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An icy day in war-torn Germany. The window was harsh, expressionless, blinding. It was white on white, and the frame was filled with sky. The sky was devoid of clouds - or was it just one cloud? One flat white cloud, like bleached bone, porous and white, just white, white, white.

He was hungry again - where was Rowle? Why didn’t he come?

“Rowle!” he tried to bark. It was merely a whisper, but Thorfinn Rowle came anyway. He always came when he was called. He was a blonde man, with short shaven hair and he was thick in the way an ogre was thick. He looks as if he was related to Gregory Goyle; yes, that kind of muscled body, that kind of brain. Thorfinn was perhaps fifty, slightly younger than himself. Rowle was alone in the world, and he lived to serve. He brought food and unicorn blood, and he brought vodka.

“Here, my Lord,” Rowle whimpered, offering the bowl of tasteless food, the shot of clear German heaven, and the silvery, haunting glass of blood, opaque and dense, mildly frothing like a dead butterbeer.

“I am not your Lord,” he snapped back. “Your Lord is dead.”

He lifted the heavy glass to his pale, cracked lips, and enjoyed the taste of the curse, enjoyed the taste of naivety. Barty Crouch Jr. enjoyed the taste of immortality.

He remembered the pain, excruciating, a million Cruciatus Curses echoing through his weak, flailing body. He remembered the kiss, but nothing after. In his mind it was kiss, then pain, a blank void filling the years in between. When he awoke, he found he was an old man, sagging and frail. The indignity of having a servant explain his life to him was beyond compare; he merely praised the crushed, dead Lord for saving his life, even if he had been foolish and careless with his own.

He had lived most of his life in St. Mungo’s. Able to repeat what people said to him, but having no thoughts of his own, no ability to make words, string sentences. A parrot, who followed anyone and was vulnerable to anything. He could walk, but do nothing for himself. He was in a wakeful coma, shaking and sweating and dead, with a beating heart.

He shuddered at the pathetic life he had led, cringed at the thought of following Rowle’s instructions, even if they had saved him. He gazed out again to the never-changing view, tilting his head to see the warm earthen browns and the fields of crops stretching out in the foreign landscape. He was shrouded in a shawl, and sat in a cold wooden chair. Rowle was building a fire in the crumbling old fireplace, but no warmth had reached him yet - simply questions and plans.

“Rowle, where is Lucius Malfoy? Where are the others?” he asked, his raspy, drawling voice painful to hear, but commanding. He knew it was a pointless question, but he had to ask.

“Lucius was in Azkaban, but he broke out before the Battle of Hogwarts and defected after. He is one of them now. The others are dead or imprisoned or hiding, my Lord.” The word ‘Lord’ grated his nerves, and he planned silently to have a new title instated.

“Who is hiding? Has anyone spoken to Lucius?”
“I defected shortly after His death. I am a traitor, but I never fought against our men, and duelled ceaselessly at the Battle of Hogwarts. I was sentenced only seventeen years in Azkaban. When I got out, I immediately began to track you down, my Lord, and I have not had contact with Lucius nor his son Draco. I know for certain that Mulciber escaped and is in hiding in Korea, but the rest are imprisoned, or dead, my Lord.”

“I am not your Lord, Rowle,” he repeated, grinding his teeth. “Are we connected to the Floo Network?”

“Yes we are... sir.”

“Get me Lucius, Mulciber, or even that little snot-nosed Draco.”

Rowle tossed a handful of Floo powder into the flames and put his head in the licking green flames, shouting a muffled “Malfoy Manor!”

A few seconds later, Rowle withdrew his head, and the flames subsided before ejecting Draco and Lucius into the dingy hut.

Lucius had not aged well - Azkaban and years had turned his hair white, and it was cut shorter. He was older than both Rowle and himself, but was still majestic, and carried a long black cane with a silver snake on one end, reminding Crouch of a heirloom he once had.

Draco was blonder than the sun, but his hairline had receded. He couldn’t be older than forty, could he? Crouch remembered him as a young boy - Crouch remembered turning him into a ferret. Draco clearly remembered this, too, and eyed him with a dignified suspicion, rat-like features twitching slightly. Barty refrained from cracking a ferret joke.

The men seemed repulsed by his current state, immobile and short, skeletal and scabbed. Like an overgrown, ugly baby, he perched in his chair. But he would be strong again - he would rise once more. He would follow his Lord and complete the task he set.

“I thought - I thought you were dead,” said Draco quietly.

“Evidently not,” Crouch sneered.

“What do you require, Crouch?” said Lucius, his voice laced with patronising tones.

“Do not speak down to me, Lucius. I am completing our noble master’s work.”

“He is dead, Barty. Do not kid yourself.”

“And who will follow in his footsteps? It will be I. He chose me long before the war; he sought me out as his next in line. Your king is dead, Lucius, but long live the king.” Barty gave a loud laugh, and Lucius took a step away, eyes darting wildly in his head. Lucius, the traitor.

Barty gave a small nod to Rowle.

“CRUCIO!” cried Rowle. A jet of red light emitted from his wand and struck Lucius square in the chest. Lucius’s screams of pain filled the shack, and his writhing body collapsed to the ground, convulsing wildly as he cried out desperately. Barty laughed again, a long, low chuckle. Draco pounced forth and reached for his wand, but Crouch lazily flicked his own wand at him and whispered, “Imperio.”

Like a good servant, Draco stopped and handed his wand to Crouch. He settled down and watched his father’s torture quietly. When the curses were lifted off both men, they sat, stunned, in silence.

“Do you know who your master is now, Malfoy?” asked Crouch, and both men nodded weakly. “I’m disappointed. There I lay in St. Mungo’s, your friends in Azkaban, and you walked free without a thought for me. Rowle here, the only loyal follower. It reminds me very much of the first time, when the Lord rose and you were absent. Your betrayal hurts me, Malfoy. But not as much as it will hurt you. You will gather the remaining followers and spread the word, because, my dear boys, the Death Eaters are back. And we have no mercy.”

A chilly winter’s day in Britain; outside was bleak and damp. It was not raining, but it was waiting to rain; the sky was dripping in anticipation, angry, fat, lead-ridden clouds swooping across the sketchy sky in biting wind. If the trees had leaves to drop they would be bare. But they are already bare; they are skeletal against the horizon, a forest of frigid, outstretched hands. It seemed spring would never come.

Teddy was in the messy, quiet kitchen, staring calmly into space. He was thinking, planning. That was what Teddy did best.

There had always been those people. It didn’t start with Voldemort, and it sure as hell didn’t end there. People always forgot that. But Teddy didn’t.

For starters, there was Grindelwald - not a Death Eater, but the same principles, the same old story, killing for power, killing the weakest. And then one read about the Muggles. You read about this guy Hitler, and all the others, and they’d been rounding up people for years and killing them off. For them it was Jews, blacks - hell, even women. The dark downfall that was Communism, the bleak truth that was capitalism. Voldemort might have been the biggest, the baddest, and the scariest, but he wasn’t the only one. Teddy was sure of it.

He could feel something. He wasn't a Seer, he wasn't making some prophecy - Divination wasn’t real, not like this was. This wasn’t about keeping a dream diary, or drinking tea. There was something there. It was like he could taste it, smell it, touch it, something bitter, evil, dead. Someone with a plan.

Teddy had his eye on it. He was devouring everything he could; there was nothing he didn’t know about Gellert Grindelwald or Tom Riddle, and he was an expert on all the Muggle dictators from the past century. He was doing his homework, night after night. He had followed the Elder Wand’s passage through history, because everyone who’d ever owned it had seemed to be Dark.

He was moving on to the medieval era - Herpo the Foul, Emeric the Evil. He wished Daniel would do the same, but he thought Teddy was stressing over nothing. But Teddy knew he was doing something good. He just knew.

A different man might have rushed to Harry - he had defeated Lord Voldemort, and he was best pals with Dumbledore in his day, but Harry was so settled, so happy. Teddy wasn’t ripping that away from him, not for nothing. Teddy was going this alone, and it was worth it. When he forgot to owl Victoire back, forgot to sleep, or forgot about job interviews, it was there, cutting through his thoughts like a knife: For the greater good, for the greater good, for the greater good.

He should tell Vic, but could he do that? She’d never understand; she’d have seven fits and scream, You’re never going to hunt down imaginary Dark Lords, Ted Remus Lupin. Never! You’ll get yourself killed! Teddy could just imagine it. He hated Vic sometimes. She’d been his best friend forever and was his - well, everyone reckoned she was his girlfriend. James Potter had started this rumour when he’d seen Teddy kissing her on the cheek this September, as she left for her seventh year. A cry of ‘I saw Teddy snogging Victoire!’ and now the family hummed wedding bells whenever they saw him. Teddy sighed; he hated romance. He didn't need mess in his life, and he didn't need Vic.

Then telling his grandmother - Nana would go even crazier. It scared him how alike she and Victoire were. You think they’re all softly spoken and kind faced, until you tell them something they don’t like. Then the Veela/Black came streaming out of them at a hundred miles a minute. They hit the roof, and several walls, and exploded at you. But Nana was more than kindness and anger; Nana was sadness, the epitome of silent suffering.

Teddy stopped thinking and blindly walked to the study. He halted outside and barely breathed, praying the creaking door won’t give him away. He had seen the dark shape of her and dared not go further.

Teddy hated this. He hated it when he saw her misery. She sat in the study, unaware he was there, unaware of everything but the photograph in her hand, tears silently dripping over her daughter, who dodged them and smiled. Andromeda tried to give a watery smile - she tried so hard. Teddy felt a flame of jealousy burn through him. At least you knew her. But he quashed it with some force. He simply looked at her, crying in the room bathed in yellow light pooling from the dusty lamps, with ancient, tattered mahogany furniture and a wall lined with dusty volumes, their spines in gentle colours - russets, faded greens, and soft browns that felt like home.

The whole room felt cosy, and rundown. It smelt like a long-forgotten book. If you were to press your nose deep into an open book and smell the scent that’s hidden in there, that’s what this smelt like. The older the book, the stronger the scent - new books have a whiff of it, but an old book was layered with it, deep and pungent. It was just old paper, but it had mystery in it, and smelt faintly like your parent’s childhood: Musty, warm and unmistakably yellow. It just smelt yellow, a sun-kissed, off-white yellow that was warm and brown, a pale turmeric, but yellow all the same. Teddy knew this in shorter words, in a child-like instinct, and for a second he could have sworn he was five years old, sneaking around this same study, searching for books he was able to understand.

He backed out of the room again, slowly and cautiously. He should know what to say to her - he should know - but he was only eighteen. How could he? He climbs the twisting stairs to his little white room, plain and understated and calm. It was a haven, perfectly angular with the sharp, crisp lines of furniture forming right angles. It was always in order, except for the fact that Daniel was sitting on his bed.

Teddy gawped,

“What in God’s name are you doing here?” he cried, but Daniel left him no time to answer, because, being Daniel, he had already engulfed Teddy in a lung-crushing, rib-splintering embrace.

“Geroffyouoaf!” came a muffled shout.

“Man, hug it out, my friend,” said Daniel calmly. After a minute or so he released a red-faced, breathless Teddy and grinned dreamily.

Daniel was a massive, dopey, happy boy with thick brown hair that grew like crazy and seemed to stand on end. He had manic, huge dark eyes framed with spiky eyelashes. His skin was effortlessly tanned, a rich cappuccino brown, as if he spent every waking moment in the sun. His nose looked kind of broken and was out of proportion with the rest of his face, his forehead was tiny, and he looked somewhat like an ogre. His muscles didn’t help this impression. They were huge, and never seemed to end - he was altogether too strong for his own good. Back in the day, he was the best beater Hufflepuff had had in years, and put his muscles to good use. He had the attention span of a big frolicking puppy, and half the time Teddy swore he was Daniel’s carer, not his best friend.

They were bunched together on the first day of school, Harry Potter’s godson and Kingsley Shacklebolt’s son. The two famous boys who wanted nothing more than to be invisible. It was easier for Teddy - he could get away from Harry. His hair faded from purple to brown, he sprouted some freckles and his nose got shorter - no one noticed him after that. But Daniel was stuck. Children would stare at him, and he shut himself in a lonely compartment angrily. They’d met at family parties, vaguely recognised one another, and Teddy approached him as a friend. And the rest, in their eyes, was history.

They’d still dispute over how this happened. Teddy reckoned he offered a Chocolate Frog softly and kindly to a clearly upset Daniel, his generosity knowing no bounds. Daniel reckoned he pulled out a Chocolate Frog card of the Chosen One and said cockily, “I’m this guy’s godson. Yeah, you think you’ve got it bad?” and thus making Daniel laugh.

Either way, they stuck together. Now that neither of them had jobs, Daniel Apparating into Teddy’s room was a pretty regular occurrence, but Teddy always liked to pretend he was surprised.

“Seriously, why are you here?” said Teddy, plopping down on the bed next to Daniel,

“Wanna come down to mine for a bit? It’s snowing there, and Mum wants to go surfing.”

“Wait, surfing?”

Daniel’s family was weird. They lived in Tinworth, Cornwall, not far from Victoire’s house, and were always doing crazy things. Kate, Daniel’s mum, was a Magizoologist, and good friends with Luna and Rolf Scamander, who also lived in Tinworth. Luna was not a good influence on Kate.

“Yeah, Luna told her that going in the sea when it’s snowing helps you attract bongolongs. I swear, she doesn’t even try to make the names convincing anymore.”

“If Abby were home, she’d be all for it!” added Teddy, laughing a little. Abby was Daniel’s quirky little sister; she was wispy and frail-looking, like her mother, and wore her black hair in cute little braids. He always thought of Abby as a little kid, when, in truth, she was a fifth year with a hell of an attitude and a firm belief in the tales of the Quibbler.

Daniel was lucky to have got out of the mad house unscathed. The mad house in question was a large, rambling, red-bricked house with crumbling walls. It was crammed with odds and ends and people - there were always a couple of guests staying over - and it was always a mess. Daniel’s dad, Kingsley, liked it that way. He said that order was for the Order, and his home was going to be as crazy as he liked.

Teddy informed a red-eyed Andromeda of his whereabouts and Apparated off with Daniel to Cornwall. 

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