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Shifting Priorities

September 21, 1992, 6:30 PM, Great Hall, Hogwarts

Albus Dumbledore

Professor Dumbledore sat at the center of the expanded Head Table in the Great Hall, looking over the fruits of his labor.

The hall had undergone a remarkable transformation, stretching beyond its usual confines through the skillful application of charms, in order to comfortably accommodate the students from the eight different schools. The grandeur of the spectacle was not lost on Albus; his eyes twinkled with a mixture of pride and curiosity as he observed the gathering.

From his vantage point, he watched as the students from each school settled into their designated sections, mingling amongst themselves yet casting curious glances toward their peers who hailed from distant, foreign lands.

The vibrantly colored uniforms and emblems of each school stood out in stark contrast against the rich tapestries that adorned the walls of the hall. It was a tableau of unity, diversity, and intrigue all at once.

As Dumbledore’s gaze swept across the sea of young faces, his attention was drawn to the dignified presence of Igor Karkaroff, the Headmaster of Durmstrang Institute.

His appearance was a stark contrast to the man Dumbledore remembered from over a decade ago. It seemed that Karkaroff, abhorrent as his actions were during the war, had turned a new leaf, atoning for his sins by fostering the new generation of wizards-to-be.

Karkaroff’s piercing eyes scanned the Great Hall with a strange mixture of ease and calculation. After a moment, he leaned over to Dumbledore, his voice a low rumble that carried across the table.

“Albus, my old friend.” Karkaroff remarked with a raised eyebrow. “Your castle has undergone quite the transformation since our last visit.”

Dumbledore’s lips curved into a warm smile as he turned his attention fully to Karkaroff.

“Indeed, Igor, though I would not dare to call this castle ‘mine’, or anyone’s, for that matter. Hogwarts has, and will always be, a haven for all wizards and witches seeking aid.” He replied, his voice carrying the resonance of camaraderie. “It is a testament to the power of magic and the bonds that unite our schools in this momentous occasion.”

Karkaroff’s lips quirked, a mixture of amusement and skepticism dancing in his eyes. “Ah, but I remember the Great Hall being a tad more… confined during my previous visits.”

Dumbledore nodded amiably. “Of course; it would not do to squeeze us all in a small room, after all. I do hope you find the arrangements to your liking.”

Karkaroff’s gaze lingered on Dumbledore for a moment longer before he offered a curt nod. “Indeed, Albus. It is a sight to behold, I will give you that.”

With a generous helping of roast turkey on his plate, Omar Hajjar, the Headmaster of Ayn Sehr, paused his meal, dabbing at his lips with a napkin before addressing Dumbledore.

“Albus.” The portly man began with a jovial smile, his accent lending a unique charm to his words. “I must agree with Headmaster Karkaroff. This castle is truly a marvel; seeing it for the first time from the grounds— it truly is a sight to behold.”

Dumbledore’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he nodded graciously in response. “Thank you, Omar. Ayn Sehr was equally breathtaking, when I visited many years ago.”

“You’ve been there?” He asked, turning his eyes towards his meal for a moment before focusing back on Dumbledore.

“Oh, yes.” Dumbledore confirmed. “Though it was in the days of my youth… If my memory still serves well, I believe it was in 1924.”

“I see. That was indeed some time ago.” Hajjar said, his smile widening. “How did you find it?”

“Magnificent, though the heat did not agree with me.”

A wave of polite laughter followed Dumbledore’s words, with Hajjar being the loudest. The man stopped after a few moments, his smile falling a little.

“I must confess, the climate here is a bit of a challenge for my constitution, as well.” Hajjar said, shaking his head slowly. “These old bones do protest the cold, I’m afraid.”

A soft chuckle escaped Dumbledore’s lips, and he replied with a knowing twinkle in his eyes. “I understand the sentiment, my friend. However, I do hope the warmth of our hospitality can alleviate some of your discomfort.”

At that moment, Igor Karkaroff’s rich laughter echoed across the table, drawing the attention of both Dumbledore and Hajjar. Karkaroff’s deep voice cut through the air as he leaned in, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

“Oh, Headmaster Hajjar.” Karkaroff exclaimed, his tone lighthearted. “You should count yourself fortunate that this isn’t Bulgaria. The cold here is but a gentle breeze compared to the frostbite-inducing winters we endure.”

Hajjar’s laughter joined Karkaroff’s as he raised a hand in a jesting surrender. “Headmaster Karkaroff, you are too kind in your reassurances.”

Karkaroff leaned back in his chair, his amusement still evident in his expression. “Well, let’s just say that the weather here, however chilly, is a mild inconvenience compared to some of the other places we could have found ourselves.”

“Ha.” Hajjar said as he raised his goblet, making sure to look at all the attending heads of schools. “A toast, then. To better climes ahead.”

Karkaroff nodded in agreement, raising his own goblet and causing the remaining heads of school to do the same. “To friendship between the nations.”

“Hear, hear.” Said Agilbert Fontaine, Headmaster of Ilvermorny. The others remained quiet, though they offered polite smiles and nods before everyone partook of their drink.

As the glasses were lowered, the Headmistress of Mahoutokoro, Aya Sasaki, a pale, almost waif-like figure with a piercing gaze of black, spoke up. Her voice, though soft, carried an undercurrent of authority that commanded attention.

“I must also express my heartfelt enthusiasm for the upcoming tournament.” She began, her words heavily accented, though still easily understood. She lifted a hand to cover a small smile, bringing Albus’ attention to her silky black hair, artfully gathered into an elegant bun at the nape of her neck. “The… Anticipation is palpable, and I, for one, am eager to witness the spectacle unfold.”

Her sentiments were met with nods of agreement and appreciative smiles from the other headmasters and headmistresses.

“Your enthusiasm is contagious, my dear colleagues.” Dumbledore replied warmly. “We are all looking forward to the tournament proper, and your aid in coordinating the battles is greatly appreciated.”

Headmistress Sasaki inclined her head in acknowledgment, a gesture of humility that spoke of her commitment to the collaborative effort.

“Rest assured.” She said, her polite smile turning hungry for the barest of moments before she got her bloodlust under control. “I am fully prepared to lend my expertise in ensuring the battles are both fair and captivating.”

Dumbledore’s gaze shifted, encompassing the assembled heads of school. They, too, looked almost excited at the prospect of competition.

Oh, to be a student in these times… To face such challenges. Albus thought for a moment, remembering the old rivalries of his youth and the sheer exultation he felt when he’d finally triumphed over his previous betters.

“Indeed.” He said. “This is a task which requires the collective wisdom and creativity of all of us.”

Igor leaned forward, his eyes gleaming with intrigue. “I propose that each school contributes to the planning phase, sharing their insights and unique approaches to magic. This way, we can create an arena that challenges the participants and showcases the breadth of their magical prowess.”

The table’s occupants murmured with agreement, and Dumbledore nodded appreciatively. “A splendid suggestion, Igor. We shall all create a gauntlet of challenges that reflects the diversity of our magical traditions. Of course…”

He nodded his head at the student body, who seemed to be doing their damned best to listen in on the teachers. “It wouldn’t do to have our little ones get any insights into their upcoming hurdles, wouldn’t you agree?”

The remaining heads of school nodded in agreement, expressions of amusement gathering on their faces.

The year was certainly going to be an interesting one, Dumbledore thought.


Same Time, Phoenix’ Roost, England

Lord Voldemort

In the waning moments of the evening’s embrace, the sun’s golden tendrils slipped beyond the horizon, casting a tapestry of shadows across the garden of Phoenix’ Roost. The mansion stood in quiet contrast to the malevolence playing out within its idyllic, verdant sanctuary.

Amidst the blooms and leaves, Marco sat, a vessel possessed by the insidious consciousness of Lord Voldemort.

Within the twisted recesses of Marco’s psyche, the man huddled, bearing the cruel marks of his captor’s merciless domination. His eyes glazed with resignation and the subtle tremor of a marionette on invisible strings.

Voldemort reveled in the sadistic pleasure of his conquest. The triumph had long been sealed; the once defiant fragments of Marco’s identity had withered beneath the oppressive weight of Voldemort’s dominance. The Dark Lord’s chilling amusement manifested as a predatory grin etched onto Marco’s face, his lips curling with malicious satisfaction.

Voldemort’s mastery over Marco’s mind was absolute, a symphony of torment orchestrated by an unholy conductor. As the final vestiges of daylight painted the sky with a melancholic palette, the invisible claws of Voldemort’s malevolence tightened around Marco’s consciousness. His torment was a twisted art form, an exploration of suffering that existed solely for Voldemort’s capricious delight.

In the deep darkness of his mind, Marco trembled in unending fear and agony. His pain, both silent and profound, was only a daily offering to the abyss of Voldemort’s cruelty.

Finally growing bored of this, Voldemort’s mind strayed from his enjoyable pastime to the events of the day. Voldemort’s gaze swept across the exodus of wizards and witches from the mansion’s entrance.

Even at this hour, the air buzzed with a sense of purpose, a flurry of activity that danced on the edges of his awareness. Each movement, each hushed conversation was a piece in the intricate puzzle of the order’s machinations.

Throughout the days, as he continued to observe his erstwhile ‘allies’, his mind pieced together fragments of conversations overheard, whispers caught in the corridors like secrets carried by the wind.

Grindelwald was enacting a new scheme, one so different from his usual plans that he took notice.

Stonehenge; it was a word that ignited a dormant ember within Voldemort’s consciousness.

He had heard it mentioned in fleeting fragments, though he could not understand why. The supposed ritual site of Stonehenge was widely believed to be a prank which was perpetrated by foolish wizards hundreds of years past; he’d gone to check it over in his youth, and he’d found no trace of magic there.

Perhaps he had missed something? While he’d been quite talented and perceptive in his teens, his grasp over magic now was far superior. It was certainly possible, regardless of how such thoughts grated at his ego.

Voldemort’s mind calmed itself, focusing on the enigma itself. He needed more information— he’d gotten all he could from simply listening in and paying attention. It was time for a more direct approach.

Rising from the bench, Voldemort’s movements exuded a calculated grace as he left behind the tranquil scene and re-entered the mansion’s halls, his path leading him through the corridors.

He navigated the mansion’s interior with an effortless familiarity, his stride unwavering as he made his way towards the grand hall.

In the midst of his solitary walk, a familiar figure joined him, as he expected him to. Jethro, a colleague from his guard detail, fell into step beside him. The man’s face bore the traces of fatigue, an indication of a long day’s work. Their shoulders brushed in camaraderie, a subtle gesture that masked a deeper exchange beneath the surface— one that Voldemort had been fostering.

The things he did to weaken people’s mental barriers…

“Long day, isn’t it?” Jethro’s voice held a hint of weariness as he let out a long sigh.

Voldemort’s features shifted seamlessly into an affable expression, a mask of empathy that concealed his true thoughts. “Indeed, Jethro. The demands of duty can be quite taxing. A double shift ahead for us, isn’t it?”

Jethro’s nod was a mixture of understanding and mild resignation. “No rest for the wicked.”

Voldemort’s response came with a polite smile. “True, but at least we can look forward to the meal. The food here has been consistently excellent.”

He wasn’t even lying. Much as he despised everyone as a whole, he could at least admit the food was scrumptious.

As they entered the lunch hall, a symphony of clinking cutlery and subdued conversations filled the air. Voldemort and Jethro took their place at the table amidst their comrades. Amidst the veneer of camaraderie, the ebb and flow of life within Phoenix’ Roost continued, its occupants seemingly oblivious to the shadow that moved among them.

As Voldemort partook in the shared meal, his charade persisted. His voice mingled with the hum of conversation, his false smiles and courteous responses a testament to the intricate dance he performed. He massaged egos, made jokes, and did all he could to appear as approachable and friendly as possible.

Soon, the time had come for their shift, and so Voldemort and Jethro bid their allies a good night before exiting the hall and making their way towards Grindelwald’s solar.

Navigating the mansion’s corridors alongside Jethro, Voldemort maintained his expression, a careful blend of congeniality and shared purpose.

As they walked, Voldemort allowed Jethro to lead the way, his posture relaxed but his senses attuned to the precise moment he sought.

Halfway to their destination, as the corridor stretched out in relative isolation, Voldemort seized the opportune moment.

His wand hand moved with practiced precision. Imperio.

The spell’s malevolent power surged forth, a dark force that sought to bend Jethro’s will to his own. Tired and unwary as he was, Jethro’s resistance was as ephemeral as mist in the face of a tempest.

His eyes glazed over, surrendering to the insidious command that penetrated his thoughts. A flicker of internal struggle passed through his eyes, a mere echo of his former self, as his actions were no longer his own, but it was as fleeting as an icy breeze in a desert.

Voldemort’s eyes bore into Jethro’s, further asserting his dominance.

“You will obey my every command.” He intoned, his voice infused with a chilling authority that left no room for dissent.

Jethro’s lips parted, and his voice, stripped of autonomy, echoed with compliance. “I will obey.”

Voldemort’s satisfaction was palpable, a dark triumph that resonated deep within him. It had taken weeks of prudent planning, subtle manipulations and much sacrifice on his part, but he’d managed to corner his first target.

He allowed himself only a moment of revelry, however. Much as he would love to continue, he still had to be at Grindelwald’s solar in ten minutes. He had a small window of time here.

Breaking the silence, Voldemort’s tone carried an air of calculated interest. “Jethro, I’ve overheard talk of Stonehenge by some of the members of the order. You were on the mission, weren’t you?”

Jethro’s eyes, still bearing the distant haze of the Imperius Curse’s influence, focused on Voldemort as he spoke, his words carrying a subdued intensity. “Yes, I was.”

“Tell me about it.” Voldemort continued, his order clear. “Was it not a site without magic?”

“On first glance, yes.” Jethro said in a monotone. “Our detection spells found nothing. However, Grindelwald was able to detect a palpable, powerful magic we could not.”

“Go on.”

“There was a passage, a concealed path that opened at the site. A staircase which leads downward, into darkness— almost like an abyss. Those who get close to it feel compelled to move forward, as if an unyielding force drives them.”

Voldemort’s interest deepened as he absorbed Jethro’s words. The idea of a hidden passage, a pathway into the unknown, resonated with his own thirst for power and conquest. His mind raced to grasp the implications, his thoughts grasping at the legends and lore that surrounded Stonehenge, but finding nothing.

“And what does Grindelwald claim this passage to be? What is its significance?” Voldemort inquired, his voice a velvety cloak that hid his rising excitement.

An air of awe and trepidation colored Jethro’s response in spite of the Imperius Curse upon him. “Grindelwald believes it to be an ancient ritual site. A gateway to another world, a realm beyond our own.”

A silence fell, heavy with the weight of revelation. Voldemort’s thoughts churned, his mind a tempest of speculation and intrigue. The idea of a gateway to another realm, a potential source of power that transcended the boundaries of their known world, was a notion that captivated him, as of late.

As his thoughts swirled, an echo from the past reverberated within his consciousness.

You wouldn’t find her anywhere. She’s nothing— nothing but a remnant, the last remaining dreg of an ancient, defunct Kingdom who thought it could tread upon the realm of the Gods.

Adam Clarke’s words, uttered in defiance during their previous confrontation, resurfaced like ripples on the surface of a hidden pond. The boy’s presence, his seemingly enigmatic abilities, now took on a new, truly otherworldly light.

Could it be that the boy Adam hailed from outside of this realm? Was he a being that had crossed the threshold between worlds, unwittingly stepping into the intricacies of their machinations?

Voldemort’s calculation, once focused on the known, had expanded to encompass a reality that existed beyond his comprehension.

His initial assessment of Adam Clarke had been incomplete, a misjudgment that had led to their initial confrontation. Now, Voldemort realized he needed to reevaluate his approach. If the boy was indeed from another world, his potential was incalculable.

He could be a link to the very power Voldemort coveted, or he would indeed spell the great wizard’s downfall. Was that why Grindelwald had invited him over?

A player who could upset the entire game; an ally with valuable knowledge of the hereafter.

If that were so, then this passage, this staircase into darkness could be a path towards the Abyss itself— the wellspring of unfathomable power he had encountered only once in his life.

A true pathway, not requiring near-death and specific circumstances… Voldemort’s mind whirred with the possibilities.

Voldemort’s eyes gleamed with a newfound respect and a wariness laced with a touch of fear. Grindelwald had always been a figure to reckon with, but now, with the revelation of this hidden doorway and his immense sense of foresight, his stature had grown exponentially in Voldemort’s eyes.

The corridors around them almost seemed to close in on him, but Voldemort cleared his mind with effortless ease.

For all he knew, he could be reaching the wrong conclusions with the information he had on hand. No, he would need to be patient and consider all of the information, as well as any and all eventualities.

“Let us resume our journey.” Voldemort said, patting the man on the shoulder with a fake smile. “And let us pretend this conversation never happened.”

“Of course.” Jethro said, the haze over his eyes fading away as he seemed to come into himself. “What’s going on? Huh? Marco? What’re you doing here?”

“Finally awake, are you?” Voldemort said, forcing an amused smirk on his face before shaking his head. “Don’t go daydreaming on the job, now. We still have to be at Mr. Grindelwald’s solar in five minutes, you know.”

“That’s in five minutes?” Jethro said, alarm entering his voice as his eyes widened. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Voldemort gave a shrug and a false empathetic look towards his ‘comrade’. “You looked like you could use the rest, my friend. I should ask Mr. Grindelwald if he could grant you some leave.”

“No—” Jethro interrupted before stopping himself with a shake of the head. “I’ll be fine; I just need to sleep after this shift and it will all be alright. Let’s go.”

With a nod, Voldemort followed the man towards their shared assignment. As they continued on their way there, Voldemort’s resolve solidified. He would need to extend his stay under Grindelwald’s orders, to observe and manipulate, to understand the full scope of what was going on.

The nations banding together, the tournament at Hogwarts— these things were secondary. The larger game had evolved, and he would adapt his moves to the shifting terrain of possibility.

After all, he was Lord Voldemort, and he would be a poor excuse of a wizard if he allowed himself to be caught unawares.

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  1. l l

    I hope Voldy connects to the void and just gets obliterated, especially aince he’s a disembodied soul thar should have died already. There’s a reason Adam doesn’t want to go back.

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