Flames danced in the hearth flickering shadows across the room, rippling across the dark, smooth worn, rough table; it bade the dead wood to come alive, inviting it to come and dance. The bricks of the hearth were blackened with years worth of soot stain, having not been cleaned for nearly a decade until recently. Across from the hearth, on the other side of the room stood an equally stained (though you could hardly tell) black iron wood stove. A deep sink on the same wall was surrounded by plenty of counter space to make any cook happy stood near the stove on the same wall and swinging around the corner. A chimney fan was fashioned above the stove which was currently allowing the smoke from the sizzling meat to escape.
A boy with be speckled green eyes and untidy black hair couldn't help but glance continuously at the stove where a plump woman with red hair stood stirring a pot that was to become stew. The boys mouth watered and he hoped that dinner would be ready soon.
The green eyed boy looked away from the stove to the boy sitting across from him. He was tall and gangly with shaggy red hair and a rather large nose that was dusted with freckles along with his cheeks. "Sorry?"
"I asked if you if there was anything you wanted me to get you when we're in Diagon Alley on Wednesday?" The boy asked.
"Thanks Ron, ill think about it," Harry assured his friend cheerfully, hoping he successfully hid his lack of enthusiasm. He wasn't looking forward to Wednesday. While everyone else got to go and enjoy the famous wizarding street and look at all the new Zonkos products or take a peak at the newest broom model, he would be stuck in a room with the Head of the Department for Misuse of Magic Office. The thought was depressing made even more so by the fact that he was afraid they would snap his wand whether or not he was innocent. He had heard his best friend Hermione rant about how they didn't have a case and couldn't just snap his wand and expell him from school. Harry wasn't so certain that mattered. He might have believed her had she not told him that the Ministry of Magic was leaning heavily on the Daily Prophet to make him out to be crazy. Now, he was pretty certain the ministry would go to any lengths to see to it he was discredited. It hadn't been Harry's experience to find the ministry to be warm, helpful, understanding, truthful, or judicious. After all Buckbeak, the hippogriff, hadn't been given a fair appeal trial and most of the judges at his first court hearing had been bought or threatened into a guilty verdict, then there was the matter of Sirius; sentenced to Azkaban without a trial and then issued the Kiss without the ministry checking or verifying his story and of course there was Bartimous Crouch Jr. at the Tournament last year. He had been the only one at Hogwarts to give Harry's story that the evil Lord Voldemort was back any credit, and the ministry had issued the Kiss so swiftly that no one had anytime to stop it - not that Crouch didn't deserve it; but Harry was astounded at the lack of justice the wizarding ministry was truly interested in.
"Sirius? Are you alright?"
Harry looked up from watching the flames play with the wood table to look at Arthur Weasley, the man who had spoken, and then followed his gaze to the door where Sirius was standing. He was standing on the threshold, hands in his pocket, and an unusually very serious expression on his face.
"I'm fine," Sirius assured everyone as he made his way to the table and sat down. "I was just checking the street." He looked at Harry when he said this, his expression worried.
"Something's wrong," A man with a magical eye and pock-marked face noted.
"No, no," Sirius waved him off. "At least I don't think so."
"So why do you look so worried?" Asked a shaggy haired man with patched clothing.
"Two people showed up in the street," Sirius began, running a hand through his hair as he did so. "They were wearing muggle clothing. One looked to be about Harry's age and the other was a woman."
"Sounds like two people who just happened to be walking down the road together," the man with the shaggy hair noted.
"Constant Vigilance!" shouted the pock-marked man as his magical eye whirled in it's socket with a whiz.
Sirius snorted, "they didn't walk anywhere. They appeared in the middle of the street separately and then left the same way they appeared, this time together."
"So they apparated," observed the pock-marked man.
"No, Moody," Sirius snapped. "Whatever they did, it was not apparition. It was like they melted out of and back into the shadows- like the shadows were spitting them out an then swallowing them up." Sirius looked uneasy as he explained this.
"I have never heard of anything like that before," said a bushy haired girl sitting next to Ron. "I read all about different modes of travel in Magical Transport Defined. It talks all about the different kinds of transportation and how to achieve it. There was nothing in there about using shadows."
"This wouldn't have been in that book, Hermione," the shaggy haired man said softly. "What Sirius is describing is a very advanced and very dark form of magic. It's called Umbrakenisis. Only a handful of dark wizards have ever accomplished the art. Though many have tried. Some say it is a an inherited talent, that it's not something you can learn, but are born with."
"Are you telling me a boy and young woman, whom we apparently don't know, managed to perform umbrakenisis? The most advanced dark magic there is? And at such a difficult level as well?" Moody growled testily completely ignoring the explanation being given. It was clear the man didn't believe Sirius for a moment.
Sirius opened his mouth to respond but didn't get the chance to give his defense. A shout filled the room as a boy fell out of the ceiling and onto the table. Everyone fumbled out of their seats; Ron tumbling out of his when it flipped over. They held their wands out as they slowly moved away. Harry studied the boy closely as he groaned and rolled onto his side grasping at his back with his hand. The boy had black hair and pale skin that was almost chalky. He wore black pants that were ripped in several places, worn out and scuffed up combat boots, a black shirt, and most strangely of all, a brown vintage aviator jacket right out of a 1940's film. The boy pushed himself up off the table and then glared at the ceiling. He mumbled something that sound like 'was that necessary?' but Harry couldn't be sure. He turned to move off the table when he stiffened and then dove off and the next thing Harry knew there was a bag lying where the boy had been standing and said boy was now yelling at the ceiling.
"Are you trying to send me to my father?" He shouted. "What in HADES did I ever do to you?!"
There was grumble of thunder outside and then the boy waved his arm at the ceiling and then mumbled under his breath.
"Who are you, boy?" Moody barked in his gruff voice.
The boy turned slowly toward Moody, an impassive expression on his face. Harry, standing next to Moody, noticed that his eyes, which he had expected to be a rich brown, were nearly black -and they were cold.
"Nico di Angelo," the boy said tilting his head off to the side and giving Moody an appraising perusal. Then seeming uninterested he turned back to the table, up righted Ron's seat and sat down. "This is HQ for the Order of the Phoenix, correct?"
He spoke with little emotion, though Harry thought he detected something like resignation on his voice. Nico pulled a pocket knife out of his pants and began picking at his nails. In the few movies Harry had been able to see in his life time he had thought this move to be rather cliché and almost funny, but here in reality, it was far more disconcerting watching how comfortable the boy was with a blade.
The rest of the room shared a look and then refocused on the boy. "Why do you want to know?" growled Moody with a glare.
The boy set aside his pocket knife and reaching inside his jacket he pulled out a thick envelope. "I'm looking for an Albus Dumbledore. I was told that I can find him here," Nico said putting the letter on the table and picking up his knife again.
"I'm Professor Dumbledore," the shaggy haired man announced stepping forward.
Nico glanced over at the man and then went back to concentrating on his knife. "I'm not that stupid. First off, your patched up clothing says your not, secondly I just can't picture you being my cousins type," Nico smirked.
There was a rumble of thunder in the distance and Nico let out a slight chuckle. "What do you want with Dumbledore?" Moody demanded gruffly.
"That is between Dumbledore, my cousin, and me," Nico said moving onto cleaning the nails on his other hand. "If he isn't here, I would really appreciate being told where he is so that I can find him and deliver this," he said motioning toward the envelope with nonchalance, as though he really was in no hurry to deliver it.
"Remus," Moody said adressing the man with the shaggy hair. "Why don't you go floo Albus?" Remus hesitated a moment and then hurried out of the room. "As for you boy…"
"Nico," the 'boy' interrupted.
"As for you boy, you aren't going anywhere until I find out how you got in here," Moody snarled at him placing his hands on the table and leaning over it.
Harry who had been on the receiving end of Moody's glare a few times knew what Nico was facing. To his surprise, however, Nico seemed unaffected by the force of Moody's stare. He slipped his knife back into his pocket, leaned forward onto the table and began twiddling his thumbs, his foot tapping out a rhythm under the table.
"Sirius seems to think you can perform Umbrakenisis," Moody continued unperturbed by the boys lack of reaction or speech.
"What I am or am not capable of is none of your concern," Nico hissed. "If your concerned with others getting in the way I did, don't be. I'm the only one who could have done it."
Moody slapped his hand on the table. "You just appear on our street with a woman and then fall into our home from the ceiling. I don't trust and I am not allowing you to go anywhere until I get some answers," Moody snapped.
Nico shrugged, "Intimidation isn't going to work. As for your answers, I'm not saying anything until Dumbledore shows up."
"Which I have," a man said and Harry looked toward the doorway to see a man in purple robes and a long white beard and hair standing there with Remus directly behind him. "You must be Nico di Angelo," Dumbledore observed as he glided into the room.
Nico looked Dumbledore as he approached and Harry could see his mind appraising him as he tried to decide if this really was Dumbledore. "A friend of your's sent me," Nico said handing over the envelope.
Dumbledore gave the boy a confused look before turning to the envelope. His face paled when he flipped over the letter and saw the wax seal. "What is your relation to her?"
"A second cousin," Nico explained. "She plays companion to my step-mother and is very helpful to my father."
If it was possible Harry was certain that Dumbledore's face paled even more so. "I would like a word with you in private if you don't mind," Dumbledore said and then turned to the plump woman at the stove who had been oddly quiet. "Molly, would you be so kind as to set-up an extra bed. I have a feeling Nico will be staying with us for the long term," he said looking toward Nico for confirmation.
"Of course, Professor," Molly said glancing nervously at Nico. "Ginny dear," she motioned to her red haired daughter who had been standing next to Hermione.
Nico stood up from his spot at the table and reached out to pick up his bag all with a fluid motion. His walk was lazy, but not lacking in confidence. He seemed unconcerned with the world around him and unhurried by the tension in the room.
Everyone stood silently after they left. Glancing at each other it became clear that no one really knew what to say. "I don't like him," Moody announced, breaking the uneasy silence.
"There's something very odd about him that is for certain," Remus said looking at the doorway.
"Odd? The boy practically screamed evil," Sirius yelled. "The boy's fourteen years old and he can perform umbrakenisis."
"Maybe there is some truth to what Remus said, about umbrakenisis being an inheriteted talent rather than a learned one," Arthur said. Silence reined once again and slowly the rooms occupants began to sit down once again at the table. Harry starred at the door uncertainly. He didn't know what to think of the new arrival or Dumbledore's reaction to him. He didn't think Nico di Angelo was necessarily evil, but he also didn't think he was all together good. Harry looked over to Ron and Hermione and silently they all agreed - the mystery of Nico had to be solved.