Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Under the old oak bordering a small stream, she opened her book and lay back, listening to the water bubble over the rocks. She stayed there for a while, comfortable in the magical world of her book, enjoying the calm serenity of the forest.
Suddenly, a loud, echoing POP brought her out of her pleasant stupor. She knew exactly what that sound was. There was only possible thing it could be.
Sophia was bustling around the kitchen preparing dinner while her youngest, Nellie, chatted animatedly in her ear about all the fun she’d had that day. There was a knock on the door.
“Get that, will you, Nellie, dear?” Sophia said happily, busy stirring a pot on the stove.
“Sure, mom,” the afore-mentioned girl said cheerfully, skipping over to the front door. She opened the door and gave a small scream, though she recovered quickly, “May I help you?”
Sophia couldn’t hear the answer, but Nellie came back quickly, “It’s – it’s someone named T-Tom,” she stammered, her face pale, “Face white – eyes red – bald--,”
Sophia’s face darkened and she pulled her daughter close, “Be right there!” she called, before turning to Nellie, “I want you to leave through the back door and run into the forest, understand me?” she whispered urgently, “Find Raea, and go see Aunt Mercedes, got it?”
Nellie nodded, her eyes wide with fear, “But what about you and Daddy?”
“We’ll be fine, just go!” she instructed, shoving her daughter out the door. Nellie ran straight into the forest, but not before she heard a scream come from the house.
Raea leapt up immediately, apprehension etched into her features. She could see bright beams of light flashing through the trees. Picking up speed, she drew a long piece of wood from her pocket and clenched the novel in her hand tightly.
Unexpectedly, something jumped out from the trees and Raea fought hard not to emit a scream, raising her wand.
“Rae,” the person panted, “Mom….Dad….snake-man named Tom……curses……”
“Nellie?” Raea shrieked quietly, “What happened to you?”
“Never mind that, just come!” Nellie exclaimed, grabbing her big sister by the hand and dragging her through the trees, “Mom and Dad are in trouble!”
Raea shot a bunch of Stunner spells through the trees and watched in satisfaction as two of the cloaked figures dropped to the ground. The sisters made their way surreptitiously through the forest towards the side door, Raea discreetly sending spells through the trees as they did so.
Eventually, they made it to the hidden door and Raea unlocked it with her wand.
“Aren’t you going to get in trouble for underage magic?” Nellie asked.
“Subsection 4.1 of the Restriction of Underage Magic states that underage magic is allowed in life-threatening situations,” she responded. Nellie didn’t even react to her sister’s textbook-like response.
A figure came into view as they rounded the corner into the kitchen. Raea pushed Nellie flat against the wall. Swiftly, the snake-like figure shot a hand into the air.
“Morsmordre,” it said in a deep, guttural voice, before sweeping out through what was once the front door. Raea bent down to her sister.
“Stay here,” she said strictly. Nellie rolled her eyes in response.
“Yeah, I’m really gonna stay here when my parents are in trouble,” she said sarcastically, moving to push her way past the taller brunette. Raea pushed her back.
“I mean it, Nellie,” she insisted, “Stay,” Raea left her sister there, scared of what she would see. She picked her way through the debris scattered across the living room towards the kitchen. Abruptly, she stumbled.
Horrified, she looked down. Her mouth formed a small ‘o’ of dismay as she realised she had tripped over her mother’s fallen form. Quickly dropping to the floor, she checked her mother or any signs of life, while beckoning her sister towards her.
“Floo St. Mungo’s,” she instructed, after determining a pulse. She hugged her Mom, rocking back and forth, fear finally overwhelming her. The adrenalin was wearing off, and the awfulness of what had just transpired overtook her.
“I found Dad!” Nellie shouted from the other side of the room, “He’s not moving!”
Raea could hear the panic in her voice, “Did you Floo St. Mungo’s?” at her sister’s nod, she signalled her sister over, “What did they do to you?”
“I fell, and I got hit with some curse,” she responded, shrugging, massaging her back with one hand and wiping blood from her cheek with the other. Raea immediately jumped into big sister mode.
“Come here,” she ordered, pulling her baby sister close, “What did the curse do?”
“I don’t know, but it really hurt. It felt like….like a hundred knives stabbing me all over my body,” she replied, doubling over. An Unforgivable Curse. Whoever had done this would pay. Raea pulled a bandage out of her pocket.
“Did you see who cast it?” she asked quietly, rubbing her sister’s cheek gently.
“They were all wearing masks,” she responded, crying softly. “Are Mom and Dad going to be okay? Why did those people come?”
“I don’t know, baby,” she said softly, holding her tightly. Their mother stirred.
“Henry?” she muttered, “Nellie?” a pause, “Raea?”
“Mom, we’re here,” Nellie whispered, clenching her hand tightly, “Get Dad,”
Usually, Raea would have hated to be bossed around by her younger sister, but desperate times call for desperate measures. She got up immediately and levitated her step-father carefully over to her mother. The family clasped hands firmly.
So much for my haven, Raea thought, It’s ironic that the place I felt safest is the place that everything came crashing down.
The glaring lights of St. Mungo’s were permanently emblazoned into Raea’s mind. She tightened her hold around Nellie, wiping the young girl’s tears away with a stray tissue.
“They’ll be alright,” she whispered into the brown hair, tears streaming down both faces, “I promise.”
“Raea?” someone called, “Nellie?”