Chapter 7 : Nestor Kozlov
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The 'celebration' – as his Uncle Lucius had referred to it as – began at 7 pm and lasted throughout the night. Instead of joy and cheerful conversation as Cyrus and Draco had anticipated though, it was a rather somber occasion accompanied with what seemed to be a very strict protocol. Each member of the party arrived at various times throughout the evening and were met within the manor gates before being lead inside, where Bellatrix indentified their invitations and had them swear to a magical oath of secrecy before seeing the new Slytherin heir (as detailed in their letters). From there they were lead to the ballroom, which was reorganized by the house elves to resemble a ceremonial type setting with a plush emerald green carpet lining the middle of the room and a decorative type of throne at the very end, where Cyrus sat rather awkwardly.
As instructed by Bellatrix, the members filtered into the room quietly after finishing their oath and lined each side of the room to wait their turn to greet the mysterious boy. Each invitee only had but a minute with him, which consisted of a short introduction of themselves, some sort of praise for the venerable Slytherin bloodline, and usually a gift as well. Although Lucius handled most of the formalities while Cyrus was merely required to thank them for their presence, he couldn't help but feel the immense pressure that had weighed down on him. It was quite obvious that instead of the 'celebration' that his Uncle Lucius spoke of, the gathering turned out to be more of a political ceremony. Cyrus knew what the Slytherin name had meant to the dark's cause in the past due to his readings, however, he hadn't any idea that the bloodline would still resonate among dark wizarding society to the extent that it seemed. Not only did most dark wizarding family in England attend, but there were also several royal magistrates and representatives from various countries across Europe. Moreover, every member had only one day's notice, which was perhaps the most striking aspect of their prompt arrival.
Just as Cyrus began stroking Sevins in an attempt to calm himself from the mounting pressures of meeting the lofty hopes and expectations of dark wizarding society, his door creaked open to reveal one of the many house elves of Malfoy manor.
"Young Master Black," he squeaked hesitantly as he peered at the child sitting aside his fireplace. "Master Malfoy requests your presence in the dueling chambers. Your lessons start in one half hour, sir."
Cyrus looked back to nod in appreciation as the house elf bowed and closed the bedroom door. Slowly he turned to his familiar as the door shut with a dreaded look in his eye, as if to say he wasn't yet ready to start his magical training, a day he that had looked forward to for most of his life. Sevins, who had been up all night trying to comfort his master, slithered up his arm to hiss reassuringly, "You mussst not burden yoursself with thessse matterss young ssserpent. You have many yearsss ahead of you. Focusss on what isss in front of you, and your greater dessstiny will unfold in time."
Turning to his familiar again, Cyrus responded to his thoughtful words with a faint smile. He knew Sevins was right in that he had years before anything at all was expected of him, and that all he could do was take his life one day at a time. Still, he feared that what might eventually be expected of him to be an impossible challenge. Feeling only slightly comforted by what his familiar said, he took a deep breath and rose from where he was sitting to prepare for his first magical lesson of his life.
Arriving downstairs, Cyrus found his brother Draco and his uncle Lucius waiting for him at a small table off to the side of the room. The dueling chambers consisted of a strip of red carpet about fifteen feet wide and fifty feet long that ran through the middle of the room, complimented by an interior of white coral stone. On each side of the dueling strip were a wide case of stairs that elevated about six or seven feet, leading to a sitting room and library hidden behind several granite columns that lined the top of the stairs. Though the library on the far side was largely unused, Cyrus had almost always wondered what sort of texts the shelves might hold, as it had always been off limits to both Draco and him.
As Cyrus entered the room Lucius rose casually along with Draco to greet him. Lucius had decided it best to move on from last night as if it hadn't happened, knowing the pressure that it had put on the boy. He didn't regret holding the ceremony of course, as it had indeed rejuvenated the dark's hopes of someday achieving their long held dreams, but he still couldn't help but feeling sorry for the boy. It was clear to him that Cyrus understood what his role in wizarding society was as well as any nine year old could hope to, yet he knew this would greatly inhibit him from having any kind of normal childhood at home or in school. Regardless though, Lucius ultimately believed that it was good for the child to learn how to handle such pressures at a young age if he were ever to meet the expectations dark wizarding society had for him.
"Aw… there you are Cyrus! I hope you're well rested, we have another big day ahead of us," Lucius exclaimed before continuing in a more formal tone. "As I was just telling Draco, I expect each of you to be well rehearsed in elementary magical theory by now. It has been part of your curriculum for the past two years, and while it will certainly be covered you should not think that I will baby either of you here today. Learning to build and hone your magic is incredibly taxing on both your mind and body, so you must expect to be pushed to your limit. I will not tolerate weakness, both of you are descended from highly regarded pureblood lines and you will be trained as such. Do you understand?"
Cyrus gave a slight nod of the head with a barely audible 'yes sir' before following him down to the dueling strip with Draco. He didn't believe there would be any dueling yet, but he also wouldn't be surprised by his uncle if they did either. Just as he was about to ask, Lucius spoke again up as if he had read his mind.
"Now…neither of you should anticipate dueling lessons until you have learned to harness your core's magic appropriately, which won't be for quite some time. Today we'll start off with some rudimentary charms and transfiguration. Hopefully, in a few month's time you will have mastered some of the basics and be able to begin the Dark Arts. I expect both of you to be at least," Lucius paused during his emphasis to eye Cyrus carefully, "one to two years ahead of your classmates."
Seeing the two boys nod in obedience, Lucius directed them to follow him towards the dueling strip while he fit a pair of frilly red dueling gloves on his hands. He had looked forward to this day for years now and not only decided to reduce his time spent at the ministry for the time being, but also had an intricately planned curriculum for the boys over the next couple of years. While Draco would experience a rather common form of prep school common in pureblood households, he knew Cyrus would require far more attention. Not necessarily because he was the heir of a celebrated bloodline in their society, but because his style of learning would be far different from most other wizards. It wasn't the remarkable explosions of accidental magic that made him aware of this, but instead it was the small feats of wandless magic that had caught Lucius's attention.
Unlike other rare talents such as legilemency or a sears ability to see into the future, wandless magic was the sure sign of a magical savant (a witch or wizard that could summon their magic without the use of a wand, sometimes referred to as a mage). Performing magic without the use of a wand indicated a certain level of affinity with one's own magic and the world around them, and in extremely rare cases an affinity so deep that sparked the developments of elemental capabilities over time. Though Lucius certainly didn't expect Cyrus to form elemental abilities, which not even Voldemort possessed; he did expect him to learn as savant would. Instead of learning wand movements and incantations that facilitated ordinary wizards in concentrating their magic through a wand, Cyrus would be taught the art of focus and mediation while learning to call on his magic at will. Learning to summon and concentrate one's magic with a wand was hardly necessary, but great focus, power, and mental discipline were required without one. And though there were a number of more powerful spells that no one could cast without a wand, the goal for Cyrus would be to eventually learn how to do so without the wand movements or incantations - one of the many great advantages wizards such as Dumbledore and Voldemort had in combat.
Just as Lucius was beginning to wonder where Cyrus's tutor was he appeared at the entrance wearing a long black fur coat with dragon hide boots layered in snow. The man had wavy black and grey peppered hair as well as a thick goatee that pronounced the stern countenance his face wore. As he approached them his confidence appeared as if all the golden chains of rubies and emeralds that decorated his coat were hardly needed to signify his royal status. Most of wizarding Europe knew him as Nestor Kozlov, an agent in the royal court of wizarding Russia and the former right hand man of Gillert Grindenwald, who also happened to be a good friend of Lucius's since their service under Voldermort.
"Nestor! It's good to see you again my old friend," Lucius exclaimed as he went forward to embrace the man with a firm roman handshake. "We were just waiting for you. I haven't yet had the opportunity to tell Cyrus much about you since last night… but I believe you two will get along just fine. Cyrus," he directed at the boy politely. "This is Nestor Kozlov. He's a good friend of mine and in your particular case… better suited to teach you than I am," he finished with a graceful effort.
The man nodded in appreciation and then began to eye the boy head to toe. "So this is boy?" he asked himself with a thick accent. "Very vell…ve shall see if he is vorthy of your high praise Lucius…do not expect me to go yeesy on him."
"I expect you to push him to his limits," Lucius replied quickly, and to Kozlov's surprise in a rather demanding tone. "Draco and I will go to the study and leave you two here in case you might need the space… If you need anything, one of the house elves will be happy to accommodate you. Just snap."
Before Cyrus could think to utter a word in response to any of this, Lucius had turned to lead Draco towards the study and out the door. Draco had looked back at his puzzled brother a number of times but knew to never question his father. Whatever he had done in the past, no matter how bemusing, he knew it had always been done for a reason.
As the door shut all Cyrus could do was look up at the strange man in front of him and wait for his instructions. Yet, the man just stood there and continued to stare at him for some time. It seemed to take a lifetime as the man's dark eyes scanned over again and again, as if he were looking for something he wasn't able to detect before. Finally though, the man stopped his examination and spoke up.
"I vill say…" Kozlov began harshly. "It vould be foolish for me to try and teach you vandless magic, kreat Krindenwald could barely levitate book at your age. Nevertheless…. I am obligated to follow your father's instructions. Ve vill begin when you unbuckle your holster and hand over your vand."
As Cyrus unbuckled his holster and reached out to give him his wand Kozlov immediately shot him a disappointing glare. "Incorrect," he stated coldly. "I can see that Lucius has not taught you anything… You never kive your wand away to somebody you do not trust vith your life. Understand? Your father knows me…. Yah. But do you? I could kill you now and there would be nothing you could do to prevent me."
Cyrus, shocked by his instructor's response, slowly retracted his wand as he began to wonder if the man was either insane or if he just took himself a bit too seriously. After a few moment though, he also had a feeling that this is what he should expect during his magical training, as there was probably good reason for being separated from Draco. After all, he knew his father wouldn't let a mad man anywhere near him, much less tutor him in his first magical lesson.
"Lesson number one, never kive your wand away," Kozlov repeated as he flicked his wand to give Cyrus a chair to sit in behind him. "Now…sit."
Slowly, Cyrus sat down in the wooden chair behind him and waited for his next direction, wondering what the man in front of him was going to ask him to do next. Once seated though, the man only closed his eyes and raised his right hand toward the library with his palm open. Nearly a full minute later, Cyrus noticed a bead of sweat dripping from the man's forehead and an expression of extreme concentration come over his face. For the moment he had no clue what the man was attempting to do, but then in the corner of his eye he immediately caught sight of a book slowly floating towards them. Kozlov, who grabbed the book in a swift motion, merely smiled affectionately as read the title.
"That... is yust about the extent of my vandless abilities," Kozlov stated tirelessly as he wiped his brow. "Yet, I have trained my vole life and veryfew vizards are capable of even that. So… I do not vant you to be disappointed if you do not succeed. It requires kreat concentration, discipline, and power… which can only be mastered with time. So I varn you, do not expect to perform any spells vithout vand for many years… if ever."
Not sure how to respond, Cyrus simply gave his instructor a courteous nod to continue. He wasn't sure whether to tell his instructor that he was already capable of wandlessly attracting and repelling small objects, but he definitely knew he didn't want to appear boastful and thus decided to let his lesson play out. And while it was certainly odd that his father hadn't informed his teacher of his abilities beforehand, he found that it really wasn't much of a surprise.
"Be that as it may…ve must test your abilities," his instructor continued in a collected manner as he held up the book. "I vould like you to examine the book I have in my hands. Examine carefully, not only what it looks like, but how it might feel in your possession. You must not concentrate too much on physical nature of item, yust your desire to control it."
Knowing this already from his experience with wandlessly summoning and banishing objects, Cyrus only gave a slight nod and a small inward smile. Lifting his hand towards the book, he saw his teacher's lips allow themselves a condescending smirk and decided not to hold anything back. Within the blink of an eye though, Kozlov's face had instantly changed from an expression of amusement at the boy's efforts to one of total disbelief. There in front of him, was Cyrus sitting patiently for his next instructions with the book in hand, staring innocently as if nothing had happened.
Kozlov, whose mouth was now hanging wide open, tried to recover but only could manage a stutter.
"Not….Not bossible…You…How did you-"
"Isss everything okay young masster?" Sevin's voice cut in as he slithered into the room and over towards Cyrus and his astonished tutor.
"Everything isss fine Sssevinsss, thankssss. I don't think Uncle Luciusss told my tutor very much about me though," Cyrus hissed at his familiar, glancing over at Nestor to see if Lucius had also failed to mention his parseltounge abilities. "It doesssn't ssseem like he expectsss very much."
Kozlov, who now appeared as white as the snow melting off his boots, was intently gazing at Cyrus with a pair of astonished grey eyes; taking in every detail he could manage to remember. Slowly, he retrieved his wand and banished the chair he had summoned with a shaking hand and began to walk out of the room at a quickened pace.
"I've seen enough! I must speak vith your uncle at once!… Ve vill meet again soon I hope, Cyrus…" Nestor managed as he walked out of the dueling chambers, leaving Cyrus and his familiar looking quite puzzled as he shut the doors.
"Vie did you not tell me Lucius?" Harry heard Kozlov ask curiously behind Lucius's office dore. When his tutor had abruptly left the room, he couldn't resist following the man upstairs to hear what he had to say to his uncle.
"I told you he was the heir to Salazar Slytherin," Lucius spoke calmly. "Either you chose not to believe me… or perhaps your esteem for your former Lord Grindenwald has blinded you from the greatest dark bloodline in history, which just so happens to hail from England.
Cyrus could hear a grunt from the other side of the mahogany door, indicating Kozlov's ignorant reply.
"No matter…" Lucius continued. "He will be off to Hogwarts in a short time Nestor. He needs proper training and it would be a great advantage to him if –"
"Hogvarts?" Harry heard Kozlov shout in surprise.
"Well of course…" Lucius replied with a casual air of finality as if he had expected the outburst. "It's where both Narcissa and I went as well as his Aunt Bellatrix. Naturally…he will follow in his family's footsteps and ascend into his heritage as a Slytherin… like we raised him to be."
"But this is madness Lucius! Dumblydore –"
"The boy's legal godfather works at the school," Lucius cut in hastily. "Furthermore, I am governor of the school board. Certainly no harm will befall him while I hold that seat, and if I fear the old man is getting to close him… I'll attempt to sack him or remove Cyrus from the school," he finished with a casual air of finality.
"You vill haveto remove him eventually!" Kozlov spoke rashly. "Dumblydore will not be able to keep from trying. He is not safe there! He must attend Durm-"
"He will attend Hogwarts," Lucius said firmly, keeping his patience. "I did not invite you here for your advice on where he should attend school, Nestor. If there comes a time where he must attend Durmstrang, then so be it. For now… he must be prepared. Can I trust that you will train him properly or not?"
There were several moments of silence where Cyrus guessed that his tutor was having trouble restraining himself in disagreement, but eventually heard a hardly audible grunt that he interpreted as a 'yes' - followed by swift footsteps that neared the door he was behind. Afraid of being caught, he quickly hurried off down the corridor and back down stairs, not feeling any better about the mounting pressures that had become quite evident over the past twenty-four hours…
End of Part One, Hogwarts up next