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July 26, 1992, 5:00 PM, Training Ground, Phoenix’ Roost, England

Lord Voldemort

Sidestep. Wand swipe to the left. Right, up and diagonally to the side. He thought as he went through the motions, feeling a supreme boredom course through him at the need to endure these pointless practice duels.

I could beat these plebeians in my sleep.

But there was a reason for it. However utterly boring, this was necessary to maintain his cover. He needed to ingratiate himself to these worthless people, to learn their secrets and get just a little closer to Grindelwald.

He didn’t need to do much, and this particular task would be far easier than the one he’d set Quirrell to complete at Hogwarts, as he was not forced to babysit children. Over the past few weeks, he’d come to change his mind on the man’s skill and mental strength.

Lord Voldemort had measured Quirinus Quirrell, back when they had first met, and found him wanting. However, now that he’d been living in this new host’s body for a while, he grew to appreciate what he’d lost. Quirrell, while still weak compared to the likes of himself, was still able to resist his will to a point.

He was even possessed of considerable talent in certain fields. Voldemort found that he could respect that. The man he was possessing, on the other hand— Marco, a rank amateur; it was a wonder he’d graduated from school at all, with the poor skill he’d witnessed in the fool’s memories.

Yes. Voldemort thought as he tilted his head to the side, letting a sickly green curse fly right by him as he seized the folds of his opponent’s robe with a thought and forced them to coil around her neck like a snake. Pathetic, just like the rest of these wizards.

His opponent choked as she attempted to move the piece of cloth away from her neck to no avail. His magic, however weakened by the poor match he had with his wand, was still something to be reckoned with.

The woman fell to her knees, and he let a glint of his fervor show in his eyes for but a single moment before he clamped down hard on his instincts, letting go of the spell the moment the girl dropped her wand.

Instantly, she let go of the bits of cloth around her neck and leaned down to the ground, coughing hard as she attempted to fill her lungs with precious air.

“Winner, Marco!” The squad trainer, Strontel, called out, patting Voldemort on the shoulder.

Voldemort resisted the urge to kill the man where he stood for showing such unashamed friendliness. Instead, he put his perfect smile on and gave the man a nod before heading to the witch he had just defeated, extending his hand in what he believed to be a show of good sportsmanship.

The girl— Violet, her name was— took his hand grudgingly and allowed him to help her up, rubbing her neck as she spoke to him. “Good one, Marco. You got me so busy with the attack from my sides that I never considered my own clothes would turn against me.”

That’s because you’re weak. A more impressive foe would have already anticipated such an eventuality. He thought but gave the woman an amiable nod. “I’ve learned that the hard way— best to Charm your clothes against any attacks of this nature.”

Of course, Charms against tampering would only go so far. While they would help against the everyday wizard, someone of his caliber and skill level would not have much trouble dismantling them and using them against her in short order.

And besides

“Well said!” His thoughts were interrupted when he felt another pat on his shoulder by another member of the group and winced at the loudness of the fellow recruit’s voice. A moment later, a few more of the recruits joined in, cheering him on.

“Good job, Marco!” “Very subtle work.”

Voldemort allowed himself to relax a little because, for a single moment, he felt as if he were in his youth at Hogwarts once more, where all he had to worry about was excelling at his chosen subjects and showing everyone around him his worth.

“That’s enough of that.” Officer Strontel said, getting everyone’s attention, giving Voldemort a nod before addressing the assembled group. “All of you, we’re done for the day. Report back tomorrow.”

Everyone began to move away from the training ground, each going to do whatever it is they wished while waiting for the next day’s training. Voldemort watched them go for a few seconds before beginning his movement towards the building, hoping to get a shot at scanning Grindelwald’s room again to confirm his previous findings.

“Not you.” He heard his trainer’s voice from behind him and stopped. Plastering on a pleasant expression, Voldemort turned to engage him in what was probably more pointless dialogue.

“Marco, you’ve… Well.” Strontel said, scratching at the stubble at his chin for a moment as he gathered his words. “You’ve done very well in your training, an outstanding performance by all accounts; you’re ready to be inducted into the order as a full-fledged officer— as far as I’m concerned, they should have already done so, but it seems that the higher ups want you to prove yourself in the field, so to speak.”

“Oh?” Voldemort didn’t have to fake the interest welling forth in his eyes. “A test, then?”

Strontel nodded, pleased with himself for some reason. Did he think he was securing his hold over Voldemort by pretending that he was doing him a favor?

It’s such a pitiful ploy that even a child could see through it. Voldemort thought, but did not let the derision show on his face, even as the superior officer continued to speak.

“Just so, Mr. Marco.” Strontel said, smiling with a nod as he slowly led Voldemort away from those who remained in the training ground. “Not to put too fine of a point on it, but this is your chance to show the higher ups just what you’re capable of.”

In other words, you’re trying to get better standing with your superior officers by showing the caliber of wizards your training regime can produce. Voldemort thought.

He never liked these games that wizards played amongst each other. All of the mind games, the social and political dynamics both overt and hidden— he hated them from the day he first understood their meaning and purpose.

It didn’t stop him from mastering said fields, of course. The Dark Lord Voldemort was nothing if not thorough in all of his plans and preparations, after all. It didn’t matter how much he disdained them.

“I’m ready, sir.” Voldemort said, nodding with confidence he didn’t have to fake.

Strontel stared at him for a few seconds as if weighing his worth before nodding in satisfaction. “You are— That much is true. I wouldn’t have recommended you if you weren’t. Follow me.”

“Sir?” Voldemort said even as he followed the older looking man.

“The meeting will be taking place soon.” Strontel said, though he paused for a moment to check his pocket watch. “Hm, yes; we’ll probably be there right on time. Come, Marco.”

Voldemort nodded, and on they went, entering the building before going up a few floors, towards the general direction of the room which had been occupying the majority of Voldemort’s thoughts for the past few days. Could it be?

It is. He realized as he stepped away from the stairway, down the very specific path which would lead him to his eventual target. All this time scouting the building, taking note of the stationed guards, charms and defenses— all but one of my snakes dead in the attempts, and this fool is simply giving me the chance to walk inside?

The universe’s threads of fate truly moved in strange ways. He remembered seeing his own string for the first time he left the Abyss; severing it was the single, most difficult endeavor he had taken for himself, because it had been the one time he was forced to give up a mysterious power in exchange for his own goals.

Perhaps he should have studied it a little before making his decision?

He banished the thought away from his mind. Now was not the time to reminisce about grave choices of old. There were plenty of new choices ahead, after all.

He kept his glamoured eyes forward as he passed the small group of guards stationed at various positions in the hall to discourage any would-be assassins or saboteurs.

This was the farthest he’d ever gotten. Voldemort took the opportunity to study the hallway itself, feeling the echoes of defense magic lining the walls themselves. A trap linked to the wall… Of a fiery bent. Makes sense; Grindelwald was known to have a propensity for fire magic, and with what happened recently, even more so.

He had to admit to himself that he didn’t have a clue how the man had achieved such monumental acts of destruction. Of course, he knew that it was possible; he’d even entertained the thought once or twice before deciding against it.

His existing spells had been mastered to such a degree that he had imagined anything beyond to be a dangerous waste of time which could be spent furthering his goals— or perhaps that was his ego speaking?

Recent events flashed through his mind. He had learned much in his time as a shade stuck to the back of Quirrell’s head. The new generation, while lax and lazy, could prove to be a hindrance to him if they were allowed to be trained. He knew that at least two of them were well on their way to becoming true threats.

Of course, he was thinking of both Potter and Clarke. Potter was still extremely rough around the edges, undisciplined and seemingly unimpressive, but he had to admit that their confrontation at the end of the school year had shown him a glimpse of the boy’s true self.

It was not often that Lord Voldemort was reminded of concepts he thought he understood; when backed into a corner, Potter had shown him his measure. He was not as weak as he once supposed.

Perhaps he needed to resume his deep studies of the arcane, after all.

“Mister Grindelwald is expecting us.” Officer Strontel said to the guards at the door, bringing Voldemort out of his thoughts. He watched as the wizards parted for the man, allowing them entry.

Voldemort followed Strontel into the room, taking in his surroundings.

It was quite the cozy office, Voldemort thought. It was not small by any means, able to hold at least ten people comfortably, but still felt as if it were a good place for quiet contemplation. His eyes moved over the bookcases lining the walls to the side, almost all of which were written purely in Runes.

A personal collection, and heavily enchanted against tampering. He thought, recognizing quite a few of the titles in the dim firelight cast from the roaring fireplace at the other side of the room.

Behind his desk, Gellert Grindelwald sat in a high-backed chair draped in velvet and embroidered with golden thread. Beside him, his right hand man provided information in hushed tones as Grindelwald went through the papers, aiding him in the management of the forces.

Voldemort checked the room’s occupants, seeing a few of the major players there. A man stepped away from a small group to greet them— Rafiq, Voldemort believed his name was.

He remembered a few mentions of such a name from before he’d been laid low. So this is the Butcher of Ayn Sehr…

“Good, you made it.” Rafiq said as he approached. “Be welcome. Mr. Grindelwald will be ready soon.”

“Very good. It’s good to see you, Mr. Rafiq.” Officer Strontel said, shaking Rafiq’s hand. “Have you recovered well from your last assignment?”

“Bit of a crick in my neck from where that fool clipped me, but I can’t really complain.” Rafiq said before turning his gaze to Voldemort. “This is the recruit trainee you’ve been speaking of?”

Strontel only graced that statement with a light nod before gesturing at Voldemort. “Yes. Mr. Marco has shown great promise in his training; you won’t be disappointed.”

Rafiq looked Voldemort up and down, as if trying to find a weakness within his stance and form before extending his hand in greeting. “Rafiq Rahman. You must be something special if Strontel is speaking so highly of you.”

Voldemort forced a pleasant smile even as he shook the man’s hand. “Marco Tameren. I hope to live up to your expectations.”

“And so you might.” Grindelwald’s voice cut through everyone’s idle chatter as he placed down his final piece of paper and got off of his desk.

He paused for a moment, sweeping his gaze across the room as he walked to the other side of the table, keeping his hands behind his back. “I’ve called you in for a special assignment— as to the nature of your mission, it is not exactly a mystery.”

“You are referring to the recent attacks in France.” Rafiq said, probably for Voldemort and a few others’ benefit.

“Just so, Mr. Rafiq.” Grindelwald said, giving the man a nod. “Attacks perpetrated at the Village du Phantasime, Rambardon, and even at Beauxbatons itself— of course, the last two have not been reported on, as they were fairly stealthy, and the persons involved do not want word to get out.”

“A coverup?” A man Voldemort did not recognize said, scoffing. “Figures, they probably wouldn’t want the people to panic more than they already have.”

“Agreed.” Grindelwald’s right hand, Matthias Auer, said. “A single attack on a well known French wizarding village is bad, but an attack on several families belonging to key members of the Ministry, as well as an attack on their nation’s school on top of that? The Ministry can’t handle that sort of strain; it would crumble before too long.”

The ramifications of the information they’d all heard hung in the air with great promise, and yet there was only silence.

“It is but one of many outcomes I’ve Seen in response to our actions at Remords de L’Âme. It has been a long time coming— revolution is in the air. The existing ruling bodies of the Wizarding World have become beset with enemies from all sides, no matter their allegiances or location. France, Belgium, Japan, the MACUSA— it matters little.” Grindelwald said as he began to pace to work off the coiled, heated energy within him. “But that is not why I have called you in, today.”

He drew his wand and waved it in an arc, creating a three-dimensional representation of an old structure at the top of a hill, surrounded by trees. “This is what I have called you here, for.”

Rafiq approached it. “What is it? Search and destroy?”

“…Not quite.” Gellert said, gaining a slight smirk. “It is a rescue.”

“A rescue.” A few others murmured but their leader gave it no mind.

“The attack on Village Du Phantasime failed; the group behind it was not able to apprehend the daughters of the Director of Magical Intelligence.” Gellert said. “As I understand it, the attack was foiled by none other than Mr. Adam Clarke.”

Voldemort stiffened at the name. He wasn’t stupid— he’d heard the boy’s name spoken of around Phoenix’ Roost.

For some strange reason, Clarke had recently spent time in Grindelwald’s clutches. He hadn’t been able to figure out why, but from what he understood, the boy was kidnapped in the brief period he stayed at his Orphanage.

He was pulled out of his thoughts at the sound of Rafiq’s clap. “That boy will never cease to surprise.”

“Indeed.” Grindelwald said. “And, judging from the reports, his spellwork has become even more brutal. But I digress; while the attack on both Village Du Phantasime and Beauxbatons failed, the one executed at Rambardon succeeded. The rogue cell managed to capture several family members of key officials in the government.”

He let the statement hang in the air for a few moments before waving his wand again, showing them the images of two children— a brown haired, blue eyed boy, and a black haired, black eyed woman in her twenties. “Your squad’s task will be to find these two and rescue them.”

“Expected opposition?” Voldemort found himself saying, getting a few nods of approval from the officers.

Grindelwald eyed the man for a moment before nodding, a strange look in his mismatched eyes as he seemed to study something above Voldemort’s head. “Very good question, Mr… Marco, was it?”

Voldemort nodded, suppressing his urge to frown. What strange behavior.

Grindelwald turned his gaze to the remainder of the group as he continued his briefing. “There are at least twenty wands. A few unwanded, but those should not be a concern.”

‘Unless you’re that incompetent, in which case you deserve to die.’ Was left unspoken.

“We will likely need to get past their defenses, but that shouldn’t be a problem, not for me.” Rafiq picked up where he left off.

“You’re accompanying us on this mission, Mr. Rafiq?” Strontel said, eyes narrowing slightly in anger.

This— this was exactly what Voldemort disliked about all the nonsense politics. Strontel was getting twisted up about his power being hindered or disrespected in some way by having another officer of the same rank assigned to his task.

Still, he kept quiet even as Rafiq raised his hands to try and assuage the man’s concerns.

“Rafiq’s priority in this task is different to that of yours, Mr. Strontel.” Grindelwald said in a tone that brooked no argument. “You will have overall control of your squad— of that there is no question— but Mr. Rafiq’s own duty supersedes your own.”

“And his task is?” Strontel said, stepping forward a little aggressively towards a man who could end him with but a thought.

Grindelwald did not even acknowledge the man’s attitude as he let a sliver of his power out, filling the room with his choking presence. Voldemort felt the pressure sweep over him and widened his eyes in surprise.

Dumbledore’s equal, indeed. Voldemort thought, a hint of respect entering his mind. It was almost a shame that the two were destined to be enemies. Almost.

Strontel backed away, bumping against a few of his colleagues before stammering. “My apologies, Mr. Grindelwald. I did not think.”

A moment later, the pressure abated and the air in the room turned back to normal. Grindelwald eyed him for a second before nodding. “I suppose that is understandable, we all have our moments. As for Mr. Rafiq’s task, well…”

A hard glint entered Grindelwald’s eyes. “Those fools dared to use us as a cloak for their misdeeds. Oh no. We will correct them on this issue. While your task, Mr. Strontel, is to rescue the two they kidnapped, Mr. Rafiq’s task is to kill every single member of that cell. We will not have fools attempting to use our good name.”

Many attending the meeting shivered at the cold words spoken, but Voldemort felt his mangled soul writhe with anticipation. Staying cooped up here had begun to grate on him— enough that he was always stopping himself from going too far in duels, lest he permanently injure his supposed allies.

This was a golden opportunity for him to cut loose, and perhaps earn the trust of the higher ups in the process. It would allow him to get one step closer to his aims.

And so Voldemort stayed calm. He listened as the man who would one day become one of his greatest foes explained the plan in detail to them before sending them away.

He smiled and exchanged greetings with his new teammates. He said everything that they needed to hear, filing their names to his mind, though he barely saw them as creatures worth listening to.

And before too long, he found himself in a side room with a squad of seven; Strontel, four officers, himself and Rafiq.

At the center of the room lay a long bit of silk— a Portkey, he realized. The moment they approached it, it began to float, twisting into a long circle to allow all who were gathered to grasp onto.

“Remember.” Strontel said, addressing the group. “This is a rescue operation. Be mindful of who your wand is being aimed at before you cast your spells.”

Rafiq nodded in agreement, deferring to Strontel, who gave the man an appreciative look.

“The portkey will deposit us to the west of their hideaway, well under cover.” Strontel said as he continued to describe the nature of the plan in place. “We will approach them under Disillusionment Charms; they will not be able to sense our approach until it is far too late for them to react. By then, the outside guards ought to have been dealt with. Then, it’s simply a matter of dealing with whoever remains, all the while getting the hostages in our custody. Any questions?”

“I have one.” One of the group said. “What happens if one of them holds the prisoners hostage?”

“If you would allow me to address this question, Mr. Strontel?” Rafiq said and got a nod from the man. “If you do find yourself in such a scenario… kill the hostage keeper— even if it means he will attempt to kill his captive in the process. While our objective is to rescue the hostages to curry favor with the agents in the French Ministry, our secondary objective will automatically take precedence when the hostages’ lives are no longer reasonably able to be saved.”

Voldemort felt the rush of anticipation that came in the wake of that statement. It had been a long time since he’d been in a proper duel.

A very long time.

It had been nothing but fleeing and feeding on weak creatures ever since he’d been thwarted at Godric’s Hollow all those years ago.

He had managed to finally gain a body when he possessed Clarke— but even then, he’d basically been hamstrung the entire time by an entity he could scarcely define attacking his mind.

Yes, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to cut loose and spill some blood.

“Any more questions? No? Then… Be ready for Portkey transport.” Strontel said, getting nods all around before his face hardened. “Finesse.”

He felt a sudden jolt in his stomach as the world around him dissolved into a blur of colors. His surroundings became a dizzying swirl of greens and blues, as if he was flying through a kaleidoscope. His ears filled with a rush of wind, and he felt the air whipping through his hair for a few short moments before he touched down on soft terrain, taking note of his new environment.

Seemed that they’d landed in a small patch of grass in a forest which was otherwise thick with trees. The tall trees stretched up towards the sky, their branches interlocking and intertwining to form a natural roof. The leaves and foliage were so dense that they completely blocked out the sun, casting a cool, green hue over everything below.

“Begin setting up the anti-apparition and anti-portkey jinxes around the entire area.” Strontel ordered a member of the support team before turning his gaze to Voldemort. “Marco, you’ll be with me at the frontline; this is your chance to prove yourself to Mister Grindelwald and the others.”

“I’m ready.” Voldemort said, not needing to hide the excitement in his eyes.

“Good.” Strontel said, sending a look at the support member and getting a nod in return. “The jinxes are up. Execute the plan.”

Voldemort nodded and tapped his host’s wand atop his head as he cast the Disillusionment Charm on himself, keeping it to the first level of mastery seeing as the others had done the same— with the exception of Rafiq, who seemed to be using one of its advanced versions.

The man was not without skill, it seemed. Voldemort watched as Strontel gave a few more orders, keeping his tone of voice quiet. “Misters Rahman, Rodriguez, Beaumont, you will approach them from the Northwestern entrance.”  

“Acknowledged.” Rafiq said and issued a few orders before he left with his two members, the only trace of their movements being the slow shifts of the foliage.

“We will approach from the South. Follow me.” Strontel said, explaining his plan as he led them through the forest by the sound of his voice and obvious shifts in the leaves ahead of him. Voldemort and the others in the group followed their team leader in silence, keeping their eyes peeled for any sign of the enemy.

Nothing so far.

It wasn’t until ten minutes later that they were forced to stop. “Wait.”

“What is it?” Another member, Simmons, said.

“Listen.” Strontel said and they all did as he bid. Voldemort picked up a faint sound— that of idle chatter. It was the sort of thing he’d always heard when returning to one of his many bases on the Isles. “Guards. Proceed slowly now.”

Their pace slowed to a crawl, and Voldemort’s lust for blood only continued to keep mounting. Part of him was truly tempted to throw caution to the wind and slaughter everyone here tonight— his own current allies included, but he’d long since grown to subdue that more primal part of him, only allowing it to power his more vicious spells.

Before long, they saw five guards scattered in the small clearing outside of the safehouse’s south entrance. Two stood together, while the other three simply walked back and forth along the land’s outer perimeter, exchanging greetings between each other.

They didn’t even seem to be looking around for threats.

Such carelessness. Voldemort thought, allowing his Disillusioned expression to shift into one of deep disgust. If these were my followers, they would have been… cowed into obedience.

They observed the fools along their paths for a few minutes before Strontel picked a location, casting a few detection Charms to make sure that they were safe. Voldemort gave a nod of approval that was unseen by dint of him being invisible; it was the prime location which would allow them to launch an offensive at every guard present.

Strontel assigned a target to every member before addressing Voldemort. “You will be the one to launch the attack, Marco. You will aim for the guards at the entrance and Summon them.”

“Understood.” Voldemort said. “Awaiting your signal.”

“Very good. Are you all ready?” Strontel said, getting a few low whispers of confirmation. “And… Begin!”

Voldemort went into action, leveling his hidden wand at the two targets standing in front of the building’s entrance. He immersed himself in his battle lust and incanted. Silencio. Accio.

In one instant, the two unwary wizards were yanked away from their post, not making a single sound as the clearing filled with flashes of light. A second later, the two zooming wizards were struck with two jets of red light, knocking them unconscious just as they landed at Voldemort’s feet.

He stared at the two wizards for but a moment before slashing his wand down contemptuously, slitting both of their throats in one, quick stroke.

“Wait.” Strontel’s voice rose as a member of the team attempted to exit the treeline proper in order to attack the small base. “Stay back, you fool. We have to wait for Mr. Rafiq’s signal.”

“What?” Simmons whispered, a few steps outside of the trees. “The coast is clear, isn’t it?” 

“Oh yes, perfectly clear— except the dual layered trap I detected five yards in the direction you were going.” Strontel said, sounding disgusted. “Focus, Mr. Simmons. We are here to succeed, not die. Rembrandt, disable the trap, and make sure to disable any others while we wait for the signal from the northside.”

“Of course.” Came a soft whisper from between Strontel and Simmons as Rembrandt went to work. As the minutes passed, Voldemort saw that the various traps scattered throughout the clearing ahead were being systematically found out and disabled.

He took careful note of this, even as he patiently waited for the other squad’s signal. While still somewhat rough around the edges, Grindelwald’s troops were quickly showing their potential for growth in the future.

It had barely been a month and a half since the man’s actions at the French Prison. If this was what a month’s worth of training did for recruits, then Voldemort needed to be very careful when he rose back to power in Britain.

I don’t only have to contend with Dumbledore’s little band of nuisances, but also this new force… He thought as his team leader spoke.

“We’ve got the signal. There is no need for stealth any longer— they would have already noticed the lack of noise outside.” He said, disengaging his Disillusionment Charm as he pointed at the already fading spark of yellow in the sky. “Are the traps neutralized?”

“Yes.” Said Rembrandt as he and Simmons came into view as well. “A straight shot into the building.”

“Good.” He said and led the way forward. “Mr. Marco, you will deflect any curses heading towards me. Simmons and Rembrandt, cause some damage to that side of the building— with the tall, wide windows, yes. We need to conf—”

Strontel was barely able to finish his sentence when a putrid jet of yellow flew straight at him. Voldemort reacted quickly, deflecting it with contemptuous ease, sending it right back at the caster on the second floor. There was a loud snap, followed by a cry.

“Well spotted!” Strontel cried out as he swung his wand forward. “Bombarda!”

The doors exploded, filling the air with bits of wood and metal shrapnel, drawing the cries of more wizards and witches on the inside and creating a bit of a smoke screen.

“Incoming—” Voldemort deflected a flurry of curses before summoning a large rock to intercept a Killing Curse, allowing Strontel to launch a single, geyser-like spell, spraying it indiscriminately into the darkness.

A moment passed, and then another before the screams came. They continued to approach the entrance, and Voldemort’s nose scrunched as he took in the scent of dissolved flesh.

“Good.” Strontel said as they got to the entrance, hearing the sounds coming from the north side of the building as well as the various rocks and wooden beams crashing into the outside of the structure— courtesy of Rembrandt and Simmons. “Are you ready? No turning back here.”

Voldemort answered by silently stepping inside before him, raising a barrier to intercept two spells, deflecting them off before moving to the left into whatever passed for a kitchen in a pathetic hovel such as this.

In the corner, he spotted a wizard, as well as a child in his grasp; it was the young boy they were supposed to rescue. Such good fortune…

“Don’t move or I’ll—” But Voldemort had already launched his spell, Summoning the boy by his shoes and causing him to fall onto his back as he was dragged away from the fool.

Even as the boy cried and scrambled against the floor to stop his momentum, Voldemort had already cast his next spell, watching with satisfaction as his foe’s head twisted a hundred and eighty degrees before falling bonelessly to the side.

The boy finally reached his feet, staring up at him in a look of abject fear. Voldemort Stunned the boy without hesitation; while he usually enjoyed hearing the cries of his victims, this was his current target to rescue. If he were to get any favor with Grindelwald’s order, he needed to get this stupid child outside of the building before any other wizard or witch could get their hands on him.

A few cries came from the main hallway before being silenced abruptly. A moment later, Voldemort turned to see Strontel standing in the kitchen entrance. “You’ve already secured the boy! That was a reckless move you just pulled, but it seems to have paid off.”

It was as far from reckless as it can be. Voldemort thought but spoke. “I shall get him out.”

But he got a shake of the head from the man. “No need. Rembrandt! Get in here, take the child and get him outside; we’ll come back for him when we’re done here. Come, Marco.”

Strontel led Voldemort out of the kitchen, deeper into the house as Rembrandt rushed to their previous position to secure the boy. “Rafiq and his men are searching the upper floors for the second target. We will be taking—”

He went quiet for a moment. “Did you hear that?”

Avada Kedavra!” A voice came from a painting a few feet behind them.

Voldemort reacted with alacrity, pushing himself and his ally apart with a single wave of his wand. The two men crashed into either end of the hallway, barely dodging the Killing Curse leveled at them.

Dazed for a single moment, Strontel nevertheless aimed his wand at the painting— a moving canvas depicting a quaint little hamlet out in the countryside— and roared. “Expulso!

The blue spell crashed into the portrait, tearing it apart and drawing the pained cries of whoever was behind it. Voldemort and Strontel rushed towards it, ready to finish the fight, but they stopped; the threats had been neutralized, it seemed.

The canvas which had been destroyed was hiding a dark passageway leading down underground. Light filtered down into it, revealing the devastation, blood and gore that Strontel’s spell had wrought.

There had been two wizards here, but in their place now lay a mangled mess of flesh, blood and bone. Voldemort did not even give them a second look as he followed Strontel down the stairway, making sure to repair it with a quick spell the moment he felt it was going to give way under his feet.

The stairs led them down into what seemed to be a hastily constructed cave system. Voldemort sneered as he lit his wand with a thought, sending the light out in the darkness ahead, revealing a fork in their path.

“An escape path, no doubt.” Strontel said. “In case of anti-Apparition and the like. I’ll take the one on the right. You’ll take the left— watch out for any traps meant to slow you down.”

That goes without saying, fool. Voldemort thought and took a step forward. “Very well.”

“Good luck.” Was the last thing Voldemort heard before the two split off.

Now that he was alone, he was free to fight at his full potential— or however much this host body and mismatched wand allowed. He moved quickly through the cave, stopping at the various forks for just long enough for his companion snake, Kersil, to inform him of which direction to take.

Left.“Right.“Middle.” “Right is the more recent smell, Master.”

The tedium of this whole affair ruffled Voldemort; he almost would have rathered being a mass growing on the back of Quirrell’s head. A completely random system of tunnels meant to confuse, these people truly were like rats in the way they designed this cave. Filthy, scurrying buffoons.

Voldemort continued on his path for at least another ten minutes before he finally heard the sound of something ahead. Quickly, he snuffed out the light of his wand before putting himself under his perfected Disillusionment Charm, going completely invisible.

He was already walking even before his eyes had fully adjusted to the low light, slowing down his pace very slightly so that there was less of a chance of him stumbling in this unknown, dark territory.

Of course, it didn’t take him long to arrive where he needed to be; he saw a light from beyond a corner and calmly walked to it, hearing the loud cries of a woman as she attempted to escape away from her captors.

He turned the corner and got confirmation: it was indeed their second target. He watched as she fought off the two men’s assault. His glamoured eyes took in the corpse lying on the ground and he quickly pieced the situation together.

So, she managed to steal one’s wand and killed him— or at least subdued him— before engaging the others. Voldemort thought, mildly impressed at this witch’s sheer tenacity. But I suppose I should end this little drama before it gets out of hand.

It wasn’t because he felt any sort of compassion for her; nothing was further from the truth. She could die in front of him right now and Voldemort wouldn’t care. He was even tempted to kill her himself. Actually, why not kill all three of them, right there and then?

He’d be the only witness to this crime, and all he really had to do was inform the higher ups of the sad tale. He could already see it now; he, the hero of the tale, would have arrived far too late— of course— unable to save the struggling witch’s life. His vengeance would have been swift, his wrath known to all who saw the carnage he would inflict.

The target fell down, as she was clipped by a Disarming Charm, her wand flying backwards and stopping right at his feet.

“It’s over for you now, bitch.” One of them threatened as they slowly approached her, relishing in the open fear she now displayed.

Curious about something else entirely, Voldemort ignored the woman’s cries and picked the wand up, feeling a rush of acceptance coming from it.

A rare gift. He thought with appreciation. Yew… a far better match than the worthless wand of my host. Still not the best match, but this is indeed a boon.

The woman’s cries assaulted his ears again and he sneered in her direction. Perhaps he should finally end this farce of a mission. Even as the two continued to slowly approach the downed woman, Voldemort snapped his new wand forward and up.

Instantly the two wizards crashed into the cave’s ceiling headfirst with enough force to snap their necks. Another flick, and his foes were bisected horizontally from the waist, spraying the woman beneath them with blood, viscera, and other fluids.

A quick Stunning Charm ceased her resulting shout before it could truly grate at his nerves any more. Voldemort knew, had he let her whimper, moan and cry for even a second longer, he would have killed her without hesitation.

That, he knew, would certainly not help with his plans.

No, it would not. He thought as he levitated the blood-covered woman before checking the other two wizards’ wands, discarding them in an instant when he realized they were even a worse match than that of his host. Useless.

He turned back and went the way he’d originally come from. Now, which way was it again?

Oh, the things he did to further his goals…

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