The goblin nodded, remembering. 'All right, then. Let's go, Mr. Pink. You're the mapper.'

        'We're there,' Mr. Pink replied. 'It's Grey's job from here.' He turned and shone his wand ahead of them. A horrible, monstrous face loomed out of the blackness, lit in the feeble silvery light. Mr. Grey's knees went watery.

        'It's jest a statue, yeh ninny,' Mr. Saffron growled. 'It's the dragon's head we were tol' about. Go on and open it. Earn your share, Mr. Grey.'

        'I hate that name,' Mr. Grey said, walking toward the dragon's head statue. It was taller than he was, formed eerily from the stalactites and stalagmites of the cavern wall. 'I wanted to be Mr. Purple. I like purple.'

        He crouched and slipped his hands between the snaggle teeth of the dragon's upper jaw. Mr. Grey was unusually strong, but lifting the dragon's jaw required every ounce of his formidable power. Sweat streamed down his face and neck as he strained, but the statue wouldn't budge. Finally, just as Mr. Grey was certain he would tear his muscles loose from his bones, there was a glassy shattering sound and the jaw jarred loose. The stalactites that formed the hinge of the jaw had broken. Mr. Grey heaved the jaw upwards until it was high enough for the others to scramble through.

        'Hurry!' he ordered through gritted teeth.

        'Just don't drop the blasted thing on us,' Mr. Saffron whined as he and Mr. Pink ducked into the gaping dragon's jaw.

        The opening behind the dragon's head was low and almost perfectly round. Stalactites and stalagmites surrounded the space like pillars supporting a smooth, domed ceiling. The stone floor was terraced, leading down to the center where a strange shape sat in the darkness.

        'It's not a chest,' Mr. Pink stated flatly.

        'Nar,' Mr. Saffron agreed. 'But it's the only thing here, isn't it? Think we can lug it between us?'

        Mr. Pink descended the terraces, leaving the goblin to scramble after him. They studied the object for a moment, and then Mr. Pink placed his wand between his teeth. He bent down, grasping the object, and nodded for the goblin to grasp the other side. It was surprisingly light, though crusted with calcium and mineral. Clumsily, they carried the object between them, hefting it up the terraces. Mr. Pink's wand light bobbed and jerked, making their shadows leap wildly on the pillared walls.

Finally, they heaved the object through the open jaw of the dragon's head statue. Mr. Grey was sweating profusely, his knees trembling. When he saw that his companions were out of the way, he released the upper jaw. It slammed down and shattered, producing a cloud of gritty dust and a deafening crash. Mr. Grey collapsed backward onto the stony floor of the cavern, faint with exertion.

        'So what is it?' Mr. Saffron asked, ignoring Mr. Grey's heaving breaths. 'It doesn't look like it's worth a fortune.'

        'I never said it was worth a fortune,' a voice said from the blackness behind them. 'I merely said it was enough to take care of you for life. Funny how many meanings a phrase like that can have, isn't it?'

        Mr. Saffron wheeled around, seeking the source of the voice, but Mr. Pink turned slowly, almost as if he'd expected it. A shape formed out of the darkness. It was draped in black robes. The face was obscured behind a horrible glinting mask. Two more similarly dressed figures emerged from the darkness.

        'I recognize your voice,' Mr. Pink said. 'I should've known.'

        'Yes,' the voice agreed. 'You should've, Mr. Fletcher, but you didn't. Your years of experience are no match for your innate greed. And now it is too late.'

        'Wait now,' Mr. Saffron cried, throwing up his hands. 'We had us a bargain. Yeh can't do this! We had a deal!'

        'Yes we did, my goblin friend. Thank you very much for your services. Here is your cut.'

        A flash of orange light leapt from one of the masked figures, striking Mr. Saffron in the face. He stumbled and clutched at his throat, making thick choking sounds. He collapsed backwards, still writhing.

        Mr. Grey stood shakily to his feet. 'That's not right. You shouldn't have done that to Bistle. He only did what you asked.'

        'And we are only doing what we promised,' the voice behind the mask said pleasantly. There was another jet of orange light and Mr. Grey collapsed heavily.

The three masked figures drifted closer, surrounding Mr. Pink. He looked around at them

hopelessly. 'At least tell me what it is,' he said. 'Tell me what this thing is that you made us get for you, and why you made us do it instead of doing it yourselves.'

        'Your last question, I am afraid, is none of your business, Mr. Fletcher,' the voice said, circling him. 'As they say: if we told you, we'd have to kill you. That would not be living up to our end of the bargain. We promised to take care of you for life, and we intend to fulfill that promise. It may not be much of a life, granted, but beggars cannot be choosers.'

A wand appeared, pointing at Mr. Pink's face. He hadn't used the name Fletcher for years. He'd given it up when he'd given up being a crook. He'd tried so hard to be good and honest. But then he'd been approached about this job: an inside job at the Ministry of Magic, a job so perfect, with a payoff so grand, that he simply couldn't turn it down. Sure, all his old friends in the Order would be disappointed in him, but most of them were dead now, anyway. Nobody even knew his real name anymore. Or so he thought. Apparently these people had known who he really was all along. They'd used him, and now he was going to be disposed of. It was fitting, in a way. He sighed.

        The voice went on. 'As for your first question, however, I expect we can answer that. It seems only fair. And after today, who could you possibly tell? You came looking for a chest of riches because you are a small man with small aims. We are not small, Mr. Fletcher. Our aims are grand. And thanks to you and your cohorts, we now have everything we need to accomplish those aims. Our goal is power, and what you see here is the means to that power. What you see here, Mr. Fletcher… is simply the end of your world.'

Hopelessness filled Mundungus Fletcher and he fell to his knees. When the jet of orange light struck him, choking him, covering him with darkness, he welcomed it. He embraced it.

1. Shadow of Legends

James Potter moved slowly along the narrow aisles of the train, peering as nonchalantly as he could into each compartment. To those inside, he probably looked as if he was searching for someone, some friend or group of confidantes with whom to pass the time during the trip, and this was intentional. The last thing that James wanted anyone to notice was that, despite the bravado he had so recently displayed with his younger brother Albus on the platform, he was nervous. His stomach knotted and churned as if he'd had half a bite of one of Uncles Ron and George's Puking Pastilles. He opened the folding door at the end of the passenger car and stepped carefully through the passage into the next one. The first compartment was full of girls. They were talking animatedly to one another, already apparently the best of friends despite the fact that, most likely, they had only just met. One of them glanced

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