Damnation, it was cold.
Lucius pulled his collar up against the wind and looked up at the trees. It was nearing summer and the branches were bare. Not a creature could be heard, just the swaying and cracking of the trees in the wind.
This is a haunted place, he thought. And he knew just who was haunting it. "How much farther?"
The local guide he'd bribed stopped and gestured ahead nervously. "There. I leave you here."
"Here's your pay." Lucius struck the man down with a cutting curse and stepped over his cooling corpse. If the man was willing to betray a secret for some coin, he couldn't be trusted with anything else.
The cave's jagged mouth reminded Lucius of the dead basilisk he'd seen in the Chamber. He lit his wand and entered the darkness. It was an unnatural darkness—as unnatural as everything else in this forest. His light only illuminated a few inches or so in front of him.
He'd made it a hundred yards when It appeared in the light. Lucius fell back in fright. "Lucius Malfoy," the wraith whispered, its voice booming in the cave. "How long has it been? Eleven years? My, my, have you been avoiding me?"
Merlin, it's true. "N-no, my Lord," Malfoy quickly got into a kneeling position. "I thought you were dead."
Voldemort's laugh echoed through the cave. "I took precautions, though not enough. I am weak, a mere shadow."
Malfoy stood up. "You are still strong, still feared."
"I wonder why it took you so long to come to me. I heard you renounced me, hiding behind your money like the pampered Pureblood coward you have always been. You're no better than Wormtail."
"My Lord, I knew you would come back. I tried to bring you back myself. Your diary—"
"THE DIARY!" The mist surrounded Lucius and entered him through his nostrils. He gasped as his blood began to boil. "It was you who let my journal be destroyed? Do you know what your incompetence has cost me?"
Steam began to rise from Malfoy's reddening face. "My-my Lord, I was only doing my best. Please! Have mercy!" Voldemort let him go. He fell to the ground retching. "Thank you."
"Enough groveling. Why are you here? Why now?"
"My son is in school with Potter."
"Yes, I was there last year. He seems promising, if over-pompous. Like father, like son, I suppose."
"I want to show you something." Malfoy reached into his robe pocket and produced a bottle of tears and a portable pensieve. "I took these from him before I fled the country."
"Memories? What good are these?"
"There is another force at play, my Lord. A girl."
Lucius dripped his son's the memories into the pensieve and held it up to the wraith's face. "Look and see."
Voldemort's spectre peered deep into the bowl. A few minutes later he returned, a smile on his ghostly lips. "So, She lives."
Here we are, the end of the first installment. I hope everyone has been enjoying it so far. The last few chapters were rather difficult to write. I had trouble juggling the mood of the piece.
Year 3 should be a bit more relaxing, more in keeping with the cartoon. As the story is mainly Harry's, it will allow me to focus on some mini-adventures with Hilda and her friends. I've been scribbling down an outline. Perhaps we'll see the first installment early next month. Perhaps not. I may try and tinker around with my other stories first.
So many great reviews, so many kind words. Thank you all very much. If you haven't followed or favorited, please do.