Shadows of Blue Light
Mister Grayson sat alone in his conference room working on a number of scrolls. A large group of Ministry visitors had just left the estate, and the bitter smell of Floo powder was still pungent in the air around him. He leaned back and smiled.
“Finally… finished at last.”
He had just completed the last of his Ministry meetings, and Greechins was laboring back and forth from the adjoining office to collect the remaining signatures necessary for his boss’s absence over the next week.
“These are the last two that require your review, sir,” said the goblin. A double roll of parchment was saddled over his head as he reached the desk. His boss didn’t move.
“Think of it, Greechins,” said Mister Grayson, staring across the room in a wistful daze. “By this time next week the children will be home from school, and I’ll have them all to myself for two whole months.” He leaned back and sighed. “It’s going to be glorious.”
“Uhh… yes, sir. If you say so, sir,” growled the goblin, as he heaved the heavy scrolls onto the desk. Mister Grayson looked at the creature and grinned.
“You don’t like it when the children are here, do you?” Greechins looked up at him in surprise. “Do… you?” repeated Mister Grayson, cutting off any attempt at a well-mannered protest.
The goblin looked down shaking his head. He then jerked up, surprised by his moment of lapsed honesty and thinking to explain himself. “It’s just that… ahhh…” the creature stammered, “well… having the children in the house… while being extremely well mannered, and understanding of the important nature of your duties at the Ministry… they do have a tendency to take you away from your work, sir.”
Mister Grayson gave an exaggerated frown. “But there are some things more important than work, Greechins. Wouldn’t you agree?” The goblin looked taken aback, and then seemed to catch himself from saying what he was thinking. He lifted the final scroll onto the desk.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t know, sir,” he replied blandly, and Mister Grayson laughed.
“That’s why you’re so invaluable to me, Greechins. You’re a brilliant and talented — workaholic.”
The goblin smiled wide. “Thank you, sir. Thank you very much for the compliment, very gracious indeed!”
“You may leave early today, Greechins. We’ve settled our Ministry business for the week, and I’ll be traveling to Castlewood in the morning. Have you seen to my calendar for the week following my return?”
“Yes, sir; and Mrs. McConnell has completed your travel arrangements. They’re on your nightstand upstairs… as you requested.”
“Very good. Did Meredith leave anything else for me?”
“No, sir. Only a scribble on the envelope saying she’ll be taking a later ship. She will meet you in Castlewood for Master Eric’s graduation ceremony on Friday.
Mister Grayson grinned. “Ahh, yes. A Castlewood graduation… there’s nothing in the Wizarding world quite like it, absolutely marvelous.”
“I’m sure that’s true, sir. Are we still expecting Master Eric to gather top academic honors?”
“I’m not as sure now as I was at the beginning of the year. All of the time Eric’s had to devote to the new Guardian Union has taken him away from his studies. Pry as I may, Chancellor Thordarson’s choice for Valedictorian remains a closely guarded secret.”
“I am very certain the young master will prevail, sir.”
“From your mouth to the Chancellor’s ear then, Greechins.” There was a pause while the goblin collected the signed scrolls back from his boss.
“Are you sure there is nothing more I can do for you, Director.”
“I wish there were. It might make the time between now and when I leave for Castlewood tomorrow go a little faster,” Mister Grayson heaved. “You should go home to your family now, Greechins. I’ll see you when I get back. You can take the elevator back to the bank if you like.”
“Very good, sir.” The goblin stuffed the scrolls under his arm, and then paddled his very large feet across the conference room where he entered the brass elevator and turned to push the button on the panel. “Gringotts Bank!” commanded the little creature, “Los Angeles branch.” The goblin looked up. “Have a safe trip, sir,” and door rolled shut with a thump. There was a cavernous whooshing sound, and Mister Grayson was at last alone. He reached back in his chair to stretch, rubbed his eyes, and then pushed his fingers through his thick wavy hair with a sigh.
“Finally!” he said, relieved.
Through the rhythmic ticking of the clock behind him, there came a whisper in the background of his mind that suddenly jerked his body straight in reply. He looked cautiously around the empty room and down the long black table in front of him, listening hard. Although nothing seemed out of place, he knew instantly that something was wrong. Living in the Grayson estate his entire life had honed the man’s ability to discern the failings within his home with uncanny skill. He slowly stood, knowing full well one truth that alarmed him. He wasn’t alone.
Having been attacked by an intruder just a few months earlier, Boris Grayson had been unconsciously wary in his own house as never before. For some strange reason, the home he relied on for his personal rescue in times of difficultly or overwork was no longer the shelter from stress on which he had come to depend. Although he had told his rescuers from the Ministry that night he was unharmed by the ghostly assault, the personal nature of the attack without proper explanation reminded him of the days when such things were a common occurrence; when he and those in the Ministry were constantly on guard for their very lives. Those were the days of Voldemort.
There was another breezy whisper in the air surrounding him, and he found his hand reaching instinctively into his robes; with a sharp snap he pulled out his wand. He heard the gentle whisper again, but this time he could hear the draft forming words.
Mister Grayson slowly raised his wand. He was angry. This was his house; the home of his children, and another invader had somehow crossed the barriers meant to protect it. But this intruder was about to learn there was one more defense for sanctuary’s protection, one last barrier to keep interlopers away. The master of this estate was a formidable and very powerful wizard; but sorcery aside, this trespasser would fall to something far more powerful than all the magic and spells protecting it combined. A father standing guard over the entrance to his children’s lair was indeed something for the sane of mind to avoid. Nothing was more dangerous to an invader than this, except of course, perhaps, the ferocity of a mother.
Mister Grayson swiftly rounded the side of the table, finding a more defensible position in which to hold his ground. He looked around the room again, forcing his mind to study everything as if for the first time.
Suddenly, an unexpected jet of flame shot from one of the stone basins sitting at the table. The blue fire rose eight feet toward the ceiling, lighting the entire room with a brilliant flash. Each of the other bowls around the table began to light in turn, blasting high like the first and temporarily blinding the wizard.
Mister Grayson covered his eyes from the sharp pain hitting him in the face, stabbing his brain like daggers through to the back of his skull. He suddenly knew he was vulnerable; if the intruder struck now he would be helpless. Immediately, a fearful thought rushed forward as he waited for something unknown to leap from out of the fire, and he realized this was probably the worst kind of enemy to face. Intruders that slink and hide are eventually found and easily expelled, but those that purposely make their presence known are the most dangerous of all. He raised his wand.
“Nox!” he barked. “Lunmenose Terminus!” The blue flames were snuffed black in an instant. He tried to focus what was left of his vision, shielding his eyes from the residual blaze of blue light still blinding him. The spell to extinguish the light had worked effectively, but not in a manner adequate to protect him from attack. He stood motionless, poised for battle. The room was dark except for the soft glow of golden light from under the adjoining office door, an inviting offer of sanctuary. Still half-blinded, he headed toward it.
Reaching the latch, he noticed the amber glow lighting the tops of his shoes from beneath the door was now fading to black. He took hold of the handle and raised his wand. As quietly as he could, he pushed the handle down and the door opened. The office was completely dark except for the blue light above Victoria’s painting; it was enough to see the room was empty. He entered, and quietly closed the door behind him, scanning the space for anything unusual.
“Lights!” he barked again, and the golden globes surrounding him immediately began to brighten.
“Noooo…” said a soft voice from across the room, and the globes dimmed again to black.
Mister Grayson was startled. He jerked his wand up at the back of his office chair. “Who is it?” he snapped at the chair facing away from him.
“Liar…” hissed a whispering voice in reply.
“Turn around so I can see you!”
“You lied to me…” said the voice with deadly coldness.
“I said, turn around!”
The chair began to creak as it slowly turned to face him. The person sitting in the chair was buried in the shadows, created by the portrait’s blue light. From the distance several feet away, Mister Grayson could see the top of the intruder’s head and for a moment he thought he recognized the color of the hair. His eyes rose to look at the portrait above and then back down to the person sitting in the chair.
“How could you do that to me…?” breathed the voice malevolently.
Mister Grayson shuddered, a feeling of deepest fear knifing its way into his heart.
“Why would you do that… to me?”
“No!” hollered the voice in response. Mister Grayson’s wand flashed once but was extinguished again immediately. In the fraction of time it took the light to reach out, he saw what was sitting in the chair.
“Victoria? How did you…? How did you escape from…?”
“Drogo?” answered the voice from out of the darkness again. “How could you do it? In that place… IN THAT PLACE!” the voice screamed at him. Mister Grayson lowered his wand.
“I had no choice,” he said, resignedly. “You know that I had no choice.”
“You had a choice… and you lied to me… YOU LIED!”
“Victoria… my dear… sweet Victoria,” he moaned.
“Don’t call me that!”
“I loved you so much… so very much. I was lost without you…”
“Liar! You couldn’t have loved anyone you would put in that place… in that pit set for demons!”
“I had no choice. You were out of your mind with rage. You wanted to go back to him. You wanted to return to Voldemort. I couldn’t let you do that. You were my wife… and I was responsible for what happened to you. It was my fault… all my fault.” The man covered his face, trying desperately to hold in his pain.
“I’m truly sorry, my love. They told me it was the only safe place for both you and those who cared about you… where you would receive the attention you needed. I obtained the best healers, the best of everything, and I finally put you in the charge of someone whom I personally trusted. Somebody I believed could help you. He said he would try.” The man bowed his head.
“But… as the years passed… it became obvious you would never be released from Voldemort’s curse, and the people I trusted with your care would never release you to me. The damage Voldemort did was…” he stopped, not wanting to finish what he was about to say. Looking up, he tried to recover his hope for the woman he once loved. “But I haven’t given up, my darling. You… you should stay here. You can come back to your family, to the people who care about you. You won’t have to go back to Drogo. Please… stay with us. Stay… with me. I… I still… love you.”
Suddenly he could hear the sound of something strange coming from the chair across the room. Like an unexpected moan on a freezing night, it echoed out of the corner toward him. It was weeping. Mister Grayson approached the desk looking to offer comfort to his wife.
“Stop!” said the figure huddled in the chair. Even from the deep shadows engulfing her form, he could see his wife cringe at his approach. “Stay away from me!”
“Victoria… please, can’t you see…? I still care. I still have hope.”
“Liar! Stay away…”
Ignoring her warnings, he came around the desk looking to see her face properly. But as he reached out to her, she pushed the chair back and disappeared into the shadows once more.
“How could you? How could you tell me… she was dead?” sobbed the voice from the chair. The words hit the man like a bolt of lightning to his body.
“What… did you say?” Cautiously, he raised his wand, pointing it at the ceiling. “Lumos!” The bright light cut the mud of darkness in the room around them, and he saw the figure in the chair cringe and turn away.
“GET AWAY FROM ME!” she screamed, as the chair spooled around. The person sitting there suddenly bolted across the room and behind the side of one of the cabinets against the wall. Mister Grayson couldn’t believe his eyes; he followed after the figure around the desk moving to hide itself. He stood before the huddled form in the corner and stooped low to reach out.
“Anna?” he said, suspiciously, not trusting his eyes. The face looked up at him and he fell back in shock. “Anna!” He could now see his daughter covered in blood from her chin down her chest. “Oh my God… Anna!” He grabbed her arm and pulled her close to him, bringing his wand around to look for the source of her injuries. He could see the wounds in the side of her neck.
“Get off!” Anna shouted, shoving her father backward to the floor. She rose out of the corner to stand over him.
“How could you? Why did you lie to me? You told me she was dead!”
Mister Grayson was staring unbelievingly up at his daughter, the shock of his mistake still working its way into his brain. “Anna! What’s happened to you? You’re bleeding… let me help you.” He scrambled back to his feet and reached out to her again.
“You stay away from me,” she screamed. “Why did you tell me my mother was dead?”
Mister Grayson’s mind was caught in a whirlwind, trying to understand how his daughter had been injured, how she had come to be at the house, and what she was asking him. “Anna… I don’t understand… how…? What’s happened to you?”
“Why did you lie to me? You said she was dead!” Her father straightened, recovering what was left of his senses.
“She is dead,” he said, sorrowfully.
“You’re lying! I saw her… I know she’s alive.” Mister Grayson gaped at her, his eyes moving to her neck again, and Anna could see her father’s analytical mind putting the pieces together.
“What do you mean… you saw her? How did you see her?”
“I was there… at Drogo.” Anna stepped forward and screamed at him, “I saw her in that place… that horrible place you locked her in! How could you do that?”
“How? How… could you have seen her? How do you know about Drogo? How would you possibly enter there?”
“It doesn’t matter. She was there. I saw her, I spoke to her.”
“Did she do that to your neck? Did she attack you? Is that what happened to you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Anna yelled back angrily, waving his concern away.
“But it does matter, Anna. It does. What you say you saw was not your mother — not anymore.” She glared back at him, but her father was quick to continue. “Would a mother do that to her own daughter? She’s gone, Anna. What you saw was only the shell of the woman I once knew. Voldemort destroyed her mind to get to me, and then she was killed while in Albania looking to return to him.”
“She wasn’t killed. She was attacked. It was a vampire!” Anna screamed.
Mister Grayson was desperate. “How did you get inside Drogo? How did you get out? How did you come here?”
“I had help,” she seethed.
“What do you mean?”
“The magic that made me what I am helped me to get to her. And when she escaped, it gave me the knowledge I needed to come here.”
“Escape?” He looked at his daughter in horror. “Anna, what have you done?”
“I had to see her,” she said, meeting what she saw was anger growing in his eyes. She was getting weak. The events of the night, together with her loss of blood, were excising her ability to remain focused. She stumbled slightly and suddenly found her father holding her upright. She hadn’t even seen him move across the room. He was yelling at her.
“Anna! What did you do? What do you mean, she escaped?” Anna’s anger quickly matched his own. She wrenched away from him.
“Don’t touch me. My mother shouldn’t have been put in that place.”
“Anna, you don’t understand. You don’t realize how dangerous she can be.” He stepped toward her again, but she fell back.
“I don’t believe you. I’ll never believe you — ever again!”
Anna found her back against the wall and her father bearing down upon her. “Get me out of here,” she said, listening for the magic within the walls behind her. She concentrated on their whispered reply, and then repeated the words necessary to make her escape. There was a flash of light, and the immediate sound of a loud CRACK.
Her father reached out, “Anna, no!” But it was too late; to Mister Grayson’s astonishment, Anna had Disapparated.
Eric, Gwen, and Sarah were pushing their way through the crowd of people leaving Vollucross stadium.
“You should have told me, Gwen. I don’t understand what you were thinking?” Gwen had never seen Eric so furious.
“I thought Sarah and I had talked her out of it, Eric. Honestly… I was convinced we had changed her mind.”
Following the Triwizard Tournament, it quickly became obvious to both Gwen and Sarah that Anna was in trouble. After Professor Bots had made several requests over the stadium crowd for Anna to report to the starting line for the final Vollucross race, they immediately became fearful that their friend might have done something unthinkable. Arriving too late to stop Eric from flying off without her, they checked the stables and found Swooper missing, and a note from Anna confirming their worst suspicions.
Dear Gwen and Sarah,
I’m sorry I had to mislead you, but I have to know the truth. Pray for me.
After Eric landed at the end of the race, Gwen and Sarah took him aside and told him everything. It was a lot for him to absorb: Drogo prison residing on the north side of the mountains, Anna’s belief that her mother was still alive and being held a prisoner there, Anna riding off to search for her. His first instinct was to fly after her, but he immediately thought better of it; she had already been missing for several hours. He decided to immediately locate Chancellor Thordarson and enlist his help to find his sister.
“Why didn’t she tell me?” Eric fumed, as he pushed his way through the crowd with Gwen and Sarah holding on to his robes.
“She thought you already knew, Eric,” Sarah explained. “She thought you and your father had been keeping her mother’s situation a secret from her.”
Eric wheeled around to glare at them. “And did it ever occur to you that was impossible, that the kaleidoscope might have been leading her into danger?”
“Of course it did, Eric,” Gwen fired back. “But it doesn’t matter now; what matters is that Anna believed it. We have to stop her.” Eric grumbled something indistinguishable at the two of them before pressing on through the crowd.
When they reached the open plateau the three began to run. The gates to the city were nearly in sight when a flash of light caught their eye in the open field ahead of them, and a sharp crack like a gunshot filled the air. They could suddenly hear the sound of several people in the distance yelling and screaming, and Eric stopped to glace back at Gwen who was already certain they were thinking the same thing. The two of them immediately headed for the crowd of people gathering a hundred yards away. As they got closer, Eric could hear their voices hollering.
“Somebody get a doctor!”
“Please, give her some space, everybody move back!”
“My God… she’s bleeding. Call the guards… quick… call for help.”
“Out of the way!” Eric yelled, pushing himself through the thickening crowd.
“Eric! Is that you?” He could hear John Dell’s voice calling out to him.
“Yes, John. Who is it? What’s happened?”
“Let him through. You there… move aside. Let her brother through! Eric, it’s Anna. She’s been injured!”
Oh no… please, God, no. Eric rudely began shoving those in front of him aside. He finally broke through the crowd and entered an open ring of onlookers pressing in to see. There he saw Anna, lying on her back covered in blood, and John Dell kneeling by her side holding her hand.
Eric ran to his sister. Even in the shadow of the crowd pressing in, he could see how pale she looked. He fell to the ground next to her and lifted her head. “My God, what’s happened to her?”
“It looks like she’s been attacked by some kind of animal,” said John. “Look.” He lifted a bloodied handkerchief away from Anna’s neck and Eric could see the deep, obscene wound. It looked bloated and purple.
“Somebody call a healer, quick!” Eric demanded.
“Pearl’s coming, Eric. I can see her making her way over here,” said another voice in the crowd.
“How did this happen? Did anybody see what happened to her?”
“I saw her Apparate here and then fall immediately after she appeared,” said a fifth-year girl stepping forward.
“That’s impossible!” said somebody next to her. “Nobody can Apparate anywhere on this mountain, never mind onto the plateau.”
“I’m telling you I saw her do it. There was a flash and then a crack, and then she was here. It happened right in front of me!”
“That’s right,” said another boy, leaning in. “Just like she said; she Apparated right here.”
“Here comes Pearl, make way for the healer,” yelled another voice.
Eric looked down and found Anna looking up at him. “Anna! Don’t move. You’ve been hurt. You’re bleeding. You have to remain still.”
“Eric… she’s… alive. I saw her… she’s alive.” Eric looked up at Gwen and Sarah standing next to him. Sarah was crying, and Gwen was covering her mouth in shock. “She’s alive,” Anna repeated weakly.
“Move out of my way,” came the familiar roar of Doctor Pearl’s voice. “Stand aside, I say…”
The crowd finally parted and Pearl lumbered through. “Good heavens!” she bellowed at the sight before her. “The Saints have mercy, what’s happened?” She rushed in and began searching Anna’s body for the source of all the blood.
“Help her, Doctor, please,” Eric pleaded, showing her the wound in Anna’s neck.
“And here,” said John, showing the doctor Anna’s bloody and badly broken wrist.
“Dear Lord… conserve her strength,” Pearl prayed, opening her bag.
Anna could barely see the fading figures above her blurring in and out of focus, but she could still hear Eric’s voice calling to her.
“Anna… please… stay with us. You’ve got to hold on… Anna… you’ve got… on…”
Doctor Pearl’s hands were working feverishly. She removed a yellow vial from her bag and mixed a bit of powder in the fluid. She then tapped a tune upon the rim of the glass with her wand, and watched the yellow fluid change to silver as she moved in. “Drink this!” But Anna lay limp in her brother’s arms. “Lift her head!” Eric did as he was told, and Pearl pressed Anna’s jaw down and poured half the contents of the vial down her throat. Anna coughed up the crackling-smoking potion along with liberal amounts of blood. The crowd groaned.
“This isn’t working. We have to get her to the hospital floor immediately.” Pearl looked up. “You there!” The crowd looked up and saw two Crimson Guards hovering on doors above them. “I need you to help me get her to the hospital right away!”
The guards conjured a stretcher with an attached chair for the doctor. They placed Anna on the stretcher, and then soared off toward the castle with Pearl working furiously on Anna’s wounds.
“What in the world do you think could have happened to her, Eric?” asked John Dell, but when he looked around he found Eric was gone. He was already half way to the city gates in a dead run.