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.


This is a very short chapter compared to others, and it doesn't have action, just some explanations that were necessary, so it will be boring for many, but it had to be written. The fun stuff will happen in subsequent chappies – and things will be picking up their pace.

As for updates, for this fic and my other ones, I cannot tell when I'll be writing and posting, since I'm still working on my thesis and don't have much free time, and things will remain like that for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, none of the fics are abandoned, no matter how much time passes in between updates. If I ever decide to abandon a fic, which I hope doesn't happen, ever, then I would let you know beforehand.

Please let me know of any doubts, and I hope you enjoy it, even if it is boring! *winks*

Comment: The pairings Orion/Arian and Orion/Voldemort tied in the poll on my author page. Thanks for voting! It has helped me decide some things.

Chapter 43

Orion kept staring at Arian without knowing what to say. His mind was like a chaotic tempest of clashing, tumultuous thoughts; all the implications of what he had seen rushing and swirling, his own mind trying to wrap itself around it, trying to let it sink and to figure out more, while he felt a modicum of frantic panic but also numbness at the inevitability of it all. He had so many questions, so many things he needed to know and so many doubts that he didn't know where to begin.

"Why aren't you saying anything?" said Arian, tilting his head to a side, contemplating him with amusement as he stood before him. "Have the things you've seen scared you, hmmm? Are you truly scared about what it all means?"

"Scared?" snapped Orion abruptly, instantly rounding on him as he gestured choppily with his hands, "I'm not scared, I'm overwhelmed! Realms, worlds, and bloody aliens?"

Arian stared at him, and suddenly let out a loud bout of chuckles as he slowly shook his head. "Aliens? Now you're thinking like a muggle. It's not we who are aliens - it's the humans. We were the Firstborns of our respective Makers, the very first ancient race of sentient and magical beings. We are Sidhe."

"Sidhe?" Orion stopped short on his tracks and blinked at him. "But that is-"

"Don't think of it in terms of the lore of pre-Christian Celtic beliefs," interrupted Arian airily, gazing at him with a patient yet slightly condescending expression on his face as he placidly paced around Orion to reach out a hand to play with the leaves of a nearby tree branch.

"Though, they got some things right when believing that we, Sidhe, were a distinct race, quite separate from human beings yet who had much contact with mortals over the ages and largely influenced their history, with powers beyond those of men. But they thought us to be fae folk or elves, that's what 'Sidhe' meant to the Celts. When in truth, it was originally a word of our Old Tongue, which means precisely that – Firstborns."

"Right," grunted Orion, briskly waving a hand dismissively, not really caring what was the proper name for what had been their kinds or the semantics of it. "But you're missing my point entirely. I don't know what to…"

He trailed off, a deep, troubled frown appearing on his forehead as he distractedly waved his wand, instantly conjuring a stone bench on which he plopped down without saying another word.

Orion sat there, unseeingly staring at the garden before him, his mind in a turmoil as he tried to make sense of things, as he tried to think of his life -and everything he had done and which had happened to him- in terms of and as an extension of his first existence as Malekai Salai.

So many things were abruptly clear to him, seeing it all through the lenses of what had been his thoughts, goals and plans as Malekai. So many manipulations which had ruled his present life seemed to have been revealed to him suddenly, seeing the truth behind it.

He felt as if the few certainties which had existed in his life had been abruptly yanked away from him, leaving him with no other option but to adjust and resort every belief he had ever held, yet… somehow, it all felt like an enlightening and monumental revelation - the very reason for his existence as he was now, the cause of why 'Gaia' wanted him to become the Vindico Atrum, his vision-like dreams, the motives behind the manipulations of his bloodlines in order to be born with the magical powers and abilities he had, the pattern of his soul's rebirths, the things he had done as Mordred when he had followed Gaia's plans, and the very war he had helped to initiate.

Even though anger, rage, and even fear of the unknown simmered in some level of his awareness and feelings, strangely enough, what he felt the most was an absolute clarity of mind and the stony calmness and determination that came with it, for he could see his present life like the end of a thread which had started with his life as Malekai.

It changed everything, yet some things remained the same and it was those things, the very fact of their immutability, which filled him with a quiet, solemn reassurance that there were many things which he had unwittingly done right, which had been meant to happen, planned beforehand eons ago – by him.

That very thought, the power of it, of what it signified, left him with an all-encompassing feeling of rightness, as if something which had been out of place during all his life had suddenly clicked into place, letting him know his true purpose, the very reason for his existence, making him feel… complete.

He found himself feeling as if he was opening his eyes for the first time, seeing everything with a clear and unhindered vision – the 'Truth', he had said in the memory, and it really was.

"Say my name," suddenly murmured Arian, so quickly had he moved that Orion abruptly found himself inches away from him, their gazes locking as Arian crouched on the grass before him, an eager expression sweeping across Arian's face – it looked almost hungry and breathless. "Say my true name."

Yanked away from his eerie calmness, now bewildered, Orion stared at him and automatically parted his mouth open and breathed out, "Gavr-"

In the next second, he clamped his mouth shut, apprehension and suspicion coiling in his stomach as he remembered the strange importance that Arian had given to the fact that Perenelle Flamel had used her last, dying breath to say 'Gavril'.

He looked at him levelly and finally said coolly, "Gabriel."

Instantly, Arian's expression changed to one of wry disappointment. Letting out a dry chuckle, he nonchalantly straddled the stone bench, facing Orion, as he said conversationally, "That's how muggles say it, n'est-ce pas? I want you to say it how it's said in our Old Tongue."

"Then you say my name first," interjected Orion, crossing his arms over his chest as he shot him a narrowed-eyed stare, hard and challenging.

"Why, certainly," said Arian lightly, a dazzling, large smile spreading on his handsome face. "Salai."

A harsh snort escaped from Orion as his eyes narrowed to slits, his mind spinning with suspicions. "That's not really it and you know it. Not even wild hippogriffs would drag my first 'true' name out of you, would they?"

They mutely stared at each other as if they had reached an impasse, Arian looking amused as always, while Orion inwardly revised all the tidbits of information that allowed him to understand some of the how's and why's.

He had read something in Calypso's notes about muggle religions - something about the Devil's name, something about Satan-worshippers of ancient times trying to figure out their Lord's name to use it for rituals or some such tripe. He would have to check that when he got back, but he was quite certain he was right, and in the memory…

" 'Only to a chosen few, will I ever reveal my true name, for there will be power behind the utterance of it,' that's what I said to you," said Orion stoically, piercing Arian with an assessing and speculative gaze. "And there's power behind the utterance of your name as well, isn't there? What happened when Perenelle said your name? What happens when anyone says either of our names as pronounced in the so-called Old Tongue? What power did we confer to it and why?"

Arian simply thinly smiled at him, making himself comfortable on the hard bench, looking as if he might as well be placidly lounging on top of a puff of cloud, basking under glorious sunshine.

"And those are, no doubt, the first of many questions you would like to have answers for, hmmm?" said Arian pleasantly, his smile widening as he gestured at their surroundings. "But we cannot stay here chatting, my nemesis. An overlapping of space isn't something easily maintained for long."

Calm as you please, Arian held up a hand and the Holy Grail - still inside a translucent sphere of magic - floated until it rested above his palm, while he stretched out his other hand towards Orion, the offer implicit. "Come with me and I'll answer all your questions. Come with me and you'll be able to see things for yourself if you drink again from the Holy Grail."

Without a second thought, Orion lifted his own hand, coming forth to reach Arian's, since it was true that he needed to know much more about what he had glimpsed in the memories, for his suspicions and everything he believed to have figured out for himself needed to be confirmed.

Yet, he suddenly halted his hand mid-way, throwing a glance over his shoulder, as if expecting to see those who were in Scrimgeour's office. He saw nothing but the blossomed flowers and the shrubbery of the Flamel's garden, but in his mind he could see those who waited for him to come back, doing Merlin-knew-what while he was trapped there with Arian.

His hand was inches away from Arian's but he dropped it to his side, moving back along the stone bench to regain his former seat, as he shook his head and said curtly, "No."

"What do you mean, 'no'?"

In the bat of an eyelash, the Holy Grail disappeared in a puff of air, while Arian shifted forward and tightly clutched Orion's shoulders, his expression annoyed and impatient. "You cannot mean to go back and proceed with your old plans! Your goals must have changed now that you know about whom you had been and how you felt about your Maker-"

"My goals?" snapped Orion, briskly jerking away from Arian's grasp as he leveled at him a sour scowl. "What do you know about my goals? Nothing-"

"Everything, of course. I know you were on your path to become your Maker's puppet," interjected Arian sternly, piercing him with hard, cerulean blue eyes which had none of their usual playful spark. "And if you continue with the war, you'll be doing exactly what She wants-"

"True," interrupted Orion coolly, facing him with a nonchalant pose, with no misgivings or doubts burbling in his mind, the same strange calmness and determination of before sweeping again through him.

He leveled at Arian a hard gaze and added quietly as he shook his head, "But do you think that my goal of becoming the VA and winning the wars was because I wanted to help 'Gaia'? Oh, it was, in part, and now I think quite differently about Her, but it doesn't change the fact that what mattered most to me, and still does, is the fate of dark wizarding kind. That hasn't changed. For me, it was never about the Dark Source, it was about the people. Do you understand? About those who depend on me, those I care for and love."

With an incredulous expression on his face and then a frown, Arian bit out with exasperation, "They are just humans, you never cared two straws about them-"

"But I am human myself!" snapped Orion, rising to his feet as he shot him a short-tempered scowl. "I'm not Salai anymore, am I? Just like you aren't 'Gabriel' either. We are both humans now-"

The rest of his words were drowned under the sound that escaped from Arian's lips, a choked laughter ringing in the vastness of the beautiful and serene garden.

Gazing at him from his seated position, Arian finally controlled his chuckles and said with amused disbelief, "Haven't you realized it yet, hmmm? I haven't been 'Arian Hyperion Valenor' since many years past. I was born as such, as a human, part light wizard, part Veela, but I'm not that anymore."

With a bright smile on his face, he stood up, facing Orion with only sparse inches between them, and with a fluid movement, he swept one hand over his face and body, a sudden glow encompassing him.

For a moment, Orion found himself blinded by the light but few seconds later he blinked repeatedly, and his jaw dropped and his emerald eyes became rounded and wide as he stared at the being that was before him – the changes in Arian were as conspicuous as a sole flame brightly glowing in endless darkness.

He felt momentarily dazed as his eyes roved over the changes: the immaculate ethereal skin which glowed with an inner light of its own, the swirling silver designs on the forehead, the bronze hair which had become golden, curled and softer, the eyes which had lost their pupils and whites, becoming pools of glimmering bright blue, the feathery wings not Veela-like anymore but now delicately gossamer and infused with golden and silver hues, looking as if they were made of pure sunlight, the aura of glowing brightness that encompassed him and the absolute perfection of his facial features – like a dream-like mirage of otherworldly, unimaginable beauty.

"I am myself again, Salai."

Entranced and breathless, Orion stepped closer to him and slowly caressed one of Arian's smooth cheeks, locking gazes with him, wide-eyed, as he murmured hesitatingly, "You were under a glamour all this time. How is this possible – how can you be Gabriel again? In this life you were born a human. How can you now be a… Light Sidhe?"

"Isn't it obvious?" said Arian softly, a wide, dazzling smile on his face as he gazed at Orion with eagerness tinted with a certain sort of tenderness. "You knew both of us would recover our bodies, forms, and powers. You foresaw it, you planned it, you told me how and what to do to attain it. You already know the answer if you bother to think about it."

Taking a step back and dropping his hand, Orion fixedly stared at him, and suddenly breathed out as the revelation struck him, "Because you became the Vindico Lumen, because you underwent the so-called Ultimate Test. Gellert… Gellert told me that he believed that I would be changed, transformed…"

He distanced himself further from Arian, agitatedly shaking his head as he snapped briskly, "But he couldn't have possibly known the full truth – he would have told me! He kept a lot of things to himself but he always dropped clues so that I would someday discover things for myself, but he never indicated that he knew anything about Sidhes, or realms, or-"

"Grindelwald didn't know about us," interrupted Arian placidly, as he swept his hand over himself, his true form disappearing under the magic cast, "but he did know about the Sources, about our Makers, and he must have had his suspicions. I know that Albus knows much – not everything, but still plenty."

"And the Illuminati, what do they know?" demanded Orion sternly, rounding on him and piercing him with his eyes.

Arian's lips curved into a small smile as he replied loftily, "Only what I have told them."

"Which is?" snapped Orion curtly, his eyes narrowing to slits as he felt a modicum of apprehension.

"Not enough for them to pose a problem or threat to you – that is, if I don't want them to be such," said Arian pointedly, then waving a hand dismissively as if such concerns were mere trivialities for a being such as himself.

"Right," grunted Orion, his eyes narrowing further, the implicit warning and threat not passing unacknowledged. He moved to stand face-to-face with him, pinning him with an intense, assessing gaze, to not miss a single twitch or change in Arian's expression. "Tell me, 'friend', what did you have to do during the Test to become Gabriel again? It was Gaius who gave back to you that which He had taken away, wasn't it?"

"It was my Maker-"

"It's the same thing!" bit out Orion impatiently, glowering at him. "I can put two and two together, Gabriel. I know what Gaia and Gaius are – fractions of the Sources which are entrenched in this planet's core, because of what we did in this world, because that's how I wanted things to be. So, if the Light Source gave you back your true form and your original powers and abilities for you to become His Vindico, then you're loyal to Him."

One corner of Arian's lips quirked upwards, his azure eyes gleaming as he leaned against a tree trunk, eyeing him with a playful expression on his face. "Perhaps I tricked my Maker, hmmm? Would it be so hard to believe, my nemesis?"

"It is hard to believe when you keep calling me your 'nemesis'," said Orion frostily, his fingers tightening around his wand at his side. "Just answer my question – are you still loyal to Him?"

"But that's not exactly what you want to know, n'est-ce pas?" murmured Arian softly, his cerulean eyes sparkling with mischievousness.

He pushed himself away from the tree and fluidly raised a hand to play with one of Orion's black locks of hair with his fingers, leaning forward to whisper into his ear, "What you want to know is if you were right in what you said to me the day you left for this world, if I would come to 'love you so profoundly' that only you and nothing else would matter to me - that everything I would do, I would do it for you."

Orion raised his chin, dislodging Arian's playful fingers from his hair, and scoffed snidely, "I don't care about that. I care about your loyalties. I want to know if you're on my side or if you're my enemy-"

"You lie so prettily," said Arian, chuckling under his breath. "But haven't I already proven that I've been doing nothing but helping you, hmmm?" He gestured at them, and pierced him with his azure eyes as he said pointedly, "This is the 'second attempt' you spoke about, and I succeeded in making you drink from the Holy Grail so that you could know the truth."

Orion sighed wearily, carding his fingers through his hair. "Yes, I know that, but-"

"Don't you see?" interjected Arian with exasperation, firmly clutching Orion's shoulders as he bore his eyes into his. "The one thing your Maker has always kept from you, during all your rebirths, was the knowledge of who you had been in your first life – of your life as Salai. It's the one thing She fears, but She still needed you to become powerful because She has always wanted you to be Her most formidable tool. That's why, when you were Mordred, deceived by Her, without knowing the full truth, you followed all Her plans, meddling with the bloodlines of your own descendants so that your soul would be reborn along those lines, until the day came when you would be born as you are now – with the highest levels of magical power that a human body can sustain."

He abruptly released Orion, looking away from him, unfocusedly gazing into the horizon as if his mind was far away. Finally, he added quietly as he distractedly swept a lock of bronze hair from his eyes, "But, your present abilities are still nothing but a weak imitation of what your true powers were when you were Salai. Parseltongue, Necromancy, your 'raw' dark magic, as you call it, which you can shape into elemental forms or use it in its wild state, and the ability of foresight which presents itself, very weakly, in your dreams."

Arian turned around to shoot him a glance, and continued sternly, "All of these were infused into the Peverell lines because your Maker wanted you to be the best possible 'imitation' of Salai, without your original personality, rebelliousness, and independence of mind. She has been molding you."

"Yes, I see," muttered Orion quietly, nodding gravely, his jaw clenching. "I understand-"

"Apparently not nearly enough," interjected Arian solemnly, skewering him with his blue gaze. "What you feared the most was to undergo the Test to become the Vindico Atrum without knowing about your life as Salai, because then you would have been bounded to your Maker. She would have given you powers and abilities, making you believe that they were gifts, when in truth, She would simply be giving back to you the powers with which you were born with. And without knowing this, you would have been eternally grateful and loyal to Her, the perfect ignorant tool for Her to use."

Frowning, Orion stared at him as he absentmindedly rubbed his forehead. "Only She can give me back my original powers and immortality, then. That's why every time we've met you've insisted that I had to become the VA, because I'll be changed, I'll be Salai again."

"Precisely," said Arian serenely, before a wide smile stretched on his face, his azure eyes gleaming as he trailed a fingertip along Orion's bottom lip, lowering his voice as he added, "And once you're Salai, we will feel no pain, like it was before. We'll be able to join our lips, and our bodies-"

Loudly clearing his throat, feeling awkward, uncertain, and as if his desires were tugging him in different directions, Orion pulled back and said coolly, utterly ignoring the turn in the conversation, "So when I was Salai, I knew it would come to the point of me undergoing the Test to become the VA, so that I could gain back what She took from me. But how am I supposed to do it? She's the Dark Source!"

Frustration and irritation crossed Arian's handsome face as he saw the distance that Orion had put between them. Though, in the next second his expression cleared, and with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he whispered conspiratorially, "The greatest weapon you now posses against Her is your awareness of who you had been, n'est-ce pas? That's your most important secret, and She mustn't find out that you already know about your life as Salai. As long as you do that, you'll only be confronting Gaia during the Test, not the entirety of your Maker. Do not give Her reason to suspect you - reason to focus Her whole mind and powers on you while you undergo the Test - and everything will go well."

Pausing, he shot him a bright smile and chuckled under his breath. "You only have to outsmart Her – that's what you said to me. You are the Deceiver, Salai. When the time comes, you'll know what to do." Abruptly, his expression changed. He eyed him gravely, his gaze assessing and piercing, as he added quietly, "That is, if you want to become Salai. Do you, hmmm?"

"Perhaps," said Orion coolly, waving a hand dismissively.

Arian's expression hardened as he leaned his face forward and murmured softly, "There are no 'perhaps'. Whether we are enemies or allies is up to you and the choices you make, but regardless, you will become Salai even if I have to force you. And, foremost, friends or foes, you will fulfill the promise you made to me, because I did everything you wanted me to do. You owe me and you will have to pay the price. It's only fair, n'est-ce pas?"

Orion gaped at him before he pulled himself together, squaring his shoulders and scoffing, "What price? What promise? I made no promises-"

"Oh yes, you did," interrupted Arian, flashing him with a pearly-white smile. " 'I will give you what you have always secretly coveted – all of me,' that was your promise, our pact. That has been dangling in front of my nose for ages."

His bright smile broadened, and a playful glint glimmered in his blue eyes. "And I don't think it will constitute a sacrifice from your part – you've always wanted me too, Salai, hmmm? Even as you are now, just Orion Black, you want me – I've always been able to perceive it. It's obvious every time we meet."

Orion shifted were he stood, his expression mulish and irked, before he slightly cleared his throat, forced himself to stop fidgeting, and said stoically, "Be that as it may, what might happen between us...er… 'romantically', should be the least of our concerns. And it's certainly the last thing in my mind."

He pulled himself to his full height, crossing his arms over his chest as he gazed at Arian fixedly. "For starters, I want clarifications about some things I said to you in the last memory-"

"If you want answers," interrupted Arian loftily, his lips quirking upwards as his cerulean blue eyes glinted, "I've already offered to give them to you if you come with me."

"Surely the great, all-powerful 'archangel' Gabriel can sustain an overlapping of space for a few more minutes," said Orion with a sneering and challenging tone lacing his voice. "Surely there's no need for me to go anywhere. You can answer right here and right now."

Arian eyed him with amusement, and finally let out a single wry chuckle, before he said impassively, "Very well, ask away."

"Um, okay," mumbled Orion, a bit startled by his easy victory, while he quickly sorted in his mind the many questions swirling around. He suddenly lifted his head up to stare at him and asked abruptly, "What about our, er, realms? Do they still exist? And what about my… brothers, do they still live?"

Arian raised his eyebrows, eyeing him coolly as he said placidly, "Do you really care, hmm? Your brothers meant little to you, Salai. Why are you asking me this, are you – concerned?"

"No. Yes – I'm just curious!" snapped Orion with irritation, shooting him an irked glare. "Just answer the questions."

"You can find out yourself," said Arian dismissively, his handsome face turning stony. Abruptly, he shot him a small, wry smile, and added conversationally, "You have already met Virgilio, after all. You will become his apprentice, n'est-ce pas?"

"Virgil - The Argonaut?" asked Orion bewildered. "What does he have to do with anything?"

A bout of laughter bubbled out from Arian's lips, and he clapped a hand on Orion's shoulder as he raised his eyebrows tauntingly. "Don't tell me that you thought that the great Virgilio, who has never deigned to take an apprentice before, simply accepted to take you under his wing because he yielded to the Guild's wishes! Or because he was impressed by your Necromantic abilities or by the fact that you – as you are now - are the descendant of the first Dementor."

With a last chuckle, he shot Orion a patronizing glance, and clicked his tongue. "None of that would impress him, or sway him. Oh no, his reasons are other." Staring at Orion's puzzled expression, he leaned forward, with a large smile on his lips as he whispered softly, "Surely you know who and what he is."

"I don't know what you mean. He's strange, granted, and I know he has some creature blood in him," said Orion scowling at him defensively, his teeth gritting. "I saw his soul when I was fighting Cadmus, and it was different from the other Necromancers'-"

" 'Some' creature blood?" burst out Arian, his ringing laughter filling the space between them. "He's a Halfling – the only one that has ever existed!"

Baffled, Orion stared at him, a deep frown on his face as he said slowly, "You mean that he's half human and half-"

"You said you saw their souls," interrupted Arian, apparently dismissing their current topic of conversation to instead intently pierce his blue gaze into Orion's green one, as he raised his eyebrows, "so did you see your own?"

Startled by the abrupt question, Orion could do nothing but reply honestly, "No – how could I? From my own line of vision I can't see it in its entirety." He demonstrated by lowering his chin to stare at nothing but his chest, before he glanced up at him and added dismissively, "And there are no Necromantic 'mirrors', or some such thing, that I know of-"

"Then I advise that you ask one of your Necromancer friends to take a peek at your soul and describe what they see to you." One corner of Arian's lips quirked upwards as his blue eyes gleamed. "It would be very… enlightening… for you, my nemesis. Yes, you'll find it most interesting."

"What's that supposed to mean?" spat Orion suspiciously, his eyes narrowing to slits. "If you have something to say, just spit it out."

"It was just a friendly suggestion," said Arian serenely, nonchalantly rolling one of his shoulders. "No need to get so riled up, hmm?"

"Fine, it's duly noted. Now, don't change subjects," bit out Orion sharply, leveling at him a hard gaze. "You were telling me about Virgil-"

"Really, the old man never told you?" interrupted Arian with disbelief.

"What bloody old man?" snapped Orion caustically, throwing up a hand into the air with exasperation, his patience having reached its limit with Arian's circuitous ramblings.

Arian shook his head with amusement, chuckling under his breath. "Virgilio is mainly interested in you because the father who abandoned him, the father he never knew, took you under his wing, treating you as his own son and secretly helping you on occasions. At Durmstrang you were his favorite, n'est-ce pas?"

Orion hitched a sharp intake of breath, his eyes round as he feebly mumbled, "You mean Vulcan Vagnarov?" He briskly shook his head and spat harshly, "But Vulcan couldn't have been Virgil's father! Loki Njord told me Virgil has been The Argonaut for several centuries, that makes him older than Vulcan ever was-"

"Time flows differently in and between others realms, certainly you knew this already, hmmm?" interjected Arian calmly, a slight smile gracing his lips. "Virgil wasn't born here, but in one of your realms, Salai." He shot him a speculative glance and added quietly, "The old man never told you why he didn't complete his training in the Guild?"

"Vagnarov said he decided he didn't need to become a full-fledged Necromancer…" Orion trailed off, frowning deeply before he glanced at Arian and added in a low murmur, "Once, he said something about shadows-"

"The Shadows, yes… very nasty creatures - your third brother's most 'sublime' creation," said Arian dryly, before he started to chuckle under his breath. "I believe it was them who drove Vagnarov away from your home world, the moment your Maker discovered what he had done."

"What did he do?" demanded Orion instantly, piercing him with his eyes, his gaze inquisitive and searching. "Say I believe you, then - how could he have been Virgil's dad?"

Arian shot him a wide, bright smile as he lounged against the tree trunk at his back. "Imagine this, Salai: a young Vulcan Vagnarov starting his Necromantic training at the Guild, wide-eyed with fascination and curiosity, entranced by the mere idea of being able to see the other realms, he decides he wants to become the next Argonaut of the Guild, to be their Ambassador and traveler of realms. Mid-way during his journeys across the cosmos, he reaches your home world to establish Guild-Dark Sidhe relations, and there, he laid eyes upon someone he knew he shouldn't – one of your kind's females."

His smile broadened and he pointedly stared at Orion. "I don't have to elucidate what happened between them, hmmm? You already know all about the 'bees and flowers' and have vast experience in it, n'est-ce pas?"

He shot him a thin, bitter smile, before he added disinterestedly, "I don't know why she willfully lay with him - she knew it was forbidden to her kind and gender, she knew the price she would have to pay for flaunting the laws of your brethren and Maker, and just for a human who couldn't have been tempting or attractive to her eyes. But I know why Vagnarov did it; that female was, reputedly, the most seductive, dangerous, and beautiful of your kind – she was the forbidden fruit, so to speak. Young Vagnarov was simply swept off his feet."

Arian paused, observing Orion's silence and deeply musing and expectant expression, he continued conversationally, "The moment your brethren discovered that she had become pregnant with Vagnarov's seed, your Maker's wrath was frightening to behold. Vagnarov, having broken several Guild rules and the laws of your brethren, escaped death by mere luck. He fled from your home world before the Shadows could get to him – he returned to his home, to Earth, yet he wasn't welcomed in the Guild either. Unable to complete his Necromantic training, he turned to the only place left to him – Durmstrang, to become one of Morgana's spirit's servants, to become an Aux Atrum to gain your Maker's forgiveness. He quietly stood behind the scenes for a very long time, forbidden from ever seeing or contacting his ill-gotten son, supposedly submitting himself to your Maker and repenting for his actions."

With enjoyment visible in his handsome features, Arian shot him a wide, sparkling smile as he added in a low, amused tone of voice, "Yet, Vagnarov must have never been loyal to Her, hmmm? I believe he came to despise Her. Perhaps, he did truly fall in love with the female Dark Sidhe. And forced to be away from her and never know his son, he led a sorrowful, lonely life, but also grew embittered. Though, he took his revenge as he could – he helped you several times, n'est-ce pas? When he was ordered not to."

"Vulcan…" whispered Orion, feeling a stabbing, piercing twist of grief for his old, departed friend. Then he exhaled loudly and plopped down on the stone bench, as he muttered quietly, "And the Sidhe female? What happened to her?"

"She was punished harshly – banished to the lowest of your realms," replied Arian placidly, "to live a cursed existence, because she further refused to kill the life that grew within her. She gave birth to her son there, but of course, she couldn't keep him – a Halfling was nothing but an abomination in your brethren's eyes, a weak and unwanted creature fathered by a mere human. Somehow, she managed to convince one of her kind to take the baby somewhere where he would be safe. The baby was abandoned at the very entrance of the Guild, and there, a Spanish Necromancer found him and took him under his wing, naming the baby 'Virgilio' and raising him in the Guild. The Necromancers knew who he was but they never laid the sins of the father upon the son, and they told Virgilio the truth when he grew old enough to understand it-"

"And when he started his training, Virgil chose to become the next Argonaut," muttered Orion quietly, glancing up at Arian. "To know more about his origins - to perhaps find his mother? Did he?"

Arian shrugged indifferently, without saying a word in response.

"At the very least, he found the realms, that's certain," murmured Orion quietly to himself, as he looked up at the clear, cloudless blue sky, as if wishing he could see through it and across the unimaginable, vast distance, something resembling both apprehension and excited eagerness coiling in his stomach. "Then the realms, in whatever condition they are now, do still exist. And my brothers could still be there."

He yanked himself from his musings, and pinned Arian with his gaze. "Virgil never saw Vagnarov, and now Vulcan is already dead. Father and son were never reunited, yet I was the link between them - they knew I knew them both. Virgil knows who I am, doesn't he?"

"I believe he strongly suspects it," said Arian calmly, intently gazing at him. "The questions is: what's his agenda - because make no mistake, he has one of his own. The very fact that he has agreed to take you as his apprentice, indicates this."

Orion frowned at him, fidgeting and tugging on his robes' stiff collar. "You think he will take me to my realm-"

"If he does," interrupted Arian instantly, a stern and grave expression suffusing his handsome face, "then it would be very dangerous for you. In no occasion must you do anything that would cast suspicion on you – never must you show that you know anything about 'Salai'. Your realm is your Maker's home world, She's most strong and powerful there."

He paused and eyed Orion speculatively, before he added wryly, "If I could, I wouldn't let you go anywhere with Virgilio, but you made a pact with the Guild which you cannot break. Or perhaps don't want to, hmmm? Then again, I believe whatever happens with Virgilio and you, it's something you want it to happen. 'The Halfling could be my greatest ally against Her', that's what you said to me. I didn't believe, back then, that you could possibly be right in speaking about the future existence of a Halfling. I was sure you were mistaken."

"I foresaw Virgil's existence too?" said Orion arching an eyebrow at him, before a wide smirk broke on his face. "Then that settles it, wouldn't you say? I can deal with whatever he doles out, and if I can truly gain him as an ally, I will find a way to accomplish it."

Without another hitch of breath, he gazed at him searchingly and asked coolly, "Tell me, Gabriel, all these things you've been saying I told you – that didn't happen before I left. It happened when I was already here and when you were later sent to this world by the Light Source, didn't it? So we-"

"We met in secret, covertly, numerous times," said Arian airily, as he raised a hand to play with the dusky green leaves fluttering in the breeze in a nearby, overhanging branch. "You never stopped seeking me out, always trying to convince me to see things your way, to support your plans and goals."

Orion rose to his feet, making Arian stare at him, meeting his gaze squarely as he demanded shortly, "What, exactly, did we do in this world? What did I mean by mentioning the legend of Pandora's Box?"

"We shaped the history of human kind, of course," said Arian tersely, a wide, dazzling smile spreading on his face. "We made this world our… 'playground'."

Orion's vibrant green eyes narrowed to slits, and he bit out with exasperation, "No matter how much I ask about it, you won't tell me more, will you? Not unless I go with you, which I won't."

"Your loss," said Arian loftily, shrugging one shoulder.

Orion shot him a baleful glower before he slowly sat down on the stone bench once again, pushing himself to ponder about one thing, above all others, which lingered most predominantly in his mind.

Absentmindedly contemplating the spring of water which rushed a few feet away from him, he began to say slowly, "I said to you that one day there would be a woman who would discover the way of severing the dependence that all magical beings have with the Sources, without resulting in the loss of their magic, their death, or the destruction of the realms." He peeled his gaze away from the spring and keenly pierced his gaze into Arian's. "Whom was I speaking about? You must know by now."

"Whom do you think you were referring to, hmm?" said Arian placidly, eyeing him calmly as he leaned once again against the tree trunk at his back.

"If I knew for sure I wouldn't be asking you," snapped Orion dourly, shooting him a dark glare. He huffed with annoyance before briskly carding his fingers through his hair, as he muttered, "It has to be Rowena Ravenclaw. I remember the things Salazar Slytherin wrote in his journals about Ravenclaw's research – she was obsessed with discovering the Origin of Magic. Her research was, supposedly, about the Balance that had to be maintained between the Sources, so she knew about Them. I think She must have also known about the little Maker, about the Neutral Source of Magic that made this world his home and gave it life. But I don't know how she came to discover so much back in the times when she lived, when many things about magic were still unknown-"

"That's no mystery," interrupted Arian with a soft snort, one of his eyebrows arching tauntingly. "Don't tell me that you believe everything that's written in textbooks. Don't tell me that you, as all other wizards, believe that Rowena created a magical artifact that simply served to grant her greater intelligence. Why would she need that, when she was already astoundingly brilliant, hmmm?"

"What are you babbling about?" bit out Orion shortly, piercing him with narrowed eyes. "Her tiara grants intelligence, I'm sure about that."

"Are you?" said Arian chuckling, eyeing him with a mocking expression on his handsome face. "Based on what? On what Tom Riddle in the Slytherin locket said to you? What would Riddle know about it – he never bothered to fully study the tiara to unlock its secrets, to him it was simply a convenient, famous little trinket in which to house a piece of his soul, to boost his own ego."

He scoffed disparagingly, and added curtly as he pinned Orion with his gaze, "I know this for a fact, since I have looked into his life and that's exactly how he thought of the tiara. Or perhaps you're basing your certainty on Slytherin's scribblings in his journals?" He raised his eyebrows and shot him a small, taunting smile. "Salazar never took a real interest in Rowena's research. He thought it was utter folly. Between us, I think he didn't have the capacity to even comprehend what it was all about."

Irked at the jibe, Orion crossed his arms over his chest and gritted out, "Alright. Since it seems that you know everything, undoubtedly because you have used that post-cognitry ability of yours to look into the past of anyone who remotely sparks your interest, then tell me, what does the tiara do?"

"Right now, nothing at all," replied Arian glibly, his lips quirking upwards. "Riddle, the arrogant, megalomaniac idiot, spoiled several unique magical artifacts when creating his pretty little horcruxes, didn't he?"

His lips curved into a broad smile, as he added serenely, "I'm sure you know this already. I'm sure you had to work on the Resurrection Stone, to rid it of Riddle's piece of soul so that it could work with its full powers. It's the same case with the tiara. It will only be useful when you destroy the horcrux within-" He held up a hand the moment Orion parted his mouth open, Arian's expression turning mildly sour as he bit out "- or just transfer the piece of soul from it to another receptacle, since it seems you foolishly refuse to destroy one of your dear Voldemort's parasitic pests."

"And if I did that," said Orion nonchalantly, yet his gaze was keenly fixed on Arian, "then what would the tiara do? What powers does it have?"

"How do you think Rowena came to discover the existence of the Makers?" said Arian laughing loudly. "Why do you think she spent all her days and nights locked up in her Astronomy Tower, standing at the very top, with the tiara on her head as she gazed at the dark skies? Just because she thought that the twinkling little stars were pretty?"

He shot Orion an amused and condescending smile, before he leaned towards him and whispered into his ear, "Can't you guess what it does, Salai? Imagine the whole universe opening itself up before your eyes, with no secrets that could be hidden from you, imagine being able to see through worlds, stars, suns and galaxies, imagine being able to sense every nexus of magic flowing in the cosmos, to see all the realms and the heart of magic that beats in their core, imagine being able to travel through space with your mind and awareness alone. That's what Rowena created, and that's how she discovered the existence of the three Sources of Magic and was able to study them, without being sensed or perceived."

Orion tilted his head upwards, directly staring into Arian's eyes as he breathed out eagerly, excitement and wonderment bubbling inside him, "If it can really do that, then it's priceless. Then I could use it to better understand the Sources, to figure out how I could attain independence from them, for all of us-"

"Then, you're indeed saying that you want to become Salai," interjected Arian, intensely locking gazes with Orion, a glowing, victorious smile spreading on his face, his azure eyes gleaming brightly.

"Bloody hell, of course I want to be Salai again!" burst out Orion adamantly, as he swiftly carded his fingers through his hair, biting his lower lip before they curved into an ecstatic grin, as he animatedly paced before Arian. "Not because I want to gain back immortality-" he scrunched his nose "- I don't think I'll like that much. And not even because of the powers I'll have, but because it's necessary for me to be Salai if I want to succeed in the goal I had. If it's truly possible to accomplish, then I want to see it done, and only I can do it, I suppose, but…" He turned around and shot Arian a baffled glance. "But I said I would have her writings, and none of Ravenclaw's survived the passage of time."

"Again, not true," said Arian pleasantly, one corner of his lips tilting upwards. "She wrote her research notes and discoveries in three scrolls, the Ravenclaw Scrolls – those still exist."

"I've never heard about that!" exclaimed Orion, highly miffed, scowling at the very fact that he had never seen it mentioned in any books or even heard any rumors about it. His expression brightened in the next second and he excitedly grabbed one of Arian's forearms. "You must know where the Scrolls are – you've looked into her past, haven't you? If she hid them someplace secret, all those centuries ago, then you can know where I can find them. Or if anyone discovered them, then you can know who it was and where they are now-"

"Oh, no, that's something you'll have to do on your own," interrupted Arian loftily as he chuckled under his breath and leaned against the tree, as if placidly lounging in a sunbathing spot. "I rather see you going around like a headless chicken, frantically looking for them. It will be very entertaining, wouldn't you say, hmmm?"

"Fine, whatever," bit out Orion acerbically, shooting him a venomous look before he widely smirked at him. "It matters little. I'll find them, and anyway, I already know where the tiara is. I will take out the piece of soul inside it and restore it, and then I'll be able to use it and-"

"Rowena's tiara is not meant for you," interjected Arian swiftly, his tone stern and curt as he pierced him with his eyes, "this you told me yourself. You will give it to someone else."

"What on earth are you talking about?" snapped Orion harshly, staring at him incredulously. "Why would I give it away? It's clear that I had planned on using it myself-"

"Not at any point did I confirm to you that Ravenclaw was the woman you were referring to, n'est-ce pas?" said Arian placidly, raising his eyebrows at him. "Oh, no, Rowena discovered much but her daughter stole the tiara before she could conclude her research. Rowena never found the 'solution', as you called it."

Orion blinked at him, then frowned confusedly as he said slowly, "But then… who-"

" 'She will be a child of the little Maker, unsurpassed in intelligence, mediocre in power, ravaged by sorrow, and her mind will be mine,' that's what you said to me about her."

"A child of… a muggleborn… her mind-" Orion clamped his mouth shut before his eyes widened and he gasped out, "Merlin's balls of fire - Hermione Granger?"

Arian solemnly nodded at him. "I knew it was her of whom you had spoken the moment I laid eyes on her - the moment I saw her with Albus' Treatise in her hands and saw the mark of a mind-possession curse in her eyes."

"So she's the one," whispered Orion under his breath, unseeingly gazing into vacant air. "She's the one I'll give the tiara and the Scrolls to, and who will complete Ravenclaw's research and discover the way in which I can attain my goal."

With a snap, he turned his head to stare at Arian and said breathlessly, "Is this why I did nothing to prevent the Dark Source from forcing my soul into rebirths as She pleased, because I was waiting to live when Hermione did? Because I was waiting for her to exist?"

"You were not only waiting for Granger," said Arian coolly. "You waited for Ravenclaw, Slytherin, the Peverells, and many others to exist and create things that you foresaw you would need. You waited for all your tools to exist and be at your disposal – tools: magical artifacts and people."

He shot Orion a thin, wry smile, and slowly approached him as he lowered his voice into a murmur, "At present, there are only three 'tools' which don't exist, and which you planned and wanted to have so they could be used – the most vital and important ones, according to you. The Lady of the Lake has told you about them already."

Orion swallowed thickly, before he said hoarsely, "You mean… my own children?"

"Does it surprise you?" Arian dryly chuckled and raised his eyebrows. "You were ruthlessly heartless, Salai, make no mistake. You were single-mindedly focused in securing your own greatness, survival, and true rebirth, and in seeing your masterplan come to fruition, and everyone else are just there to be used as means to an end. And not even I know all the things you set in motion, all the 'tools' that you plotted to have at your disposal for when you were yourself again."

Abruptly, he clutched Orion's chin, lifting it up until their gazes met, a bitter smile on his lips as he murmured quietly, "I even think you thought of me as a tool as well, Salai, because you waited for me too – for me to be born a Dumbledore."

"That's hardly something I could have plotted," bit out Orion sharply, wrenching his chin free from Arian's grasp, his emerald eyes narrowing to slits.

"I am what I am because of you, Salai," retorted Arian, his lips tugging upwards. "You made sure of that by telling me about the first attempt I would make to make you drink water from the Holy Grail."

"I don't understand what you mean," said Orion impatiently, shooting him an annoyed scowl. "That first attempt was when you were Galahad and I was Mordred, and I said you wouldn't succeed and you tried anyway. That's hardly my fault."

Arian shook his head and chuckled lowly under his breath. "It's because you said I would do it, that I did it."

"So you trusted me blindly - that I had some secret reason for telling you that?" scoffed Orion snidely, defensively crossing his arms over his chest. "That makes no sense."

"When I was Galahad and found the Holy Grail, drank from it and remembered everything, I knew you had told me about my 'first attempt' for a specific reason. Did I trust you blindly? No, not quite. I trusted your deviousness and I trusted the fact that I knew that you wouldn't let go of me and that someday you would need me to be Gabriel again."

Arian pierced him with his eyes, as he added tartly, "In the years I spent looking for you, before I found you in Bornholm Island building your precious Durmstrang, I lived in many places and I came to know many people. I had a daughter, Salai. And I know you meant for that to happen."

"A daughter?" mumbled Orion perplexed. "But if you were Galahad back then, then she was..."

"Do you see it now?" said Arian nonchalantly, propping one foot against the base of a tree as he leaned backwards to gaze at him impassively.

"Yes," muttered Orion quietly, then raising his eyes to bore his gaze into his. "Calypso and I speculated about the possibility, but we weren't sure. Now, I know. Your daughter's descendants came to be the Dumbledore line, didn't they? And when you had her, when you were Galahad back then, Merlin had already made you his magical heir and through your daughter you passed that down along the Dumbledore line. In your case, there were no Spirits to manipulate your bloodlines. Who did that, was me, with a mere sharing of a tidbit of what I had foreseen about your attempts."

Though, an unvoiced thought pervaded in his mind. He could believe that as Malekai, he had done things to ensure that 'Galahad' would have offspring and thus pass on Merlin's magic, foreseeing that it would result in Gavril being born a Dumbledore. But, ultimately, who had made Gavril's soul to be reborn into Arian Valenor could be no one but the Light Source. He doubted that even as Malekai Salai he could have had the power over the reincarnations of souls.

That posed the undying question of whether Gavril and his Maker had reached some sort of pact, forgiving and forgetting past transgression in order to work together towards a common goal, or at the very least, whether Gavril had his own agenda. The latter, Orion didn't doubt. There was one thing for sure that Gavril wanted: to have Salai back. But what else was he plotting? Did Gavril really come to completely align himself with Salai, sharing his same aims?

Orion filed those thoughts away in his mind, and silently studied Arian before he said coolly, "Then you should thank me, Gabriel. I've made you more powerful than you would have otherwise been - Merlin's magic flows in your veins, after all, due to me."

"Do you hear me complaining, hmm?" said Arian loftily, waving a hand dismissively before he widely smiled at him, his voice turning taunting and challenging, "You realize, don't you, that it means that Albus is also Merlin's magical descendant? I wonder if you didn't foresee that or if-"

"I foresaw it, I have no doubt, but Albus Dumbledore poses no threat to me – his sister was the inordinately powerful one, not him. He's nothing," snapped Orion caustically, shooting him a glare. Abruptly, he smirked at him and added nonchalantly, "Well, he does have his uses – he serves to distract Voldemort, doesn't he? I rather have Voldemort fighting Dumbledore than taking a real interest in the things I've been keeping from him."

Arian shot him a dazzling smile, his azure eyes gleaming with amusement. "It seems you're relearning how to think as when you were Salai."

"I'm being myself," groused out Orion irritably. "I don't need to be 'Salai' in order to be smart and sly, mind you."

"Let's test that, then," said Arian merrily, something playful and mischievous in his eyes. "I want to make a little deal with you. You have something I want back and I have something you need. Tit for tat."

Orion eyed him suspiciously. "What do you want?"

"Gryffindor's Sword," said Arian archly, expectantly looking at him. "I know you have it. Albus told me you stole it from his office a couple of years ago."

"What on earth do you want it for?" Utterly surprised, Orion stared at him fixedly. "I know it's not to destroy horcruxes with it. So, why?"

"I have my reasons," said Arian in a casual and dismissive tone of voice.

Suddenly, a suspicion crept in Orion's mind, but he didn't dare voice it, he simply steadily gazed at him and asked calmly, "What would I get in return?"

"Albus Dumbledore served on a platter," replied Arian pleasantly, his lips tugging upwards, "so that you can take the Elder Wand from him, once and for all."

Arching an eyebrow, Orion scoffed at him, "That's all?" He then shot him a nasty smirk. "Ah, yes, it's the best you can offer, isn't it? Because you cannot kill him, he made sure of that when he acknowledged you as a Dumbledore through a blood ritual, and you're still binded to it, even now when you're Gabriel again." He mockingly tutted at him. "My, my, Gabriel, you dropped the ball there, didn't you? Outsmarted by a human… what would your Maker say?"

Arian thinly smiled at him, his cerulean blue eyes -under the glamour, so like Albus'- gleaming brightly, as he said impassively, "Do we have a deal?"

"I'm sure you know the answer already," said Orion shortly. "No."

Abruptly, ringing laughter bubbled out from Arian's throat before he shook his head with amusement. "Ah, I think I know why you refuse. You have plans for the Elder Wand, hmmm? Perhaps, you're going to let Voldemort have it first, letting him wrench it from Albus' dead hands, to see what your deranged, little psychopath would do then, n'est-ce pas? It would be so like you to do that. You're going to test him – to see if he turns against you!"

Orion merely raised an eyebrow, not peeping a word. Though, inwardly, he wasn't at all pleased that he was so transparent to him.

"Bravo!, I say." With a broad, pearly-white smile on his face, Arian clapped his hands noisily, making a taunting and exaggerated show of it.

Suddenly, when Orion was about to snap at him, he almost tilted over when the ground seemed to start shaking. Disconcerted, he glanced around, and saw how their surroundings looked as if they were fading, like an image being fractured, split, and shedding layers, becoming fuzzier with each passing second.

"What's happenin-"

"Ah, that must be your 'beloved'," said Arian mockingly, not looking at all startled as he moved quickly and pulled Orion against him. "It seems he found a way to break the overlapping of space – which isn't surprising, given how thoroughly the psycho has studied all sorts of magic." His voiced turned urgent and grave as he added in a sharp whisper, "Now that you know the truth, you'll stop the war, n'est-ce pas?"

"What? No – of course not!" Orion struggled with Arian's firm clutch around his body, but the arms around his waist and chest which pinned him against Arian, seemed to be made of hard marble.

He desisted as everything seemed to be crumbling around him, catching glimpses of Scrimgeour's office, and the people there, through the fading image of the Flamel garden. He could even hear the frantic voices of his Elite coming into his ears by the spell they had all cast on themselves earlier that day.

He finally tilted his head backward to glance at Arian, and hissed under his breath, "Don't you get it, Gabriel? During my dreams, I have many visions, but there's one that I now know comes from Her - I see myself in a scorched battlefield, leading a massive army of dark wizards and creatures, and when the two sides clash and fight, my warriors start chanting my name; they start with 'Lord Black' and then it changes into a zealous roar of 'Vindico, Vindico, Vindico!'. That's what She wants, and that's what She must believe She'll get."

"What are you saying, Salai?" whispered Arian in a low, harsh voice, for a moment painfully tightening his clutch around Orion before he loosened it. "If you continue with the war, and those which will come after it, millions will be killed-"

"Were you expecting me to openly lead an insurrection against the Dark Source? Or to covertly plan it for when the right time comes?" Orion shot him a disdainful glance over his shoulder. "It's clear to me now - I understand more than you do and more than you believe yourself to be aware of. I foresaw everything, Gabriel! That includes this moment and my current relationships with 'humans', and I knew what decisions I would now make. I have faith in the things I did and plotted as Salai, that everything has gone exactly how I meant it to happen, how I foresaw and planned for. No – I will change nothing. I won't drop the war, I won't modify any of my old plans, and She'll never suspect me or see me coming when I finally confront Her in Avalon."

For a moment, Arian said nothing, and then he briefly nodded as he shot him a piercing glance. "As you wish, Salai. Now… here's a good idea – you want to test him, n'est-ce pas? Then let's test him now." He leaned into Orion and playfully nibbled his earlobe as he continued in a soft, mischievous whisper, "And you better play along unless you want me to spill some of your 'secrets' to him."

Orion realized what he was talking about in the next second, when there was nothing left of the Flamel's garden and he completely found himself in Scrimgeour's office, the Death Eaters and his Elite forming a circle around Arian and him. They had all become suddenly silent.

Voldemort stood right before the two of them, crimson eyes narrowed, wand aimed forward, his gaze coldly assessing and calculating.

It didn't help matters that Arian still had Orion trapped in his arms and continued nibbling on Orion's earlobe, shooting Voldemort a mocking and taunting glance and looking as if he was having the best time of his life.

"We meet at last, Riddle," said Arian pleasantly, briefly giving a rest to Orion's ear in order to speak, while he covertly clutched Orion tighter in warning when Orion fidgeted and made an attempt to move.

Aborting his bid for escape, Orion glanced around warily, expecting the Death Eaters to start murmuring amongst them about the 'Riddle' form of address, or to start shouting. But nothing happened, and he realized that neither Death Eaters nor his Elite were hearing anything. Cunning wizard that he was, it seemed that Voldemort had instantly cast a muffling and anti-spying spell around the three of them.

"Arian Valenor, I presume," said Voldemort just as calmly, nothing indicating that he was in any way remotely displeased or that he didn't have the situation well under control. Though, his crimson eyes were dangerously narrowed as they flickered from Arian to Orion and back.

"The one and only," said Arian cheerfully, freeing a hand to give him a muggle-like military salute.

Voldemort's expression hardened, evidently not finding any amusement in it, but before he could speak again, Arian glanced down at Orion and then shot Voldemort a bright, pearly-white smile, as he asked conversationally, "Tell me, Riddle, how is he between the sheets?"

Not sparing Orion a glance, Voldemort elegantly arched an eyebrow as he said coolly, "Passable."

Orion choked on his own tongue.