Chapter 1: The Shadows Stir

"… historic school, progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged. Let us preserve what must be preserved, perfect what can be perfected and prune practices that ought to be... prohibited."

She sat down and Dumbledore clapped. The other teachers followed his example, but Harry noticed that most of them only clapped once or twice before lowering their hands. A few of the students also started clapping, but very few of them had heard the end of the speech as they had stopped paying attention by its start. And before they even got to start the dutiful rounds of applause, Dumbledore stood.

"Thank you Professor Umbridge. That really was most illuminating." He bowed towards her. "Well, I believe I came to when tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place, which will be on the…"

But for the second time that evening, Dumbledore was interrupted. Only this time, there was no confusion as to why he had stopped speaking. The Great Hall was getting darker and colder, especially in the corner closest to the Gryffindor table. Then, all the shadows near the Gryffindor table seemed to gather at a spot on the wall, roughly five metres above the ground.

"What in the name of Merlin…"

Harry briefly glanced at Ron sitting beside him, but before he could utter a sound, there were several gasps around him. And he didn't need to look far from the source. The shadowy spot on the wall was bulging outwards and suddenly a person was flying out of it with great speed.

The person landed right on the table with a sickening crack and slid several feet before coming to a stop right before Harry, Ron and Hermione, sending food flying in every direction, eliciting screams and shrieks everywhere. Hermione gasped when she took in his appearance, and Harry couldn't blame her.

The person before them was no older than fourteen-fifteen, with pale skin tinted red from blood, but whether it was his own or someone else, Harry didn't know. Though, the blood on the boy's back had to be his own considering he had just scraped it against half of the Gryffindor table. And considering his torso was bare, it was no wonder his back was bloody.

The boy had long and shaggy dark brown-black hair and he wore a silver ring shaped like a skull. He was barefoot and his pants were black.

"Is he dead?"

Harry shook his head Dean's questions. "I don't think so. He is…"

All of them startled as Ron reached out to shake the boy, for the moment the redhead's fingertips touched the boy, he jumped to his feet, glaring at all them with intense brown eyes that bordered on being black. Harry involuntarily shivered. The eyes spoke of great suffering and anger, but they were also the eyes of a genius or a madman. But the boy barely spared them a glance. He was frantically looking around for something.


Harry instantly obeyed when the boy held out his right hand in his general direction, for had he lingered a second longer, he would have been pierced by a sword with three feet long blade that was as black as a nightmare, startling several of the Gryffindors.

"Young man, will you put down that sword this instance!"

But the teenager dully ignored Minerva McGonagall and kept his gaze fixed on the spot he had been spat out from.

"Come on you creeps. Those Campers summoned you for a reason."

Harry didn't have time to fully register the boy's muttered words, for in the next moment, something burst from the same spot the same way the boy in front of him had.

There were screams from all around the hall, for the creatures bursting forth was as taken out of nightmare. One was a hound the size of a rhino with glowing red eyes. And riding on the big hound was humanoid female with a shield and spear. But instead of legs, the woman had what looked like twin serpent trunks.

There were screams of terror and flashes of light as the teachers fired various spells at the monsters threatening their students, but the snake like woman blocked most of them with her shield. Unfortunately for her, by raising her shield, she lost visual of the boy with the sword. Harry watched as the boy darted forward, sword slicing the belly of the oversized dog.

Instead of blood though, the monster hound seemed to dissolve into shadow or dark smoke that was drawn into the hellish black blade.

Time seemed to slow down as the snake woman fell towards the table. Harry saw the terrified faces of the first years, the shocked faces of the professors who all had their wands out, people pushing themselves away from the table, the murderous look on the snake woman, the calculating look in the eyes of the strange teenager.

The black-haired boy met Harry's gaze for the fraction of a second and Harry felt shivers running down his spine. Those eyes seemed to look into his very soul, but unlike Dumbledore's piercing gaze, those eyes seemed to ignite some of Harry's deepest fears. Fears that soon were replaced by shock as black fire sprang to life in the teenager's right hand.

Harry heard shocked gasps around him and he noticed how some of the teachers tensed up upon seeing the boy conjuring up black flames without using a wand. No doubt those blazes were powerful and not to be taken lightly. It was only reinforced when the snake-like woman turned and attempted to flee.

Attempted being the keyword. She got a few metres towards the doors before she made the mistake of turning her head back to look at the black-haired youth. Her reward: A fireball of black flames right in the face.

For almost thirty seconds, the Great Hall was filled with the screams of the dying monster. Then, all went silent and all that was left of the snake-like woman was a puddle of green and black liquid on the floor. A stunned and horrified silence settled as students and teachers of Hogwarts all turned their gazes at the boy who stood on Gryffindor table that somehow had survived the snake monster crashing onto it.

Some eyes were looking at the boy with awe, others with fear and horror, some with shock and some with a mix of curiosity and suspicion.

Then, the boy youth let out a pained gasp and he tilted to the side, landing right on top of Hermione. He was unconscious before his feet left the table.


Percy stared in growing anxiety as he took in the sight of Cabin Thirteen, Hades' Cabin. The Cabin had been a proud, yet ominous part of Camp Half-Blood since they defeated Kronos. Now it lay in ruins, smoke rising towards the sky. Percy had no idea when, but the campers had tried putting out the fire for hours. A task not made easier by the Greek fire from the cabin's torches. One thing was certain though: The Hades Cabin had been attacked.

The walls that still stood bore marks after bombs and Greek fire and the skull that once hung over door had been smashed to pieces. But Percy had no idea who would attack the Hades Cabin. Or rather, he had some ideas, but none of them seemed likely. The Titans had kept a low profile since Kronos' defeat and monsters couldn't get access to Camp unless someone allowed them to or summoned them inside the barrier.

Why someone would attack Nico was a mystery as well. He had played a vital part in the war against Kronos, but that didn't get them anywhere as the Titans and their servants had kept low since then.

Beating Clarisse in single combat hardly warranted such a brutal attack. Clarisse's ego might have gotten quite a bruise in the process, but she was not stupid. Besides, seeing how it was her who had challenged Nico, she had no right to have bitter feelings.

Thalia had been equally pissed when Nico's schemes and tricks caused the Hunters to lose in Capture the Flag. It had been almost too easy. Percy was to create distraction along with the other campers and Nico was to either Shadow Travel to the Hunters' banner or sneak around the main fighting. The campers called it a strategy worthy of Athena's children. Nico had blushed at the praise, but he said it wasn't anything special. He figured the Hunters would worry about Percy the most because of his Achilles Curse, causing them to focus most of their strength on stopping him. Surely they would expect him to rush in head-on. Nico had simply given them what they expected the campers to do.

Percy had not been amused, despite their victory. Having arrows flying at you and getting zapped by Thalia Grace was only funny for a certain amount of time. He was running out of t-shirts without holes damnit!

The only reason for an attack Percy could see was fear. Fear of Nico's powers. Since the war, Nico's powers had increased at an almost alarming rate. Even Chiron had trouble remembering a demigod whose powers increased so dramatically over such a short amount of time. Chiron's theory was that his stay in the Lotus Casino had delayed Nico's natural growth in power and that they were now increasing at an accelerated rate to make up for lost time. And it was possible that Nico would suddenly start aging as well.

They had no proof of Chiron's theory of course, but Percy was getting more and more inclined to believe the theory. Nico had yet to best him in a fight, but if Nico kept improving at the same rate, Percy was sure it would only be a matter of months instead of years before Nico matched him in battle, if not surpassing him.

"Forget about four years, Uncle Hades" Percy mumbled, recalling Hades' claim from the last time he met his uncle. "Talk about months instead."

Percy suddenly paled dramatically and a heavy lump formed in his throat. His uncle Hades…One of the Big Three, Lord of the Underworld, God of the Dead... once word of this reached Hades, his fury was sure to be terrible. Hades was not exactly known for being a merciful god. If the culprit wasn't found, the son of Poseidon didn't doubt that Hades would declare open season on demigods.

Percy glanced at the torn Camp Half-Blood t-shirt in his hands. He was sure it belonged to whoever attacked Nico. For once it was too big to fit Nico and secondly, there was no way Nico would ever wear orange. He clenched his fists. Whoever attacked Nico was going to pay.

His anger was replaced with anxiety as a camper told him that there was no trace of Nico having been inside the cabin when it was set ablaze. In short, they had no idea if he was dead or alive. Fisting the t-shirt in his hands, Percy let out a barely audible whisper, his anxiety shining through.

"Nico… where are you?"

End chapter 1.