The broom rider quaked inwardly as he made his way deeper and deeper through the dark trees and underbrush, intending to pass completely through the Forbidden Forest and continue on into the even darker and more forbidding Forest of Kavan. Ever since the student from Slytherin house named Stuart Kavan rode into the forest in 1959 and never re-emerged, the forest, aptly re-named Kavan, was strictly off limits.
In fact, the rider knew, from then on the students at Hogwarts were never told of the separate forests’ existence, probably owing to the fact that they weren’t even allowed into the Forbidden Forest, much less beyond that. It would have been too tempting to reveal that type of information.
As far as today’s students knew, the Forbidden Forest was the only forest off of Hogwarts grounds. In fact, Kavan began right where Hogwarts ended and stretched some twenty miles further.
The rider hoped to himself that he would keep from coming across any dangerous creatures on his journey. He knew of the strange creatures that existed here from his years at Hogwarts. Centaurs, giant spiders, unicorns, flame drocks… he had no wish to run into any of these, or any others. After all… he was headed to meet the most dangerous, evil creature there was. He didn’t need any more trouble than that.
The thought of his upcoming meeting and debriefing with his lord Voldemort made the man quake with fear. If he could, he would finally leave the dark lord, but Voldemort didn’t take defection lightly. The man had been found by the dark lord long ago, and rather than be killed, had decided to join him, out of fear as much as out of a feeling of being drawn to the power and mystery that he had, and the fact that if joined with him, he might have that same power. After joining, the dark lord had offered him the position of right hand man, should he complete his tasks with no mistakes; and so far, he had. But his final one, delivering Harry Potter, off of school grounds for that matter, was going to prove to be a lot harder than Voldemort realized. Harry was well protected and well on his way to becoming a powerful wizard.
The servant had been with Voldemort almost from the beginning, even back when he was only referred to as Tom Riddle. He knew almost just as much history of Harry Potter as the dark lord did. He remembered the fateful day the dark lord had killed young Harry’s parents, and returned to him bodiless, to recant the story to him of the backfire his killing curse had caused when directed towards James and Lily’s baby. At that point, the servant had left him for a time, only made possible by Voldemort’s weakened state, being afraid that the same fate would befall him. But years later, he had returned. Most likely, the dark lord hadn’t killed him because at that point, the man was the only one he had, and he was needed. And now, here he was, on his greatest mission yet, to help the dark lord finally rid himself of Potter. But one must know their prey to catch them, and he had needed to catch up on young Potter; see how he’d grown and what he was like. He was certain that no one suspected him, and that no one would.
My lord, he thought, Harry will prove to be a difficulty adversary…
He thought back to a brief conversation he had recently had with one of Harry’s enemies at the school. He had caught a boy Potter’s age, name of Malfoy, headed to a class that he had missed most of, due to an injury he was having seen with the school’s nurse. He had stopped the boy to speak with him for a moment; he had been stopping many of the children Harry’s age to glean information from them about him; his personality, his weaknesses and strengths, his habits, his likes and dislikes. He thought back to the latter question that he had asked the platinum-haired boy and recalled the look of utter hatred that had passed over his features.
“Are you a reporter or something!?” Malfoy asked, still holding his cheek from an apparent wound that had recently been healed, “I can tell you one thing… the scarhead has a thing for Muggle mud-bloods… disgusting.” He chuckled at his own cleverness and continued. “He’ll probably be so busy thinking about Granger that the snitch’ll punch him right in the eye before he knows it’s in front of him… filthy little Muggle lover…”
“Granger?” the man asked Malfoy.
“Hermione Granger,” Malfoy said through gritted teeth, taking one last rub at his cheek, “Scarhead’s girlfriend. Just look for the three bloody Gryffindor musketeers… losers.”
The man mentally nodded and filed the name away, smiling to himself. “Tell me more about them…him.”
“Potter’s not the only bloody Quidditch player!” Malfoy obviously felt insulted. “There’s thirteen others playing too! Now Slytherin’s worth discussing, like…”
“Thank you Draco,” the man replied, “You’ve been most helpful.”
At that he left Malfoy slack-jawed in fury and walked away. Potter was the only one he was interested in, and not for bloody Quidditch.
The broom rider stopped his reverie long enough to realize that he was passing into Kavan. The only thing separating this forest from the Forbidden one was a long stretch of barbed wire. Curious that the teachers so long ago had decided to use Muggle fencing to separate the two.
Immediately the dark, frightening surroundings of the Forbidden Forest gave way to a darker, more sinister feeling. The forest itself was even less lit, partly due to the closer proximity of the trees, and because it had the almost physical aura of a dark past. Or was it just who was residing here now?
The trees were so dense at the trunks and thick overhead with branches that barely any moonlight shone through. Even the moss and fungus that grew there seemed thicker and darker.
A feeling of dread began to blanket the rider. The forest was so quiet and eerie now. At least in the Forbidden Forest you had the feeling that animals lived there and that the plants were alive and growing.
Kavan felt dead and deserted. The trees had long ago begun dying, and were now more or less just a mass of knarled and twisted limbs without leaves. It was as if anything that used to live there had abandoned it after some dark dealing. In fact, the forest had once thrived, back when it was still part of the Forbidden forest. But after the disappearance of young Stuart in ’59, the whole place began to mourn. Something evil had taken hold. Even the plants were now dying; something about the imbalance of the environment now that all the animals and even the bugs had either left it, or died.
The servant shuddered. In the darkness ahead, he made out the medium-sized cabin that had been finished for his master some three months ago. There Voldemort had bidden his time with only his pet snake, Nagini for company, until his servant could find a way to get into Hogwarts, get information about Potter, and return to tell him.
The rider knew that Voldemort felt his approach. He always knew when his own approached.
The man panicked as he hopped from his broom. Was it too late to run? Why was he drawn to Voldemort, but at the same time repulsed? Could he still escape?
“Enter.” The high-pitched throaty voice of Voldemort called from inside the cabin.
Too late… too late to run… The dark lord’s voice had held a presence of command over him ever since the day he joined him so long ago. There was no escape now.
Shakily, he felt his hand turn the knob of the door as if he were outside his body, watching himself.
The first sight that greeted him was Nagini’s long fat form, curled into a target shape, asleep by the hearth of an unusually hot fireplace. The fire, of course, was lit by dark magic and the flames glowed an iridescent blue.
At first, all the man could do was stare ahead. He willed himself to move forward, but his body wouldn’t obey. He stared a hole into the back of his master’s chair.
“Come and face me, idiot.”
The voice was to the servant like long nails on a blackboard, but mesmerizing all the same. He walked slowly around the chair, and thanked heaven that Voldemort’s hideous, chalk-white face was hidden under a black-hooded cloak.
Nagini raised his head and hissed sharply at the man, simultaneously lashing out with a powerful snap. He yelped and jumped back, realizing that he had tread on the snake’s tail.
Voldemort hissed to the serpent and Nagini immediately relaxed. The servant looked nervously from Nagini to Voldemort.
“P…Potter is a parsel-mouth as well… m…my lord.”
“I brought you here to tell me things I don’t know, fool. Now tell me… What have you learned.”
The servant swallowed nervously, and began. “I’ve learned of all of his classes… s..spoken to teachers and students about him… his personality, his weaknesses and strengths, his likes and dislikes… I’ve spoken to his friends and enemies, a…and to him personally.”
“Potter has enemies at school…” it was more a statement than a question. “Interesting. What of the cloaking charm…”
“No one suspects, my lord. Not even Dumbledore… Even Potter has felt nothing…Of course, no one has recognized me either…it’s been so long…”
“Excellent. You’ve done something right, for once, but remember, it won’t work for much longer. You’ll need to cast it again soon… Now about his enemies…”
The servant, prodded along by his master’s pleasure at his work, continued.
“He has quite a few, actually. Although they all seem to stem from the same house… and that from the same boy…”
“Lucius Malfoy’s son, no doubt,” said Voldemort with a cruel chuckle.
“Ah… ah yes. Draco Malfoy,” said the servant wringing his hands nervously, “H…How did you know, my lord?”
“It’s obvious. I’ve trained Lucius well, who in turn, trains his son. He and Potter have been enemies since both started their schooling. Continue…”
The servant noticed that the dark lord had not moved once since his arrival and wondered if he was weakening again. Inwardly, he wondered how this could be used to his advantage. He continued.
“Um, uh, alas my lord…Potter is so well protected that I fear how we will get to him…I mean you, of course. Dumbledore keeps him watched day and night. He’s never alone, or…”
“Yes, well I would inhabit you and get him myself, but I now have my own body, and the cloaking charm can’t hide the enormity of my power. Potter would sense it in a second.”
At the word “inhabit” the servant’s eyes widened and he began trembling.
“Relax, idiot. I have no intention of shedding my body for yours. Now. Tell me more.”
“He… he has a c..close friend…Ron Weasley, a red-headed boy… and his g..g..girlfriend, a girl named Granger. The three are always together. They…”
Voldemort slapped an angry skeletal hand down on the arm of the old chair sending dust catapulting into the air.
“I know about Weasley and Granger!” he screamed, “I sent you to find out new information, new…” But at that, Voldemort stopped himself and slowly stood to face his servant. If he had been able to see his master’s face, the man would have seen a slow, cruel smile dawning on his ugly features.
“Girlfriend…” Voldemort muttered to the other. His servant stumbled backward, visibly terrified. He held the back of his hand to his face and blinked rapidly, waiting for the dark lord to strike.
“I tried to get more information!…I spoke to everyone I could think of!..I..I even spoke to Dumbledore about him, he…he had no idea I was fishing for information…”
But the terrified servant continued to ramble on. Voldemort raised his wand and pointed it at the man’s face.
“Ereptio Mutensia!” he screeched. Immediately the man was rendered completely speechless.
Voldemort ground his teeth in irritation. He had no use for pathetic, whimpering idiots. As soon as the man had served his purpose, he would dispose of him. He slowly approached the servant, wand still in hand.
“So, Potter and Granger are involved now…”
The mute servant, his eyes widening the closer Voldemort stepped toward him, nodded furiously.
Voldemort stopped moving and seemed in contemplation. “This changes things…” he muttered to himself. “In the past, when Potter’s friends have been in danger, he’s still been able to fight rationally, calmly, even fiercely… he’s faced battles like that before. But I wonder how he’ll react when deeper feelings are involved. He may become rash, make illogical decisions, even come unhinged… Hmm… Exigo Uttoralis.”
Voldemort freed the servant of his curse almost as an afterthought. He fell to his knees and grabbed his neck, making a small sound in the back of his throat to make sure his voice still worked. He closed his eyes briefly in relief.
The dark lord turned slowly to face his servant once again.
“Tell me… will there be a time when you will have access to Granger…”
Slowly the servant stood to his feet, but remembered to stoop lower than his master. He spoke almost in a whisper. “You… you want me to take her… to lure Potter…”
Voldemort lifted his head briefly. “Very good. You may not be as dim-witted as you seem. Now…will there be a time…”
“There’s a..an upcoming Quidditch match… it’s a big one. Not only will the whole school be out on the grounds, but p..parents and reporters; all manner of other witches and wizards…” the servant slowly smiled. “It would be easy for someone to get lost in all of the confusion…”
The dark lord stared at the man for some time, sizing up his abilities. Under the scrutinizing stare, the servant’s small confidence began to waver. He could hear Voldemort’s even breathing. Then finally…
“Are you capable…”
“Yes master! Absolutely…Have I ever failed you? I will bring the girl to you and make sure that Potter finds out she’s gone, and where. He’ll come master. I know it.”
“I want it made clear that he is to come alone,” said Voldemort, walking back to his chair and sitting once again, “and that if Dumbledore is told and I find out…Granger’s dead.”
“Yes my lord, absolutely,” the servant nodded superfluously.
Voldemort paused again, his cold eyes sizing up the other. “Are the bones in place…”
“Yes my lord…I saw to it this afternoon,” stated the servant with a shudder.
“And you placed the identity charm on them?”
“Of course…They will appear to be the bones of a young Kavan…no one will suspect…Not even Dumbledore…”
“Excellent,” stated Voldemort, “That should be enough of a distraction to throw the old fool off… And in the mean time…you know your job…”
“Absolutely, my lord. All will go according to plan.” The servant made a move to grab his broom from the corner to leave.
“Don’t use a broom again, fool! Come and leave by floo powder. It won’t do to have some idiot see you flying in and out of the forest! Do you have a safe fireplace to use?”
“Y…Yes, my lord,” the servant walked over to the fireplace and snatched some green powder from the urn, being mindful to stay clear of Nagini. Voldemort squelched the fire and heat with a wave of his wand and the servant stepped into the fireplace.
“One more thing,” said Voldemort in a low, dangerous voice before the servant could disappear, “I am not weak… and I don’t care how long you’ve been with me…I know when a servant is thinking of betraying me.”
The man’s heart fell to his stomach. He should have known better than to have thoughts of betrayal around the dark lord. He began to shake uncontrollably.
Voldemort smiled mirthlessly. “Bring back Granger and I may let you live. Fail, and I will seek you out and destroy you…our history not withstanding.”
The servant nodded once, swallowing, and quickly threw the green powder down, speaking out his destination.
When he had disappeared, Voldemort pointed his wand at the hearth and started the fire once more.
“Ah, Nagini… what fools men are.”
Nagini lifted his flat head and hissed in agreement.