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A/n: Special thanks to Caliburn who beta'd this chapter for us, and the soviets over at DLP who were good enough to provide some nitpicking.

A freezing cold mist had risen from the lazy Volkhov. It hung over the streets of Velikij Novgorod, chilling the bones of the few unwise or unlucky enough to find themselves outside. A lone figure, draped in a large heavy coat strode off the metro, uncaring of the way the small crowd that had disembarked with him instinctively gave him a wide birth.

He emerged at street level, appearing unaffected by the freezing temperatures and immediately split off from the crowd, walking instead down a small side street. Suddenly, he stopped and in motion most would have missed had they not been looking for it, drew a slender strip of wood from his cloak.

“It seems that I’ve overestimated you, Vasilij. I thought you would have grown out of the skulking.”

“Harry Potter.” The word was slurred by a thick Russian accent but was recognisable enough to halt the figure’s stride. “Welcome to Novgorod.”

“I don’t know what you’re raving about, it seems dull enough to me.” Harry said as he grasped the burly Russian’s forearm. Vasilij Volchok was a bear of a man in his mid twenties; his defining features a gaunt face with sharp piercing eyes which at the moment, glittered with mirth.

“I could have blown your head off, why all the cloak and dagger?” Harry asked as he stowed his wand away.

“Russia is a changed place, Harry. Gone are the days when we could walk our streets securely. None of this matters though, you didn’t decapitate Viktor that night in Hogwarts, and you would hardly harm me.” Vasilij replied in a teasing tone.

“Still, I get twitchy when I haven’t slept for two days.” Volchock merely nodded in reply as the two walked further down the alley. “So,” Harry continued, “Have you heard from Viktor lately?” At this, the Russian’s face twisted into an angry grimace.

“No. I travelled to Bulgaria recently to speak with his sister. She says that he hasn’t been heard from since his ‘trip’ to Greece.”

Harry scowled; this wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Viktor Krum had stopped attending his national side’s Quidditch trainings nearly a month ago. Krum’s family had attempted to state that he was taking a short break, but it had gone on long enough to become noticeable.

“This pretty much proves it, doesn’t it?” Harry asked gravely.

“Yes, I’m afraid it does. His behaviour... the letters I found. The mention of Greece leaves it beyond doubt.”

Harry cursed. Viktor was his friend.

The two wizards stopped at a large stone archway, guarded by a statue of a bear on four legs, roaring at some envisioned foe. Vasilij laid his wand on the bear’s snout and muttered a string of Russian, which Harry’s basic grasp of the language only caught a few words of. The statue suddenly shuddered and a second later shook its head, sending snow flying through the air. Slowly, the grey stone seemed to melt, revealing a thick coat of brown fur. Harry was surprised to see that the receding stone seemed to reveal a real bear.

“Well that’s cooler than the Diagon alley entrance.” Harry admitted. Vasilij simply quirked an eye as the bear padded out from under the arch. Wordlessly, the pair walked headlong through the stone wall.

They emerged from the arch, overlooking a large valley with steep walls. As Harry gazed into the valley, he realised why Novgorod was regarded as the capital of Russia’s magical culture. The place was immense. It completely dwarfed Diagon Alley. The steep path leading down from the arch was lined on either side with ramshackle houses, clearly held up by magic. Further down the street, the residential area seemed to give way to more commercial avenues. Apothecaries, bookshops, taverns; the place was a pulsing hive of activity. In the distance Harry could see the warped marble pillars of a Gringotts branch and; further up, a palace-like structure with an onion shaped dome as a crown.

In his various travels, Harry had seen many magic settlements; Novgorod rivalled the best of them.

He was startled by the gruff voice to his left. “Do not be fooled, Harry. It is a beautiful sight for the passing visitor. In truth, this city is a cesspool of murderers and chaos. We aurors can barely keep order here. When this many magical folk gather in one place... accidents are ripe.”

Harry was caught off guard by the bitterness in Vasilij’s tone. “Is this part of the reason you called me here?”

“We have much to discuss, but it can wait. Tonight, we celebrate.” The big Russian slung his arm around Harry’s shoulder and guided him towards the nearest tavern.

The worn sign above the door announced the tavern as the 'Dancing Pixy'. Or at least that's what Harry thought it said, his Russian wasn't top notch.

Vasilij pushed the oak door of the tavern open and held it open for Harry to enter. “This is the finest Tavern in all wizarding Russia. My sister, Masha, owns the place—we will be treated well here.”

Harry snorted. He had been 'treated well' by Masha in the past, he just hoped Vasilij never found out.

The inside of the Dancing Pixy was obviously very old, but it was remarkably well kept. Large Oak columns punctuated the floor every few metres with an assortment of large and small tables between them. A small crowd of wizards leaned against the bar conversing with a young, bemused looking woman with short blonde hair. A thin, disgruntled looking wizard in tattered robes stared at the crowd as he wiped glasses.

The young blonde spotted Harry and Vasilij and hurried over. “Vasil you oaf, it's good to see you,” she said as she enveloped him in a hug. “You didn't tell me you were bringing Harry over!” The wizard in question winced as Masha winked at him over her brother's shoulder.

“Nice to see you too, Masha. You're just as lovely as the last time we met.” Harry replied.

Masha smiled slightly before turning her attention back to her brother. “How are Anja and little Alena? Should you not be home with them?”

“I should but Harry and I have important business that we must discuss over your finest if it's possible?”

Masha frowned. “Alright but don't drink too much. Anja nearly had my head last time.” she warned as she walked behind the bar.

Harry elbowed his friend in the ribs and, with a grin, asked, “So, who's Alena then?”

“My newborn daughter, and the reason we are celebrating tonight instead of investigating. You will see her tonight when you stay on our couch.”

“I don't get the spare room?”

“You're lucky not to be in the sty, Potter.” Vasilij laughed.

“Well congratulations nonetheless. I thought that bludgeoning curse to your balls had rendered you sterile.” Harry grinned.

A pitcher of beer and two small glasses of what Harry assumed was vodka floated over and set down gently on the table. Harry waved in gratitude to Masha behind the bar who was orchestrating the movement with her wand.

“She always was a show off.” Vasilij joked as he lifted his glass.

“Harry lifted his glass in reply, “To your new family.”

“To a world where they will be safe.”

They drank in silence for some time, before Harry sighed and signalled for another round.

“So, what happened here that you need my help with?” he asked.

Vasilij glowered and drained his glass. “A few days ago, two aurors disappeared in the marshes fifty miles from here. Normally, we would assume that they were killed by a few rogue wizards and send more aurors after them, maybe use a dementor to sniff them out.”

“So why don't you do that?” Harry asked, puzzled.

“One of the aurors managed to get a patronus message out before he died. In it, he was screaming about the most defiled and perverted magic he had ever seen.” Vasilij's knuckles grew white around his glass. “He died right before the message ended. After that we stepped it up, sent a dementor out with five aurors. They were slaughtered. The really remarkable thing is that the dementor that was with them returned, without it's handlers.”

The implications of this dawned on Harry. The Russian ministry held dementors in complete captivity, only letting them out when they were needed to assist their captors. No dementor would willingly return unless...

Harry hushed his voice as a group of four drunken wizards stumbled past and took a table at the back of the bar. “Placing a compulsion on a dementor is seriously foul magic, Vasilij. The last wizard to do it ended up being locked away by Dumbledore.”

“He's still in Nurmengard, he hasn't had a visitor in years.” The auror replied, voicing Harry's thoughts.

“So send every bloody auror you have out there and lay fucking siege to the place.”

“We are, tomorrow in fact, but there is a problem.” Vasilij lowered his voice. “That land is cursed by the foulest magic, it has been unplottable for longer than anyone can remember and a terror grips anyone who finds themselves there. Very few ever venture willingly to those marshes and of those who have, fewer have returned. Whoever is out there has the power not only to withstand that for days, but to add to it. They've woven wards to keep us out.”

Harry sat in silence for a few moments. “So I take it we're heading out there tomorrow?” Harry asked, pinching his brow.

“If you'll help us. The ministry is willing to compensate you.”

“I suppose I could use a new broom.” A few seconds went by before he asked, “You think this is related to the situation in Greece?”

“There is no way to tell at this point. Twenty of Russia's top aurors including myself are leaving at dawn. We postponed it until you arrived.”

“I'm honoured.” he said, dryly.

The two sat in silence for a long while, Misha occasionally sending rounds of drink to their table which they polished off neatly. They talked of old times, and of Vasilij's new family. Whenever either mentioned Viktor, the conversation turned to a pensieve silence until one or the other rememered a funny anecdote of no real importance. The crowd of wizards at the bar slowly thinned as the hour grew later.

Harry looked at the clock on the wall and noted the hour. “Dawn is a lot closer then it was a few minutes ago, maybe we should have gotten some sleep.” he slurred.

“Sleep is for the weak.” Vasilij replied. Or at least that's what Harry thought he said, the Russian had buried his head in his arms and was leaning on the table.

“‘Vasilij Volchok, Professional Auror’ my arse.”

A tall man at the bottom of the bar raised his hand, “Another round here.” he said in what Harry thought was a Polish accent.

A few minutes later - as Masha brought the drinks down on a large tray - the four men stood abruptly, one of them grabbing Micha and pressed his wand into her neck. “Now precious, don't move and everything will be alright. We have no quarrel with you,” he muttered soothingly.

Vasilij and Harry; noticing what had happened, stood abruptly. Vasilij drew his wand and shouted something in Russian. Harry -  on the other hand - did not draw his wand, but took a few steps forward.

“Harry Potter, drop your wand and crawl here or I he'll open the bitch's throat.” the small man with the beard demanded in accented English.

Harry closed his eyes and wobbled, gripping the back of a nearby seat for support, appearing as an average drunk. Nobody in the bar noticed that the stumble had allowed him to take his wand in hand. Closing his eyes and feeling the grain of his wand, he cast one of the few medical charms he could while drunk. An interesting thing about the sobering charm is that it was originally designed to clear the blood of any toxins. It collected the poison in the stomach then forced the individual to vomit the offending substance out at high speed. When used with alcohol it was the poor man’s sobriety charm.

Harry felt his mind clearing and the cold sensation of alcohol pooling in his stomach. He opened his eyes and stared at the man across from him before he suddenly lurched forward and bent over.

“Not the time to lose your head, Harry.” Vasilij growled.

Feeling the final stage of the spell took hold, Harry took a step forward and vomited the pure alcohol onto the bearded man's face. Chunks of stew tangled in the man's beard and the vodka burned his eyes.

A moment of stunned silence echoed throughout the bar.

With a furious roar, Vasilij drew a huge, thick knife from his robes. Picking up the wizard nearest to him, Vasilij plunged the knife into the man’s chest, pinning him to the wooden pillar.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Harry drew his wand and ignited the pure alcohol that was covering his opponent. Ignoring the flash of light and the smell of burning flesh, Harry cast a shield and dived behind a table. There was a flash of red light, Harry's shield flared purple and reflecting the curse.

Vasilij - after stabbing the man holding his sister - grabbed her and threw her behind a table before spinning to rejoin the fight. All he saw was a flash of red before dropping into unconsciousness.

“Perfect.” Harry muttered and peaked around the edge of the table, taking stock of his enemies. The one he had lit on fire had stopped screaming and looked as if he had cast a flame-freezing charm. The one stabbed to the pillar was stirring weakly as blood pooled around him.The third was healing the burns of the first, and the last was standing back nervously, apparently guarding the door.

Harry closed his eyes in concentration and waved his wand in a complicated pattern, ending with a wide sweep over the area his enemies had occupied. All of the furniture animated and the ground was transfigured into quicksand. The chairs that previously lay discarded leapt at the three men. One stalked; catlike, towards the nervous one guarding the door. With a sudden motion, the chair snapped one of its front legs and leapt at the wizard, impaling him in the throat. The second man was knocked to the ground, while the last man - now with slightly less of a beard and slightly more blackened scar tissue - managed to destroy the two remaining chairs.

“Fuck you!” he screamed. “FiendFyre!” he incanted, cursed fire spilling from his wand.

“Fucking idiot.” Cursed Harry. Hoping he had enough time, he quickly began an intricate motion with his wand. A frigid wind swept through his very being, a cold unlike any other. The cursed fire, now in the form of a large spider, began to flicker in and out. The freezing gale bore no physical effect, but chilled everything Harry was made of. And with a sharp pop, the fire disappeared.

Harry turned his attention to the last man. Harry raised his wand, but before he could do anything, the man rushed him. Both men crashed to the floor. Shifting his weight, Harry quickly pinned his attacker, and was about to drop an elbow in his face before he felt the tug of a portkey activating. His stomach dropped, and as soon as he was dragged into the storm of whirling light and colour, he lashed out with a severing curse.

The other man's hand, still gripping the portkey, was severed at the wrist and he span into the storm, screaming.


Vasilij woke with a sharp kick to his side. The burly Russian grunted in pain, rolled onto his stomach and promptly vomited on the timber floor.

“Volchok, you dirty Jewish bastard,” a sharp voice snapped, “Care to explain why I have to drag you out of a pool of your own vomit on the morning of an operation? And where is this Potter man we're paying for?”

Vasilij cracked an eyelid and peered up to a scarred, unshaven face. Dmitri Abelev was a wizard old enough to have fought in the riots of 1917 and fought Grindlewald's followers in the streets of Novgorod. The man was a known psychopath who relished in the torture of anyone brought before him. He was also Vasilij's boss.

Memory of the night flooded back to him and with a start he jumped up from the floor. “Masha!” he roared as he ran to the back of the bar.

“Fucking Polack's gone mad.” Abelev muttered to himself.

Vasilij found her lying under a table, unconscious. He hurriedly cast a few medical charms that told him that there was nothing seriously wrong with her. As he relaxed, his panic was replaced with a cold fury. The scum had attacked his family. He knew Harry could handle himself, but the fact that he wasn't there worried him greatly.

“Abelev, we need to move now. They attacked us but it had to have been them trying to stall us.”

“Which they've done well.” The old wizard growled in response.

He called to the back, “Smetanine, stay with my sister.”

A young looking auror walked to the front, obviously disgruntled to be missing out on the action. Vasilij doubted that the boy realised he was being done a large favour. As he and Abelev walked out of the Pixy towards the portkey, he couldn't shake the feeling that blood would be spilled. Lots of it.


Harry fell through the vortex, trying not to look at the stump still gripping the portkey. The trip lasted barely more than a second and Harry felt his boots crash onto a hard stone floor. Immediately he was beset by a crushing fear, an instinct to flee so powerful it was primal in its urgency. He ruthlessly crushed the feeling and looked up to see that he was in a cellar of sorts, and he wasn't alone. Three dancing globes of bluebell flames illuminated the room, casting light on a figure that was warming his hands over them. “You have taken your time. I assume Potter and that auror are dead?” the figure asked through a thick Spanish accent.

Harry flicked his wand in the Spaniard's direction and the wizard -still crouched- fell rigid and toppled over. “Yep, dead as a doornail. Legilimens,” Harry whispered. He felt the rush that accompanied Legilimency as he drove a part of his consciousness into the other wizard's mind, only to find that he was searching through images of the Spaniard having weirdly violent sex.

Harry's face twisted in disgust. “You're an utter bastard.” He sighed, the wizard was clearly proficient in Occlumency. Harry stood on the man's wand and felt it snap under his boot before he cast a silencing charm and cancelled the paralyzing jinx. Immediately, the man tried to get up, only for Harry to swing his foot into his crotch. The wizard roared inaudibly and fell back to the ground, grasping his injured testicles. Harry grinned and raised his wand, “Legilimens.”

The Spaniard was still reeling from the pain and failed to gather his mind in time, making it easy work for Harry to tear, brutally, through his mind. Images assaulted him, some as clear as day, others murky and undefined. He picked up the fact that he was somewhere in the marshes Vasilij had mentioned, a large flat plain interspersed with small groups of trees. He felt the man's fear - not the fear that Harry would hurt him - but a strange sense of unease and wrongness about the area itself.

He tried to pick through more useful pieces of information, how many wizards where there, what was their purpose? All he could gather was that they were looking for something, and they were running out of time. He lurched backwards as the wizard expelled him forcibly out of his mind, but he'd gotten most of the information he wanted.

Harry looked at the wooden staircase. The smart thing to do would be to apparate the hell out of there and help Vasilij locate it, as was arranged. But he was there now, he reasoned, so what the hell. He petrified the Spaniard once more, levitated him against the wall and whispered, “Cohesisempra.” The permanent sticking charm was perhaps unnecessary, but Harry felt it fair retaliation.

He crept up the wooden staircase slowly, wary of turning a corner and facing a group of his would be killers. As he reached the top he heard voices, angry-sounding voices, some in dialogues he couldn't understand. The cacophony stopped abruptly when someone shouted authoratively in German, one of the languages harry had learned on his travels.

“This discussion is unnecessary. Martin and his team will kill Volchok and his aurors before they can slip past the wards, we've almost found it.”

Harry flattened himself against the wall, out of sight, and listened. Another man spoke up in broken German, “But what of this Potter man? They say he is a prodigy. They say he has learned under both Dumbledore and Riddle.” A bout of concerned muttering followed the statement and Harry felt a surge of pride. This was going in Dumbledore's pensieve.

“He is no prodigy, the English are playing their status. In any case, the team I have sent is more than able to handle both him and the auror. Men, we have come a long way. Do not now forsake this cause, when we are so close. The discontent you feel is merely a testament to this old king's great power. He cursed this land, the weak of nerve can only approach the borders without going half mad. Each one of you have proven yourselves man enough to withstand his power, do not give in to it now. We will have this power for our own!” he exclaimed.

Harry's snort was drowned out by the cheers of the men outside. He peeked around the corner to see them filtering outside through a rickety old door. He estimated there had to be more than twenty of them. The building he was in was barely more than a shack, with rotting floorboards and a musky smell of something unpleasant that he couldn't quite pin down.

He moved into the room when he was sure it was empty, trying to make it to what was left of a window. Once he got there, what he saw only served to confuse him. A line of around twenty wizards were walking into the marshes, towards a lumpy, uneven wall in the distance. Then, he saw something that made his blood run truly cold. They were walking straight towards a gigantic three headed dog.

Harry dropped into a crouch, unconsciously gripping his wand tighter. “What the fuck are they doing with a cerberus?” He asked himself. He watched as the dog rose and sprang at the oncoming wizards, only to be snapped back by what looked like a series of ropes tied around its neck. Harry counted a total of twelve men holding the Cerberus back, alternating between holding the rope and flaying the dog's back with whip-like spells.

Eventually the dog settled and the wizards walked by, towards the lumpy, misshapen wall. Harry whispered a spell and with a sharp pain his vision narrowed but extended itself. He could now clearly see what the wall was made of and it brought bile to his throat.

What had looked like a wall in the distance, was actually a line of people standing side by side, naked and staring out into the marshes. Men, women and even children formed the line. The Cerberus padded over to the line and with one swift motion, the middle head enveloped a large man in it's mouth, threy it's head back and started chewing. Blood and chunks of flesh dropped from the hound's mouth as it ate the man whole.

Harry nearly vomited then and there. “I've gone far too long without sleep for this shit.” he muttered to himself.

He crept back from the window and restored his vision to normal. He didn't need to see that magnified. As he moved back he noticed the dank, musty smell grew more potent.. and that it was joined but other smells. Piss, shit and vomit. Harry looked around and found that the smell was eminating from a locked door. Curiosity overpowered his stomach and he waved the door open with his wand.

The vomit that threatened Harry for the last few minutes finally found a way free and he expelled it onto the wall. The room was filled with countless naked muggles, some obviously dead, some clearly insane and others on the brink. They barely reacted when he opened the door, some only shied away from the light. He picked the sanest looking one that was closest to him and gently looked into her mind.

She was walking home in a small town when she blacked out, and woke up on the edge of a small lake in the wetlands, completely naked. Harry saw the wizards lay the Imperius on her and after that, things became distorted. She was being crushed by freezing water, a desperate need to find something, something more important than her life.

With a sharp gasp, Harry ended the spell and turned to look out the window. His fears were confirmed. The wall of people were diving into the lake with wizards behind them controlling them like puppets. The group was using the Imperius to make kidnapped muggles search for them. For the first time in years, Harry was at a loss. He was simply fucked in over his head here. They had a Cerberus for god's sake, nobody would blame him for just regrouping with vasilij.

Harry stood in the doorway for a few seconds, the writhing mass of insane muggles behind him and sighed. Whatever they were looking for, he doubted it would mean fun times and he had no guarantee that Vasilij was still coming. He remembered something that Professor Riddle had said to him once, “Harry, when the odds are long and the stakes are great, send in the noble and courageous. When they're dead, dodge and shoot for the balls.”

With a curse he Disillusioned himself and crept out into the marsh.


A flash of cobalt blue lightning split the eerie silence of the wetlands as a group of wizards in dark blue robes appeared out of thin air. They strode forward silently, Auror Volchok and department head Abelev leading the lines. “You sure you do not want to go back to the office and get the papers ready?” Vasilij asked.

“You sure you don't want to disappear in these marshes?” the older wizard replied. For all of the appearance of friendly banter, Vasilij had a strange feeling that his boss had carried through on threats like that. About fifty feet into the trek the horizon began to blur oddly and the group drew to a halt.

Vasilij felt the effect of the marsh close in on him, clammy and terrifying. Every instinct was telling him to get out of there and to do it as fast as possible, but he raised what little mental defences he had and turned to his men. “Ignore it, brothers. We are here to bring justice to the men responsible for the deaths of Ivan and Grigorii.”

There was a murmur of assent as the aurors steeled themselves. “This is a strange ward, Dmitri. We know they're in there, we can walk freely inside it, but we can't see what we're looking for unless it's broken.” he said in a low voice, as he cast an eye over the land in front of him.

“I've seen this before, it's like the Fidelius but it only takes hold once we cross the threshold. The only way in is a portkey tied to the wards themselves.” he paused and looked at the younger auror. “If we have any luck at all, Potter will be inside. If he's still alive.”

“How will he help?”

Abelev's face took on a wolfish grin. “He can kill the warder.”

“So, if Harry's dead we have no way in?”

“Were you not listening boy?” Abelev growled “We can't see them, but there are things that can sniff them out. I was on the floo with Vdovin last night, he owes me a large, large favour.”

A horrendous roar echoed through the land behind them and Vasilij realised why Abelev was grinning so maniacally. On the horizon behind him, a small black dot was rapidly growing to immense proportions.

“And there he is now.” the old auror whispered.

“You're actually insane.” Vasilij whispered, horrified.

“I'm your future, Volchok.” Abelev replied as the Romanian Longhorn soared overhead, bringing terrified screams from the aurors beside him. A shower of sparks flew from the dragon's back, where Vasilij could see two dragon handlers holding on with expert ease.

“That could kill Harry too if he's in there.” Vasilij hissed, looking down at his superior.

“I gave you command of this and didn't ask questions when you decided to hire some outside firepower to help. Your firepower got kidnapped, mine is going to torch the kidnappers. It's not my fault that Potter isn't all he's cracked up to be.”

“There's no way the minister signed for this.” he insisted.

“What he doesn't know won't get him a kick in the sack from me.”

“He's the minister.” Vasilij deadpanned.

“He also has the wit to defer to me in matters of security.”

The dragon flew over the marsh for about a mile before it let out a shriekand dove, unleashing a great bout of fire at the ground. Flashes of red and blue rose to meet it.

Abelev crowed, “We have them! Men, follow that dragon and shoot in wide area bursts! We might not see them, but I'll guarantee we'll hit more than a few. Yurin, Zinoviev, Tchesnov and Ragulin, shielding's up to you. Move!”

Vasilij knew the plan was insane, he knew it was beyond dangerous. But he also knew that they didn't have many other options, so he shut his mouth and apparated forward in leaps with the rest of the aurors. Knowing that Abelev would help him disappear if he didn't follow orders also helped. So he obeyed his orders and went into battle against an enemy he couldn't see, with a dragon spitting fire above his head.


Harry exhaled, each breath forming a little cloud that merged seamlessly with the fog. The sun wouldn't rise for a few hours yet, and even then only to make a brief appearance. How he hated being any further north than Hogwarts. The mist rising off the water had grown thicker. He wordlessly cast a Disillusionment charm, making him almost completely invisible in the freezing fog. He added a silencing charm to his feet after stepping into an icy puddle and hearing the ice tinkle and shatter beneath his foot. The last thing he wanted was to get his face bitten off by the Cerberus before he could curse anyone.

Harry glanced up at unblinking stars in the sky. They seemed duller than they had earlier; even the half moon didn’t shine quite so brightly. It reminded him of Professor Sinistra's constant annoyance with the wards of Hogwarts dulling her precious constellations. “If Vasilij and his aurors were out there they'd be having a difficult time of it,” he thought, and noted that his first goal should be to take out whoever had cast the wards. Not that he knew who that was, he reminded himself as he moved forward, silently.

The land was scattered with low tangled clumps of vegetation which Harry used as makeshift cover as he scouted ahead. Ahead of him - but standing back from the rest of the group - was a lone wizard, apparently having trouble subduing the mind of the woman at his feet. Harry took aim, intending to remove the wizard silently. But just as he raised his wand to curse him, cheers erupted from further down by the small lake. Muggles were flung out of the water and through the air as the wizards celebrated. Harry's target ran towards his comrades.

“Well Shit,” Harry cursed.

He once again extended his vision magically and saw a small wizard in a thick black coat take a small stone box from the hands of a naked, half submerged muggle man. The wizard thrust the box in the air triumphantly, signalling a renewal in the cacophany of cheers and shouts. Even the Cerberus handlers came to join in the celebrations, collectively pelting their charge with stunners until the hellhound eventually sank. After a moment the crowd parted slightly and a large man with a thick black beard took the box from the wizard whose muggle had found it.

Harry grimaced as the flash of a killing curse struck the muggle in the chest, his body going limp and sinking beneath the waters of the marsh, silently. Stowing his revulsion, he tightened his grip on his wand and moved around the group of men, getting closer to the unconscious hellhound and its handlers who had lagged behind slightly.

The bearded wizard transfigured a small raised platform from the ground and stepped onto it, holding the box high in one hand, casting a Soronus charm with the other. "My friends, today the first steps have been taken. Today is a day that will live long in the memory. Today is the day that we found it—the flesh of Volkhov!" he spoke in German.

The handler's cheers joined those of their fellow wizard as Harry crept to within feet of the men. Using the cheers of the crowd as cover as he verbalized his will, he muttered, “Vox Serpentis.” The moist boggy ground around him shuddered slightly as multiple strips of saturated earth rippled towards the handlers is an almost snakelike manner.

The three wizards who had remained with the cerberus didn't notice as columns of earth with snakelike heads, thicker than tree trunks with pewter stones for eyes, rose silently from the ground behind them. As the crowd reached its crescendo, the snakes struck. Their jaws unhinged and they swallowed the three wizards whole, from the head down. No sounds could be heard from within the earthen serpents as they dove headfirst back into the marsh, burying the wizards alive.

Harry turned to the cerberus and grinned. The three-headed dog was sleeping restlessly, its back covered in scars from the brutal whippings courtesy of its handlers. Harry jabbed his wand at the oversized dog and whispered, “Enervate.” At first the spell seemed to have no effect, but then the body heaved and it's right and left heads snapped awake. If he wasn't standing behind a fully grown Hellhound he might have found amusement in the sight of the two heads barking at the middle head, causing it to wake, groggily. The massive canine rose to its paws and howled in three bloodcurdling tones.

Harry hastily jumped back and disapparated, using the dog's roars to mask the noise. He reappeared waste deep in the marsh, and cursed as he felt the cold soak his lower half. He settled down into cover to watch the chaos created by an enraged cerberus and the twenty surprised wizards in close proximity.

The ground quaked under the charge of the now fully awake, and very pissed off cerberus. The wizards at the back of the crowd only had a moment to scream before the monstrosity bowled into them, trampling them underfoot. Three hideous heads were busy snapping at any wizard who came close. Harry took advantage of the distraction and began to softly chant and move his wand, leaving burning streaks of fire hanging in the air. A few seconds later a white light enveloped the area for the briefest of moments before the air seemed to close in on him and the anti-apparation ward took hold. Several unlucky wizards tried to apparate away from the Cerberus' path before hitting the barrier and being enveloped in snarling jaws.

Harry flicked his wand again, and several spheres of dark gray magic sped out of his wand toward the group of wizards. There was a small explosion as each ball struck a target, and thick, choking, smoke filled the clearing.

Inside the cloud of smoke, Harry could see flashes of spellfire as they tried to blindly subdue the beast. The bright red of the stunner gave way to the sickly green of the killing curse as the wizards grew more desperate. Harry stood to circle around the cloud of smoke when there was a sharp intake of air, then a small pop as the smoke was banished.

The mostly unharmed cerberus, splattered in the entrails of devoured wizards bounded into the midst of a group that were trying to subdue it. Several wizards lay on the ground, clearly dead having been hit by a stray killing curse. Naked muggles snapped back to their senses and stood screaming, not knowing where to run. On the far outskirt of the area however, stood the German man holding his wand loosely in one hand, an enraged expression on his face.

"Well, Mr. Potter," the man practically hissed in accented English. "It seems as if you have survived. I assure you that is only temporary."

“Why is it always the Germans?” Harry muttered to himself quietly. “Inilendio,” he grunted. The Foe Hammer sped towards the German wizard who jumped aside rather than try to shield it. With speed Harry had only seen from highly ranked duelists, the wizard shot a bright purple lance of magic straight back at him. Harry threw up a hasty shield, twisting his body to remove the force from the unknown curse before jumping backwards to avoid a cutting curse. The wizards around Harry's opponent stepped back from the display and went to aid their comrades in subduing the Hellhound.

Harry flicked his wand, and diverted the course of another purple spell into the nearby marsh, a handy trick that Professor Dumbledore had taught him a few years back.

He responded with a searing flash of white light and rolled to the left, sending a quick chain of cutters toward his target. A brilliant sapphire sphere blossomed around the German wizard as Harry's cutting curses impacted the previously invisible shield.

Harry hadn't anticipated the German wizard being much of a problem and found it hard to move from the back foot. The German kept up the pressure with the brilliant green of the Killing Curse which Harry only narrowly avoided. Then, just as he thought it couldn't get worse, an ear splitting shriek tore through the air causing both wizards to look skyward.

A massive Romanian Longhorn descended from the clouds, screeching and spitting fire in its wake.

“Yeah, that makes perfect sense.” Harry thought as he dove into the water behind him. From the depths, he could see the distorted shape of the dragon soaring over the water's surface. When he came up for oxygen a moment later, his eyes darted around, looking for threats. The dragon had layered the marsh with flames intense enough to blacken rock and boil water. Through the inferno he could see the cerebus unaffected by the dragon's fire and chasing after it with blinding speed. Harry could barely make out the forms of two men on the dragon's back. He realised they must be handlers and tried to shout in warning as the Hellhound leaped in the air and crushed the dragon's tail in its jaws. The Longhorn screeched as the cerberus yanked it to the earth in a massive show of strength.

Harry saw the German man pick himself up out of the marsh, his head was badly burned from being closer to the fire than he was. Harry raised his wand, but before he could cast another spell the air was split with a high tone and a brilliant flash of white. The wards had come down. The caster must have been killed by the Dragon's first pass, Harry realised.

The German wizard launched a volley of curses towards Harry, but this time he was ready. He ruthlessly beat back the onslaught by timing his shield charms perfectly. An aurora of multi-faceted light shimmered around him as his opponent's spells crashed against his shields. Harry quickly found his rhythm and advanced, reflecting the spells he could back at their caster and dodging those lethal flashes of green. Screams and screeches filled the air as the two wizards duelled.

A wizard in a leather vest flew through the air as the Longhorn wrestled with the cerberus. The giant Hellhound snarled at bit at the dragon as the Longhorn's remaining handler fought to avoid ending up in one of the three sets of snapping jaws. The dragon's wing had been badly torn and it leaped backwards, lashing out with jets of flame. The cerberus once more barged through it without a scratch and snapped at the dragon's throat. Blood splattered through the air as Hellhound fangs crushed through Dragon scales and fierce talons tore at the massive hound's flanks. The dragon came off worse and instinct took hold, telling it to fly away. Once it burst free from the Hellhound's grip it roared and tried to take to the air.

Harry flicked his wand and transfigured more of the marsh serpents that had been so useful before. With a mental nudge they slithered off toward their target. The German wizard took the opportunity to send a blasting curse toward Harry and closed the distance. The dark orange spell sped across the distance between Harry and his opponent. Before Harry could shield the spell, tonnes of beast intercepted it, as the cerberus charged the dragon. The Hellhound managed to catch the Romanian dragon mid-flight and bringing it down between the two wizards. The rolling mass of fur and scales was punctuated by the snarling of three heads and the roar of the dragon.

The Cerberus was bleeding from several long gashes in its hide, but the Dragon wasn't faring much better. There were many bite marks and deep puncture wounds from the Cerberus' teeth.

Those wizards who had avoided the wrath of the quarrelling beasts had taken to running towards the cover of a small grove of gnarled trees. Several of them aided their leader by sending muti-hued curses at Harry, who was forced to shield and dodge from two sides. The German's face took on a maniacal grin as he sent curse after curse at Harry, wearing his opponent down.

Harry was getting desperate at this point, trying to fight both sides, one side including a very skilled and dangerous wizard. His concentration slipped as he spun rapidly to shield a putrid yellow curse, and he felt a crushing pain in his leg that forced him to his knees. He didn't have time to scream as he rolled away from a killing curse, and right into the path of several other spells. After going days without sleep, he couldn't keep up with the pace as his shield was bombarded. With a sharp flicker his shield broke and he was thrown from the ground, landing in a particularly boggy part of the marsh.

Behind him jeers rang out. “It seems as if you've been a victim of your own publicity, Potter.” The German wizard mocked.

Harry hurt too much to make a suitably witty retort. This was it for him, he realised as the German walked towards him. After all he had learned, he was beaten by one reasonably strong duelist and his followers, mainly due to his own arrogance. He coughed and a small mist of blood escaped his lips. His vision blurred slightly as he pushed himself to his knees and grasped his wand.

“Last words, Potter?” the German asked as he pointed his wand at Harry's forehead.

Harry coughed again and whispered hoarsely, “Spheara Aegis.” A crimson dome extended from the tip of Harry's wand, shielding himself from the wrath of the incoming Aurors. The German glanced over his shoulder as a wave of lightning struck him and flung him over Harry and into the marsh.

Dozens of sprinting aurors were running in his direction, exchanging curses with the remaining crowd of outlaws. Harry spotted Vasilij at the forefront, running towards him. The big Russian grasped him under his arm and dragged him to the side while firing a string of bone breakers over Harry's head.

“You took your fucking time.” he coughed out.

“And you were just beaten around like - is that a Cerberus?” he asked in a strangled voice.

“Three heads, massive, bloodthirsty. I'd say so.” Harry replied a he batted away an incoming curse.

The two massive beasts were still rolling around on the ground, ripping at each other with teeth and claws. Harry wasn't sure who he was rooting for.

One foolish young Auror tried to show some initiative and fired a stunning spell at the German wizard who had recovered from Vasilij's curse. His attempt was met with a silent killing curse to the chest.

Harry stumbled as Vasilij roared and shot a string of curses at the German. The German wizard dodged and tapped his wand to a piece of debris. The object, which Harry realised was a limb, glowed blue and he disappeared in a vortex of light. Both Harry and Vasilij cursed. After their leader had left it was only a matter of rounding up his dispirited followers, and tending to the wounded.

The Cerberus lay mortally wounded with the body of the Longhorn beside it.

Abelev walked towards them. “Thank you for your assistance, Mr. Potter. You were very helpful.” Harry snorted weakly at the man's poorly veiled sarcasm.

“You're welcome, I suppose. Is that your dragon?”

The department head looked distinctly uncomfortable. “That was the Romanian's dragon. How the hell this rabble of scum managed to get a hold of a Hellhound is beyond me. There's going to be hell to pay.”

“I thought the minister knew to stay out of your way?” Vasilij asked with a grin.

Before Abelev could reply Harry spoke up. “This is a great conversation but I'm bleeding out here.”

Vasilij apologised and handed him a bronze ring from his robes. “This will take you to the Hospital.”

“Thank you,” Harry said as he grasped the ring. “Oh and we need to talk when you're done here.”

Vasilij grimaced as his friend disappeared in a haze of blue.