Table of Contents:

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Prologue

1: The Shadow of Legends

2: Arrival of the Alma Alerons

3: The Ghost and the Intruder

4: The Progressive Element

5: The Book of Austramaddux

6: Harry’s Midnight Meeting

7: Broken Loyalty

8: The Grotto Keep

9: The Debate Betrayal

10: Holiday At Grimmauld Place

11: The Three Relics

12: Visum-Ineptio

13: Revelation of the Robe

14: The Hall of Elders’ Crossing

15: The Muggle Spy

16: Disaster of the Merlin Staff

17: Night of the Returning

18: The Tower Assembly

19: Secrets Unveiled18: The Tower Assembly

20: Tale of the Traitor

21: The Gift of the Green Box

 

Prologue

Mr. Grey peeked around the corner and surveyed the corridor. It stretched off into dim infinity, dotted with floating globes of silvery light. Mr. Grey had been told that the globes were swampfire, encased in a timeloop charm so they were inextinguishable. He’d never even heard of swampfire, much less a timeloop charm, but then again, Mr. Grey had never been in a place quite like the Hall of Mysteries. He shuddered. “I don’t see anybody,” he whispered to the two figures behind him. “No gates or locks, neither. Do you think maybe they’re using invisible barriers or something?” “Nar,” a gravely voice answered. “We was told exactly where the beacons were placed, wasn’t we? This section’s clean. Sentry’s all we have to worry about. If you don’ see him, then move in.” Mr. Grey shuffled his feet. “I know what we was told, but it don’t feel right, Bistle. I has a sense about these things. Me mam always said so.” “Don’t call me Bistle, yeh sodding half-wit,” said the gravely voice, which belonged to a particularly grizzly goblin in black shirt and trousers. “I’m Mr. Saffron when we’re on the job. And blast yehr sixth sense. Yeh’re just a great coward whenever yeh get in an unfamiliar place. The sooner we get on, the sooner it’ll be over and we’ll be back to the shack to celebrate.” The third figure, a tall, old man with a pointed, white goatee, stepped past Mr. Saffron and walked casually down the corridor, scanning the doors.

“See how Mr. Pink does it?” Mr. Saffron said, following closely and glancing around. “Knows to trust his information, he does. No sentry, no problems. Right, Mr. Pink?” Mr. Grey trailed behind Mr. Saffron, frowning massively and watching the mysterious doors. There were hundreds–maybe thousands–of them along the endless corridor. None had names or markings of any kind. In the lead, Mr. Pink could be heard counting softly under his breath. “Why do I have to be Mr. Grey?” Mr. Grey said petulantly. “Nobody likes grey. It’s hardly even a color at all.” The goblin ignored him. After several minutes, Mr. Pink stopped walking. Mr. Saffron and Mr. Grey halted behind him, looking around the corridor with furrowed brows. “Can’t be the place, Mr. Pink,” the goblin said. “There’s no doors in this section at all. Are yeh sure yeh counted aright?” “I counted right,” Mr. Pink said. He glanced down at the floor, and then scuffed at a section of the marble tile with his toe. There was a chip in the corner of one of the tiles. Mr. Pink grunted and knelt down. He probed the broken corner with a finger. He nodded to himself, then hooked his finger into the hole and gave a tug. A rectangular section of the tile floor popped upwards, pulled open by Mr. Pink’s tugging finger. He heaved and the rectangular chunk of floor slid upwards like a long, vertical drawer, rising with a grating rumble until it touched the ceiling. It shuddered into place. It was as wide and tall as a door, but only a few inches thick. Mr. Grey peered around it and could see the endless corridor of the Hall of Mysteries stretching away behind it. “How’d yeh know that was there?” Mr. Saffron demanded, slitting his eye up at Mr. Pink. “She told me,” Mr. Pink responded, shrugging. “She did, did she? Anything else you might know that you hain’t told us about, yet?” “Just enough to get us there,” Mr. Pink replied. “You’re the lock breaker, Mr. Grey is the heavy hand, and I’m the mapper. We all know what we need to know, and nothing else.” “Yar, yar, I remember,” the goblin grumbled. “Let me get on with it, then, won’t yeh?”

Mr. Pink stood aside as Mr. Saffron moved closer to the slab of mysterious stone. He studied it carefully, squinting and muttering. He laid one of his huge ears against it and tapped here and there. Finally, he reached into a pocket of his black shirt and produced a complicated device made of dozens of brass loops. He unfolded one and peered through it at the stone slab. 7

 

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“Hardly worth the effort, really,” he muttered. “It’s a homunculus lock. Only opens when a predefined set of factors is present. Could be it only opens when a redheaded lass sings the national anthem of Atlantis at three o’clock on a Thursday. Or when the light of the setting sun is reflected from a cracked mirror onto a goat’s eye. Or when Mr. Grey hawks a bogey onto a purple newt. I’ve seen some good homunculus factors in my time, yar.” “Is this a good one, then?” Mr. Grey asked rather hopefully. The goblin grinned, showing lots of tiny, pointed teeth. “S’like Mr. Pink says, isn’t it? We all knows what we need to get the job done.” He reached into another pocket and produced a tiny glass vial filled with red powder. Carefully, the goblin uncorked the vial and upended the contents onto the floor before the stone slab. The powder swirled and eddied as it fell, so that as it hit the ground, it formed an unnaturally regular pattern. Mr. Grey peered down and saw that it had formed the shape of a skeletal hand with one finger pointing toward the slab. Mr. Saffron produced a tiny brass tool and muttered, “Acculumos.” A narrow beam of greenish light glowed from the end of the tool. The goblin squatted and carefully laid the tool across the bony hand so that the light pointed at the exact angle of the pointing, skeletal finger. Mr. Grey gasped and took a step backwards. Seen in the carefully arranged light of Mr. Saffron’s tool, the rough stone surface of the slab was no longer random. The play of light and shadow revealed an ornate engraving of a grinning skeleton surrounded by dancing, impish shapes. The skeleton’s right hand was outstretched, forming something like a door handle. The left hand was missing, and Mr. Pink shuddered again, realizing it was the shape formed in red powder on the floor. “It’s a danse macabre,” Mr. Saffron said, studying the engraving. “A dance of death. Revealed with powdered dragon’s blood and cavernlight. Yar, it’s a good one, Grey.” “Is it unlocked, then?” Mr. Pink asked briskly. “Never was locked,” the goblin replied. “We just had to know where to grasp. Feel free to do the honors, Mr. Pink.” The tall, bearded man approached the slab, careful not to block the greenish light. He reached forward and wrapped his hand around the outstretched fist of the skeletal engraving. He turned it, producing a low, grinding click. The engraved shape of the door swung inwards, revealing a large, dark space and a sound of distant, dripping water. Cold air pushed out of the opening, filling the corridor and ruffling Mr. Saffron’s black shirt. Mr. Grey shivered as the sweat on his forehead went cold. “Where’s that go to? That space isn’t even here, if you know what I mean.”

“Of course it isn’t,” Mr. Saffron replied tersely, but he was clearly shaken as well. “It’s the hidden depository. We was told about it, just like everything else. That’s where the chest is. Come now, we haven’t much time.” 8

Mr. Pink led them through the doorway, ducking to fit through. It became apparent by the smell and the echo of their footsteps that they were in a deep cavern. Mr. Pink produced his wand and illuminated it, but it revealed little more than the shiny, wet rock beneath their feet. The blackness sucked at the light, and Mr. Grey had the sense that they were in a place so deep that it had never known sunlight. Raw, musty cold pressed onto their skin, chilling them after the warmth of the corridor. Mr. Grey glanced back once and could just see the shape of the door leading back. It glowed like a pillar of silvery light, almost as if it were a mirage. “Wh-where do you think we are?” he asked. “Air pocket in a cavern under the Atlantic ocean,” Mr. Pink replied, still walking. “Under…” Mr. Grey said faintly, then swallowed. “I got a bad sense about this. Really bad. I want to go back, Bistle.” “Don’t call me Bistle,” the goblin said automatically. “What’s in this chest, anyway?” Mr. Grey moaned. “It better be worth a lot. I can’t think of anything worth coming to a place like this.” “Never yeh mind that,” Mr. Saffron said gruffly. “It’s more than yeh’ve ever dreamed of. We’ll never have to work like this again. No more petty cons and midnight holdups for us. Once we get the chest, we’ll be set for good.” “But what is it?” Mr. Grey insisted. “What’s in the chest?” “Well, yeh’ll just wait and see, won’t yeh?” Mr. Grey stopped walking. “You don’t know, do you?” Mr. Saffron sputtered. “It doesn’t matter what it is, yeh great dummy. We was told it was more than we could ever dream of, wasn’t we? Alls we have to do is nick the box and gives a twenty percent share to our inside informer. They’d hardly help us break into the Ministry of Magic if they didn’t have a prize bit of swag in mind, would they? Mr. Pink knows what it is, anyway. Why don’t yeh arsk him?” “I don’t know either,” Mr. Pink said thoughtfully. There was a long moment of silence. Mr. Grey heard the steady drip of water echoing out of the darkness. Finally Mr. Saffron said, “Yeh don’t know neither?” Mr. Pink shook his head slowly, barely visible in his own wand light. The goblin frowned. “Each of us only knows what we needs to know, aye?” 9

“All we need to know is where to go,” Mr. Pink said. “Once we get there, we’ll know what to do.” The goblin nodded, remembering. “All right, then. Let’s go, Mr. Pink. You’re the mapper.” “We’re there,” Mr. Pink replied. “It’s Grey’s job from here.” He turned and shone his wand ahead of them. A horrible, monstrous face loomed out of the blackness, lit in the feeble silvery light. Mr. Grey’s knees went watery. “It’s jest a statue, yeh ninny,” Mr. Saffron growled. “It’s the dragon’s head we were tol’ about. Go on and open it. Earn your share, Mr. Grey.” “I hate that name,” Mr. Grey said, walking toward the dragon’s head statue. It was taller than he was, formed eerily from the stalactites and stalagmites of the cavern wall. “I wanted to be Mr. Purple. I like purple.” He crouched and slipped his hands between the snaggle teeth of the dragon’s upper jaw. Mr. Grey was unusually strong, but lifting the dragon’s jaw required every ounce of his formidable power. Sweat streamed down his face and neck as he strained, but the statue wouldn’t budge. Finally, just as Mr. Grey was certain he would tear his muscles loose from his bones, there was a glassy shattering sound and the jaw jarred loose. The stalactites that formed the hinge of the jaw had broken. Mr. Grey heaved the jaw upwards until it was high enough for the others to scramble through. “Hurry!” he ordered through gritted teeth. “Just don’t drop the blasted thing on us,” Mr. Saffron whined as he and Mr. Pink ducked into the gaping dragon’s jaw. The opening behind the dragon’s head was low and almost perfectly round. Stalactites and stalagmites surrounded the space like pillars supporting a smooth, domed ceiling. The stone floor was terraced, leading down to the center where a strange shape sat in the darkness. “It’s not a chest,” Mr. Pink stated flatly. “Nar,” Mr. Saffron agreed. “But it’s the only thing here, isn’t it? Think we can lug it between us?” Mr. Pink descended the terraces, leaving the goblin to scramble after him. They studied the object for a moment, and then Mr. Pink placed his wand between his teeth. He bent down, grasping the object, and nodded for the goblin to grasp the other side. It was surprisingly light, though crusted with calcium and mineral. Clumsily, they carried the object between them, hefting it up the terraces. Mr. Pink’s wand light bobbed and jerked, making their shadows leap wildly on the pillared walls.

Finally, they heaved the object through the open jaw of the dragon’s head statue. Mr. Grey was sweating profusely, his knees trembling. When he saw that his companions were out of the way, he released 10

the upper jaw. It slammed down and shattered, producing a cloud of gritty dust and a deafening crash. Mr. Grey collapsed backward onto the stony floor of the cavern, faint with exertion. “So what is it?” Mr. Saffron asked, ignoring Mr. Grey’s heaving breaths. “It doesn’t look like it’s worth a fortune.” “I never said it was worth a fortune,” a voice said from the blackness behind them. “I merely said it was enough to take care of you for life. Funny how many meanings a phrase like that can have, isn’t it?” Mr. Saffron wheeled around, seeking the source of the voice, but Mr. Pink turned slowly, almost as if he’d expected it. A shape formed out of the darkness. It was draped in black robes. The face was obscured behind a horrible glinting mask. Two more similarly dressed figures emerged from the darkness. “I recognize your voice,” Mr. Pink said. “I should’ve known.” “Yes,” the voice agreed. “You should’ve, Mr. Fletcher, but you didn’t. Your years of experience are no match for your innate greed. And now it is too late.” “Wait now,” Mr. Saffron cried, throwing up his hands. “We had us a bargain. Yeh can’t do this! We had a deal!” “Yes we did, my goblin friend. Thank you very much for your services. Here is your cut.” A flash of orange light leapt from one of the masked figures, striking Mr. Saffron in the face. He stumbled and clutched at his throat, making thick choking sounds. He collapsed backwards, still writhing. Mr. Grey stood shakily to his feet. “That’s not right. You shouldn’t have done that to Bistle. He only did what you asked.” “And we are only doing what we promised,” the voice behind the mask said pleasantly. There was another jet of orange light and Mr. Grey collapsed heavily. The three masked figures drifted closer, surrounding Mr. Pink. He looked around at them hopelessly. “At least tell me what it is,” he said. “Tell me what this thing is that you made us get for you, and why you made us do it instead of doing it yourselves.” “Your last question, I am afraid, is none of your business, Mr. Fletcher,” the voice said, circling him. “As they say: if we told you, we’d have to kill you. That would not be living up to our end of the bargain. We promised to take care of you for life, and we intend to fulfill that promise. It may not be much of a life, granted, but beggars cannot be choosers.”

A wand appeared, pointing at Mr. Pink’s face. He hadn’t used the name Fletcher for years. He’d given it up when he’d given up being a crook. He’d tried so hard to be good and honest. But then he’d been approached about this job: an inside job at the Ministry of Magic, a job so perfect, with a payoff so grand, that he simply couldn’t turn it down. Sure, all his old friends in the Order would be disappointed in him, 11

but most of them were dead now, anyway. Nobody even knew his real name anymore. Or so he thought. Apparently these people had known who he really was all along. They’d used him, and now he was going to be disposed of. It was fitting, in a way. He sighed. The voice went on. “As for your first question, however, I expect we can answer that. It seems only fair. And after today, who could you possibly tell? You came looking for a chest of riches because you are a small man with small aims. We are not small, Mr. Fletcher. Our aims are grand. And thanks to you and your cohorts, we now have everything we need to accomplish those aims. Our goal is power, and what you see here is the means to that power. What you see here, Mr. Fletcher… is simply the end of your world.” Hopelessness filled Mundungus Fletcher and he fell to his knees. When the jet of orange light struck him, choking him, covering him with darkness, he welcomed it. He embraced it. 12