A/N: This does relate to Harry Potter, I promise. You might be able to figure how so pretty quickly, there are some rather large clues, but it will be a couple chapters before it's crystal clear.

Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize and everything you do not.

The Mystic Circle
Book I: The Beginning

Over a thousand years ago…


His heart is racing, thumping against his chest. His faced is scrunched up in concentration and his eyes are darting back and forth. Holding the broom with one hand and his wand with the other, he directs their flight while whispering incantations to prevent his ailing wife from tipping over and tumbling into the harsh ocean a mile below.

At last dry land is whirling below them and he dips the broom, wincing as the raw wood of the handle gnaws at his thighs. Focusing on the land, he watches as beach, then jungle, then open plain whiz by below… the plain rolls into a series of hills and finally, a hut appears.

He loops around, surveying the area, but he needs to get his wife to the ground quickly so he can treat her wounds. It has been years since the last time he traveled by broomstick and this lengthy journey was the first flight for this particular besom; he bewitched it moments before take-off. He knows the landing will be rocky and braces himself, tucking away the wand and wrapping his arm around his wife. He kicks his legs in the air to attempt a running stop, but the ground is rolling by faster than his pace and his feet dig into the dirt. The broom whirls out from between his legs and the brush sends him flying heels-over-head. He loses his grip on his wife and feels a rib or two crack as he lands sideways.

His wife cries out in pain, waking them both. A rock sits on their bed and as they come to their senses, they recognize the smell of smoke perverting the air. He is out of bed in a flash, lacing up his boots and crawling into a tunic and cloak. She is still in her shift, flicking her wand through the air, whispering charms to gather their things. Thunderous noises sound from the front room as their friends and neighbors try to knock down the locked door; he snatches up the broom and twists his wand about it until it hovers in the air. He turns to find his wife in tears, struggling to hold a bag bursting at the seams. He mounts the broomstick; she sighs and drops their possessions and climbs on behind him. He intends to fly through the window but they can feel the heat and hear the crackling of the fire that has been set to their thatched roof and without warning, the door breaks down and men come storming in. They grab his wife and tear them apart; he is dragged outside, but can hear his wife's screams from within the burning house above the shouts of the mob around them. He fights off his immediate offenders with blows to the jaw and stomach and he draws his wand, shouting out a curse he doesn't remember learning. The house blasts apart and the villagers are sent scattering, some blown through the air by the explosion and others running to escape further damage.

"Edwenna!" he cries, charging into the rubble and the furious blaze. "Edwenna!"

When he has at last forced himself to sit up, he takes a quick glance around, soaking in his surroundings. His wife is lying still, not too far from him. If anyone is in the hut, they have not heard the disturbance or they have been frightened enough to remain inside. The broom seems to have flown off, having not been properly trained to stop when its rider has fallen off. He winces in pain as he crawls over to his wife. Her eyes are closed, but she is breathing. He tries to yell out for help, but it hurts to much and he settles down next to his wife, focusing on breathing in and out, telling his eyes to remain open, begging his tired mind to let him remain awake for his wife's sake…

Her hair has been scorched, though it is not gone, and part of her face has been burned. Her arms and hands are covered in scars and her underdress is mostly gone, but she is alive. He wraps her in his cloak and waves his wand over her, chanting charms that will ease the pain. He mounts the broom again and eases his wife's tensionless body into a sideways seating position in front of him. His left hand holds the front of the broom's handle and his wife's neck rests in the crook of his left elbow. He holds his wand with his right hand and kicks off the ground, setting his course south.

He wakes to find an unfamiliar woman huddled over him, her hand poised with a spoon full of a foul-smelling broth. "To eat," she commands and he opens his mouth. The liquid tastes terrible but its hot temperature feels good sliding down his throat. "You are to have a name?"

He coughs and speaks: "Ailward." He reaches to feel his wounds; the ribs do not hurt when he pokes them. "Are you a healer?" he asks and receives only a blank look from the woman. "Healer?" he tries again.

"I am to not know your word 'healer,'" says the woman. "But I am to make hurt good." She grins and her smile is full of dimples and missing teeth. "Woman is to sleep. Man is to feel better?" Ailward nods his head and then relaxes his neck again. He lies on a cot with no pillow and a thin, course blanket of woven grass covers his body which he only now realizes has been stripped of its clothing so the woman could more effectively minister to his wounds. The woman sits on the cot beside the bed and brushes Ailward's hair away from his forehead. "Woman is to be wife?" she asks. Her eyes are big and watery, as though she is about to cry.

"Yes," he says. "She is my wife. Is she alive?" The woman smiles again and nods and points to the other side of the hut. A second cot cradles a human form beneath another grass blanket. Their clothes lay in a heap near the foot of Edwenna's bed. His eyes flutter shut. They are safe.

The woman tucks the blanket around Ailward and pets his cheek. He slits his eyes so that he might watch her. She is old – or else her surroundings have aged her considerably. He would guess seventy, maybe eighty years. Unusually longevity for a European, let alone an African. Her skin is the rich brown color of English soil, stained with blood and mud, and hangs in leathery folds from her cheeks and chin, though the flesh on her arms and legs grips her bones with no fat and little muscle. She is dressed in filthy, white fabric that has been draped and tied around her skinny body and her hair falls from her scalp in grimy coils, held back with bits of twine and grass and cloth. Fatty lips and a flat nose and looped earrings of solid gold, she has nothing in her heart but kindness.

"I am to be Yewande," says the old woman. "And I am to be required by destiny to take care of you. You are to be Ailward and Ailward is to call me 'Healer.""