Chapter One: The Lost Island
"It is common knowledge that the Dark Lord's fortress was on a large island, perhaps the size of New Zealand, but the name and location of this island have been lost. Not long after the Liberation, those witches and monsters that survived disappeared. Men who had known the name of the island reported the information vanishing from their minds, leaving only a vague memory that such an island had once existed. Attempts to find it using satellite imagery and other methods have failed. We can only surmise that the island has been hidden using some evil sorcery, or has been destroyed entirely. We hope that the magical threat has indeed been eliminated but we must remain ever vigilant. While children are tested at birth for magical contamination, ensuring that the enemy does not grow in our midst, there may yet be some witches hidden away, biding their time. The threat could return at any time, and we must be ready to meet it when it does."
-from A History of the Dark Times and the Liberation War, "Chapter 13: Legacy of the Dark Times," by Alexander Dawson © 2489, official government-approved history book.
Village of Arisaig (The Safe Place), Scotland, August 29, 2567
On the coast of the Loch nan Ceall, at the base of a mountain, lay a small village called Arisaig. The road and railroad line that once brought visitors were long overgrown by the dark, wild forest that had spread across the British Isles. Surrounding the village in a rough circle were dozens of standing stones, ancient magic used to hold the forest back.
The people of Arisaig rarely ventured outside their small, protected circle, for the forest was full of strange creatures and wild magic, and those that went into it often never returned, or worse, returned changed by strange and uncontrollable magic.
The older folk remembered stories of times before that their parents and grandparents had told them. There had been a Dark Lord, a man, if he could be called that, so terrible that none dared speak his name. The stories also told of people, muggles, that could not use magic, people that lived in lands beyond the sea. Most of them didn't really believe the stories of machines, empty of magic and life, which could fly through the air, or kill, or destroy while cities.
They knew nothing of the lands beyond the sea, for none had ventured so far, except perhaps Luna, and it was best not to take everything she said seriously.
They were sometimes wary around the vampire, who appeared to be a young girl but had been around as long as anyone could remember. She showed up at irregular intervals, sometimes disappearing for years at a time. As she had never hurt any of the villagers, they had learned to tolerate, and even welcome, her presence.
She was, after all, their only source of news about events happening beyond the borders of their little village.
Today, a group of four children, three girls and a boy, ranging in age from twelve to fourteen were having magic lessons in an old house in the center of town. They sat on the floor in a rough semicircle, watching Mrs Vetiver as she demonstrated with an old, battered wand.
None of the children had wands themselves, as they had about one wand for every three villagers and no way of making new ones. Those children that were particularly proficient at wand-magic would receive a wand when its owner died or gave it up.
"Wingardium Leviosa," Mrs. Vetiver intoned carefully. The children watched carefully as the leaf she'd set before her rose slowly into the air.
"Now," she said, "I want all of you to practice the wand movement with me. Take out your practice wands." Each student pulled out a stick. They were simple wood, and while you couldn't do real magic with them, they were adequate learning tools.
Each child swished and flicked, intoning the incantation. "Alright, one at a time now. Timmy, you first."
The boy she'd addressed scowled, as he had been telling people to call him Tim for the past year. He didn't dare correct Mrs. Vetiver though, not in the middle of a lesson.
"Yes ma'am," he said, practicing the movement. "Wingardium Leviosa."
Mrs. Vetiver scrutinized his movements. She corrected his grip and showed him the movement again. "Try it again, Timmy, but with a little more emphasis on the swish."
While she was helping Timmy, the girl to his left, who was the smallest of the group, carefully practiced the movement again and again, mouthing the incantation under her breath. Wren's hair was dark blonde and looked like it hadn't been brushed for several days. Like the other students, she wore clothes that were old and threadbare, but had been carefully patched and meticulously cleaned.
The two other girls had dark hair and eyes and were clearly sisters. "When do you think we'll get to practice with a real wand, Clover?" The older of the two girls, whose name was Bridget, whispered.
"How should I know?" Clover replied. Out of the four students, she was the only one whose clothes were dirty. She also had a small leaf stuck in her hair, which she appeared not to notice.
"Well, I don't think it's right. I'm the best student at pre-wand magic, everyone says so. You might be happy with your plants, but I—"
"That's not fair," Clover whined. "Green Magic is important, Mama says so. We use plants for food and medicine and potion and…and defense even…" She trailed off under her sister's icy glare.
"It's still not real magic, is it? When I'm older—"
Bridget's plans would remain unknown, for at that moment Mrs. Vetiver interrupted. "You will get your chance with a wand today, children, if you can remain silent. Am I clear?"
The children all nodded, even Wren, who rarely spoke.
Rebelliously, Clover muttered, "You only say that because your plants always die."
Her sister glared back at her, preparing to retort.
"Children," Mrs. Vetiver snapped, and they were silent, except for Wren's soft voice, as she whispered, "Wingardium Leviosa," over and over again.
Vetiver Cottage, Arisaig Village, one hour later
Shannon Vetiver shut the door behind the last of her students and went into the kitchen to make some tea. Like many of the other seventy-odd residents of Arisaig, she lived in a house that had been built before the Dark Times. As it was so old, she had to repair little things all the time.
There was a leak in the roof that she had been meaning to fix for some time, but things kept getting in the way. Her husband Quinn had always done the household repairs, and while Shannon knew that the others would be more than willing to lend a hand, her pride prevented her from asking. A small part of her also felt it would be an insult to her husband's memory to let some other man repair his house. Cecily had predicted rain in about a week, so Shannon would have to get it done soon.
After all, Shannon was the most skilled wand-user in the village. The day she couldn't fix a leaky roof or broken window was the day she gave up her wand to some young upstart like that Bridget Oliver.
Bridget. She was a tough one and no mistake. The girl had power, that was a sure thing, but she lacked a certain humility. Her sister, Clover, was easy enough to understand. Shannon had heard from Deirdre, the girls' mother, that Clover was one of the most skilled Green Magic users she'd seen in her life. They could really use that, someone to make crops grow healthy and bountiful, although it was hardly a glamorous magic.
But while Clover was much like her mother, Bridget took after her father. Keith had always been a wild one. Shannon had taught him, too, and it frightened her how alike they were. Startlingly powerful, quick to anger, self-assured to the point of arrogance, with a taste for adventure, Keith had all the village girls after him by the time he got his wand.
No one knew why exactly he'd married Deirdre, the plain woman most thought was only good for gardening, but they had seemed happy enough together until one day, when Bridget was seven and Clover five, he had walked into the forest and never returned, carrying one of the village's precious wands with him.
She had seen Bridget looking at the dark woods with the same fascinated, considering look in her eyes that her father had worn, and it worried Shannon. That, more that anything, was why she hesitated to give the girl a wand, though she had both the power and skill.
Today, the first day she'd so much as held a real wand, she'd levitated the leaf perfectly on her first try. It had taken Timmy a dozen tries, and Clover hadn't managed it at all.
Wren, on the other hand, had lifted the leaf a couple of centimeters, but only for a moment and with obvious difficulty. While the girl had the form down perfectly, she had nowhere near the sheer power that Bridget Oliver held. It was too bad; Wren, in Shannon's opinion, would be more responsible with that kind of power.
But her kettle was whistling, so Shannon pulled it off the stove and poured herself some tea, leaving her thoughts for another day.
Town Square, Arisaig Village, later that day
The night was fast approaching when Luna arrived. Dressed as usual in her dark cloak, which was several sizes too big, and a white sundress, she faded out of the forest and walked into town barefoot. It was another sign of how strange the girl was that she would walk around in the forest without shoes.
Owen Davies, the unofficial leader of the village, was chopping wood when he saw her pass. He quickly put the ax away and followed her to the town square. MacNally's, the only pub in town, functioned as a restaurant/café/meeting place for the villagers. When he got there, Luna was already inside, seated at a table near the entrance.
She was carrying a bag over her shoulder, which was unusual. Luna rarely carried anything, except her wand. That it itself Owen considered wasteful, as vampires couldn't use wand-magic. But the one time he'd asked about it, Luna had fixed him with a strange stare and told him she was waiting for the right person to pass it on to. He hadn't asked again.
"Hello Luna," he said, sitting in the chair across from her. She had been talking to a child—David's kid, Wren—but the girl ran off. Owen didn't know her that well, as she was very shy. Like all the kids, though, she liked talking to Luna. "What brings you to our village?"
Luna smiled, showing delicate fangs. "I'm just passing through, Mr. Davis. On my way to Hogwarts."
Owen laughed. He never knew which of Luna's stories were true, and which she dreamed up. Sometimes he even suspected she was making fun of him, but it was clear she believed everything she said. "The haunted castle where the cursed prince is held captive?"
Luna smiled. "That's right, Roger." He blinked, but didn't bother to correct her. Luna often called people by the wrong name. It was probably a consequence of living so long. Either that, or she was simply mad. "I bring good tidings. The darkness is lifting."
Owen had no idea what the girl was talking about. It was harvest-time, and the days were getting shorter, not longer. "Well," he said, "how long will you be staying?" While she sometimes unnerved him, he thought it did everyone good to have someone from outside the village come by now and then. Besides, the children loved her.
"I'm afraid I can't stay," she said, looking out the door. Several villagers had gathered outside; news traveled fast in this town. "I'll be leaving as soon as it's dark. I'll be needing a boat, if that's all right?"
She reached into the folds of her robe and pulled out a book. It looked old, even with the preservation charms that had been cast on it at publication. She slid it across the table to Owen.
"Household Magic," he read off the cover. "'Basic spells for cleaning, cooking, and repairs.' This will be useful." They had hardly any magic books in the village, relying mainly on individual teaching. He knew that many spells had been lost, however, and welcomed all new knowledge.
Luna stood to leave. "Goodbye, Owen Davies," she said, getting his name right for once. Her words had a curiously final ring to them. "Remember this: sometimes the night is blackest just before the light." Then she was gone, fading out of his life as softly as she had come in.
Owen watched the door for several long minutes after she left. He'd always been fascinated with Luna, ever since he was a child. She told stories of a prince who had been cursed by an evil wizard, and was doomed to wander an empty castle until he slew the wizard. She spoke of ancient magic sometimes, of people with strange names like Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Though she was undoubtedly a little mad, she was also extraordinary.
She seemed so devoted to this prince of hers. As long as he could remember, she had been searching for a way to break the curse on him. Owen knew he was in love with the strange, inhuman girl, but he tried to ignore it. He loved his wife, and while Luna probably knew of his interest in that strange way she had, she had never hinted at returning it.
London, Great Britain, September 9, 2004
Severus Snape was alive (again). It was a thoroughly unpleasant state at the moment, though ostensibly preferable to the alternative. He sat in a fine leather armchair, watching the fire, and contemplated his current existence.
He had died. He had been dead, had shuffled off this mortal coil, kicked the bucket, gone off into that undiscovered country—only he had returned, and through no fault of his own.
He had been free, finally, of all the debts and obligations that he'd borne throughout his life. He had been free of the oppressive yoke of his masters, of his tangled loyalty to Dumbledore and the Dark Lord and—worst of all—Harry Potter. He'd looked into his eyes, Lily's eyes, and given up his memories, and he had died.
Some part of him had hoped to see Lily again, to apologize, to seek the forgiveness he had never earned. But the rest of him had been afraid, afraid to see the anger and hatred and above all, disappointment in her eyes, and so when Dumbledore had spoken to him in King's Cross, in that gateway between life and death, he had been afraid to go on.
It was no chance that had pulled him back into life. The reason was simple enough; the Dark Lord had decided that he was not done with Severus Snape, that he had one more task for him, and so had pulled him from his long-awaited rest back into this world.
He had only spoken to Albus for minutes before he was brought back, but when he woke he found that over a year had passed since the Battle for Hogwarts. Harry Potter was dead, and the Dark Lord, deprived of the boy hero he had obsessed over for the past seventeen years, had gone back to his old obsession—immortality.
Apparently Potter and his band of friends had succeeded in destroying all the Dark Lord's Horcruxes, leaving He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as mortal as any other. He had apparently been reluctant to create more, a sentiment Severus well understood. Having endured the splintering of his soul, only to have his efforts undone by schoolchildren, of course he would not want to risk it again.
So he had turned to another avenue, one older, more obscure, and certainly more dangerous than merely mutilating his soul. He had chased a legend of the Elixir of Immortality, of which the Elixir of Life was a mere pale imitation. It did not merely extend life; a single sip would grant the drinker eternal life and youth.
It sounded impossible. A fairy tale, a fool's errand, pure madness. But the Dark Lord, like his late nemesis, had a habit of making the impossible happen.
Severus did not know how he had done it, as he'd been dead at the time. But somehow, through a combination of research, searching, and overzealous application of Dark curses, the Dark Lord had managed to locate the fragments of the recipe and some sort of golden dust that was meant to be the main ingredient.
Then, after months of trying to recreate the ancient elixir himself, and failing, he had resurrected Snape to do it for him. It was a little-known fact about the Dark Mark—in fact, Snape had not known at all, and had been suitably irritated and angry when he discovered it—that the Mark irreversibly bounded the Death Eaters' souls to the Dark Lord. Even Death could not release them, although it had taken the application of an experimental (and incomplete) version of the Elixir of Life to bring Snape back.
Snape would be eternally grateful that he had only been brought back temporarily. The thought of being bound to the Dark Lord for all eternity, forever doing his bidding, was perhaps the worst nightmare he could think of.
He had considered, of course, refusing. He could allow the Dark Lord to remain mortal, join the Resistance that Neville Longbottom, of all people, appeared to be leading, even try to kill the Dark Lord himself. But the truth was, he no longer had the strength or the will to do so.
Lily was dead. Lily's son was dead, no matter what cryptic comments the old coot had made…
Severus stood in King's Cross station, still wearing his heavy black robes. He bore no trace of the wounds that had killed him, and no hint of his fear showed in his eyes.
"Severus, my boy," Albus said from behind him. Severus might have been surprised, might have jumped or spun around, but nothing surprised him anymore.
"Albus," he said evenly, and because there were so many things he wanted to say, he said nothing.
"Severus—" Albus began, and Snape could tell he was about to apologize, and sent a glare. Albus stopped, for once listening to him.
"What do you want?" He asked, weary. "What now?" He had thought, maybe as darkness closed in, that he would find oblivion. That he would at last find peace. But Albus Dumbledore was here, and he always wanted more than Severus could give.
"You have a choice," Albus said. "You can go on," and here he gestured to the gleaming red Hogwarts Express, which had appeared sometime between one thought and the next, "or you can return." His eyes strayed to Severus' left arm, and looking at, Severus saw a black cord that stretched out behind him. He could not see its destination, but it was obvious whom it tethered him to.
"He is calling you back," Albus said, "but you need not answer. You can go on to what awaits you, or you can fulfill one last duty."
"Why," Severus choked out, not sure what he was asking. Why me? Why won't it ever end? But he did not finish asking. He knew why, knew it was payment, punishment, for what he'd done. And who was to say that what awaited him and the end of the line wasn't worse?
"Harry needs you," Albus said, and Severus wanted to scream. How dare he. After everything, everything Severus had suffered, how dare he throw that back in his face.
"Potter is dead, or good as," Severus snapped. "You told be yourself. The boy has to die." And how could he face Lily, knowing he had let her son walk to her death? Had given Harry the memories, the knowledge, that, knowing the boy, had induced him to walk straight into the Dark Lord's wand?
For Severus knew what would happen. Albus Dumbledore's last manipulation, convincing Harry Potter he had to be a sacrifice for the good of the world. And knowing it was true only made it worse.
Except that wasn't Albus' last manipulation, because apparently he was still at it from beyond the grave. "Death is not always final, Severus, and you are not the only one to be given a choice," the old man said. Suddenly he looked at once younger and more tired than Severus had ever known him to be. He looked small, almost, as if Death had sapped all the power and vitality out of him.
Of course it had. That was what Death was supposed to do. There weren't supposed to be any second chances.
"So choose Severus," Dumbledore said, "for it must be your choice. Go forward and discover what lies ahead, or return and fulfill your duty."
Well, when he put it that way…
And so, because he was a coward, Severus surrendered to the tug of the that black cord, and returned to life.
The boy may yet live…
But that was foolishness, Severus thought, coming out of the memory. Harry Potter was dead, and showed no signs of suddenly returning. So Severus had agreed to do what the Dark Lord asked of him; in return, his Dark Mark would be removed, and he would be let free, once the finished product was delivered and tested.
Neither side trusted the other, of course—murder tended to do that to a relationship—so they had done an Unbreakable Vow. It had not permitted Severus to tamper with or sabotage the potion, or to betray the Dark Lord to his enemies.
It had, however, let Snape delay slightly, on the pretext of running tests to ensure the Elixir was correctly made. He had been doing so for the past month, putting off the day when he would have to deliver the infernal concoction to the Dark Lord, but his time had run out. The Elixir was finished, had been for weeks, and all that remained was to deliver it.
Hogwarts Castle, Scotland, August 30, 2567
Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry had been closed for over half a millennium, but its library was not covered in dust. The ancient enchantments that covered the school, ranging in purpose from defensive wards and Muggle-repelling spells to simple housekeeping charms, were as strong, if not stronger, as the day the Founders had cast them.
The black-haired boy sitting cross-legged in front of a window, reading a book, which rested on the windowsill, knew far more about those wards than he had ever wanted to. A casual observer might have mistaken him for a student at the school at first. But then, they would have felt a nagging sense that something was wrong, and then they would start to notice little things about him.
They would notice that he seemed faded, like an old photograph, and that the stones of the wall were visible through him. He was more substantial than a ghost, though not much. He'd once complained to Luna that he had about as much ability to affect the world "as the average poltergeist."
Her reply had been meandering, and would have been quite confusing to the uninitiated, but Harry understood what she meant. He was lucky that he had the power to affect the physical world at all. It could be worse, he acknowledged. Peeves, Hogwarts' infamous poltergeist, had begun to fade just a few decades after the school closed. He was made up, Harry had learned, of the emotions and chaotic energy of the countless students who had attended Hogwarts, and in their absence he had lost purpose, then slowly faded away.
All that remained of Hogwarts were the ghosts and the stones. The staircases, with no one to walk on them, had gradually stopped moving. The portraits spent much of their time sleeping; some had stopped moving altogether. Outside, the Forbidden Forest had slowly encroached upon the grounds until it came right up to the castle walls. The candles in the Great Hall had not been lit for centuries, and the House Elves, deprived of anyone to serve, had left long ago.
Hermione, Harry thought, would be happy about that. There were many things about his current existence—he could hardly call it a life, when he was about as close to dead as one could get without actually being dead—that Hermione would enjoy. The books, for one.
Hogwarts library seemed to have far more books than he had every imagined. It made sense, it was supposed to be the largest library in the magical world when he had attended Hogwarts, and if what Luna told him was true, it was certainly the largest, if not only, magical library now. Harry had haunted the castle for over five hundred years, and had spent most of that time reading, and still was not done. There seemed to be an infinite supply of books, and it was clear to Harry that some very complex magic was employed to keep them all.
Sometimes it seemed he had read millions of books, though the number was likely not that large. There were certainly books here that he had never been able to access when he was a student, books considered too advanced or dark for even the Restricted Section. It seemed obvious now that a library so renowned would not only have books for student consumption. Whether the Library sensed he need them, or he was simply able to circumvent whatever spells were meant to hide them due to his status as a bodiless spirit, Harry had found books on subjects as esoteric and dark as parselmagic, dark rituals, and ancient, forgotten magicks that drew on the Earth's power.
But Harry's main topic of research had been the various methods by which one might achieve immortality. He had, at first, maintained contact with what remained of the Order of the Phoenix. For the first few years or so after the Battle of Hogwarts, it had seemed that Voldemort might still be defeated. His campaign to conquer the world had met with some success but also had sparked fierce resistance across the globe.
Hermione had been his contact; the sole surviving member of the Golden Trio, she had almost single-handedly run the British resistance to Voldemort. Harry liked to think it was because of her brilliance, but ultimately the main reason was that there was no one else. They had communicated using Sirius' old mirrors (Harry's was still broken, but the largest shard worked as well as the original had) and she had kept him up to date on what was happening.
Neville Longbottom, she had told him, had become a major figure in the Resistance. He had left Britain for America, and joined up with a major group there; the last Harry heard, they were opening talks with a Muggle government agency that had previous dealings with the magical world.
Hermione had kept Harry a secret; apparently she was afraid that if Voldemort found out he still existed, in any form, all hope would be lost. She always seemed convinced that Harry would someday resurrect himself and defeat Voldemort, as was prophesied.
But Hermione, for all her faith, had been killed when Death Eaters stormed the abandoned house where she was hiding in late 2001. He had been talking to her over the mirror when it happened. He had no idea how the Death Eaters had found the place—presumably it was under the Fidelius Charm—but they had.
For three years Harry had been alone, reading books and trying to prepare himself for a fight he no longer believed could come, when Luna arrived.
He had been surprised to see her—he'd thought she was dead—and even more surprised when she revealed she had become a vampire.
She had offered no explanation—well, none that made sense—but Harry thought he understood. Luna had a way of knowing things she had no clear way of knowing. She was no Seer, she could not predict the future. Rather, she knew what she called "needful things." She knew what needed to be done, and somehow had known she would have to live for a very long time if she was to help Harry.
She visited irregularly, sometimes not coming back to Hogwarts for decades, but she always returned. She had told him, on her second visit, of Voldemort's new immortality. This was not the cheating-death of Horcruxes, but a true immortality. Voldemort could not be killed, or even harmed, it seemed—she had seen him take an Avada Kedavra straight to the chest without so much as stumbling, and in the decades and then centuries that followed, he had not aged.
And then, quite unexpectedly, Voldemort had fallen. Harry had been so used to the idea that Voldemort would never fall (and, on the increasingly rare good days, the dream that one day Harry would defeat him) that it had come as quite a shock when he was defeated without Harry doing anything.
Luna had been vague on the details, but Harry had got the gist of it. The Muggles had developed, over the course of several centuries, a weapon that turned wizards into muggles, stole their magic somehow, and they had used it on Voldemort's forces. Not two days after he fell, and was reputed to have fled, magicless, the Muggles had started a full-fledged campaign to Eradicate magic.
So Luna had put all of Britain under the Fidelius Charm, and it had grown wild and dark. The Muggle civilization had been devastated by Voldemort's forces, and then his Empire had been devastated by the Muggles.
It was depressing as hell, and—and Harry was interrupted in his self-pitying by a familiar voice.
"The Forest is angry," Luna said. "It sings of death."
"Everything sings of death these days, Luna," Harry said. He had long gotten used to her strange method of speaking. He stood easily, not having to deal with the weight of an actual body. "What's new?"
"We have fewer new arrivals," she said. "Maybe they've all forgotten about the island, or maybe the Muggles are getting better at finding them, or maybe the Heliopaths got free and destroyed America." She was referring to magical refugees fleeing the rest of the world, where they were persecuted by Muggles, and coming to Britain, the only sanctuary where magic was practiced freely and Muggles could not come.
Harry thought it was likely some combination of the first two, although with everything that had happened he would not discount Heliopaths.
"Mallaig is gone," she continued, referring to a small village north of Arisaig. "The forest has swallowed it."
Harry shivered. "Are you sure?" He asked. "Maybe you just got turned around and missed it?" The words sounded hollow even to his ears. Luna knew her way around. She would not simply miss a village she had been visiting for centuries.
She gave him a withering look and did not bother to answer. Instead, she pulled an old book out of her bag and set it on the table. "I've found a way to break the curse," she said. "I've found a way to bring you back to life."