Had Olga Myshkina been standing in precisely the same
spot two centuries earlier, she would have been knee-deep in green mud
and battling mosquitoes. Even now, for all its regal beauty and
glorious architecture, Petersburg was not a particularly easy city to
live in. Nature, it seemed, had never forgiven Peter the Great
for daring to build an empire’s capital on a festering swamp, and
sought revenge in the form of floods, disease, and a peculiar kind of
cold that worst afflicted the throat, where each breath of December air
lodged like a thousand shards of glass. Hunger was the most
recent of these plagues; Olga noted, not without a grim sense of
Russian irony, that the starved corpses had a heroic way of draping
themselves at the base of the famous bronze monument to Peter the Great.
herself was in no danger of starving. Hard times were good times
for psychics, and though only a mediocre clairvoyant, she sensed a
visit from a powerful client today. She scurried along the
Angliiskaya Embankment rather more quickly than usual that morning and
reached the door of her tiny shop several minutes before eight
o’clock. She had just swept the table clean of spiders and
smoothed her long silver hair when there came a sharp knock on the door.
The word died on her lips as she recognised the thin, dark figure on
her doorstep. A series of broken syllables seemed to tumble from
her mouth against her will. ‘I-izvinite, ya…ya ne—’
He held up a bony hand. ‘Zamolchites’, starukha. U menya vremeni nyet.’ Enough, old woman. I don’t have the time. The man’s Caucasian accent was unmistakeable.
stared. Though she had never met this man, she knew him
instantly—there was not a wizard in Russia who would not have
done. She remained rooted to the spot for a moment, her tiny
mouth ajar, then grabbed a shimmering orb from the cupboard and sat
down at the newly spiderless table. She tried to ignore the man’s
heavy gaze. With her thin, hunched frame, long nose, and beady
eyes, Olga knew she must appear wholly insignificant. Why would he choose to come h—
The Georgian cleared his throat. ‘Ladno,’ Olga murmured, tracing a circular pattern on the crystal ball with her long fingers. ‘Chto vas ozhidaet?’ What future awaits you? It was a well-practised phrase, but today her voice squeaked oddly.
There was a flash of gold in the crystal ball. ‘Lev,’
she said as the figure swirled into focus. A lion.
No—several lions, moving about the circumference of the ball. It
looked to be a migration of some sort. ‘L’vy…idut….’
But the hooded man had stopped listening. Olga had to strain to make out his words: ‘Lev—Leviny!’
A cold laugh poured through the Georgian’s narrow nostrils. The
sound made Olga shiver, and she could not help but wonder why he had
mentioned the Levins, the best-known wizard family in Petersburg.
She was grateful, however, that he had not asked her to interpret the
symbols, for then she would have been lost indeed.
vanished, and a terrible image rose to the surface. Four bodies
aflame! Olga gasped; the sharp intake of that frigid, crystalline
air made her choke and sputter. ‘Mertvye, kakie mertvye!’ Deaths, such deaths!
man’s eyes glowed red, and at that moment Olga would not have been
surprised to see a forked tongue dash out from his mouth. He said
nothing, but leaned closer to the ball. Olga, too, peered into
the sphere once again, her large, round ears flushing
One final image emerged—a wooden door
held shut by a rather formidable-looking lock. A strange, faint
sound seemed to come from the ball. It resembled a heartbeat, and
crescendoed until the man rose abruptly. Olga averted her eyes
from his horrifying face; the crystal ball now clearly showed the image
of a red-eyed snake devouring an old grey mouse. The Georgian
muttered something and swept out of the shop, taking pains to step over
the motionless body of the psychic as he exited.
Even the decidedly self-possessed Eugene Calvus
could not look without horror on the little piles of ash that had once
been the members of the Levin family. It was Eugene’s job to
investigate and prepare a report on the events of 6th December, and his
second task of the day seemed every bit as bad as the first.
Eugene had spent the morning examining the body of Zviadi Dzhugashvili,
whom all of Petersburg knew simply as The Georgian.
such a strange story. It was clear that Dzhugashvili had killed
the Levins in their flat on the night of December the 6th. His
motive was straightforward enough—he had been the leader of a militant
Caucasian group whose aim was to overthrow the Russian Ministry for its
recent annexation of the rebel Georgian province of Abkhazia. The
Levins represented the most obvious and formidable threat to the
cause. Dzhugashvili’s own death was more puzzling, however.
A Squib called Gremin had taken credit for the murder, but this was an
obvious fabrication, as the Georgian’s body had been covered with the
traces of a potent magic Eugene had never encountered before.
Eugene was left at a frustrating impasse: it was doubtful that
anyone in Petersburg other than the Levins could have cast such a spell
against the most feared Dark wizard in recent memory, but Dzhugashvili
had conveniently murdered all the Levins before meeting his own
end. How, then, had the Dark Lord been defeated?
frowned. It would not be easy to identify the Levins from the
ashes. There were four piles in total — three near the back of
the room and one further down the corridor, in front of an open
door. Eugene turned to Grimstock, his sour-faced assistant, and
Daria, the translator assigned to him by the Volsheburo, the Russian
Ministry. ‘I think,’ he said, ‘I think we may need to make use of
the Acclaro charm. Are you familiar with that, Daria Mikhailovna?’
‘Da, though I have not performed it in many years.’
rare charm,’ explained Eugene to Grimstock, ‘that produces a sort of
spectral image of a person’s true physical appearance. Very
useful when one is dealing with a criminal Metamorphmagus, as you can
imagine. It becomes increasingly less reliable after death, but
as it has been only a few days since the Levins were…’ he swallowed,
‘…killed, I think we may still be able to see something. I
confess I’m a bit rusty at it myself, but perhaps if you and I cast the
charm together, Daria Mikhailovna….’
Eugene and Daria gathered round the first pile. ‘Right, then,’ Eugene sighed. ‘On the count of three—’
they shouted in unison. The ashes trembled, and a wispy grey
figure struggled to push itself out from them. Once free, it hovered
several inches above the floor. Though the figure was hazy,
Eugene could make out the features of an old woman.
Levina, the matriarch, I believe,’ said Eugene. Daria nodded in
confirmation. ‘Grimstock, please make a note of that.’
the next pile of ashes rose the form of a young man. ‘Mitya
Levin,’ said Daria in her guttural Petersburg accent. ‘He was
Head Boy at the Stolichnaya Wizarding Institute two years ago.’
Eugene winced at the sight of the next figure. It was a face he had seen countless times in the Daily Prophet:
Konstantin Levin, who had comprised half of the most famous Auror team
in Europe. The fourth mound of ashes, then, must contain the
remains of Konstantin’s partner and wife, Ekaterina. Sure enough,
from the pile at the end of the corridor came the grey figure of a
slender young woman, perhaps twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old.
‘Da, that is Katya,’ said Daria.
three were silent for a moment, and even the stony Grimstock looked
genuinely morose. Eugene stared into the large, sad eyes of
Ekaterina Levina as her ghostly form sank into the ashes once more.
‘Well,’ he said softly, ‘that is all of them. He was certainly thorough, this Dzhu—this Georgian fellow.’
Mr Calvus,’ said Daria, her expression suddenly perplexed. ‘Katya
and Kostya had a little daughter. Tanya was her name, I
think—Tatiana. I saw them together this summer in Letnii Park.’
flipped through his notes. ‘I have no record of that.
Sofia, Konstantin, Ekaterina, and Dmitri are the only Levins registered
by the Volsheb—’
‘Tanya was not of age,’ said Daria.
‘She looked six years old, maybe seven. The Volsheburo does not
register wizards until they enter school.’
‘Very well,’ said Eugene. ‘I’m sure her ashes can’t have got far.’
a fifth mound of ash was not to be found; in fact, the trio could find
no sign that a child had ever lived in the Levins’ flat. After
nearly four hours of fruitless searching, Grimstock had become very
‘You were probably mistaken,’ he barked at
Daria. ‘Perhaps you saw another child with Konstantin and
Ekaterina, perhaps the daughter of one of their friends….’
‘No,’ she retorted, ‘the girl looked just like Katya. The same dark eyes.’
felt that it was pointless to continue the investigation further that
night, and sent Grimstock and Daria home. He magically locked the
door of the Levins’ flat and set off in the direction of his hotel,
stopping along the way for a newspaper and a bottle of vodka. The
skinny boy behind the desk in the hotel foyer looked up as Eugene
‘Mr Calvus,’ said the boy in very slow English,
‘the Premier of the Volsheburo sends to you this—this—’ he struggled to
find the English word before resorting to Russian, ‘—soobschenie.’
Eugene took the envelope and thanked the boy, substituting his own poor Russian for the boy’s broken English: ‘Spasibo bolshoi.’ He climbed the stairs to his room and opened the letter.
Dear Sir or Madam:
have learnt that the Volsheburo has sought the assistance of the
British Ministry of Magic in the investigation of the Levin case.
I write to inform you of a strange incident that occurred here at the
Stolichnaya Wizarding Institute regarding Ekaterina and Konstantin
Levin’s daughter, Tatiana.
like many wizarding schools around the world, keeps a master list of
all students who will be invited to attend in the future. Upon
hearing the news of the Levins’ deaths yesterday, I inspected the list
and was shocked to find the name of Tatiana Levina still upon it.
The list, you see, has been bewitched to remove instantly the names of
those students who are rendered unable to attend due to death or
madness. However, the name of Tatiana Konstantinovna Levina
remained on the Stolichnaya list until this afternoon, at which time it
erased itself before my very eyes. I am at a loss as to what this
Please do not
hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance in your
investigation of this tragic occurrence. I shall leave this
letter in the hands of Andrei Andreevich Bolkonsky, Premier of the
Volsheburo, in the hope that he will forward it to the appropriate
Fyodor Vladimirovich Lensky
Headmaster, Stolichnaya Wizarding Institute
down the letter and rubbed his temples. This case was turning
into a regular headache. It would be disastrous to his career if
he were unable to find Tatiana, for this was likely to be the most
important assignment he would ever be given. National Ministries
normally conducted large investigations like these on their own, with
some amount of secrecy. The Volsheburo, however, was at present
so overwhelmed with the escalating civil unrest among both wizards and
Muggles in addition to the ongoing fallout from the Crimea that it had
enlisted the help of the Ministry of Magic and paid several thousand
galleons for the service. ‘See to it, Mr Calvus, that you do not
embarrass Britain,’ the Minister for Magic had admonished Eugene the
morning he left for Russia.
Eugene reviewed the facts of the
case in his mind. The girl had to be dead, he concluded.
There could be no other explanation for the disappearance of her name
from the Stolichnaya list. But why had her name taken so long to
fade, and where was the body?
He poured himself a glass of
vodka and opened his newspaper, desperate to take his mind off the
missing girl. He leafed through page after page of Russian
gibberish until his eye alighted to a familiar face.
He deciphered the caption under the photograph with
difficulty. ‘Nicolas Flamel,’ it began. The next word
required the use of a dictionary: ‘missing since the
evening of 6th December….’ Disgusted, Eugene threw the newspaper
aside. The last thing he wanted to read about was another
disappearance. He poured himself a second glass of vodka.
Granted, Butterbeer tasted much better, but the vodka was not
completely unpleasant. Quite the contrary, actually, thought Eugene, his insides beginning to feel intoxicatingly warm….
Two hours later, Eugene stumbled outside for some air. His
clumsy feet led him to Ulitsa Chaikovskogo, where a group of boisterous
and strangely dressed people had gathered in the street.
Eugene approached a woman in a vile turquoise robe to find out what had happened. ‘Chto sluchilos’?’ he slurred.
'Gruzin pogib!’ The Georgian was defeated, she shouted happily.
Georgian. Eugene knew he had heard that name before, but at
present his mind came only in bits and pieces. ‘Who killed—erm,
that’s English—kto yemu—no, it’s yevo, isn’t it. Kto yevo ubil?’
memory returned in a flood. He was standing in the Levins’
street, in front of the Levins’ flat, and all around him people were
telling stories about how a seven-year-old girl had defeated the Dark
Lord Zviadi Dzhugashvili.
‘Ona mertva! Ona umerla!’
She is dead, she died, he screamed, but his voice was lost as a
firecracker exploded overhead. Eugene ran down to the river and
along the embankment. He could still hear the voices of the
revellers. He tripped over his feet and nearly fell, but caught
himself on an iron railing. He pressed his stomach to the rail,
looking over the icy expanse of the Neva and feeling quite ill.
He turned around; before him towered a bronze god on horseback, who
commanded the river Neva with an outstretched arm and who looked down
on Eugene and the petty corpses at his feet with a twisted, knowing
smile. Eugene attempted to reproach the giant for his
heartlessness, but his tongue was thick and the words came out like
sausage links. He ran at the monument, kicking its granite base,
but Peter the Great did not flinch. Suddenly there was a sharp
pain in the back of his head.
They took his wallet and his
overcoat and, sniggering, merged again with the velvet night.
Eugene got up after several minutes and trudged back to his hotel, his
head pounding all the way. He sank into bed and began to fall
into a deep sleep.
But the shards of a strange song permeated his consciousness.
Ochi chernye, ochi strastnye,
Ochi zhguchie i prekrasnye…
Eugene’s Russian was poor, he could certainly guess the occasion for
this particular song. Just that afternoon, Daria had spoken about
Tanya Levina’s ochi chernye—dark eyes. He leaned
out his window and shook his fist at the crowd of drunken young men
below. ‘She’s dead, she’s dead!’ he screamed, his words unslurred.
And Tatiana was
dead—she had to be. Eugene finished his report in a scrawling,
uneven hand. Gremin had killed Dzhugashvili and little Tanya had
died with her family. He would leave Petersburg first thing the
But Tatiana Levina would haunt him for the rest of his life.
A/N: Many thanks to Happydog. Also, please
note that the word ‘Caucasian’ as used here refers to a place—the area
between the Black and Caspian Seas comprising Georgia, Armenia, and
Azerbaijan—not a race. Thanks for reading!