Albus Potter and the Dark Future

Absorption

Albus's eyes snapped open. He knew it was time. The sound of the revving engines filling the air was proof of that.

Leaning over, he shook Kramer awake. “Wha...” Kramer looked around wildly, then grew alert and serious. “I'm ready, Albus,” he said. “And I'm with you to the end.”

The end. What would the end be? Albus knew he had to stop thinking this way. He would never succeed with such gloomy thoughts burdening him.

Nabus's voice boomed across the valley. “It is time for the saucers to depart. Cast the Disillusionment Charms now!”

With booming roars, the colossal flying saucers rose into the air, and seemed to melt before everyone's eyes. Soon, they were completely invisible.

Suddenly, the unseen engines of the saucers let out earsplitting shrieks. There was a boom, and then echoing silence. The ships had warped to Sirius. Their initial objective was to hide from Victoria Perfectus, and launch the probes.

Nabus spoke again. “Now, the battlecraft. Assemble and advance!”

The larger ships scattered around the valley lifted into the air and entered into formation. Turning in midair, they zoomed into the air as white streaks, then vanished.

“Lastly, the Axes. Proceed!”

Albus and Kramer switched places, Kramer sitting in the pilot's seat. Over the course of their journey to Nereid, Kramer had proved to be the better pilot. Albus, meanwhile, would be casting magic, both to defend the Axis and to attack enemy ships.

Kramer seized both joysticks, and the Axis rose off the ground, grouping with the rest of them. Albus looked out the window and saw his friends doing the same in their own Axes.

“Okay, Albus, you know the drill,” said Kramer. “I'll engage the warp drive, and you'll channel your magic into the engines.”

One by one, the Axes around them were vanishing in jets of light.

“Now!”

Kramer threw a switch and pushed the joystick forward with all his might. Albus began to focus his mind, thinking elaborate incantations that seemed to come from nowhere. At once, the outside view twisted. Strange shapes and colors flashed past as they approached their destination. Then, with a screech from the engine, the sensation ended, and they were in space again. But now, there was a brilliant, white star in their field of vision.

Obscuro Illuminatus!” cried Albus hastily. The blinding glare vanished.

His heart was pounding. Now that the battle was about to start, his mind turned to his siblings and cousins. What was going to happen to them? He could never forgive himself if they died in their attempt to help him. He would not let it happen. He would end this battle the moment he got the chance.

All at once, several shapes became visible through the brightness, approaching fast from Sirius. “They know we're here,” said Albus quietly.

The great warship that had destroyed the headquarters of the Feather of Fawkes was surrounded by thousands and thousands of the same type of spiky ship that had pursued Albus, Kramer, and Rob as they had fled to Nereid. What was more, several streaks of red light were zooming this way and that between the ships. The Stingers.

At once, many of the Axes and battlecraft vanished. The wizard pilots were casting more Disillusionment Charms. The Muggles, on the other hand, were unable to obscure themselves.

Jets of light rained down on the ships around Albus and Kramer. Some of them exploded. The Stingers had drawn the first blood.

Immediately, Albus turned his head to face the approaching enemy spacecraft. To his surprise, a wave of red energy shot from his head and out of the Axis, flying at a group of four ships. Two were destroyed, and a third was knocked off course.

“Wow!” said Kramer, his eyes widening, looking as astonished as Albus felt.

The next moment, everyone was surging forward, flying in the direction of Sirius, plowing through the opposing forces. Spiky ships were being blasted aside everywhere they looked. Albus and Kramer were flying with a small cluster of Axes, and when Albus looked out the window, he saw James, Rose, and Rob in the ship beside them. James turned to him and mouthed “Good luck, Al” through the window. Albus waved back, and directed his attention ahead once more.

And then, the tide of the battle began to turn. The Circle was fighting back.

The fleet of spiky ships had regrouped above the Axes and battlecraft, and were circling back in for a fresh attack. Meanwhile, the vast warship was firing the same missiles that had destroyed the Feather of Fawkes headquarters at the swarm of approaching ships. Huge explosions tore through the fleet.

Then, a massive beam of energy came out of nowhere and hit the warship. The invisible saucers were joining the battle.

“Push on!” Nabus's voice boomed out. “We must reach Victoria Perfectus!”

The warship was badly damaged. Flames were pouring out of the spot that had been hit. But the Stingers were converging on the spot, using their powers to repair the gaping wound in the side of the vessel.

“Get me close to the Stingers,” said Albus. “I'll take them out.”

Kramer changed course and headed for the warship. Albus channeled his power into the Axis's energy cannon, launching spells at the Stingers. They turned around and streaked towards the ship, deflecting everything and firing curses of their own.

Protego!” Albus bellowed.

A protective bubble encased the Axis. Many of the spells glanced off of it, but the stronger curses managed to penetrate the Shield Charm. Three jets of green light collided with the Axis. The Killing Curses did not have as powerful an effect on the vehicle as they would have had on a person, but they still caused the Axis to jerk around and fly backwards.

At that moment, another huge beam from one of the saucers blasted the warship. The force of the blast buffeted the Axis and forced the Stingers to scatter.

“Never mind!” yelled Albus over the magical flashes and blasts around them. “Let's just get to the fortress!”

As they zoomed away to join the other Axes ahead of them, Albus heard the largest blast yet behind them. The third hit to the warship blew it apart. Massive chunks of the formidable ship flew in every direction. Some of them tore into the battling vessels, knocking ships from both sides into oblivion.

“Yeeeeaaah!” yelled Kramer, punching the air. Victoria Perfectus suddenly became visible, a black shadow against the blazing white background of Sirius. They were almost there!

But the Circle wasn't done.

The Stingers regrouped some distance ahead of the advancing fleet, and all of a sudden, a crackling, translucent wall of magic had spread out before the ships. This enormous, growing sheet of energy was blocking the fleet from advancing, preventing them from reaching Victoria Perfectus.

“What do we do now?” said Kramer nervously.

Albus focused every particle of his being upon forcing a hole through that wall. Suddenly, he fell back into his seat. Everything had gone black and silent. He was in unbearable pain. It was as though every nerve in his body was burning. He no longer knew where he was. Everything was darkness and unbearable agony.

“Albus!” he heard a voice yell. The pain lifted slightly, and he saw Kramer shaking him. Mustering up his energy, he concentrated on driving the curse out of his body. The torment continued for several more seconds, and then the spell broke, and Albus was lying limp in his seat, gasping.

“I guess we can't get past the wall that way.” he said unnecessarily.

Kramer fired a volley of blasts at the wall. Nothing happened.

And then, the wall began to move towards them. The Stingers were pushing it in the direction of the oncoming ships, attempting to force them back. All the while, the Circle's ships were zipping around like mosquitoes, tearing the battlecraft to pieces.

The wall caught up with some of the ships at the front, which disintegrated on contact. The invisible saucers were trying to shoot down the wall, but the tremendous blasts of magic had no effect. The saucers stopped the attack, and Albus knew that the sorcery tacticians in the lower levels were trying to bring back the probes from Victoria Perfectus, to analyze the wall instead. But nothing was happening.

More ships were vaporized by the expanding wall of energy. The fleet was beginning to turn around. Some panicked pilots attempted to warp away, but some invisible force seemed to be holding them back. Albus looked up at the Stingers, floating in front of the deadly barrier they had created. They were much too far away to see in detail, but they were now glowing a brilliant yellow. Albus realized that they were absorbing power from their enemies, strengthening themselves and weakening Nabus's fleet at the same time.

Albus couldn't take it. So much death and destruction, all for Albus's own sake. Was this the same kind of horror that had risen up in his father, on that night that so many of his friends had perished fighting Voldemort on his behalf?

There was only one thing to do.

“Get out of here.” Albus said to Kramer. “Fall back with the other Axes. I'm going after the Stingers.”

“You can't!” cried Kramer. “You'd be fighting all of Scorpius's most powerful henchmen at once! They'd overpower you.”

“Maybe...but I can't let anyone else die on my account.” I said. “It's the only way.”

And with that, Albus vanished. He reappeared outside the Axis, sailing through space towards the top of the wall. Nor was he the only one. As other wizards noticed what he was doing, many copied him. For a moment, he didn't understand this. How could they be tapping into this power as well? But then, he realized that it was their proximity to Sirius. Everyone's magical power had been amplified by the brilliant star. Unfortunately, the Stingers too enjoyed these increased abilities.

Albus was now flying unsupported, straight for the wall, dozens and dozens of others alongside him. Albus saw faces he recognized: Nabus, Rasputin, Dolbri. And there were also many others who Albus knew only by sight, such as the Hogwarts teachers and a few former members of the Feather of Fawkes. All of them were streaking towards the group of Dark wizards hovering in front of the magical barrier.

Then, the Stingers attacked.

Rays of green light rained down upon Albus and the others. None of them found their mark. A rain of red beams flew right back at the Stingers, who deflected them effortlessly. The Stingers rose into the air, purple robes billowing around them, arms raised, shimmering with that strange yellow glow.

And then, abruptly, the groups split up, and everyone was dueling viciously. Nabus was battling Chardmus and Whelmuran, easily dodging their curses but failing to land any spells of his own. Streaks of light and explosions surrounded Rasputin and Vega. Albus found himself locked in furious combat with the broad-shouldered Stinger he had seen at the UN Tower. Just as when he had been transferring his energy into the Axis, Albus did not give the magic any conscious thought...the incantations powering the counter-curses he was hurling at the Stinger were simply materializing within the depths of his mind. He knew that the power of Sirius had transformed him somehow. But he couldn't pause to dwell on this, because any one of the curses he was dodging and parrying and blocking was capable of destroying him instantly.

One moment, he had the upper hand, the next, he was being pushed back towards the wall. But slowly, the Stinger was dominating him. He had to do something quickly, or he would end up being incinerated in the barrier behind him.

Suddenly, Dolbri came flying out of nowhere. The Secretary-General made a slashing movement, and a wave of brilliant white light descended on the Stinger. He bellowed in pain. Before he could recover, Albus knocked him back with two spells. He spun wildly, flying back through space. Albus suddenly felt a release of pressure, as though something that had been restraining him had just given way. The Stinger had been draining his essence in order to overpower him.

In that instant, Albus knew what he had to do to win the battle.

Floating towards the dazed Stinger, Albus concentrated upon wielding his power...about taking it away from him. A shining warmth coursed through his body, and he began to glow. He knew it had worked. His power had grown.

He turned to face Dolbri, whose face registered nothing but shock. “Oh...how selfish of me.” said Albus. He channeled some of his power into the Secretary-General, who started to glow himself.

“We need all the help we can get to win this one.” Albus told him. “I think our best bet is to beat them at their own game.”

Others had noticed what Albus had done, and began to fight harder than ever, determined to absorb magic from the Stingers themselves. Nabus and Rasputin were now glowing brilliantly. Half of the Stingers were now floating limply, sapped of their strength.

Suddenly, Whelmuran slammed into Albus's side. Albus spun wildly away, and Whelmuran advanced on him, snarling. She thrust her fists forward, and Albus was forced to twist his body to avoid two jets of green light.

“Imbecile!” bellowed Vega, who was fighting back-to-back with Chardmus within coiling twists of flame, and was glaring at Whelmuran. “Our orders are to deliver him to Victoria Perfectus, weakened, incapacitated, but not dead!”

“To hell with orders!” she shrieked back. “He is mine!”

Albus seized the opportunity to throw a curse of his own at her. She spun around just in time to block it and retaliated with another volley of spells. He merely swatted them away. Whelmuran was powerful, but he was energized with more magic than he had ever felt.

Albus heard a cry of pain. Rasputin was blasted aside as Vega charged towards him. It was now two on one.

Vega raised his palm, but Albus was too quick for him. He blocked Vega's and shot it at Whelmuran instead. She merely dodged it and sent another Killing Curse at Albus.

“Get away from him!” roared Vega. “He must be brought in alive!” He then directed a curse at Whelmuran, who had not expected it and screamed in pain, her limbs contorting. Seizing her by the neck, he hissed, “Your disgusting arrogance has blinded you to our mission. You will not live to see the glory bestowed upon me.” He then threw her into the wall of energy. She vanished the moment she made contact.

Vega then turned to Albus. “My triumph will ensure me a seat right next to Malfoy as he establishes the new order.”

The next thing Albus knew, he was avoiding curse after curse, dodging them by inches, blocking some, countering. Albus could tell that Vega was indeed aiming to capture, but it didn't matter. If Vega overpowered him, he would be too weakened to resist Malfoy when he was delivered to Victoria Perfectus.

Albus looked around, still blocking curses, sensing Vega's attacks as he directed his attention to the other fighters. Chardmus was floating unconscious, having succumbed to one of Nabus's spells. Vega was the only Stinger left fighting, but he was singlehandedly winning.

Nabus and Rasputin flew forwards to help Albus, but were knocked back by a ring of blue light Vega had cast over his shoulder. Nobody was able to penetrate this mysterious shield; it was just Vega and Albus in the center, fighting.

And then, Albus felt the warm glow of magic entering his body. That didn't make sense. How was he absorbing magic? Then, he realized that the wizards and witches surrounding the circle of blue light were directing their own power into Albus, giving him their abilities. Emboldened, Albus blocked three curses at once and swiped at Vega, hitting him with a streak of yellow light. Vega yelled, and the circle of light vanished. At once, every one of the wizards surrounding them sent a different spell flying at Vega. They collided with him with a blinding flash, and the Stinger was flung backward, into the wall. Like Whelmuran, Vega disappeared instantly...and the moment he was gone, the giant wall of energy disappeared, too.

“Now's our chance!” bellowed Nabus. “We've got to break the enchantments on Victoria Perfectus before Malfoy takes control of Sirius! Time is short; we must make haste!”

As one, the wizards around Albus flew back towards the fleet of ships, now surging ahead towards Victoria Perfectus. Albus followed Rasputin.

“Is that it?” he yelled. “Did defeating the Stingers break Malfoy's defenses?”

“No.” said Rasputin grimly. “The Stingers and the warship and the attack ships were only the first line of defense. Now we're going to be facing the magic guarding the fortress.”

Albus felt a stab of worry. If they had only just broken through the first line, what would be waiting for them up ahead?

The answer came quickly. A huge solar storm erupted from Sirius, fiery and ominous. It engulfed Victoria Perfectus, and then surged towards the oncoming fleet of ships like some sort of stellar tsunami.

And it didn't stop there. Pieces of the fiery wave split off and began to twist and writhe.

Rasputin gasped. “Malfoy's using Sirius's power to create an army of beasts!”

Thousands upon thousands of brilliant white globules of magical power had assumed the shapes of hideous, oversized creatures. Dragons, Chimaeras, Manticores, Acromantula, Quintapeds, and other bloodthirsty monsters were roaring and screeching and howling. And behind this surging mass of deadly beasts was an army of Dementors, brilliant white instead of black, sucking on their surroundings despite the total lack of air.

The monsters attacked, grabbing Axes and battlecraft and devouring them on the spot. The retaliatory spells fired at them merely glanced off their glowing hides. The fleet was being destroyed before Albus's eyes.

He flew toward Nabus, who was surveying the carnage from above. “Sir, you've got to get these people out of here. There's no way they can defeat this army.”

“It will all have been for nothing if we turn back now.” said Nabus gravely.

“I didn't say anything about turning back.” said Albus. “Just get them out of here. I'll break through the rest of the enchantments myself.”

Nabus turned to face him. “You cannot get through all of that alone, Albus. That's why we brought a fleet of ships to aid you.”

“They've done their job.” I said. “We've taken out the Stingers. We're already partway in. These enchantments are powerful, but they were all cast by one person. They aren't more powerful than Malfoy himself. They will have weak points. I can get past them.”

Nabus looked uncertain.

Albus said, “If I can't get through the rest of these defenses on my own, how can you expect me to defeat Malfoy when I finally come face to face with him?”

“That is a fair point.” said Nabus. “You have convinced me, Albus. I will call off the attack. But we'll stand by. Say the word, and we'll advance again. And the saucers will continue their attempt to dismantle the defenses. We can't destroy them outright, but we can make it easier for you to get through.”

“All right.” said Albus confidently. He knew he had the power to end this. To end the senseless violence, and the slaughter of these brave people who had rushed to his aid.

It all depended on how he used it.

Albus shot off towards the section of Sirius that Victoria Perfectus had sunk into...towards the charging monsters.

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