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.


You'll see that the first chapters of this story will not be in Harry's POV. Harry will be the main character of this story, but for the first years of his life, when he's a child, the fic will mostly be written from another character's perspective, you'll soon see who. Then, it will all be with Harry as the main character.

That said, this will be slash, and will have mature content and perhaps explicit sex scenes if that's what you like, with Harry paired with a dark wizard –because I cannot stand to see him paired with others but dark wizards, sorry, lol. I still don't know with whom to pair him with. As you know, those who have read my previous fics, I like him with Voldemort, but I'm open to suggestions for this one.

Draco and Snape have been done plenty of times, but I would consider pairing him with either of them if you prefer that. I would like Snape over Draco, since Draco is too childish in my opinion and writing a credible snarky Snape is challenging.

I'm also seriously considering pairing him with Lucius Malfoy because he's one of my favorites and it would be a real challenge to write him in character, more than Snape, I think. And also because there are so very few fics with the LM/HP pairing.

Another possibility is Fenrir Greyback, also because there're few fics with him and the ones I've read, I have loved.

And last but not least, it has entered my mind of pairing Harry with Rodolphus Lestrange. I haven't seen any long fics with Harry and him, but I know how I would like to depict him, and in my mind he's a very dangerous wizard, more than Lucius, without Lucius' elegant social graces and whatnot, so more savage and complex in my opinion…

Well, those are the possibilities, so let me know which you prefer. Also, if you would like to see some sort of mentorship, like with Snape, Voldemort or Lucius influencing and molding Harry –or attempting to.

Also, what do you prefer, adventure and mystery, more or less like The Black Heir and Vindico Atrum, or something simpler and more easy to read, with more scenes of social interaction and pureblood tradition and politics and the sort. Anyhow, it will not have a plot so heavy and convoluted as the Black Heir and Vindico Atrum, that's for sure. I prefer to make it more amenable for readers. That's my intention, I hope I succeed ^^

As a reader of Harry Potter fanfic myself, I have my list of beloved clichés and I have no compunction in using clichés in the fic and modifying them to make them more original, so if you have clichés you love to read in fics, let me know about them as well so that I can best decide if to include some or not.

As you see much of the story is up in the air. I have a vague idea of where I want the fic to go to satisfy my own tastes, but it's very open to all of your suggestions and opinions, so feel free to tell me what you would like this fic to have.

My other fics are not abandoned though I'm more motivated to write this one for a while. Hopefully I will post something for Vindico Atrum during the holidays.

A big hug for everyone and Happy Christmas!

This fic has a slow beginning but it will soon pick up its pace, so have a bit of patience at first.

Part I: Chapter 1

It was early in the morning and the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic was already abuzz with activity, streams of Ministry employees hurrying into the lifts to reach their respective departments, others walking more calmly, chatting amongst their coworkers and trading amiable greetings. Nevertheless, the excitement produced by the news of the capture of a Death Eater was palpable in the air.

Lily Potter glanced sideways at her husband as they made their way through the throng of gossiping ministry officials wielding the Daily Prophet, a large magical picture of the apprehended Igor Karkaroff occupying the expanse of the front page, the shackled Death Eater looking subdued and inoffensive whilst trying to hide his face.

Igor Karkaroff had been apprehended yesterday in an Auror raid led by Alastor Moody, in which James and Sirius had also participated since both of them had become Aurors soon after graduating from Hogwarts. It had been James' first firm decision after leaving Hogwarts and Sirius hadn't thought twice before following his best friend's newest adventure in life.

While she covertly studied her husband's expression, Lily discerned some of the uneasiness that James felt. With his dark crimson Auror robes, James cut an impressive figure with his handsome features, messy windswept hair, bright hazel eyes behind round eyeglasses, and a smile which oozed confidence as well as boyish charm and mischievousness which hadn't diminished one iota since their schooldays. Yet, in the fine lines crinkling his forehead, Lily detected the tension and wariness that James, and most Aurors, were feeling nowadays.

Indeed, not only Aurors felt this, but ministry officials and Order members like herself also felt the encumbering heaviness which had pervaded for almost a decade since Lord Voldemort's attempts to rise to power.

The rise of a new Dark Lord since the times of Gellert Grindelwald was what ailed everyone during such dark times, but most especially people like her husband who were in the thick of things in the war against Lord Voldemort, given his career. She and many others confronted Death Eaters every time they were sent out by Albus in missions for the Order of the Phoenix, but not a day went by in which the wizarding community at large didn't feel its effects every time the Daily Prophet reported about killings and disappearances.

Almost three years had passed since she and James had graduated from Hogwarts and their side in the war didn't seem to have made any progress. Indeed, the capture of Karkaroff was the only good news they had had in a very long time.

In fact, Lily admitted to herself -with the brave and blunt straightforwardness she applied to her inner thoughts- they were losing.

Life after the sheltering of Hogwarts had felt like an unending strive for survival, with few joys to celebrate with the war hanging over their heads like a thunderous, darkening, and threatening storm. Her own wedding had been a rushed and private affair with only their closest friends and James' parents attending. James, her and their friends usually went to work, got back to their homes for a brief moment before going out again on Order business, with little time for rest or social interaction, and then got back to sleep for some hours before rising for another day to continue doing exactly the same things.

Moreover, after both of James' elderly parents had died from a magical illness, added to the continued disappearances of people they knew from their Hogwarts years or from work, their lives seemed to have become grimmer.

As they passed the golden gates which led to the lifts, Lily shot her husband a smile and covertly grabbed his hand, giving it a brief, comforting squeeze. She was soon rewarded by one of James' carefree and rakish grins which, after two years of marriage, still had the power to make her heart beat a little faster, but she still felt uneasy. She knew well that the Aurors had learned much from Karkaroff.

Yesterday night, Albus had held an Order meeting in which Alastor Moody had recounted everything that the Aurors had managed to pry from Karkaroff. Given that Barthemius Crouch, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, had recently allowed the use of Veritaserum in the interrogation of captured Death Eaters, the Aurors now had good leads regarding the location of several of Lord Voldemort's prized followers. It was this which worried Lily at present, since James had told her that his team would be conducting several raids into suspected Death Eater homes and hiding holes, that very day.

The knowledge that James wouldn't be rushing into danger alone, given that Sirius was his partner, didn't assuage her concerns, since Sirius was just as reckless and immature as he had been during their schooldays. Yet, at least, she knew that Alastor Moody and the Prewett twins would be leading the younger Aurors like James and Sirius, and that made her feel more confident regarding her husband's safety.

They both reached a desk at one side of the row of lifts, beneath a sign saying 'Security', and a badly-shaven wizard in peacock blue robes looked up at them as he put down his Daily Prophet. The wizard's eyes darted from James' crimson robes to Lily's hooded grey one, focusing on the crests embroidered on their chests – James' Auror badge depicting two crossed wands as if they were battling swords, and Lily's depicting the shape of closed lips inscribed in a seven-pointed star, the symbol of an Unspeakable.

If there was something Lily was proud of, it was the careers they had chosen after leaving Hogwarts. From the beginning of their marriage, Lily had firmly stated that she wouldn't be a stay-at-home wife and that she would follow her academic interests and ambitions. James had gladly ignored pureblood tradition regarding socially-acceptable jobs for a witch married to a scion of a pureblood family whose tree-line could be traced back to the days of the Founders, and had allowed her do as she pleased, no matter how uneasy and concerned he had felt about her career of choice.

Even though James had inherited a fortune so vast that they had no need to work a single day of their lives, both of them, just as many of their acquaintances, had been affected by the decade-long war that never seemed to end, and it had influenced their decisions regarding what to do with their lives.

During their school days at Hogwarts they had been protected and many had lived as if in a rose-tinted glass bubble - herself included, she admitted. But the war had still been felt with every issue of the Daily Prophet listing casualties in some Death Eater attack or other, and in the way several students of Slytherin House had acted - nasty hisses of 'mudblood' being spouted, jinks and hexes cast which were borderline Dark Arts in supposedly childish pranks which nevertheless resulted in serious injuries, and their increasing arrogant and vicious behavior which denoted that they thought they were immune to any form of disciplinary punishment for their actions, whether by the Ministry or by the Headmaster himself. Regarding the Ministry, alas, Lily had to admit that the Slytherin students were right: having pureblood fathers with political and financial influence, most Slytherins who hurt other students were rarely seriously punished , given the way Hogwart's Board of Governors was quick to thwart any attempt from Albus Dumbledore's part.

Thus, after graduating, many who hadn't been blinded to the realities outside of Hogwarts or who had lost relatives in the war, had chosen to do something to aid those who opposed Lord Voldemort. James had decided to be an Auror and had become one of the most prized ones in the Department, and she had decided to follow her intellectual inclinations and magical fortes and had become an Unspeakable, aiding in the war-cause by joining the Order of the Phoenix, along with her husband and their closest friends.

Lily was pulled away from her musings when the wizard at the desk flicked his wand at the crests on their robes, casting a spell which soon made the badges glow green and thus validating their authenticity, while the man's gaze rested on Lily's upper body more than was socially acceptable or required by his duty.

In the blink of an eye, James scowled at the wizard and pulled Lily close to him by draping one of his arms around her shoulders, as he grunted with mock anger, "One of these days, Eric, you're going to earn a black eye if you keep ogling my beautiful wife."

"Just doing my job, Potter," said the wizard unrepentantly, shooting Lily a lascivious grin accompanied by a playful wink.

Lily winked back at the wizard, as was usual in the daily banter the three of them shared every morning. She was accustomed to lingering and appreciative glances and they had never bothered her, not when they were amiable and well-meant. And James, though he inherently had a deeply jealous streak, had learned to take it in stride and with good humor.

Indeed, James' jealously had been the cause of their first row when they had been a newly wedded couple, and it had been an explosive quarrel, given that both of them had fiery tempers and strong personalities. Yet soon after, they had adjusted to each other's faults and quirks, and even though they still had tempestuous brawls from time to time, Lily had begun suspecting that James vastly enjoyed them and possibly started them on purpose, given that they often led to bouts of reconciliatory and ardent sex, much to James' delight.

With parting words to Eric, they finally reached the row of lifts which stood behind wrought golden grilles, joining the jostling crowd around one of them. With a great jangling and clattering, a lift descended in front of them. The golden grilles slid back and they stepped into the lift with the rest of the crowd and found themselves jammed against the back wall.

With little surprise, Lily recognized the two tall and broad-shouldered identical wizards squashed by their side; their red hair, much brighter and noticeable than hers, was like a luminous neon sign on their heads, clashing with the crimson Auror robes they wore, making them look like two red beacons.

"Mr. Potter-"

"-Mrs. Potter," the twins said, one after the other, curtly bowing at them in greeting.

Lily returned the nod, just as impersonally as it had been given, suppressing the warm smile that wanted to break on her face. Despite the close friendship she and James had with the Prewett twins, born from the common goal they shared and forged through Order missions, in public they all behaved as if their relationship was a strictly professional one as fellow Ministry workers.

"Messrs. Prewett," said James, his tone respectful as it should be considering the twins were his seniors in the Auror Department and the ones who had mentored him and Sirius during their first year as Auror trainees.

Fabian and Gideon Prewett were, in Lily's opinion, two of the Order's most valuable assets, not only due to their fighting experience, long years in the Ministry and what it represented in terms of contacts and knowledge about the workings inside the Ministry, but also due to their personalities. They were stern and fierce in their work as Aurors, being considered the best of Senior Aurors along with Alastor Moody, but they were also warm and friendly on closer acquaintance and had a strong sense of duty, ethics and morality. In the latter, they even surpassed Moody, since the Prewett twins were two of the few who refused to use Unforgivables in the field when Barthemius Crouch had officially allowed the Aurors to employ such dark curses.

This made her value them all the more, for it showed the strength of their beliefs. Though Lily often found herself entangled in the grey area of morals that it represented, especially given all she had learned as an Unspeakable. In her job it was required to know and apply necessary and useful dark spells; it was unavoidable given the artifacts they studied and the areas of magic they delved in, and she had learned to appreciate the value of such Dark Arts.

She wouldn't go as far as to advocate the use of Unforgivables, and certainly not any dark curse used to severely maim or cause agony to another living being, but in her work she had found herself embroiled in the study of dark rituals and in the use of dark spells, and she become fascinated by them – by their intricacies, symbolisms, the traditions behind them, and their complex nature which often wove emotions with thoughts and desires.

It was a thin frail line she toed everyday in her work and sometimes, much to her concern, she had cast all moral issues to a side regarding the boundaries between light and dark magic, and had resolved the issue by broaching it in terms of functionality and practicality, and not by any strict sense of moral beliefs. This had been something she had struggled with during her first year as an Unspeakable trainee, especially when she realized that she was the only one who was perturbed by such inner struggles and that her coworkers had no compunctions regarding the sensible use of Dark Arts.

In the end, she had fallen in the same moral grey area as her coworkers, and had cozily found her own place there, beating down any outcries of her conscience – a conscience shaped during her easy and naïve years as a Gryffindor, and which she had reshaped as an Unspeakable, shedding away any layers which were too close-minded and unpractical.

This adaptation and slight change in her beliefs brought intellectual and behavioral consequences which were profound, as she well knew, but she hadn't dare to disclose her thoughts to anyone, and would never discuss it with James in particular. Her refusal to even consider doing so was partly due to a twinge of shame and self-recrimination, knowing she had changed since being the Head Girl at Hogwarts, with lax and flexible morals that no Gryffindor would have, but predominantly due to the resolute belief which had been born within her through her experiences as an Unspeakable – that the Dark Arts in themselves were not reprehensible, only what they were used for could be, if aimed to damage someone else.

The lift made its descend, stopping in every floor with the cool impersonal female voice chanting the department to be found in each respective halt, with inter-departmental memos flying in and out in their paper airplane forms, grilles sliding shut and then rattling open to let out witches and wizards, and meanwhile, Lily noticed the glances she was given. While Aurors, with their impressive crimson robes and ever-alert stances were always given admiring and respectful looks, Unspeakables, with their strict, plain, hooded grey robes were glanced at with wariness, uneasiness and a hint of fear. She had become used to it but it didn't fail to amuse her, still.

She smiled at the young wizard who had his arms loaded with muggle contraptions and who kept shooting her fascinated and covert glances, but instead of making him feel more at ease, the boy flushed red, started coughing, choked, and then quickly looked away, the tips of his ears turning pink. At her side, James burst out with amused laughter, making the poor boy stammer out incomprehensible words, looking as if he wished he could drop through the lift's floor and into the pit of the elevator shaft.

Lily shot her husband a chiding glance while she dug her elbow into his ribs, though it only made James laugh louder. Thankfully, in the next second the lift made another stop and before the grilles opened completely, the boy shot forward, squeezed his way through and rushed out as if chased by the hounds of hell – obviously not caring that he had stopped at the floor which wasn't the one for the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts.

She released a sigh and James shot her a wicked grin as he pulled the hood of her robes over her head, concealing part of her face, as he said cheerfully, "There, problem solved. There will be no more love-sick puppies falling into the thrall of your entrancing beauty now."

Lily swallowed an inelegant snort at his ridiculously flowery words – James did love to spout such nonsense from time to time, mostly to see her blush, which to her shame, he always managed to accomplish, making her feel not like the self-possessed and confident twenty-one year old witch she was but like a flustered schoolgirl.

"Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services," announced the impersonal female voice as the lift came to another halt.

Fabian and Gideon promptly left the lift, giving her a brief parting nod, and before she could gather her wits she suddenly found herself pulled into James' arms as he quickly pressed their mouths together and plunged his tongue past her lips. The kiss was brief, but all the more passionate due to its urgency and the sense of need and longing behind it, as if if James didn't steal the opportunity at that very moment, he would never have another chance.

It left her feeling breathless when James abruptly ended the kiss and pulled away from her, tenderly squeezing her shoulders as he whispered in a low voice, "Don't wait up for me."

Lily nodded faintly, knowing what it meant – given that the Aurors would conduct several dangerous raids that day, he would get home very late, if he didn't end up staying in St. Mungo's for several days.

"Be safe," murmured James, his tone suddenly serious as he pinned her with his spectacled hazel gaze.

"Of course," said Lily lightly, straining to put forth a valiant front, curving her lips into a carefree smile.

James always told her to 'be safe' due to her work and because he was never aware of what she did. All wizards and witches who became Unspeakables took an oath of secrecy. It bound her to silence regarding her work, for the rest of her life. No matter if she someday quit her job, all she learned as an Unspeakable would go to the grave with her.

She could only discuss her work with her fellow Unspeakables or those specialists in some area of magic who were brought in for a specific period of time and for a specific task. Such 'consultants' agreed beforehand to be obliviated when their work with the Department of Mysteries concluded. Thus, the Unspeakables were a closely-knitted group who could only rely on each other – it made the relationships between them all the more intense and profound but it also limited the friendships one could make at work. Unspeakables only stuck with Unspeakables – no others could come to remotely understand what they did, and no others could be sympathetic to their work-related concerns, stress, or frustrations.

That she couldn't discuss her work at all with him was something that pained James and he often worried about something happening to her while she 'played around with unknown magic' –as he sometimes put it. But more often than not, when he said 'be safe' to her it was because he was concerned about his own Auror duties and, more particularly, about how the war was going.

She wasn't the only one, then, who discerned that the Light side wasn't fairing well against Lord Voldemort and his forces, and that there was no visible end to it – not one which represented a victory for them, at least. The only one who could possibly match Lord Voldemort was Albus Dumbledore, given that the old man had defeated a Dark Lord before. But both wizards had battled each other several times already and Albus hadn't been able to defeat him. It was clear to Lily that Lord Voldemort surpassed Albus magically, or at least, that they were too closely matched for either of them to resolutely defeat the other.

With a last parting kiss, this time a mere peck on the tip of her nose, James strode out of the lift, leaving Lily alone with a short, sour-looking old witch who was muttering under hear breath, though in a voice loud enough to be purposely heard by her, "… young couples these days have no shame… lewd displays in public… in my days such things were not condoned…"

Unabashed, Lily utterly ignored her and was glad to see the back of her when the lift reached another floor and the snarky old woman left with a brisk flaunt of her robes and her nose high up in the air, looking like an affronted, ill-humored scarecrow.

The lift made its final stop at the last floor in the very bowels of the Ministry, as the cool female voice chimed, "Department of Mysteries", and the grilles slid open.

Lily stepped out into the corridor where nothing was moving but the nearest torches, flickering in the rush of air from the lift. She lowered her hood and relaxedly let out a small bout of breath, feeling at home in the familiar dark surroundings which had a gloomy quality to them yet felt so cozy to her.

One of the many reasons why she could feel so at ease there was the fact that the Department of Mysteries thankfully stayed clear from any maneuverings and convoluted political machinations, web of bribes, nepotism, and exchange of favors which riddled the Ministry, where many decisions were made only thinking about votes, polls, and the purse strings of wealthy influential purebloods, rather than what was best for the improvement of Britain's wizarding community.

Moreover, the Department of Mysteries was the only true autonomous unit in the Ministry of Magic. Unspeakables were not bound by Ministerial regulations regarding the use of the Dark Arts as long as no life-threatening crime against third parties was committed, and certainly no one outside the Department ever knew if the Unspeakables actually used dark magic or not.

Rumors ran amok, of course, but no accusations were ever made and the only responsible figure was the Head of the Department of Mysteries, and Mr. Septimus Stormcrow was not a wizard who danced to the Minister's tune. His reports to the Minister or to the Heads of other departments were of a need-to-know basis; only revealing the results of Unspeakable work when some great discovery had been made, and notifying the pertinent department Head if the breakthrough was related to the field pertaining to them.

Thus, it was rare if Mr. Stormcrow communicated with the Minister or other Heads more than once every five years. And more often than not, such breakthroughs concerned new spells created by the Unspeakables, as a result of their study of a magical artifact, an unknown source of magic, or simply an obscure and esoteric field of magic which only Unspeakables could delve in or cared to. The creation of new spells was indeed the only thing the Department of Mysteries ever made public, but all the knowledge involved and gained by the Unspeakables throughout the ages had never seen the light of day; the Department was like a dragon zealously hording its most precious treasure.

In that regard, Septimus Stormcrow was the most terrifying of dragons, ferocious and nasty as the best of them when confronted with any Ministry official who attempted to poke their noses in Unspeakable business. The wizard's diligent commitment to uphold the Unspeakable saying of 'what happens in the Department, stays in the Department' reached fanatical levels.

Lily made her way down the corridor, her heels clicking on the polished, black floor, the sound echoing with her every step, and she soon reached the entrance to the Department of Mysteries – the large circular room which began spinning as soon as she stepped into it.

While countless doors flashed before her, Lily muttered a spell as she touched the crest on her robes. In the next second, the symbols of the crest flashed and blue tendrils of magic shot from it and struck several doors, the room coming to an instant halt. Five doors were now glowing in a bright blue light; the doors which led to the chambers she had authorized access to.

She knew well that if wizarding Britain hadn't been involved in a war for over a decade, and thus the Department wasn't so short on staff, she would have had only access to the chamber which guarded the artifact she was currently studying. But times being what they were, all Unspeakables helped with each other's work as much as they could.

She glanced at the door which glowed the brightest and which led to her workplace, but before having to encounter her partner, whom she immensely disliked, she decided to pay a short visit to the witch who had taken her under her wing during her first two years as an Unspeakable-in-training.

Lily pressed a hand on the sparkling, smooth door at her left and gave it a gentle push. A warm, pleasantly tingling breeze caressed her face as she stepped inside. Except for three desks pushed against the walls and littered with books, innumerable scrolls and all sorts of other parchments, documents, and magical trinkets, the large room only held a magical source and two occupants; a middle aged wizard who was at the far back of the room, standing in front of powerful wards which held the source of magic, softly chanting as he cast a spell at it, and an old witch seated at the largest and most cluttered desk, who instantly looked up at Lily's entrance and broadly smiled in welcome.

"Lily, dear, what a pleasant surprise," said the old witch, flicking her wand to clear one of the chairs by her side as she motioned Lily to take a seat. The witch then shot her a sharp look, and added with an amused chuckle, "Avoiding having to see Augustus, are you?"

At the mention of her partner, Lily made a moue of dislike with her lips as she sat down, sweeping a lock of hair from her eyes. She released a weary sigh as she replied with heart-felt sincerity, "I still don't know what Mr. Stormcrow was thinking when he partnered me with Rookwood, Madam Nott. It hasn't escaped anyone's notice that the man can't stand the sight of me."

The old witch sniggered, the inelegant sound contrasting with the witch's appearance: a face wrinkled with old age but which nonetheless bespoke of a pureblood lineage, not particularly beautiful but still pleasantly symmetric and thus rendering the witch's looks as something better than simply plain; a plump, stocky body which told of exuberant curves in her younger years; grey locks of hair perfectly arranged into a neat bun; and with her frame clad in conservative robes which covered the witch from chin to toes, which were impeccable, simple, and yet also the latest fashion for a woman of her age.

Lily had always thought that her mentor was a masterpiece of stark contrasts. The old woman was a no-nonsense type of witch, strict and curt, often making Lily fondly reminiscence about Minerva McGonagall giving James and Sirius a harsh scolding during Transfiguration lessons when the boys had so often been up to some prank or other. Yet, her mentor switched her behavior from one second to the next, unexpectedly and out of the blue; giggling like a schoolgirl, telling a lewd joke, gossiping like a barmaid, snickering like a mischievous boy, or being sly, manipulative and cunning like the pureblood witch she was.

Furthermore, she knew that Madam Nott had been a willful and rebellious witch in her youth. After all, what young dark pureblood witch would manage to disregard her parents' plans for an arranged marriage, firmly decide that she would remain single instead of ending up as a trophy wife, pursue her own interests, and become an Unspeakable to boot – only Ursula Nott.

Madam Nott was, in short, complex and chameleonic, and never ceased to amaze Lily.

From the moment Lily had become an Unspeakable, the old witch had welcomed her with open arms. Perhaps because the two of them were the only women in the Department, perhaps because she recognized in Lily the same high-spirited, strong personality that she had, or perhaps because she acknowledged Lily's brilliancy and magical prowess.

Whatever the reasons, Ursula Nott had never looked down at Lily for being a muggleborn. Yet the old witch was always openly proud of her own pureblood line and her family's extensive knowledge and use of the Dark Arts, which she made no secret of. Indeed, during Lily's two years as a trainee it had been Madam Nott who had instructed her in all the dark spells and rituals Lily needed to know in order to start working as an Unspeakable, along with all other light spells.

"Augustus is a sour old stick-in-the-mud," said Madam Nott, her black eyes glinting as her gaze trailed over Lily's face, her thin lips curving upwards. "But, dear, you should use your feminine wiles, with looks like yours. You only have to flash those green eyes of yours at him, and you'll have him eating out of the palm of your hand."

At those words, Lily couldn't suppress the shudder that ran down her spine.

She didn't know if Rookwood was a Death Eater since she could hardly demand him to roll up his sleeve and bare his left arm to her. Even then, it was very probable that the sharp wizard had managed to glamour the mark if he indeed had one. After all, the man who was so odious towards her, was smart and cunning and behaved politely with everyone in the Ministry.

Nevertheless, she knew he was a pureblood supremacist by the looks he gave her and by the way he spouted the word 'muggleborn' whenever he could in the conversations they had held between them; making it sound as if it was the dirtiest of words, as if he expected her to abjectly lower her head like a terrified turtle withdrawing into its shell, in shame and humiliation for what she was.

However, such sentiments she evoked in purebloods like Rookwood had never perturbed her. She had always known she could stand up for herself and she had made a mastery out of having thick skin and high-handedly dealing with any hissed insults or vicious innuendoes thrown at her, more often than not leaving her verbal assailant looking like a fool and wondering exactly how deeply they had been insulted with her subtle comebacks. And while that was as far as she could go when such things happened in public or in the Ministry, she could fully retaliate with curses when she got to confront Death Eaters when working for the Order of the Phoenix.

Nevertheless, what did affect her was the glint she sometimes caught in Augustus Rookwood's eyes, the same she had seen in Lucius Malfoy's when they had been at Hogwarts – deep-rooted scorn which indicated that all her intelligence, magical prowess, and beauty was wasted on her because she was a 'mudblood'. But it wasn't such overt show of contempt which troubled her, what did was the glint which often accompanied it; a hint of violent lust which bespoke of what they would do to her if they were able to – to show her the proper place they had for female mudbloods with her qualities, only fit to be a whore for purebloods, no doubt.

It had been clear in Lucius Malfoy's silvery eyes, and it was clear in Rookwood's as well.

And against that, she had little defenses except the utter disregard of it. She could hardly accuse Rookwood of having vicious, despicable desires of lust for her; it would make her sound like an utter fool and she wasn't going to jeopardize her job over it. But being forced to not acknowledge it - to not confront the man openly for it, having to restrain her temper in such way- made her silently grit her teeth with a sort of welled up fury which sometimes surprised even herself. She knew what it was, a feeling of sheer impotence, and it galled her.

"Or perhaps not," said Madam Nott dryly, apparently Lily's shudder not escaping her notice.

Lily met the witch's sharp gaze, wondering how much of her thoughts and feelings she had allowed to show on her face, and instantly smoothened her expression, giving the old witch a small, calm smile.

She liked the old witch, and considered Ursula Nott not only her mentor but her closest friend in the Department of Mysteries. However, having spent nearly three years surrounded by Unspeakables who were purebloods, with only one halfblood in their midst, and she being the first muggleborn who had ever become an Unspeakable in the history of wizarding Britain, she had learned to never show too much of her feelings or inner thoughts, for they could always be used against her at a later date.

Not necessarily to harm her; she knew Madam Nott bore her no ill-will. But the old witch would have no compunctions to manipulate her with it; it was the way purebloods worked. If you gave them power over you and weapons to be used against you, then it was your own fault and could expect nothing else but to suffer the consequences for your own stupidity.

It was a lesson she had learned through her interactions with her coworkers, but which she had had a vague idea about through her friendship with Severus Snape during their Hogwarts years. Her friendship with Severus had indeed allowed her to have a glimpse into a Slytherin psyche…

Lily firmly pushed all thoughts regarding Severus Snape away from her mind, as she had done for the past four years whenever he popped into her thoughts, and she focused her attention back to her mentor.

The old witch was now resting against the back of her chair, slowly scrutinizing Lily. Her expression turned serious as she said curtly, "You're always welcomed back. I could have a word with Septimus."

That said, Ursula Nott simply arched an eyebrow and remained silent, obviously expecting Lily's immediate response to her magnanimous offer.

Lily eyed her closely, detecting that indeed the old witch was willing to intercede in her behalf with Mr. Stormcrow - no lofty favor, that. Then she slowly turned her gaze to the back of the room, where Madam Nott's partner was still casting spells at the source of magic – it was the essence of Love, in the purest sense.

Even from where she was seated, she could feel the warm, encompassing sensation which pleasantly gripped her body and mind, as if being tenderly rocked by her mother's arms – if her mother was still alive, that is, and she wasn't… but soon such gloomy thoughts vanished from her mind as her green gaze remained riveted on the glowing sphere of magic that could be seen through the wards that protected it; soft twirls of red, orange and pink pulsing from the core of glowing magic, like cloud-like fingers caressing the air.

As peacefulness and a sense of comfort and belonging started to pleasantly coil around her, Lily recognized the familiar effects and wrenched her gaze away from it, turning her back to it and slamming up her Occlumency shields – just as Madam Nott had taught her to do in order to dispel the source of magic's influence on those near it.

But that was just it; she had already worked with Madam Nott. It had been her third job as an Unspeakable.

During her first two years as a trainee, she had been tutored by Madam Nott while Mr. Stormcrow had assigned to Lily the tasks that all beginners had to go through and which all Unspeakables dreaded because they were simple and unchallenging tasks. She had worked in the Room of Time and then in the Hall of Prophecies, one year in each.

In the Room of Time, she had taken care of the time-turners, casting spells to keep them working flawlessly, she had studied the composition of such magical artifacts and learned how they were created, she had learned all theoretical aspects of the flow of Time, it's bending, and abstract hypothesis regarding manipulations of the time-space continuum. It had been intellectually fascinating for several months, as she learned the theories regarding it, but then it had become tedious because she couldn't do anything in practice.

No one was allowed to conduct experiments regarding Time; the wreckage of it, or even any induced permanent shifts on it, was deeply feared by all wizards who had any inkling of what it could mean, and Lily whole-heartedly agreed. The consequences of such thing happening were not only catastrophic but also unimaginable and uncertain, and thus all the more dangerous.

Therefore, after she had finished delving in the theoretical aspects of Time, she had been left with nothing to do except to continue with the paperwork regarding the use of time-turners; reading the petitions of witches and wizards across Britain who requested a time-turner and the permission to use one.

She had analyzed every single case - the reasons, the explanations and the needs stated in the requests - she had investigated the backgrounds of the petitioners, so that no time-turner fell in irresponsible hands, and she had denied or accepted the requests accordingly, while keeping impeccable records regarding the identity of time-turner users and all data that would allow the Department of Mysteries to control that none were misused or caused trouble.

By the end of her first year as a trainee, Lily had been mightily glad when she had been transferred to the Hall of Prophecies, welcoming the change and hoping that her days of endless paperwork were over. But it had been even worse. Divination had never been something she had been interested in and the work to be done in the Hall of Prophecies would make anyone cry out of sheer boredom.

Any prophecies made by Seers automatically recorded themselves in orbs –feat accomplished by the powerful magic that was layered all around the Hall itself- thus her task was simply to keep the ledger of prophecies up-to-date and to label all new orbs produced. A simple spell cast on the orbs allowed her to know the name of the Seer and the name of the people to whom the prophecy was told, if any at all. So in essence, she had been a bookkeeper and nothing else. Lily hadn't been able to even satisfy her boredom-driven curiosity by finding out what the prophecies said, since the orbs only activated and revealed the prophecies to those whom they were about.

Thankfully, during that second year, Madam Nott had increased the frequency of the lessons the old witch imparted to Lily and had taught her the more complicated theories and spellwork. Added to that, and certainly because everyone was aware of what a dull job it was to be in charge of the Hall of Prophecies, many Senior Unspeakables had given her small tasks.

These mostly comprised grueling research that Senior Unspeakables didn't want to undertake, and Lily studied and wrote reports about concepts and spells related to their work and which they would use as a base for their more complex and in-depth research. They were tasks always delegated to Junior Unspeakables or trainees, but Lily had been grateful for it because it had allowed her to tap into many fields of magic and had broadened the horizons of her own magical knowledge.

When her second year was over and her training period concluded, Lily had feared that she would be assigned to another mundane chore. Thankfully, Mr. Stormcrow had commended her diligence and thorough dedication to all the tasks assigned to her, and as a reward of sorts, she had been given the freedom to decide what she wanted to study next.

It was to be her first real task as an Unspeakable, in her opinion. And without a second thought, Lily had chosen the Death Chamber.

Alas, in her first day, finally working under another Unspeakable who would teach her much and allow her to have some hands-on, practical experience, something had gone terribly wrong for Lily. It had been due to no fault of hers, but it had rendered her unable to work with the Veil, swiftly disqualifying her for it.

The moment she had approached the dais in the Chamber of Death, the moment she had been but a few feet away from the Veil, she had become entranced by it, clutched by its power, succumbing to its thrall. She had heard unintelligible voices coming from beyond the Veil, she had seen things moving behind it, making the Veil flutter and shift, she had felt a powerful force pulling her towards it and she had wanted nothing else but to touch it, to jump forward and dive through it.

With a cry of alarm, the Senior Unspeakable who was the head researcher of the Veil, had halted her in time before she had mindlessly leapt into it. The moment she had been wrenched away, Lily's self-awareness had broken through whatever thrall she had been under, and she had been dumbstruck.

The Senior Unspeakable had eyed her weirdly when Lily had explained to him what she had felt, heard and seen. And it soon became evident to her that the Unspeakable didn't experience those things when he was near it, and she had been informed that she couldn't work with the Veil when she was so sensitive to it and so affected by it. It would not only cloud her mind and judgment but it would also pose a safety problem for herself, and they didn't want to take the risk that she would attempt to go through the Veil again.

Thus, after such crushing disappointment, Lily had turned to her mentor and decided to work under her and learn about the essence of Love.

She had worked with Madam Nott for nearly a year, before a better opportunity had unexpectedly presented itself to her. But even after such short time studying the source of Love kept in the bowels of the Ministry, Lily knew about it as much as she cared to know.

Lily didn't know when or where this essence of Love had been found, how it had been produced -if naturally or by some wizard or magical force- nor any other detail about it. She hadn't stayed enough time for Madam Nott to disclose such secret information to her. However, Lily did know the things which had interested her the most when initially accepting the task.

Through her study of it and under Madam Nott's tutelage, she had been taught about spells and rituals involving the emotion of love, and at that time she had been fascinated by it, by its power and nature, by the sheer beauty and perfection of it. And she was well aware that there was plenty more to learn about it, that there was a whole wealth of knowledge she could tap into if she agreed to work once again with Madam Nott.

Her mentor had been studying Love for the past fifteen years, out of the eighty years in total that the witch had been in the Department of Mysteries. Thus, with only a year working with her, Lily had barely scratched the tip of the iceberg.

Nevertheless, the job which had been assigned to her, and for which she had abandoned the study of Love, was such that had her completely fascinated by the sheer challenge and mystery it represented.

Three months ago, the Department of Mysteries had acquired a magical artifact. This was not rare in itself, since Mr. Stormcrow was always on the lookout for any powerful magical artifacts he could claim for the Department. And if he couldn't legally claim it, then he used all other underhanded means at his disposal, as any Head of a Department of Mysteries worth his salt would do.

Indeed, Lily reckoned that in the past, the Veil had to have been acquired that way by the Head of the Department of Mysteries of those times - clearly a wizard who had been cast in the same mould as Mr. Stormcrow.

Septimus Stormcrow employed outside wizards for that purpose in very corner of the world. They were, in the wizard's own words, his 'feelers', like tentacles which crept in the most unsuspected of places and were ever alert to any obscure and powerful magical artifact popping up.

Not all magical artifacts which appeared on the radar were actually acquired. Only after evaluating if they were worthy to be the subject of Unspeakable study, was an artifact pounced upon and swept away by Mr. Stormcrow's tenacious claws. And Mr. Stormcrow's standards were high indeed, so it came as a surprise to all Unspeakables when their boss had summoned all of them to a meeting in which, with a wholly self-satisfied curl of his lips and with eyes sparkling like those of a boy with his newest and most favorite toy, Mr. Stormcrow had informed them about the Department's recent acquisition.

The artifact had been found by a muggle archeology professor and his students, who had been working in a small dig as part of a summer program of their University. Quite unexpectedly, the muggles had come upon an unnamed tomb in the bowels of the Valley of Kings in Egypt. The discovery hadn't even been worthy of a mention in any muggle newspaper, since there had been no sarcophagus, mummy, or ancient objects made of gold, jewels or any valuable material. And the hieroglyphics etched on the walls of the small underground niche were common and didn't allude to anything especial; not even the name of the pharaoh of those times was mentioned. Thus, rendering it of no significant academic interest for any muggle archeologist. It had been called a tomb because its shape resembled one, but there had been nothing in there except several vases and everyday objects of ancient Egyptian times made of clay.

The University had shortly sold the items to a small muggle museum in Cairo where they had been haphazardly labeled and stuck behind a glass case, to sit in the midst of a clutter of other likewise ordinary items of ancient times which had no monetary or academic value for the muggles.

It was then when one of Mr. Stormcrow's 'feelers' had come upon them, detecting that one of those ordinary clay vases oozed 'spine-chilling magical power', as the wizard's letter to Stormcrow had put it.

In the bat of an eyelash, Septimus Stormcrow had sent a pack of British wizarding Egyptologists to the dingy little museum in Cairo and had waited for their report. And what those wizards had to say about the vase in question had indeed brought a warm tingle to Mr. Stormcrow's little heart. In truth, the clay vase was no vase at all, but had originally been something else which had been transfigured into an ordinary vase. And indeed, whatever unknown and mysterious magical powers it held, the potency of them was astounding.

The 'vase' had been snatched from the muggle museum, leaving behind an identical clay replica, and Mr. Stormcrow had allowed the wizard Egyptologists to study the artifact for several months. Ultimately, when they could shed no more light upon the origins and nature of the magical artifact, the Egyptologists had been richly compensated for their work and had been obliviated, as had been verbally agreed upon beforehand. The 'vase', and all related research documents regarding it which the Egyptologists had produced, had been securely ensconced in one of the many chambers of the Department of Mysteries.

And so, three months ago, Mr. Stormcrow had disclosed such news to them. When the moment came to assign Unspeakables to study the powerful and mysterious artifact, Lily had jumped at the chance. And by a chain of circumstances, she had been given the task.

She was one of only three Junior Unspeakables in the Department, given that all others were vastly experienced Senior Unspeakables who had worked there for ages. And due to this, most of them were deeply involved with their own research which had spanned for the last couple of decades. Moreover, given that there were few of them, it would not be practical or efficient to wrench away one of the Senior Unspeakables from their current research in order to start from scratch with a new magical artifact, whereas Lily had only been working with the source of Love for scarcely a year.

Furthermore, against the other two Junior Unspeakables, she vastly surpassed them in many aspects. Lily's magical fortes being Charms, Transfiguration and Potions, with perfect scores in all her NEWT subjects, having passed the Unspeakable entry tests with soaring high scores, and having initially stated in her letter of application to the Department that her areas of interests were experimental magic and ancient magic and rituals, she fit the profile perfectly.

This, added to her impeccable performance in the tasks she had done as a trainee, with her intellectual brilliancy and magical prowess by now proven during her three years in the Department, making many of her coworkers acknowledged her as the Department's brightest young promise, and being the protégé of Ursula Nott, one of the most respected and experienced Senior Unspeakables, Lily had meet all the requirements with flying colors, leaving the other two Junior Unspeakables paling in comparison.

However, she was still experienced for such a monumental endeavor as was the study of a new, unknown, greatly powerful magical artifact. Therefore, she could not undertake the task by herself or be the head researcher. This required a solution, so a Senior Unspeakable had to be chosen as her partner.

Alas, to her great misfortune, the only Senior Unspeakable who couldn't tolerate her had been the one who had put himself forth as a candidate - to make her life miserable, no doubt. However, undaunted by the partner they had chosen for her, she had bore it bravely and diplomatically.

And so it came to be that she had been stuck with August Rookwood as her partner and had been suffering his constant presence in close quarters for the last three months. Which didn't mean that she didn't enjoy complaining about the odious man with Madam Nott from time to time; it was her way of venting her frustrations, she surmised.

Regardless, an intense feeling of satisfaction swept through her when she thought about the progress she had made with the artifact. And now she suddenly couldn't bare to linger there with her mentor for a single minute longer before being in the presence of the magical artifact – even if Rookwood came attached to it.

"I appreciate the offer," said Lily at last, a warm smile on her lips as she glanced at the old witch's wrinkled face, "but I will persevere against Rookwood and his ilk."

"Yes, I imagined you would say that," said Madam Nott wryly, before she wielded an inked quill in a fluid, graceful motion which belied her age and started scribbling on a piece of parchment on her desk. Without looking up, with an expression of deep concentration already crinkling her forehead, the old witch added distractedly, "Tea at eleven o'clock?"

Which, Lily knew, meant tea of some expensive magical herb brew for Ursula and a hot cup of delicious coffee for her - that was one muggle addiction she would not forego.

Lily rose from her chair and didn't utter a word or even bothered to nod in agreement. The old witch was already lost in her own work, and when Ursula Nott invited someone for a tea break at the Ministry's cafeteria, she didn't require a response; the acquiescence to her wishes was tacit and nothing other than that was expected or even remotely contemplated as a possibility.

With one last glance at the sphere of magic warmly glowing at the back of the room, Lily made her way back into the circular chamber, which instantly started spinning again.

This time, she chose the door which shone the brightest when she touched her robes' crest and murmured the spell, and in the next moment she was stepping into her own workplace.

The lamps hanging low on golden chains from the ceiling bathed the room in a warm yellow light, giving the feeling that it was illuminated by soft rays of sunlight. As in Madam Nott's chamber, what occupied most of the room where the desks in which Lily and Rookwood spend most of their days, filled with all the texts and parchments related to their investigation of the artifact. At the far end of the room, on top of a waist-high stone pillar, there was a glass case thrumming with heavy layers of isolating and protective wards, containing the magical artifact.

Lily glanced at it before she sat down at her desk, coming to face Rookwood who was already working at his desk across from hers, reading an old tome about ancient Egyptian symbology.

The wizard, in his seventies, was in his prime by wizarding standards. His hair was dark and wavy, reaching his shoulders, with two streaks of grey at either side of his forehead. He had a strong, squared jaw, a large yet straight nose, and thick lips which were usually set in a stern line. Tall and broad-shouldered, and heavily muscled, which indicated that he took pride in taking care of his fitness, the man wasn't particularly handsome but did have an air of strong masculinity and stoic solemnity which suited him.

"You're late, Evans," said the wizard sharply without looking up at her. "It's five past nine."

"I was having a chat with Ursula," said Lily calmly as she started organizing the parchments cluttering the top of her desk, hiding a small vindictive smile when Rookwood glanced at her, his jaw tightening.

It always rubbed him the wrong way when Lily had the audacity to be in such familiar terms with Madam Nott. That was exactly why she always called the old witch by her first name in his presence. After all, the man always called her 'Evans' and never 'Mrs. Potter', as if not wanting to recognize that she was nothing more than a muggleborn. But being called Evans didn't bother Lily at all; she didn't care either way if she was called by her maiden muggle surname or by her married one. But to wizards it did matter, so Lily countered the barb in her own ways.

The wizard went back to ignoring her, and as Lily started to prepare all they would need for that day's work, she began to get a little angry. That day, in particular, they had to work together since they would be commencing the third stage of their task.

The first three months had been spent mostly in research and in the breaking of all the dark curses which had been protecting the magical artifact. Lily and Rookwood had discovered that the dark curses were meant to be triggered when any spell was cast on the vase or when any magic was applied to it. Thus, the first stage was to eliminate such dark curses so that then the vase could be transfigured back to its original form.

For this first stage, they had consulted curse-breakers and had spent long hours in the Department of Mysteries' library, where all sort of tomes regarding obscure and ancient curses could be found.

It was possibly one of the largest libraries in the wizarding world, and more heavily protected than a Gringotts' vault, not only having books about all sorts of imaginable magical fields of knowledge, both of light and dark magic, but also containing innumerable unique tomes which had once been pureblood family heirlooms.

With the rise and fall of magical civilizations all over the world with the passage of time, much of what had been known, discovered or created in those ages had been lost due to the destruction or deterioration of papyruses, scrolls, stone slabs, and the like, in which that knowledge had been recorded. Mostly, only records created by the pureblood families of those times, and which had been passed from generation to generation, had survived; well-preserved thanks to them.

And thus, magical knowledge which had once been in the hands of many in ancient times, had become the legacy of pureblood families, and only theirs in all exclusivity, since they were highly treasured as heirlooms and valued as unique knowledge that only that family possessed. That was why, nowadays, there was so little which was publicly known regarding ancient magic, and why the Department of Mysteries' library was invaluable.

Lily surmised that the counterpart of the Department of Mysteries in other countries must also had been acquiring as many pureblood grimoires as was possible, from such light or dark pureblood families from all over the world who, for some reason or the other, had been forced to give up those tomes or who had been in the need of selling them.

It had been from such books, and from picking the curse-breakers' brains, that Lily and Rookwood had devised the spells that in the end had allowed them to wipe out all the dark curses which had been protecting the vase.

Then, they had proceeded with the second stage, which had been to transfigure the vase to its original form. It had not been an easy task, and much study and research had also been involved, but since Lily's strong suits were Charms and Transfigurations, she had done most of the work and had finally succeeded in it.

Therefore, that day, they would begin with the third stage, which signified the true beginning of their study of the magical artifact. In this stage, they would finally cast the first spell on the artifact in its original form – a screening spell that would be the first of a long chain of other spells that would allow them to start unraveling the mystery of the artifact, of what its powers were and what it did.

Lily knew that they would probably spend the next couple of years at this stage, since above all, the unknown powers of the artifact couldn't be allowed to be triggered, for everyone's safety. And thus, they had to proceed slowly and carefully.

The most exciting part would come later. After they knew what the artifact did and what ancient magic it wielded, then they could start with the fourth stage; to gather from it new magical knowledge and to create spells from it that would be of use.

Regarding this, Lily amused herself by thinking that they would be like muggle scientists who encountered an alien starship – studying and learning from it, in order to later replicate its technology for their own advantage.

Suddenly, Lily was yanked away from her musings when Rookwood abruptly stood up from his desk. Without uttering a word, the wizard was already about to unexpectedly leave the room, when Lily finally reacted and blurted out with surprise, "Where are you going?"

Rookwood swirled around to face her, his lips curling upwards as he snapped acidly, "Since when do I answer to you, Evans? Let's not forget here who's the Senior Unspeakable and who's the underling."

"But, we should be starting now with-"

"Surely you can cast the first spell by yourself," Rookwood sneered at her, his black gaze roving over her as if he had weighed her and found her wanting. "Or is such a simple task too much for you to manage, Evans?"

Baffled, Lily blinked as the wizard briskly strode out of the room and slammed the door shut behind him. Then she shook her head and darkly muttered under her breath. She could certainly manage on her own, and it was true that Rookwood came and went as he pleased, never deigning to tell her where he went to or what he did. But it was very unusual for him to take a break when their day had just started, and it was even stranger that the man had reacted so nastily to her mild prompting. Oh, the man constantly snarled and sneered at her when they were alone, but it usually took much more than a simple question to rile him up.

Anyway, she rather have cast several screening spells before the wizard came back, so she pushed to a side any thoughts about Rookwood's strange behavior and stood up. With wand in hand and a parchment with a long list of the spells they would be casting that day, Lily approached the glass case at the back of the room.

As she stood before it, she couldn't suppress the beaming, excited smile that blossomed on her face while her gaze caressingly trailed over the artifact. What had once been an ordinary clay vase, was now, after its transfiguration, a beautiful glowing scepter. As long as her forearm and as wide as her wrist, it was made of pure solid gold, with thinly etched symbols gracefully curling around its surface and with tiny hieroglyphics peppered here and there.

The symbols looked like abstract drawings meant only to be ornamental; a smattering of curls here looking like frail feathers, a small cluster of dots and tiny ovals resembling flower blossoms there, a straight widening line looking like a sunray over the other side… There were many and varied, and if she looked at it from another angle, then the shapes resembled different things all together.

On the other hand, the hieroglyphics certainly meant something. Some of them were the same as those which had been etched on clay when the artifact had been a vase. From those hieroglyphics, the wizard Egyptologists had only gathered that it spoke of a female entity – it could be some pharaoh's daughter or wife, or some priestess or wisewoman, or perhaps a deity.

It wasn't certain since the hieroglyphics only mentioned a female in very general terms and nothing more. But now, in its true form, it had many other new hieroglyphics. Lily and Rookwood would soon begin to unravel their meaning as well and would probably ask the wizard Egyptologists to take another look at it, so that they could advance more quickly with that.

Nevertheless, above all, what made the scepter so breath-taking, was the potent, thrumming magic that coiled and pulsed around it as if in synchrony with the beating of a heart. There were layers upon layers of wards surrounding the artifact, both to protect it and to isolate it, forcing the magic of the scepter to remain contained in its interior, and thus protecting Lily from any possible mishap if the artifact suddenly decided to start acting up or if something was unknowingly triggered. But even with so many wards between her and the scepter, Lily could feel the artifact's heavy and potent magic; so strong that it sometimes felt suffocating if she stood near it for too long.

Finally, with two flicks of her wand and nonverbal spells, the glass case vanished, leaving only the wards behind, and the parchment which she had been holding floated in mid-air at the level of her eyes, so that she could check the list of spells as she went casting.

Not at all nervous but rather inwardly leaping with giddy excitement, Lily aimed her wand at the scepter and softly chanted the spell.

Lily would never know exactly what happened. No matter how many times in the following years she watched, over and over again, the memory of it, she would never be able to have a clear idea or to fully comprehend it.

She was swallowed, she was ripped from her skin and body, she was spinning in the midst of stormy thunder, something filled her and seeped into her, and she heard voices she didn't understand, she saw flashes of things, a stream of images, too quick, with too much havoc to be able to discern what they were, and there were many sounds and strings of music, and heat, so much heat, that she was being burned alive, and none of it ever seemed to stop, it was like an eternal loop of all of it, over and over again without pause or sense.

Lily was found lying unconscious on the floor, next to the artifact which then no longer had flashes and curls of violet and green magic thrumming and vibrating around it, but which looked eerily subdued, as if it had fulfilled its purpose and could now look forward to a placid existence of redundancy and aimlessness.

Later, Lily would know one thing for certain; she had been changed, irreversibly. But she would never fully know how, through her, her future son would be changed and affected by it. And she would never be aware of how the choices she then made would profoundly impact the fate of the wizarding world.

If an Unspeakable had been at the Room of Time, they would have seen the sign of what had been brought upon them by what happened to Lily. In the tall crystal bell jar with sparkling currents of Time that drifted within it, they would have seen how the tiny egg from which a hummingbird was born from, lived and died, to be born again, repeatedly, suddenly disappeared. And they would have seen how, in the next instant, a new egg took its place.

For when such powerful and ancient magic as the one which had been contained in the scepter was unleashed, it was inevitable that it wrecked and altered the space-time continuum, and that the new reality born from it would replace the old.