Rant: Okay. I lied. Here's another story. The chapters will be short, though. I will work on it in between my other works.

Disclaimer: I still don't own Harry Potter, nor do I own the Heralds of Valdemar series.

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The girl was alone in the darkness of the cupboard. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon had given her a beating, several vicious kicks from Vernon and quite a few harsh strikes from Petunia with one of Vernon's belts, after Dudley stole some of their money to go buy candy, and cast the blame on the girl.

In the miniscule stream of light from the cracks between the door and the wall, dust caught the light and floated thickly in the confined space. She coughed in the thick air, causing pain to further wrack her body. One of the spiders that lived with her in her cupboard crawled onto her. It tickled, and the laughter from the ticklish sensation caused her to go into another fit of coughing.

A hot, metallic wetness filled her mouth after her coughing finished, and her as everything faded into the darkness, the only thing that filled her mind was the desperate plea to anyone or anything that could possibly hear her was the frantic wish to be anywhere else. Anywhere but in this cupboard, in this horrible place hiding beneath the façade of normalness, anywhere but with these 'decent' people.

When even the pain was gone into the oblivion of unconsciousness alongside her, she was gone. Unknown to her, her plea was heard.

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Elsewhere, in a castle far to the north of the little girl in the small cupboard, small, shiny devices of bronze and brass and silver trim in a cluttered office stopped spinning. An old man with twinkling blue eyes and beard so long he had it tied around his trousers like an organic belt turned swiftly in his seat to see what had happened. His eyes dimmed at the sight of the stilled devices, and gained a distinctly unhappy gleam. He got up from his comfortable, mellow gold-cushioned chair, spun towards the fireplace. Grabbing a fistful of silvery powder on the top of the mantelpiece, he flung it into the crackling flames. They turned from a cheerful orange and yellow to an emerald green, and shouted "Number Thirteen Wisteria Walk."

Emerging into a living room filled with cats, he greeted the shocked elderly woman in the room. Giving swift greetings and apologies, he made his way to the nearby address of Number Four Privet Drive, and passed the identical homes in that particular suburb of Little Winging until he arrived at the equally drab and plain home that he was seeking. Seeing that no car was in the driveway, and that it appeared that nobody was at home, he moved towards the front step.

With a gesture of his hand, the door unlocked, swinging open and casting an almost ominous shadow in the dusk. Nobody was home, as he had assumed, but he could feel the remnants of a great and powerful magic within the home. The sensation of that magic worried him – desperation, pain, and fear. A desperate plea for safety: that which this place was supposed to be for young Heather.

What he found slowly increased his worry. In a small cupboard under the stairs, he found a small, tattered and bare mattress with a few old, raggedy clothes surrounding it. The entire cupboard had bits of blood and he could see the stains on the mattress. Most of all he could feel the magic in the small, enclosed space, and the emotions tied to it.

He closed the door to the small cupboard with his magic, careful to touch nothing, and made his way to the bland living room and sat on the uncomfortable chair in the corner, and waited for the Dursley family to return.

Three hours later, they did, and when they came into the room where he sat, buoyed with the joy of their night out, he rose from his seat, and released some of his magical power. His eyes glowed with fury; his beard came loose and flew about in the wind that his power had raised. Their faces turned from joy to fear, and he felt some small amount of shame at the satisfaction he felt at their terror.

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He arranged for Mrs. Figg to meet with the police and report the child she had not seen in over a week. The Dursley Family would be under investigation by the police for abuse and, it seemed to them, possible homicide.

It went through, and both parents in the Dursley family were sent to prison, and the child was sent to a foster home where he would be raised to be a far better person than he otherwise would be.

While the justice served on Petunia and Vernon filled him with a grim satisfaction, still he worried for the missing child, and guilt filled his entire being over the fact that he'd placed her their. Worry, as well, for if he had made such a mistake in so important an area, where else could he have been mistaken?

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Starfall was lounging in his ekele, munching on a few grapes that had been delivered ten minutes earlier by a hertasi – one of the lizard people who did many of the menial tasks in many of the Vales in exchange for respect and safety – while contemplating some of the recent incursions on Hardorn by a recently reunified fragment of the Empire. Apparently, one of the remaining greater nobles nearest to the Alliance had turned to the dark path of blood magery in an effort to gain enough power to keep control over his lands.

He'd done so, but in the process he had gained an addiction to the usage of blood magery. Makarth, the noble in question, seemed to be in control of it – meaning he wasn't slaughtering his population or killing his land for more power like Ancar had. He was, instead, torturing and killing criminals to get the power. Using this power, much of which he had stored in a well for future use, he was solidifying his domain, which consisted of his original domain and that land which he had already taken over.

So far, he was just testing the borders of their Hardornen allies, but –

Snap!

The harsh sound – sickeningly similar to the sound of a breaking bone – was accompanied by a small, ragged figure appearing about three feet in the air on the other side of his room, as well as the sensation of very powerful magic touched lightly by divinity. The figure fell, and he jumped up from where he sat and rushed over to the fallen form, only to see that it was a small child of about six years of age – a girl, battered and bloodied and bruised.

He called out for aid, from either a hertasi or another citizen of k'Valdemar Vale. In moments, one of the hertasi arrived, took one look at the girl crumpled on the floor, and then dashed out to Keisha – k'Valdemar Vale's Healer, as well as the wife of the Vale's leader, Da'rian. In mere minutes, the woman with golden-brown hair strode into his ekele, face set in a mask of determination at hearing the news about a hut child, and seemed prepared to do her duty.

"Who is she, Starfall," she asked, kneeling before the fallen form, "And how exactly did she get here, in your home?"

"Never met her before, but it is some sort of magic I've never even heard of before. I'm not sure of its origin, because of that. She just popped in here, a few feet into the air where she dropped like a stone. I think it was some sort of accidental magic fuelled by desperation."

"I can see why she would be desperate, given her condition." The healer was inspecting the damage as she spoke, physically and with her gift. "Half-healed fractured ribs, some internal bleeding in her abdomen, the bleeding whip marks on her back, and a concussion. She's also malnourished – the poor thing seems to be half-starved. She's much too pale, as well."

The old mage's lips thinned at hearing the diagnosis. "Come on," she said, gathering the girl in her arms like a groom would a bride, "Let's take her to the Hall of Healing."

He nodded, and followed her as she stood up and made her way through his comfortable home and then out through the winding paths of the Vale to the building she used to check on and heal her patients. The building was built more in the Valdemaran fashion, meaning it was far more geometrical and was located on the ground, rather than in the more organic Tayledras style, many of which were often built upon or inside of the trees that flourished in the Vale.

After Starfall grabbed the door for the Healer, the child was brought to a bed, and had the rags stripped off of her. Bending over the fallen form, Keisha began her work. The healing continued long into the night.