Anna Grayson and The Dragon's Lair

Van Doorn’s Curse

ONE

The dragon seemed content as it slept; satisfied the egg beneath her warm body would now have the best chance of survival. It startled Anna to think the mother might be thankful to her for saving her baby. Thankful, that is, in the most practical of ways that forestalled her from being devoured until after the egg was hatched. The Guardian clearly recognized that if she was still nearby when the momentous occasion finally took place, all bets were off. Yes, Anna understood the reality of her situation well enough to begin looking for a way to escape the cliffs as the enormous dragon quietly slumbered on.

But where would she go? In which direction might she start? She was unconscious when the dragon carried her away from Spellsburg and brought to these fabled nesting grounds. Anna looked to the forest again. Obviously, that was the only direction in which to begin her journey home. She shuttered as she reluctantly stepped between the trees; God only knew what would be waiting for her so deep in the Shadowed Forest.

“So you just strode off into the forest by yourself,” Tencha asked her.

The entire Grayson family sat in the Tower Room next to a warm fire. Gwen and Sarah Bell were there with the family as well, listening in astonishment to Anna’s story of rescue.

“Well… yeah. Better that than waiting for one of the mothers to change their minds about eating me.” Anna replied with a shrug. She looked into the flames of the fire again and continued her tale.

She moved through the forest carefully and as quietly as she could, keeping a watchful eye on the high canopy for any clues that might tell her in which direction to travel. She felt thankful it was still early in the day. Although she had no hope of getting back to Spellsburg before dark, at least she could get as far away from the dragon’s lair as possible before having to worry about surviving the night alone in the forest.

She remembered how she had Apparated from the dungeons of Drogo all the way home in California and wondered how in the world she had managed it. At the time, she was weak to the point of death and it was only with the help of all the magic surrounding her that she had escaped to journey home. Nobody can normally Apparate on or off the plateau, but she had done it. How she longed to know how it could be done again as she ducked under another hanging branch.

She walked for about an hour and until she felt far enough away to think about what she was doing. She had no idea how far she was from Castlewood, or in which direction she might travel to get back. She felt her stomach grumble angrily about her missed breakfast; food and water would soon become a problem as well.

Eventually, Anna came upon another high precipice, and it was there she realized she wasn’t necessarily in a place where her escape might be possible. She was standing among a series of peninsulas and cliffs, jetting out into another part of the lair from every direction.

As she stood there looking bewildered, another dragon flew in and landed on the ledge beside her. It was a smaller male and Anna tried to keep her fear in check; its horns were a little longer and his colors much more vibrant than the nesting mothers she had seen earlier. The great beast leaned down to scrutinize every inch of the Guardian, twisting his huge head sideways and then upside down as if to sniff the air around her. His inspection made, Anna smirked as he jerked back and shook his head rudely.

“Well… you don’t smell so good yourself,” she said in an annoyed tone.

The dragon barked and then rose up to open his wings and that’s when Anna saw the glitter of something marvelous embedded in his chest. The Guardian looked closer as the beast inflated to show off his collection of precious stones, silver and gold buried deep within his scales.

Anna recognized what must have been a king’s ransom in uncut diamonds, rubies, sapphires and even a gold pocket watch. Obviously, years of hunting and hoarding had led to stealing as well. Anna remembered Eric talking about Taurus, who had taken to stealing anything shiny in her brother’s apartment. Her father had explained this instinctive hoarding was something dragons did to protect their soft underbellies. Some of the oldest legends were obviously true.

Anna smiled cautiously. “You look very handsome,” she said, pointing at the dragon’s stomach. “And I’m sure… ah… that the lady dragons are very impressed.”

The dragon barked again before dropping to the ground once more. He shook his head again at the smell of her and then leapt off the rocky ledge and into the waiting thermals. Despite her rather perilous situation, Anna couldn’t stop herself from smiling. She thought about the scale encrusted jewelry on his stomach and that’s when the most wonderful thought suddenly came to her.

“The bracelet!”

Anna quickly rolled up her sleeve of her robe to find the jade bracelet John Dell had given to her.

“Can I bring John to me here?” Although she knew nobody could Apparate, it did work when they were in Eric’s flat. Anna frowned as she looked around again and quickly realized it might not be a good idea to bring a friend into the Dragon’s Lair. The Guardian remembered Captain Hayman’s warning, ‘You must never knowingly put yourself in any danger, Anna. For doing so would put more than just yourself at risk.’

“But if not now, when?” Anna said, quickly setting her fears aside. She was going to need all the help she could if she was going to make it home again.

The Guardian grabbed hold of the bracket and closed her eyes to concentrate. She could already hear the voices within the magical object singing to her.

You wait for the other, call to him.

Though all the world and distance created, call to him…

Anna didn’t wait for the rest of the song to pass. “John… please… come to me.”

She waited, listening to hear the expected crack and flash of light, but there was no reply. She tried to calm her mind.

“John Dell… come to me!”

Anna waited again, finally opening one eye to peek into the trees surrounding her. It wasn’t working. John wasn’t coming. That’s when Anna vaguely remembered the fight with the dragons in the city and a scene in her mind of John Dell being thrown through a heavy doorway.

“John?” Anna shuddered, tears beginning to fill her eyes. “He must have been injured in the fight with the dragons. My God… I hope he’s alright.” She thought he must be gravely injured if he was unable to come to her rescue. Anna heaved a sigh of despair; she was on her own.

Suddenly, and with no warning, Anna was snatched off her feet and into a dizzying smear of color all around her. The trees and shrubs were flying by so quickly, the Guardian couldn't focus on what was happening to her. The experience immediately took her mind back to her father’s elevator port key, but wasn’t long before Anna realized that something very large had grabbed her and was now carrying her off at a speed so great she could barely breathe. Panicking, Anna tried to break free of the thing, seemingly traveling miles in seconds, instantly knowing three things about the creature’s nature: it was enormous, it was fast, and it was highly magical. And then, just as suddenly as it had started, the thing holding Anna stopped and the Guardian tumbled to the ground and rolled over and over before coming to a stop in a pile of leaves under a cluster of young saplings.

Anna groaned as she rolled onto her back and then tried to focus her vision on the canopy above her. She finally sat upright and looked around at what had just happened before trying to stand. She found her head woozy from the trip and wondered if this was how Dowla and Tencha felt when they were seasick on the BB5. She unconsciously searched through her robes, remembering again that her want was already lost. There was a deep grunt from something behind her and Anna quickly turned and looked up. Standing there was an enormous and very angry looking ogre.

“Oh my God,” she whimpered.

The creature was much bigger than Trog and much more fearsome to look at. At least fifteen feet tall, it had horns six feet across the top of its bearded head and teeth the size of bricks with two enormous tusks that protruded outward to the sides. The thing snorted again, looking very angry as it spoke.

“Thief, you are!” the creature snarled in a very deep and intimidating voice.

Anna stared at the thing in disbelief. She didn’t know how to respond.

“Human swine!” The giant suddenly turned to smash one of its horns into the side of an old oak, sending it crashing to the ground with an earthshaking thud.

“Raise your wand, wizard! We shall battle now to the death, we will!”

Anna rose up and then stepped back, frightened beyond her ability to speak.

“YOUR WAND, WIZARD!”

“I… I don’t have my wand…” Anna whispered, meekly.

The creature threw its horns about again, downing another tree on the other side. “Then you die where you stand, thief!” and the beast raised its enormous head and bellowed like a bull into the open sky. It yanked its beard hard and gouged huge furrows in the ground as it prepared to charge.

“But… I’m not a thief… really!”

“You lie, you do! Wizards come to the Dragon’s Lair only to steal the young, they do.” The ogre lowered its head. “I have seen you do it and I have killed many wizards bigger than you, I have. Breathe your last, thief,” the thing bellowed.

“But I didn’t come here… I was brought here. Please… you must listen to me!” But Anna’s words were lost within the thunder of an approaching stampede. She screamed and ducked down as the beast lowered its horns at her.

And then, from out of the forest, another streak of bowed color smashed into the side of the ogre, knocking it off course and sideways into the woods. There was a loud and pain-filled bellow as two enormous creatures fell into battle. They toppled trees and uprooted boulders as they fought and Anna looked up to see a second, much smaller ogre grappling with the first. The two bellowed and snarled as they slammed into each other, but it wasn’t long before the larger beast picked up the second and threw him over Anna’s head and twenty feet into the forest behind her. The larger ogre, sensing the defeat of the other, stood and pulled its beard hard and then howled into the open sky in furious rage.

“Glors! Stop it, you will!”

Anna looked around to find Trog stumbling out of the forest behind her, holding what looked like an injured arm. He was still wearing his tattered crimson robes from early that morning. He screamed at the other ogre again, “You will stop, you must!”

The ogre he called Glors looked at him and then frowned, as if suddenly recognizing him.

“Trog?”

“It is I, dear-one. It is Trog, it is.”

Anna came forward quickly and flew herself gratefully into her friend’s middle.

“Oh Trog! Oh God, I’m so glad to see you.” Her voice was muffled as she cried against him. The other ogre called Glors snarled at the affections given to Trog by the tiny egg thief.

“Why is this thing touching you, Trog? Stomp the thief, this killer of the young, you will!” Glors started furrowing the ground under its feet once again.

“This wizard is my friend, she is, and she is no thief.”

“I found her at the lair, I did,” the other bellowed back. “Only wizard-thieves dare, they do!”

Trog gently picked Anna up and set her out of harm’s way behind him. He then slowly came forward to face the much larger Glors. He reached up, took hold of the other ogre’s beard, and gently pulled its face down. He then lovingly stroked one of the horns on the massive head of the other and Glors' eyes immediately softened at his touch.

“Trog,” it mumbled. “Where have you been? The rut is already into its second moon, it is.” Glors picked Trog up off the ground and then hugged him tight. “I’ve missed you, husband.”

Anna’s jaw dropped. “Husband!”

TWO

An hour later, the two ogres returned to where they had left Anna alone in the forest. Glors was carrying Trog in her arms and cooing into his beard with the greatest affection. She finally set Trog on his feet again when they saw Anna coming toward them.

Looking somewhat embarrassed, Trog pointed to the other ogre. “First Guardian - Anna Grayson, this is Glors, it is. She… is my other.”

Still shaken at almost being trampled by an ogre half again as big as Trog, Anna gulped hard and tried to smile. “It’s ah… very good to meet you, Glors.”

Like Trog, Glors had some familiar features that defined her species. There were dark, pebble-like protrusions imbedded in her mud-colored face and a beard that looked like it was made of moss. But unlike Trog, the ogre wasn’t bald at all. Her hair looked more like the branches of a tree, complete with brown velvet and green fleshy leaves that draped randomly over the base of her horns. Her eyes, however, were very much like Trog’s, a beautiful emerald green.

At first, Glors didn’t acknowledge Anna at all, given all her loving attention was still focused upon Trog. When she finally did notice the Guardian, it of obvious the beast was still displeased with her. Anna wasn’t sure if it was because the ogre still believed she was an egg thief, or perhaps it was simply because a human had dared to enter the Shadowed Forest.

The huge ogre studied her for a moment and then asked her, “Why didn’t the dragons eat you? I do not understand, I don’t.” she said wonderingly.

Anna was taken aback. “I ahhhh… well… I guess I don’t really know why they let me go.”

Trog looked at Glors and frowned. “I already told you, I did. Anna Grayson is a Guardian, like in the days of old. The first Guardian since the time of legends, she is. She speaks to the dragon’s hearts,” he told her, careful not to flash the other ogre’s anger once again. “Surely, you must have felt it.”

Glors still looked unconvinced. She studied Anna closely and was clearly torn; the Guardian could tell she didn’t want believe Trog. Finally, the giant strode forward and squatted down before the young girl. She reached out with hands the size of saddles and set them upon Anna’s shoulders; then she closed her eyes. After a few seconds had passed, and Anna was fairly certain Glors wasn’t going to crush her head utterly, the Guardian closed her eyes as well and concentrated hard on the creature in front of her.

She could hear the ogre’s hearts thumping like a drum in her chest, each out of sync with the other but working with proper design to keep the beast upright. The creature seemed relaxed, content, at one with her own existence within the forest surrounding them. The ogre opened the same levels of awareness within Anna as it did with Trog a year earlier.

Glors was highly magical, probably more than Trog on so many levels, and Anna could feel the power within her like a separate thing in a place where all the magic was kept. The Guardian reached deeper toward the source, and a shining star began to grow more visible within her mind. At first, Anna might have described it as the creature’s soul… but it was not. She reached deeper into the glowing essence that Anna could now feel like the sun against her own face. Her probing was met with obstacles, wardens to what was present… but the power of the Sithmaith was strong and bent a new path toward the creature’s gleaming center. Her mind finally entered a place where the light was stored, a place peaceful and serene, but guarded well.

“It’s love,” Anna whispered softly, as a face came forth from out of the light, the keeper of the brilliance within Glors’ being was suddenly there and the Guardian smiled when she recognized the features shining forth. The ogre’s hearts were now synchronized as Anna reached out with her mind to stroked the face she saw there. She slowly opened her eyes and found the creature before her smiling back. There were tears flowing down her face and into the dried bones tied in her beard.

“I see Trog within you,” the Guardian whispered, so that only Glors could hear. “I can see you love him very much.”

The ogre opened her eyes and looked deep into the Guardian’s touched expression. She studied Anna closely again and then lifted her giant hands away.

“I will apologize, Guardian, I will,” she whispered back. “I see you now as you truly are.”

Anna nodded, and for the first time in her life she realized one startling truth. Love was connected to magic in one very powerful way: the more of one you have, the greater the other was meant to be.

“It will be dark soon. I must take Anna Grayson home, I will,” Trog said, looking up at the bruising sky.

Glors rose up, like a giant tree leaping unexpectedly from out of the ground. “She is very powerful, this one, she is,” the ogre replied. “She can stay the night in the Forest without fear.” She looked at Trog again and smiled. “And we can knot under the stars again, husband.”

Trog smiled back at her. “I cannot. Her family is worried for her; of that I am sure, I am. The Chancellor of Castlewood and the Guard are in the forest searching for her, they are. While the Guardian would be at home in these woods, the others are surely not, I know. It is unlikely all would survive the rising moon if forced to continue the search in the night.”

Glors sighed, looked at Anna again and then nodded. “Guardian… you would be welcome on my mountain again, you surely would.” She then reached over to hug Trog, lifting him off his feet with ease and Anna thought she heard the sound of clicking bones in her loving embrace.

“You will return to me before the next moon of the rut, husband,” she growled.

Minutes later, Anna was in Trog’s arms and the forest surrounding them was a blur of blazing color. Using his magical speed, he was crossing huge swaths of land as Anna closed her eyes tight to ward off the dizziness.

“Eventually, Trog found the search party looking for me and one of the Crimson Guards let me share his door to fly back home,” Anna said in conclusion, raising her hands to warm them by the fire in the Tower room.

Gwen shook her head. “I would never have thought anything could be bigger or more powerful than Trog.”

Eric nodded and then smiled. “That sounds like a good question for my Care of Magical Creatures class: ‘Which is bigger in Mountain Ogres – males or females?’”

Anna smiled as she looked back at her brother. “Females… most definitely!”

THREE

Anna heard the sound of taping in her lasting dream. She was being chased through the Shadowed Forest by a horned ogre riding atop an angry Vipertooth. Anna turned and pointed her purple heart and then hesitated as the ogre lowered its horns, which then transformed into a white luminescent bull.

TAP… TAP—TAP—TAP.

Anna sat up quickly and turned to the window to find Hobbs standing on the outside ledge. She smiled as she slid the window open.

“I was wondering when you’d show up again! I haven’t seen you since Christmas. You must have heard me talking about the dragons flying around the city when we were home.”

Hobbs looked over his shoulder warily and then screeched as he stepped up onto Anna’s arm; the Guardian winced as his claws pinched down. Anna took the scroll attached to his leg and watched in amusement as the bird hopped down into her blankets to preen himself. She unrolled the scroll and saw it was a letter from Mrs. Porchdow.

Dear Anna,

I pray this message finds you well and your spirits uplifted despite the ongoing and dreadful news coming out of Spellsburg. We were so happy to hear of your safe return and I pray your father is not overstating your good health.

I wanted to update you again about my search for our friend.

Anna’s heart leapt. “Leola!” She quickly read on.

Regrettably, I have not been successful in my efforts here on Grayson Hill. I continue to search the property and have used every excuse I can to enter the manor to look there as well. In addition, I have sought advice from our friends in the chapel, but have been unsuccessful in getting their attention.

I will continue my efforts, but I’m hoping you’ve gained some insight on where we might look next.

Your Dearest Friend, Edith

Anna lowered her head in despair. Her ally in magic was still a prisoner. Anna watched as the corners of the letter started to smoke and then catch fire. She slowly set the parchment out on the ledge of the window and watched as the incendiary charm placed upon it took hold. Hope was starting to fail her and suddenly Anna felt very exposed, weak and vulnerable to world around her once again.

FOUR

The cursed man peered out from his hiding place in an alley within the shadows of the Guardian Hall. He looked up to see a wanted poster of Reginald Carter pasted to the stone above him. He smiled at the image and then gave the portrait and loving tap on the forehead. He turned his attention to the window where he knew Anna Grayson slept and then frowned as a hand was seen dropping a piece of burning parchment over the ledge. He sneered and fell back as the ashes floated down into the streets below.

“What shall I do, old friend? What can be done to gather your attention more? I need to escape this retched plateau if I am to join you again in wanted anarchy and Muggle blood.”

The hooded form looked up at the Guardian Hall once more. “Why hasn’t your servant come to protect her daughter? Twice I have put murder at the girl’s feet and added wearing suspicions of thievery in the minds of the Crimson Guard.” He sneered again. “It was easy enough to put the egg thieves in her path yesterday, but the unexpected benefits given by the dragon carrying her off have not moved the mother to respond,” he growled. “I thought surely she would counter by now.”

The man looked up into the sky. “I must get your attention, Tom, but I don't know where your Death Eaters can be found. The man ducked away as a group of women passed by on the sidewalk. As the man melted into the darkness, he whispered, “Victoria Grayson remains my only link to you, old friend… and my best hope of rescue. Perhaps it is time to press the poachers harder.”

FIVE

“John? Can you hear me? John Dell…?”

Anna leaned back and sighed. Her friend was lying very still on a bed in the hospital floor. She looked down his bulky length and then to his feet protruding out of the blankets and upon a table below him. She looked up at Gwen and Sarah behind her and shook her head.

Sarah put her hand on her shoulder. “At… at least the he… he… healers said he should ma… make a full re… recov…recovery.” Her roommate still had a bad stammer whenever she spoke to Anna. The lingering effects of the Imperious curse were very strong. Anna heaved and nodded back thankfully.

“I wonder if he’s ticklish,” Gwen speculated, and Anna’s eyes widened in alarm as her friend pointed her wand at the man’s bare feet lying upon the table.

“Don’t you dare!” replied a thick voice.

Anna looked up at John in surprise when she saw him staring up at her.

“John! Oh you’re awake. How are you feeling?”

John Dell looked around the room and then down at Gwen at the foot of the bed still holding her wand to his feet.

“Vulnerable.”

Gwen smiled and then stowed her wand. “I knew that would get a rise out of him.”

“How did you know I would be ticklish?”

Gwen smirked as she looked down at his feet again. “With gunboats that big… they would have to be, right?”

“Are you in any pain?” Anna asked him.

John raised an enormous hand to his forehead to massage the skin below his scalp. “Just a very bad headache.”

Anna immediately stood. “We should find Doctor Pearl… she’ll know what to do,” she said, looking around frantically.

“I’m fine, Anna. I think being thrown into the side of a building might have a few lasting effects.”

Anna sat down again. “You were very brave coming to my rescue. You would have been killed if it wasn’t for you.”

John could see the tears welling in her eyes. “I think Trog took to worst of it. How is he?”

“He’s fine. He was the one who brought me back from the Dragon’s Lair.”

John Dell’s eyes widened again. “The what?”

Anna nodded. “It’s a long story…” and she was about to explain when they were interrupted.

“Anna?”

They all turned to find Gabriel looking at them. The Guardian Knight looked nervous.

“Professor Van Doorn wants to see you in her office.”

Anna frowned as Gwen and Sarah Bell looked at her.

“You mean right now? But it’s Saturday.”

“Right away… she found me at breakfast in the Rotunda and sent me to find you.”

Anna slowly got to her feet. “Did she say what she wanted?”

Gabriel shook her head. “No, she didn’t. I take it you have no idea what this is about either?”

Anna looked worried. She always found Professor Van Doorn to be a most intimidating figure in all her veils and shawls of black.

“You’d better be off then, but make sure you get back to me afterward if there’s any trouble, okay?” The Knight didn’t wait for a reply as she turned to look down.

“How are you, John?”

Anna left the hospital floor and headed for the North Tower, which was always a rather frightening place to be even when it was crowded with students. Now that the corridors were empty and dark, its cold passages seemed especially ominous. The only light to show the way came from the burning torches gripped by their brackets. Anna was suddenly startled when a pearl-white ghost, a man with a blackened gash across his throat, moaned loudly as he crossed her path and disappeared through the wall opposite. A singular scream somewhere in the upper tower was especially gruesome and always made Anna jump. As the Guardian moved deeper into the darkness, one of the torches left its bracket to follow her down the hallway. The bluish light was strangely familiar and reminded her of the glowing orbs within Drogo Castle.

Finally, the Guardian was standing at Professor Van Doorn’s office door. She straightened her robes and knocked, but heard nothing in reply. She opened the door and looked in.

“Professor?” Anna cleared her throat. “Ah… Professor Van Doorn?” There was no response, but the room had an inviting fire ablaze behind a wooden desk piled high with rolls and several old books.

“Hello?” Anna called.

She came around to stand at the fire and then turned to find an old copy of The Daily Prophet, the wizarding newspaper from Britain. Dated September 9th, there was a picture on the front page of a prudish looking woman with pursed lips. Anna thought the woman looked especially pleased with herself as she read the headline, ‘Delores Umbridge named Hogwarts High Inquisitor’.

The Ministry of Magic announced the passing of Educational Decree number twenty-three, which creates the post of Hogwarts High Inquisitor. The post will be filled by Dolores Jane Umbridge who was recently named the Hogwarts Dark Arts instructor at the beginning of the term.

The purpose of the High Inquisitor will be to improve the falling standards seen as of late at the prestigious wizarding school, led by its Headmaster Professor Albus Dumbledore. Madam Umbridge previously served as Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic.

Anna slid the paper aside and found a copy of a wizarding magazine called the Quibbler. There on the cover was a picture of a boy Anna immediately recognized. It was Harry Potter. The magazine was dated February 23rd and was entitled:

HARRY POTTER SPEAKS OUT AT LAST:
THE TRUTH ABOUT HE WHO MUST NOT BE NAMED AND THE NIGHT I SAW HIM RETURN
Written by Rita Skeeter

Anna’s eyes widened, but a strange bump drew her attention away from the desk and to a door on the other side of the room. Anna looked around and then moved cautiously to the door before peeking in.

Professor Van Doorn stood with her back turned and facing a mirror. The woman was unveiled as she stared at her own reflection looking back and Anna’s eyes widened in surprise. The woman’s face was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen in her life. Her hair was ebony black and her skin beautiful, as if completely untouched by age. Her eyes were dark and her lips full and pink. Her cheeks were high and framed the most perfect nose. Anna smiled and then knocked before thinking.

“Professor?”

She saw the woman’s eyes look at her from out of the mirror and she suddenly let out a loud shriek. Her wand came around quickly, but it was too late. Something from out of the mirror flew across the room like streak of bloody lightening and hit Anna full in the face. The Guardian screamed and flew backward as the door slammed in front of her. Anna covered her face as searing pain, a fist of living lava, grabbed ahold of her and tried to rip the skin away from her skull. She saw flashes of man’s face, his skin like graying death, and red coals for eyes sneering at her.

Suddenly, the door flew open again and through her pain Anna could see Professor Van Doorn floating quickly across the threshold into the room. The veil she wore covered her head again and her wand was pointed down at her.

“What do you mean by spying on me?” a torn voice screamed. The black dress she wore crawled across the floor like some misshapen spider carrying the woman on its back while the rest of the fabric blew up around her furiously. It appeared to be alive with several appendages swirling like thickening shadows surrounding her head. The black tentacles reached down at Anna on the floor and shrieked as if to project the woman’s anger.

Anna’s face burned as she saw the man in her mind raising a wand at her; his snake-like features were grotesque and distorted as he blasted what would have been her head clean off her shoulders. The Guardian screamed again from the pain of it.

Van Doorn was yelling down at her and Anna could see the veil on her head tighten against the flesh of her face within. Its surface looked disfigured, twisted and covered in scars. The woman raised her wand and shot another hex straight into Anna’s hands covering her face and the Guardian screamed again before everything within her body ceased and darkness engulfed her.

The black clothing encircling the woman seemed to drop into a robbed state once again as she recognized the girl lying on the floor. She slowly lowered her wand. Anna Grayson, the first born Guardian in more than fifteen centuries was unconscious before her; another innocent victim of the curse Van Doorn carried upon her person.

An hour later, Anna stirred and then woke up on a couch in Van Doorn’s office. The woman in all her shawls was sitting next to her. Anna’s eyes widened and she bolted up quickly.

“Calm yourself, Guardian, and have no fear,” the woman growled.

Anna didn’t believe her. She put a hand to her face.

“And do not worry; my curse did not spread itself upon you.”

Anna’s skin felt smooth to the touch and there was no pain. “What happened to me?”

“The plague that is my disfigurement is very contagious, child. Anyone who sees my face…” she heaved through her veil, “will feel the rebounding hex in much the same way I did when I was first cursed. Fortunately, you only saw the reflection of my image in the mirror, so the curse was not passed on except for the pain of it. I was able to stop your torture with a spell of my own design. Otherwise, like me… you would have suffered for more than a month.”

Anna cringed. “A month!” She couldn’t imagine surviving what she had felt for more than a minute.

“You… were cursed?”

The woman nodded and Anna felt apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Professor. I… I didn’t mean to intrude and I wasn’t trying to spy on you. I called out several times when I arrived… but…”

The woman raised a hand to stop her. “The penance given by your suffering far surpassed any disrespect shown for my privacy. I am only thankful there won’t be any…” she sucked in another rasping breath, “lasting damage to you.”

Anna remembered what she saw in the woman’s mirror and frowned. “Professor… although I didn’t mean to, I did see your face in the mirror for just a few seconds before the hex hit me. You’re very beautiful.” She looked at the woman and could tell from her body’s reaction, she was unsettled by Anna’s comment. The woman stood and slowly walked to the fire to warm her gloved hands.

“In my youth, I was a very pretty thing. I went to the Durmstrang Institute for my wizard training and all the boys found my appearance very pleasing,” she grumbled. “At the time, my voice was strong and beautiful. I used to sing in the choir. That was before I finished my training and moved to London to become an Auror. She looked back at Anna and she could hear the woman huff through her veil.

“I brought many followers of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named to justice, so it was inevitable that I would eventually face the Dark Lord himself one day.

Anna swallowed hard. “You… you saw Voldemort?”

The woman hissed at her. “Have I not warned you in my class about saying his name, child?”

“I’m sorry… I mean… He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. You actually saw him?”

Van Doorn returned to the fire, as if to remember back. “I and three other Aurors did face him. I was hexed first and the results are as you see, but I was the lucky one… because all of my comrades were killed. My face was disfigured and scared, and my voice, once so beautiful, was left barely useable. My curse only shows itself for the horror it really is to those who have already suffered from its contagious effects.” Her head bowed and Anna was horrified by her story.

“I suppose the Dark Lord’s curse was meant to draw others in by allowing them to see my former self as it was in my youth, but I haven’t seen the face you saw in the mirror in more than twenty years.”

The woman suddenly turned. “Enough reminiscing… we must carry on whatever the storms. You should not have any long-term, ill effects by what happened. But if you are concerned, you should seek out the Healer Pearl as soon as possible. In the meantime, I called you here tonight for a reason, and I would share that reason if you are now clear enough in the mind.”

Anna was surprised. She had completely forgotten she had been summoned earlier that night. She nodded.

“Professor Thordarson has asked me to speak to you about doing magic without your wand. You will not flaunt this ability in public again, do you understand?” Anna tried to protest. “Not another word,” Van Doorn said, cutting her off sharply. “This will not be debated.”

“I wasn’t going to argue with you, Professor. I was just going to say that in the few times it’s happened it was… like an accident more than something I was actually trying to do. It’s only happened twice: once in Professor Qwaad’s office and then again when I was in the dueling hall with my brother. And both of those cases, I had very little control over what happened. It’s really a wonder I didn’t accidently kill somebody.” She shook her head. “I wouldn’t try to do anything like that on purpose.”

“That is NOT what I said.” Van Doorn snapped back. “Thordarson doesn’t want you displaying this ability in public, but that doesn’t mean this power should not be practiced and adapted to a purpose.”

Anna was surprised. “You mean… you want me to do it again?” She could tell by the way the woman tilted her body that she was somewhat perturbed by Anna’s response.

“Do you remember…” Van Doorn heaved again, “the first time you came to my Dark Arts class?”

Anna frowned.

“Do you remember what I said about the Dark Arts?”

The Guardian thought back and said, “You told us it could be useful at the appropriate time and…”

“To save yourself or those closest to you,” the woman finished. She straightened. “There is no such thing as evil magic, Anna…” she heaved a rattled breath once more, “only wizards or witches who would twist it to suit their evil purposes. Would it be better to die a noble death, not using all the skills at your disposal, than to save a life… maybe even your own life?”

Anna thought about what happened to Qwaad and her brother and then she remembered the Imperious curse used on Sarah Bell. She looked at Professor Van Doorn again. “Yes… it would be better to die than to use dark magic for any purpose.”

Van Doorn turned to the fire once more. “We shall disagree then.” She removed the gloves from her hands and then stretched out her palms to warm her fingers. Anna thought they looked like bones with portions of seared flesh still attached. The sight of them made her look away.

“You will come to me every Friday night for the rest of the term to practice your skills.” She turned to face Anna again and pointed a boney finger at her; she looked terrifying… like the shadow of death reaching for its scythe. “And you will leave your wand in your room.”

As Anna left Van Doorn’s office that night, she tried to put out of her mind the woman’s hands and the disfigured face behind her veil. Voldemort had hexed her in battle; it was unbelievable that a man, wizard or not, could be so cruel as to create a curse with contagious properties. Where had she heard of that kind of hex before? She stopped in her tracks when the answer hit her.

My mother’s messenger. “The cursed man in Spellsburg!”


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