rolling his eyes at her as they explored the circular setting of large standing stones of Stonehenge.
His Death and Life wand was back in his hand. The moment they had landed, the wand which had been floating above Stonehenge had stopped glowing and it had shot straight back into his hand, settling itself in his palm as it if was the most ordinary of wands. Orion hadn't known quite what to do, except to grasp it again and use it, as indeed he had.
The first thing he did, before exploring the area, was to reach the small wooden lodge near Stonehenge. It was late at night but the glow of a television set could be seen coming from the small lodge's window. He didn't have to muse much before knowing that the muggle watching the telly in his home had to be the person guarding Stonehenge. Thus, for precaution, he had flung open the door of the lodge and swiftly casted a Stupefy at the muggle's back. The poor old man hadn't known what hit him: the muggle had slumped on his couch, and would most probably believe that he had fallen asleep while watching his favorite nightshow.
Now Orion was pacing around the large standing stones of Stonehenge, with a small Lumos globe floating above his shoulder, providing them enough light to inspect their surroundings. Calypso was eagerly and happily yapping by his side, with her magical carpet rolled and standing vertically, hopping after her as if it had a life of its own.
"Oh, this is such a great discovery!" rushed out Calypso, trailing her fingers over a pillar-like stone which stood vertically next to another, with a flat stone set vertically on top of both, forming what looked like some sort of archway, one of many which conformed a circle around the flat mound of the small hill they were at. "This place must have been the gate to Avalon – the magical mists must have been seen right here! If we could only tell the wizarding world about this-"
"We can't," snapped Orion sharply, shooting her a stern glance, since she hadn't stopped babbling about it since the moment they had started inspecting the standing stones. "No one must know what Stonehenge really was. Or that it can still possibly work as a gate to Avalon."
Calypso shot him a sideways indignant scowl. "I know. I'm not a fool. I was just saying that it's a pity that you can't take credit for this discovery-"
"I haven't discovered anything yet," interjected Orion curtly, waving a hand at the innocently standing stones of the prehistoric monument. "Seemingly, there's nothing here but stones, stones, and more stones. And I don't want to be given credit for anything. I much prefer that the mystery of Stonehenge remains as such."
"But you do feel it, don't you?" breathed out Calypso, glancing around with wide eyes, an entranced and thrilled look on her face.
"Yeah," muttered Orion, another shiver running down his spine.
He had felt 'it' the moment they had landed at Stonehenge – the intensity of the magical fields that Calypso had spoken about. Magic was everywhere in the air, feeling like heavy clouds hovering all over the place, almost suffocating in its density. There was nothing of it that was visible, but his skin was covered in goose-bumps, his flesh tingled, and his very inner magical core seemed to be wildly reacting to it, animated and eager.
Furthermore, the magic in the air, and even seemingly coming from the grass-covered ground and the standing stones, felt like a confluence of forces. It felt as if it was composed by clashing winds of dark and light magic, meshing, revolving around each other, but also battling. It charged the atmosphere with a heavy feeling of static electricity, making Orion's small hairs on his nape stand up, as if a great, thunderous storm was about to unleash upon him.
"I don't understand why you aren't seeing any mists," said Calypso with a huff, trailing after him as he went to closely inspect one of the monolith-like stones. "I didn't expect that I would see anything, but I was sure that you would. You are Mordred, the Lady of the Lake was your ancestor! So why aren't you seeing-"
She broke off the moment she saw Orion staring down at his wand with a frown on his face, and in the next heartbeat she was standing by his side, piercing him with eager eyes. "What is it?"
"It's acting up again," muttered Orion, his gaze fixed on his wand, since it had suddenly started to vibrate in his hand. But it didn't burn as before, it simply seemed to be thrumming gently. "It feels, er… well, impatient."
"Aren't we all," said Calypso, shooting him a grin. "Let it go free again!"
With a sharp intake of breath, Orion snapped his hand open and in the next second the most familiar and wonderful of melodies echoed all around him. His wand was spinning in the air, calmly and slowly floating towards the center of Stonehenge, and two white shapes were flying around the wand, circling and dancing around it, a white phoenix and a basilisk, sounds coming from them, infusing Orion with a deep feeling of peace and tranquility yet also excitement.
"What is it? What's happening?"
Orion shot Calypso a brief frown. "Don't you see them? Don't you hear them?"
"See and hear what?" she said with puzzlement, her eyes quickly glancing around the dark skies. "Your wand has just disappeared, Orion! Are you telling me that you can still see it?"
"Yes, I can, and my patroni are with it. Come, let's follow!" he said quickly, snatching her hand and urgently pulling her after him.
"But you didn't conjure your patroni," panted out Calypso, looking utterly befuddled as she was dragged into the center of the historic site.
"We've always known that my patroni are linked to my wand, to its core, since it's dual with phoenix tears and basilisk poison, life and death…" Orion trailed off, dropping her hand while his eyes grew large, as his gaze landed on what stood before him. He shot Calypso a perplexed glance, and murmured slowly, "That wasn't there before-"
"What do you see?" she demanded breathlessly, her gaze snapping left, right and center, evidently seeing nothing but trying very hard to find anything.
"It's… beautiful," whispered Orion, now fixedly staring at it, having difficulty in trying to express it in words, while the song of his patroni - the trill of the phoenix meshed with the lulling hissing of the basilisk- reverberated in his ears.
He wildly gestured at it; at the lights he was seeing glowing in a full spectrum of swirling colors, flashing all around something apparently made of stone, while his patroni circled it from above, dancing around his Death and Life wand, which floated directly above it.
"It's like an aurora borealis… my wand is hovering over it, pointing down at…" He frowned and took several steps to approach it, his gaze inspecting it closely. "It's like one of the archways that forms the circle of Stonehenge, but it looks even older and it only reaches my waist." He drew in a deep intake of breath, and shot her a glance. "It looks like an altar, Scaly. And there's something carved on the horizontal slab of stone."
"Well, what are you waiting for?" said Calypso eagerly, squirming with excitement. "It's evident it's only meant to be seen by you, by a Vindico. So go check it out."
Orion needed no further encouragement. His heart was loudly thumping with anticipation as he took the small steps required to be in front of the stones, and holding his breath, he extended a hand and touched it. "It's solid. This is no illusion."
With a jerk, he instantly withdrew his hand when a loud, victorious, trilling cry resounded all around him. In the next bat of the eye, he saw his phoenix patronus plunging into his Death and Life wand, being instantly followed by the white, glowing basilisk. Orion blinked when his wand dropped onto the horizontal slab of stone, while the lights he had likened to an aurora borealis seemed to dim and fade all around him. But the altar-like conformation of stones still remained, and now, without so many flashy lights around it, except the Lumos globe over his shoulder, he could see it more clearly.
Feeling his blood rushing through his veins and his heart wildly pumping, he quickly snatched his wand back to see what was inscribed on the slab of stone it had landed on. Something lodged in his throat and he jerkily tightened his fingers around his wand when he saw the symbols deeply carved in the middle of the stone.
"This cannot be," he gasped out, his eyes wide and his voice shaky and flabbergasted, before anger and disappointment swept over him.
"Oh, what is it? I'm dying here, Orion!" whined Calypso, her tone both beseeching and impatient.
Orion shot her a dark glare, and his jaw clenched as he bit out, "I'll show you, then."
With a jerky flick of his wand, he conjured inked quill and parchment, and he immediately laid the piece of parchment over the symbols, tracing them on the parchment with the quill.
The moment he was done, he briskly slapped the parchment into her hands, as he snapped dourly, "It doesn't make sense. See it for yourself. "
Calypso's eyebrows had shot to her hairline, but she didn't waste a second longer in pulling the parchment up to her face, to inspect his drawing closely. "It's two symbols intertwined with each other… The one on the left is the… Oh, it's the VA symbol!" She shot him a wide, excited grin. "Then we were right, this place is the-"
"The problem is the other symbol," snapped Orion sharply, a dark scowl on his face. "Do you know what it is?"
She stared at him nonplussed, before her gaze zeroed in on the parchment again, a puzzled and pensive frown soon spreading over her face. "I think I've seen it before somewhere… It rings a bell-"
"It's the muggles' symbol for their God, Scaly!" spat Orion, waving an angered hand at the original symbol carved on the stone of the altar-like construction. "See… the pyramid, the flames at the top with an eye in them –"
"Oh, I remember!" cried Calypso ecstatically, her fingertips trailing over the symbol drawn on the parchment. "But you're partly wrong, Orion. I read about this in the muggle books about religion I've been studying. This symbol is a representation of the muggle God, it's even in American dollars bills and muggles have a lot of loony conspiracy theories about it, but it's called the All-Seeing Eye, and it's the original symbol of Freemasonry, which goes back as far as-"
"I'm glad to know that your research is bearing fruits already," interjected Orion tartly, his temper souring with each passing second. "But I don't need a word for word account of what you've read-"
"It's clear to me that I have to start sending you my notes," interrupted Calypso sharply, shooting him a stern glance. "You should begin learning as much as I am about muggle religions and weaponry, and the spells I think we could use-"
"Scaly," snapped Orion with exasperation, "send me all the notes you like, but don't start rambling about stuff that doesn't matter right now."
Calypso huffed impatiently as she poked a finger on the piece of parchment she was holding. "But it does matter! This is the symbol of the Freemasons and I have notes about them-"
"And I don't need to read them to know that they are, or were, some sort of muggle sect," interjected Orion, crossing his arms over his chest as he leveled her with a hard gaze. "That's the whole point, Scaly! What's a muggle symbol doing here?! Carved on a stone altar only I, and surely Arian too, can see. On a stone altar that must date back to the times of Merlin, certainly built by Druids and only seen by them and those they allowed, and obviously hidden by magic. So tell me what a muggle symbol is doing here and how it's possible!"
She clamped her mouth shut, staring at him with a frown on her face, and then her eyes trailed back to the piece of parchment, her frown deepening as her gaze narrowed on the details of the drawn symbol.
"What's this underneath the pyramid?" she inquired, pointing a finger at it as she showed him the drawing.
"Oh, that's the cherry on top of the cake," drawled Orion sourly, still standing with his arms crossed over his chest, his expression sullen and moody. "Those are Druidic Runes."
"Druidic Runes?" She stared at him, and then a wide, excited smile broke on her face. "Oh, but when you worked on deciphering Cadmus' journal, you learned them. You know what it says, then?"
"Yeah," grumbled Orion darkly, snatching the piece of parchment from her hands to point at the small runes he had drawn under the symbol's pyramid. "This one is the Flame Rune, it means 'light'. And this other, is the Torch Rune, it means 'to bear', to-"
"Light Bearer?" breathed out Calypso, staring at him with round eyes. "It says that?"
"Well, yes," replied Orion gruffly. "But the Torch Rune can also mean champion, avenger, protector, fighter-"
"Vindico Lumen!" she cried joyfully, as it if were the most marvelous of revelations. "This is it, then! We were right about this place. This is the symbol for Vindico Lumen and it's here, intertwined with your symbol, the one for VA. Right here in the middle of the Druids' Circle-"
"Look," interrupted Orion curtly, jerkily carding his fingers through his hair. "I have no doubt that, indeed, that symbol is the one for Vindico Lumen, and that it, together with mine, represent Avalon, its twin isles. And thus, that in Stonehenge -" he slapped a hand on the horizontal stone slab of the altar, feeling a weird shiver running down his spine, which he shortly dismissed "- that right here, is the place where I have to bring the Hallows and somehow join them. And that then I'll see 'mists', or whatever, and a way into Avalon will be revealed to me."
He paused and shot her a dark scowl, his teeth gritting as he bit out, "But again, why is a muggle symbol part of the Vindico Lumen representation? Except for the Druidic Runes, the rest is purely a muggle symbol of their God!"
Orion angrily waved a hand, and groused out, "Am I supposed to believe all the religious nonsense Arian spouted? Am I to believe that he's a God come to Earth?!" He snidely scoffed. "Please! If I didn't know everything I do, I would think this symbol is a joke. But it can't be, since it's clear that it was carved on this altar millennia ago – it looks as old as wand-making! So how is it possible? A muggle symbol with Druidic Runes, carved on a magical place – it doesn't make sense!"
"I'm sure there's a logical and sensible explanation to this symbol," piped in Calypso, looking thoroughly nonchalant and simply pleased with their discoveries so far. She shot him a wide grin, and added excitedly, "As a matter of fact, I think we're only missing one piece of the puzzle. And I know who has it. I know who can tell us about this symbol."
Orion shot her a quizzical glance, and murmured pensively, "You're thinking about Ba-"
"Bathilda Bagshot - exactly!" said Calypso triumphantly, before she rambled eagerly, "It all fits. Arian glanced this way because he wanted you to find this altar and see the symbol. And he can See into the past as long as you're not in it, according to Trelawney, so he must know everything about the Lady of Lake. He could have Seen how she created the Book and what is written there. He could know about everything - your children, the vampire legend regarding your son with Lez, what happened during Merlin's times and yours as Mordred – in short, he must have known exactly what Vivian would tell you! And he must have conjectured that you were going to see her as soon as you went to Zraven Citadel. He probably knows that you've already visited her!"
Orion stared at her musingly, and said slowly, "So you think he told me about-"
"I think he told you to ask Kreacher about Regulus so that you would figure out that it was Gaia who had influenced you when you were ten years old," interrupted Calypso quickly, widely smiling at him. "And he told you to ask your father about Bagshot, so that you would read your mother's letter mentioning the old historian. And previously he had dropped the glance towards this place, and he knew you would find it and figure its purpose once you had spoken to the Kraljica Mati. So it's evident that Bagshot is the missing piece. I don't think she could know more about you and the VA issue than you already know from the Lady of the Lake."
Her smile grew victorious and she waved the piece of parchment at him. "But I do think that Bagshot, given her profession and her links to the Dumbledore family, must know about this symbol, about Arian, and about what happened to Hyperion Valenor. I think that's exactly what Arian is waiting for you to find out."
"For what purpose?" groused out Orion, his eyes narrowing to slits. "And then what happens? What will he do?"
"Well, I don't know, do I?" said Calypso with an exasperated roll of her eyes. Suddenly, she grasped his forearm and shook it excitedly. "And we won't know until we see her. Let's go tonight, now! Do you still have-"
"I have Ragnarok's address with me, yeah," interrupted Orion coolly. He shot a dark glare at the symbol intertwined with the VA's on the stone altar, and muttered darkly, "I don't like this. I don't like this at all, Scaly. That symbol is-"
"I know you don't like the stupid symbol," snapped Calypso impatiently, "but that's hardly going to give us answers. Bagshot could!"
"Fine, fine," grumbled Orion with a heavy sigh. "You're right. Get your carpet. I'll apparate us, since you've never been there."
She shot him a content smile, and she didn't even have to chase around for her magical carpet given that it had been silently hopping by her side since the moment they had halted at the center of Stonehenge.
Now, with her carpet shrunk and in her pocket, she was gazing at him with eager anticipation. Orion, for his part, was glancing at her and the stone altar with a musing expression on his face.
"Do something for me, Scaly," he said quietly. "Try touch it."
Calypso's eyebrows shot to her hairline. "But I can't even see it-"
"Just try, please," he pressed on sternly.
"Alright," she said with a shrug of her shoulders, before she took several steps forward and shot out a hand, waving it ahead of her. "It's like nothing's here."
Orion grinned with satisfaction when he observed how her whole arm sunk through the stone altar as if it were a mere invisible illusion. "Great. Then it's truly safe."
"What, from mere mortals like myself?" quipped Calypso sarcastically, letting out an annoyed huff.
"Precisely," said Orion, impishly grinning at her.
And without another hitch of breath, he tightly grasped her forearm and concentrated on a clear picture of Godric's Hollow's town square, remembering it from the time his father had taken him to visit Lily's and James Potter's graves, instantly pulling Calypso into a side-along apparition.
"It's late for a visit. It's way past midnight," whispered Orion, glancing from his wristwatch to the piece of parchment holding the address and then back to a street name sign, as they took a left from Godric's Hollow's main square. "If Ragnarok receives us he'll have my head for bothering him at such an hour."
"I'm sure your childhood tutor will be thrilled to see you again after so long," interjected Calypso dismissively. "Besides, he's an Aux. He'll be serving you once you become the VA, so you have every right to ask for his assistance, no matter the time."
"Let's hope he thinks the same. I know Komorov wouldn't," murmured Orion, his gaze flickering from the piece of parchment to a house number, and back. "I think it's the next door." He then glanced around with a frown on his face. "The town is eerily quiet, don't you think?"
"It's a predominantly light wizarding town, and they are scared," whispered Calypso, a smug smile on her lips. "Scrimgeour might be telling them that all is well, but they know what's coming. They know that you're allied to the Dark Lord, and thanks to your ice statue, they also know that you're Grindelwald's grandson. And they think Dumbledore's dead. They know the war is coming and that they don't stand a chance."
"Yes, you're right," muttered Orion, glancing at all the windows covered by curtains, not a single light coming from any house. "There's fear in the air. You can almost taste it."
"True," piped in Calypso, shooting him a wide smirk. "And it tastes divinely, doesn't it?"
Orion eyed her with amusement, before he finally stood before a door with a number five crookedly dangling on top of it. The house before them didn't look like much; it was small, made of stone, and looked as if it was squeezed among many others of the same type.
"This is it," he said calmly, pocketing the small piece of parchment back into his pants, and wasting no time in knocking on the plain door.
At first, nothing seemed to happen, and then he heard shuffling sounds coming from within, along with a 'thump' and a muffled string of curses. Well, now there was no doubt in his mind that they had just awoken Ragnarok from his night sleep and that the poor man had just knocked over some furniture. Indeed, he heard muffled swear words from within right up until the moment the front door was yanked open, undoubtedly angrily.
The next second, Orion could see nothing from the darkness beyond the parted door except a wand poking straightly at his nose, and the aged, wrinkled hand holding it.
"State your name and business," commanded a wheezing voice.
"Um, it's me, Orion Black-"
"We'll see about that," interrupted the voice from the depths of the house. "Which family was I serving when we first met? And how did you come to be my pupil?"
Orion shot Calypso a blinking glance, before he gazed back into the darkness. "The Malfoys. You were Draco Malfoy's childhood tutor and you took me as your pupil for some months before I went to Durmstrang. I asked my dad for a tutor and Lucius convinced my father that I needed one to teach me about pureblood stuff and also to prepare me for school." He scoffed and added with wry amusement, "And surely Lucius insisted so much on it because he wanted me to be under his influence-"
"Quite so," interjected the gruff voice. "And what did I give you, and only you."
"The books written in parseltongue," replied Orion coolly. "They were from your friend Gregorovitch and you gave them to me the moment you discovered I was a parselmouth."
"And the moment I started suspecting what you truly were, just as my dear friend had also surmised by then," said the voice, its tone now calmer and more trusting. "What do you now know me to be?"
"An Aux Atrum," whispered Orion, becoming increasingly impatient as he glanced around the deserted street and the curtained windows of the houses along it. "Look, Ragnarok, just let us in before some nosy old lady sees us from her window-"
"Who's your friend, my boy?"
"This is Calypso Rosier," snapped Orion shortly, gesturing at her by his side.
"Romulus' daughter? I should have known. I'm told you two are as thick as thieves." A wheezing chuckle resounded, and then the door was suddenly flung wide open. "What are you waiting for? Come in, my wayward youngsters."
Calypso shot Orion a tense glance before stepping inside, and understanding the look she gave him, he plucked out his wand and entered the house, alert and on guard.
"Let me have a look at you, my boy. It has been many years!" said the old man cheerfully, waving his wand as he made way to the small sitting room of the house.
Suddenly, all lights flared alive in the room, coming from several oil lamps and candles propped here and there, and Orion had his first chance to see the wizard properly.
Orion's jaw almost hung agape, but he checked himself just in time. Still, the impression was a marked one. Ragnarok looked to him as if he had aged decades. There was no doubt that the years hadn't been gentle with the wizard. The once brown hair peppered with grey was now almost white, the beard reached the waist of the man's nightgown, and the eyes were now spectacled with small, squared eyeglasses which seemed to have known a better time.
"You've become a young man," said Ragnarok, with a pleased expression on his wrinkled face, his eyes roving over Orion. He clicked his tongue with appreciation, a chuckle wheezing out of him. "And you have Gellert's magic in you, just as we were informed. There's no doubt about that, my boy. The dark aura I see swirling around you-"
"Before we start talking," interrupted Orion curtly, partly to get to the point and also because he really didn't want to discuss anything related to Grindelwald – at least not as if his death had been all about acquiring power, like the old man clearly thought, "I would like some proof of your identity, as you did with me."
He pointedly stared at the old man, while he surreptitiously tightened his grasp on his wand by his side.
"Easily done, if what I've been told is true," said Ragnarok placidly, slowly turning his back to them, as he parted his white hair from his nape. "What do you see?"
With a breath of relief, Orion grinned and instantly pocketed his wand. "The VA symbol – the mark all Aux Atrum have."
"I presume that is enough evidence of my identity for you?" said the old man, smiling back at him as he slowly took a seat on a creaking couch.
Orion nodded at him while he took a chair across from the old wizard, Calypso seating herself right by his side.
"I see that you're not inclined to talk about your grandfather," said Ragnarok conversationally, quirking an eyebrow at him, before he casually flicked his wand to conjure a tea set.
"I didn't come here to talk about Gellert," said Orion shortly, only pausing to take the tea cup he was offered. "Thanks. As I was saying, I don't want to discuss Gellert with you or anyone else. We came here because, um…" He shot Calypso a brief glance, before he gazed back at the old man. "Well, I should start from the beginning, I suppose. I recently discovered that I'm Mo-"
"I don't think he knows," whispered Calypso urgently into his ear, warningly grasping his arm. "You shouldn't tell him about it, about the KM, or about the place we've just come from. I don't think Morgana's spirit has even told Komorov or any previous Aux leader-"
"What don't I know?" interrupted Ragnarok, arching a bushy eyebrow at them as he speared them with his spectacled gaze. "I may be quite old, young miss, but my hearing has not yet failed me."
"Nothing important," said Orion placidly, imperceptibly nodding at Calypso, a silent thanks to her.
Ragnarok shot them a shrewd, suspicious glance. "It didn't sound like that to me."
"We came here because we know about the task Karkaroff appointed to you," interjected Calypso sharply, pinning the old man with her large, black eyes. She waved a hand at the room. "We know why you've been living here, in Godric's Hollow, for some years now-"
"Ah, I shouldn't be surprised," interrupted the old wizard, a wheezing chuckle bubbling from his dry, thin lips. "You have a reputation for being quite adept at spying, even on your own father-"
"I beg your pardon?" hissed out Calypso bristling, an annoyed and angered expression sweeping over her face. "That's neither here nor there, nor is it true-"
"I hear that you two have led quite an adventurous life during your school years," said Ragnarok, eyeing both of them while he turned a deaf ear to Calypso's interruption. "Finding Salazar Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets, breaking into a Department of Mystery, revealing the prophecy, finding Hallows, breaking into Nurmengard-"
"What's your point?" interjected Orion, becoming increasingly wary and impatient.
"As of lately, we've had frequent Aux meetings," said Ragnarok conversationally, before he took a slow sip from his tea, his gaze never leaving Orion. He held the tea cup back on his lap, and continued pleasantly, "You seem to be digging deeply into Vindico matters, including some investigative work regarding the Dumbledore boy. Our leader, Komorov, and Sebastien Valois, informed us of what you know and suspect about Arian Valenor. That's all very well, in my opinion. But I must ask, what are you doing? What are you waiting for, young man?"
Orion stared at him with a puzzled frown on his face. "What do you mean-"
"Gustav has died," said Ragnarok stiffly, piercing him with a hard gaze. "He was murdered some time ago by Voldemort, because the Dark Lord wanted to know about the Elder Wand."
"Um, er... I know," muttured Orion uncomfortably, eyeing him carefully. "I saw it through Voldemort's eyes. I'm sorry for your loss. I know Gregorovitch was not only a fellow Aux but also your close friend-"
"Ah, yes, you saw it because you're one of his horcruxes," interrupted Ragnarok sharply. "That's the reason for the questions which seem to have surprised you. I ask again, what are you waiting for? You need only to learn more Necromancy to find a way to get rid of the piece of soul inside you. And according to Komorov, you could already do it with the aid of the Resurrection Stone, if you wanted to. Furthermore, you supposedly know what and where most of Voldemort's horcruxes are. You need only destroy them in order to kill him and absorb his raw dark magic. Furthermore, you have two Hallows, and the Elder Wand could have already been in your possession if you had wanted. You left Dumbledore alive, you didn't take the Wand, and you keep procrastinating in your duty to-"
"I assure you that I'll try to become the VA as soon as I can," cut in Orion vehemently, "but I have many things to consider-"
"Such as saving Tom Riddle from his own folly and crazed hunger for power?"
Orion instantly tensed and narrowed his eyes at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means," replied the old man calmly, spearing him with an intense, pointed gaze, "that none of us have any doubt that he will try to kill you the moment he knows about the Hallows and the Vindico Atrum matter. And he will know, sooner or later, my boy, make no mistake. Secrets such as those, given all you've been doing, and not covertly enough, are bound to be known."
"We'll keep it in mind," piped in Calypso, stiffly smiling at the old wizard. "But I don't think it's any of your business, or the Aux's, what Orion decides to do with the Dark Lord."
"It is our business, young lady, when it threatens to undo all we've worked for," said Ragnarok sternly. "When it threatens the life of the one who can become our Vindico." He shot Orion a hard, pointed gaze, as he pressed on insistently, "We were informed about the situation with the horcruxes, and we wonder why you haven't acted yet-"
"And I assume that Komorov didn't fail to tell you that I have a deal with him regarding Voldemort's horcruxes," interrupted Orion curtly, narrowing his eyes at him. "They are my task, my business, and none of you will act without my permission. I'll be the one to gather them, no one else." He shot him a smirk, and relaxed as he leaned back on his seat. "Besides, none of you know what they are or where."
"We have some clue-"
"A deal is a deal," snapped Orion briskly. "Take it to Komorov if you have complaints."
"Why are you going to such lengths to spare such an unworthy and dangerous wizard?" interjected Ragnarok, looking troubled but also determined and stern. "We know about your pact with the Guild. Vulcan Vagnarov, may he rest in peace, was quite worried about it. He was concerned that you would take that path to attain magical power in order to spare Voldemort's life." He leaned forward in his seat, and piercingly stared at him as he added sharply, "Is that what you're prepared to do? To become the Argonaut's pupil?"
At Orion's startled surprised, the old man curtly nodded at him. "Oh, yes, I know about the Argonaut. Vulcan told me about him, and he had nothing good to say. Are you aware of what you'll become under that Necromancer's tutelage? If you know, why would you do it, when it would be much simpler and logical to simply follow the prophecy and kill Voldemort-"
"I don't think you understand my position," interjected Orion in a low murmur. "I might be doing it for personal reasons, but they are important to me-"
"Personal reasons?!" snarled Ragnarok, abruptly wheezing out a cough, before he composed himself and skewered him with a hard gaze. "I never took you for a fool, young man, but I'm beginning to doubt that you have what it takes to become the Vindico, if you allow 'personal reasons' to guide you-"
"Enough!" spat Calypso angrily, brusquely setting down her tea cup on the low table between them, making it spill on the old wood. She narrowed her eyes at Ragnarok, and bit out sharply, "Orion might feel obliged to be nice to you out of respect for his former childhood tutor, but I have no reason to do so, old man. You have no right to question the wizard who will become the VA, and as such, your leader and better. What Orion decides to do on all matters is his own business. A follower is not someone who ever has the right to question his master. Now, we want you to take us to Bathilda Bagshot. That's why we're here."
Ragnarok's white, bushy eyebrows shot to his wrinkled forehead. "You're truly your father's daughter."
"I take that as a compliment," snapped Calypso shortly, raising her chin up, her expression hard and curt.
"It was meant as such, young lady." The old man let out a wheezed chuckle and slowly rose to his feet, wobbling on the way up. He shot Orion a glance, and said quietly, "Your friend is right, and I deserved those words. It was not my intention to demand more from you, my boy. I am, I admit, puzzled by some of your decisions, since I wouldn't make them myself in your position. But we must trust that you know what you're doing, and demand no more."
Still frowning, Orion mutely nodded at the old man as he stood up. "Will you take us to Bagshot's house?"
"I'll do more than that," said Ragnarok, pulling a cloak over his nightgown. "If what I suspect about your reason for wanting to see her is correct, then I could be of use if I visited her with you."
"You have befriended her?" asked Orion, following the old wizard to the door.
"I have, and I've already protected her once," said the old man placidly, shooting him a smirk over his shoulder. "Therefore, she trusts me."
Orion frowned at the old man's back. "Protected her from what?"
"From a ravenous, unscrupulous journalist," replied the old wizard, his voice laced with amusement as he carefully opened the front door, peeking out his face to glance outside.
"Skeeter?" gasped out Calypso, shooting Orion a worried glance. "She's seen Bagshot already?"
"All is clear," murmured Ragnarok, beckoning them to move forward.
Orion and Calypso quickly complied and followed the old wizard out of the house, taking, under the cover of the night, a small, narrow street which seemed to twist around the quiet wizarding town.
"Apparently, Ms. Skeeter received an anonymous letter which prompted her to question Bathilda about Albus Dumbledore's past and his relationship with Gellert Grindelwald," whispered Ragnarok, shooting Orion a pointed glance. "I can only surmise that you were the anonymous quill who wrote that letter. A bold move, if I may say so, and not a very wise one. If I hadn't been here, Morgana knows what other information Skeeter would have gleaned from Bathilda."
"But you were here. And it was your task to watch over Bagshot," interjected Calypso sharply, annoyance clear in her voice. "If it had gone wrong it would have been your fault, not Orion's. Now tell us what happened and stop beating around the bush."
The old man seemingly turned a deaf ear to her rude remarks, and continued conversationally, his tone of voice pleasant and nonchalant, "I saw Skeeter going around the town asking about Bathilda, and of course I thought there was no better time to pay a dear neighbor a visit."
"Of course," said Orion, grinning at him. "And what happened when Skeeter found Bagshot?"
"I was pleasantly having tea in dear Bathilda's house when we were impolitely interrupted by a demanding journalist," he shot Orion a sly smirk as they took a turn around a corner, "and poor, clumsy old me stumbled against her just as she made her way inside the parlor, making her purse drop to the floor. Alas, something was broken. A Veritaserum vial. I am repenting for it till this very day."
Orion chuckled under his breath, and slapped a hand on the old man's bony shoulder. "Well done, I say. So Rita didn't get from Bathilda anything except the story about Albus and Gellert, and some of the other unsavory secrets of Dumbledore's past, right?"
"Exactly, and my work was done," said Ragnarok pleasantly. "I'm quite sure that I've gained an enemy in Ms. Skeeter." His dry, thin lips quirked upwards. "I'm looking forward to seeing how she'll take revenge on me. My task here is a very dull one and such occurrence would enliven my existence."
Calypso rolled her eyes at them as they shared a quiet laugh, and then let out an impatient huff. "Are we there yet? We don't have all night, old man-"
"It was you who came to me, Miss Rosier," interrupted Ragnarok gruffly, shooting her an irritated glance over the shoulder. "And as much as I like and respect your father, you'll do well to rein your temper with me or nothing will prevent me for giving you a spanking which I feel would do you great good."
"What did you say?" spit out Calypso in an angered high pitch, already lunging half-way towards the old man before Orion pulled her close to him.
"What's the matter with you?" he whispered sharply, sideways glancing at her with a frown on his face. "He's helping us, and he's right. You're too tense and you're being too short with him-"
"We're here on serious business and you were sniggering with him as if you were two old chums," she hissed under her breath, glowering at him. "And quite frankly, I don't like him. Making you those questions, demanding to know what you were doing, and telling you that it wasn't enough. And even daring to tell you what you should do with the Dark Lord-"
"He said it out of concern, Scaly-"
"He didn't," she groused out sharply. "And you were being too nice to him, when you should be ordering him around and not the other way-"
"If you two youngsters are done squabbling," said Ragnarok calmly, who had suddenly halted before them, arching a bushy eyebrow at them, "I would like to inform you that we've reached Bathilda's house."
"It was about time," snapped Calypso, pulling away from Orion's grasp on her arm as she briskly crossed a small gate and took the steps that led to the front door of a small, cozy-looking house at the outskirts of Godric's Hollow.
With a sigh, Orion followed her while he glanced around their new surroundings, seeing that Bagshot's house was one of the few in that area. There was a street which seemed to connect that part of town with the main square, and another which led to the cemetery, which wasn't too far away since he could distinguish it from his position. All in all, the area looked just like the kind of place in which an old woman would have a house, with several gardens and trees around, and with blossomed flowers on every window sill of every house.
Ragnarok was the first to knock on the wooden door. And the old wizard had to loudly knock several times more before they heard some muffled noises coming from within.
Abruptly, the front door parted slightly, and they caught a glimpse of an old woman peeking out her head, squinting at them with heavily wrinkled eyes, holding up a candle in a saucer which shook in the old witch's arthritic hand.
Orion inspected her closely. Her stoop, her plump stoutness, and her tiny, bowed down frame which was barely level with his chest, all gave an impression of extreme old age. Her head had scant white hair through which the scalp showed clearly, and she was wearing a flowery shawl over a lacy, long nightgown. Her eyes were thick with cataracts and sunken into folds of pale skin, and her wrinkled face was dotted with old age spots. But other than that, she seemed to be in good health, given her rosy cheeks.
"Who are you?" said the old woman, squinting at them, before her gaze landed on Ragnarok. "Ricard, is that you?"
"Indeed it is, Bathilda," said Ragnarok, warmly smiling at the tiny old witch. "Would you let us in? I've come with two friends who would like to speak with you-"
"Who?" said Bagshot, her voice aged and cracked. Suddenly, as she was about to part open the door to let them in, she froze, her squinting eyes fixed on Orion, her wrinkled face paling as if she was seeing a terrible ghost, the candle-saucer in her hand shaking dangerously. "Gellert?"
She looked shaken and terrified, and Calypso shot her foot out just in time to block the door from slamming shut in their faces. Orion caught sight of Calypso about to draw out her wand, but he clutched her wrist and shook his head at her.
"I'm not Gellert Grindelwald!" he said quickly to the old witch, feeling a bit perplexed. "You might have read in the newspapers that he's dead, that they found an ice statue in one of the peaks of the Matterhorn. It's his grave-"
"Yes," said the old woman slowly, apparently recovering herself, somewhat. Yet she kept squinting at him. "But you look like him, not in coloring, but your cheekbones and straight nose… Oh, you're his grandson. You're Harry Potter?"
"Er, um, yeah," said Orion, blinking at her. "But I go by my real name, Orion Black-"
"I have nothing to say to you," said Bagshot firmly, making another attempt to close the door, struggling with Calypso's foot blocking it. The old woman seemed jittery and very nervous, her eyes thick with cataracts squinting from one to the other, mainly at Ragnarok, as if asking for help.
"Bathilda, please, let these two youngsters inside," reiterated Ragnarok, his tone warm, amicable, and mollifying. "They mean no harm, I assure you. They merely wish to speak with you."
Bagshot seemed to be having a great internal debate, before she glanced out her door, peeking at the deserted street and neighboring houses. With a heavy, wheezy sigh, she then beckoned them inside and disappeared into the depths of the house.
They followed her as she hobbled and shuffled into a cozy sitting room which pleasantly smelled of lavender, and the old woman soon started tottering around the place, attempting to light candles and lamps. But the wand in her hand shook too much, and several Lumos spells were misfired before Ragnarok took out his own wand to lit all the candles in the room.
The old witch shot Ragnarok a grateful glance before she slowly took a seat in a plush couch with flowery patterns, gesturing at them to do the same. Orion immediately sat by her side, and his interest was soon caught by the many pictures in ornate, golden frames on a small round table next to the couch.
"Would you like some tea?" she offered gently, apparently finding comfort and safety in taking the role of polite, welcoming hostess.
"No, thank you, ma'am," said Orion, shooting her a warm smile to put her more at ease.
Bagshot seemed to vacillate, and then squinted at him closely. "There isn't much I can tell you about Gellert, Harry. I am not comfortable speaking about such matters-"
"Then perhaps you could tell me a bit more about yourself?" interjected Orion pleasantly, ignoring the pointed and impatient glance Calypso shot him.
"About myself?" repeated slowly the old witch, looking quite surprised as she blinked at him.
"Yes, for instance, what should I call you?" said Orion calmly, arching an eyebrow at her. "Mrs. Grindelwald or Miss Bagshot?"
"Miss Bagshot, if you please," she said with an impassive expression on her face. "I use my maiden name since my husband died many decades ago."
Orion piercingly stared at her. "But your husband was a Grindelwald, wasn't he?"
"Yes," said the old witch with her cracking voice, pointing an arthritic finger to one of the framed pictures. "You can see him there. My husband was Pietr Grindelwald, Gellert's father's -Gerard's- uncle." She squinted at Orion, and added firmly, "But my husband was a good man, Harry. He was nothing like Gerard or the rest of the Grindelwald family. Pietr had been disowned not long after we met." Her expression lightened. "We were both historians, you see-"
"He had been disowned, why?" interjected Orion, frowning at her.
"Oh, I was Pietr's second wife," said the old witch slowly, fumbling with the lacy cuff of her nightgown. "Pietr, as every Grindelwald, was a pureblood dark wizard, but he had taken a light pureblood witch as his wife." She glanced at Orion grimly. "His first wife died in childbirth, bearing a baby – a squib. He was killed by the family and Pietr was disowned due to the shame he had brought upon the family name-"
"That's understandable," interjected Calypso coolly. "It's a measure many pureblood families take, even now-"
"It should not be," interrupted Bagshot sharply, her aged and cracked voice sounding stern. "I did not have any children with my first and only husband due to that horrible tradition. Pietr did not want to go through the same a second time. He feared the possibility of having another squib."
"Then he shouldn't have married a light witch two times in a row," said Calypso calmly, "and you shouldn't have married a dark pureblood."
Orion shot her a reproving, warning glance, seeing how Bagshot's countenance changed, all traces of amiability vanishing from her wrinkled face, and he quickly said reassuringly, feeling the muscles in his face tense as he forced a warm smile, "Miss Bagshot married Pietr Grindelwald out of love. It's clear to see, Scaly. And there's nothing more comendable."
Calypso looked as if she was swallowing a snort, but then she leaned back on her seat, now looking the very picture of polite gentility, shooting the old witch a pleasant smile.
Bagshot seemed to relax minutely, and Orion said nonchalantly, "Then I assume that it was through your husband that you came to meet Antigone Grindelwald – Gellert's mother."
"Antigone?" said the old witch, suddenly tensing again, squinting at him. "Yes... I knew her. When Gerard married Antigone, Pietr's first wife hadn't yet born a squib. Pietr hadn't been disowned yet, and I was merely his colleague and close friend. As such, I was welcomed, as an already famed historian and Pietr's co-worker."
Calypso shot Orion a glance which clearly conveyed that he should get to the point, but he simply glowered at her. He knew what he was doing by taking his time and getting to the issue in a roundabout way. It seemed evident to him that Bagshot would kick them out if he simply demanded to know about the symbol, right there and then. Furthermore, he had to repress his irritability at Calypso's persistent impatience. It was starting to get on his nerves.
"Not very long ago," he said calmly, smiling at the old witch, "I found a letter written by my mother to my father - that is, to Sirius Black." He pierced the old woman with his gaze. "You were mentioned in it, Miss Bagshot."
"Oh, I befriended the young Potter couple when they came to live at Potter's Cottage in this town," said Bagshot with a gentle, reminiscining smile on her wrinkled face. "Your mother was a dear, sweet girl. You might not remember me, Harry, but I used to visit you frequently…" She trailed off, and her expression turned somber. "Before your mother and James were killed. It was such a horrible affair-"
"And you knew then," cut in Orion affably, "when you first saw my mum, didn't you?"
Bagshot squinted at him. "Knew what, Harry?"
"That my mum was Gellert's daughter," said Orion impassively. "That Lily had Antigone's eyes, like my own-"
"Oh, I wouldn't know about that," interrupted Bagshot, nervously playing with the lacy cuff of her nightgown, as she shot a squinting glance at the silent Ragnarok, looking like a skittish rabbit. "My sight has never been good, nor my memory-"
"Come, come, Miss Bagshot," said Orion warmly, brightly grinning at her. "I bet that you even knew back then that Antigone had been Antioch Peverell's descendant."
"Antioch Peverell?!" wheezed out the old witch, clutching her chest with an arthritic hand, squirming jiterrishly on her seat. "I know nothing about the Peverells, young man!"
"A noted historian like yourself… married to another historian and a Grindelwald to boot, who undoubtedly researched into dark pureblooded lines, into myths, legends, and stories…" trailed off Orion, piercing the old witch with a scrutinizing gaze. "You weren't surprised to know that I am Gellert's grandson, because you suspected it since the moment you laid eyes on my mum. Isn't that right, Bathilda?"
"I know nothing!" said the old witch vehemently, gesturing at the corridor which led to the front door. "I ask you to please leave my home-"
"You don't need to answer that," said Orion calmly, his tone soothing as he warmly smiled at her. "I already know it. It's evident. So fear not that I'll ask you more about Gellert or the Grindelwalds. As a matter of fact, I'm more interested in your ties of friendship with the Dumbledore family. You were Kendra Dumbledore's friend, weren't you?"
"I was Kendra's neighbor when she came to live here after her husband, Percival, was imprisoned for attacking some muggles," said Bagshot slowly, seemingly startled by the abrupt shift in the conversation. "I had known Percival previously, from school."
"And what about Aurora Valenor?" pressed on Orion, regarding her closely. "Did you know her?"
"Aurora? Yes, she was Percival's cousin," replied Bagshot, now nervously squinting at him, as if she was trying to eye him carefully to unravel the secret motives behind the interrogation. "She was a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts, like myself. She was my closest friend from my school years. She married Vicente Valenor later-"
"But she was barren," cut in Orion, knowingly grinning at her. "And after Ariana's funeral, she took a baby with her, didn't she? She adopted the baby, who became Hyperion Valenor, who later married a Veela and had Arian Valenor."
"I know nothing of any babies, or of this Hyperion you're mentioning-"
"Oh, come off it, old witch!" snapped Calypso with annoyance, glowering at Bagshot. "If Aurora Valenor was your closest friend -even if you didn't know what happened to Ariana, how she had gotten pregnant, and how she died- surely Aurora told you about the baby she adopted and took to France with her! It's pointless to keep acting as if you were an old witch gone gaga. We know you know!"
Bagshot momentarily looked like a trapped, nervous, little animal, before she fulminated Ragnarok with her squinting eyes, as she wheezed out, "You made me invite them into my home under false pretenses, Ricard. I demand that you take them with you and leave at once."
Ragnarok didn't move an inch or beep a word, and the old witch's nervousness visibly increased, before Orion gently grasped her bony, arthritic hands, and said vehemently, "We only want some answers, Bathilda. Nothing else. Can't you please tell us about Hyperion? About how he died, and about Arian?"
Bagshot squinted at him, her eyes heavy with cataracts then flickering to Calypso and Ragnarok, and back, hesitantly.
"Or we could extract that information from you forcibly," said Calypso warningly. "Orion here is quite good with Legilimency-"
"No!" snapped Orion, shooting her a scowl and a pointed, hard glance. "We'll do this properly. We don't want to make Miss Bagshot our enemy, do we, Scaly?" He gazed back at Bagshot, and said softly, still gently grasping the aged hands in his, "Nothing will be forced out of you. Tell us as much as you're willing to disclose."
Bagshot waveringly stared at him, and then murmured in a quiet, cracked voice, "Why do you want to know about Hyperion Valenor and his son?"
"I'm interested in Arian," said Orion calmly. "I would like to know about his past-"
"To hurt him?" demanded the old witch sharply, the expression on her wrinkled face grave and grim.
"No, of course not," said Orion adamantly, warmly smiling at her. "It's simply that I've made his acquaintance recently and I'm… fascinated by him."
"He has always been such a good, bright, charming boy," murmured Bagshot, eyeing him warily. "I wouldn't want anything bad to befall him again."
"I give you my word as a wizard that none of the things you reveal to us, here, today, will be used to hurt Arian in any way," said Orion firmly, his voice solemn and deeply sincere.
"And you should think, Miss Bagshot," piped in Calypso pointedly, "that your ties to Orion are greater than those to Arian Valenor. Orion is, after all, Gellert's grandson, related to you through your marriage to Pietr, and he's nothing like the dark wizards you seemingly dislike so much." She gently smiled at the old witch. "Orion is Lily Evan's son too, after all. And you greatly cherished her, didn't you? So why wouldn't you help her son by merely answering some questions?"
Bagshot pierced her with squinting eyes, and then glanced back at Orion, sighing as if she was a rubber old doll whose air had been punched out of her. "I maintained my close friendship with Aurora up until the moment she and her husband died of Dragon Pox." She intensely pinned Orion with her eyes heavy with cataracts, and murmured quietly, "Some months after Ariana's funeral, Aurora invited me over to spend my holidays with her, in Valenor Château in a wizarding county at the outskirts of Paris. It became a yearly tradition, and I wasn't surprised to find Aberforth living with the Valenors. Aurora took him to live with her, and offered the same to Albus. But Albus decided to remain in England, to complete his studies, since he had been offered an apprenticeship in Transfiguration and Potions-"
"What about Hyperion?" cut in Orion, closely scrutinizing her.
Bagshot heavily sighed and wheezed out, "Aurora told me the truth about the baby she had adopted. She explained what had happened to little Ariana Dumbledore with those muggles who had…" She trailed off, her expression somber. "Hyperion grew up to be a good man-"
"Powerful?" interrupted Orion, his tone pressing and urgent. "Like his mother?"
"Yes," wheezed out Bagshot, then she slowly shook her head. "But not mentally unstable. He was inordinately powerful, but quite normal, other than that. He became an Unspeakable in the French Department of Mysteries, and he liked to lead a quiet life with his wife and son." She squinted up at Orion. "I saw them often, since through Aurora I was close to the family, and frequently spent my holidays with them after I became a widow. Aurora had always loved Hyperion and Arian as if they were her own son and grandson. And I cared for them deeply as well."
"You speak in the past tense," remarked Orion, frowning at her. "When was the last time you saw Arian?"
"Twelve years ago," replied Bagshot quietly, "when he was thirteen."
Orion's frown deepened, his mind spinning and rushing speedily, and abruptly, his eyes widened, and he breathed out, "The last time you saw him, was it also the last time you saw Hyperion and his wife? Do you know how they died? From what I know, it happened during Arian's school holidays, precisely when he was thirteen-"
"I was there the day before Hyperion and Agatha died," interrupted the old witch slowly, her aged voice cracking. "I was spending my holidays with them when it happened…"
Orion shared a significant glance with Calypso, seeing the expression of anticipation and victory in her face, and he prompted gently, "When what happened?"
"Albus came to visit Hyperion," wheezed out the old woman, nervously eyeing him. "He came accompanied by a muggle man, and Hyperion left Agatha, Arian, and I in the parlor, and he took Albus and the muggle into the study." She shook her head, her expression somber, as she added in a mutter, "We could hear them arguing from the sitting room. Agatha, specially, seemed very unnerved when we heard Hyperion yelling. He sounded angry and troubled." She squinted up at Orion. "Arian was just a little boy of thirteen. One moment he was there with Agatha and me, the next he had left the room. When I went looking for him, I found him listening against the door of the study… his expression…"
The old woman paused, and let out a shaky and wheezy exhalation of breath. "Whatever he overheard from Hyperion's argument with Albus and the muggle man, it shook Arian greatly. Hyperion came back to the sitting room after having asked Albus and the muggle man to leave his home, and I remember clearly how Arian ran to his father and tightly hugged and clutched him. He was crying, he was fearful of something…"
Bagshot trailed off, and then added with a deep sigh, "Due to the tense situation, I decided to leave early, to allow the family some time alone. I came back to England, to my home in Godric's Hollow. The next day, I received the news that there had been an explosion in Valenor Château, and that Hyperion and Agatha had died in it. The French newspapers claimed that Hyperion had been experimenting with something related to his work as an Unspeakable."
She pierced Orion with an intense, squinting gaze. "I never believed it. Hyperion would have never endangered his family by taking his work home. I was told that Arian had survived the explosion, or that he hadn't been in the house when it happened, and I went to Hogwarts to see Albus. I wanted to take Arian to live with me, but Albus had already decided to send him to the Flamels, and I couldn't oppose it since I had no claim of bloodkin to Arian. I never saw him again."
A deep silence seemed to spread in the room the moment the old woman stopped talking, and Orion felt as if his mind was spinning chaotically. He had so many questions, he didn't know where to start.
"A muggle," he finally mumbled slowly, trying to make head or tail from what the old witch had disclosed. He stared at her perplexed. "Who was this muggle man who accompanied Albus?"
"I never knew his name," wheezed out Bagshot, with her aged, cracked voice. Her wrinkled forehead crinkled in deep pensiveness, as if she was trying very hard to remember every detail of the recollection. "I… I remember he was middle-aged and looked prosperous. He was clothed in one of those suits that muggles use when they have some executive or important position of some sort. Given his attire and manners, he appeared to be wealthy and… accustomed to give orders and be obeyed…" She paused, and squinted warily at Orion, looking highly nervous once more. "What caught my attention the most about the muggle was a ring he was wearing, with a crest I had seen before in my studies and research as a historian."
There was a sharp intake of breath, and Orion instantly glanced at Calypso, their widened eyes full of suspicion meeting, the same thoughts undoubtedly rushing through their minds. In that shared glance, Orion raised his eyebrows and Calypso gave a tiny, sharp nod.
At once, Calypso plucked out the parchment in which Orion had drawn the symbols that had been carved on the altar in the center of Stonehenge, and she instantly reached Bagshot, laying the parchment on the old woman's lap, pointing at the muggle symbol. "Could the crest you saw in that muggle's ring be the same as this symbol?"
The old woman took the piece of parchment with her arthritic hands, pulling it up to her nose to intensely squint at it. Suddenly, the witch's hands shook and a choked noise issued from her lips, as she stared at Calypso with wide, fearful eyes. "Where have you seen this, girl?"
"Is it the same?!" demanded Calypso urgently, her voice sharp.
"Yes," wheezed out Bagshot, looking highly shaken, troubled, and jittery.
Orion shared with Calypso a triumphant glance filled with elation, and he instantly pointed at the inscription bellow the pyramid of the symbol. "Do you know what these Druidic Runes mean?"
"Yes…" The old woman vacillated, and then closely squinted at him, as she murmured quietly, "Vindico Lumen."
Calypso let out a hoot of victory, and rushed out excitedly, "We have it, Orion! The muggle that Dumbledore took to see Hyperion was a Freemason!"
"A Freemason?" wheezed out Bagshot, wobbling as she got to her feet, her expression thunderous. "Oh, no, girl, don't make the same mistake that many in my profession, muggle and wizard alike, have made before." The old woman started to slowly pace around the room, her gait jittery and jumpy. "The Freemasons have always been a muggle organization solely having for its object the mutual assistance and the promotion of brotherly love among its members. They are pacifist, girl. They are harmless, and their goals are quite mundane and innocent."
She teetered as she slowly turned around to spear them with her squinting eyes. "Alas, they have often been erroneously confused with another group – a sect, I would call them- whose aims are quite different. After I saw that muggle man and after Hyperion and Agatha died, I put all my efforts into researching that crest on the muggle's ring. To know all about it and about the sect it represented-"
"So what are they called, this religious sect?" interrupted Orion impatiently, feeling his heart pumping loudly in his chest.
Bagshot squinted at him with a deep frown on her face. "Who said anything about religion?"
"What do you mean?" snapped Orion, showing her the parchment and pointing at the symbol. "This is a representation of the muggle God-"
"It is not," interjected Bagshot firmly. "Nowadays, the common muggle populace might believe that it's a representation of their Christian God, but it is not. It wasn't originally."
Utterly befuddled, Orion blinked at her. "Then what does it represent?"
"The All-Seeing Eye is Merlin, young man!"
Astounded, Orion's jaw hung agape, disbelief and uncertainty sweeping over him, and he could see the same in Calypso's flabbergasted expression.
"I don't understand," he said slowly, repeatedly shaking his head. "How can Merlin be the… er, All-Seeing Eye? And why would a group of muggles represent Merlin in a symbol-"
"There is some slight evidence, facts and historical records, that point towards a special ability Merlin uniquely possessed," interrupted Bagshot, momentarily letting out a wheezy cough, before she continued in her cracked voice. "There is a small group of us, light historians, who believe it. We believe that Merlin could, as a manner of speaking, See into the past, yet he was no Seer, since he was male. We believe that what he could do was similar to Metempsychosis-"
"Hang on," said Orion sharply, holding up a hand as he frowned at her, pinning her with a quizzical gaze. "In general terms, Metempsychosis refers to the transmigration of the soul, especially its reincarnation after death. But in the wizarding world, it's a term specifically used by Necromancers, as a name to one of their abilities – that to travel with only their souls – what muggles call 'astral projection' even though they certainly delude themselves when they imagine that they have done it. It's uniquely a Necromantic ability, and it's very hard to master, as far as I know. So how could Merlin be a Metempsychos, when he was a light wizard and thus, certainly didn't have any Necromantic ability?"
"I said 'similar' to Metempsychosis," interjected Bagshot pointedly. "We think he couldn't travel with his soul, but with his mind. A time-traveler of sorts, since he could channel his mind's awareness into the past. We termed this ability post-cognitry, and thus, Merlin, the first and only known post-cognitor in history."
"Morgana's wand," gasped out Calypso, her eyes wide. "Arian must be a post-cognitor, Orion!"
Orion jerkily nodded at her, feeling as if the floor had been yanked from under his feet, and he did a monumental effort to gather back his wits and order his mind into some coherence.
He piercingly stared at the old historian, and said slowly, "So Merlin was represented as an All-Seeing Eye, because he could see everything in the past. But who created that symbol?" He searchingly gazed at her with deep intensity. "Muggles? Why? How could it be-"
"Muggles and light wizards, both," interjected Bagshot firmly. "It is known that Merlin had a large following during his lifetime. He was accepted by muggles and revered by many of them. It is believed that he formed a group of these followers, taught them and instructed them regarding his aims and goals for the muggle world. Presumably, Merlin had always believed in the union of the muggle and magical world, coexisting together pacifically, if not in complete fusion. That was one of his highest aims."
"So, back then," said Orion pensively, a deep frown on his forehead, "these muggles and light wizards created that symbol to represent themselves as followers of Merlin."
Bagshot nodded at him, and he demanded sternly, "What are they called?"
"The Illuminati," said the old woman with a wheeze. "In Latin, it means-"
"The Enlightened," muttered Orion, his mind spinning while he felt a headache looming in the distance.
Several sounds came at once, and startled, Orion glanced at Calypso, who seemed to be choking on something, while Ragnarok looked quite pale and discomposed, a wheezy cough erupting from his dry lips.
"What's the matter with you?" said Orion, glancing at them with puzzlement.
Calypso wildly stared at him, and said in a high-pitch, "I've read about them too! In one of the muggle books about religion – but it said nothing about Merlin, obviously, and there are also many weird conspiracy theories about them. The book said that famous and renowned muggles were part of that sect during the ages, muggles like Copernicus, Da Vinci, and…" She waved a hand with frustration. "Oh… I can't remember all the muggle names…"
"That is quite correct, girl," interjected Bagshot, squinting at Calypso with a slight expression of respect. "Many muggles who made great discoveries and advances have been secretly part of the Illuminati. Others, are presumably muggles with positions of political power or economic influence. And since the sect is also composed of a select group of light wizards, all of the muggle members of the Illuminati know about the magical world, and Magic in general. It is possible that it was due to their knowledge of the existence of Magic, that some muggles of that group were able to advance in their fields of study and make significant discoveries for the muggle world-"
"How is it that we've never heard of this?" demanded Orion crisply, feeling ill at the mere idea of a bunch of muggles going around knowing about Magic and his world.
Bagshot's bald eyebrows shot to her hairline. "They are a secret organization, Harry. I thought that was evident."
"Yes, but…" He frowned, jerkily carding his fingers through his hair. "But if they have known about Magic all this time, they could have done much more. They could have…" He blinked at her, and then said slowly, "Oh, right. They can't openly incorporate their knowledge of Magic into their research, studies, or whatever, because they want to keep it a secret, then?"
"Not forever," said Bagshot matter-of-factly. "I believe that the moment they come close to attaining their aim, they will reveal to the muggle world what they know."
"But, the muggle book I read, said that they haven't existed for ages," interjected Calypso, staring at the old historian with a frown. "That they were wiped out by other muggles, many centuries ago-"
"It wasn't done by muggles," said Ragnarok sternly, his spectacled gaze fixed on Bagshot. "It was done by our kind. Bathilda, are you certain that the muggle you saw with Albus Dumbledore was wearing a ring with the Illuminati crest?"
"Yes, Ricard," wheezed out the old historian, piercing him with the same intensity with her squinting eyes.
"I thought they were gone," muttered Ragnarok, looking very troubled.
"Do you mean to tell me that you knew about them?!" snapped Orion angrily, darkly glowering at him. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"It didn't cross my mind that the movement still endured," said Ragnarok distressed. "I thought they had all been eliminated centuries ago by the…"
He trailed off, glancing uncertainly at Bagshot, whose lips thinned, as she wheezed out sharply, looking as if she had been deeply betrayed, "By the Aux Atrum. Ricard, you are one."
It happened so abruptly that Orion barely knew what had occurred. The old woman had made some slow and shaky attempt to pluck out her wand from her nightgown's pocket, and then Ragnarok was right there, clutching her frail wrists, towering over her as they both stood by the window of the sitting room.
"I am no threat to you, Bathilda," said Ragnarok sternly, still grasping her wrists, gently pulling them down. "My task is to protect you and the knowledge you posses."
"I see… to protect me from situations like the one with the Skeeter woman?" wheezed out Bagshot, closely squinting at him, her gaze searching. "And from You-Know-Who, if it comes to it?"
"That is a possibility," said Ragnarok with a stiff nod, shooting a brief glance at Orion. "We cannot allow him to glean any information from you, Bathilda. You know too much. You have discovered too much throughout your life."
Bathilda's wrinkled lips twisted in a grimace of dissatisfaction. "So my life is in your hands, Ricard. I'm forced to rely on the Aux Atrum, who I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw them."
Ragnarok didn't comment on that, and Orion couldn't repress his multitude of questions anymore. "So the Aux thought they had wiped out the Illuminati centuries ago, and it isn't true since Albus was with one of them about a decade ago?"
His old childhood tutor curtly nodded at him, and Orion turned to zero in his gaze on Bagshot, as he demanded sharply, "I think the most important question right now is what's the Illuminati's aim. Is it the same as Merlin's was – to unite the muggle and wizarding world? Or -"
"I think," interrupted the old woman quietly, "that their main goal has evolved in time. I have reason to believe, that nowadays, their slogan is Magic for All-"
It was utter chaos and confusion and Orion didn't quite know what happened. Calypso let out the warning shriek and violently pushed him to the ground, several loud banging noises filled the sitting room, glass shards from the broken window were scattered everywhere, and he found himself pressed flat against the floor by Calypso, while he saw Ragnarok looking utterly startled and alarmed, crouching in a small ball at the nearest corner. When his gaze finally found Bagshot, she was lying on the floor on her back, without moving an inch or twitching, surrounded by an enlarging pool of blood. There was a small black hole in the middle of her forehead from where blood kept pouring out, and an expression of shock was frozen on her wrinkled face, her toothless mouth parted open.
"SHE'S DEAD! What the hell happened?!" bellowed Orion, struggling to get to his feet as more things started breaking all around him, furniture cracking and splintering, the loud noises booming in his ringing ears, accompanied by some muffled ones, as if bird peaks were embedding themselves on the wall, from the outside.
Calypso instantly yanked him back to the floor, her eyes wide and frantic. "Gunshots, Orion! I saw the thing… Oh, what's it called?…. Ah, the beam of infrared light – it appeared on Bagshot's head for a second, and then, bam!" She frenziedly shook his arm, looking crazed with alarm and urgency. "Someone's shooting at us… I think it's one of those muggle… um, snipers! Yes, that's it!"
"WHAT?!" spluttered Orion incredulously, instantly covering her head, which lay flat on the ground besides his own, when another banging sound made more shards of glass rain on them. "Then what can we use against bullets?!"
"I don't know!" cried Calypso frantically, staring at him fearfully.
"Think, Scaly. You've researched into this!"
"But I haven't had the time to come up with any spells or create them!" she shrieked stressfully. "I don't know… I…" She shot him a wild look, and her eyes widened as she gasped out, "Steel – three inches at least, I think!"
Orion glanced at her as if she had gone soft in the head. "I don't know any bloody spell that could conjure a wall of steel, Scaly! So where the bloody hell am I supposed to get steel from?!"
"I don't know, but we must do something or we'll be killed!"
Orion briefly frowned, and then snapped sharply, "I have an idea - it might work. Don't move!"
"What?! But don't put yourself in danger-"
The rest of her frantic yell was lost with the mesh of the other loud banging noises resounding all around them, and Orion started to drag himself across the floor, using his elbows, and biting his lips when glass shards inevitably sunk and ripped into his forearms. Now he could clearly catch glimpses of a tiny beam of infrared light flickering around the room, searchingly, as more bullets flew in from the window.
The moment he reached the wall from which the destroyed window was hanging from, he laid his head flat on the floor and slapped his two hands on the ground. He tightly pressed his palms on the floor and concentrated hard on doing what Gellert had once taught him to do, and made him repeat often enough until he learned how to succeed in it.
Orion felt his raw dark magic swirling violently inside him, inflating and rapidly burgeoning, as it started to flow out from his palms, sinking into the floor and the earth below. With beads of sweat and a deep frown of concentration and effort on his forehead, he started to make his magic shift under the ground, cracking and rumbling noises soon coming from underneath him. He pictured clearly what he wanted, and felt as the minerals of the earth below him were fusing together and amalgamating into a mass. And then, he let out an exhalation of panted breath, when a mass of rock and fused blocks of iron and other light metals common in earth, broke through the stone floor of the sitting room, shooting upwards like huge monoliths.
Yet, he didn't remove his hands from the cracked floor and shifting ground. He kept pushing his raw dark magic into it, making it mold the mass of rock and metals until it formed an expanding, thick slate over the whole wall. Only when the broken window was the only thing it didn't cover, and when he heard the muffled sounds of bullets being stopped, embedded in the thick wall of rock and metal he had created, did he sigh with relief.
Crouching on his knees, he quickly shuffled forwards until he reached Calypso's side, who was still lying awkwardly on the floor, staring at him with wild, wide eyes.
"You can stand up now," he muttered with a grimace, as he started picking out glass shards from his bloodied forearms. "It's safe, but don't go near the window. Bullets entering through there can still hit us."
Calypso quickly nodded at him in understanding, and slowly stood up, taking care of being well out of sight through the glassless window. "Why didn't you cover it as well?"
"You'll see," said Orion grimly, his gaze instantly landing on Ragnarok, who had remained crouched in his corner. He beckoned him to them, as he raised his voice to say loudly, "I need a bait, Ragnarok. Are you up to it?"
The old tutor shot him a glance, and then his spectacle gaze landed on Bagshot's body, understanding dawning on him as he glanced back at Orion, curtly nodding.
Orion tensely smiled at him with satisfaction. This was what Calypso had failed to recognize before. That no matter how many nosy and demanding questions Ragnarok had made, the important point was that by the simple fact of letting them inside his home and agreeing to take them to Bagshot, the old wizard had clearly sided with him, already acting as a committed follower. He knew very well that Komorov had ordered all the Aux to not help him in any way until he became the VA, but many had already disobeyed: first Sebastien Valois, then Trelawney, and now, undoubtedly, Ragnarok, who was about to risk his life.
"What are you planning?" whispered Calypso by his side, her face paling with worry. "Surely you don't mean to go after the sniper, Orion! It's madness-"
"You'll do as I say, Scaly, I don't have time to argue!" snapped Orion briskly, piercing her with a hard gaze. "The moment you see that beam of infrared light reaching Ragnarok, I want you to cast a spell to push the wizard to safety – right to this corner will do, or anywhere far from the window. Got it?"
Calypso, if possible, looked more worried than before, and she certainly seemed to have a lot she wanted to say. But she clenched her jaw and mutely nodded at him, wand in hand.
And without another hitch of breath, Orion whipped out his own wand and cast the parsel-invisibility spell on himself. As he moved towards a side of the destroyed window, its frame filled with small gunshot holes, he saw Ragnarok standing in the middle of the room, right in the line of fire from the window, doing as if he was checking Bagshot for a pulse.
He forced himself to not worry about the old man, trusting Calypso do to her part, and he slightly peeked out his face to see through the glassless window. Then, he saw it: a brief flash of the infrared light, as it moved in the air, coming from a darkened window in the second floor of a house at the other side of the street. The house looked empty, as if its wizarding family had left for their summer holidays, and there was no doubt that the sniper had been using it in the meanwhile to have a clear sight of Bagshot's house.
Orion saw the tiny beam of infrared light briefly flashing once more, coming from the same window, and he didn't think about it twice. He swiftly transformed into Firebreath, his wyvern animagus form, and shot out of the window, in the precise moment that he felt a bullet wheezing past him, undoubtedly intended for Ragnarok.
He vigorously flapped his dragon-like wings, soaring through the air, and made a direct dive through the window in the second floor of the house ahead. As he crashed through the window, he carefully lowered his inner eyelids over his basilisk-like yellow eyes, since he didn't want to kill the attacker with a mere gaze, but interrogate him. He impacted on something, hard, there was a bellow of pain and a thumping sound, and he then landed on wooden floors, his claws screeching against it as he halted.
In the bat of an eyelash, Orion transformed back, cancelled his parsel-invisibility spell, and aimed his wand forward into the darkness of the room. "Lumos!"
He yelped in startlement when a bullet sizzled past him, and he instinctually rolled on the floor to a side, but he had caught a clear glimpse of his attacker and the room. And what he had seen perplexed him. There were headphones, some sort of small screen, and other muggle equipment just below the window, which had a sniper riffle perched on one of its corner, propped by some sort of short tripod. It was the undoubtedly electronic equipment and spying devices which baffled him the most, since they were presumably working, and in a wizarding town infused with magic, and everyone knew that no muggle electronic devices could work in such setting.
Furthermore, the man who had just shot at him looked as if he had sprung out from one of the action-packed and mindless movies that Dudley used to enjoy so much. He was covered from head to toes in black clothes, with combat boots, and with a belt seemingly filled with ammunition – he was a muggle, one who looked like a military soldier, and clearly ready for battle.
The man was grasping his side with one arm – it seemed he had broken some of the muggle's ribs when he had crashed into him in his animagus form- but still held a gun with his other hand, and it was directly aimed at him.
"Who are you? Who do you work for?" spat Orion, for his part aiming his wand at the man. At the muggle's silence and impassible, curt and weathered face, where not a muscle twitched, he added sharply, "Do you know what I can do with a wand?"
The man snorted snidely, and said gruffly in a clearly English-accented voice, "Do you know what my gun can do to you? One bullet through your head and you're history, mate."
Orion's eyes narrowed to slits. "Do you know who I am?" The muggle shot him a nasty smirk but kept silent, and he added shortly, "Is your… mission to kill me?"
The muggle still didn't say anything, just eyed him mockingly and with sheer jeering arrogance, but remained with his gun directly aimed at Orion's forehead, yet didn't move an inch, displaying nerves of steel.
"So what's this? A stalemate?" bit out Orion impatiently, gripping tighter the wand he was aiming forward, his muscles tensing in preparation for anything. "Either you start answering questions, or we fight, or-"
Just in time, he dived to a side when another gunshot flared from the man's gun, the bullet strangely misaimed embedding itself in a wall, and then the muggle was rushing past him.
Orion cursed under his breath and instantly gave chase. It soon became clear that if he had the advantage of vampiric speed, the muggle had the advantage of knowing the house well. The man flew down stairways, took abrupt turns around corners, and crossed many doors, leaving Orion with nothing better he could do except to follow his tracks without losing him from sight.
Suddenly, they were out through the front door and the muggle was pelting down the deserted street, firing several gunshots over his shoulder as he ran, all of which were shot rather sloppily – intentionally, Orion would think- since none even got close to hitting him.
The muggle had taken the street which headed towards the cemetery, and as he ran after the man, Orion started to seriously re-evaluate what he should do. The gunshots must have been heard by the people sleeping in the houses in the area, they could be peeking out from windows already, and they would be undoubtedly floo-calling the Auror Department in the next second. So he could either kill the man and be done with it, though he would lose his source of information. Or he could-
The decision was made the moment the man crossed the gates of the cemetery, apparently heading to some specific location within it.
Orion aimed his wand at the man's back, and bellowed, "Flameo!"
A bolt of fire shot forward and struck the man's shoulder blades. The muggle stumbled but didn't even scream, and was back on his feet the next second, rushing around gravestones, his back smoking and ablaze in flames. With one hand, the muggle tried to put down the flames on his back, but he kept running and shooting over his shoulder with his other hand.
Suddenly, something struck Orion which made him cry out in pain and startlement, and he stumbled in his steps as he clutched his stomach, glancing down at it. He could hardly believe it; he had been wounded, when he had thought that the muggle had been purposely misaiming.
There was a small hole in his stomach, copious blood oozing from it, and it hurt like nothing ever had. Cruciatus Curses made him twist in pain and fried his nerves, but this caused a gut-wrenching pain, as if the acids of his stomach were leaking through a hole and eating out his flesh from the inside. It burned, sizzled, and felt agonizing.
With tears in his eyes, he glanced up and saw the muggle far ahead of him, and without a second thought he aimed his wand at him and roared irately, "CRUCIO! Expelliarmus!"
The two beams of light instantly hit the muggle, and the air was soon filled with screams of excruciating pain, as the man writhed and convulsed near some graves, and as the gun shot out from the man's hand and flew into Orion's direction. But Orion didn't attempt to catch it, he simply let it fall to the ground.
He could barely walk without feeling as if his guts were about to spill out from the small hole in his stomach. Finally, he tightly gritted his teeth, and quickly pocketed his wand to have his right hand free, since he had the other tightly pressed against his wound.
Shooting his free hand forward, he put all his effort into summoning his raw dark magic from his inner magical core, making it spill out of his palm in floods of icy water. Soon, he had the muggle surrounded by a wall of water which he instantly forced to start condensing into a prison of thick ice.
Once done, he slowly dragged himself forward to reach the man. Suddenly, an alarmed shriek seemed to boom out from the dark skies, and Orion glanced up, almost toppling over in his startlement.
Hovering a few feet above him, he saw Calypso's pale and worried face peeking over the edge of her magic carpet, and in a few seconds, it floated to the ground. Ragnarok sprung from it, Calypso wobbling and slowly climbing down after the old wizard. Feeling quite light-headed, Orion merely dizzily stared at them, and Calypso was by his side in the next bat of the eyelash.
"You're wounded!" she cried frantically, instantly waving her wand at him and vanishing his torn vampire clothes from his torso. She gasped, bringing a hand over her mouth. "It's a gunshot to the stomach, Orion. I've read that they're the worst, and the most dangerous-"
"Scaly," groaned Orion, pressing his hand tightly against the wound, "just help me reach the muggle."
"You're bleeding to death, you idiot – just look at you!" snapped Calypso. She gazed at him with round eyes, and added worriedly, "Why aren't you healing? You have Lez's blood-"
"It didn't go through. The bullet's still inside," he croaked out, needing to support himself on a nearby tombstone. "I don't think I can properly heal until it's taken out-"
"I've read that muggle doctors pull out bullets with some sort of pliers," she rushed out worriedly, biting on her lower lip as she fretfully glanced up at him. "I could conjure a small pincer and try to take it out-"
"Are you mad?!" Orion hissed under his breath, looking at her incredulously. "I wouldn't trust you to know what to do with one - just use a Summoning Charm."
Calypso stared at him, dismayed. "If I Accio the bullet it would tear through you to get out-"
"I'll heal," bit out Orion impatiently, doing his best to shoot her a dark scowl. "Just do it!"
"Well, don't shout at me when it hurts," snapped Calypso with a huff, and in the next second she aimed her wand at him. "Accio bullet!"
For a moment, agonizing pain seemed to crash in rolling waves all over his body, and Orion had to bite his tongue until it bled to not let out a scream. A second later, he was left with a burning pain sizzling through his midsection, but he felt as if he could breathe better, and he shot her a grateful glance.
"The muggle," he said slowly, taking a step forward, before he teetered to a side. Thankfully, Ragnarok caught him just in time, throwing an arm around Orion's waist to help him stand straight. "Oh, I still feel a bit dizzy-"
"No wonder, you've lost a lot of blood," murmured Calypso, eyeing his stomach concernedly. "But it seems to be healing now."
"The muggle," repeated Orion more firmly, and he didn't have to say it a third time before Ragnarok helped him reach the ice prison surrounding the man.
Seeing some cracks in it, Orion blinked, since it seemed that the muggle had been throwing himself at it from the inside, undoubtedly since the moment Orion had lost his concentration in maintaining the Cruciatus Curse on the man. But now, he could see the blurry image of the muggle through the thick ice, and he seemed to be laying down on the ground.
Calypso gasped by his side, and said urgently, "Bring it down – quick!"
Without needing to be told twice, Orion slashed his wand at it, and the round wall of thick ice came crumbling down to the ground. His eyes grew wide when he saw the state of the muggle: he was lying on his back, his limbs slightly jerking, and some froth bubbled from his lips.
Calypso was wrenching the man's mouth open in the next second, her nose scrunching as she closely peered inside it. Then she glanced up at Orion, her eyes large and apprehensive. "He's dead. I think he used potassium cyanide – it smells just like how it was described. According to some muggle books, the… um... what was their name?… ah, yes, the Nazis carried pills of cyanide and used it when they wanted to kill themselves instead of getting captured alive."
"You seem to have read a lot that's useful. I'll start reading your notes, Scaly. You've convinced me," muttered Orion wryly, as he crouched by the side of the muggle's body. He groaned with deep disappointment. "Now we'll never find out who he was working for-"
"We still might," interjected Ragnarok sharply, a weird expression on his face which Orion couldn't quite decipher. Abruptly, the old wizard leapt forward and tore open the muggle's black shirt. He took a step back, his face contorting with hatred and deep aversion, as he snarled, "Illuminati."
Feeling out of his breath, Orion fixedly stared at the dead muggle's chest. The whole expanse of it bore the Illuminati symbol, and it looked as if it had been carved into the man's flesh. Though, he noticed, frowning, that it didn't contain the Druidic Runes.
Suddenly, the mark flashed and glowed in an intense white, and Ragnarok roared, "Stand away – I've heard about this!"
Without a second thought, Orion lunged himself at Calypso, knocking her backwards, just when everything flashed white and orange in his vision. Panting labouredly, he glanced back at the body, seeing it consumed in a great pyre of flames.
"They leave no evidence behind," muttered Ragnarok darkly, a hard expression on his wrinkled face as he stared down at the corpse being rapidly eaten by fire.
In the bat of an eyelash, Orion was back on his feet, gazing at the old tutor intensely. "That was a magical brand on the muggle - it did that!"
Ragnarok stiffly nodded, and then glanced back towards the gates of the cemetery and the street beyond. He snapped his head around to pierce Orion with his spectacled gaze. "Aurors will be arriving in any second. You must leave-"
"But Bagshot's body, and-"
"I will take care of it," interrupted Ragnarok curtly. "I'll make it look as if she died of old age-"
"Fine," said Orion urgently, "but the muggle had some electronic equipment in the room he was using. It was on the second floor of the house across from Bagshot's-"
"Oh, Ragnarok found something too!" interjected Calypso eagerly. "He Accioed-"
"You can tell him about that later, Miss Rosier," cut in Ragnarok sharply, leveling a hard gaze at them. "Now, you must leave. I'll deal with everything."
Calypso instantly nodded at him, while Orion frowned as he said pressingly, "But we could help-"
All further words were lost when he was abruptly clutched and immediately felt himself being plunged into a whirlwind of colors and a rushing of space, thrown into a side-along apparition.
Abruptly, Orion landed on lawn, utterly disoriented and dizzied, and groaning when he tripped and landed face-first on grass.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Are you alright?" came a concerned voice over him.
Orion rolled to his side, and glowered up at Calypso. "Bloody hell, Scaly. Why on earth did you do that? We left Ragnarok alone-"
"He can manage," she snapped crisply, squaring her shoulders. "He's an Aux. That's what he's there for, and unlike you, he's not in the Aurors' Most Wanted List."
Orion shot her a scowl, but in the end he deeply sighed and didn't even make any attempt to get up. He simply glanced around his new surroundings and instantly recognized the vast gardens with burgeoning flowers as those of Potter Manor's. And he even saw some light coming from the Manor in the distance, its back facing them, since the vast gardens they were in formed the 'backyard' of the estate.
Further relaxing, he plopped down on the ground, lying on his back, feeling tired and exhausted. And he closed his eyes, as his mind spun with everything that had happened.
"Are you well? Does it still hurt?" said Calypso, standing over him and peering worriedly at his bare stomach.
Suddenly, his eyes flew wide open when a flare of pain shot through his midsection, and he instantly caught sight of Calypso's incriminating finger near his stomach. He glowered at her and immediately wrapped a protective arm around his waist. "Don't poke it, Scaly - It hurts!"
"Well, you weren't answering," she said simply, slowly taking a seat by his side, crossing her legs. Her expression brightened, and she plucked out something black and tiny from her robes' pocket, handing it to him. "This is one of the many that Ragnarok found in Bagshot's house."
Orion blinked at her, before he grasped it and peered at it. He had to bring it close to his nose to make out what it was, so small it's size.
"He simply said 'Accio microphones!' and they come out from every place imaginable, Orion. Amazing, isn't it? The people who placed them didn't ward them against a simple summoning charm. I don't think they imagined anyone would suspect," rambled Calypso excitedly. "Muggles call them 'bugs', don't they?"
"Yeah," muttered Orion, frowning at the tiny device. He then shot her a quizzical glance. "But what on earth are you so happy about?"
"The micro things were working in a magical town," said Calypso pointedly. "And you said that the sniper also had electronic equipment. They've found a way of making their things work in places with magic! I say that's an important discovery from our part." She snatched the tiny microphone back, swiftly pocketing it. "We'll have to get someone to examine it to tell us how it can work while being around magic."
Orion grimly regarded her. "That's all very well, Scaly, but Bagshot has just been killed - in front of our noses."
"Yes, I was there," she interjected with annoyance. "But surely you can't expect me to mourn her. We didn't know her before tonight!"
"True," said Orion shortly, "but I simply can't find anything to be cheerful about, even if now we know so much more."
"Ah, you're in a foul mood because I was right and you were wrong," piped in Calypso, knowingly looking at him. "Like I warned you, it was a trap set by Arian-"
Orion shot up to sit with crossed legs, as he snapped sharply, "How so? I would say it's the opposite. It was favor - an opening of the eyes for me." He held up a hand, ticking off his fingers as he continued briskly, "He glanced in Stonehenge's direction so that I would find it and see the VL symbol – which is, quite clearly, the Illuminati symbol with the addition of the Druidic Runes. He also pointed me towards Bagshot's direction, correctly expecting me to ask her about him and the symbol. And thanks to all that, we know now about the Illuminati's existence. And Ragnarok will report it back to Komorov, and they'll know that against their expectations, the Illuminati are still operating. The Kraljica Mati never breathed a word to me about the Illuminati, and considering that they were founded in Merlin's times, it indicates that she didn't mention them because she didn't think they still existed. And if the Aux believed the same, then Morgana's spirit didn't know either."
"Well, no one has ever claimed that Morgana or the Lady of the Lake are infallible or omniscient," remarked Calypso matter-of-factly, then frowning at him. "But I still don't see why you don't think it was Arian's trap. That sniper could have killed you! He was waiting for you to show up at Bagshot's-"
"No, he wasn't," interrupted Orion sternly. "The muggle could have attempted to seriously kill me many times. He didn't. He fled from me and shot at me over his shoulder. He didn't stay put and rain on me a shower of bullets until one blew my brains out."
He intensely pierced her with his eyes, and added adamantly, "He was there to kill Bagshot. That's evident, given the microphones he had installed and the spying equipment he had with him. But he didn't kill her in time, did he? He should have killed her the moment he heard her, through the microphones, start telling us about the Illuminati. So he was either asleep or distracted before he realized we were there, and when he reacted, Bagshot had already told us much. He hadn't been warned that someone could pop in to interrogate Bagshot about the symbol, Scaly – Arian didn't tell him!"
"But Arian has to be their leader!" said Calypso insistently. "Just like you said, his symbol is the Illuminati's plus the Druidic Runes spelling Vindico Lumen. So he must be-"
"I don't doubt that he has everything to do with them," interjected Orion firmly, "but I don't think he's their leader. I assume that their organization is similar to the Aux's. So they must have a leader, like Komorov is to the Aux Atrum, and a… overlord or master, like I will be once I become the VA. That's what I think Arian is to them - a master to follow, someone whom they expect to lead them into attaining their goals. And for even more reason if what we suspect is correct, and he's Merlin's descendant." He paused, and frowned as he added quietly, "But I think there's some contention in his ranks. I mean, I wouldn't tell Arian about the Aux if he didn't know about them. But he did want me to know about the Illuminati. Why?"
Calypso considered him with a grave and pensive expression on her face, and said slowly, "You think he wanted to warn you about them?"
"Exactly," said Orion with satisfaction. "I think that while their goals could be the same –that of uniting the muggle and wizarding world- they have differing opinions about how it should be accomplished. Do you see Arian ordering the assassination of Bathilda, when she had known him during his childhood, and had been close friends with Aurora, who he must have regarded as his grandmother? Can you imagine him feeling true loyalty to a group of followers whose one of its members went with Albus to visit his father, and which ended in the death of his parents the very next day?"
"You believe the Illuminati killed Hyperion because he refused that man?" interjected Calypso with a musing frown. "Because he refused to become a member?"
"I think they're the main suspects, don't you?" said Orion impassively. "As for the reason… it could be several. One, they wanted him because he was an Unspeakable –just the type of profession I would choose my members to have if I was recruiting. Two, he could have had something they wanted, like perhaps Excalibur, whatever it is. And lastly, the one I think it's most probable, given that Bagshot said he was as powerful as Ariana had been – they wanted him to step up as the Vindico Lumen. They wanted him to search for Excalibur, if he hadn't yet, to take it to Stonehenge, used it to gain access to Gauis' Isle, and thus undergo whatever the VL's Ultimate Test involves. So that he would become the Vindico Lumen they must have been waiting for."
"And Hyperion refused because he wasn't interested in power," breathed out Calypso, her eyes widening as she fixedly stared at him. "You could be right. Bagshot said he simply liked to live a quiet life with his family. Perhaps he wasn't interested in becoming the VL, because it would force him to be the leader of light wizards and he would be involved in wars. It would have put his family in danger. Therefore, he refused, he was killed along with his wife, and Dumbledore took Arian to the Flamels to be taught, brought up, and molded as the perfect light wizard who would become the VL. No wonder Arian despises Dumbledore so much!"
"Quite, but don't forget that in the end, Arian became the Vindico Lumen willingly. It couldn't have been forced on him." Orion regarded her musingly, and added quietly, "And I don't think Dumbledore knew, or in any way plotted for the Valenors to be murdered. I don't see that old man allowing his own nephew to be killed. He doesn't go to such lengths."
"But if Arian isn't working with the Illuminati, or at least not with all its possible factions," said Calypso apprehensively, "then what is he warning you about regarding them? It has to be tied to their differing opinions of how to attain their common goal."
"I think you've hit the mark when you've said 'factions'," interjected Orion ponderingly. "The sniper's mark was simply the Illuminati's symbol, clearly cast by a light wizard, since it was magical. So I think those branded with that symbol could be a faction - a kind of Illuminati extremists, since the symbol only has the All-Seeing Eye representing Merlin, but not the Druidic Runes representing the VL as well. And the other faction, those who share Arian's views, would be Illuminati members marked by Arian himself, bearing the full mark, including the Druidic Runes. I think it would make sense. And I believe that Arian wants me to be on guard regarding the Illuminati extremists."
Calypso slowly nodded at him, taking all his theories in, and then said warily, "But still, the problem is that we don't exactly know how they differ. What do the Illuminati extremists, as you call them, want, if not to kill you since you can become the VA? Why didn't the sniper try to kill you?"
"Bagshot answered that question for us," interjected Orion, pointedly staring at her. "Her last words were that the Illuminati's present slogan is 'Magic for All'."
"You're thinking about Snape!" she gasped out, staring at him with wide eyes, her countenance paling.
"Of course," said Orion calmly. "If I was stupidly blinded and didn't realize the catastrophic consequences of uniting both worlds, if I was a fervent zealot who wanted to accomplish Merlin's aim at all costs, and then I received the news of the discovery made by scientists about genes and how to manipulate them, then what better way to fuse the muggle and wizarding world than to give muggles magical abilities through gene alteration? 'Magic for All', and the goal would be attained. And what better way to start, than to influence a renowned Potions Master who already had reasons of his own to be interested in genetics? And what better way to do that than to cast an enchantment in Le Monde Magique, a newspaper Snape weekly receives by owl from France, which is predominantly a light country and thus could be brimming with Illuminati?"
"You're speaking about a spell interwoven in ink or parchment, Orion," interjected Calypso, looking deeply troubled. "Those are very hard to create and complex to cast. We don't even know how to do it – it's apprenticeship level."
"It's something a light Unspeakable could easily do, I'm sure," said Orion coolly. "And it has to have been through that issue of Le Monde Magique. Even though I didn't feel any magic from it when I touched and read it, I hope there's some residue of the enchantment left. I could make Dobby covertly pop in Spinner's End. He's keyed into the wards since I often use him to reach Snape. He could get in, find the newspaper, and take it to Komorov. He's a Curse Breaker, he could discover what spell was used and how to cancel it."
Calypso eyed him with a deep pensive frown. "Maybe you shouldn't. If you break the spell on Snape, they'll know you've discovered it and their intentions." She shook her head, and added adamantly, "Besides, even if he's being influenced by a spell, nothing of what Snape wants to do poses a threat-"
"Scaly, don't you see it?" snapped Orion impatiently. "Snape is someone close to me. You asked why that sniper didn't have orders to kill me if he happened to see me around? You asked what Arian's trying to warn me about? If you wanted to give magic to muggles through genetic manipulation, whose genes would you need to analyze and play around with? Muggleborns', for one, but also that of powerful wizards like Arian, myself, and possibly even Voldemort! Because the three of us have powerful magical abilities that no others have."
"They intend to capture you?!"
Orion let out an exasperated groan. "I don't know. That would be a bit drastic. They only need a blood sample from me. Well, access to continued blood samples from me, I would think. And that's exactly what Snape would ask of me if I allow him to go on with what he wants to do. That's why I think they've cast a spell on him, because it wouldn't be strange or suspicious for him to ask me for my blood, to use it to test Slytherin's experiments while using genetics methods."
"We're basing our suspicions in a lot of 'ifs'," murmured Calypso, nibbling on her lower lip. "But it's all we have, isn't it?" She glanced at him worriedly. "What will you do?"
"I'll think about the Snape problem a bit more. You might have a good point too... that perhaps I shouldn't break the spell and just see what happened," replied Orion with a pensive frown. Then his expression relaxed, and he added impassively, "As for the Illuminati, I will do nothing except inform Voldemort about them. Of course, without mentioning anything about Vindicos, Aux Atrum, and certainly not Ragnarok." He grinned at her. "I'll tell him a half-truth, like always. But other than that, even if Voldemort can put some of his Death Eaters to use to find out the names of some Illuminati, I think the best tactic is to wait and see what they do. They will pop up sooner or later, when they come to play more openly."
"And you should demand from Arian that he does something about his extremists," interjected Calypso sharply, a scowl on her face. "It should be his problem, not yours. They are a faction of wayward followers who he should rein in and control. And if he's incapable of that simple task, then he should kill them and be done with it."
"I'll be sure to say that to him the next time I see him," said Orion with amusement.
She eyed him closely, her expression a bit perplexed. "You're not troubled at all. How can you be so calm?"
"Scaly, so many things have recently been disclosed to me that I'm hardly capable of feeling surprise at anything, anymore," he said with a roll of his eyes. He scoffed, and added wryly, "And I'm still hung on the whole 'I-was-Mordred' thing. Believe me, after that, the rest pales in comparison."
She chuckled under her breath, shaking her head, and then took the hand Orion offered to her as he stood up.
"Well, I think I should head back to Zraven Citadel, and you to your bed," he said pointedly. "We have the meeting tomorrow. Do you remember at what time you have to take the Elite to Malfoy Manor?"
Calypso nodded at him, and he wearily carded his fingers through his hair, letting out a sigh. "I hope it goes well. But having purebloods, vampires, and werewolves in one same room is asking for trouble."
"They all know how important the alliances are to win the war," piped in Calypso unconcernedly, her lips then quirking upwards. "Everyone will behave, you'll see."
Orion shot Potter Manor one last glance, about to apparate to Zraven Citadel, but he paused when he distinguished which windows still had light coming from them. One he knew to be of Titania's bedroom, but the second, the one through which he could vaguely see a shadow pacing inside, was Draco's. Something coiled and clenched inside him, and he hesitated as he fixedly stared at the figure.
"Do you want to know how Draco has been faring?" murmured Calypso quietly by his side, her gaze having followed his.
Orion snapped his face around to stare at her, and then said coolly, "I want you to tell Draco about the stuff I learned during my second and last visit to the Kraljica Mati. You know, what I told you today before we went to Stonehenge." He paused, and then added firmly, "Tell him about Stonehenge and the Illuminati too. I'll be telling Lez."
"Alright, I will," she said, with a wave of her hand. "Now answer my question."
Orion shot her a dismissive glance. "Tita already told me about Draco."
"I imagine what Titania has told you about Draco's behavior," said Calypso sternly. "But she doesn't know that you gave him Lezander's blood-"
"Is he displaying some vampiric traits?" interrupted Orion, eyeing her wearily.
"He is, but he won't admit it. He won't even talk to me about it," said Calypso, pointedly piercing him with her beautiful, large black eyes. "I see him wincing every time someone shouts or talks loudly, and I see him staring at the most ordinary of objects as if they held the answers to the mysteries of Magic, as if he could see every single detail of them which we can't-"
"It's just a phase," said Orion calmly, waving a hand dismissively. "At first it's like that. He'll get used to it quickly. I did."
"But you wanted to have Lez's blood. He doesn't," she pointed out matter-of-factly. "And that makes a whole lot of difference."
"What's your point?" bit out Orion, scowling as he crossed his arms over his chest. "That I should have let him die instead of giving him Lez's blood?!"
"No, you dunderhead," snapped Calypso angrily. "I'm just saying that you should see him and have a long talk with him! I don't know why you haven't done it already. You're not showing that you care for him."
"Fine," bit out Orion irritably, crouching on the ground to grab two small pebbles in the garden. He concentrated hard on a mental image of his room in Zraven Citadel and then tapped his wand on both pebbles, murmuring the spell, "Portus!"
The pebbles in his hand briefly vibrated and glowed in a blue light, before they settled down on his palm. He then thrust them into Calypso hands. "Portkeys. One for you, the other for Draco. He will have no problem in portkeying into Zraven Citadel with it, since he has Lez's blood. I'll ask Lezander to key you in to the Citadel's wards so that you can use yours." He shot her a pointed glance. "Draco can come see me when he likes and feels ready to discuss matters."
"Alright," said Calypso shortly, pocketing the pebbles. "This will do, I suppose. It's better than nothing, though I'm sure he would like-"
"What?" bit out Orion, glowering at her. "What would he like? What other thing am I not doing right? Should I add it to the long list?"
Remaining silent, Calypso narrowed her eyes at him, a hard and disapproving expression on her face. Then, quite abruptly, she sighed, her face turning gentle, as she murmured quietly, "I think I know what's bothering you so much. Why you doubt to do what Lezander asks regarding Draco. You fear they will come to love each other, and thus abandon you. But you're wrong."
She eyed him carefully, as she continued, "I know them. Draco is incapable of truly loving someone like Lez, and Lezander has no interest in finding love in Draco. You're Lezander's lifemate and you're who Draco has always wanted. I don't think this will ever change. Theirs would be a union of convenience. Even if Lez makes Draco his mate, at best, they will be close friends and companions, and they will find comfort and safety in each other, but I don't think it will ever evolve into anything more. And I think-"
"That I should help them come close together," interjected Orion, his irritable anger having already evaporated. He heavily sighed, slowly carding his fingers through his hair. "Yes, it's the least I can do, isn't it?"
Calypso clutched his shoulders, and said vehemently, "If you want them, you can make it work between you three. And don't fear being left aside by them. They won't."
"You always know what to say to cheer me up." He shot her a devilish grin, and added nonchalantly, "Let's hope it goes as you say. I am selfish about this, I admit, but I also truly want them to be happy."
Orion leaned down to peck her on the forehead, and murmured, "I'll do it. I'll complete my bond with Lez – I had already decided it."
And with that, and an impish smile, he instantly apparated to Zraven Citadel, leaving Calypso blinking at the space he had vacated.