You are viewing a story from harrypotterfanfiction.com
Format: Short story
Word Count: 13,795
Warnings: Mild Violence, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme
Genres: Mystery, Angst
Characters: Harry, Lupin, Sirius, Lily, James
Pairings: James/Lily, Harry/Ginny
First Published: 04/12/2009
Last Chapter: 10/17/2012
Last Updated: 10/17/2012
On May the 2nd, 1998, Harry Potter walked calmly into the Forbidden Forest to bravely sacrifice himself for those he cared for, bringing with him only his wand, and extraordinary stone, and four people that the world thought would never walk the forests of Hogwarts again.
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‘He made less noise than the dead leaves slithering along the pavement as he drew level with the dark hedge and stared over it... They hadn’t even drawn the curtains...’
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
‘James, it’s nearly time for Harry to go to bed!’ James Potter heard his wife, Lily call from the kitchen.
James sighed as he shifted himself from the sofa, where he had been watching his one year old son, to the floor where the toddler sat on the rug in front of the fireplace, carefully shredding the threads.
‘Got time for a few more games before bed, eh?’ James grinned as Harry abandoned his destruction of the carpet, and was scooting off away from him to the corner of the room, where his toy broomstick lay.
‘Oh no, not that one!’ James laughed. ‘Not now, anyway, your mother will have a fit.’
He scooped Harry up and swung him into the air, dangling him high above his head, making faces as he did so. The small boy laughed at his father, and reached out his hands to try and grab him, gurgling as he did so.
‘James, try not to get him too excited!’ Lily’s exasperated voice sounded from the back of the house again.
‘I’m just trying to wear him out a bit.’ James called back cheekily. ‘Don’t want him crying again all night, like yesterday.’
Lily’s head suddenly appeared around the doorframe. She too was smiling mischievously.
‘Neither do we want him jumping around in his cot and squealing all night, like he did after you and Padfoot wound him up the other day!’
James grinned sheepishly at her by means of an apology.
‘Ten more minutes,’ she said, disappearing again.
James turned back to Harry, whom he had lowered to his hip.
‘Alright then, what can we do in that time?’ he asked the toddler, jiggling him around.
‘Make a lot of mess, probably!’ Lily called from down the hall.
‘Would I do that?’
Lily’s head popped round the door again.
‘I wouldn’t put it past you, Potter,’ she said with playful grin, before ducking back again.
‘Mummy thinks we’re going to make a lot of mess,’ he cooed at Harry. ‘Let’s prove her wrong, shall we?’
He swung Harry up in the air again, and Harry squeaked and gurgled in delight at the ride.
‘Like that, do you?’ James smiled. ‘Again?’
Harry laughed as his father swung him in the air again and again. Apparently, however, this game was not exciting enough for the young boy, and after a while, he demanded to be let down, where he shuffled back to the rug and began picking at the fabric again.
‘Don’t go ruining that too much.’ James warned as he sat wearily down on the sofa, picking up his wand. ‘Mummy will never forgive me.’
He sat for a while, twiddling the wand between his fingers and absent mindedly watching his son in the middle of the room. He began beating out a rhythm with the wand on his knees, and as he did so, a puff of purple smoke erupted from the end.
Harry looked up for the source of this new and mysterious thing as the smoke drifted over to him.
James smiled, and another puff of smoke emitted from his wand.
Harry laughed, and pulled himself over to James, who sent more clouds of brightly coloured smoke at the toddler. He watched with amusement as Harry attempted to grab and clutch at the smoke with his small fists, dispersing them into colourless air.
‘Time for bed, Harry!’ Lily said, coming back into the room.
With a sigh, James bent down and picked his son up and handed him to Lily.
‘Aww, he was having fun there, weren’t you?’ James laughed as Harry was deposited in his mother’s arms.
‘Well, it’s a game he can continue tomorrow.’ Lily said, tapping Harry on the nose. ‘I’ll be back down soon, I’ll just get him settled,’ she added to James.
James stretched and yawned. Entertaining Harry was hard work, he thought as he cast his wand aside.
Suddenly, there was a great bang, and the front door burst open; Lily was barely at the living room door.
‘Lily!’ he shouted. ‘It’s him!’
Her face turned to a look of pure horror.
‘Take Harry and go!’ he shouted at her, making for the door. ‘I’ll hold him off...’
‘I set out for your parent’s house straight away, and when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies... I knew what I had done...’
- J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
James groaned heavily; he ached all over. He lay there for a moment, twitching each of his limbs in turn just to see if he still had control over them all. He did. At the back of his groggy mind, he dimly wondered what had happened to him. Why was he on the floor?
He took a deep breath in, preparing to lift himself off the ground where he lay, face pressed into the carpet. The smell was revolting, a disgusting musty and mouldy smell of disuse. That was strange, he thought to himself, the house didn’t usually smell like that.
Painfully, he heaved himself onto all fours and opened his eyes. Everything was blurry; he must have lost his glasses. Even without them, he could tell that it was dark. He briefly wondered why that was, the lights had been on, and he specifically remembered not closing the curtains; he liked to look out at the night sky. It almost felt like he was back out there, rather than being cooped up inside the house. It felt like he had been unconscious for a long time, so surely daylight should be streaming through the windows next to the front door.
As he groped around for his glasses, James felt that the rough carpet was strewn with something that had a texture James couldn’t quite place. What had happened? Everything seemed so foggy, it was like grasping at smoke...
Of course, that was it! He had been playing with Harry, when Lily had come into the room to take him off to bed, and then –
James’s stomach plummeted. He had arrived. He and Lily had been betrayed. Peter. His thoughts turned to anger as he remembered his so-called friend. But he couldn’t worry about that now. He shoved those thought aside; he had more pressing things to worry about. Where was Lily? And Harry? What had happened to them? What was all this stuff? James threw another strange stringy, plant-like thing aside and as he did so, his hand brushed against something cold and metallic. His glasses.
He saw with a shock that the dirty windows were covered with some form of thick plant life,
Hastily, he shoved them on, but the sight he was greeted by was gruesome. Something had happened to the house. Something odd, James couldn’t work it out. There was an immensely thick coating of dust over everything, and the stringy things James had been rooting around in were in fact trails of ivy. The reason for the darkness was explained, the windows were filthy with dirt, and some form of thick plant life, probably ivy, was covering them from the outside. He saw with a shock that instead of a front door, there was a great gaping hole surrounded by crumbling bricks. Covering it was a thick curtain of ivy, it was like looking from behind a dark green waterfall.
Confused, James looked around him. The house looked like it had been deserted for years; the wallpaper had peeled away from the walls in many places to reveal dark decaying patches of grey damp. The wicker chair that he and Lily had been given as a wedding present from her parents was mouldering away in the corner, and through the door to the sitting room, James could see the rotten remains of Harry’s toy broomstick.
As he stared round, he could see no sign of either Lily or Harry, and a great wave of nausea hit him.
Too sick with worry for Lily and Harry to fret about the state or even the cause for the state of his house, he hauled himself to his feet. He winced with pain; his limbs felt as stiff as if he had been sleeping for a long time, and there was a deep throbbing ache in his chest. He shrugged this off and slowly climbed rickety stairs, being careful of the rotting wood that creaked ominously under his feet. Already, several places in the banister had rotted away completely leaving breaks in what should have been a straight and ordinary piece of wood. Something in the back of his mind told him that this was odd, strange, unnatural, but he pushed it out of his mind. He was more concerned about the fate of his wife and child. He kept climbing the stairs, sure that this was where Lily would have gone with Harry. He had told her to run, and from where they had been standing, this was the only way to run. The back door had been locked by Dumbledore for their protection long before the Fidelius Charm had been preformed. There would have been no means of escape that way; the stairs would have been her only way.
He hoped with all of his being that she and Harry were alright, that they were unhurt. That they weren’t -. He couldn’t bring himself to even think the word.
‘Lily?’ he called along the dark landing. The plant life covered these windows too, though he barely wondered at it as he saw that the door to Harry’s room, the door at the top of the stairs, stood ajar. He cautiously tried to push the rotting wooden door that led to the bedroom open, but it jammed on something on the other side. He gave it a harder push, and was astonished to hear the sound of bricks scraping against each other. With one final shove, he forced the door open. He gasped in horror and disbelief at the sight that greeted him.
The two outside walls had been completely blown away, and the roof had collapsed in a heap of rubble; bright daylight illuminated the gruesome scene. The floor was invisible due to the bricks and tiles from the roof, mixed with tangles of ivy that had spilled inside. Only Harry’s broken cot stood out from among the mess, like the ghostly form of a destroyed castle.
James let out a strangled cry, he hardly doubted that this was where they had been, why else would the room be in such a ruined state? He threw himself onto the piles of crumbling bricks and began to manually shift decaying, spider web covered rubble, searching for his wife and child.
He was almost in tears as he frantically threw debris aside, and finally he thought he caught a glimpse of pale skin as he heaved a large piece of stone away from the pile it was perched on. With added haste, he began to haul away more pieces, unearthing his wife little by little, until he had freed her.
‘Lily!’ James said, his voice and hands trembling as he searched for a pulse.
There! She had one! He was almost sobbing in relief, and he pulled her arms free, and turned her to try and sit her up.
‘Lily!’ he whispered. ‘Lily, can you hear me? Wake up! Wake up!’
As he cleared the hair out of her eyes, she gave a faint groan.
‘Lily!’ he cried ecstatically, as she opened her eyes.
‘James,’ she whispered hoarsely. ‘James, what happened? Where am I?’
‘It’s ok,’ he soothed smiling broadly in joy, his heart was nearly bursting with relief, but Lily didn’t look so happy.
‘James, where’s Harry?’ she asked, a tear beginning to form in her eye.
James’s smile was wiped off his face quicker than a bolt of lightning streaking across the sky, and a fresh wave of nausea coursed over him.
‘Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix’s jet of red light; he was laughing at her... The second jet of light hit him squarely on the chest. The laughter had not quite died from his face, but his eyes widened in shock...’ - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Sirius Black was falling, falling backwards; he could feel it. He was going to fall flat on his back, there was nothing behind him to save him, except the cold, hard stone floor. He reached out his hands to try and grab the strange black material that was billowing around him. What was it? Oh yes, he must have fallen through that veil he’d been standing in front of.
His arms spun madly, almost comically, he thought as the material slid through his hands like smoke, and with a painful thud that knocked all the breath out of him, he crashed onto the hard stone floor. His wand spun out of his hand, and skidded to a stop a few feet away from his right foot.
He barely left himself a moment to catch his breath before, wincing, he scrambled onto his knees and snatched his wand off the floor, and jumped to his feet. Bellatrix. She was the only thought on his mind now. She had sent that curse at him, and Sirius wanted revenge. He was ready now, ready to make his comeback and finish her off. She had caused him pain; but he was going to double that. She would be a meaningless shivering wreck when he finished with her. She would pay, merely for being a Black, for representing everything that he had hated in that terrible house. She would take his anger for having to go back, back to a house that reminded him of the people he hated; her. Her and her family. They were no relatives of his.
He snatched the veil aside, and shook the dark hair out of his eyes, almost snarling like a dog, looking about him for his prey, but what he saw made him jump back in surprise.
There was nobody there. Not a soul. The room was empty
No Harry, no Bellatrix, no Moony, nobody. The large hall was completely and utterly deserted.
He hung back, uncertainly, his heart still pounding with the adrenalin of battle. The sound rang in his ears. It seemed to be echoing around the place. Where was everybody? He was sure they had been there before, he had seen them! He had cursed Dolohov, Dolohov who should be lying there, trapped by his godson’s Body Binding Curse. And Tonks had fallen from the steps, he had seen her! Where was she? Where was anyone? How could they have disappeared so suddenly? It had only taken him a second to fall through the veil after Bellatrix’s curse had hit him. Hadn’t it?
He looked back at the veil, slightly apprehensive now. Had it done something to him? Taken him somewhere different, like a Portkey, or somehow transported him through time? If so, then where was he? Where was he in time? How would he get back to the time he belonged?
The veil was unnerving him now, he cast it an almost fearful look, expecting it to show some sort of sign of malicious intent, but it just hung innocently from its arch, fluttering slightly in a breeze that Sirius couldn’t feel. Was that a sign? He snorted to himself. Flutterby bushed moved their leaves to a breeze that didn’t exist, and they defiantly weren’t malicious. But neither did they look as dark and almost sinister...
Sirius shook his head; he was getting carried away with his own delusions. Once, he might have allowed himself to, but this was now. He was a different person now. He moved away from the veil, casting one last suspicious glance at it and began inspecting the place. It was defiantly the same room; the door was in the same place at the top of the stone steps, and the dais seemed in roughly the same place. There were even signs of the battle. Here and there were scorch marks on the floor, defiantly the result of spells hitting them forcefully. He also noticed that in places, there were bits of stone from the floor and walls that were chipped as if spells had ricocheted off them.
He peered closely at these damaged stones, and picked a corner of one such mark. More flakes and small lumps came away easily in his hand. However, the colour contrast was startling. Underneath the bits Sirius had just picked off was a light golden colour, whereas the bits next to it were darker and duller, as if they had already been there some years, and had weathered slightly.
Sirius dropped the pieces of stone in his hand. They hit the floor and the noise they made on impact echoed eerily round the room. Was this some sort of trick? Was there some form of Dark Magic going on here? Sirius took up his battle stance again, casting his eyes about him in suspicion.
‘Maleficus revelio!’ he whispered, his voice still echoing loudly around the room.
Nothing happened. Sirius didn’t know whether the spell had worked; it was supposed to reveal the presence of Dark Magic, but considering the enemy, he wouldn’t be surprised if there was magic well hidden and concealed. He tried again.
Again, there was nothing. No friends, anyway. And it was unlikely that there would be any enemies either. He had been pacing the room for a good ten minutes, his guard let down completely as he examined walls and floor, and nobody had attacked him. No, this was no Dark Magic.
But if it wasn’t, then what the hell was happening?
James and Lily stood back to back in the middle of their kitchen, their hands hanging limply at their sides, fingers barely clinging onto their wands. Tears were frozen onto their pale faces, leaving shimmering silver trails on their cheeks, and feeling as if ice cold hands had gripped a hold over their insides.
‘He’s not here...’ Lily whispered, her voice cracking with emotion.
James couldn’t speak; couldn’t turn around to comfort his wife, couldn’t move even, he was locked in place, unable to move a single muscle. His son. His and Lily’s child...
‘What are we going to do?’ Lily’s voice was weak and faint, a sound which James didn’t like to hear. Lily was always strong.
They had run, panic stricken, from room to room, Vanishing all in their way to try and find their Harry, James had even began to wrench things out of their places with his bare hands like some sort of frenzied animal. But they could not find him.
‘James, we have to find him.’ Lily seemed to be talking, but James wasn’t even sure he could hear properly, his senses seemed to have sank away into the ground beneath his feet, he could no longer feel where or even what he was. He was sinking, sinking away into a dark hole full of nothing, he could feel nothing.
‘James!’ Lily’s worried voice suddenly brought him slowly back to life. She was shaking his shoulders, eyes full of tears.
‘Oh, Lily, I’m so sorry.’ He murmured, finding his tongue again as he wrapped his arms around her. He needed to hold onto something to grip something, just to make sure he could feel, to make sure this was real, just to make sure he was alive.
‘Where can he have gone?’ he stammered awkwardly, ‘Do you think he...’
James couldn’t finish the sentence. He did not even want to think of that horror. Lily suddenly became stiff in his arms; her silence told him that she was trying not to think the same.
‘What do you think happened here?’ he asked, trying to rid himself of the horrid picture that was forming in his mind. ‘How did he find us? I thought Dumbledore said he wouldn’t get in.’
‘The Charm must have been broken,’ Lily said, pulling away from him. ‘Someone must have told him... something must have happened...’ she tailed off, seeing the look in his eyes.
‘Told him?’ James echoed, his fists clenching as he realised what that must mean.
‘Look, James,’ her voice was soft and comforting, despite what was happening. She pulled him to look at her. ‘It could have been a number of things. For all we know they could have tortured it out of him. He could be dead. It won’t have been Wormtail’s fault, he would never do that to you.’
He listened to her reasoning, and his muscles relaxed. It was probably the truth, James knew that Peter would never betray one of his friends, they were like brothers to him, he would never even dream of purposely hurting any one of them. No, he would not jump to conclusions; he was not Sirius.
He immediately felt a pang of guilt for doubting his friend, but it was replaced in a instant when their situation returned to his mind.
‘I have to find him.’ He said.
Lily nodded. ‘We should get to Dumbledore. He will know what to do. He will be able to explain.’
We? James registered the word briefly. There was no way he was putting Lily in danger. No again. Not after last time.
‘You can’t leave the house.’ James told her, shaking his head. ‘This could be a trap.’
‘A trap?’ she echoed him, a slight tone in her voice that under normal circumstances would have made James back away, but these were not normal circumstances.
‘To lure us out of the house, to get us out of our safety zone.’ He said. ‘When we’re away from it, they could pounce. I’m not putting you in danger.’
‘We aren’t going to be in danger.’ Lily said. ‘We’re going to Apparate to Headquarters. They can’t get to us there. And anyway, they wouldn’t dare come to where Dumbledore might be, and where his protection is.’
‘There is no we about it,’ James said firmly. ‘And I am not going to Headquarters,’ he added with a growl.
‘There is a we about it, James.’ Lily argued. ‘I will not be left at home to do nothing.’
‘Fine.’ James said shortly. ‘I’ll get Sirius to come here to protect you. Or you can go Balthilda’s.’
‘Oh really?’ Lily’s voice was laced with irony. ‘And what will you do?’
‘I’m going after my son. And when I find him, I’ll tear Voldemort limb from limb with my bear hands, along with anyone else who’s hiding him!’ he shouted.
‘You can’t do that, James!’ Lily exclaimed. ‘The Death Eaters –’
‘Damn the Death Eaters!’ James cut her off. ‘I’m going to do everything I can to get my son back! I will not give up on Harry!’
‘Neither will I!’ Lily shouted back, her eyes flashing dangerously. ‘But I’m going to do it the clever way, instead of rushing after him without a second thought like some brawny oaf just to get myself killed as soon as I get close enough for him to reach!’
She was breathing heavily, adrenalin coursing through her, but slowly, she calmed.
‘James,’ she said quietly, almost sadly. ‘I can’t lose you as well.’
James couldn’t speak. The look on Lily’s face was terrible.
He closed his eyes, and felt his heart pumping madly in his ears. He wanted to scream, but he knew that Lily was talking sense. What good would it do Harry, running after Voldemort, just to fall like a puppet cut from its strings, useless and broken?
‘I’m sorry, Lily,’ he said, opening his eyes, his breathing slower, his heart rate calmed. ‘You’re right. I can’t do that. I’m sorry.’
She nodded dignifiedly.
‘We should go to Dumbledore.’ She said.
‘Yeah.’ James agreed, though with the tiniest hint of reluctance in his voice. ‘He’ll know what to do.’
‘Do you think it’s safe?’ Lily motioned to the door.
‘I think so.’ James said, quiet and reassuring. ‘We haven’t been attacked yet.’
He looked at her, and she smiled a weak smile that did not reach her tear stained eyes.
He gripped his wand in one hand, and took Lily’s small hand in the other, and together they opened the door and stepped out into the bright sunshine.
The warm sunshine was almost blinding, and Lily and James each threw their hand across their faces to shield their eyes from its shining rays. It was too bright, too warm. Something was wrong.
If yesterday was the last day of October, Halloween, then by the natural laws of time itself, today should be the first day of November, the beginning of winter. But looking around them once their eyes had acclimatised to the brightness of the light, James could tell that this was definitely not winter. The trees and bushes were adorned with green leaves that were waving lazily in the light breeze, and the sun that was beaming down at them was not the watery one that shone on winter days, but was emitting the warm shining rays of summer from where it hung in the deep blue, cloudless sky. The flowers in the beds bordering the daisy-strewn lawn were not the dying twigs of winter, but shining with all the glory of the sun itself. This was not the first day of winter, but the middle of summer.
What in the world was going on?
‘Lily –’ James began to say, but she cut him off.
‘I know. It’s summer!’ she breathed. ‘What on earth is happening? How long were we unconscious?’
James shook his head; he was stunned and confused at this strange turn of events.
‘I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on,’ he said, tightening his grip on his wand-obviously some sort of Dark Magic was being worked here, but what, James didn’t know. What sort of magic could change the seasons?
‘I don’t like it; it’s not natural,’ Lily said, the panic coming through in her voice. ‘Let’s get to Headquarters.’
James nodded in agreement and cast one last suspicious look around their warm, sweet smelling garden before turning on the spot and vanishing into thin air. He materialised a few seconds later on a windy stretch of gorse-strewn moor with Lily beside him. In front of them were four raised, wooden stands that didn’t quite hide the set of three hoops standing on stilts, fifty feet in the air. James could see a couple of players zooming in and out of view on their broomsticks, passing a crimson-coloured Quaffle between them. He sighed; it had been so long since he had been on a broomstick. He could almost feel the wind rushing through the players’ hair....
‘Come on,’ Lily grabbed his hand again and dragged her husband away from the Quidditch pitch that he was staring at longingly, and towards an old weather beaten shed with the sign that read ‘Staff Only’ pinned lopsidedly to the rusty door.
She pushed the door open with difficulty and the scream of twisting metal reverberated around them; the door was in desperate need of oiling. The room concealed behind it was dark, and the dank, musty smell of disuse lingered in the air. It contained only a rotting wooden table, several splintered chairs, and, along the back wall, a fireplace riddled with dust and cobwebs.
‘Urgh,’ Lily said, as she took the mouldering flowerpot off the mantelpiece. ‘They make it look worse every time. Does it need to be quite so disgusting?’
But James seemed to be only half listening; he was examining the place with apparent interest.
‘No wizard did this,’ he said quietly, running a finger along the top of the fireplace.
‘I said this wasn’t done by wizards. It’s natural,’ James repeated darkly. ‘Magic has a certain trace about it. This doesn’t feel like it’s magical.’
‘Natural? But, it must have taken years...’ she trailed off quietly. ‘The house.’
James looked at her, his face pale, unsure as to what all this meant.
‘But we can’t have been unconscious for years!’ Lily breathed in disbelief. ‘Someone would have come looking for us! What happened to Harry?’
‘Let’s just get to Dumbledore,’ he told her, failing to get his head round the situation, and taking a handful of the dusty powder from the flowerpot she still clutched in her hands.
As he threw it into the fireplace, bright green flames sprung up where there had been nothing but leaf skeletons and dead spiders. He stepped into the warm flames, Lily at his side.
‘Dolorous Place!’ he said into the flames, and clutched onto Lily’s hand as they both spun upwards in a whirl of flame and ash.
After a few seconds of sickening spinning, they came to an abrupt halt at a fireplace in a grand, but dark room. James stepped out into the handsome oak panelled room and looked about him.
This was wrong. Usually, the room was bustling with hushed activity, but now it was bare of all human life. This unnerved him, and he strode over to the ornate carved table that stood in the centre of the book lined study, and stared down at it. It was bare, a stark contrast to the maps, lists, and other parchments that usually littered the table.
The place seemed desolate and forlorn, as if it mourned the people that should be present, and whose absence was profound and unnerving. James had never really liked this place, or felt at ease here. Of course, it suited Dumbledore well, who matched both the regal settings and furnishings, and the ponderously sad atmosphere that seemed to linger here.
For James, the things that were discussed within these walls had to have a melancholy effect on the surroundings, and it always depressed him to be here. He felt the familiar sorrow creep upon him again, though this time the feeling was heightened, as if the place contained more sadness than the previous times he had visited.
‘Why is nobody here?’ he whispered quietly, trying to shake off the strange feelings.
He heard Lily move across the room behind him, but he still jumped when she called his name.
‘James!’ he turned to see her stood by one of the bookshelves, her finger held up in the air. ‘Dust! Nobody’s cleaned in here for months.’
This was odd. James knew for a fact that there was always someone in this house; it was the Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, for goodness’ sake! Dumbledore may not spend much time in his house personally, and James privately understood why, but he always made sure that there was someone here, just in case.
‘Maybe something has happened,’ he gulped, feeling a wave of distress course over him.
‘James,’ Lily breathed, close to him now, her voice comforting in his ear, soothing away the wistful feeling. ‘If we had lost, surely Voldemort would have destroyed this place, smashed it to the ground! He wouldn’t have calmly left it to sit and do nothing,’ she reasoned. ‘Anyway, this isn't like the other places; the house and the shed. They looked like nobody had been in for years, this looks like it’s only been left a few months. They could have just relocated.’
‘And not told us?’ James asked.
‘We were in hiding,’ she said. ‘We didn’t need to know. It was two less risks to the Death Eaters finding out where we were.’
James nodded. She was speaking sense.
‘We still have to get to Dumbledore, though,’ he said.
‘Yes,’ she agreed. ‘We’ll have to go to Hogwarts. And if he’s not there, McGonagall will know what to do. Or where he is.’
‘We should look round here anyway,’ he looked at her, almost for reassurance. ‘Just check.’
She nodded softly, but he could tell from her expression that she was really just humouring him. She didn’t expect to find anything. The other rooms in the house were just as disheartening as the study they had just left, and a quick scour revealed nothing. James knew that Lily had been right, but she was being graceful about it, patient, which, considering the circumstances, was incredible. Not a day had passed since he had known her that she had failed to impress him.
‘Hogwarts now?’ she turned to him, the impatience finally creeping slightly into her voice.
‘Hogwarts,’ he confirmed with a quick smile, ready to leave the house in its forlorn state.
Sirius wrenched the door open and threw himself into the dark, circular room that lay beyond. He ran full pelt to the opposite door, just hoping that this was the way out; he didn’t have the time or patience to try every single one. He wanted desperately to get back to Grimmauld Place and find out what had happened to everyone. What had happened to Harry.
To his immense delight and luck, he found that this was the right door; he was looking down the passageway that he and the Order had come down earlier; he could see the glinting golden grilles of the lifts! He ran at it, but turned aside, not wanting to bother waiting for the lift. He moved aside a tapestry to the left and hurtled up the stairs that were concealed there two at a time.
At the next landing he stopped and ripped aside the tapestry that concealed the entrance, and almost fell into the noisy atrium that was packed with people.
At once, Sirius’s heart stopped and he froze in panic. He stared aghast at the people, his mind whirling uncontrollably. He was done for! He shouldn’t be seen! He was supposed to be a dangerous criminal, on the run from the law, he couldn’t be spotted in the Ministry of Magic itself! His brain was screaming at him to move, to conceal himself, to transform, anything would be better than standing here exposed, but his muscles wouldn’t work. This was it, his worst fear realised. It was the end, and the thudding of his impatient heart was going to be his last memory.
However, his sudden arrival seemed to have gone unnoticed somehow. Not wanting to risk giving himself away, be backed away slowly and concealed himself behind the tapestry once again, his heart in his mouth. He snapped it quickly shut, and tried to steady his breathing as his heart returned to a normal rhythm. What were all those people doing? It had looked like they were going about their daily business, but he and the Order couldn’t have been in the Department of Mysteries that long! It was all very strange. As he leaned against the cold stone wall to try and clear his thoughts, the curtain was pulled aside, and Sirius immediately sprang into a defensive position, wand raised, heart once again in his throat, veins pumping with the adrenaline of shock.
There was nowhere to hide here, nowhere to run. The two men looked straight at him, their faces registering nothing, and Sirius began to think fast. Two, he could deal with; nobody need know he was here; he could simply leave their Stunned bodies here to be discovered later. But, incredibly, they ignored him and turned to face one another to carry on their conversation!
Sirius lowered his wand slightly in shock. It was not the reaction he had imagined, and he still half expected them to spring at him at any moment, but the men were carrying on as if he wasn’t there! Thinking hard, he remembered the blank reactions of the people in the atrium when he had burst unexpectedly amongst them, and began to wonder if they could actually, see him at all.
Cautiously, he stepped towards the men, his wand still raised, just in case, but they paid him no more attention than the wall behind them.
‘Can you hear me?’ he asked tentatively.
Neither man gave any indication that they could. They remained in deep discussion, whispering in fast, hurried tones with animated gestures. Sirius crept closer, as close as he dared, and waved a hand in front of one of their faces. Nothing.
He stepped back in shock and disbelief, unsure as to what to do. Was this a trap? Were they going to turn around now in his moment of uncertainty when his guard was dropped, and wheel him off to the Dementors? He stared at the men, and as he did so, he began to recognise one of them, Pius Thicknesse, someone who was a couple of years above him at Hogwarts. Yes, he was sure it was him. Older, but it was definitely the same person. Sirius turned his attention to the other man. It was Yaxley, a Death Eater. He scowled at him. What he wouldn’t give to take him out here and now, but he became distracted by their conversation.
‘The Dark Lord wants us to delay on this matter,’ Thicknesse was saying. ‘Surely he has spoken of it with you?’
‘You know he hasn’t, Thicknesse,’ Yaxley said with a snide tone. ‘Don’t try and throw your power around, remember who put you here.’
‘I’d prefer it if you addressed me as Minister,’ Thicknesse snarled.
‘Certainly, Minister.’ Yaxley’s tone was less than civil, but Sirius wasn’t listening anymore.
Thicknesse, Minister for Magic? Had he heard correctly? But what about Fudge? And what was all this ‘Dark Lord’ nonsense? Sirius shook his head, trying to make sense of what he had heard. If what he was hearing was true, then Thicknesse had gone over, and it sounded like he and Yaxley were plotting to put him as Minister for Magic. He couldn’t all ready be Minister, it just wasn’t possible that he had come into office in the few short hours Sirius had spent in the Department of Mysteries; it must be a plot against Fudge.
His thoughts fled to Dumbledore. Was he aware of this? He was sure he wasn’t; the Order would have been aware if Dumbledore knew about something as serious as this; they would have upped their protection over Fudge. But there was a sly voice creeping into his mind.
Are you sure they just didn’t tell you to keep you out of the way? it hissed in his ear, mocking him, exactly the way Snape did. To stop you from getting involved? To keep you out of trouble>
‘I would have known,’ he snarled back at the voice, painfully aware that hearing voices was not a good omen. ‘Dumbledore’s a better man than that.’
He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the voice, but a trace of it still lingered in his mind.
He would have to tell Dumbledore; there was no way something like this could be ignored, and he would finally prove himself useful and be the one to deliver the news. The idea seemed to light a fire in his mind. He would show Snape that he was not useless.
Striding past Thicknesse and Yaxley, he tore open the curtain and strode off among the oblivious witches and wizards going about their daily business.
Sirius tore through the atrium, carefully dodging the people that could not see him, he did not want to risk the fact that they might be able to feel him if they collided at speed. Something, however, caught his eye. He skidded to a stop in front of a gigantic black statue. He was absolutely certain that this had not been in here when they had come through earlier. There had been a statue, a fountain, he recalled dimly; he had not paid close attention to it, but that one had not been dark. It had filled the dark atrium with dapples of light as the water had reflected off the shining metal.
He looked up at the enormous sculpture and saw with disgust that a haughty looking witch and wizard were sitting on a grotesque pile of human bodies, their features twisted and contorted so that they would have looked almost comical if it were not for the symbolism.
Sirius’s attention was then drawn to the words beneath.
Magic is Might? That surely was verging on Death Eater ideals. His suspicions were confirmed, something Dark was going on here; it looked like it had started already. Was Fudge still Minister? He was an idiot, for sure, but Sirius had trouble imagining that this commission had come from him. And what about the conversation he had overheard between Yaxley and Thicknesse? Thicknesse had urged Yaxley to call him Minister, but he could not have simply taken power like that. Maybe Fudge had been Imperiused, and they were acting through him.
Sirius shook his head, he was resigned to the fact that he had been out for some time down in the bowels of the Department of Mysteries, something had happened when he fell through that veil, the evidence was too strong to ignore. But the question was what? Who knew what Harry and the others had been doing in the other rooms, what they had broken, or dislodged down there, and had caused this strange rift in time. The most important thing now was to relay to Dumbledore what he had witnessed, the other questions he was burning to ask could wait. This was far more important.
He had once told the Weasley twins that being in the Order was more important than anything, and now that was being tested. However strong his impulse was to go and find Harry and make sure he was alright, he knew that the Order had to come first. There would have been a time, long ago now, when he would have cast something like this aside if he thought one of his friends was in danger. But that impulse had weakened when he joined the real world, and saw how things really were. Saving people’s lives were more important than checking up on a friend. Anyway, there had been numerous Order members there, and even Dumbledore himself, they would take care of him, wouldn’t they? He shook his head angrily to rid himself of this thought, and the guilt of doubt that was becoming to creep on him. Moony was with them, he would take care of Harry and the others. He was sure of it.
Casting one last disgusted look at the gruesome statue, he turned on the spot, and vanished, reappearing only a second later in the leafy square outside number twelve, Grimmauld Place, a place whose former inhabitants would surely have approved of the statue he had just been staring at, and what it implied. He charged up the steps, and threw the door open and almost fell into the hall, tripping over the toll leg umbrella stand, which crashed to the floor.
Promptly, the curtains covering that detested picture of his late mother flew open, and she began to scream.
‘DISGUSTING MUDBLOODS AND HALF-BREEDS PLOTTING AGAINST THE DARK LORD!’ she screeched. ‘INCESSANT MUTTERINGS AND PLANNING! I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!’
‘Oh shut up, you old hag!’ Sirius roared, as he massaged his painful leg. He hobbled over to the curtain and managed to wrench it shut, and peace was restored. He limped towards the door at the end of the hall and down the stone steps to the kitchen, the place where Order members were most likely to be. The door to the kitchen stood open, and Sirius could see that it was empty. That was strange, he thought, slightly unnerved. He also noticed that the place seemed to have undergone a thorough cleaning, the pots and pans hanging from the walls had been polished to a shine, and the long table had been scrubbed and waxed. However, this seemed to have been done some time ago, as there was a thin film of dust covering every surface.
Shrugging this off, he traipsed back up the steps, assuming that everyone was in a different part of the house, but his quick search was fruitless. Each of the rooms seemed to have been cleaned within an inch of its life, but all bore thin covering of dust, evidently this house had been uninhabited for some time.
Perplexed, Sirius threw himself onto his four poster bed, wondering what on earth could be going on. Had something happened to time, or was it just him? Was it Dark Magic? And why couldn’t anyone see him? He was beginning to realise that this was the most worrying thing, if nobody could see or hear him, how could he relay what he knew to the Order? How could he communicate to them? What good could he do, if he could not warn them?
He needed Dumbledore, the man was so extraordinary it wouldn’t surprise him if he alone could see him. It was worth trying, he needed to know what was going on, what was happening, and most importantly he needed to tell Dumbledore what he had discovered. He would have to go to Hogwarts.
He sighed, casting his eyes wistfully at the photograph stuck to the wall. Four beaming teenage faces grinned back out at him, almost in mockery of what he had become. He didn’t like going back there. It reminded him of when he had been young and carefree, in stark contrast to the man he was now. While he was there, there were constant reminders of the adventures he and his friends had undertaken, alive with excitement, the fun they had had together, but most of all, it reminded him of James. When he had been there after his escape from Azkaban, just walking down the corridors had been painful, he could almost hear the ghosts of themselves as they laughed and joked their way to their next classes about their latest adventure at full moon, or James’s most recent failure in asking Lily out. No, he did not like going back to that place, but there were things more important than his pain, he reminded himself of his earlier internal battle.
With a sigh, and a last glance at the photograph, he got off his bed and turned off the spot, vanishing into thin air.
Remus Lupin awoke with a sharp intake of breath. Struggling to catch it, he sat up, rubbing his aching chest. It was dark, and black heaps littered the lawn in front of where he lay. Where had the battle gone? Yes, he knew there had been a fight, he had been in it. It was Hogwarts’s final stand against evil. He had been duelling Dolohov, but where was everyone? The flashes of light, the people locked in a fight to the death, the screams and shouts had all gone. The battle had moved away from the lawns.
How long had he been unconcious? The grounds were silent, so it must have been some time, the fight had been raging in his memory. His thoughts turned to his comrades, how did they fare? Where was Dora? Was she alright? She had been beside him, fighting a masked Death Eater, some unknown terror. He had to find her.
He hauled himself to his feet, wincing with the pain that must have been caused with the spell had hit him, what had it been? Had he been merely stunned, or was it something more sinister? He was sure that Dolohov would not be content to merely leave his victim lying unconcious on the ground. He checked himself, twitching his limbs, nothing felt wrong, he could use his arms and legs, he could stand for goodness sake, and all his senses seemed fine, yet something was wrong. The silence that had been cast over the grounds was eerie, it was too quiet. Had something happened?
What were these bundles heaped like rocks over the grass? He approached the nearest one, and saw with a shock that it was a body, the black folds of robes had fallen across the victim’s face. Or was it a victim? He could not tell whether the body belonged to Death Eater or comrade. He couldn’t bare to lift the material and identify the fallen. He knew he should, but he couldn’t force his hands to work, they wouldn’t obey his brain. What if it was someone he cared about?
Full of shame at his cowardice, he turned away from all the bodies, and walked towards the castle, determinedly not looking down, trying not to see the blank faces that stared up at him. By the time he reached the steps to the Entrance Hall, he was running. Just as he was about to throw open the door, two figures emerged.
‘Time for another,’ one burdened voice said. It was Neville Longbottom.
His companion, who Remus recognised at the former Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, Oliver Wood, merely nodded in agreement, head bowed.
They did not see him. It was understandable, Remus thought. They were only young, and had never seen the likes of this before. He watched as they made their way over to one of the bundles that he had been to weak to even look at, and gently uncovered the face. From where he was, Remus could not tell who it was, but Neville shook his head, and he and Oliver left the bundle and went to another. This one, however, they hoisted gently into the air, and carried it across the grass. They were recovering bodies.
He could look no longer, could not bare to see them, so young, doing what he could not find the courage to even attempt. The symbolism of the two youths stumbling amongst the dead, bearing between them a small and petite body, was too much for him to bear. He closed his eyes, and made to turn away, but some other sense was awoken in him. Something was shouting at him, telling him that he was a bigger man than this, that he was braver, more courageous. To turn away, scared of bodies, was akin to something that Voldemort would do, Remus Lupin would not be guilty of such cowardice. The voice reasoning with him sounded like Dora.
Taking strength from her voice, he walked back down the steps towards the boys. Again, they gave no inclination that he was there, too troubled with their task, too intent on maneuvering around the fallen. Eventually, they reached him, and he opened his mouth to speak, but he looked down at the body they bore. It was Dora.
It felt like the world momentarily fell away from him. He was spinning, spinning away from reality, he had been borne away from here, to a terrible aching place, something was tearing at his heart, trying to wrench it from his chest and fling it into the abyss that seemed to stretch before him...
But then he heard her voice again, she was talking to him, calming him, bringing him back to the castle, he would see her soon, she was saying. But for now he had to be brave, be brave and do what Harry needs you to do. Keep going.
His vision swam back into focus, and he saw her again, peaceful in death, not a scratch on her. She could have been sleeping. A small tear leaking from his eye, he reached down and took a hand that was hanging by her side. Slowly, they made their way up the steps and into the Entrance Hall, oblivious to anything that might have been said to him, unaware of the state of the Hall. The silence was deafening now.
The door to the Great Hall was open, and there were a large number of people grouped around something in the middle. Remus dimly wondered what it was, but a crowd of Weasley’s parted when he, Neville and Oliver approached, bearing their slumbering burden.
They lowered Dora gently to the floor, and Remus kept a hold on her hand, smoothing her hair out of her eyes with the other. Nobody had come to him, he was grateful for that. He needed a moment to grieve. His eyes flicked automatically to the body she was sleeping next to, and his tear filled eyes widened with shock and disbelief.
It was him.
He lay there, cold and unharmed, and looked too like he could be merely sleeping. He let go of Dora’s hand, and looked wildly at the group of people clustered near him, wondering what was happening. How could he lie there, clearly dead, yet be here now, thinking and walking and talking? Nobody was looking at him. Was he a ghost? He looked down at his hands, they were substantial, defiantly solid, but he noticed that they were pale, far paler than his skin was normally, paler than those stood about him.
Was he some sort of ghost? A different kind of ghost, a kind of pre-spirit? Or was this the afterlife? Was it heaven? No, he thought. If he was in heaven, Dora would be with him, he was sure of that. Dora, her father, Sirius, Lily, James, they would all be here if he was in heaven. Maybe it was hell. No, he thought. Hell would be worse, much worse. All he felt now was confusion mingled with sadness. Hell would be pain and fire worse than this, worse than even his transformations had been back when there was no Wolfsbane potion, and no friends to help him out.
He stood up, none of the Weasleys who were all grouped next to him, noticed. He peered through their bodies to see who or what they were looking at, and saw with a shock, one of the twins, a long gash on his forehead, both ears in tact.
Remus felt a pang of grief as he looked on the youngster’s face, but not nearly what he had felt when he had seen Dora. If he was truly dead, he would see them all again soon. He would see Dora again, and Fred, and all who had lost their life this day, and whose bodies were also lined up here beside his own.
It was strange to think that. Strange that he should be standing here, looking down on his own dead body. He remembered an evening back at Grimmauld Place, two years ago now, when he and Sirius had found Molly Weasley sobbing over Harry’s dead body. Harry had been there, looking strangely down at himself sprawled on the floor. He knew now how Harry had felt, but it had been different then. Harry knew that the body was not real, merely a boggart, but he, Remus, was not sure. He didn’t even know if he was alive.
He thought back to Molly, surely before he had gotten to her, the boggart must have turned into the body of Fred. Now she was living that nightmare. His heart went out to her. He knew what she felt, his wife was dead, and for a while, if only a short while, he had thought that he would have to continue without her, alone once again.
He turned away from them, those whom he could not comfort. He left the Great Hall altogether, and wandered into the Entrance Hall. Oliver and Neville had returned with another body. Remus didn’t look down. He would see whoever it was soon enough, he knew. Just as he would see the others that he had loved and lost. He knew now that he was dead, that he would be off on his journey soon. He could not say how he knew, he just did. It was almost as if a sixth sense was reaching out to him, telling him that it was not his time yet, however. He had some other purpose first, one final task.
Lily and James materialised outside the gates of Hogwarts, and what they saw caused them to gasp in shock. Part of the towering wall that ran around the castle grounds had been destroyed and the fallen stone was lying in a crumbled heap, some of it strewn across the path. A huge, boat-like clog had been abandoned a little further away. There was an eerie silence hanging over the place, and Lily felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle with the tension in the air.
‘What’s happening?’ she exclaimed in disbelief.
‘Hogwarts must have been attacked,’ James said as he stared grimly around at the scene. Tightening his hold on his wand, he began to pick his way over the rubble. He met no resistance as he did so; the protective spells had been shattered with the curse that destroyed the wall.
‘But why?’ Lily asked, following him. ‘They wouldn’t dare with Dumbledore still here, and there’s been no intelligence to suggest they were mustering for an attack, or even that they were thinking of targeting the school at all. Plus, Sturgis reported that the giants had gone back to mainland Europe after the attack on Loughborough last month.’
‘Well, obviously we were wrong. They’ve attacked the school. I don’t know why, but they have.’
‘We have to help,’ Lily said, her face determined, as if she was expecting James to try and send her to safety again, but James merely nodded resignedly.
They scrambled through the hole in the wall and began to run up the path towards the twinkling lights of the castle. As they drew nearer, the light began to illuminate odd lumps scattered here and there over the grass.
‘What are they?’ Lily asked, frowning, as they drew near to one.
She gasped as she realised what it was.
‘James, oh my God, James, it’s a person!’
She didn’t know why she was so shocked; after all, she had seen bodies and the aftermath of battles before. Perhaps it was something to do with fact that this was a school, a place of children and learning. Not a place of violence and death.
James rushed over and turned the figure onto their back. He didn’t recognise the face. Quickly, he reached for the man’s neck and felt for the pulse where Lily had shown him, but he wasn’t hopeful; the person was cold and pale. He was clearly dead. A white mask was lying next to the body.
‘A Death Eater,’ James said in disgust, standing up again.
‘All these others...’ Lily trailed off, looking about her at the ten or so other masses lying on the grass. ‘What if...’
‘Lily, we can’t check them all,’ James said, guessing her meaning and taking her hand. ‘There’s nothing we can do for them,’ James said softly, leading her back to the path. ‘We have to find out what’s going on. We have to find Harry.’
Lily nodded, and allowed herself to be escorted along the path. She did not look at the bodies; thoughts of her son now occupied most of her mind. Yet there was a small, dark corner that wondered if any of their friends were among the victims.
‘Harry!’ a relieved voice shouted from behind them.
Lily and James both spun around to face the speaker, hearts racing at the mention of their son. It was Sirius.
‘Padfoot!’ James exclaimed, a hint of relief in his tone; he was glad his friend wasn’t among the fallen.
‘Padfoot, what’s going on?’ Lily cried, rushing towards him.
‘P-Prongs?’ Sirius appeared to recoil from them in shock, his eyes wide. ‘Lily?’
‘Yeah, it’s us, mate,’ James said. ‘Look, what’s happened here? Where’s Dumbledore? We’ve got to find him!’
But Sirius just stared at them, looking from face to face with a look of utter disbelief.
‘It can’t be!’ Sirius breathed. He was trembling from head to foot.
‘What’s wrong, Padfoot?’ James asked. ‘We need to find Dumbledore, something’s happened to Harry.’
‘What’s the matter?’ Lily asked, concerned, yet a little annoyed.
‘You- your dead!’ he exclaimed.
‘Dead?’ James’ bemused look vanished, only to be replaced with a look of mingled confusion and concern for his friend.
‘You died!’ Sirius whispered, and then clapped his hand to his forehead. ‘I’m going mad.’
‘Sirius, what the hell are you going on about?’ Lily demanded, now thoroughly exasperated with the man. ‘Just tell us what’s going on!’
But Sirius shook his head.
‘I don’t know what’s happening,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what’s going on. This can’t be real.’
‘Well, it is, mate, so get on with it,’ James snapped.
Sirius looked up, a tear forming in the corner of his eye.
‘You died,’ he said again. ‘Both of you. Nearly fifteen years ago. Halloween, 1981. You- you were murdered.’
‘It is Halloween, 1981!’ James exclaimed. ‘Well it was yesterday.’
But Sirius shook his head.
‘No, mate. It’s not. It’s the summer of 1996.’
‘What the hell?’ Lily exclaimed.
‘Look, Sirius, I think you need some help, mate...’ James began to say, turning to look at Lily. They exchanged an alarmed glance.
‘It is, trust me,’ Sirius said. ‘I can’t believe you’re here.’
He threw his arms around James, tears spilling down his cheeks. Bemused, James hugged back, unsure of quite what to do. After a few moments, Sirius broke away, his eyes still shining.
‘No, you’ve got to listen to me,’ he said in a frustrated voice. ‘I am not ill or anything, I’m telling the truth! Look, I haven’t got a bloody clue how you’re both here, but you are. Trust me, it’s June 1996. You both died, fifteen years ago. Voldemort killed you.’
Lily was staring at him. Everything she trusted was screaming out to her that Sirius was insane, that he was making this up, that he was ill, or cursed, because she and James couldn’t be dead. It was impossible! They would surely remember their deaths, and the intervening time; it had been years!
But then she remembered the state of the house, and how she had woken up in Harry’s room covered in rubble and plaster, a huge hole in the side of the house. The ivy, the dust, the mould. The apparent disuse and rot that had infested itself in the woodwork of the beams and banisters. How the trees had still had their leaves, even though it was early winter, and the last time she had looked, they had been bare. The strength of the sunshine that had felt so out of place...
‘Oh my God,’ Lily said. Could it be? Could she really be dead? Could she have met her end nearly fifteen years ago?
‘You can’t be telling the truth, Sirius,’ James said in a weak voice, and Lily knew that he had also been thinking of the same strange things that had happened. ‘Couldn’t this all be some sort of spell? Something to disorientate us while the Death Eaters attack Hogwarts? Or- or a dream or something?’
‘Does this feel like a dream?’ Sirius said with a weak laugh. ‘If it is, it’s the most realistic one I’ve ever had.’
Lily reached out a shaking hand and weakly grasped the sleeve of James’ robe. She felt like she was going to collapse.
‘Here,’ Sirius said, hurrying forward and helping to lower her down to the ground. He sat down beside her, and she looked at him. There was utter conviction and truth in his eyes. She could not doubt that he truly believed what he was saying.
‘If we did... die,’ she said slowly, ‘what happened to Harry?’
James sat down beside her with a soft thump, and she took his hand as he stared out into the blackness.
Sirius cleared his throat. ‘He survived,’ he said. ‘Nobody knows why, but it looks like the curse rebounded onto Voldemort. He was sort of destroyed.
‘What?’ James said, his head snapping around. At the same time, Lily felt a jolt of hope. He had survived... he wasn’t dead, according to Sirius. Whatever was happening, that had to be good news, didn’t it?
‘Yeah,’ Sirius was saying. ‘He destroyed Voldemort, for a time, at least; he’s come back, though. Dumbledore took Harry to live with your sister, Petunia. He’s fifteen now.
Lily was silent. Somehow, the thought that their son would have aged as the years passed hadn’t really occurred to her until now. She barely heard James’ words to Sirius.
‘Why didn’t you take him?’
Sirius was silent for a moment; his air seemed wistful.
‘I tried,’ Sirius said, shaking his head. ‘And if I did, it might have changed everything. Hagrid took him,’ he added in explanation. ‘He got to- to the house before I did. He was on Dumbledore’s orders, he said. He took him to Petunia, and I, well, I went after Peter.’
Lily looked up sharply, and James made a movement as if to protest, but Sirius held up a hand.
‘That disgusting rat betrayed you!’ he spat. ‘He sold you to Voldemort in return for protection, to save his own pathetic skin. He as good as killed you.’
‘You’re lying,’ James said. This, above all else, seemed to have shaken James. The loyalty of his friends had always been a truth that he could have counted on. If nothing else, he would always have their trust and friendship, but now, even that had apparently been a lie. ‘Peter would never have done that. He must have been tortured, or they tricked or forced it out of him. He would never have done that...’
Sirius shook his head sadly. ‘I wish I was lying, mate, I really do. Before that night, I never thought he’d have done it either, but he did. He went to them out of his own free will. But what did you expect me to do? Sit down calmly with a cup of tea?’ he said. ‘No, I went after him, found him too. It wasn’t hard. I cornered him in the middle of a street in broad daylight. I was going to kill him for killing you, for selling you like cattle in a market. I wanted to punish him, but the little swine blew the street up behind us, killing everyone in range. Twelve people, I think it was in the end. He transformed and escaped to a life in exile, and I was left behind.
‘Of course, nobody knew that you’d switched Secret Keeper from me to him, not even Dumbledore. They all thought I had done it, that I was the one who had sold you to Voldemort. That it was I who was the double agent. They took me away and convicted me of your murders and I was convicted to life in Azkaban.’
‘Oh, Sirius,’ Lily said. Whatever doubts were raging in her mind, the look in his eye and the determined calm tone of his voice was deeply moving, and, if he really was telling the truth, he had been through a terrible ordeal. It was hard to comprehend. ‘How are you here now, though?’
‘I escaped,’ he said, sighing heavily, and for a moment a shadow crossed his face and his eyes seemed dead and hollow. They caught a glimpse of what he must have been like in those absent years. ‘Two years ago. I’ve been on the run since then. Harry helped me escape the Ministry. He’s a good kid,’ he added to the pair of them in a soft voice. ‘Really brave, you’d be proud of him, hell knows I am. He looks like you, Prongs. Exactly, but with Lily’s eyes.’
Lily looked away from Sirius’ searching eyes. She didn’t know what to believe, but the talk of Harry as a teenage boy was clenching at her heart. If Sirius was telling the truth, then she had missed him growing up. They had left him an orphan.
‘We best get to Dumbledore,’ James said, ending the strange silence that had descended upon them. ‘He’ll know what’s going on. If you’re telling the truth.
Sirius nodded, although he looked like a man who was incredibly sure that what he knew was the truth. He and James took Lily’s hands and helped her to her feet. She looked again at the bodies littering the lawn.
‘Something’s happened,’ Sirius said. He too was looking around at the scene. ‘We were at the Ministry,’ he added. ‘There was a fight with the Death Eaters. Harry and some other kids were trying to fight them, and we came to rescue them. I fell through some sort of arch, and when I hit the ground on the other side, everyone had gone. So I came here to find Dumbledore and see what was going on. Perhaps they used the Ministry thing as a ruse to get us to leave the school with less protection.’
‘Harry was fighting Death Eaters?’ James asked.
‘Yeah. He was okay when I was there, though,’ Sirius reassured them. ‘He’s got a bit of a habit of getting himself into trouble with them.’
He stopped speaking and turned to face Lily and James, a strange look in his eye.
‘Look, whether this is real or not, I can’t describe how good it is to see you two again.’ He reached forwards and embraced them both. Lily could feel his wet tears seeping slowly through her blouse.
‘I’ve missed you guys.’‘I’ve missed you guys.’
‘It did not matter about bringing them back, for he was about to join them... he was not really fetching them: they were fetching him.’
Remus wandered aimlessly among the bodies that still littered the lawn in front of the castle. He was no longer afraid of them, seeing as he was one himself, lying cold and pale in the Great Hall. He was not sad for the fallen either; he knew that if he cared about them he would see them soon and, if not, he hoped that they were at peace, wherever they were.
He did not really know what to do with himself. He knew that he still had something to do, some task that needed completing before he went on, so to speak, but he did not know what it would be, or indeed when he would be required. He was sure that an opportunity would present itself at the right time, though.
He watched as Oliver and Neville returned from the castle, and bent down over another body. This one was tiny, he thought as they lifted it carefully between them, surely it was one of a student. He took a few steps closer and the lights from the castle windows fell on the small face. Remus had been right; the boy’s name was Creevey. He remembered him from his year as Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. The boy was only a year younger than Harry, he remembered, so might have been of age, but he looked so young. Remus’ heart went out to the boy’s poor parents. Now that he was, or at least had been, a father, he could imagine the pain of losing a child.
His thoughts drifted to his son. The boy who now had no parents, just as Creevey’s parents now had no son. Teddy was an orphan, just as Harry was. Would he grow up, like Harry had, yearning for the love of his parents, wishing above anything that there had somehow been a mistake, and that, someday, they’d come back for him? Would Teddy be angry that they’d abandoned him like this? For the first time, Remus felt a flicker of doubt. Had he done the right thing? Should he have stayed at home to care for his son? He sighed. It was an impossible question with no answer. He had done what he deemed right. He had fought so that his son might grow up in a world free from the tyranny of Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Hopefully Teddy would come to understand this, in time. And it was not like he had been left alone and unloved, like poor Harry had been; Teddy had a loving grandmother in Andromeda, who would surely care for him as well as she had done for the daughter she had just lost. Plus, it wasn’t like he would never see his son again. He would watch him growing up from afar, and be ready to greet him when his son finally passed away. It was strange how he just seemed to know that this would happen, how he knew that they’d meet again, and Remus couldn’t have said how he knew. Just as he knew comfort was good and pain was bad, he knew that they’d meet again, one day, hopefully after Teddy had lived a long and happy life.
His thoughts were disrupted by a voice, a voice that he had not heard for nearly two years now, and he smiled in delight. Prickling with anticipation, he turned to face the owner of the voice, only to be greeted with a pleasanter sight than he could have ever hoped for.
‘Prongs!’ he exclaimed in delight as he saw one of the three figures walking towards him. ‘Lily! Sirius!’
‘Remus, what the hell is going on here?’ Sirius said in a tired, exasperated voice.
Remus noticed all three looked confused and worried. Vaguely he wondered why that was. There wasn’t anything they could do to help.
‘Hogwarts is making her stand,’ Remus said.
‘Against Voldemort?’ James asked. Remus noticed he kept fiddling with his wand, gripping it tight one moment and letting it hang loose by his side the next, as if he couldn’t make up his mind whether to use it or not.
‘Yes,’ he replied.
‘Look,’ James said, running his hands through his hair, a strained look on his face, ‘Something really weird is going on. Last night Voldemort turned up at the house. Today Lily and I wake up with the house practically destroyed and Harry gone. We tried to find Dumbledore, but he wasn’t at Headquarters, so we turn up here to find parts of the castle in ruins, bodies everywhere and Padfoot telling us we’re dead!’
‘We are dead,’ Remus told him. ‘Why else are we all here?’
‘I’m not dead! You’re not dead!’ Sirius said. ‘Prongs and Lily are, and Merlin knows how they’re here and how we can see them, but I can’t be dead! I remember everything, and none of that involves me dying! We were at the Ministry duelling the Death Eaters.’
‘That was nearly two years ago, Sirius,’ Remus said. ‘You died in that fight. You fell through that veil on the dais. I died in this battle, I saw my body on the floor in the Great Hall. Lily, Prongs, I’m afraid Sirius is right. You died seventeen years ago. Harry survived.’
He didn’t think telling Sirius the exact identity of his murderer would be a good thing to do at this moment in time.
‘Wait a second!’ Sirius said. ‘Dying is a pretty big event; you think I’d remember something of it! This can’t be true! How can I have just died two years ago and not remember anything? You’re lying, Moony! I can’t be dead! And neither can you be! What do you mean you’ve seen your body? This is all insane.’
‘Padfoot,’ Lily said in a gentle voice. ‘We didn’t remember anything, either. We just woke up in the house to find it rotting away.’
Sirius blanched. ‘There was no one there,’ he said quietly. ‘Nobody could see me...’
Remus looked at him, filled with pity. He realised just how lucky he was to have caught sight of his body immediately. How long had the three of them been running around believing themselves to be simply the victim of some strange curse? He couldn’t imagine the turmoil they were going through now, especially Lily and James, who had believed their son to be missing, perhaps dead, perhaps in the clutches of Voldemort.
‘I’m dead,’ Sirius said eventually in the same small voice. It was heartbreaking. ‘What happened to everyone else? What happened to Harry? How- how come you’re dead too?’
‘Everyone was okay. Harry was pretty distraught, but nobody was injured much. How much do you know?’ he added to Lily and James. He decided against going into his own death; it wasn’t the most important thing on the agenda right now. Lily and James needed to know about their son. The son, up until now, they were convinced was only a year old and had been kidnapped.
‘Sirius told us some things,’ James said. ‘But if it’s been a few years since... Well, we won’t be up to date.’
Remus nodded, casting a look at Sirius, who was looking small and forlorn, like a lost sheep. He wondered how he would begin to tell them that the son they died for had been hunted like a wild boar this past year, and the danger he was still in.
‘Well, he’s on the run now,’ Remus said finally. ‘Voldemort took over the Ministry, so he took that as cue to disappear. Dumbledore’s given him some sort of mission to do, I don’t know what it is; he wouldn’t tell me, but I think it’s important.’
‘What’s Dumbledore doing giving a dangerous mission to a teenager?’ James growled. ‘Why can’t he do it himself?’
‘Dumbledore’s dead, Prongs,’ Remus said. He watched as all three heads snapped towards him as they tried to digest this new, horrible, piece of information.
‘Dead?’ Lily repeated in horror. ‘How?’
For a second time, Remus hesitated, unsure of how to break the delicate news. He knew that Lily and Snape had been friendly at one time, and even though she had ended the friendship while they were still at school, she would probably not take the news that her former friend had murdered the founder of the Order well.
‘Snape,’ he said after a pause, glancing at Lily, whose eyes had widened in shock.
‘Snape?’Sirius exclaimed. ‘That filthy grease ball murdered Dumbledore?’
Remus nodded. ‘It was last year, here at Hogwarts. He was a spy. A secret Death Eater.’
‘A secret Death Eater?’ James interjected. ‘Him being a Death Eater was never a secret! He left Hogwarts one of them!’
‘He changed sides,’ Remus said heavily. ‘Just before you two died. I never knew why, or on what evidence, but Dumbledore seemed to think he had proof Snape was a changed man.’
‘The fool,’ Sirius spat. ‘Snape was always a traitorous bastard! What evidence could change that? I can’t believe we let that filth give Harry Occlumency lessons!’
‘You let that fiend at my son?’ James said, anger seething through his voice.
‘He’s a teacher here, Prongs,’ Remus said. ‘For years. None of us knew what he really was. We trusted him to help Harry close his mind against Voldemort. I trusted Dumbledore. Honestly Prongs, if I ever suspected him of anything I would never have agreed to it.’
‘Where’s Harry now?’ Lily interrupted.
‘He was here,’ Remus said. ‘Finishing that task Dumbledore gave him. I’m not sure where he is, but I’m sure he’s okay. We’d know if he came to any harm; Voldemort’s after him, that’s why he’s here. He’d take any opportunity to tell us Harry’d been killed.’
‘We have to do something!’ James shouted. ‘What the hell are we doing standing here while Voldemort tries to murder my son? We can’t do nothing!’
‘Prongs,’ Remus said soothingly as Lily put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. ‘There’s nothing we can do; we’re dead.’
‘But why are we all here?’ Lily asked pleadingly.
‘There’s something we have to do,’ Remus told her. ‘Can you not feel it?’
There was silence around the group as each person collected their thoughts, and allowed their senses to explore their surroundings, allowed them to wander from their bodies. They closed their eyes as they began to feel things, things that had been masked and shrouded by confusion, fear and pain. Things that they had not been able to feel before they realised they had already passed on, but now were back again. They felt a clarity coming over them, like morning mist lifting to reveal the shining sun.
They remembered things, or a place more specifically, a bright, sunny landscape, dotted with familiar landmarks, a white light illuminating everything it touched, and a feeling of great, contented happiness. Each of them remembered that they had met before in this beautiful place, and the reunion had been joyful and sweet, a reunion after many long years of separation, and sorrow for those left behind.
They remembered heaven.
And as they remembered this place, a sense of purpose descended on them, and they knew that they had been brought back here for a reason. The intention of their loved one had called them back, and they had responded. The transition had not been easy, but now a resolution had been achieved, they were allowed to remember; they had been granted clarity, and all they needed to do now was wait.
They looked around at each other, none of them speaking, none knowing quite what to say. At that moment, the heavy wooden doors of the castle entrance swung open, but they saw no visible person exiting. This was their cue. Their time had come.
And so they followed, trailing after the figure they could sense, but not see. Neither could he see them; they were separated from him still by a cloud of mist, a veil that kept them in the shadows. They simply followed.
Together, they headed towards the Forest, keeping their distance from him, longing to reach out and touch him, to comfort him, but they knew they could not. He had not yet summoned them, though his intentions were strong. They would soon have all eternity to spend together, uninterrupted, undisturbed.
They descended into the midst of the trees, steadily going deeper and deeper. They were close now; Harry was no longer invisible to them, though his outline was blurred by the charm on the Cloak. They watched as he gripped the Snitch tightly in his hand and brought it to his lips.
I am about to die.
They saw the Snitch crack open, revealing the ordinary-looking black stone, the pebble Death had taken from the bank of a river. Harry took it in his hand and closed his eyes.
They looked at each other, prickling with anticipation; their time had come. As they watched, Harry turned the stone three times in his hand, thinking of the people his subconscious had yearned for. Feeling the pull, the call, they stepped forward to greet him at last.