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The Fifth Marauder & The Murder Tree

By Sarah Michelle

Adventure / Fantasy

Prologue

“My Lord, you must not go.”

A pale, sallow faced man stared at the thin oval face of a young woman with wild black hair. Her dark eyes searched his frantically, and though she was afraid for him, he felt only annoyance at her begging.

“You far underestimate me.” The man replied coldly, striding forward, looking out of the wide window onto the urban sprawl beneath it. There, in little houses and within apartment buildings, dwelt Muggles and Mudbloods and magical blood alike. As if they were all content being reduced to nothing more than pedigreed creatures mingling with the diseased and untouchables. The man’s nose wrinkled in disgust. This journey, he knew, would help separate the pure-white sheep from the filthy goats.

“My Lord,” the woman repeated, stepping towards him without fear, “Please. Let me accompany you.”

“Do you think I am incapable of protecting myself?” the man growled, his once-handsome face dark with controlled anger. “Do you think that I require the aid of anyone else?”

The woman’s eyes widened, and she shook her head frantically, her long, wild black hair bouncing like a lion’s mane behind her. “Of course not, my Lord! I was only offering my services to you…”

She stared at him adoringly, her mouth opened in a small o, a display of her eagerness. The pale man knew that she was young, proud, full of energy, ready to demonstrate her abilities, but he had no need of them. Not for this.

“I have a different job for you, Bellatrix,” the man said. “I need you to take Lestrange with you to the Giants. See if they have changed their minds at all.”

“Of course my Lord,” Bellatrix whispered, bowing, and then disappearing from the room with a sharp crack. Voldemort sighed. At last, he was alone. Finally, he could make his appeal to the wild creatures that skulked deep within the forest.

He was gone with a sound like thunder. A moment later, he walked underneath a black sky, into a canopy of thick trees, on the outskirts of a place that he had once called home. From this distance, before he was too deep into the reaches of the shadowed forest, he could see the castle, its hundreds of windows illuminated with tiny golden squares of light. He turned his back on Hogwarts and swept into the pine forest.

He knew there were giant spiders here. He had met creatures in here that only Newt Scamander had written about, creatures that were too horrible for so many ordinary wizards to handle encountering. Voldemort had dominated them all. Most had already agreed to join his cause.

But now, for these half-breeds…

He walked past the place where he knew the centaurs lived. They had already rejected his request for aid. Centaurs were dirty, half-human offspring of bestiality and filth. He would rather not have their disgusting lineage taint his forces, but their help was better than none.

It did not matter. They had already rejected him. And so they had rejected power and prestige.

Deeper into the forest Voldemort went, until the moon and stars were completely shut out by the thick tops of the pine trees. A faint white mist hung beneath the canopy, and the only sound was his muffled footsteps moving over the sun-deprived dirt. Dead leaves and pine needles crunched under his boots. His nose twitched at the sharp scent of dirt, sweat, and blood. He was not far from his quarry.

The ground dipped suddenly into a small ravine. The lip of the edge was steep, a sharp drop for unwary lost travelers in the Forbidden Forest. Voldemort knew this was how these creatures sometimes caught their prey. Like a spider’s web, the prey would wander daftly into the net, falling into certain doom…

Voldemort descended lightly in the center of the ravine. Instantly, there were growls and snarls. From several holes in the sides of the ravine glowed pairs of eyes, mostly yellow, some red. Thirty very dirty, very angry wizards and witches burst from the dens, their yellowed teeth bared and their eyes narrowed in fury.

“Werewolves!” Voldemort announced. “Have you been reduced to living like your animalistic natures? Is this what the rest of the wizarding world has reduced you to?”

The werewolves paused, unsure of what to do. Voldemort continued.

“I offer you a chance of redemption. Of… revenge. Join forces with me, and you’ll never go hungry again! Instead of being oppressed, you will dominate the lowly wizards and witches who have exiled you, just for being who you really are!

“Give me your allegiance, and all of you shall have your share of vengeance. All shall reap what they sow. All shall force those who had enslaved you to become slaves themselves, but with you as their masters!”

Silence met his words. Voldemort had not expected it to be easy, but he had hoped so, for time’s sake. Looking around, he caught the eye of a wizard, who quickly looked away.

“Silus Ravens,” Voldemort said slowly. “I never expected to see you here.”

Silus pretended not to hear him.

“You were once a powerful, respected Auror.” Voldemort reminded him. “And what did the Ministry do to you when they discovered your true nature?”

A muscle tightened in Ravens’ jaw, but he did not speak.

“They threw you out!” Voldemort proclaimed to the crowd of listening werewolves. “All of you! They cast you aside like rubbish once they learned the truth about who you were. These “normal” wizards and witches are hateful, narrow-minded, and arrogant. They think that they can make the rules and cast out those who don’t fit their mindset. Now is your chance to change your lives. Change the world with me.” He gave a mirthless look at their caves. “Or continue to hide away in your holes in the dark like rats. Whatever pleases you.”

More silence met his words. No growls. No snarls. No movement. Voldemort’s hand closed more tightly around his yew wand. He could overpower these mongrels easily. But he wanted their allegiance. Their numbers and brute force were formidable, but he needed their burning bitterness and hatred most of all to win this war that he had waged against wizards and witches and those filthy Mudbloods and Muggles. The werewolves alone would not win the war, but their assistance would not go unnoticed by his forces.

Voldemort waited another minute for an answer, but none came. Then, out of the shadows, emerged a huge figure. He was tall, huge, and his blue eyes glinted in the dim light. He was a fierce looking man, and as he emerged into view, he picked his long yellow teeth. He could not have been more than twenty five years old, but already, his presence commanded respect from the other werewolves. Instinctively, Voldemort knew that this was the alpha. This was the one who would make the final decision.

“You offer us freedom.” The werewolf growled.

Voldemort smiled slightly. “I offer you more than just that. I offer you a chance at a new world. A world that you can rule in.”

“We aren’t interested in ruling over anything.” The werewolf growled, and this surprised Voldemort, though he did not let it show on his pale face. Instead, he waited in silence for the man to continue to speak.

“We want more.” The huge werewolf went on, gesturing to his companions. “We need more of our own numbers. To ensure that we won’t be wiped out by wizards.”

“Why not breed?” Voldemort responded, and, predictably, drew several gasps and growls.

“Breeding is not enough.” The werewolf snapped. “It is not fast enough. We must multiply by conversion.”

“And how do you intend to do that?” Voldemort asked casually. “By attacking fully grown witches and wizards? Most of them can fight you off. The weaker ones…” He spread his arm out to indicate to the pack of werewolves, who glared balefully at the wizard.

The werewolf smirked. “By going for the children, of course.”

Voldemort nodded, stroking his chin. “I see… You are cunning, Greyback.” He rolled the hard wand between his long fingers. “You could have all the children you want if you join me. You can even have your revenge on these people for doing what they have done to you. Take their children. Convert them. Create more of your kind.”

Greyback’s mouth pulled back in an ugly smile to reveal his repulsive teeth, more beastlike than human. “Dark Lord,” he said in a rasping, wolfish tone, “You have a deal.”


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