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Through the Looking Glass by timeturner
Chapter 1: Author Page
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Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
Welcome to HarryPotterFanFiction.com, a world where your imagination can soar. With over 12,000 stories in its archive, HPFF is one of the largest fan fiction sites dedicated to Harry Potter on the web. Whether you are a writer, a reader, or merely a Harry Potter fan, you can find something here that appeals to you.
In celebration of the anniversary of HPFF, we welcome you to the most unique fanfic you’ll ever read. Compiled by some of the most well-known and celebrated authors of HPFF, each chapter is designed to give you insight into a specific character from the Harry Potter books. Peruse to find your favorite character, read to see your favorite author, or enjoy the entire story as a novel length fic as it was meant to be enjoyed.
The effort and teamwork that went into completing this story is illustrative of the character, dedication and loyalty to HPFF that these authors possess. They each have their distinctive writing style that will shine through as each chapter of this story unfolds. I commend them for their unfailing hard work, sweat and toil that they have endured to bring these characters to life for readers for the sake of this project.
Chapter One....................Author Page.............timeturner
Chapter Five.....................McGonagall..............Violet Gryfindor
Chapter Six......................Bellatrix Lestrange....LlewellynMcEllis
Chapter Seven..................Lucius Malfoy...........Siren*
Chapter Eight....................Narcissa Black.........Alpha3760
Chapter Nine.....................Regulus Black..........Cor_Leonis
Chapter Ten.....................Severus Snape.........Cor_Leonis
Chapter Eleven.................Peter Pettigrew.........Alpha3760
Chapter Twelve.................Molly Weasley..........icy_cool_hermione
Chapter Thirteen...............Remus Lupin............RavenGryffendor
Chapter Fourteen..............Sirius Black..............timeturner
Chapter Fifteen.................Lily Evans................Vloyski
Chapter Sixteen................James Potter............Noblevyne
Chapter Seventeen...........Gilderoy Lockhart.....melihobbit
Chapter Nineteen..............Percy Weasley.........SiriuslyLupin
Chapter Twenty................Cho Chang..............LogicalRaven
Chapter Twenty-One.........Draco Malfoy...........wulfeyez
Chapter Twenty-Two.........Luna Lovegood........timeturner/noblevyne/madamesnape
Chapter Twenty-Three......Ginny Weasley.........MadameSnape
Chapter Twenty-Four........Ron Weasley............icy_cool_hermione
Chapter Twenty-Five.........Hermione Granger....melihobbit
Chapter Twenty-Six..........Neville Longbottom....Siren*
Chapter Twenty-Eight.......Harry Potter..............Vloyski
Additionally thanks to Joela and Marvolo who also assisted with the compilation of this fic. The permanent banner for this story was designed by melihobbit. Credit for additional advertising banners goes to BitterEpiphany, SiriuslyLupin and melihobbit. Thanks to all of you for making this an outstanding fan fiction to celebrate the anniversary of HPFF.
And we would be nowhere without the tireless and ingenius efforts of Cariel and greengecko, who made certain that there were no problems with the archive and assured that Through the Looking Glass would be posted smoothly. This could not have been done without the two of you, thank you for your help and your advice, thank you for being involved!
We invite you to imagine a dream world where all your favorite characters reside. Ponder a world of nonsense and magic where the greatest triumphs and tragedies of each character are yours to behold. As each character prepares to face Voldemort, step through the looking glass and glimpse their world as you never seen it before. Welcome to the HPFF Anniversary Story.
Chapter 2: Prologue
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The HPFF Anniversary Story
The fact that we don't know this man, isn't important really. Cause his experience is our experience, and his fate is our fate. When we're stripped of all our worldly possessions and all our fame, family, friends, we all face death alone. But it's that solitude in death that's our common bond in life. - Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider
It’s said he was born with riches beyond measure. His home sat on the tallest, most majestic hill overlooking the humble town of Little Hangleton. He was born with the love of his mother to shelter him and the beliefs of his powerful ancestor Salazar Slytherin to serve as his guide. Yet for all the treasures Tom Riddle possessed, the one thing he desired most – the love of his muggle father – was never to be had.
Orphaned, desolate and embittered by his father’s desertion, Tom would live the next eleven years of his life in a broken down muggle orphanage, where his distaste for muggles would continue to fester. Near his eleventh birthday, a wondrous gift was bestowed upon Tom – the knowledge that he was a wizard and an invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. For Tom, the enchanting world of magic provided an escape from his pathetic muggle existence and, tragically, made his distaste of muggles grow into a hatred that would consume him for the rest of his life.
Lord Voldemort. . . no more than a figment of my own creation, Tom thought silently, and yet it is a name people will not speak for fear of invoking the awesome horror that is my power. Even his own followers, the Death Eaters, cowered in his presence, and dared not speak his name. He was known to them as Master, or My Lord, but not even those he trusted most chanced to speak the name he'd given himself. There was tremendous satisfaction in knowing that kind of power, and just thinking about it brought a terrible smile to his thin mouth.
With such terrible power came prestige and honor. He had the power and potential to one day conquer immortality, but first he had other business to attend to. The world he would rule in his omnipotent immortality would be free of those like his father…he would wipe the face of his world clean of muggles, muggle-lovers and the mud-bloods that came from such horrific unions. A vile feeling from the mere mention of the names and what they signified washed over him in an instant. Muggle. . . it was a horrid thing in his mind. Mudblood was even worse, for he knew in his heart that he was one himself. Dirty blood, tainted by his filthy, Muggle father.
He fought to control the emotions that welled inside him. Resentment, hurt and distrust had no place in his world. Those were muggle fallacies left over from the few traits he inherited from his worthless father. From his hidden position deep in the moss covered woods, he searched the midnight sky for it. A sign that would tell him his loyalists were waiting for him. A sign that would bring terror to all those who choose not to believe. A sign that proved his day had finally come.
As if on cue, it appeared, flaming through the night sky to beckon him forward. Emerald green stars, glittering like jewels, gathered to form a skull in the heavens.
He could see their faces in his memory. He remembered them all. Those he had killed, those he had tortured, those that had somehow managed to escape death at his hands. He could see his loyal followers most vividly. He had no idea what thoughts or emotions they held as they stood before him. Was it fear or loathing? Perhaps it was love or admiration? Even with all his immense powers, the inner thoughts and emotions of those that had faced him were hidden beyond reach for the mighty Lord Voldemort. He could only guess as to the reflections on their lives they may have made.
But you, dearest reader, will no longer have to guess. Gathered together, some of the most celebrated authors of HPFF will bring you into the world of love, laughter, sin and betrayal of those who have faced Lord Voldemort. Join us, if you will, and enter a story like you’ve never read before. A story of hope, forgiveness and loss for the characters you thought you knew so well. Step through the looking glass and let your adventure begin.
a/n special thanks to Llew for all her assistance with this chapter.
Chapter 4: Longbottoms
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The house was the same one they had visited the night before last, frozen in a perfect silence as if nothing had ever happened. The furnishings were the same: the same chintz sofa and wicker armchair, the same lamp stand with the iridescent glow coming from beneath the oversized lampshade. And the identical ornate wall lights shone just as when they had come across them as they entered the building that fateful Thursday night before. The smell was unchanged too: the unmistakeable smell of trepidation and fear. His heart beat a little faster as he could feel the atmosphere chill around him. He tentatively stepped towards the kitchen where a faint light emanated from underneath the closed door ominously: something wasn’t right. There was someone missing from this scene, but he couldn’t look back. He knew he must open the door, and find the light behind it. A lump began to form at the back of his throat; he knew what he would find here just as he had before. She would be there, scarred and torn, wracked with pain, and he would be made to watch her suffering. Still he placed his hand upon the brass door handle, and slowly turned it to the right as time repeated itself on a never-ending loop. He was there again, but then he knew he would be as soon as he had taken his first steps towards Dorcas Meadows cottage on this crisp winter night.
The feeling of déjà vu washed over him once more as he saw the vision played again like an old movie in slow motion. Except it wasn’t Dorcas this time being slowly tortured by Voldemort while they fought the Death Eaters and the Dark Lord himself. He glimpsed down at the crumpled figure, almost too frightened to look again. Voldemort goaded him as the masked men held him back; the high-pitched voice piercing his ears like fingernails down a blackboard.
“You will watch me do this. You will watch me and learn that you will pay for all your impertinence. She will die, and you will be next. Look at me, girl. I like to see the eyes as my victims die. There is a fragility of life that is extinguished as I summon the curse you all fear. Look at me. You will fear me. Look at me, Alice.”
Frank Longbottom shot up out of his nightmare, and looked at the empty space next to him in the tangled and crumpled bed. The pillow was dented from where she once lay. He always had nightmares, but last night they had been the worst he had ever known since he became a member of the Order. Last night had been different. Thursday night was only the second time he had truly feared for his life, and the second time he had come face to face with the one they all despised. Voldemort had been there. Of course he was there. She had meant that much, and he wanted to set an example to the Order. The visions, lights and sounds of the raid all mingled into one as the early morning light began to filter through the curtains and disturb his light slumber. But though he knew it was only an inaccurate dream, he pushed back the heavy winter blankets, and grabbed his robe for warmth as he walked down the hallway to find Alice. He knew where she would be, and he had to find her. He heard the sounds of her coughing in the bathroom and for the first time that morning his face broke into a soft knowing smile. He inwardly breathed a sigh of relief: she was safe.
Morning sickness! From the minute Alice had found out she was carrying his child she had been suffering from the dreaded side effect, and this morning was no exception. Pausing before he knocked, Frank stood in front of the bathroom door and leaned his ear against it to listen for her.
“Alice. Alice it’s me, love. You alright?”
“Yeah. No. Sort of.”
He grinned at her indecision because it was one of the oddities about Alice that he adored. He placed his hand flat against the cold wood of the door, pressing his palm against it, and though she was on the other side he wished he could reach out and take her suffering away. He always tried to help her as best he could. If the other night had taught him anything it was that he always wanted to protect her from all the evil in the world. Her and their unborn child.
“Is there anything I can get you? You must be exhausted, my love. Let me make you a nice cup of tea, and you come back to bed for a while. Come on. I’ll rub your back for you and make you all better.”
The latch of the door clicked, and her round and attractive face peered out from behind it. He smiled as he saw in front of him the only girl he had ever loved. Alice was his, and he was hers, and everyone said they were made for one another. He could never imagine his life without her by his side. Alice made an effort to return the compliment of his smile, though Frank could see in her hazel eyes that she struggled to do so.
“Not tea, darling, it makes me worse. Could you get me a glass of pumpkin juice and just a ginger biscuit? I think I’ll feel better after I’ve had a little something to eat.”
“Of course I will. Now, if you’ve stopped the sickness for a while then go back to bed, and I’ll bring you the breakfast in there.”
Alice did as he suggested, and Frank made his way through to the kitchen, filling the muggle kettle with water (as for some reason his Mother had always done it that way and now he found he liked his tea that way too.) and pouring the Pumpkin juice into a tall glass tumbler. He looked around him, and glanced out of the window as a robin flew towards the bird table. It pecked at the seeds Alice had left out for the hungry creatures the day before, boosting his stores ready for nesting season. The snow had settled finally that night, and Frank looked out at the white blanket with a heavy heart. It reminded him of that frosty night. She had been in the kitchen of her house too. He hurriedly opened the biscuit tin, trying to lay the visions to rest, and found the ginger biscuits his mother had made for Alice on hearing of her suffering. But, as he slowly laid them out on a plate, his mind wandered back, and the dark visions of his night time slumber returned to haunt his day. But this time it was the truthful version of events.
“Quick Frank, we don’t have much time to organise a search party. Dorcas has sent up the warning sign, and you and Alice are the nearest. Can you make it over there? Others are on their way as a back up, and Moody should be there soon too, if we can find him, but you two get there quick. It might be him. If he’s found out she was double crossing him he’ll deal with her himself. We could get Voldemort!”
The message from Marlene was brief, but to the point, and the Longbottoms wasted no time in grabbing their winter attire and apparating down the road to find the cottage. They knew the place well. Dorcas had trained both Frank and Alice when they first joined to be Aurors, and this had developed into a firm and trusting friendship. It was a truly beautiful place in the daytime sunshine, with roses at the front and a climbing wisteria snaking its way across the timbers of the old porch. It mingled with a jasmine to scent the air as you brushed past. The thatched roof, and wooden picket fence, made it look like a sweet chocolate box image, but tonight it was far removed from such an idyllic scene. Tonight there was a fearful air about the place, and the gate swung off its hinges in the swirling winter wind as if it wanted to warn them of the scene they were to find inside. The next thing that struck both of them was that there was no bark from the friendly Jack Russell that Dorcas kept as a companion.
Alice looked across at Frank tentatively, and he squeezed her hand firmly for reassurance. Looking into her questioning eyes he nodded his confirmation as he cautiously pushed at the wooden slatted door. It opened all too easily, loosened at the hinges as if someone had entered in a hurry. Wands at the ready, clutched in the palms of their sweat ridden hands with their arms outstretched, Frank and Alice slowly crept around the cottage, ducking down low to avoid the low beams that adorned the place. Alice swallowed hard as they heard piercing screams coming from the kitchen area, and the chill and presence made her realise who was there. They had come up against him once before and the feelings from that time hung in the air this night too. She whispered to her husband, “He’s here”, and Frank nodded slowly. But he had sensed his presence too. The icy air and foreboding feeling as they crept forwards encompassed the whole cottage now, and they reached out to hold one another’s hands as they viewed a glow coming from underneath the kitchen door. This could be the chance they had waited for. To kill or capture Voldemort was the ultimate prize. But Frank was not an ambitious man though his thoughts were drawn to just that. Still Dorcas was the main priority. Releasing Alice’s hand, he reached towards the brass handle and drew breath as he swung the door open, both their arms aloft in unison shouting “Stupefy!” and “Expelliarmus!”
“Frank. Are you ok in there?”
Alice’s dulcet tones dragged him back from replaying the previous events, and he grabbed the Pumpkin juice and plate of biscuits and walked back to find her. There she was, looking weary but still beautifully radiant to his biased eyes. As he placed the glass and plate next to her on the bedside cabinet, Frank bent down to kiss her forehead gently. Tracing a solitary finger around the outline of her dark brown wispy hair, he worked his way down to her jaw line, and lifted her chin gently to place a soft exquisite kiss on her rosy lips that were warm and soft. He smiled at her as he tasted toothpaste on her lips and remembered how he had found her that morning in the bathroom. Making his way to the other side of the bed, he pulled back the covers and snuggled in beside her, leaning on one elbow to gaze at her as she devoured the biscuit with relish. Frank grinning as the crumbs fell on the delicate ivory skin of her bosom, just like the freckles that fell across the bridge of her pretty turned up nose. He felt so protective of her at times like this that he just wanted to wrap her all up in cotton wool and whisk her away to a far away land. A land with no Order and no Voldemort, where they could live forever in peace. She deserved it. As she sipped at the Pumpkin juice she turned to see him staring and frowned. Placing the glass carefully down on the cabinet top she questioned him.
“What is it?”
He shook his head and grinned. “Nothing, love. I was just merely thinking how incredibly lucky I am to have a beautiful woman like you in my bed.”
She reached over and touched his face, smoothing the soft skin of his cheek, and reaching the stubble formed across his chin. Alice jumped back slightly as she did so as it tickled her fingers. She peeped through the curtain of her fringe with her large doe-like eyes and grinned. “Smooth talker. You’d charm the birds out of the trees you would, Frank Longbottom. My Mother told me about men like you.”
Frank chuckled and raised his eyebrows on mock surprise. “Did she? You didn’t take much notice then, did you, young lady? Look at the state of you now!”
Slipping further into the warmth of the bed, Alice moved across and laid her head on Frank’s muscular bare chest, listening to the rhythm of his heartbeat. In return, Frank automatically reached for the soft mound of flesh around her slightly swollen belly, covered by a swathe of silk and gently rubbed it in a soft circular motion, connecting with his unborn child. Alice relaxed back into his sheltering arms. She always felt safe and secure in his arms, and as the pregnancy progressed she felt more and more uncertain of the world around her, and more in need of her beloved Frank. What sort of a world was she bringing this child into? Were they so responsible having a child now when so much was undecided? What would become of it if anything were to happen? Just as it had with Dorcas. She closed her eyes to try and relax in Frank’s arms, but all she saw was that night.
As the door opened, and they shot the stunning spells through the path, an awful high pitched cackle of laughter filled the air. They knew he was in the room, though the flashes of light emitted from the wands of the Death Eaters blocked Frank and Alice’s vision. As Frank took the left hand side of the room, and Alice the right, both taking on two Death Eaters at a time, Voldemort screamed instructions to his loyal servants.
“Come on! There is only two of them, and four of you! Am I always to be cursed with incompetent fools?”
Alice struggled against the cries of “Accio wand” and “Impedimenta” as she dodged flash after flash of spells, her agile body managing to fight them off as she snaked her way around to meet her husband, punching out with her fists if the spells didn‘t hold. Frank had summoned a Shield charm to protect him, and so far the spell had worked. He kicked out with his feet, and used his bare hands to struggle with one of the male Death Eaters, successfully pulling off his mask to expose him. Struggling to cover his face, Rosier wished to remain anonymous that night. Time stood still for all but a second, and Frank remembered the happier times they had spent here in this room, with pleasanter company, warm coffee and fruitcake and fun conversations as they told Dorcas their happy news, but all was lost of those heady days now. A crash of falling saucepans brought them all back to reality with a jolt. Having worked their way around the room, they were slowly cornered; trapped from all angles and faced with four Death Eaters bearing down on them. A wave of nausea rose in Frank’s dry throat, and the hairs on the backs of Alice’s arms began to prickle and rise up under the stress of the situation. How they hoped the others would arrive soon.
Both of them now captured, the Death Eaters parted, wands still pointed at their prisoners so that they could give a clear view of what was about to occur. The figure, partially cloaked by the shadows of the night sky, moved towards the centre of the room and the cowering body of Dorcas Meadows, already in obvious distress from before her friends’ arrival. The hooded beast was unrecognisable that night, but the Longbottoms did not need introductions; just his mere presence and authority made them aware they now faced the one they all feared. A long, pointed finger came out from the dark, heavy cloak he wore and his shrill voice, slow and detached, hit them like no spell could.
“Well, I hardly expected an audience tonight, but now you are here you may enjoy our entertainment.”
The collected Death Eaters muttered sniggers and whispered agreements.
“Dorcas here has been a thorn in my side for quite some time now, with her lies and deceptions, and I have had enough of her meddlesome ways. She will learn that to trouble Lord Voldemort means certain death. You will all learn in time that none will outwit Lord Voldemort.”
Frank craned his neck to see what was happening; he knew their time would be soon, and he had to distract Voldemort just a little longer until the Order came to save them. They must all come soon.
“You’re weak, Voldemort!”
The Death Eaters hissed at the mention of their Master’s name, and Voldemort smiled across his thin lips at the audacity of the man standing proudly in front of him.
“Ah, I see now it is Mr and Mrs Longbottom. Another thorn in my side, aren’t you? Weak, am I Longbottom? You will see just how weak I am!”
Silence filled the room until Frank Longbottom felt the power of the Cruciatus Curse, and he fell to his knees in agony. Alice made to comfort him but the strong, restraining arms of the Death Eater to her left held her back.
“Leave me alone!”
“Your wife does not know when to hold her tongue, Longbottom. Perhaps she would like to join Dorcas here.”
“NO!” Frank forced his words out as he winced at yet another wave of pain. Life without Alice would mean nothing. If she were to die he must take them both.
“Very well. I am in a generous mood. I will deal with you later. For now I feel Dorcas needs my undivided attention.”
He pulled the fragile woman’s hair up to force her head upwards, blood trickling down her tear-stained cheeks as she tried to turn away from those hypnotic eyes. Voldemort crouched down, his face staring into hers menacingly. His mouth twitched as he drank the fear emitted from her now, for she knew her fate was already sealed in his unforgiving heart. If indeed he had a heart at all anymore. He was playing with her like a hunter plays with its prey before finally devouring it in one swift strike. Alice closed her eyes as, on his command, the Death Eaters performed the Cruciatus Curse on Dorcas simultaneously again and again. But though her eyes were closed tight, her ears still revealed the horror surrounding her, and she could not escape the blood curdling screams. She muttered under her breath “ Please let it be over soon, please have mercy on her soul.” over and over again, hoping some higher power would listen. But no one was to listen to her pleas that night. Voldemort waited until he had tasted enough torture, and as he looked at the sight before his eyes he muttered “Pathetic”, laughing as he focused on Dorcas for one last time. With a flash of green light she felt pain no longer, and Alice wept silently.
Frank felt the warm droplets of her tears trickle down the skin of his bare chest like a river, and he pulled Alice closer to him protectively. He was always loathed to see her cry: his Alice was happy go lucky Alice and kind, gentle and loving. He adored the Alice that laughed out loud at his feeble attempts at telling jokes; that lit up his mornings and shared his nights. The Alice that listened to his atrocious singing that failed to hit one true note. And now his love had found a new level as she carried his first born; the first of many he hoped, and it pained him like a knife to the heart to see her so sad and fearful.
He kissed the crown of her head, and raised her chin gently with his fingers, but she did not smile as she looked into his eyes.
“Hey you! You’ll upset that baby of ours if you carry on this nonsense.”
As he gently stroked the skin around her jaw line with the flesh of his thumb she broke into a gentle smile as she looked deeply into his eyes. But tears soon replaced the smile again.
“I’m so frightened Frank. If help hadn’t come when it did, if we hadn’t fought them all off, then…” She turned her face away a little. “And what of our future? What if anything happens to us, like it did with Dorcas? I really want this baby, and I so want us to all be together and be happy without fighting the Death Eaters or Voldemort. I want to be happy.”
“And we will be happy, my love, I promise. I’ll always be by your side to protect you both you know that. I’ll never, ever leave you.”
Alice sighed aloud. “I know, I’m just worried for our little ones future.”
“That’s one of the many reasons why I adore you, Alice Longbottom. Now, who do you think he’ll take after?”
Alice chuckled. “ He? You’re sure it’s a boy then?”
Frank grinned and shrugged his shoulders, wrapping his arms around her so she leaned back against him. “No, I don’t know, but I’d like a son. I missed out so much on not having my Dad around when I was growing up, and I want to be there at every step with this little one. Mind you, if he is a Longbottom male then he’ll be useless at magic until he comes of age. It’s always the way with us blokes in my family. That, and being a ladies man, of course!” He winked at Alice suggestively.
Alice laughed out loud and snuggled deeper into their embrace, sighing as she felt the warmth of his arms against her skin. Closing her eyes, and succumbing to her sleep she felt safe and secure again. She imagined a small, dark-haired boy with a round cherubic face running free in a beautiful, green meadow on a warm summers afternoon. He was being chased by his ever-loving father while she watched them from under the shade of an old oak tree, looking out at her beloved boys. It was such an idyllic scene she could almost reach out and taste her hopes and dreams as they unfolded all around her. The sunshine beat down upon them all, ceaseless and inviting, not a single cloud littering the perfect blue sky, and she wished with all her heart that her thoughts and dreams would become her reality.
But, in the times that they lived in, she could only live from day to day. Dreams were for sweet slumber, and the reality of their time was far harsher, and filled with the living, ominous presence of the Dark Lord Voldemort.
Chapter 5: Minerva McGonagall
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by: Violet Gryfindor
The corner of Privet Drive and the intersecting side street was a very quiet corner. The grass was no longer very green, this being late in the year, but all the houses were neat and entirely commonplace with brown brick facades and windows in all the normal places. There was nothing untoward about this corner at all. The only people ever seen there were those who lived in the area, and even then they sped through in their automobiles without a passing glance. But no one noticed the tabby cat who calmly sat near this corner, her strangely human-like beady eyes watching every auto which passed by. She did not belong here.
That fateful morning of November 1st, 1981 was the same as all others before it for the residents of Little Winging, Surrey, especially those who lived upon that corner of Privet Drive. The Dursleys at number four in particular led a normal muggle lifestyle, the cat noticed from her precarious perch upon a wooden fence. She had remained in this horribly uncomfortable position for most of the day, watching the Dursley family.
The cat was unimpressed. One simply did not allow the cat, usually known as Professor Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to be unimpressed. That was something one did not do.
She had watched as the head of the family, Vernon, left for work in his perfectly average automobile. His bulging eyes and short, nearly non-existent, neck bothered her greatly, as did his unpleasant voice. He had stared wildly at the cat as she sat by the corner of Privet Drive, looking a map of Surrey.
Since when do cats read maps? he asked himself incredulously.
After blinking, Vernon looked once more at the cat, who was now glaring back at him like a stern teacher. The strange markings around the cat’s eyes almost resembled a pair of square-shaped spectacles, but Vernon knew that was impossible. It was simply a figment of his imagination, most likely the product of all that greasy food he had eaten the previous day. Shaking his head as though to clear it, Vernon stomped on the accelerator and his auto disappeared into the realms of suburbia on his way to London. Gracefully, the cat leapt off the fence and sauntered down the street, stopping in front of number four, Privet Drive.
There was nothing special about this house, nothing at all to set it apart from the others along that quiet street. Its clean windows sparkled in the early morning sunlight, the lawn was wonderfully groomed, and the gardens were neatly weeded. The cat sat there a few moments longer, thinking about how much this house would change in the period of a day.
How sad it was that the cat had to be sitting in front of that house on Privet Drive. It was not a place that she would usually be had the choice been hers, but now, with the dreadful events of the previous night, she had forced herself to come and watch these Muggles who would become the guardians of the Boy Who Lived.
So much had happened to the cat, or rather her human self, since the rise of Lord Voldemort. Her world had crumbled and everyone lived in fear. Now, that fear was gone, but at a terrible price: two of the most talented and kind-hearted people she had ever known were now dead, murdered by the worst curse known to wizard-kind. Others she knew were also dead, or close enough to death that life no longer mattered to them.
The world had shattered like a pane of glass, and not even the death of the Dark Lord could repair the damage. Witches and wizards all over the world were celebrating the banishment of evil, but she could not. Not when she knew that the one who had defeated that evil would have to live away from his own kind for years, possibly years of suffering and pain. But there was no choice. The boy would have to live among muggles until the time came for him to attend Hogwarts. Not only was it for his own safety, but for his sanity as well. Being hailed as the saviour of the world when he could not even remember the occasion would be cause for much emotional pain. The boy would have enough to live with growing up without parents.
A loud, bloodcurdling scream caused the cat to jump. It seemed as though the terrible cry had emitted from the house in front of her, but she could not believe it possible. Then, through a ground-floor window she saw a very tall, thin woman fighting to put a pair of shoes upon the feet of a kicking, screaming, purple-faced infant who did not want to have the shoes put on him.
“NO, NO, NO!” the infant cried at the top of his tiny, but powerful lungs.
When the door to number four Privet Drive opened, the cat was sitting near a hedge, licking a paw and trying to look like an ordinary cat. The woman who exited the house, dragging along the infant, mildly resembled her now-deceased sister, but only in the shape of the face and nose. Otherwise, she was not alike at all, particularly in the way her mouth frowned and her pale eyes inquisitively watched everything around her. But she did not notice the cat.
As the woman, who the cat supposed to be Petunia Dursley, and her son made their way down the street, the cat could hear the infant loudly begging for sweets. Loving to spoil her young son Dudley, Petunia of course agreed to get him some.
Disgusted, the cat sniffed and settled herself down for a long wait. The person she was waiting for would not arrive until night fell. While sitting near the hedge, the cat began thinking and remembering things she had not thought of in many years. Things that she had pushed back into her memory, not wanting to remember them, but not wanting to forget either.
The main staircase of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was lined with curious eyes, woken in the middle of the night by the news that someone was dead, killed by a mysterious and dangerous creature. People’s heads craned to see the draped form as it was slowly carried down from the girl’s lavatory on the second floor. Teachers watched morosely, not noticing the students high above them, also quietly watching what they knew to be a body.
At the bottom of the marble staircase, Headmaster Armado Dippet stood shaking his bald head and wringing his bony hands.
“Oh, what are we going to do, Albus?” he asked the tall man beside him in a hushed voice. “What will happen when they hear that a student is dead?”
The other man looked more angry than saddened, his auburn hair and long beard giving him a greater aura of authority than the feeble-looking Headmaster of Hogwarts.
“We will do what we must, Headmaster,” Albus Dumbledore replied calmly, his blue eyes betraying emotion where his voice did not. “Myrtle’s family will have to know about this.”
Dippet looked for a moment at the draped body which had now reached the top of the stair to the first floor. “Yes, yes, I know that, but how are we to tell them how it happened? There was not a mark upon the girl at all! Nothing to say how this dreadful thing happened!”
Dumbledore frowned. “As you know, Headmaster, there are spells which can easily do such things as kill a person without leaving any evidence.”
“Many creatures can do the same thing, Albus,” Dippet returned, his voice hardening for a moment. “I will have to speak with that Hagrid boy again. Always bringing dangerous creatures into the school. This cannot be allowed to happen, especially... especially with this...”
“You cannot be sure that this was Hagrid’s fault, Headmaster,” Dumbledore argued. “The boy is utterly harmless and his ‘pets’ are wholly in his control.”
Dippet shook his head. “No, I will speak to him as soon as everything has been cleared up. If I find out that he played a role in this girl’s death - “
”You can be sure that he did not,” Dumbledore pressed, his voice dangerously quiet.
Still shaking his head, Dippet began moving off. “I will leave it to you, Albus, to take care of all this.” He waved his hand at the almost-ghostly form coming down the steps. “As you advised, I will go send and owl to the girl’s parents. Oh, this is horrible!”
He walked off, still wringing his hands and shaking his head.
The lifeless form of Myrtle Nettleton, the unfortunate third year who had mysteriously lost her life while hiding from bullies in the second-floor girls lavatory, continued down the staircase. Just behind it appeared a young woman with long black hair that was loosely tied back from her serious, but not unpretty, face. She hurried over to where Dumbledore stood, her eyes full of questions and something that came close to fear.
“Professor, what’s happening?” she asked, a hint of fear in her voice. “Someone said that a person was dead...”
Dumbledore did not meet her eyes. “I am afraid so, Minerva. Headmaster has given me the duty of laying Myrtle to rest.”
Seventeen-year-old Minerva McGonagall, Head Girl of the school, held a hand to her mouth, shocked by the news. “Does anyone know how it happened?”
Looking over at the staircase to the Slytherin dungeons, Dumbledore answered, his voice dropping barely above a whisper: “Headmaster believes it to be the fault of Rubeus Hagrid.”
“But you do not,” Minerva finished for him. “Nor do I. Rubeus wouldn’t bring in a creature that kills like this. He may be careless sometimes, but he wouldn’t go this far.”
“Ah, but you see, Minerva, Headmaster cannot see anyone else to lay the blame upon,” Dumbledore said, his eyes still watching the lower stair. Minerva followed his gaze to try and see what he was looking at, but could not discern anything in the shadows.
Her mind was in turmoil. After being woken by the arrival of Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, nudging at her hand, Minerva had hurried as fast as she could down from the tower chamber, sending students to bed along the way. It was from them that she learned why the castle was in uproar: a student was dead. The entire time she rushed down the staircase she asked herself how something like this could happen. Hogwarts was perhaps the most secure building in England other than Gringotts Bank in London. There was no possible way that some outside being could enter the castle.
Unless someone let it in, Minerva thought to herself. Or worse, it was already inside the castle.
From the top of the stairs, she had seen the Headmaster and Dumbledore talking. The discussion had ended as an argument with Dippet shaking his head and rushing off. Minerva silently cursed the man who would not listen to Dumbledore, who she fully and almost blindly believed in.
Seeing the body had shaken Minerva far more than anything else in her life. Death was not new to her, but wrongful death was. Hurrying past the shroud to get to Dumbledore, she saw a single, pale arm hanging down. That image would never leave her.
Now, standing beside her mentor and house head, Minvera could see that he had guessed the truth, but could not prove it.
“Who did this, professor?” she asked, her voice shaking. “Please, I can see you know!”
“Tom Riddle,” was all he said before stepping forward to open the door.
With him gone, Minerva now saw what, or rather who, he had been looking at over by the stair to the dungeons. There stood a tall, handsome boy with glittering emerald eyes and neat, raven-black hair. Perhaps the most popular boy at the school, Riddle was a Slytherin prefect and someone that Minerva did not like very much. But what disturbed her the most was the expression on his face. It was the most evil smile Minerva would ever see; a cross between a sneer and a look of horrible accomplishment.
It was a look that would remain her memory forever.
The cat sat so stiffly that anyone who saw her would have believed her to be a statue. She did not bother to notice anything that went around her now that her mind was in such turmoil at that dreaded memory and the thoughts it brought her. If she had only known then what was to happen only thirty years later! By then, many had forgotten Tom Riddle, who had disappeared after leaving school. Even Minerva no longer thought of the boy who stood watching the morbid procession with such a look on his face. But she knew that Albus Dumbledore had not.
Obtaining her position as Transfiguration teacher at Hogwarts had brought Minerva back to the place she felt most comfortable. A place where she knew she belonged. Little had changed since her time there as a student, except for the second floor lavatory, which had been locked up since the girl’s death thirteen years before. After a while, however, she was able to walk past that room without a glance back into the place where death had come too soon. The memory of Myrtle’s death become only a distant memory, as did Tom Riddle, whose name Minerva did not hear until rumours of a strange evil rising on the Continent came to her ears.
The news of another dark wizard did not bother Minerva at first; the Continent was a long way from England, and in effect, Hogwarts. She left the vanquishing of such evil to those who were trained and capable to do so. Minerva McGonagall was a teacher of magic, not an Auror.
A noise stirred the cat into coming out of her reverie. From the sidewalk facing her came Petunia Dursley and her spoiled brat of a son, Dudley. It seemed as though Dudley had learned a new word from the look of pride on Petunia’s face.
“Now, dearest little Duddykins,” she was saying with a highly annoying baby voice. “We’ve made it back home, haven’t we?”
“WON’T!” shrieked the little figure who looked like a child, but to the cat was a little demon.
Petunia seemed thrilled rather than angered by this word. “Oh! You’ve learnt a new word! Just wait until your father hears, he’ll be so proud of you, little angel!”
Inwardly, the cat groaned at the absurdness of it all. Now Lily Potter would never have said such a thing or treated her son in such a way. Instead she -
Then the cat remembered. Lily was dead, as was her husband James, at least, that’s what people had said.
Harry, their young son, had miraculously survived the horrible attack by Lord Voldemort. No one quite knew how, except for Albus Dumbledore, and he hadn’t told anyone the truth about the Boy Who Lived and the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord who had once been called Tom Riddle.
When the rising of evil began, Minerva had foolishly believed that nothing would come of it. Oh, how she was wrong! How wretchedly wrong not to notice the strange similarity this dark wizard had to the Slytherin prefect she had once known! Dumbledore had been the only one to see the truth and to recognize Voldemort for who he really was.
For the next decade, Minerva had watched as people joined Voldemort’s ranks, looking for power and glory. Some actually believed Voldemort’s claim that muggle-borns should not be allowed to learn magic or even be accepted into the magical world. Many pureblood families saw mudbloods as a disease - a lower race that would one day take over. At the creation of the Order of the Phoenix, Minerva saw young, talented witches and wizards put their very lives in danger to stand against this rise of evil. Now, the majority of these brave souls were dead, murdered by the blackness that surrounded their world.
There was a time when it seemed as though Voldemort would win, that his armies would destroy all that had been in existence for centuries. The terror that hung over everyone - wizards and Muggles alike - seemed eternal and permanent. Then came the news that Voldemort was gone, destroyed by a mere infant. The Boy Who Lived, Harry James Potter.
Deep in thought, the cat jumped up onto a stone wall in the Dursley’s garden. She didn’t even bother about being seen. Frankly, she didn’t care. When the car rolled into the driveway, the cat looked up, curious. Seeing that it was only Vernon Dursley arriving home from his boring London workplace, she glared at him then pretended to act disinterested. After he attempted to shoo away the cat to no success, Vernon entered the house huffily, but not without a second look back at the curious cat who he swore was the same one who had been reading the map that very morning, and who had glared at him like a strict teacher.
The cat listened to the Dursleys as they discussed their respective days. Hearing Vernon’s story about strange people dressed in colourful robes and owls flying through London, Minerva scowled. All over the country, and perhaps even the world, her kind were celebrating the end of the terror that had held them in its terrible grasp for so long. But that was no excuse for making themselves conspicuously visible to Muggles, the cat believed.
As the sun began to set, the cat settled in for a long wait upon the cold, hard wall. She desperately hoped that the person she awaited would arrive soon. Keeping the cat form for such a long period of time would make for a painful experience the following day, one that would include strange urges to scratch whoever annoyed her and purr when she was happy. Most undignified for a person of her level, thought the cat’s human mind.
She listened as the Dursleys watched the evening news and later got ready for bed. As Vernon Dursley lay awake, pondering the peculiar sights he had seen that day, the cat was looking up and down the street for the person she knew was to arrive at any moment. A car door slammed in the next street, two owls swooped overhead, but still the cat did not move. She remained as still as a statue, waiting.
Then she saw him appear from nowhere and her worst fears were proven. His coming to Privet Drive, a place where he obviously did not belong - even less than the cat - meant that all the rumours had been true. Lily and James were dead, giving their lives to the cause after so many lucky escapes. No longer would Lily’s ringing laugh be heard, nor would James play tricks on his friends. No longer would the world know two brilliant people. No longer would a boy have a family who would love and care for him.
While the cat thought about what the world would miss, the man she had waited all day for took what looked to be a silver lighter out of his pocket. Silently, every light on the street went out, flying across into this mysterious object the man held. The whole area was as black as the darkest of nights. Not even the moon dared show its face.
The man, with his flowing white beard and garish purple cloak, turned and walked back towards the number four Privet Drive. The cat watched him intently, but made no sound. Albus Dumbledore, head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, among other things, sat down beside the cat without even looking at her. He did not need to look to see who it was.
“Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall.”
Chapter 7: Lucius Malfoy
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By She Who Must Not Be Named
As he stands before me, tall and proud it is almost beyond belief, beyond comprehension. So it is with some caution that I edge closer, edge slowly from under the gentle shelter of the trees into the open air of the graveyard. For my caution is borne from my disbelief, my doubt that the one who stands before me is truly one returned from the dead. But my doubt cannot last long, for He could be no other. And the ground is hard as I hit my knees, jarring to the bone as my hands slide forward through the dust and the dirt that clings to my long fingers and rises in a gentle cloud around me, stinging my nose and tickling the back of my throat as I breathe. As my nails scour grooves through the earth that gathers beneath them.
I am a Malfoy and I am on my knees in the mud, crawling through the dirt and grime on my hands and knees, crawling through the very thing after which all I despise is named, hair brushing mere inches from the ground as my head hangs. And I can feel every crack, every indiscretion and every imperfection in the soil that I am too close to. The smallest of stones stabs me even through my heavy robes, causing my stomach to twist in a way all too unpleasant in its familiarity. As I push myself forward…slowly…subserviently, my face hidden beneath a cold mask that is both a comfort to me, and a curse. I lean forward, fingers clenched as I fight to keep my balance until I can feel the fabric beneath my lips. And it is no longer soft but coarse and painful. And even as I brush it with a kiss I again feel that knot that I can’t quite place, as the words of a different place float in the air around me, taunting with their arrogance and self-assurance. And my chest clenches with anger that I know will only dissipate when he is dead. But that death is denied me as I find myself stuck on my knees, unable to rise and stand no matter how great the longing. I must remain kneeling as the words continue their assault, crippled by my own uselessness.
‘Did you know he’s a half blood too – Or has he been telling you lot he’s pureblood?’
It seems strange that this image would haunt my dreams, that such an obvious lie would cause such a reaction. For though my temper is legendary it brings with it a misconception, the idea that it controls me. And I have heard these words many times before, they have fallen from the lips of countless people, too many both beneath me and close to me. But none have cut as deeply, none have refused to be brushed aside as these do. Even spoken from those most trusted I never gave them a second thought, never doubted they could be anything but a lie, a vicious and unfounded rumour. I struck them down for their impudence without a second thought, but it was done out of necessity and never fury. And that the words of my most hated enemy should cause me to think otherwise is disturbing at best, that I can hear him laughing at me through those very same words fills me with an unimaginable rage. For in that laugh he is undermining everything I believe, everything I stand for. In that laugh he is questioning my path and my decisions. In that laugh he is making me wrong.
I had expected the room to be cold, but I felt a thin sheen of sweat cover my forehead the moment I entered, strands of hair falling across my face in a way that grated against my patience with it’s smallest of discomfort, grated even more with the feeling that to brush it away would be the ultimate sign of rudeness. And so I left it to cling to the side of my face, scratching against the smooth skin as the heat increased and my robes became stifling and more restrictive than I was possible to be comfortable in.
The light was dim, gently flickering candles that seemed to shimmer in the haze that slowly clouded my vision, as my mind reeled and the heat seemed to increase, enveloping me in a cloud that closed around me and threaten to steal the very air I breathed.
And when He entered there could be no mistaking. His presence spread before him, permeated every corner and filled it, dark and foreboding yet enticing with its coldness, which came as a welcome relief from the suffocating atmosphere. And as his gaze fell upon me I had to remind myself that he had sought me, that he had requested my presence and wanted me out above all others. I was not to be one of the lowly, grovelling at his feet in the vague hope of a satisfied word, a pleased gesture. I was to be one of the special, one of the few and the powerful.
I bowed as was required, as I had been told and felt his gaze heat the back of my neck where the tiny hairs stood painfully on end. I had been warned against it, but was still unprepared when I felt the initial invasion and my mind was laid bare before him, laid open to his thoughts and whims. And it was here on my knees that I knew there was nothing he could not achieve, as my body tensed until a low chuckle filled my ears and I looked up hesitantly.
‘You believe as I do,’ the tone was rich and thick, pleasant until you noticed the undertones, the tiniest suggestion of uncontrolled and barely concealed malevolence. ‘Tell me though, are you willing to fight for them?’
‘Most gladly,’ my head bowed again slightly, eyes closing momentarily as the gaze sharpened.
‘You speak the truth, yet the truth in question is not the only issue,’ I looked up into the narrowed scarlet eyes of the figure that continued to tower above me. ‘You bow before me, but I demand more than that, much more,’ I fought the urge the swallow, to retain my dignity even from where I was crouched on the rough wooden floor. ‘I do not wish for you to simply fight for me, I demand nothing less than unwavering loyalty. Your life will be mine to do with as I see fit. I will be your Lord, your Master,’ the smile that spread across his thin lips contained no amusement as he leant closer, voice lowered to a harsh whisper. ‘You will give me not your service, but your very life.’
‘It would be my greatest honour,’ I paused for no more than a second, barely noticeable to another although for me it was long enough. Long enough to examine my choices, long enough to examine exactly what my pride meant to me, ‘Master,’ and at once the smile changed, reaching the eyes as they glinted with victory.
‘You would kill in my name and no other.’
‘Yes, My Lord.’
‘Without question or pause.’
‘You have my word.’
‘Even that pretty new wife of yours?’
It was a test; I could feel his presence still as my thoughts rushed to her side, to her perfect face and elegant grace. She was the nearest thing I knew to love, the only thing I had for which I even remotely cared.
‘If you so requested it would be done,’ I bowed my head again, emphasising my allegiance in the hope my word would be enough.
I was young, impressed by his power and his presence. The life of my wife would have been as easily sacrificed as my pride, sacrificed in his name and for the life he offered me. And I know to some it appeared cold and cowardly, that I would risk her with such indifference, such callousness. But I knew she would have done the same, that she would see the greater good of what I hoped to achieve. For in return he offered me much more, he gave me more than my dreams could have imagined. He gave me the power for which I so longed, and the prestige and respect that came with it. And all he gave me reflected on her and was for her benefit, was born by the future of our family. Her status was lifted alongside mine, the sanctity of all our marriage represented given hope in everything I fought for. For her bloodline was as pure as my own.
Yet I can still feel the dirt. It clings to my hands and no matter what I do it will not come off, no matter how much I clean or scrub they will never be clean, never be free of this assault.
‘Are you sure you won’t come with me?’ it was a simple question, to beg for her presence would have diminished both her and myself. Still a part of me wanted too, wanted to take her delicate hand and lead her to a better life, a better future.
‘We have had this conversation many times, my love,’ her hand was cold against my cheek, as cold as her eyes. ‘You have your path and I have mine. I will not kneel before a half blood, not for the sake of our kind, not even for the future of our son,’ my heart had frozen with these words, as her hand lingered for a second to long, stopped by the harshness in my eyes. But my fury was not aimed at her, it was meant for those who had spoiled her so, who had twisted her against me with the very same lies.
‘He is no half blood,’ the words a forced and strangled whisper. ‘You would do well to show more respect, my dearest, for with power such as his there is nothing we could not achieve.’ She laughed, a pleasing sound had it not been so cold, so chilled. It rang from the high ceiling and brought her eyes alive as she shook her head gently.
‘Do not deceive yourself,’ she said with as much kindness as I was accustomed in her voice. ‘I think no less of you for what you must do. It is your strength that you can crawl where I cannot, to protect our future.’ There was no mocking in her tone, but nevertheless I heard it, felt the rage build at having my own wife turned against me by lies; that her weakness should be exposed so cruelly through no fault of her own. The rumours had defiled her and taken her from my side, spread by those who knew they could not win and so sought to spread disease and discourse.
She was the only one who would have dared say such words to me, the only one who did not tremble before me, his most feared servant.
So dedicated that I made no move to find him, that I took not a single step towards continuing what he had started. So dedicated that I allowed his followers to trickle away, his vision to become no more than a dream. So dedicated that instead of torturing muggles and mudbloods in his name I reduced myself to floating them helplessly across a crowded field, that I lowered all he stood for to a group of masked strangers embarrassing the weak and helpless in what was no more than a schoolyard prank. So dedicated that I ran when his mark burned the sky. I was no more than just another scared follower, caught in a delusion I did not have the strength or conviction to find for myself, that I did not have the courage to leave.
It will not be true.
There is none more feared than I, none whose name is spoken with such respect even when it is all of me they know. I have been the last face thousands have seen, sneering down on their pathetic existence before it is brought to an end that should never have been granted a beginning. I have tortured mercilessly, heartlessly and enjoyed every curse, every scream; every broken voice pleading for the one thing they know will not be granted.
Would they fear me so much if they had seen me grovel myself? If they had seen me beg for my own life the way I make them beg for there’s. If they had heard me pleading for my life, pleading to be spared even if only to carry out the wishes of another, of the one I called Master. If they had heard the same mantra seeking forgiveness spill from my own lips as readily as it always does.
They will always fear me; their children will dread my name as well as that of my son. I will not have the word of an unworthy half blood threaten that, I will not allow the spawn of such a vile union tarnish the position I hold so dear. I will not allow him to take this power from me, to take away everything I hold above the filth of his kind, to take away everything that holds me above him and makes me better than his existence could ever hope to be. I will not allow it; I will see him dead and reunited with the filthy mother he has missed so much before I let his lies take a single shred of what he could never hope to own for himself. I will grant him their reunion and the name Potter will die with him, spat from the lips of his enemies as they have their ultimate victory. I shall look down on his dead and broken body if it is the last thing I see.
But still I hear the words he dare spoke to me. They pollute my air and taint it with his foulness. I would strangle him with those very words could I; watch gleefully as they wrenched the last dying breath from his body. And I know they can only be lies, for I will not be wrong. I will not be undermined, not by a lucky ingrate whose only claim to greatness is an impossible fluke. It is a single happy thought I cling too before the words once again turn against me, echoing and swirling round my prostrate form crawling through the mud and filth.
‘Did you know he’s a half blood too – Or has he been telling you lot he’s pureblood?’
My stomach twists one final time, and I know now why. It is my shame.
Chapter 8: Narcissa Black
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Perfect. Everything was perfect. It would have to be, this night would be very important and nothing less than perfection would be acceptable for a Malfoy dinner party. She ran her flawlessly manicured fingers over the fine linen tablecloth and smoothed an errant wrinkle. She’d deal with the house elf for this later. The fine china, white trimmed with narrow rings of silver and green on the edges. Her husband’s choice. It was her only household concession to his tastes. The man was a Slytherin to his core. She suspected if he cut himself while shaving the blood would run green.
Tonight was important. She would have to play this perfectly. There could be no errors or she would end up in an intolerable situation. This had to be balanced perfectly. She had to keep Lucius happy, satisfy their special guest and protect herself at the same time. Even as she pondered this, no doubt over her ability to do just this entered the mind of Narcissa Black Malfoy. Never in her life had she failed to get what she wanted, and this would be no exception.
She studied the floral arrangements scattered about the table and made a minor adjustment. The red roses were too close together in this smaller spray. She lifted a lily from elsewhere in the arrangement and switched it with one of the crimson blooms. Better. Perfect.
How to do this tonight? How to maintain what she desired and please those around her? She was no fool, if she displeased tonight’s guest or embarrassed or angered her husband she would pay a terrible price. This was part and parcel of the bargain she had made when she married Lucius Malfoy. She would take his darkness, his secrets, his coldness and she would take his beauty, his passion, and his status, adding it to hers and ensuring her children would be at the top of any social ladder. His money would bring comfort, but no more than she was used to, in fact any lesser man would have meant compromises. And Narcissa did not make compromises, she may change her mind, but she never compromised.
She knew what Lucius wanted. She liked that he had not pressed this issue before now. She believed the fact that he had to this point not insisted upon this concession to be a sign he did respect her. Even now he was not insisting, he was prompting, he was urging and he was asking. A satisfied smile curled the deep red lips. Lucius Malfoy was asking. Such little moments were like secret treasures she kept locked inside herself, warming her when she felt cold. She could make Lucius Malfoy ask. And not just for this. Lucius asked.
Sighing slightly she moved from the room and glided gracefully up the stairs. She passed her husband’s room and heard the sounds of him speaking to his valet. She too must dress for what was to come. She entered her room and began to remove her robe. Letting it drop to the floor she unpinned her hair and let it fall well past her softly curving shoulders. Sitting before her mirror, she pulled the antique silver brush through her long golden hair.
This would be the night. She was to meet the man himself. She had avoided and sidestepped this again and again, now she would have to face him. The man her proud and arrogant husband called Lord. Lord Voldemort. Narcissa closed her eyes. Lucius might call this man Lord, he might allow him to brand him into his service, scorching the fine white skin of his forearm, but Narcissa would never call any man Lord.
She reached for the ornate glass bottle on the dresser top. Pulling the stopper she let the fragrance fill her senses before dabbing it delicately behind each ear, in the hollow of her throat, at her pulsing wrists, and leaning down gently, behind each knee. The faintly floral scent drew her memory to her mother’s garden. Or rather the garden her mother commanded to be grown. The scents of the tropical flowers flourishing there, defying all that was natural in the weather of this country, had filled the air with heavy perfume. Stepping from the sitting room into this special garden was like enveloping yourself in a warm embrace. The heating charm kept the temperature high and the sultry humidity filled the air. The rural placement of the Black house and substantial yearly donations to various charities, kept the Ministry from investigating and complaining.
Taking her cue from her mother, her father had been her Lord, her Master, her first love. She had been Daddy’s darling. Her father could speak no wrong, he could do no wrong, nothing Daddy did was in error, the whole world might be wrong, but Daddy never was. Until that day. The day Narcissa learned the reality about the relationships between men and women. The day she walked in and found her father with a woman who was not her mother. He had raged at her for violating his privacy. He had slapped her. She never told her mother, but held her secret to her chest tightly. All the gifts and apologies in the world could not erase what had happened. She had grown up. She took to heart this lesson and no man would ever again be her Lord. Not Lucius and certainly not this half-blood upstart who called himself Lord Voldemort.
A feeling of satisfaction filled her as she remembered her father’s face and the face of her uncle, proud Black men both, remembered them the day her cousin had dropped his bombshell. Rogue and radical, Sirius Black had never done things the way a true Black did. He had even managed to somehow get himself sorted into Gryffindor rather than Slytherin. The first Black in memory, and the Black family memory was a long one, to be labeled as anything but a Slytherin. Narcissa remembered the day the outcast, the exiled Black had shown up at the traditional Solstice celebration uninvited.
His mother had shown her non-Black roots by creating a scene insisting he leave. Sirius had refused and had grabbed his brother Regulus by the arm, trying to drag him away for a private conversation. Ever the weakling, ever the momma’s boy, Regulus had refused. Not one to be thwarted, Sirius had stood his ground and insisted he would say what he had to say, private or public. It was when Regulus and his father turned their backs on him that her cousin had burst forth the shocking news. Straight from the lips of Albus Dumbledore, confirmed by those old enough to remember and brave enough to admit it, came the news that the champion of the Pureblood, the self styled Lord Voldemort was a half-blood. Son of a muggle. Her father had stared open mouthed, sputtering at Sirius to cease his lies. But her handsome, grey-eyed cousin had simply smirked at them. “So you have chosen your champion, mounted your horse and now you discover not a thoroughbred but a nag. You have earned your saddle sores gentleman. I have done what I could to stop it. Don’t expect me to help when this runaway mount carries you straight into the burning barn.” He had turned on his heel and left.
Slender pale hands gathered the blond locks and twisted them deftly. So practiced, so skilled, they left just the right amount of curling tendrils to frame her face. No servant dressed her hair. She trusted none to do it so well as she. Reaching out she lifted the small crystal bell and gave it a delicate ring. The connecting door opened and a young woman dressed in crisp uniform entered. Narcissa remained indifferently silent as the maid pulled three gowns from the wardrobe and offered them to her for her approval. After careful consideration, the perfect article was selected and the petite servant assisted her Mistress to complete her preparations.
Minutes passed as she sat in calm and simple silence before her dressing table. At length the knock came. She picked up the hand mirror and feigned final adjustments to her hair. The door swung open without a sound and the footsteps of the man who entered made no sound. Slowly she looked up and caught the eye of his reflection in the large looking glass. His hair was swept back from his proud face and fell in sheets of ashen silk to caress just below his shoulders. Silver-grey eyes held a guarded expression, but one she knew now how to read. He approved. Her husband approved of her appearance. She affected a faint coloring of her cheeks and rose to stand before him.
She watched his eyes sweep over her form. The ivory gown was sleeveless and scooped low in a princess neckline, drawing her husband’s gaze to the delicately displayed hint of cleavage. The waist clung tightly to her willowy form and the skirt swept down almost straight to the floor, but sweeping back up behind her to create a full cut to the back, while maintaining a trim line to the front. She wore no adornments beyond the three diamond drop pendant earrings that fell from her ears.
“I see you are ready,” his low and sultry voice vibrated through her.
“I am almost ready, there is one more thing.” She did not look at him, but at the serpent shaped pin that shown from his cravat. She stepped closer to him and laid the alabaster hand, palm flat, against his chest. “One more detail to be attended to.”
Lucius frowned down at her slightly. “What could possibly be left?”
“This.” She took his hand and laid it against the flat plane of her stomach. She did not lift her face, but looked up at him through the thick lashes that circled the sapphire blue orbs. Her eyes shown with moisture, “Your son grows.”
There it was, exactly as she had planned. Only for the barest instant, only the briefest flicker, but there it was. Joy. Lucius was elated. It illuminated the silver depths just long enough for her to be certain she had seen it. And then, Lucius was once again, Lucius.
“That is happy news indeed. I am pleased.” He lifted her hand to his lips and pressed them against the soft skin. “I am truly pleased.”
She took his offered arm and allowed him to lead her downstairs. Their true guests had not yet arrived, but shedding cloaks into the waiting hands of a tall stately wizard whose family had been serving the Malfoys for generations, were the people Narcissa had most wished to see. Bellatrix Black Lestrange, her sister, and her husband Rodolphus. Behind them, skulking in the shadows as usual was Rodolphus’ younger brother Rabastan. These next few minutes were as close to a casual family gathering as this group ever got, and would be the most crucial. Her plans would triumph or fail based on the next few minutes.
Dropping her husband’s arm she approached her sister and embraced her warmly. This was not the norm for the two, but after the close call her sister had experienced just days ago, it would not seem suspicious. Narcissa hugged her sister tightly, tucking her head into the other woman’s shoulder. This move exposed the long pale skin of her neck and the smooth white expanse of shoulder the dress revealed. She pulled away briefly, “Oh, Bella, I was so worried. How silly of me. You are of course fine. You were always able to manage.” As she spoke she circled her sister and Bellatix turned to keep her eyes to Narcissa. When her back was to the men, Bellatrix’s eyebrow rose in silent question. “But I see you are not hurt after all,” Narcissa continued, again hugging her sister to her. As she pulled way she saw Lucius’ eyes fall to Bella’s back. Her gown dipped low and to the uninformed eye, nothing would seem amiss. However, if one knew exactly where to look for it, the bruising, so carefully hidden under the beauty enchantments, was visible.
As the sisters separated, Bellatrix’s lips curled in a faint smile. She understood, or believed she understood what Narcissa did not say. You understand only half my dear sister, the other half I must keep from you as well. It was a game the two had played for years. Playing off the startling differences between them to accentuate the charms and very different appeals each held was a well used weapon in the arsenal of the Black sisters.
Bellatrix took her sister by the hand and began to walk into the salon. “It is nothing my dear, nothing at all. It was only a minor inconvenience.” The three men followed silently until Lucius had secured the doors to the room behind them. They were now alone. As close to intimacy as these five could attain.
“A minor inconvenience?” Rodolphus drew wryly.
“Nothing?” Rabastan exclaimed. “Nothing. She calls being set upon by Aurors nothing.”
“She was magnificent, wasn’t she Lucius?” Rodolphus smiled, gazing at his wife in sincere appreciation.
Lucius did not smile. His eyes had followed the two sisters who now sat side by side on the settee, claiming a throne that allowed only room for them, while all others must look upon as admiring courtiers. “She would not have had to be magnificent, Rodolphus if you had been more careful with your wife.”
The dark man lifted an eyebrow, his sardonic reply falling easily from his lips. “Bella can take care of herself, she doesn’t need me.”
Narcissa watched Lucius frown deepen and his eyes flit between his brother-in-law and herself. She sat holding Bellatrix’s gloved hand tightly in hers. “You have always been magnificent, my dear.” Her eyes rested on her sister’s face, but cataloged Lucius’ every response. “I only hope I shall be as brave and as lucky as you in the future.”
Bellatrix’s eyes flickered with amusement. She understood exactly what was happening. “My dear,” her sister purred in her low voice, “you have a bravery of another sort. One I shall never equal.” Sisters first and always.
“Well, whatever you two want to debate,” Rabastan declared, taking a glass of wine from the tray that had appeared on the small low table between them, “a toast is definitely in order here.” He raised his glass to the darker woman. “To Bella, the most ruthless and wicked of us all. My dear you are slicker than that greasy little kid who used to follow Lucius around at school. What was his name?” Rabastan shrugged, “To Bella.”
Narcissa lifted her glass to her sister with a smile on her face. The dark brothers clinked glasses enthusiastically and Bellatrix sipped quietly basking in the glow of the praise. Narcissa watched her husband over the rim of her glass. He drank to her sister, but his eyes were not on her. His expression was clouded and he seemed to be looking at nothing and no one.
“So,” Bellatrix turned to her sister, “how have you spent the last two days while I was healing up a bit?”
Narcissa demurred an answer and when her sister pressed spoke quietly about the committees and charitable organizations whose boards she served on in the traditional Malfoy seat. She had just finished telling her sister and the now very bored looking Lestrange brothers about her work with a children’s charity that made sure that orphaned children, purebloods of course, were not left to fall between the cracks of muggle social services. She looked up at Lucius questioningly. He held the gaze for a moment before putting down his glass and moving toward her.
“You may tell them, if you wish, my dear,” he settled himself elegantly into a chair near his young wife.
Narcissa rose from her place next to her sister and walked over to stand beside him. Her left hand rested lightly on his arm. “We have happy news meant for family only.” She watched the look of interest flicker in the dark men and the suppressed smile on her sister’s face. “We will, in some months, welcome the new Malfoy heir.”
Grins burst on the men’s faces and they congratulated Lucius. Narcissa gazed down at her husband’s face, now turned toward hers with an expression of satisfaction. He reached for her hand.
“Well, I’m happy for you both, but I must say I’m more than pleased Bella hasn’t gotten it into her head to begin this family nonsense as yet.” Rodolphus slid languidly into the space Narcissa had vacated next to his wife.
Bellatrix smoothed her black opera gloved left hand over her husband’s arm. Narcissa was aware of Lucius’ gaze falling on that covered arm as it moved up the sleeve of the robe and rested lightly on the bronzed face. “There will be time for that later. I would rather bring a child into a world that was ready to receive it with it’s proper due. Maternal instincts could be so inconvenient given the state of things.”
“I fail to see why,” Rabastan grinned. “You never looked so motherly as when you are exterminating little mudbloods.”
“Be that as it may,” Lucius ground out. He was decidedly not in a good mood at the moment and the fact thrilled her. He was looking down at her hand where it lay in his. He turned it over and ran his finger up the pale flesh of her inner arm. He never finished his sentence as a knock and the entry of a servant announced the beginning arrival of their real guests.
Narcissa had seated Bellatrix next to her and the guest of honor, Lord Voldemort, next to Lucius. She had been surprised by his appearance. His face may once have been handsome, but now he seemed ordinary. A sense of power emanated from him and it was impressive, but that was it. She knew this façade was manufactured, but couldn’t help falling into it as she sat comparing her husband to this other man. The proud and commanding countenance sat in stark contrast to the more subtle sense of energy that pulsed through this Lord. He made one want to whisper in his presence. When ever his eyes moved to her, she found herself looking away quickly, her hand pressing to her stomach. Powerful yes, but a half-blood. No my son, I will never bend my knee before that man and with that resolve I will purchase for you the right of a Black to bow before no man. A Malfoy may kneel, but you will be a Black. You will never call a half-blood Lord or Master.
Over the next hours she had spoken no more than five words to the man directly. From the circle of women, which did not include Bellatrix, she watched him listen to her speak of daily activities. He lifted his glass to her along with the others when Lucius, prompted by Rodolphus’ insistence, announced the happy news. He lifted his glass but his expression became more guarded and tinged with what she could only identify as disappointment.
As the guests departed, she ticked off the minutes her husband had now spent in his study with their honored guest. Alone now, she stepped into the garden. The door to Lucius’ sanctum was open.
“…and so you see, My Lord, it would simply prove a disappointment.”
“Yes, Lucius, I do believe you are right. She is a lovely ornament and a perfect wife. But she has not the strength for what we seek.” The high voice carried to her ears.
“She has little strength of any kind my Lord. She has long proved malleable to my every whim. She would comply in this if you asked. ” Lucius’ voice was so ingratiating it turned her stomach.
“But I will not ask. Nor do I think I would accept if she offered. Yes, she is certainly no Bella. Disappointing. Perhaps the Black blood is no longer what it used to be.”
Narcissa turned and glided down the flagstone path amid the fragrant flowers. She leaned down to breath deeply of the gardenia’s perfume. “No,” she whispered softly to the pristine bloom, “I am no Bella.”
Chapter 9: Regulus Black
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Regulus Black wasn’t always an active participant in Black family affairs. As a young child, he’d sit quietly in the corners or lurk in the doorways, avoiding catching any attention from his father or aunt, lest he become a target of their shrewd eyes and sharp tongues. He was more of the silent type, always listening, cataloguing facts and information in his mind, storing it for later use. He was a bright boy, quiet and loyal, eager to keep up with his older brother and cousins. When they let him, that is.
It’s not really a wonder that he started to follow his family’s politics.
His family fell apart when Sirius went Gryffindor on them. His father watched Regulus more carefully, making sure that the family policies were beat into his son’s head (though not literally) and that Regulus wasn’t showing any of the arrogant, rebellious traits that his older brother possessed. Sirius later denounced the family when Regulus was fourteen years old.
He remembers it well, the shrieking, thundering, wall shaking bellows echoing throughout the house. He had been in the library, reading. He could have been lurking about in the shadows with Kreacher, but there was no need to watch the dramatic affair. He could hear it all with perfect clarity.
If Mrs. Black had coddled Regulus when he was a young boy, it was nothing in comparison to how she was spoiling him now. He took Sirius’s place as the rightful heir and favourite son, and was rewarded with endless packages of sweets and even a new broom, though he wasn’t nearly as good at flying as Sirius was. His father watched him keenly, giving abrupt praise on rare occasions, quite outside the realm of his usual caustic words. Regulus had finally reached the status he longed for and he intended on staying there.
Intent on being everything that Sirius could not, he devoted himself to following in his ancestors’ footsteps. He was not about to cause his father and mother any more grief, and he researched the family bloodlines with no avail. The Noble House of Black had quite a magical history, and the blood that pumped through each and every one of their veins pulsated with magical properties that were both strong and powerful. Black blood was made up of the very finest; his ancestors were those of wit and incredible intelligence, some of whom were spectacular duellers, political activists, and entrepreneurs.
He watched his family carefully, eager to show his cousins that he wasn’t like Sirius at all. He talked with them about the pureblood cause and even read essays by notable pureblood wizards and witches that supported it. He wanted to prove that he could be a loyal follower of the Dark Lord, whose name was being whispered throughout the household.
“You’re a bit young to be thinking about that, aren’t you, Regulus?” Narcissa scoffed one night as she sat outside with him.
No longer a young boy, it took a lot of effort to convince her that he possessed a lot of motivation, and in his eyes, substantial reasoning, to follow the pureblood cause. “No,” he said quickly. “It doesn’t matter what age you are. My opinions and ideas are just as important as your own. Not that I hear you express them that often.”
Narcissa sniffed disdainfully. “I keep my own ideals behind the scenes, if you must know. I leave the recruiting and the discussions to Lucius.”
The passion behind Regulus’s pureblood principles was stoked even more during History of Magic, which was his best subject. While his classmates talked amongst themselves or muffled their snores into their arms, he took notes about various Witch Trials and how the Muggles’ World War II affected the wizardring world. Though Binns brushed through the entire subject rather quickly, Regulus became fascinated and searched for more information in the library. What he learned convinced him even more that the Dark Lord had a valid point.
Muggles were dangerous.
Witches were tried and burned at the stakes. Other muggles, along with a few witches and wizards, were being herded into camps and treated far more horribly than anything Regulus could ever imagine. Wars were waged and ended with large fatality numbers. Dumbledore was fighting Grindelwald during all of this action, but Regulus couldn’t help but notice that it was an easy distraction for the wizardring world. Most history books brushed right over Muggle history at that particular time, eager to focus on the battle between two of the greatest wizards of all time.
Bellatrix said it was a political diversion. Regulus couldn’t help but wonder.
“Finally, we have someone who realizes that Muggles have no place in the wizard world,” his father said one day at dinner. “They only cause trouble, and eventually some fanatic will get the idea in his head to destroy our world.” His mother nodded in agreement, and Regulus tucked the comment into his mental library.
He would discuss this at length with his fellow housemates, always in hushed tones. The common room was full of secrets. His fellow Slytherins seemed to agree that the lives of witches and wizards everywhere would be better off if Muggles weren’t involved. The muggle-borns would destroy all the antiquity and history of the wizardring kind.
It was already happening, but to a lesser degree. Muggles were tainting wizard blood, diluting the magic, and spreading it around like a virus. Families with common blood, mudblood, coursing through their veins were becoming more and more common. What a shame it would be for his own noble blood—the blood of his forefathers, to become besmirched by blood that only carries the genetics of a primitive race of man. Regulus did not want the magic in his blood to run flat.
“Please talk to Lucius for me,” he begged Bellatrix one day. “I’m as loyal as any other Black.”
“Your brother isn’t loyal,” she snapped, irritated that he was bothering her yet again.
“He’s not a Black,” he replied quickly. “Besides, your sister lowered herself to be with a muggle-born.”
Bellatrix’s eyebrows quirked, and she almost looked impressed. “Perhaps it is time,” she said slowly. “But you’d best be serious about this,” she added. “It’s not all fun and games.” A small smile curled at her lips and her dark eyes flashed menacingly. “Well…some of it is.”
The Dark Army was the answer. It was that simple. What they did was not just for show, although they enjoyed making a spectacle of it; it was for a bigger cause. If Regulus joined, he would become part of a political movement, a turning of the times.
After he turned seventeen, he was ready to join them. Regulus decided it was high time to step out of the sidelines and into the game. Today was the day.
The old grandfather clock in the entrance hall tolled once for half past the hour, startling him out of his thoughts. Quickly, he made sure he had everything he needed, tucked his wand in his pocket, and disapparated.
He appeared with a pop in the thick of a forest. The woods were dark, and bare branches and hanging vines sent jagged shadows across the ground. Dried autumn leaves littered an overgrown pathway, and small animals skittered through the night, rustling through the underbrush. All at once, his nerves hit him with the force of a bolo punch.
He stepped forward quietly, straining his eyes to see through the small slits in his mask. Every breath he took was warm and damp, and every heartbeat echoed throughout his head. His chest was tight with apprehension. He didn’t want to disappoint.
This was where Lucius had instructed that they meet each other. Regulus had apparated into the backwoods on a stretch of land that belonged to the Malfoy estate. He walked toward the centre as Lucius had instructed him to, cautiously stepping heel to toe as though he was stalking some sort of prey. Off to his left, the sound of something large cutting through the forest seemed to be getting nearer. Regulus dropped his hand to his pocket, clutching his wand tightly. A twig snapped and something moved in the shadows.
“Regulus,” breathed a soft, cool voice.
“Lucius?” Regulus tugged at his mask, which had slipped down in front of his grey eyes and obscured his vision.
“I’m pleased that you made it. The Dark Lord will be pleased.”
Regulus nodded in reply, knowing that his voice would betray his sudden unease.
“This way, Regulus,” Lucius said. “We must hurry, the meeting will start soon.”
Together they walked through the forest until they came to the edge of a clearing. The moonlight filtered through the treetops, illuminating the field in a pale, silvery light. Lucius stepped aside, allowing Regulus to take the spot next to him.
Across the clearing, other hooded figures were now appearing, taking their places amongst the trees. At least a dozen of them were present now, and small pops and cracks echoed throughout the forest. Someone oblivious to the wizard world might mistake the sounds for trees moving and settling, but Regulus recognized the sounds of more witches and wizards to come. A few more figures approached, skulking up from the depths of the shadows as though they were floating ghosts. All eyes were fixed on the centre of the clearing. Next to Regulus, Lucius squared his shoulders and lifted his chin.
Suddenly, a large crack reverberated throughout the woods. Regulus started. Lucius shook his head ever so slightly, signalling for him to remain still.
The figure in the centre of the field stood tall, his face shining pale in the moonlight. Regulus gazed at him, thankful that his mask hid the visible awe that slowly crested upon his face.
“My loyal followers,” the Dark Lord greeted them. The Death Eaters bowed their heads in reverence as he slowly turned to face each and every one who bordered the wood line. Regulus could feel his pulse thumping, anticipating the moment in which the Dark Lord’s gaze would fall onto him. His breath caught in his throat as their eyes met. All his nervous anticipation was replaced by an incredible sense of admiration, awe, and power. This man would be the one Regulus called Master.
Lord Voldemort lifted an eyebrow at Regulus before continuing around the circle. After a moment, he paused as though he was waiting for something.
Beside Regulus, Lucius ventured forward and dropped to his knees. “Master,” he muttered, crawling forward and bending low to kiss the hems of his Lord’s robes. This surprised Regulus. He had never seen Lucius lower himself before anyone. His realization of the importance in serving the Dark Lord was then multiplied at least threefold.
One by one, each Death Eater kowtowed to Lord Voldemort, humbly professing their loyalty to him. Regulus was still standing on the sidelines when someone pushed him from behind.
“Go on,” a voice hissed.
“Snape?” Regulus questioned, surprised.
“Go on!” the voice repeated, and Regulus was sharply prodded forward.
Like the others, he quickly dropped to the ground, creeping forward on the damp grass. His hood had now slipped forward and all he could see was the inner material. He prayed that he didn’t crawl ahead too far and head-butt the Dark Lord, for fear of ruining any chance he had of seeming competent. Suddenly, beneath his fingers, he felt the fine, soft silkiness of dress robes.
“My lord,” he breathed, dropping his head and kissing the hem of the robes.
“Regulus,” Voldemort said quietly. “Finally I have the chance to meet the youngest Black child. I can only hope that your loyalty and support run as deep as your cousins’.”
Regulus, eager to please, sat back on his heels and gazed up at Lord Voldemort. He was about to say “deeper, even”, when his common sense kicked in. He settled for a simple nod.
Voldemort snorted quietly and looked down at Regulus with a twisted grin. “Deeper even?” he said quietly. “My, such high expectations from a young boy.”
Regulus nearly fell over, amazed that the Dark Lord had read his thoughts. His stomach flip-flopped nervously. “Yes, sir.”
“Soon you will call me master, Regulus. Tell me, why is it that you have decided to join my Dark Army?”
Regulus hadn’t counted on being tested. “Muggles are polluting our ancient lines with their mud,” he said, and then blanched. “Blood,” he corrected himself quickly.
The Dark Lord chuckled quietly. “Indeed they are. Noble family lines are being tainted and befouled.” He narrowed his dark eyes at Regulus and surveyed him quietly. “Are you willing to go to any length to see that the bloodlines remain pure?”
“Yes, of course.” Regulus glanced sideways and noted Lucius standing not far from his left.
“And you hereby proclaim your loyalty to me, as your master and Dark Lord? You will denounce all muggles, muggle lovers, and all those who defy my wishes.”
Regulus swallowed down a large lump in his throat. “I do,” he whispered.
“Very well. Tonight, young Regulus, you will receive a token of your loyalties. The mark, a crest of sorts, that only my followers, the Death Eaters, bear.”
Death Eaters. Suddenly, the name made sense to Regulus. They were going to extinguish anything that challenged the wizard race, consume it so that it would never appear again.
“Hold out your left forearm,” the Dark Lord ordered. With a swift movement, he brandished his wand. Regulus quickly rolled up his left sleeve, exposing the pale, flawless skin of his inner forearm. His heart gave a nervous flutter.
Voldemort pressed the tip of his wand into Regulus’s skin and muttered a spell that Regulus had never heard before. A searing, white-hot pain shot through his arm, and he shuddered visibly. He could feel a bead of sweat as it trickled down his brow, but he dared not wipe it away. He would take the mark like a man. He was a man now, fighting for a just cause.
He was a Death Eater.
He stared down at his arm, blinking furiously to stop the tears of pain from flowing. A hideous, dark scar had formed there, in the shape of a skull. The skull had a twisted serpent slithering out between its skeletal jaws.
“Marked as a Death Eater. From now on, only I am your Lord and Master. My wishes come before all else. Do you understand this, Regulus?”
Regulus shivered, still unable to tear his eyes away from his marred skin. “Yes, Master,” he replied, bowing his head.
“Very well,” Lord Voldemort said. Then he turned his attention to the rest of the Death Eaters in the circle. “We have much to do in these next few weeks. The resistance to our movement is growing stronger every day, and we must fight them. There can be no opposition to my plans.”
His mouth curved down into a frown, and he gazed around the circle. “Lucius, Severus, and Rosier,” he called out quietly. “You may know of a witch called Marlene McKinnon. I’ve been informed that she is one of Dumbledore’s greatest assets, as she has many connections with the ministry.”
Lucius cleared his throat. “Indeed she does, my Lord.”
“Then we must take care of her promptly. You three are to eliminate her by the new moon. Take Regulus with you. He has much to learn, and who better than you to teach him?” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement.
Snape, Malfoy, and Rosier all nodded quickly. “Yes, Master,” Snape replied silkily.
“Thank you, Master,” Regulus whispered, quickly swallowing. It was his first assignment, his true test of loyalty. He hoped that he would perform well.
He had no other choice.
Chapter 10: Severus Snape
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And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
No matter how many times in his life that the Dark Lord summons him, it always comes as a shock to Severus. The pain sizzles on his skin; a white, hot heat that spreads throughout his forearm, past tissue and muscle, down into his very bones. Even after the initial shock of receiving such a summons, the pain slowly ebbs away into a low, throbbing pulse. For days afterwards, his forearm tingles and prickles with the memory of a fresh scar.
It is no different now as he sits grading papers, quill swiftly slashing his condescending criticism across a piece of parchment. When the call hits him, he freezes and takes in a soft hiss of air. He is too old now to be grabbing at his forearm or turning pale and howling in pain. There is no tugging of sleeves for Severus, no gentle brushes of his hand against his marred skin. He needs no reminder of his past choices and battle scars.
He lives with them every day.
Although Hogwarts is more of a home than he has ever felt anywhere else in his life, it is filled with ghosts of his past. When he visits the Slytherin Common Room, he sees Evan Rosier tugging whatever girl he has managed to charm for the night into a dark corner. As he walks down the dungeon corridors he passes a young Hufflepuff boy with straw-coloured hair who brings young Barty Crouch to mind. He hears shades of Bellatrix in Pansy’s mirthless shrieks of laughter, and is unnerved at the resemblance that Crabbe and Goyle share with their fathers. Draco Malfoy is the shadow of Lucius, with a confident swagger in his walk and a calculating, manipulative mind.
Then, of course, there is Potter.
Harry Potter, who looks so much like James that Severus finds it hard to distinguish his old, bitter anger from the new. Harry, who has Lily’s eyes--oh, his Lily that he can’t bear to remember but isn’t any more willing to part with. Harry, who has inherited not only the Potter looks and a small family fortune, but also a lifetime of debts for which he needs to be repaid. Although Snape can think of at least three-dozen reasons as to why Harry doesn’t deserve his protective attention, he does it because the irritating boy is James’s son. More importantly, he does it because Harry is Lily’s son.
This is his duty. This is his debt.
There is no time for regrets in Severus’s life. He remembers everything as though it was yesterday. Bellatrix’s seductive voice whispers in his ear, coaxing him to join her in her quest to get back what is rightfully theirs—pureblood nobility. Lucius is next to him, looking impressed and quickly seizing the opportunity to recruit “an obvious talent” for the Dark Lord’s army. Rosier, Wilkes, and Mulciber scoot down their benches to make room for him at lunch, eagerly awaiting his sound advice and opinions, always logical and never overly emotional. He is no longer an outcast, no longer 'Snivellus' Snape. He is at the height of his youth, eager for the chance to become accepted and ready for the recognition that is sure to come. He knows that he has much to offer the Dark Lord and that his master will provide.
The Dark Lord does indeed provide; however, every task comes with a cost. Death is not easy to swallow, even for Snape, who had thought that his anger and bitterness would be enough to shield him from the horrors that death and pain reveal.
He knows now that he was wrong. Adrenaline and ferocity are not enough to drive the demons away. When the endorphins fade and his vision clears, the images are still the same. A schoolmate lies on the floor unmoving, and a young child screams in the background. Two men who fought like heroes are now young martyrs. A circle of Death Eaters closing around the Dark Lord now has glaring gaps in it—spaces that will be filled again in good time.
“Retaliate,” they are told. “Show them that we are a force to be reckoned with. The Dark Lord will prevail.” Yet, with every new death that occurs, Severus’s perseverance lessens. He starts to question himself, starts to question why he finds comfort in the company of terrorists. The question begins to eat at him.
It is hardest for him when he sees the aftermath. He watches families console each other from the shadows, visits gravesites in the moonlight, and silently observes many, many funerals. Each sniffle, each teardrop, every moan and utterance of woe chips away at him, creating a void so large that he finds it hard to function. It is even more painful because he knows that he has given his life to a cause that he doesn’t have faith in anymore.
He isn’t sure that he has any faith left at all. There isn’t much in this world that he feels he can rely on, except for himself. Even then, he gets carried away with his emotions and sometimes acts irrationally. He learns from his past, and lives in spite of it. He has no use for wallowing in sad and bitter memories, and pushes on. If the Potter boy had more sense, he would have heeded that advice when Severus gave it to him during their Occlumency lesson.
“There’s good inside of everyone, Severus. It’s just buried a bit deeper in some people,” Lily’s voice echoes inside of his head. It’s a conversation they had long ago.
He sadly remembers his waspish reply. “If there is something that is buried inside of me, Lily, I’d sincerely appreciate it if you didn’t go digging it up.”
“You’re being difficult.”
“Hardly. Must you Gryffindors always go poking around where you’re not wanted?”
He remembers her exasperated sigh and the small sense of relief that he felt as he warded her off. His own thoughts were private, and he had no intention of sharing them with anyone, Lily included.
Although he doesn’t consider himself fragile, he isn’t fond of being broken, either.
He was especially adamant about being left alone since she might have gotten the idea that he was indeed good. People would think he’d gone soft. He couldn’t have that. He still has no part in it, much more accustomed to acting the part of cantankerous grump. It suits him well, he thinks.
He will never admit to being good. Inherently good people don’t mix themselves up in crowds and situations as Severus does. Any good that he has ever done in his lifetime has had a logical, substantial, and necessary reason behind it. Severus doesn’t act out to be considered a good person. He leaves that for the Gryffindors--for the Potters, the Weasleys, and the Lupins of the world.
Severus flits between good and evil, dances on lies, and manoeuvres through quick thinking and silky words. He is considered an asset to Dumbledore, to the Order. The Dark Lord relies on Severus to keep tabs on the Headmaster, and his Dark Army doesn’t even question where Snape’s loyalties lie. Severus continues to tread the path between light and dark, skulking in the shadows, appearing when necessary and saying no more than needed.
He is a rogue in this war. He doesn’t agree with Voldemort any longer, but he doesn’t fit in with the Order of the Phoenix. It’s ironic that the only side that truly respects him is the one he cannot bring himself to support.
He doesn’t really find it necessary to fit in with the Order anyhow. The looks that he receives from the blasted Weasley family, not to mention wizards like Shacklebolt and Moody, reveal so much that he has no need to read their thoughts with Leglimancy. He doesn’t mind the contemptuous looks, however. In fact, he’s rather satisfied when Harry throws an insolent glare in his direction, and is quick to return his own rebuking sneer.
The tingling sensation in his arm brings him out of his thoughts, and he summons his cloak, marching out of his office and into the dungeons. It is past curfew now, but for once, his black eyes aren’t fixated on any movements in the corners, any children up out of their beds. He must tell Dumbledore that he’s been called and he must leave swiftly.
He sweeps out of the dungeon corridor and into the Entrance Hall, robes billowing behind him with every hasty step. Taking the stairs in long strides, he crosses the second landing and makes a sharp turn around a corner.
“Oh! Professor!” A voice gasps, and he stops abruptly. Dennis Creevey looks at him wide eyed and opens his mouth to offer an excuse, but Snape silences him with a hand.
“Mr. Creevey,” he snaps, “It is past your bedtime. Return to your dorm immediately. Ten points from Gryffindor.” He gives the boy a reprimanding curl of his lip before stalking off toward the gargoyle statue. Behind him, Dennis opens and closes his mouth wordlessly, like a goldfish, stunned that he wasn’t persecuted any more than that.
“Canary Crème,” Snape hisses, spitting his distaste at the Headmaster’s new fondness for the Weasley twins’ treats.
The statue slides over and the door behind it opens, revealing the top step of a spiral staircase. He steps in and it slowly revolves, rising higher and higher into the tower. He drums his fingers impatiently on his folded arms, mentally cursing Dumbledore for having the entrance to his personal office resemble a Muggle amusement park. As he reaches the top, he can hear the soft rumble of voices and Dumbledore’s muffled voice.
Snape raps on the door three times.
“Come in,” Dumbledore calls out.
Severus steps in, not venturing any farther than a few feet from the doorway. “Headmaster,” he greets, “I’ve been summoned.” He wastes no time with small talk.
Dumbledore’s brows raise slightly and he nods. “Indeed. I’ll alert Kingsley and Remus.”
Severus nods. “I’ll contact you when I return.”
“Good. Do be careful, Severus. If you don’t return by tomorrow I’ll arrange for someone to cover your classes.” He pauses, and then gives Snape a significant look. “If something should happen, you know how to signal me.”
Dumbledore offers him a small, apprehensive smile. “You’d best make haste. I daresay he won’t appreciate your tardiness. Good luck, Severus.” His eyes are cloudy with weary.
“Thank you, Headmaster.” Snape bows his head and ducks out of the office, rushing down the stairs and quickly making his way out of the castle. He can almost feel his skin pale, feel the uneasy tug at the pit of his stomach. His throat is tight with worry as he pulls his cloak around him, preparing for his journey.
The cool night air embraces him as he exits the castle. The grounds are quiet, barely lit by the soft silvery light of a sickle moon. It is the perfect setting to clear his thoughts.
With each step he buries a memory that will betray him. He paces across the grounds and eliminates past Order meetings, his knowledge of Grimmauld place, the significant looks that Minerva passes to him in the hallways, and the meetings he’s had with Dumbledore.
He’s nearly to the gates when he clears his mind of his decision to become a double agent and the worries that plague him about Voldemort discovering his secret. Finally, he pushes back his thoughts of Lily. The Dark Lord needs not know of the soft spot in Snape’s heart for her—Gryffindor, mudblood, Potter and all. He walks through the gates and plunges on into the shadows, veering off the path to Hogsmeade and into the underbrush, stepping softly so as to not be heard.
He allows quite a few of his thoughts on Harry to remain, only because his distaste for the boy is so apparent that he harbours no worries that the Dark Lord will suspect anything if he should have a glimpse of them.
After all, he’s not fighting in this war for Harry.
He’s not fighting for Harry, nor is he fighting for Dumbledore. He hardly sympathizes with muggles, and he finds no remorse in Sirius’s death, or any of the other heroes’, for that matter. He’s not even fighting in this war for himself, and although he doesn’t wish to die, he will accept it when and if it comes. He will defend himself the best that he can, and he will protect Harry, only because the irritating brat is the key to finding the balance of good and evil.
Nothing in the world is black and white, and should Harry prevail and Severus live to see it, he looks forward to losing himself to the subtler shades of grey.
He stops abruptly, the sharp hook of his nose silhouetted in a shadow across the underbrush. Focusing on the Dark Lord, he disappears with a crack.
Seconds later, Severus apparates in Little Whinging, approaching the circle of Death Eaters that are surrounding the Dark Lord. Lord Voldemort stands tall and proud, his serpentine face lifted high, gleaming in the moonlight, eyes slowly surveying each and every member of his Dark Army.
Snape’s hood is pulled over his greasy, dark hair, and his eyes glitter through the slits in his mask. One by one, the Death Eaters drop to their knees, humbly crawling forward to kiss the robes of their master. Snape follows suit. As he approaches, he can feel the power radiating off of the Dark Lord; it nearly alters the energy around him. It leaves Snape little room to wonder why he joined the Dark Army in the first place. The man’s charisma and strength are so powerful that it makes Snape’s own body pulse with its magical current.
He thins his lips into a narrow frown and lowers his head, brushing his lips against the soft material of his master’s robes.
“Severus,” a cold, high-pitched voice hisses.
“My Lord,” he whispers softly, bowing his head and backing away. As he joins the rest of the Death Eaters, he is aware of their every movement. He notes every twitch, every shift of weight, and every muttered whisper in the circle. He can feel Pettigrew’s wet, beady eyes on him, and glimpses a slight nod from Lucius. Bellatrix’s eyes shine in the night, meeting his and giving him a challenging look.
His heart beats a little faster, though he isn’t sure if it is because he is nervous or because of the energy bouncing around him. Sometimes he feels as though the Dark Lord knows his secrets. As though his Master is playing with him, biding his time. A snake poised to strike.
“My loyal Death Eaters,” Voldemort speaks suddenly, “Tonight I have much to talk to you about. I am arranging a new series of strikes, a new wave of terror to wash over the world and remind these silly fools that they have no choice in their future.” His red eyes scan the circle and he continues, “Harry Potter has been able to evade me thus far, only by the help of those ignorant enough to believe in him.”
Snape is now under the Dark Lord’s scrutinizing eye. Red, slitted pupils rest on Severus, gaze unwavering, and he takes a deep breath, the vein in his forehead beginning to flicker and throb. Snape quickly pushes more thoughts away, mustering all his strength and reserve to remain calm.
“However,” Voldemort continues quietly, “I plan on rectifying that matter immediately.” He lifts a pale, bony hand and curls his fingers, beckoning Snape forward. “Severus,” he says quietly, his voice as oily as Snape’s hair. A twisted smile slowly crawls across Voldemort’s white lips, “It is your time.”
Chapter 11: Peter Pettigrew
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I hate this thing, God knows how I hate this thing. Slytherin fools and their snakes. Why is it always snakes? Why couldn’t it have been anything else, even spiders. But no, it had to be snakes. I hate the way it watches me, hate the way it looks at me as if it wants nothing more than for me to be its next meal. Human or rat, it wouldn’t matter. She’d devour me if he let her. Useful. You have to remain useful, Peter, or you will end up her dinner.
The small man approached the large snake with trepidation. His fear amused her and aroused her hunting instincts. He smelled like a rat, he even almost looked like one to her. The bottle in his hand was covered by a thin rubber layer. She didn’t like this at all, but accepted it as necessary. The god who ruled her world commanded it for his benefit and so far he had been exceptionally benevolent with her. He had fed her the woman. Fed her the old man, granted he was dead and live prey would have been more enjoyable, but he had been tasty nonetheless.
Stay calm, stay calm. His thin hand with its loose wrinkled skin reached out for the large snake’s head. She fixed him with her lidless gaze and hissed softly her displeasure. Hey, this is no picnic for me either, you know. With practiced care he grasped her behind the jaw and used the edge of the bottle to pry open her mouth. She resisted for a moment, then gave in like she always did. He pressed her fangs through the rubber strip and pressed down on her upper jaw applying pressure to the venom glands. Milky white fluid dripped from the hollow tips of the long white teeth and the force of his hand on her upper jaw expelled the toxic liquid from the sacs that held it, waiting for her next victim.
A spoonful pooled at the bottom of the jar. The flow stopped and he released her quickly, dodging the nipping jaws. If she bit him now it would be a minor bite, not the fatal infusion of poison that not only caused a raging fever and spasms, but also prevented the wound from healing. If the poison did not kill the victim quickly, they would likely bleed to death slowly. He took the bottle and quickly retreated from the dank spot she had taken as her own. As heinous as this task was, the worst of all was to come.
The feeding. During the feeding he would be force to touch the slightly slimy, scaly skin of his Master. To cradle the small form like a grotesquely deformed fetus, while it suckled from the potion he would now brew. A small sense of guilty pride swelled in him. The only time he felt proud was when he let himself dwell on the basic fact that he, Wormtail, was being entrusted with a life and death task by the most feared man to have ever lived.
Letting himself into the dark room he set about his duty with the movements of one who has learned this skill by rote. There was nothing artistic about the way his now thin body with its sagging skin prepared and measured the ingredients. He knew there were some who worked over a cauldron like an artist over a canvas. Precise movements, graceful motions, careful eyes that gauged exactly the right degree of bubbling to constitute a low simmer versus a fast simmer. No, his way wasn’t pretty and it sometimes took an extra try or two, but he got the job done. It was a complicated potion and it afforded him that extra measure of satisfaction that he, Wormtail, was able to create it.
This room was both a refuge from the glowing red gaze of his master and a torment. Coming here meant escaping from the demands of the Dark Lord, but it was also in this quiet that he faced his memories; memories that were becoming more and more troublesome. Combining the ingredients for the basic restorative potion he tried to postpone the ruminations that would come. The ginkgo biloba built the Master’s circulatory health and the milk thistle aided the growth and health of his delicate liver. The burdock root, the dandelion and red clover cleansed and enhanced his immune system along with the Astragalus, which supported the production of white blood cells to fight the viral and bacterial infections the Dark Lord risked in his state. Finally, the Ashwaganda, the rejuvenating tonic that heightened strength, stamina and vigor was added and the mixture was allowed to simmer.
And they came. The memories came upon him as he stood there watching the flames flicker under the cauldron. It recalled the memory of hundreds of tiny stars twinkling like the lights from hundreds of fires beneath hundreds of cauldrons. The memory of the cool grass beneath his arms as he lay on the ground, arms behind his head, looking up at the inky blackness. He sighed heavily and surrendered to the images pounding now in his head.
They were young, very young. Their seventh year at Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry stretched out in front of them. The September sky above the Quidditch pitch seemed to stretch up to incomprehensible distances. This night was different than the others. There were no wild adventures, no laughter rang out at remembered pranks, no outrageous plans were being laid. Instead, all four boys sat or lay stretched out in silence. Upon returning to school a few days before, they had discovered that some of their classmates were missing. On the train Lily Evans had noticed that at Hufflepuff girl she planned to form a Herbology study group with for the upcoming NEWTs was not on board. Sirius was the first to notice the absence of the Ravenclaw twins. He had been working on getting the girl to go out with him for several months and she kept putting him off to the great amusement of his friends. But it was as they sat at the Gryffindor table during the feast that first night that they noticed Thomas’ absence. The boy who made up the fifth in their dormitory room was never a part of their group of friends. He was a stickler for following rules and often tutted at them when witnessing or overhearing their exploits. He wasn’t a bad sort, just the kind Moony had politely called a stick in the mud, while Sirius suggested the stick was actually located in a much more personal and painful location.
None of the teachers seemed to want to talk about what happened to the missing students and the stories had grown quite wild. The Headmaster had finally had to speak on the matter. They had known that Thomas was a muggle born and it seemed the other three had been as well. And just like Thomas, they were dead. It was becoming more and more dangerous to be a muggle born. It was getting more and more dangerous to be anything but a pureblood.
“Are we all in agreement, that despite what Dumbledore didn’t say in there, we know who is responsible for this?” Sirius had spoken in uncharacteristically hushed tones.
“Yeah,” James said, equally subdued. “I don’t think there’s much guessing to do here.”
Peter turned his head to look at Moony. But the boy didn’t say anything; he looked off into the distance with a worried expression. Soon all three were watching him. “Moony?” Sirius’ voice broke the quiet.
The sandy-haired boy simply turned his blue-grey eyes on the small wiry figure stretched out on the ground to his left. The wild black hair framed the long face and his hazel eyes stared back up with sudden comprehension. “Yeah, I know Moony. Evans. It could just as easily have been Evans.”
Evans. Big deal, Peter thought, one more know it all muggle born out of the way. Why James wasted his time with a mudblood he just couldn’t fathom.
“And what happens when they’re done with the muggle-borns, James? Who do they come after next?” The voice came out hoarse and worn as if it came from body much older than its 17 years.
“Then, based on what I’ve overheard in that hell-hole I used to call home, they come after the half-bloods.” Sirius answered for them all. “You, Moony, they come after you if you don’t swear allegiance to them. And if they don’t figure out the werewolf thing first and come after you for that sooner.”
Peter felt his heart flutter. He hated being reminded of this little fact. Sure Remus was a half-blood, but that didn’t make him all bad. He had learned over the years that even half-bloods could be ok. But the werewolf thing… His stomach knotted every time he thought of that. Remus was nice enough. He never actually picked on him or made fun of him, but there was always that half-breed perversion hovering over the boy’s head.
Peter kept these thoughts to himself. His feelings about Evans and his feelings about Moony. He learned early on that these boys he called his friends had little tolerance for the use of the word mudblood and he was well aware that James and Sirius, if pressed to it, would choose the half-breed over him. It simply wasn’t politic to speak your mind. This was a lesson he learned early, before he came to Hogwarts. With Mrs. Pettigrew for a mother, it was never a good idea to speak one’s mind.
“Don’t sweat it, Moony.” James sat up. “We’ll look out for each other. All of us. That’s what it means to be friends, right? We’re the Marauders. No one takes on one of us without taking on the whole lot of us. There are plenty of Slytherins who’ve gotten that message clear over the years.”
Yes, thought Peter, there is strength in numbers.
Moony shook his head. “I’m not so much worried for me as for the others.”
“Look, we’re Gryffindors,” Sirius said rising to his feet. “We look out for each other. We’ll watch out for Evans, even if she is a great pain. We’ll watch out for each other no matter.”
James rose to his feet and stood beside Moony, grabbing a hand and pulling the taller boy to his feet. Peter scrambled to stand, not wanting to be the only one left on the ground. “All of us, Moony. Right Wormtail?” He acknowledged Peter for the first time.
“Right. We’ll stick together.” A twist of uncertainty began inside him. It was better to have powerful friends who could protect you and these young men had done just that so far. But the idea of putting himself out there for them? Of course, he shook his head to clear it; if the time came he would do the brave thing. He was a Marauder. He was a Gryffindor.
James’ hand reached out and took hold of Sirius’ wrist. They had done this many times. It was their way of sealing their bargain. Peter always managed to maneuver himself between James and Sirius, tonight there had been no chance. Sirius grasped Remus’ wrist. Remus reached for Peter. He suppressed the shudder and tried to smile. His other hand was sweating when it reached for James’. Joined in a circle beneath the stars, with the Quidditch hoops bearing witness, they repeated the ritual they had begun as small boys on the night they swore to keep Remus’ secret. “We protect each other and our fellow Gryffindors,” James’ voice was strong and clear. Each boy repeated the promise in turn.
So sweet is the protection offered by the walls of school for a boy. As the death toll mounted and the numbers of those following the man whose name was no longer spoken aloud grew, it all stayed very unreal for him. Here inside Hogwarts with his only worry being the approaching NEWTs, Peter could forget about the world outside. But the day of matriculation came and the friends left Hogwarts behind. They did not, however, leave behind their Headmaster. They were quickly pulled into the ranks of those swearing to fight against the man now feared throughout the wizarding world.
Pulling into the present, Wormtail checked the progress of the potion. It was simmering nicely. Small bubbles burst upon the surface at the edges. Small ripples of explosion pulled up from the heat of the depths to disrupt the calm appearance of the potion. Just like life that year after Hogwarts.
Peter worked for his mother in the family business. They sold boring, everyday items that a wizarding family couldn’t live without. Kitchenwares that made the lives of the everyday witch easier. The automatic potato peeler, the grinder with the self turning crank, the teapot that kept tea at exactly the right temperature; all of these wondrous things that would put any teenage boy directly into a coma. But the store had been passed down for generations, from one Pettigrew to another. “People will always need kitchenwares, my boy,” his grandfather had often pontificated. “Nice safe business. No risk, no strange new ideas. They may not make you rich, but kitchenwares will keep food on your table and a roof over your head.”
It was once again shaping up to be a mind numbing day. He had stood behind the counter of the shop, helping one old witch after another who needed to replace a Bints’ Magical Blender or a Perkins Self Percolating Coffee Pot, while daydreaming about the exciting, and up ‘til now relatively safe, activities he was engaged in for the Order. His mother wouldn’t approve of his using the shop to funnel in materials and supplies needed in secret by the Order, but it gave him the feeling of being a part of something important. He did not envy James, Sirius and even Remus the more daring and dangerous activities they were being asked to do. No. He didn’t envy them at all.
He just finished putting the receipt for a self regulating pressure cooker in the bag and scooting it across the counter to an old witch wearing a tall pointed hat in neon green and a fur stole of some undeterminable animal in a bright pink, when the bell on the shop door rang. He paid little attention. No one interesting ever came in here except by mistake and they quickly corrected that. As the older woman left the counter he noticed the back of a dark brown head standing before a display of kettles. The young woman, and she was young, seemed to be examining each display model carefully. It’s a kettle, he thought, how hard a choice can it be?
He stepped from behind the counter to approach her. At least she was someone to talk to. Stepping up to her he cleared his throat, “Ahem. Can I help you?” She turned to face him and his eyes widened. Large brown eyes looked up at him from behind large silver rimmed glasses. The round face colored prettily and she turned her gaze away from him quickly, knocking over three kettles from the display in her haste.
“I’m so sorry, so sorry,” she muttered kneeling to pick them up. Peter knelt along side her and retrieved one of the kettles and took the other two from her shaking hands. Standing, he put them back on the display and stared at her. She was looking shyly down at the floor and then suddenly lifted her eyes so that she peered at him through her lashes and over the tops of the glasses that had slid down the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry about that. I’m so clumsy.”
“No problem,” he swallowed hard. He knew this girl, at least he was pretty sure he did. Hadn’t she been in his year at Hogwarts? A Hufflepuff? Smith? “Can I help you find something?”
“I need a new kettle. I just got my own place. I need a new kettle.” She blushed. “I said that last part twice didn’t I?”
“Yeah… yeah, you did.” Peter stammered. He reached up and picked up one of the models on display. “This one isn’t the most popular or the most expensive, but it lasts the longest.”
“Thank you, Mr. Pettigrew.”
He turned to walk over to the counter and stopped. “How did you know my name?”
She smiled slightly. “Well, Pettigrew is the name over the door and we were at school together. I don’t expect you’d remember or even have noticed. You were a Gryffindor and part of the popular crowd. I was a Hufflepuff and… well, I wasn’t. Popular that is.”
“Smith?” Peter offered hesitantly. “Jeannette Smith?”
She colored brightly and her eyes seemed to shine. “Yes. That’s me.”
Peter looked down at the kettle in his hand and then down at her. He looked down at her he realized. She was shorter than he and not many people were. “Here,” he said thrusting the kettle out to her. “Take it.”
“But Mr. Pettigrew, don’t I need to pay you?”
“No,” Peter looked everywhere but at her, “no, consider it a house warming gift from a school friend.” Wow Peter, that was almost smooth.
She smiled at him again and thanked him. He watched her leave the store and was still watching when she halted outside the front window and looked back in at him. She raised her hand in farewell, and clutching the kettle to her chest as if it had been a priceless treasure, she hurried off.
Peter turned to see his mother standing behind the counter watching him. Merlin! he thought, here it comes. But his mother said nothing. She simply looked at him strangely for a moment then turned and walked away.
Three days later his mother announced that she had volunteered him to do a favor for an old family friend. Their daughter had moved to London and knew hardly anyone. She had told them that Peter would be glad to escort the young lady to dinner and make her feel welcome in the big city. He had groaned inwardly, but remained silent. His mother had made her proclamation with that tone that told him that argument was not only futile but a very bad idea.
The girl would be meeting him at a small eatery on a side street off of Diagon Alley. Peter walked in, several minutes late as usual. He gave his name to the hostess and she assured him the young lady had been on time and was waiting. As he entered the dining room he swept his eyes over the crowd and spotted a small brown head bent over a menu, sitting very much alone. His heart increased its pace as with each step it seemed the woman was leading him directly toward those big brown eyes and one Jeannette Smith. Suddenly he was standing at her table staring down at her, mute.
She looked up at him in surprise. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me. I didn’t know it was going to be you.” He winced at the sound of his words then noticed her smile happily.
“I’m glad it’s you. I was so worried.”
Peter sat down across from her and gave a great deal of attention to his menu. The evening went better than anything he could have imagined. She spoke little about herself after the initial introduction. “My father’s name is Smith. But my mother’s family is tied to many of the oldest wizarding families. We are related, distantly, to the Prewetts, the Knotts, and the Claggs. We are also very distantly related to the Blacks and Malfoys as well.” She was attentive and he found that he was telling her more about himself than he had ever told anyone.
A week had passed, during each he had either had lunch with his Miss Smith or dinner. Tonight he was finally to be invited to her apartment to a home cooked meal. He was standing behind the counter of the store, distracted, when a deep voice growled behind him, “Don’t move.” He felt the pressure of a wand in his back and an arm circled his neck tightly. “We know you’re working for the Order. You’re done for you little blood traitor.”
Peter’s heart nearly stopped. My God! His breath was coming so fast he sounded like a locomotive. As suddenly as it had appeared the arm and the pressure of the wand were gone and replaced with a low chuckle. “Man you are so easy, Wormtail.” The familiar voice cleared some of the panic from Peter’s mind, but his entire body was now covered in sweat. The black heads rounded the corner of the counter and came into view. Sirius and James. Potter was shaking his head in an “I can’t believe you did that,” way and Black was laughing loudly. “Scared the snot out of ya, did I mate?”
“That wasn’t funny, Sirius,” Peter squeaked out.
“That wasn’t funny, Sirius,” Black mocked, mimicking Peter’s high pitched voice. “It was so funny, wasn’t Prongs?”
“Whatever you say,” James shrugged, examining the display of self flipping griddles. “Do these things actually work?”
“Prongs! Can you get your head out of that domesticated fog for a minute?” Sirius shook his head. “He’s hopeless, Wormtail. Hopeless I tell you. The minute she slipped that ring on his finger a matching one hooked through the nose. Self flipping griddles, I ask you. Next he’ll be asking about the longevity of kettles.”
Peter colored slightly and chose to answer James. “Yes. Do you want one for Evans?”
James looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Evans? She’s Potter now, Wormtail. For some time I might add. Try Lily, huh?”
“Sorry Prongs, but she’ll always be Evans. ‘Ooh, Professor, I know the answer.’” Sirius stood up straight, rocking on the balls of his feet with his hand in the air waving madly.
“Stop it.” James cuffed him on the back of the head. “She stopped doing that around third year and you know it.”
“Once an apple polisher, always an apple polisher, eh Wormtail?” Sirius winked at him.
James sighed and lifted one of the boxes onto the counter. “I think I will get this. Oh, and there was that other thing I asked you to order for me last week.”
That’s why they were here. To pick up the latest delivery for the Order. The stomach lining of the Chinese Fireball had magical properties that no other dragon had. It was technically illegal to import them and the Chinese didn’t permit them to be sold outside the country. This did not stop the Order. Dumbledore wanted them. Dumbledore got them, shipped to Peter in boxes marked as teapots. Peter rang up James’ order and slid the packages into a large bag. James took it from him and motioned for Sirius to follow.
“Oh, Wormtail, we’re getting together at the Potter abode tonight. Lily is going to be spending the evening with her parents and it’s poker.” Sirius leaned against the counter ignoring James. So that’s why the gift. Peter thought. He had long ago noticed that his friend went out of his way to please Lily Evans… Potter. So a night out with the boys was worth one self flipping griddle, eh?
At that moment the store door opened and both dark haired men stiffened. The small young woman entered wearing a smile and moved to the counter. When she saw them standing there, she stopped and froze. Her eyes widened.
“Jeannette,” Peter said automatically.
“I’m sorry, Peter. I didn’t realize you had customers. I’ll wait.”
Sirius raised one eyebrow and looked the girl over. The appraising expression made Peter squirm and he saw her as Sirius must see her. Plain looking, nondescript clothes, smallish figure, nothing special. Just simply there. “Who’s your friend, Wormtail?”
He watched her frown at the nickname. She knew he hated it. “You’ve met her before, Sirius. Jeannette Smith, this is Sirius Black and James Potter. Jeannette was in our year at school.”
James smiled politely and shook her hand gently. Sirius looked at her and then broke into a winning smile. “Smith? Naw, Wormtail you must be mistaken. I’d have remembered a pretty girl like this.” He lifted her offered hand and made as if to kiss it. Peter watched her pull her hand away from him with a small squeak.
“Don’t tease her, Sirius.” The frown on his face pulled the colorless brows down over his pale eyes.
A twisted grin broke on the handsome face. He nodded to the girl and moved around the counter toward the back exit. He stopped beside Peter, looked back over at the girl and whispered. “So the rat has found himself a little mouse. Interesting.”
“Come on Sirius.” James prodded him with the edge of the bag. “Will we see you tonight, Peter or do you have plans?” A soft smile edged his lips.
“I have plans. Couldn’t we do this another night?”
“Sorry, but this is the only night Moony could make it this week.” James said casually.
It was on the tip of Peter’s tongue to say that he’d be there, he’d reschedule dinner with Jeannette, then he saw her soft eyes watching him. “I’m afraid I can’t make it. Please give my regrets to Moony.” Peter straightened up and looked Sirius in the eye. “Goodbye Sirius.”
The grey eyes held a bewildered and astonished look as one eyebrow rose high and the other pressed down low. “Very interesting.” With a final look over his shoulder at Miss Smith, he left the store.
Many hours later, well fed with cheeks rosy from a well supplied wine glass, Peter sat on the couch. She sat close to him and he wondered exactly how he could maneuver this so he could slide his arm around her.
“Peter,” she began slowly, “why do you let them get by with treating you like that?”
Peter started. “Who?”
“Black and Potter.”
“Treat me how? They’re my friends. Friends tease each other sometimes.” He repeated to her the very things he often said to himself, the things Sirius had said to him.
“I see. Maybe it’s a guy thing and I just don’t get it.”
Peter sat there quietly thinking about it. “Maybe it is. Maybe it’s just how they are.”
“You may think I’m terrible for saying this, Peter, but it really bothers me the way they put you second to the rest of them. Especially when they put you second to that Lupin.” Her soft little girl voice next spoke the words he had heard only in his own head. “I mean, he’s a half blood and all, isn’t he? You’d think that a couple of purebloods would put more value in their own kind.” She looked up at him hesitantly, “Especially when the pureblood in question is you, Peter.”
“Lupin’s a half blood, but he’s alright,” he muttered.
“I’m sorry, Peter, you must think I’m a horrible person, but I was raised to believe that blood matters. I mean it is obvious that it matters. Look at you and your friends. Does the half blood even have a job yet?” He was aware that these words coming from her would have turned his friends against her, but that these were often his own thoughts she was speaking troubled him most.
Peter swallowed hard. “I don’t think you’re horrible, Jeannette. I understand what you’re saying. Lupin is my friend but he is a half blood.” And something else that makes him the horrible one.
“It’s sad that your friend Sirius has turned his back on his family. Family is so important, don’t you agree?” She moved a bit closer and Peter could feel the warmth of her next to him.
“Yes, I do agree. Family is very important.” Peter found his tongue loosed considerably. As the evening wore on he spoke more to this girl about his beliefs concerning blood purity than he had spoken since he was 11 years old and found himself faced with the understanding he’d have to hide those feelings if he wanted to be accepted by the boys who shared his dormitory room. He told her how horrified he was that James would marry Lily Evans.
“A proper young man might date a mudblood, but they shouldn’t marry them,” she agreed sagely.
When time came for Peter to leave, she walked him to the door. He stood awkwardly for a moment, looking down. “Thank you for coming, Peter. I really enjoyed spending this evening with you.” He lifted his eyes to look at her and found her looking up at him through those dark lashes again.
“I had a really good time, Jeannette. It was nice talking to you.”
“Peter, would you go somewhere with me tomorrow?” She reached tentatively for his hand and slipped her fingers into his. His face flushed.
“Sure, where did you want to go?” He watched her eyes, unable to break away.
“A my mother is giving a small party and I have to be there. Family obligation. It would be bearable if you were there with me, Peter.” The wistful, hopeful look in her eyes tugged at him.
“I’d be happy to go with you,” he muttered softly. His eyes traveled down her face and he looked at the small full mouth. He really wanted to kiss her but was afraid to. What if she didn’t want him to?
As if she read his mind, “Peter, I love how you’re such a gentleman. We’ve been going out almost a week now and you haven’t tried to kiss me. I hope you won’t think I’m terribly forward if I say that I believe I’d like it if you did kiss me goodnight.” She paused as if horrified she had actually said the words. “That… that is if you want to.”
Peter lowered his head slowly and she looked up at him. Her eyes closed and she tilted her face upward. Peter pressed his lips clumsily to hers.
He smiled all the way home.
Her hand slipped into his as he stood fidgeting in the entry hall of the house. She set him quickly to ease when she reminded him it had been their mothers who had orchestrated their first date. “Mother hasn’t seen you since you were a boy. She’s looking forward to seeing you again.”
The next several minutes were a blur. All he could really register was that he was being greeted cordially by people whose last names were among the oldest and purest of the wizarding world. Dinner was pleasant and he felt at ease with her sitting across from him smiling reassuringly and the dark haired beauty he knew to be Sirius’ cousin sat next to him seemingly enthralled with the kitchenware business. “Don’t use them myself,” she purred placing one manicured hand on his arm gently, “but our housekeeper insists that there is no place but Pettigrew’s to supply our needs.” She lifted her wine glass and smiled at him, her eyes glancing over at him, “Of course one would always rather do business with one’s own kind, don’t you agree Mr. Pettigrew.”
“Yes, Mrs. Lestrange,” he squeaked out.
He had held his breath when Theodore Knott, a distant cousin of the Smith family, had muttered his lack of sympathy at the recent death of a mudblood and his family. “The man was trying to push through a change in laws to prohibit asking if someone were a mudblood, half blood or pureblood before hiring them. I tell you, he had to have made a great number of people angry with that. But no, they always come back to blaming one person.” A hush had fallen around the table. The name of that one person was never spoken, but even Peter knew who was meant. “As if someone of his stature had the time to worry about every annoying mudblood out there.” Knott had continued.
Mr. Lestrange had turned his eye to Peter and asked with a surprising directness, “What do you think, Mr. Pettigrew?”
He drew in a breath. Jeannette had been the only person he had ever spoken these words to out loud, she hadn’t been shocked, maybe her parent’s friends wouldn’t be either. “If I’m hiring someone for the shop I want to know what their background is. I think that there is a difference between purebloods and those who are muggle-born. ”
“Exactly,” Rodolphus Lestrange agreed, nodding and flashing Peter a smile. “A man wants to know the history of the person who might be caring for his store in his absence, tending to his children, or tending to his medical needs. I wouldn’t trust anything but a pureblood healer.”
Screwing up his courage, Peter interjected. “I agree, Sir. A pureblood healer goes into their education with much more of an understanding of magic and what it means to be a wizard. I think teaching should be viewed the same. I’d want only a pureblood teaching my children,” he blushed and tried not to look at Jeannette. “Not someone who is just learning themselves what it means to be a wizard.” His words were met with smiles and nods of agreement. Several times more that evening they sought his opinion on matters of importance. They were listening to him. Listening to what he had to say and truly seeming to value it.
Walking home from having again felt the pleasure of kissing her goodnight, Peter thought about the evening. Sirius’ cousin didn’t seem so bad. Maybe it was just family stuff with her and Sirius. Did cousins fight like brothers and sisters? Heavens knew Sirius fought with his brother, Regulus. Everyone had been so very nice.
The months moved by quickly. He was more comfortable with Jeannette than he was with his friends at times. He had to be more and more careful that he didn’t slip when talking to them. They definitely wouldn’t understand the attitudes that had been given wing and ear by Miss Smith and her friends. And she was perfect. She understood when he had to work late for his mother, and often arrived with a basket filled with supper. She said nothing when he had to miss seeing her because of Order business. He had not yet told her about the Order, but only that he had business. She simply smiled and said she understood. On one occasion she had even offered him the use of her apartment to host a ‘boys’ night’ for his friends. She had been less than pleased that Moony was going to be there, but had said nothing openly. Peter understood. He had known Remus Lupin for several years, perhaps that was why he accepted him more easily. He kept Moony’s secret, though. Jeannette would definitely not understand his being friends with a werewolf.
One night, three months after that first date, he sat on her sofa before the fire. One arm was draped around her shoulders and she curled against his side. This was all the liberty he allowed himself. He’d take no more with her. She was what his mother called a nice girl. Boys didn’t take liberties with nice girls. They had just finished dinner and were enjoying the quiet when a knock sounded on the door. Jeannette opened it and welcomed Rodolphus Lestrange into the room. “Ah, Mr. Pettigrew, what a delight to see you.”
“Peter, please,” He stood and offered the tall dark man his hand. Lestrange took it warmly and firmly.
“I’m pleased to find you here. I was just coming to tell Miss Smith that an old friend wished to see her. An old friend who has been... avoiding the social scene for a while. I came to personally escort her, but I find her in no need of an escort.” The brilliant white flash of teeth shone in Peter’s direction and he felt himself growing warm.
Lestrange seemed to become thoughtful. “Perhaps it is not lost.” He looked at Jeannette and then at Peter. “I’m sure our friend would be thrilled to meet you as well, Peter. Come along. You must both come. I promise a great time for all.” The dark eyes fixed him with a knowing look, “You’ll find he shares certain opinions common to you and I, Peter. You shan’t have to censor yourself in his company.”
Hesitantly Peter agreed. Lestrange disapparated after whispering something to Jeannette. She had nodded and no expression had flickered on her face. She turned to Peter. “Do you mind if we go by Floo? I know apparating is easier, but my friend guards his privacy. This way we can arrive at the same time.”
A squelching feeling began in Peter’s stomach. He didn’t like the idea of going somewhere he didn’t know. It could be dangerous and Peter was not in favor of anything dangerous. He had always believed the better part of bravery was to avoid getting in situations that called for it in the first place. As if she sensed his hesitation, Jeannette stepped forward and took his hand. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want Peter. I’ll understand if you would rather go home than spend the evening with me.” Those dark brown eyes looked up at him. She rose up on tiptoe and placed a swift kiss on his mouth, then stepped away toward the fireplace. Peter followed.
She extinguished the fire and Peter stepped in. She stood in front of him and reached for his hand. Facing away from him she wrapped his arm tight around her. “Hold on, ok. I don’t want to lose you.” Peter slipped his other arm around her waist and felt her lean back into him. This was beyond nice. So very beyond nice. She dropped the hand of Floo powder and the roar drown out her words.
He stepped from the hearth into a dark stone room. From the chill and dampness in the air, he guessed they were far below ground. As soon as they cleared the hearth, he heard a voice behind him clearly say “Colloportus.” The hearth opening was replaced by a solid stone wall. Peter looked up at the man who had spoken the charm. Lestrange smiled at him.
“He really is a bit obsessive about his privacy,” her voice pulled his attention back to her. She seemed different somehow. She seemed to stand a bit taller, to be a bit more certain of herself.
They followed Lestrange through a door. It opened into a circular room. The floor of the room was marked with a large band filled with runes Peter really couldn’t make out. Four points along the circle were marked with large stars and several smaller ones spanned the spaces between them. Sitting in the center of this circle was a single chair. A larger one sat outside the circle and was occupied by a figure whose face was in shadow. He watched Lestrange approach the figure and kneel. He shadow man nodded and Lestrange took his place on one of the large stars. Realization began to fill him as the man spoke a charm to increase illumination in the room and his face came into focus.
Black hair shot through with grey cut to the collar. Black eyes watched him carefully. He knew this face. Dumbledore had made sure every member of the Order knew this face and could recognize it instantly. Lord Voldemort. He turned to Jeannette who stood at his side and was watching him. His eyes filled with his disbelief.
She took his hand and looked into his eyes, “No one here will hurt you, I promise. I’d never bring you somewhere you weren’t safe. Listen to him Peter. Just listen to him. They’re trying to make him into a monster, he’s not a monster. They’re afraid of his power. Just hear him out, Peter. He doesn’t think so very differently from you and I.”
Peter wanted to believe her, but he wasn’t stupid. This was Lord Voldemort. This man would hurt him if he didn’t get what he wanted. The only question why he was wanted here.
She led him to the chair in the center of the room and urged him to sit. He did, not because he wanted to sit, but because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. She then turned and walked to the seated figure and knelt. The smooth high voice spoke out for the first time. “Jeannette. I have missed your company. I hope my neglect has been worth it, but then I can see it just may have been.”
“I hope you will find it worthwhile, my Lord.” She rose and took a place in the circle on the star directly in front of Peter. Two more dark figures moved from the corners of the room. Both dark and both Lestrange’s.
The man rose and stepped into the circle. As he passed its boundary, the band of stars began to glow, illuminating the runes that were placed amongst them. The imposing figure came closer until the face was as clear to him as that of the woman he glanced at, wondering if he had been betrayed. “Mr. Pettigrew, I am pleased we have this chance to meet. I am Lord Voldemort, but then you already knew that, didn’t you?”
Peter nodded and the man smiled. “Clever boy, I knew you would be a clever boy.” He walked slowly in a circle around the chair. The hem of his robe brushed the stone floor and the patterns that marked that hem, as well as the cowl and cuffs, began to glow slightly. Silver, gold and what looked remarkably like someone had turned pearls into threads, stitched out the protection spells woven into the fabric.
“I’m told by those who I trust as much as one such as I can trust, that you are a young man of vision. That you are able to see beyond what the Ministry and Albus Dumbledore have been pouring down the throats of the wizarding world for years now. I am told you are one of those few, those brave, who are not afraid to speak what he knows to be truth.” The man had completed his circuit and came to stand before Peter again.
Peter said nothing. His mind was blank with panic. Did they know he was a member of the Order? If they did, what would they do to him? He stared unwillingly at the face before him as a bird stares at the cobra that rises up out of the grass in its path, spreading its hood before it strikes and mesmerizing its intended victim. Almost no coherent thought passed his brain except to wonder what torment lay in store for him. A soft tickling sensation began in the back of his head and he knew the man was sifting through his mind like a maid on laundry day, sorting the information he found there.
“Speak, my clever boy,” the man encouraged. “You are among friends.” He leaned in closer and fixed Peter with a piercing look, “Perhaps for the first time in a long time, you are truly among friends.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Peter mumbled.
“Come now boy, I’m not asking you to reveal the secrets of Dumbledore’s precious little army of fools. I know about them and can catalog his members easily. But I’m not interested in that. I am interested in you. In learning if there is still hope for the purebloods of our race or has Dumbledore managed to squeeze all pride in our heritage from the youth since he took control of that school. You are among the first to complete the full seven years under his watch. I know those who came up in my own house, Slytherin, have resisted him. But what of the others? Has he managed to squash out of you the dignity and pride that is your birthright?”
The man was very close now and Peter could see the way the pale skin almost seemed to glow in the torch light. “I am a pureblood,” Peter stammered. “I’m proud I am pureblood.”
“Of course you are. It is a pity that others of your circle are not as proud and do not value that in you which no amount of clamoring or conniving can strip from you. I have heard shameful tales of how purebloods have been treated.” The man was circling him again and paused behind his chair. Peter’s gaze shifted across the circle to watch the woman who had led him to this place. She smiled at him sweetly, but said nothing until the man spoke again, “Go on Jeannette, my dear.”
“Trust him, Peter. I told you, he’s not what they say. I hate the way they treat you. And them purebloods too. But they don’t respect that. Have they ever really?”
Peter could feel the breath of the pale man on his neck. “They’re my friends,” he murmured. But already he wasn’t so sure that these people were wrong.
“Your friends?” the voice asked so very close to his ear. “Are they your friends?” The man straightened and moved away from him slowly to stand before Rodolphus Lestrange. “Are they his friends?”
“No,” came the reply, “not in any way I recognized. We were at school too, Peter. How many times did Black and Potter make you the butt of the joke? How many fat jokes? How many slights to your intelligence? How many times did they demean you, eh Wormtail?”
The Dark Lord moved to the next figure in the circle. Peter turned in his chair to see her standing behind him. Bellatrix. She smiled at him, her eyes holding a power and sexuality that terrified him. “Poor Peter,” she began. “We all saw it, year after year. We saw them ridicule you. How many times were you called stupid or thick? How many times were you mocked just for being yourself? How often were you left behind in the library struggling with homework when they could so easily have helped you? But no, they were out running about, having fun without you. How many times were you left behind while they chose the company of that mealy-mouthed half blood, what was his name? The one Dumbledore chose to be a prefect?” She paused and raised an eyebrow, “Oh yes, Lupin.”
The Dark Lord moved on and Peter swiveled in his seat to face Rabastan Lestrange. “Come Pettigrew, the way they treated you like a lap dog to lick up their scraps, and you a pureblood. You had a right to their respect and to the admiration of others, but when did they ever do anything but diminish that admiration? How many times did they target you? Everything from the childish “kick me” sign on your back to transfiguring a squid into a book so that it spit ink in your face when you opened it. We saw it all happen, Pettigrew. We saw your ‘friends’ welcome and embrace the half bloods and mudbloods of the entire school, while ignoring you –at best. Even that annoying Evans, Gods someone should have shut that wretched creature up long ago. How many times did you watch Potter glorify her tiniest acts as if they were worthy of worship? Did your successes earn such praise?”
Peter’s mind flew unbidden to the day he had managed the Animagus transformation. Standing in the Shrieking Shack he had transformed before them all. Black had looked down at him and had started to laugh. “A rat. A rat. Oh Gods, Peter you’re a rat.” He had grabbed his side from laughing so hard. His breath gasped sharply as he literally rolled upon the dust covered floor barely able to choke out sound, but able to moan, “a rat,” over and over.
Potter had looked relieved and simply rolled his eyes exclaiming, “About damned time, Peter.”
“Look at the little wormy tail,” Sirius had choked. “Wormtail.” It stuck.
He had looked up at Moony, and been shocked by what he saw in the grey-blue eyes. He saw no pleasure at the transformation that had been undertaken at great risk and for his benefit, no appreciation for the skill learned. No, he saw pity. The half breed, half blood pitied him.
The Dark Lord was standing close again. “Do you see my boy. Yes, you do see now, don’t you?”
“They’ll always choose Lupin over you, Peter,” Jeannette said softly. “The day in the store, they would not change for your plans because it meant inconveniencing him.”
Peter wasn’t sure why this memory came to him then but it did and it hurt just as much as it had that day. James, standing in the front of the muggle church, Sirius and Remus by his side. Peter was in the pew. “Sorry, old man, but she’s only got one sister and then Alice to stand with her. Can’t have more boys than girls you know.”
The pain that had ached in him that day took hold again. It merged with the remembered anger and shame from the day in the Shrieking Shack. All of the “teasing” flooded to him now and it no longer seemed ok. It no longer seemed like something mates did. He scrambled to think of a time when they had teased Remus. Other than the nickname Moony, which he knew the boy had disliked, he could find none. Oh, there was the occasional ribbing about this girl or that girl liking Remus, talk that had sickened Peter. The boy was a werewolf, the idea of any decent girl… it was revolting.
But never could Peter remember being treated as anything but the tag along. He was less in their eyes than Lupin. He was less in their eyes than Evans. Hell, he had been less in their eyes than any number of people. The nagging thought that had plagued him as a boy came back. He was kept around as a pet, as an amusement.
But he had laughed as well. Fine, he may not have been the best or the brightest at schoolwork. Sure he was a short, fat, not too bright lump of a boy. But he was a boy who had been smart enough to attach himself to the coattails of the best and brightest. No one dared to pick on him while they were there. Only now the price he had paid for that protection didn’t seem as worth it as it once did.
He looked up into the eyes of the man before him. “I won’t help you hurt my friends.”
The ivory skinned face smiled at him. The smile did not reassure as much as it seemed to seal a bargain of some sort. A bargain Peter had not realized he had made until it was made. “But I don’t want you to hurt your friends, my boy. What I want you to do is protect them. Help me to protect all of our kind from the lies of those like Albus Dumbledore. Don’t you see it is he who made your friends what they are? It is he, with his open arm policy toward mudbloods that has warped them. Why he’s even turned young Black against his own family, his own mother. Who would turn a boy from his mother?
“We don’t want to hurt them, we simply want to make them see clearly is all.” One more time around the chair and the voice came from behind again. “At least I hope we will be able to make them see it. Let me assure you, my boy, I hurt no one who does not seek to hurt me, none of us does. But our duty to our fathers, our mothers, their fathers and mothers, our duty to our children,” he paused slightly and Peter felt the compulsion to look at Jeannette. She was blushing slightly and looking down at her hands. “We owe our race and the world an unblemished future.”
“Must the mudbloods be killed for that to happen?” Peter asked quietly, still watching her face.
“Of course not.” The man had moved to his side. His progression and pacing was making Peter dizzy. “We must simply act as the guardians of the gifts nature has given us. We must not allow them to be soiled and abused by those who do not understand their value or potential. It is for this I am called evil, Peter. But I ask you, would the muggle government of this country allow unlimited immigration of outsiders, of foreigners whose ways were markedly different? Would they then allow those foreigners to force their culture and their way of life down the very gullets of their own children? Would they allow them to destroy the very heritage and society that spawned them and the achievements in which they hold such pride?”
The Dark Lord’s voice was growing in volume and brimming with passion. “No, they would never permit it. Yet when those same muggles are given access to our world, they immediately expect us to do just that. To allow a bunch of dangerous children, and that’s what they are, my boy, children; allow them to destroy our world, our customs, our lives. We are expected to adapt to them while they refuse to assimilate to our society. How is that fair? How is this rapidly advancing destruction of who we are as wizards anything but a plot to destroy us all?”
An overwhelming desire to believe this man rose in him. His mind began to calculate and tally up the advantages of this situation. War was coming. How often had he heard them say it? He was a member of the Order and would be protected by them. But how well have they been able to protect anyone, lately? The question nagged at him. The death toll was rising. If these people though him sympathetic to their cause would that be an advantage? Of course it would. He’d be protected on both sides. They never told him anything important, nothing that it would hurt for these people to know. And in doing so he would be helping those like himself. And it would please her.
“What do you want of me?” Peter asked, his eyes narrowing as he watched the Dark Lord’s smile widen.
“Only that you be honest with us, Peter,” he said softly. “I ask only that you tell me what you know about the plans of Dumbledore’s little army. I realize it may not be highly secret information, I doubt Dumbledore trust a true pureblood like yourself. He’d much rather trust the half bloods and mudbloods, he has too much power with them. He has become a god to them, a benevolent being to dispense favor and wisdom. Tell us what they share with you, Peter. Information. I shall never ask you to dirty your hands. I shall never ask you to risk yourself. A friend does not ask that of a friend.”
What could it hurt? He wasn’t stupid, as gentle as this man sounded he was still Lord Voldemort. His life would be forfeit if he refused to play this game, but in truth was it a game he didn’t want to play? Was he agreeing out of fear? Cowardice? I’m a Gryffindor; I would never be a coward. What this man says makes sense, he told himself. He wouldn’t be asked to hurt anyone, just pass along some information. Hedge his bets. Either way someone would come out the winner in this, and who ever that was, Peter wanted to be on their side. More, he wanted to have played a role in the fight, then he would have more than their protection, he’d have their respect.
“They don’t tell me much,” Peter squeezed the words out past the dry lump in his throat. “But what they do I will pass on. I owe it to my family; past, present and future.”
Over a year passed. Jeannette’s friends, for he could not bring himself to call them what they were –Death Eaters, remained true to their word. He passed along meaningless information. What the Order imported, what his friends told him about their activities, scrambled bits and pieces of information passed to Lord Voldemort. The only time they had treated him harshly was when he had tried to withhold information. It was worthless, but he had not told them of an order of Singapore stinging nettle extract that had been ordered. The pain that event cause was nothing he wanted to remember.
Sweet Jeannette was a sweet as always, she had not been there and did not know about it. He had not told her. She sported a promise ring on her hand. Her family, she told him, believed in long engagements.
Late one night, Peter was summoned from his sleep by a popping noise. He looked up and his heart leapt at the figure standing in the room. He listened for almost an hour as Sirius laid out his argument. The Potters and their young son must go into hiding. Dumbledore had suggested a Fidelius Charm to protect their whereabouts. Now Sirius had come to him to ask the unthinkable.
“You have to do it, Wormtail.”
“Me?” Peter’s voice came out almost without sound, “Sirius why me?”
“Because I’m too obvious, mate. No one would ever suspect you. We’ll keep you safe. We have a safe house ready, no one will find you even if they do suspect you.” Sirius’ grey eyes searched his own for a long moment. “Please, Wormtail. We have to keep them safe. We all promised. Don’t tell me you’d break that promise too.”
Sirius shook his head, “Never mind, it’s not important.” He stood up. “We have to do this now, Peter.”
This is it, he thought, this is what they’ve been waiting for. Had they known this would happen all those months ago or had they too been hedging their bets? He stood up and dressed quickly.
“Oh and Wormtail,” Sirius said, his voice seeming to shake as he spoke. “You can’t tell anyone where they are, do you understand? No one. Not even Remus.”
“Why wouldn’t we tell Remus, Sirius?” Peter had paused in the midst of his fastening charm.
“Just don’t ok, I’ll explain it to you sometime, but the less people that know the better.”
He sat in the chair in the center of the circle. The runes glowed white and lit the face of the man across from him. The memory of the pain of the Cruciatus was fresh in his mind. He felt sorry for James, but no one was worth that pain. He would be sad to do this.
“So you have information for me, do you Peter?” A smirk curled the mouth.
“Yes Sir. I have information.”
“Wormtail!” The voice penetrated his mind as if the man who spoke it was standing beside him. He had awakened.
He ladled the solution into the bottle and affixed the rubber top, similar to that used to nurse a baby. He took a deep breath, steeling himself against the sight that would meet him, the smell and feel of the putrid half living being. There was no more hedging. Only one side accepted him now and that side had to win. He had to make sure they won. Pulling open the door he called up the stairs, “Coming Master. I am coming.”
Chapter 12: Molly Weasley
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Molly moved along the dining table, arranging the chairs around until she felt satisfied. But no matter what she did, it made no difference. Setting the table for a rather large number of people was an ordinary task that Molly was no beginner to. Her own family comprised of nine people, and during the holidays, Molly did the job every single day. She used to have such fun in the evenings, humming along as she did her cooking. Even when she was spending time at Grimmauld Place, she always looked forward to dinnertime. However, preparing for the first Order meeting after Sirius’ death just seemed strange.
The number of chairs rendered an uneasy feeling; it just didn’t feel right. She knew that there would be one more empty chair this time. Although Snape, Dumbledore and a couple of others weren’t attending this meeting (Dumbledore apparently would drop by later, long after dinnertime), there still should’ve been at least eleven people attending the meeting, if Sirius was alive.
If Sirius was alive…
With utmost frustration, Molly wrapped her fingers tightly around the side of the chair. Her fingers put so much pressure on the smooth wood surface, until her knuckles became white and her green veins were showing up. She pulled the chair out, and slumped into the seat. Clasping her hands together, she stared into the distance, trying to rid all the horrible feelings away. But wherever she looked, the whole house reminded her of Sirius. Guilt seemed to be eating her heart away, when she thought of how she used to disapprove of Sirius’s attitude.
All she ever did was argue with him. Perhaps if she had been more civil towards him, he would’ve found life at Headquarters more comfortable, and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have rushed off to save Harry. If she hadn’t restricted him so much, maybe he wouldn’t have died. Who was she to nag him when she herself hadn’t been able to fight directly against Voldemort’s army? Sirius, on the other hand, had died fighting against them. She had no right to have ever grumble or find faults with him…she had no right at all…
A soft thud echoed from the doorway and Mrs. Black began ranting away again…
“FOUL TRAITORS…CAUSED THE DEATH OF MY SON, THE ONLY BLACK LEFT…BET THEY’RE PLEASED NOW THAT THERE AREN’T ANY MORE PUREBLOOD BLACKS LEFT, SUCH TRAITORS…OH, HOW-“
The voice stopped in mid-sentence. Molly got up and headed across the kitchen, only to be greeted by Remus and Tonks.
“Sorry about that…I accidentally tripped over,” Tonks replied sheepishly.
“Don’t worry about it. The problem’s fixed, she’s quiet now,” said Molly, trying to keep a calm tone. Her voice came out strained and tense.
“Yes, but I’ve been trying to find a way to get rid of that portrait permanently. I have yet to find it. I’ll keep working on it though, I believe there must be a way…Merlin, I really can’t stand that woman anymore,” Remus said. At this point, he turned away, trying to avoid the gaze of Molly. His eyes were slightly moist, and he didn’t want anyone to notice it. But she saw through him; he wasn’t coping well with it either. Nobody was, especially Remus. Molly could remember how close Remus had been to Sirius…
“They’ll be arriving in an hour’s time. I’ll help you out with the dinner preparations, if you haven’t finished it,” said Tonks.
“That’s alright. I’ll manage. Just feel free to arrange the table a bit…I don’t think I did a very good job with that,” Molly’s voice quavered.
Dinner still had to be made. They still needed to eat, no matter how hard Molly found cooking a simple meal was. She had to be strong, for her family and for the Light side.
She began muttering the appropriate spells, and as she did so, her eyes travelled across the room, to where Tonks was.
Tonks hair was a short black bob, and her outfit was a dull green. Usually, Tonks would spread contagious warmth when people was around her; her jolly, happy-go-lucky attitude never failed to put a smile on people’s faces. Her usual pink hairdo was also noticeable absent. Molly observed that Tonks didn’t have an enthusiastic stance that day.
Taken aback, Molly jumped out of her skin, and whirled round. Remus was examining the kettle on the stove. He lifted it up, and Molly cried out when she saw that its bottom was as black as charcoal.
She gasped. “Oh, no! I don’t know how I managed to forget to fill it with water. I was—”
“Don’t worry about it. Just…just be careful next time. Would you like any help here? Maybe you should take a rest. You look tired, Molly,” Remus said, his eyes full with worry.
“Listen to him. Have a rest; I’ll take care of dinner.” It seemed that Tonks had heard Lupin’s shout, for she was just standing behind Molly. Molly was in such a trance that she probably wouldn’t have noticed if Hagrid suddenly appeared beside her…let alone someone of small stature like Tonks.
“But-” Molly started to protest.
“No buts, Molly. Don’t overwork yourself. I’ll help Tonks, just in case. So don’t worry, okay? And we’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
Sighing with defeat, Molly nodded, took off her apron, and walked to the living room. She didn’t have Moody’s swivelling glass eye, but she could sense that Lupin and Tonks’ eyes were on her. She could feel them boring a hole right through the back of her head.
She rested her head back against the couch, and shut her eyes. She could hear a few pots and pans clanging about in the kitchen, but apart from that, the atmosphere was still and silent. But although her eyes were closed and in a relaxed state, the lines on her forehead were etched clearly—they were the wrinkles and worries that developed over the years, and very soon, it would increase, and form even deeper creases.
Molly was slowly slipping into a state of unconsciousness…
A little black dog is running around Harry, dancing on two legs. It looks so contented to finally be free…yet, she stares at the dog, with a disapproving look on her face…
The scene changes, and a younger version of herself now stands in the lounge of her house…
“But I want to fight too. I don’t see why I can’t! I’m already of age, I just graduated last week! Why can’t I fight with you?” she says, her arms in a fold and her mouth in the form of a frown.
“You’re still too young to fight, Molly. We’re at least older than you by a year…and even though you’ve left school, the Order is very dangerous. Mum didn’t want you to join it, for very good reasons. Now, we’re going to fight…and we’re not afraid to tell you, even we’re scared of what might happen. Just…take care of Mum and Dad, okay? Hopefully…we’ll be able to come back soon…” Fabian leaves his sentence hanging.
“He’s right. None of us want anything to happen to you…and Mum’s health hasn’t been too good all the while, so we need you to take care of her,” adds Gideon Prewett.
“Now, now, what are you all arguing about? Molly, can’t you let your brothers go off without another quarrel?” says Henry Prewett, as he walks up and puts his hands on his daughter’s shoulders.
“I know I should take care of Mum, but I want to fight too! I should’ve joined the Order!”
“Now, Arthur didn’t join though, did he?” replies Henry.
“We have to go now, Molly. We may be back to see you get married…”says Fabian, with a slight grin on his face.
With that, her brothers Disapparate, and Molly is left with a huge amount of worry and fear in her heart. She had heard a lot about Voldemort and his Death Eaters, yet she isn’t allowed to join the Order of the Phoenix. She fears for her brothers’ safety, but all that she can do is to hope…
Two days later, she meets her brothers again, only this time, they are unable to speak to her in their usual cheerful brotherly tones. In fact, they can’t speak at all.
Two corpses lie in front of her. She is told that they died as heroes, that they fought bravely against the merciless Death Eaters. Five Death Eaters were needed to kill them. Her brothers had always been courageous people, and they would forever be remembered for their heroic deeds. They died protecting the Light side.
But when Molly stares at the pale face of Fabian and the gashes on Gideon’s cheek, with the dry flakes of blood staining his face, she can’t stop the tears from running down her face. She vows to join the Order, so that she can avenge her brothers’ deaths. She would take revenge, she would fight against the Death Eaters and Voldemort. She clutches Fabian’s tattered robes and sobs into it, soaking it with her tears.
This is the last time she would ever see them again…
In a flash, the images of Fabian and Gideon are gone, and Molly finds herself staring at her son, Ron, on the floor. Ron is sprawled on the carpet, and the moonlight streaming in from the windows illuminates his face, illustrating the fact that he is clearly dead. As she sobs, Harry rushes into the room—
Molly jerked awake in fright. She could feel the cold sweat trickling down her face. The crash of the plate in the kitchen echoed throughout the house, and rang loudly in her mind. But another voice suddenly pierced through the echo…
“DAMNED BRATS! AS IF THEY AREN’T CONTAMINATING THIS PLACE ENOUGH, THEY MAKE A WHOLE LOAD OF RACKET! THIS ISN’T THEIR HOUSE IN THE FIRST PLACE, THEY DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE HERE, FILTHY TRAITORS! SOMEONE CAN’T EVEN HAVE PEACE IN HERE—”
A minute later, Remus entered the living room, with a look of concern on his face.
“So you are awake…I was hoping that you wouldn’t be. But I suppose that her shouting is a bit too much, isn’t it? I have to find the solution as soon as possible,’ he paused. ‘I’m sorry that you didn’t have a good rest. Do you want to perhaps nap a bit longer? The others have actually arrived and dinner will be ready in a few minutes, but you can—”
“No, it’s fine. I’ll help Tonks out, she’s not doing too well, is she?”
Remus managed a little smile, which seemed to light up his face, making him seem less weary. It wasn’t often that he smiled.
“I guess we all have to learn culinary and kitchen skills from you. We’re not too skilled at it as of now. Handling plates seems to be a tough job.”
“I’ll be happy to be of assistance. The others are probably very hungry by now, I don’t want them to starve,” Molly said, as she followed Lupin out.
But her mind was still disturbed by the memories of Sirius and her brothers, and the visions of her sons. It seemed as if Voldemort was keen to upset her whole life. Yet, she didn’t even dare speak his name. How ridiculous! She had once thought of killing him and his minions, but she now shivered whenever she heard the name. Well, at least she was in the Order now.
Everyone was already seated at the table; Moody, Kingsley, Charlie, Arthur, McGonagall and Mundungus. Tonks and Bill were helping to serve the food.
Arthur was having a discussion with Charlie and Kingsley, McGonagall was speaking in a low voice with Moody while casting disapproving glares at Mundungus, who seemed to have dozed off. Something was bulging under his cloak. Molly suddenly remembered how she used to dislike Sirius and Mundungus, and constantly bickered with them.
She wouldn’t let history repeat. Whether Mundungus was odd or a crook, or just plain dodgy, she wouldn’t treat him like she did before. Who knows, something might happen to him anytime, and she would regret if she hadn’t been nicer towards him. So, she refrained from commenting on Mundungus, no matter how strong the temptation was.
Tonks and Bill slid into two seats opposite Arthur and Charlie. Remus quickly ushered Molly into the empty seat beside Arthur, and whispered to him, ‘She seems very tired, and just had a short nap. Keep an eye on her.’
Suddenly, Fred and George Apparated right at the bottom of the stairs.
“We know, we know. We’re not allowed at this meeting, right? But we came down only to get food. We’re hungry, you know,” said Fred.
“But we don’t mind if you’re too busy to get us food. We can just help ourselves while you guys discuss your stuff. We don’t mind at all,” added George, with a cheeky smirk on his face.
“You know that you’re not allowed, boys. Your mother has had a tiring day. Please don’t put any more pressure on her,” Arthur piped up.
“Fine! We said we’re only here to get food, didn’t we?” they argued back.
“I’ll get the food…but don’t you even dare try to use any Extendable Ears or any of your strange devices to listen in. You will only be of age next year,” Molly said, her stern motherly voice back in play.
Once the twins Disapparated, Molly’s strong demeanour diminished.
“Do you think that I’m…I’m too harsh with them?” she turned to Arthur.
“No, Molly. Don’t worry yourself too much. Like you said, they’re not of age yet. It’s for their good,” Arthur replied.
“But-what if…what if something h-happened…and their last image of me is a bossy mother scolding them every minute? What if-”
“Listen to Arthur. They will be fine, and they know that what you’re doing is only because you care about them. Calm down, Molly,’ Remus said, ‘Maybe you should take another rest. Arthur, -”
“No, no, I’m fine. Just silly old me again. Sorry for causing such a fuss, I shouldn’t be like this. Sorry…now let’s continue on with dinner, shall we?” Molly picked up her fork and knife, and everybody else followed her lead.
Molly tried munching a cabbage leaf, but it tasted and felt like cardboard in her mouth. She quickly swallowed it and she felt it collide with the lump in her throat; the lump of guilt that had formed itself there ever since Sirius’s death. She choked, and Arthur hurriedly dropped his utensils to check what was wrong with her.
Her eyes were watery, but whether it was due to choking on the food, or whether it was because of her inner emotions, Arthur couldn’t tell. Molly drank a sip of water, but the lump was still there, refusing to budge.
Arthur looked anxiously at his wife and suggested that she take a rest, but she wouldn’t listen. Throughout the course of dinner, Molly managed to chew and swallow a little bit of food, but barely tasted anything at all.
The whole table was quiet, with the exception of the clinking and clanking of knives on plates. Suddenly, a voice broke the silence.
“These roast potatoes are bloody tasteless!” complained Mundungus.
Everyone along the table stared at him. He continued, “What? Can’t you taste it?”
McGonagall cleared her throat. “If we can eat it, so can you. We think it’s perfectly fine. For goodness sake, don’t be so picky, Mundungus. If you think you can do a better job than Molly, go and cook then. She has had a hard day already.”
A voice piped up from the other side of the table, “Um, actually, it was me who cooked the potatoes. Molly was taking a nap just now. And, uh, it’s my first time cooking an actual dish, so…well, sorry.”
Mundungus glanced at the embarrassed Tonks, and because everybody else was glaring at him, he said, “Don’t worry then. I was just wondering…it’s, er, not too bad for a first-timer.”
The remainder of dinner passed uneventfully, and although a couple of the dishes had quite a flat taste, nobody made any comments. They knew they were lucky enough just to be able to have another dinner; Sirius didn’t even have that chance.
Fred and George are lying on the floor, both motionless. Their mouths are wide open in shock, and blood is trickling down the sides of their faces, and onto their shiny dragonskin jackets.
“NO! NO! IT CAN’T BE, NOT FRED AND GEORGE!” Molly screams.
Molly awoke and sat up with a start. Once again, there was sweat around her forehead. She buried her face in her hands, while quietly weeping.
“What’s the matter, dear?” Arthur placed an arm around Molly’s shoulders, trying to hush and calm her down.
“Oh, sorry, did I wake you? I-I just had a bad dream, that’s all. It’s nothing, really, don’t worry.” But her sobs and cracking voice was enough to let Arthur know that she was not alright. The strong barrier that she always tried to put up in front of everyone was utterly gone, and what was left was the real, emotional, tired Molly. The years of age, the years she had spent raising all her children, was showing through.
“You’ll think me silly, dreaming about such ridiculous things. I…I dreamt of seeing our children all dead; Arthur, I didn’t tell you this last year, but I-I couldn’t even get rid of a Boggart because it kept changing into these images of deaths. Remus had to rid it in the end. And now…after Sirius is gone…I’m starting to have dreams of Gideon and Fabian, and of our children once again…I’m afraid that they’re going to die, like Gideon and Fabian…I’m really—”
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier? But don’t worry, dear, nothing will happen to our children. We’ll all be fine. Remus said the Order is much more prepared now. Don’t be so hard on yourself…”
“But if they fight against Voldemort, I’m really scared that those images will become real…”
“Hush, now, I said don’t worry. Don’t be silly, nothing of the sort will happen. You’re just scaring yourself…now go to sleep and stop thinking about it.”
Molly leaned on her husband’s shoulders, feeling thankful that she had something to rest on. But she could feel him shaking as well, and she knew she had just added more worries for him. She was well aware that he was thinking along the same lines as her, worrying about their children…worrying about what this second war would do, what Voldemort would do.
But she had to be strong, to be strong for her children.
The good deal of tears she had shed, and sharing her thoughts with Arthur, had managed to give her a soothing feeling…and soon, she fell asleep.
For the first time in a few weeks, she slept soundly.
Chapter 13: Remus Lupin
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“Are you sure you’ll be okay here by yourself, Remus?” Tonks asked, giving him a worried look.
I groggily lifted my head to meet her face. Her features were etched with concern, and perhaps something more, but my mind wouldn’t let me think about that right now. “I-I’ll be fine,” I managed, hoping against hope she wouldn’t press the matter further.
She nodded her head solemnly. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” She turned on her heal and slowly shut the door behind her. I stared hard at the place she just was, and then the sound of a soft pop was what tore away my gaze.
I slowly allowed my feet to carry me to the kitchen. Stopping, all I could allow myself to do was stare at the opposite wall. I watched as the flame light caused shadows to dance idly against the wall.
I didn’t want to remove my gaze from the idle flickering of light, but off to the side, I saw one of the shadows stirring more than what was reasonably possible. Turning slightly, I realized I wasn’t alone in the barren kitchen.
Kreacher’s eyes met mine, and he immediately looked away. “Mistress would not be pleased to have filthy half-breeds in her house.”
I clenched my fists at my side and retreated to the dining room. Now was not the time to lose it. I leaned up against the wall adjacent to the dining room. Shutting my eyes, I took a deep breath. Sirius’ face filled my mind. Sirius…you can’t be gone too, I thought. I knew that night we went to the Department of Mysteries, that something bad could happen, but nothing prepared me for this. Seeing you fall…the Veil opening up receiving the last true friend I ever had…it took all my restraint from not wanting to beat Harry to save you.
I ran my fingers over my eyes and back towards my temples. Oh God Sirius!
“- the piece of filth looks sad,” muttered Kreacher loudly, as he entered the sitting room. “Mistress’ son is no where seen. That means blood traitor didn’t return. Mistress will be most pleased.”
In an instant, I was out of my chair and glowering over the house elf. Kreacher didn’t even seem to notice me as he continued to mutter obscenities about Sirius. How dare he!
“Don’t ever speak of Sirius like that,” I said with icy calm, “Ever!”
The elf’s cold eyes ventured to look up at me. “He talks to Kreacher as if Kreacher would listen to him.” He averted his eyes and walked past me as if I wasn’t even there.
My grip on my wand instinctively tightened. I was so tempted to hex that thing into the next room. Better yet strangle him with my bare hands. A snarl escaped my lips as I glared daggers at the retreating elf.
Grimacing, I remembered myself and placed my wand back into the folds of my robes. I scanned the gloomy room and sighed deeply. There were too many memories of Sirius in this house. Catching another glimpse of Kreacher was all it took to convince me that I needed to get out of here.
I approached the front door, reaching my hand for the knob. I turned it slowly and closed it quickly behind me. The sun greeted me as I stepped out, but its light brought little cheer to the dismal House of Black.
I took a cautious step onto the sidewalk. Taking one step at a time, I pushed all surfaced emotions down the best I could. It would not do well to entertain them with the other presence consistent to my other nature. As I walked, I scanned the other houses briefly. On the chance that I actually made eye contact with one of the muggles on the street, I looked away quickly, not trusting myself to speak.
After ten minutes of walking and finding myself no closer to collecting my own thoughts, I stopped to ponder where I could go. I had no particular destination, and no place to go. There’s always Grimmuald, a voice inside my head reminded me. But that’s where I want to be away from, I reasoned with myself.
I shivered involuntarily as I realized I truly had nothing else, no one else. Voldemort took them all from me. James. Lily. And now Sirius. There’s always Harry.
Voldemort had taken them away from him too. You’re a werewolf Moony. What makes
you think you can protect him from the same fate?
“No!” I uttered aloud, stopping abruptly. I felt I had to do something, anything. I became so lost in that moment, that I didn’t realize when a young muggle boy accidentally bumped into me.
“I’m so sorry,” said a woman, who was hurrying towards me.
“Sorry,” mumbled the young lad.
Then, she saw me for the first real time, and her hand automatically tightened on her son’s shoulder. “Yes, well…we must be off,” she said abruptly and ushered her and her son in the opposite direction.
Surprisingly enough, I felt nothing, which was unnerving since earlier I had to force my inner wolf into submission. I am no stranger to someone shivering, gasping, or even turning pale when they encountered me because of what I was, but I was not used to this sort of reaction in the muggle world.
I must look really awful. I felt like howling in frustration. Sometimes, I just wished I was an ignorant muggle with no knowledge of the wizarding world, but at moments like this, it seems I wouldn’t be seen even differently. Suddenly, the weather outside seemed a lot less bright as the wind blew my hair against my face. I didn’t even bother setting it back in place. My curse seemed to hover over me like a heavy cloud. Instinctively, I reached up to pull my shabby jacket tighter against myself only to realize that I left before grabbing it.
Swearing ineffectually, I turned around and headed back in the direction of Grimmuald. Eventually walking into a throng of muggles was not a good idea at the moment.
Off in the distance, I saw the same woman who hurried away from me moments ago. She had her back towards me, and a man that accompanied her now had his arm draped around her shoulder. The young boy was playing with something on the ground a few feet in front of them. You’ll never have anything like that.
He sighed, and then chided himself. Stop pitying yourself. It won’t bring any of them back. He hated feeling helpless and so utterly alone. I am not unfamiliar with loneliness, but the fresh grief of Sirius death affected me greatly. If I gave into my despair, I’m not sure I would come out of it this time. It was then that I realized I needed to be completely alone in the place where I lost saw Sirius before that night even if it meant confronting my own demons at the moment. It was better than the alternative.
Immediately, I quickened my pace and hurried back to the house. I slowed as I reached where the door should appear. Concentrating on its location, the house of Black materialized in front of me. I pushed open the door and heard the door click behind me. Dead silence greeted me.
Throwing my head back in surrender, I let out a shout of pent-up anger and depression. No one could hear me, except maybe Kreacher, but that didn’t matter. I hurried up the stairs and through the hall. For a brief moment, I actually thought fate might be on my side just this once since Mrs. Black’s screams didn’t resound off the walls as I clambered up the flights up the stairs. I passed the rooms given to various Order members and headed straight towards the room Sirius used.
I stood in the dank hallway outside the door, leading to his room at the top of the house. A bitter laugh escaped me. He always did like being higher than anyone else.
Raising his hand, he slowly turned the dusty handle. The door creaked open revealing a dimly lit room. The light came from a solitary candle that sat on a desk adjacent to his bed. The magically lit candle had waned down to a mere stub. It’s probably been like that since we went to the Department of Mysteries.
I walked across the room and hovered over the desk. I immediately recognized the familiar scrawl of Sirius on a piece of parchment that was addressed to Harry. My heart constricted within me. He had been writing this letter to Harry, a letter he would never finish. I closed my eyes as another wave of grief passed over me.
After a few minutes, I sank into the chair in front of the desk. I inhaled deeply and could still pick up the scent of Padfoot in the musty room. My eyes reopened and stared listlessly at the desk. A feathered quill was thrown aside and the inkwell was knocked over and its contents had already bled onto the desk, including soaking into part of the letter that Sirius never finished. Harry.
I wanted to go to him, but there was nothing I could do. Umbridge had seen to that. And Dumbledore.
He told me to remain here until Harry finished the end of term. Exhaustion started to settle in, but too many memories drifted in and out of my mind to allow me to sleep. I continued to stare at nothing until my eyes began to cloud over, and I couldn’t see anything else. It all happened so fast. The floo call from Serverus. The Order. The attack. I remember hearing Sirius gloating his attacker, but I was too focused on my own duel to pay attention. Then I heard Harry’s cry. I stopped my own duel and watched as the Veil opened. Sirius! In so brief a moment, he was gone.
There was a soft knock on the door that my mind didn’t register. I had to stop Harry from going after him. Harry. He’s the reason we even went to the Department of Mysteries. No! It’s not his fault. He was just like Sirius, always dove into something to save some one else…so much like his father…Sirius did the same thing. Damn it, why couldn’t he just let us killed Peter!
I didn’t move when I heard my name called even though I recognized the voice. My body tensed when she crossed the room.
“Remus?” asked the tentative voice once more. “You shouldn’t be alone,” she added, her voice full of pity. Or was it compassion.
“But I am,” I responded automatically.
“Don’t do this,” she pleaded.
“I want to be alone,” I said in a tired voice.
“But you don’t need to be alone,” she pressed, moving to stand in front of me.
I didn’t raise my gaze to meet hers. “I doubt very much you know what I do and do not need.” I know I was sounding cold, but at the time, I did not care. I just wanted to be alone. Why couldn’t she just leave me be?
“I want you to listen to me,” Tonks said firmly. “Sirius wouldn’t want to see you like this.”
“He’s not here to tell me that, and he never again will be,” I responded evenly. I wanted to say something else to stress my point, but all that came out was “He’s gone.”
Tonks gave a pain sighed. “But you’re still here. You survived. You’ve got to continue to live or he’s won.”
“Voldemort has already one. He’s taken everyone from me. Everyone!” I gritted out, feeling thoroughly aggravated.
“You’re not the only one he’s taken people from,” Tonks blurted. Her voice sounded tired and weary.
“What would you have me do?” I say more bitterly than I mean.
She regards me with a slight frown. “For starters, you should take better care of yourself,” she says calmly. “Look at you.”
“I’ll manage,” I shifted slightly in my seat, becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this conversation.
“That’s all you do,” she pointed out. “There’s more to life than that.”
“I just lost my best friend, and as you so graciously pointed out, I survived. I don’t need another speech on the importance of life.” My hand fell to my side; my reflection a study of masked pain.
She shrugged, giving me a look of disgust. “Suit yourself.”
Her sudden change in demeanor made me feel as if I needed to explain myself to her. "Tonks," I pleaded, "you've got to understand ..."
"Understand what?" she snapped, getting angry now. "You think his death didn’t effect others? Didn’t affect me?”
“It’s different,” I said, pulling back unsteadily. Why couldn’t she understand that?
“Why? Because of your condition?” she retorted.
I cringed inwardly but wasn’t about to let her know that. “No,” I rasped. “Because Sir- because we were more than just friends.”
Obviously, that wasn’t the comment she was expecting. A cloud past over her features, but it disappeared so quickly I might have imagined it. Her features softened slightly as she tried to reach out to me. “I’m sorry,” she said sincerely. “I know he was your family.”
I pulled both hands through my hair. “He was all I had left,” I admitted, slumping my shoulders against the chair I was sitting in. I hated myself for showing such weakness. At that very moment, I wanted nothing more than to flee from the room, but I had to maintain a since of composure. Besides, I knew it was futile to attempt when I heard the charm she used on the door after she entered this room. Damn the Auror training for teaching them to bewitch door bolts.
Tonks reached out for me again a few moments later and laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. “You are not alone,” she told me, squeezing my shoulder.
I wanted to object, but I was currently at a loss for what to say. She dropped down in front of me and locked her eyes to mine. Both her eyes reflected bright with unshed tears.
“I don’t know what it will take for you to believe me, but I mean it.”
“I can’t lose Harry too,” I said barely in a whisper.
“Harry is safe at Hogwarts,” mentioned Tonks, looking bewildered.
“He just lost his Godfather…Sirius loved him as much as James did, if not more.”
"And you're mentioning this because ...?" asked Tonks.
“Because he’s all I have left,” I said, my voice breaking.
“Meaning?” pressed Tonks, looking at me quizzically.
"I mean he’s not something I can give up," I said, putting my face in my hands. “If I lost him, I don’t know what I’ll do…”
“You’ll survive…” Tonks said simply.
“Like I always do,” I muttered.
“And always will,” whispered Tonks, pulling me into a hug.
Tonks’ words rung true. “I was wrong,” I admitted, sinking into her embrace. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, wrapping my arms around her in return.
She held me tighter in response, and I felt my body convulse in a mixture of pain and relief and a quelling of the turbulence in his mind. In that moment, I finally felt a flicker of hope. Maybe there was something more than just surviving after all.
Chapter 14: Sirius Black
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The Broken Road
It seems I’ve found the road to nowhere
And I’m trying to escape
I am back when I heard thunder
But I’m down to one last breath
And with it let me say
Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge…
Sirius’ cloak billowed behind him as he rushed to the lavatory of his small flat. Without thinking, he thrust his hands into the wash basin, soaking his woollen cloak up to the elbows. The shock of the icy water made his body recoil.
Grabbing the stiff brush normally used by the housekeeper to scrub the tub, Sirius began scouring his hands. Desperate to remove the crimson blood stains, Sirius rubbed so feverishly he didn’t realize when blood from his own hands began to mingle with the other.
A gasp of pain made the brush slip to the floor, and Sirius gripped the sink tightly to keep from falling over. His eyes, bleary from exhaustion and grief, focused on the red tinged water in the basin. His violent scrubbing had caused the water to splash everywhere, and as the water in the basin tried to settle, small gentle ripples broke the surface. The movements caused Sirius’ stomach to lurch and he dropped to his knees and vomited.
“Sirius, my friend.”
“Go away, James.” Sirius coughed weakly as he spoke, trying to keep from vomiting again. He sat very still for a moment then, as the nausea subsided, he leaned his back against the wall.
“Here.” James offered Sirius a towel, the smell of vomit and fresh blood making the room intolerable. James lifted his wand to clean the scene, but Sirius shook his head.
“No. Not that way.” Sirius struggled to stand, allowing James to help him into the other room. “What are you doing here?”
“Dumbledore told me the news.” James explained quietly. “I assume Regulus is dead, then?”
Sirius nodded, unwilling to say the words just yet. It seemed impossible. Mere hours ago they were together, side by side, detailing a plan to get him out of Voldemort’s circle. The plan had been foolproof, or so they thought.
“Remus was right. I’m a self-centered egotist that believes he knows more than anybody.”
“You forgot the saving the world, determined to be a hero trait as well.” James said it lightly, but then quickly realized how it stung Sirius. “I’m sorry. You know I open my mouth without thinking.”
“He didn’t deserve this.”
“He was a supporter of Voldemort!” James tried to keep his voice calm, but couldn’t manage.
“I know you have no sympathy for him.” Sirius mumbled. “But he was my brother.”
“He turned on you, Sirius.”
“Not in the end.” Sirius’ voice softened as pictures of his brother danced across his mind: dark hair, just like his own; eyes, in just a tad different shade of grey; the identical smiles that, as children, could only mean mischief was about to ensue.
The mirror images had changed as they got older, as life hardened each of them in their own unique ways. Even as adults, though, Sirius could still see himself in his brother. A rebel Regulus was not. But Regulus’ loyalty to the Black family name had caused him as much grief as Sirius received for denouncing it. Sirius couldn’t help but think that he would end up with the same fate as his brother. “Imagine it was me, James.”
Sirius didn’t look up, didn’t seek to make any connection with James at all. One day James would understand. One day James would face the unthinkable and realize that one’s biggest regret was wasted time. Sirius briefly wondered what James might regret as time wasted, but the gold glint of James’ wedding ring quickly reminded him. Years of fighting and arguing with Lily, Sirius imagined. Time they could have spent holding each other close and relishing each moment.
“He was telling the truth, then?” James asked softly, moving to sit across from Sirius. “Regulus really did want to leave Voldemort?”
“It wasn’t a trap, if that’s what you mean.”
“I’m not trying to pick a fight, Sirius. I’m trying to help.” James took hold of Sirius’ arm and squeezed it tightly. “I’m trying to be a friend, if you’d just let me.”
“I know.” Sirius nodded, but still didn’t feel ready to talk about Regulus with James. He knew James wouldn’t require him to defend Regulus’ past actions, but Sirius seemed to always feel compelled to do so when they discussed him. It seemed a rather pointless argument now that Regulus was dead and Sirius, still numb from his death, didn’t have the strength to enter such a senseless discussion. Sirius could feel James watching him, ready to support him however needed, but Sirius still couldn’t meet his gaze. “Where are Remus and Peter?”
“With Lily.” James sat back into the chair letting Sirius have the space he seemed to need.
“Is she still ill?”
“It gets better as the day goes on.” James said quietly.
“She’s with child, then?” Sirius said the words slowly, as if hoping they weren’t true. How could such a wonderful thing happen to James and Lily during a time like this? Sirius tried to imagine the thoughts and fears that must be plaguing James, but couldn’t. He envisioned James walking with a child, a boy perhaps, introducing him to people as they walked through the streets of Hogsmeade. The serene picture made Sirius smile, but his happiness soon dissolved as images of Voldemort slithered into his mind and shattered the peaceful scene. An icy chill consumed him and Sirius tightened his grip on the chair in hopes that James wouldn’t notice his unease.
“We suspect so.” James nodded. “She keeps saying it’s never the wrong time to have a child.”
“I think perhaps waiting might have been a wiser choice.”
“Waiting for what?” Sirius gave a sarcastic laugh. “Voldemort to be destroyed? You are a dreamer, James. You always have been.”
“You don’t think he can be destroyed?”
“You didn’t see him tonight. The power that he possesses….it’s not like any evil I’ve ever seen.” Sirius’ voice was a whisper, but before James could question him further, Sirius stood up. “Would you mind fixing some tea? I need to get a shower before patrols.”
“Patrols? Sirius…” James started to object, to tell him that going out so soon after his brother was slain was crazy, but for once remembered to think before opening his mouth. Sirius, after all, was never one to sit idly by when someone was in trouble. Regulus’ death would only have increased his commitment to save the world. “Of course.”
“Congratulations, James.” Sirius clapped his hand on James’ shoulder as he passed by. His own distraught emotions prevented him from digging any deeper into James’ current situation, but he managed to add a quick, “I know you’ll make a fine father.”
“Yeah?” In spite of the circumstances, James couldn’t help but give him a sheepish grin.
“Let’s just hope Lily’s up to the task of raising you and another kid at the same time.” Sirius gave him the most reassuring wink he could manage then he moved to the lavatory to get cleaned up.
The sight of the room caught him off guard… the talk of James and Lily’s child having temporarily removed him from the previous events of the evening. His eyes roamed the tiny room, trying to recall why he’d refused to let James clean the room with magic. “Scourgify,” he whispered and the room returned to its normal tidiness. Vaguely, Sirius wondered if there was a spell that could do the same cleaning to a man’s soul. Whether it was his or Voldemort’s that need it most right now, Sirius couldn’t tell.
Sliding out of his tattered and blood stained cloak, Sirius turned on the steaming water. As warmth from the shower filled the tiny room, Sirius stripped off his clothes and slipped under the spray. The streams of water slid down his body, making his rigid, tension filled muscles relax. The rhythmic sound of the droplets hitting the smooth stone floor lulled him into semi-consciousness and Sirius leaned into the wall for support as the images of the night came flooding back.
They ran across his mind quickly like something from a Muggle moving picture show. Sirius forced himself to slow the images, lingering on each one in turn. They were the last moments of time he was able to share with his brother. Moments, no matter how tragic, that Sirius was determined to savor and treasure for the rest of his life. The two of them walking side by side, knowing Voldemort was watching somewhere nearby. Their path had been carefully planned, the broken road with its crushed pebbles providing them advance warning of any unwanted companions. Each crunch of their footsteps unnerved Sirius more as they awaited the inevitable. They knew that by walking with Sirius, Regulus’ loyalty would be obvious and Voldemort would have to react. They were laughing, carrying on as if it were any other day… two brothers merely out for a stroll in the evening air. It had been years since Sirius had felt so connected to his brother and they had memories to catch up and tales of adventures to share.
Lucius Malfoy had appeared first. Just behind them. They both could feel his singular presence, but by the time they turned around a dozen Death Eaters had joined him. None had their wands drawn, so confident were they in their ability to take the two Black brothers. As the crowd parted, Voldemort stepped through and, with sudden apprehension that his confidence hadn’t allowed him to expect, Sirius felt compelled to step between the two.
“Protecting your traitorous brother, I see.” Voldemort hissed. “At least someone finds him worthy.”
“I’ve made my decision.” Regulus’ voice was stronger that Sirius ever imagined possible.
“So I see.”
Sirius could feel himself crash to the ground but was unable to stop it from happening. He struggled to stand, to draw his wand, to do anything that might break the hold Voldemort had on him, but Voldemort’s strength was beyond anything Sirius had prepared himself for.
“Is Sirius as loyal to you as I was?” Voldemort’s eyes bore into Sirius. “Shall we find out?”
A surge of pain wracked Sirius’ body and he fought to withhold the screams that were welling inside him. Sirius’ mind whirled under the curse, shards of a broken and half-lived life flickering before his eyes.
“No. I suppose your mother and father might not be too happy if I killed their precious Sirius. Muggle lover or not.”
“We have brought others, my Lord.” A small voice from the back that Sirius’ vaguely recognized but couldn’t place spoke up. “Several, in fact.”
“Bring them to me.”
Sirius struggled to see the people that paraded before him, bound by sometime type of curse. They walked as if in a daze, their bodies moving in unison toward Regulus. Sirius didn’t recognize any of them - women, men, a single child – seven in total and, from the terror stricken look on Regulus’ face, all were apparently his friends.
“No.” Regulus whispered softly as they reached him.
“You will learn what it is like to have your heart torn out by those you thought were loyal. They will beg for my mercy, Regulus. They will beg for me to take you instead.”
Sirius braced himself for the horrific sounds he had come to expect from Voldemort’s victims. The sounds that would summon Dumbledore and other members of the Order, and bring the safety Sirius and his brother were depending on.
But whatever curse Voldemort had used to bind them had kept them silent as well. The stillness hid the terrifying events that were taking place before Sirius’ eyes and even a person, a few paces away, would never have know such horrible events were taking place within their reach. Only their distorted faces and writhing bodies gave indications to the excruciating pain they were experiencing. Voldemort was playing with them… allowing the Death Eaters to inflict whatever pain they chose on each person. Sirius watched for mere moments before the agony of bearing witness to the demented torture was too much. Only the boy had escaped Voldemort’s wrath at this point and he stood nearby, his eyes frozen with fear for his impending fate. Tears rolled silently down the boy’s cheeks, but still no sounds echoed through the night.
Sirius’ eyes settled on the child. Was this his brother’s son, his nephew? Sirius studied the boy, trying to discern something familiar in his features. But the shadows were unwilling to cooperate and Sirius could determine nothing. Sirius could feel Voldemort watching him and he quickly diverted his gaze from the child, but it was too late. Voldemort pulled Sirius to his feet and as if beckoned, the child glided ever closer to Sirius.
“You wonder about this boy, hm?” Voldemort’s hushed voice was mocking. “Is he your relative? Has your estranged brother had a child that you never knew?” Uncontrolled laughter pierced Sirius’ skull. “Shall I let you ask him yourself?”
As soon as Voldemort lifted the spell, the boy’s terrified screams filled the darkness. The boy dropped to his knees, grabbing the ends of Voldemort’s cloak in a desperate plea for mercy. Sirius refused to look at the boy and instead focused an unwavering gaze on Voldemort. His defiance infuriated Voldemort, but the glint in Voldemort’s eyes had already told Sirius there would be no compassion tonight. Allowing Voldemort to see his weakness would serve no further purpose. “Perhaps not? I suppose you will always be left to wonder then.”
The boy’s screams could be heard for miles now and Sirius turned from it to support Regulus who had fallen to his knees as the Death Eaters sent him one magical blow after another. A soft popping alerted Sirius to Dumbledore’s arrival, but he knew it was too late.
Voldemort, unnerved by Dumbledore’s appearance, took a precious second to strike the final blow to Regulus before apparating. Sirius’ eyes met his for the briefest moment and a bitter overpowering hatred consumed him. What made this person believe he was above all others? What gave him the right to take away the only brother he had and divide the entire house of Black?
Thoughts of revenge were forgotten, though, as Sirius felt Regulus grow heavy in his arms and they toppled to the ground. Blood was flowing everywhere but Sirius couldn’t discern the source to even attempt to stop it. Dumbledore tried to pull him away but Sirius refused. While even one breath remained in his brother, Sirius would not leave.
Sirius held tight to his brother, whispering words only two brothers were meant to hear. These last words were the ones Sirius would hold in his heart for all time…. the only words that were for him and him alone.
Sirius jumped as the soft voice drifted through the shower. Sirius turned off the now cold water and wrapped a towel around his waist. “Lily?” he asked, stepping out of the shower with water still dripping from his hair.
“James and the others got called to an Order meeting. He didn’t want you to be alone. Tea?” Lily explained in a rush.
Sirius eyed her suspiciously as he accepted the cup of hot tea. “Why didn’t I hear about this meeting?”
“Most likely because it’s about you.” Lily sighed heavily. “Just tell them you dragged it out of me, okay?”
“Deal.” Sirius kissed her forehead as he passed her to get dressed. “And congratulations.”
“James never could keep a secret.”
“Neither could you.” Sirius called as he finished getting dressed and joined her back in the living room. “So, you were sent here to hold my hand through my time of need?”
“You are uncivilized, do you know that?” Lily sank down onto the couch beside him. “You’re not supposed to point out things they were intended to be covert.”
“Covert?” Sirius laughed genuinely. “So this is a covert mission you’re on?”
Lily plopped down on the couch beside him. “Well, that sounds better than some housewife being sent on an errand by her old man.”
“Ah.” Sirius nodded as he sipped the tea, infused with just a hint of cardamom as only Lily could do. “Knowing your carrying his child has made James get a little over protective, I take it?”
“Sirius, he won’t let me out of the house!” she said exasperated. “He doesn’t even want me to walk around the neighborhood!”
“He’s trying to keep you safe.”
“But,” Sirius cut her off, “soon enough, the reality of the situation will dawn on James and he’ll understand every capable witch and wizard will be needed to defeat Voldemort.”
Sirius’ ominous words hung like a cloud over the two and, for a long time, neither spoke. Sirius waited patiently for Lily to launch into the millions of questions he knew were filling her clever mind. He was surprised, then, when she finally did speak.
“You’re not the same person you were at Hogwarts, Sirius.”
“None of us are, Lily,” Sirius groaned. “Look at James. He’s grown up and is about to be a father.”
“No. I know we’ve all grown up. I’m talking about you. You’re not the same reckless, act without thinking, person you used to be.”
“I can’t afford to be,” Sirius said darkly, suddenly understanding the disconnect in Lily’s oh so practical mind. In her eyes, Sirius had gone from the fun loving school boy to a serious almost Remus-like persona over night. “The stakes are too high. You, James, Remus and Peter are the only family I have now. I can’t risk anything happening to any of you.”
“You mean won’t.”
Sirius took her hand in his, desperate for her to understand. “I’m not good at being alone, Lily. For my own sanity, I can’t allow anything to happen.”
“That’s a heavy burden you’ve put on yourself.”
“Loyalty isn’t a burden.”
Lily tightened her grasp on Sirius’ hand and he could feel his heart wrench. This is where he should be. Amongst his friends, moving on with his life rather than mourning years of lost time with Regulus.
“You know,” she whispered softly, “we can talk about what happened to you tonight or I can just be here. No matter what detailed accounts Dumbledore, James and the others expect, I just expect you to be you.”
“That’s about all I’ve the energy for tonight, so you’re in luck. All of you.”
Sirius nodded to the kitchen where the Marauders came forward one by one. “If there’s one sound I do know, it’s the appearance of those three.”
“Have you been eavesdropping?” Lily was standing now, her arms folded across her chest.
“Not at all,” James kissed her lightly. “We’re just getting a bit of your wonderful tea to sustain us.”
“In that case, I suppose I should start more. Excuse me.” Lily nodded to Sirius and he knew she was purposefully leaving the Marauders alone.
While Lily had been easy to face, the thought that his friends intended to force him to re-live his entire experience made Sirius ill at ease and he watched them anxiously.
The Marauders circled around Sirius, each taking a seat in turn, leaving the one closest to him open for James. Sirius nodded his thanks for their presence, but was afraid to speak for fear of his emotions overwhelming him. He swallowed the growing knot in his throat and tried to maintain some sense of lightness to his voice.
“Grew tired of the meeting already?”
“We figured there were more important places for us to be.” Remus replied quietly.
“Here?” Sirius’ voice cracked at the feeling of belonging Remus had just bestowed on him with his simple words.
“Here.” James sipped his tea and leaned back against the couch. “Besides, Dumbledore does tend to ramble on a bit.”
“I appreciate this, but talking isn’t…”
“Talking is highly over-rated, Sirius. Hasn’t anyone ever told you that?” Peter asked grinning.
Sirius nodded and could feel his entire body relax. The fists he had unknowingly clenched released and his heart calmed to a regular beat. They sat in silence, each in their own contemplation of the night’s events. Surprisingly, Sirius found their mere company was the only thing he seemed to need to ease his troubled soul.
Sirius’ mind drifted from the terrible events and the loss of his brother to the men that sat before him. Visions of their times together, times of both heart break and laughter spun across his mind. Their loyalty unquestioned, their brotherly love unmistakable, it was with the Marauders that Sirius truly felt he finally belonged. His eyes drifted to each one in turn, remembering flashes of experiences and definitive moments that turned each of them into the men he saw before him. Voldemort’s image passed over him, and Sirius could only wonder how much time the Marauders had left to be together. His quiet reflective mood seemed to wash over them all, and Sirius pondered whether they had any idea what lay ahead.
“It’s almost dawn, shall we take a walk?” Sirius broke into the revelries of the group. He stood up and the others followed. If his request seemed odd, none mentioned it, and for that Sirius was grateful.
They followed him solemnly, none bothering to explain their disappearance to Lily. If anyone outside the Marauders would understand their need for unity, it would be Lily.
The broken road Sirius took them down led out of town, away from the crowds being slowly drawn awake by the glints of sunlight that were beginning to pierce through the darkness. Sirius knew where he was headed and assumed James knew as well. It was a place from their childhood, a place the two of them had found when their arrogant dreams consisted only of conquering the world. The crunch of their footsteps on the crumbled pebbles reassured Sirius they were together and all were safe.
The rocky cliff where the road ended towered far above their usual haunts and Peter took a step back from the jagged edge as they reached it. Sirius could feel James bristle impatiently beside him, a reaction to Peter’s show of fear that had become automatic over the years. Remus moved forward to stand a pace away from James and Sirius, closer than Peter but still far enough from the edge to signify his unease at the questionable safety of Sirius’ chosen location.
Sirius smiled at how well he knew them… how well he could predict each of their moves and reactions to the promising new sunrise that was now streaking the sky with soft shades of crimson and lemon. Their silence, unlike before, was now one of contentment and resignation.
Sirius could feel his overcoat sway as the wind picked up around them and he shared a knowing smile with James. As children, they had both sworn the wind on this cliff could carry them away like feathers. Now, of course, they both knew better, but the memory of believing was enough to bring happiness into Sirius’ heart.
“Wind’s picking up,” Peter interjected, breaking the melancholy spell that had come over them all.
“Must you always state the obvious?” James sighed heavily at the interruption but Sirius could only respond by laughing.
“Of course, he’s Peter.” Remus answered flatly as if James had asked a legitimate question.
“Some things never change.” James sighed heavily and tried to turn his attention back to the sunrise but the moment had already been stolen away.
“No, they never do.” Sirius was still laughing as he spoke. He slung his arm around James and turned to take one last look at the promising scene before him. “Welcome to a new day, gentlemen.”
I’m looking down
Now that it’s over
Reflecting on all of my mistakes
I thought I’d found the road to somewhere
Somewhere in his grace
I cried out “Heaven save me!”
But I’m down to one last breath
And with it let me say,
Hold me now, I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking
Maybe six feet ain’t so far down
-One Last Breath by Creed
Chapter 15: Lily Evans
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Lily placed the tip of the quill against the paper and watched the blue ink spread across the fibers of the parchment. She lifted it and did it again. It was a chance to postpone writing the words that seemed to want to fight their way onto the page. She was searching her heart and knew the answer to her own question before it ever formed completely. She knew she loved James.
She also loved his friends, Remus, Sirius and Peter, each in their own way. She’d become part of their world and adopted as their friend. She knew it would be a lifelong friendship, almost like family. For she knew that she had no family left anymore. Her own parents, at least her mother and her sister, were ashamed of her, afraid of her. Her father had been the only one who had understood. But she had left them all and hadn’t seen them since she had started Hogwarts. She sat musing on that. Like Sirius, she had abandoned her family. It was not something she had wanted to do and it still hurt deeply.
Lily stared out at the Hogwarts grounds and the people arriving for the graduation ceremony. She sat alone in Gryffindor tower while her friends gathered outside with their families. She stared out the mullioned window. Distant charcoal-blue thunderclouds were piled high in the early summer skies.
The quill dropped to the parchment again hovering just above the surface. She pushed back the sleeves of the scarlet-red and gold graduation robe and began to write. A faint breeze was blowing through the partially opened window and stirring her chestnut-colored hair.
Dearest James, she wrote carefully, making curls of each letter. You stole my heart, she continued, and I love you dearly. Before I can make a life with you there is something that I have to do…
The quill scratched in the silence of the room and she glanced periodically out of the window to make sure that she would be on time. The grounds were emptying as people spilled into the castle and gathered in the Grand Hall.
…I must try at least one more time to make contact with my parents and tell them of our marriage and to warn them of the danger. I can at least make sure they understand that Voldemort is attacking Muggles. I could not live with myself if they were harmed because of me, especially after what happened….
Lily looked down and examined the contents of her trunk which lay at her feet. Her entire life could be read in each item that she had carefully packed. There was very little there that spoke of her muggle background except for the picture in the simple frame, a picture that did not move. Her parents and her sister were sitting in a triangle, not smiling at the photographer. She was not part of the picture, and never have been, she thought. Her father had been supportive, but in the Evans household it was her mother’s opinion that had always counted and Lily knew that they had been happy to have her attend Hogwarts because it would mean that she would be out of the house.
Lily turned to the paper stretched out over the desk and read it over, shaking her head. It wasn’t like her to not copy the page after making such a mess of it. ‘But it’s too late,’ she considered as she dropped the quill to the paper once again.
….Our world is falling apart because of this monster. I’ve heard that he has even killed Muggles and I have to make sure that my family is on guard; that they understand.
Lily shook her head even as she wrote. They aren’t going to understand. Dad will try and be sympathetic but mother will argue him down and he’ll agree with her just to shut her up. Lily remembered all the times he’d tried to stand up for her.
The one and only victory had been the day she’d gotten her letter from Hogwarts. That was seven years ago and she remembered how he had taken her to the station and kissed her goodbye and she had stepped through the wall onto Platform 9 ¾’s all by herself. But she remembered his parting words, “Be brave my sweet girl. The world is a hard place, but there is beauty in it too. Just try to do the right thing.”
…I know that you will worry, James. Just know that no matter what, my heart is always with you…
Looking at the letter, she hurriedly signed her name, writing Lily at the bottom. Not Love Lily, or With All My Heart, Lily- just, Lily. Then rolling the parchment up she rose from her chair.
The invitations to her wedding were rolled neatly and stacked on the table next to her bed. They were on white parchment tied with silver ribbon and stamped with pink wax and a lily-of-the-valley flower seal. She laid the parchment inconspicuously on top of the stack, let her hand trail over the invitations and then moved out of the room quickly. The letter would be sent after graduation and just before she gathered her belongings and moved in with the Potters.
It was late in the evening when she walked up the cement walk to the house of her parent’s, dressed in muggle clothes and carrying a small valise. The hot glow of the setting sun was reflected in the crystal clean windows of the two story house. The porch was empty and she could hear the sound of the television set blaring from the front room. The windows were wide open allowing the summer air to enter and cool. Lily hesitated at the door, wondering if she should knock or walk in.
She grasped the suitcase tighter wondering if she’d even be allowed to stay the night or if she would have to Apparate back to Hogsmeade to stay in an Inn. She was searching her heart when the front door opened unexpectedly. It was her sister, Petunia.
The non-descript gray eyes recognized her immediately and the mouth thinned out into a line. Lily stared at her and thought, ‘You look just like mother.’
“What are you doing here?” Petunia hissed. She carried a purse and had a sweater over her arm. It was clear she was leaving.
Lily set the valise down on the porch and smelled the aromas of dinner wafting towards her from the open door. “Hello Petunia.”
Petunia smirked and looked back into the darkened house and then stepped out and let the screen door slam behind her. Lily could see her sister’s desire to torment her written on her face.
“You are not welcome here,” Petunia said and stared out across the lawn, leaning against the painted railing of the porch.
Lily nodded and felt the strong desire to reach out and touch Petunia on the arm. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she said wanting to call her by the name she had used when they were small children, long before their mother had had the opportunity to teach her sister how to be bitter and envious. “I may not see you again for a while sis. But I came because I wanted to tell them,” she looked at the door, “that I’m getting married. And…and that there are some troubles brewing…and to…to be careful.” She could hear the sounds of the TV and the bluish glow from the corner of the sitting room. She wasn’t watching Petunia’s expression.
Lily turned back to her sister. Petunia was studying her up and down. Lily saw the kaleidoscope of expressions; of fear, anger, envy and something else; something just barely visible- a yearning. Lily caught it. She stepped forward and Petunia didn’t move away. “I missed you Pet.”
Petunia flinched and shook her head. For a moment she looked sad and then regrouped and stepped away, and said haughtily, “I’m also marrying in a month.”
Lily smiled slightly, “Are you? How wonderful for you!” She reached out awkwardly as if to hug her and Petunia ducked her shoulder to avoid the touch. Lily dropped her arms. A car pulled up to the curb and a man waved. Petunia started down the steps. “Pet, don’t ever forget…” Lily began in a whisper.
Petunia hesitated at the bottom step but didn’t turn, “that I love you,” Lily finished. She watched as her sister continued walking towards the car and climbed in. It pulled away with the taillights glaring back like two red angry eyes in the deepening twilight.
Lily turned and stared at the screen door. Taking a deep breath she opened it and stepped in.
She left ten minutes later in the taxi that pulled up to the house. She watched the front door as the car pulled away, turning only as the car took the corner. She did not see the dark figure that stepped from between the houses. It was darker than the shadows that were growing and lengthening between the buildings. Moments later a green light flashed eerily through the windows.
A neighbor across the street caught sight of it and stared through her white starched curtains. The neighbor shook her head and thought, ‘Must be watching something strange on the telly tonight.’ She would, however, remember the color of the light when the police arrived later in the evening after she had rang them up. A shriek had blasted her from her bed. I know that voice, the neighbor thought, her heart pounding in her chest, that’s Petunia Evans.
Lily was stepping into the Leaky Cauldron when a hand pulled her into the shadows.
“Who? What?” she gasped, taken by surprise. “Severus you frightened me!”
The figure of the boy was barely recognizable. He was cloaked all in black and only the paleness of his skin allowed her to see his features in the gloom. A misty fog was rolling around the street at knee level and the street lamps were just coming on.
“What is it Severus?” she shivered in the sudden chill.
“You were followed tonight Lily,” he mumbled, stepping in close.
Lily had established a strange kind of friendship with the boy that James and Sirius, Remus and Peter had never liked. She had always felt that there was something beneath the surface, beyond the poor grooming and churlish manner. She’d invested time over many months in getting him to talk to her. Now he was here.
“How did you find me?” she gasped and then, “What do you mean I was followed?”
“It’s too late,” Snape groaned, “He found your parents. He’s been there already.” The dark smoky eyes lowered and avoided hers.
The light from the overhead street light was beaming down a sickly yellow on his face. Lily heard the words, and then, understood them. She started to turn and he grabbed her by the arms.
“No!” He held her as she struggled to break free. “Listen to me, listen to me!” He shook her roughly and his fingers bruised her flesh. ‘They are gone. He…the Dark Lord killed them.”
Her thick heavy hair fell over her face as she tried to pull away. Her hands were clenched into fists pulling at his clothing, tearing at him and yet he held on. She reached up and tried to scratch him and he spun her around and pulled her into his belly and a tight hug.
Someone stepped into the street from the pub and Snape drug her into the nearby alley, almost carrying her and hugged her close talking quietly into her ear. “Stop! You must stop struggling or I will have to silence you. I don‘t want to hurt you Lily.” He’d searched his robe for his wand with one hand as she went to her knees and broke his feeble grasp.
She felt the wrenching sobs as they tore from her throat. “No, no…” she gasped. “It can’t be. I was just there!” The faces of her parents swam before her eyes, her mother’s surprised expression as she walked through the door and her father’s evident pleasure and joy at seeing her.
Then there had been the fight and argument. Her mother’s words, “If you’ve come back home then you are not welcome. You’re old enough to be on your own now Lillian. You have your…your own ways, your own people.” Lily saw her father’s sad expression and she felt her heart sink.
Snape crouched down in the dark beside her. “The Dark Lord is going after anyone that sympathizes with Dumbledore. You were too outspoken Lily. You and anyone around you became a target.”
“But why not me?” she cried. They were in the darkness of the alley and she had reached for his robes and pulled him closer. “I was there. Why didn’t he kill me? Why did he go after my parents?”
There was silence and Lily looked into the dark eyes across from her. Severus finally spoke, “He wanted it to hurt.”
Lily looked at her own pale hands grabbing at his robe and then jerked her head up, “Did he send you to deliver the message?” she snarled.
He drew back in horror, gasping, “No, no. I am not his servant!”
She turned loose and sat back in the damp earth on the side of the alleyway, suddenly suspicious. “No?” She asked calmly. “Then how would you know what he did?”
Snape was on his knees, leaning back on his heels and the hand holding his wand dropped to his lap. “I followed you.”
She sat staring at him in shock. She knew what he was saying, something he had never shared. She knew that he cared about her. Her elbows rested on her knees and her hands knotted in her hair. Overwhelmed and in pain she squeezed her eyes shut and pounded on her head. He killed them! her internal voice screamed at her.
“I have to go back…” she began, choking on her feelings of anguish.
He was shaking his head even before she spoke. “You cannot go to them. The Muggle’s law enforcement people are there. They think that you killed them.”
Lilly looked up slowly, astounded. “Me?!”
He nodded. “Your sister found them…”
“Aghhhhh!” she cried, bursting into tears and rocked, holding herself against the newest onrush of pain.
They stayed that way for a long time, Severus kneeling helplessly in front of her and she wailing silently at the moon as it rose over the fence. The damp fog swirled and danced around them like a party of waltzing ghosts.
An hour later she stood and waited until he got to his feet. “I’m going after Voldemort!” she said.
Snape was again shaking his head.
“I will do this Severus and you will help me find him.”
“You escaped tonight,” he said. “He did this because you revealed to the world that he is half-muggle. But you will not escape if you pursue him.”
Lily knew what he was saying. Her letter to the Daily Prophet was in defense of people like her who were being forced into the open and harassed by the pureblood community. She had been protected because she was at Hogwarts, but she had watched older witches and wizards tormented out in the wizarding world.
James, Remus, Sirius and Peter had all argued against speaking out. But then you are all purebloods, she had thought at the time. They had always been sympathetic but had never really understood. Sometimes discrimination was so subtle and yet so harmful. The wizarding world had even started using a term for ‘her’ kind. They call us Mudbloods, she thought. Even the young man in front of her had used it. It was such an ugly word.
With her usual diligence she had researched the history of Tom Riddle, also known as Voldemort. People were becoming more and more fearful of him every day. Atrocities were now credited to him without any denial on his part. Lily had sent the letter to the Daily Prophet. “People need to know,” she told James when he argued with her. “He’s dangerous. “
“Yes, Lily he is dangerous,” James said. “And there are people who know it. Let them take care of this. We are still in school. We have no business getting involved in these affairs. There are older wiser wizards who know how to handle him.”
She had shaken her head in disbelief. “How can we all just watch him do this? They say he’s even using the unforgivable curses! The ministry is doing nothing!”
He tried to pull her to him. Lily remembered it. She had been angry with him for taking the situation so lightly.
Now she stood in the dark alley shivering not only from the chill in the air but from her rage. Severus stood before her.
“He’s a deadly predator and we are the prey,” she said, her teeth chattering. “I have to make sure my sister is safe and then I’m going after him.
“You can’t do it Lily,” Snape said, his voice low and cold. “He is too powerful a wizard.”
“He’s going to grow more powerful if someone doesn’t stand up to him,” she almost shouted into his face. He stepped back, anguish etched on his features.
She saw it and stopped. “I’m sorry. I am, really. I know that your parents support him. You have enough to be dealing with at home.”
“I have something I have to show you,” he said. He stood in his black robes, in the fetid depths of the alley and turned his face away from her. “I could not stop it from happening, you must believe me,” he groaned.
“What is it Severus?” she asked, her voice suddenly gentle. She thought of the many times that she had coaxed and gently urged him to speak to her. It had been difficult. Severus was inherently paranoid and distrustful of her since she was always with James and the others. Lily reached out now, her hand unsteady. “Tell me.”
He stuck his arm out so that the light of the street lamp shone on it and the rest of him remained in the darkness. It created a illusion of a detached arm hanging in thin air. Slowly the sleeve was pulled up until it revealed the rail-thin arm. Emblazoned on it was a skull that was so vividly etched there that it appeared to be smoking as if recently branded into the skin.
“What…What?!” she cried in shock and stepped back. “It’s His mark! It’s his mark Severus!” Her voice was loud and strident.
“Shhh!” he said and stepped out into the light quickly pulling his sleeve down. “They made me take it tonight.”
“Who? Who made you take it?” she asked, feeling suddenly feverish and ill. “Oh Severus!”
“It doesn’t mean anything Lily,” he argued, his thin face frowning. “He can’t make me do anything.”
She studied the face before her, suddenly afraid for herself and for him. “Nobody believed me. He’s taking over, he’s taking control. He’s doing it out in front of everyone and… and in secret too. It’s true isn’t it?”
“My parents?” she asked.
“He has drawn up a list. He has followers that he calls his Deatheaters,” he said quietly and reached for his arm holding it where the mark was. “When he wants us, he summons us with this.”
She stared at him in horror. “You are to do his dirty work for him?”
He nodded again, and replied, “Those are his plans.”
“Tonight…” she couldn’t go on, her heart was beating rapidly wondering if the young man in front of her had betrayed her. “You…”
He shook his head violently. “I followed you Lily, only you. He didn’t send me. I didn’t know he was going there.”
“What about other people? James, Remus, Peter and their families?” she reached out once again and shook him. “Are they on the list too?”
“Eventually,” Severus began. “But it’s you and others who have tried to embarrass him in public. There are still wizards who just play lip-service to him, and they are to be dealt with later.” The boy dropped his head, his hands folded together in front of him. He was so still he looked like a statue.
She thought about what he was saying and the feelings of guilt threatened to once again overwhelm her. Lily pinched her nose and wiped away the moisture there and from her eyes with the back of her hand. She stared out towards the dark street, growing evermore angry. “He’s evil Severus. Trust me, he will be known as the most evil wizard ever known in our time. He just destroyed what family I had and he’s marked you. Will you follow him or will you help me?”
“I will not help you to find the Dark Lord,” Severus said shaking his head in sorrow. “He would kill us both without hesitation, as he did with your parents this evening.”
“Then at least help me protect my sister,” Lily pleaded. She drew closer. From afar they looked like two lovers standing in the alley. She looked into his eyes and held his hands. “If you feel anything for me you will help me with that at least.”
He stared at her hands clasped around his and nodded slowly. He finally looked back at her. “There is something,” he breathed. “But it is dark magic Lily. It will protect your sister and…and any children that you bear,” he choked on the words, “but it will not protect Potter. It is a blood charm. It is only for those that are related to you.”
She nodded eagerly. “Yes, yes. That’s it. I trust that you will do what you need to do.”
He glanced down the alley at the street that was dimly lit by the single lamp. The eerie shrieking of the pub sign swinging in the breeze sent chills down Lily’s back and she shivered involuntarily. Both of them knew that they were entering dangerous territory.
Severus sighed deeply. “I am very inexperienced Lily. It could go horribly wrong.”
She looked back at him, their hands still clasped. “I know it in my heart that this man is evil beyond all measure. Nothing will stop him Severus. I am deeply saddened that he has placed his mark on you, and I will never forgive him for that and what he has done to my family. But I warn you now. This will not be the end of it, it will be only the beginning. I am not afraid for myself. I am afraid that no one is taking this seriously. Whatever steps we take tonight will have consequences, I know that. But I believe in you.” She withdrew her hands and stood straight. “Remember that Severus. If there ever is a moment in your life that you feel that no one believes in you or that you cannot believe in yourself. Then remember my words.”
She took his hand and started walking to the street to more clearly see his face. They stood a moment under the street lamp in the circle of light.
“An oath then; to each other.” She took out her wand and tapped it twice against her palm “May my blood spill on the ground before I betray my friends. We will always stick together and fight Him for as long as we live.”
Severus took out his own wand, taking the second oath he would take this evening; this one willingly. He spoke the words and the two clasped hands once again and then stepped apart. “In two days I will be ready with the incantation and potion,” he said, head down.
Lily nodded.” Don’t make it longer. My sister is in danger.” She turned to leave. “And Severus?”
“Yes?” he responded.
“She must never know,” Lily said, knowing that what she was about to do would cost her dearly. She heard the faint pop as he Apparated and she proceeded to cross the street and enter the Leaky Cauldron.
Chapter 16: James Potter
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Out of instinct James cast a Shield Charm, whipping around to face his attacker.
The darkness was intermittently lit up with assorted hexes and curses. Brief, colourful flashes; from a distance, he supposed, they might look beautiful. Closer up they were a little less appreciated. They did, however provide a means of seeing their opponents; their dark silhouettes were painted with violent reds and greens, casting shadows amidst the dense forest.
James straightened, mercifully able to hold the Shield Charm. He faced his opponent, cutting a very impressive duelling stance as he shot a Stunning Spell at the Death Eater, who dodged it easily.
“Ready?” James challenged his voice almost casual.
The Death Eater hissed in reply, but said nothing else. James marvelled at their ability to make his job that much easier.
It was easier to kill if you didn’t think of them as human.
The Death Eater wasted no time and sent a string of hexes his way. James blocked what he could, but he was overwhelmed and hit by a Cutting Curse. Luckily he seemed to be of the ‘quantity not quality’ school of thinking and it did little more than graze his face.
“Is that all you’ve got?” James crowed. “Your master couldn’t teach you any better than that?”
James could see the look of victory fade from his eyes, being replaced by seething rage.
A weakness; the weak ones were always letting anger get in the way, it clouded their focus. Usually inexperienced ones, who had not yet been taught to be cold and indifferent.
This one must have been young, still fired up with hate and fear. Not yet able to mask his emotions quite as well as his face.
As they duelled, James let his mind wander. This was somebody’s son, maybe someone’s brother. Possibly someone he’d gone to school with. Just another kid who’d grown up way too fast. Just like him.
“Your mudblood whore will die,” the boy jeered.
Anger was a weakness—
“She’ll cry for you. She’ll die screaming, sobbing for mercy.”
There was no thought behind it, just snarling fury. That boy was dead before he’d even hit the ground, sneer still frozen on his face.
Somebody’s former son. Somebody’s lost brother.
Not his concern.
There wasn’t time to think about it, to pause and reflect on what he’d done. Not now.
The air was alight with tension; spells whirring, black cloaks billowing like sails; the bodies wrapped with in them twisting in the cool night air. Duelling was, for something so violent, a very graceful thing.
“Catch up, James!” Sirius called. Despite the fact that he was heavily engaged in a duel with a rather vicious Death Eater, he had a stupid grin on his face.
James forgot about the boy sprawled on the ground. He smiled and shook his head. “Sod off!”
There were six other Death Eaters, against the six of them still standing. Two had gone down, but he James didn’t make any note of it except that it wasn’t Sirius, Remus or Peter.
The battle began to lean in their favour as the Death Eaters began to drop, dead, stunned or howling in pain. The last of them was thrown back into a tree and with his fall, the forest fell silent, void of threats and curses. The hush was only interrupted by the crunch of leaf litter beneath their feet, or the whisper of robes.
James lit his wand and surveyed the damage. Sirius, Remus, Peter, Marlene and Emmeline followed suit. They were, the six of them, ragged and weary, each showcasing various injuries and torn robes.
Tonight it had been Frank and Gideon that had suffered the brunt of tonight’s ‘ambush’. Playing the bait rarely ended well.
Marlene and Remus immediately went to their aid. James ran a slender hand through his permanently messy hair and strode over to the body of the boy he’d killed lay. He crouched down beside him, feeling an enormous sense of catharsis as he reached for the mask.
Gregory Warwick. A boy two years behind him at Hogwarts, James and Sirius had played a prank once, (involving musical forks and charmed food, if he remembered straight) on him and his particular group of deadbeat friends. He’d been the Slytherin Prefect when James had been Head Boy, a slimy, smarmy little git who’d always been snide about Lily. Not really a surprise that he’d turned out this way.
Bit of a shock to have killed him.
“Warwick, huh?” Sirius said from somewhere in the darkness. James searched for him, eyes straining to look any further than a few inches. “Watch where you’re pointing that thing.”
James lowered his wand. “How many?”
“Nine. Three dead, four stunned and two with injuries. You’d think Voldemort would teach them some basic healing.”
“Why? They’re just cannon fodder,” James replied dully.
Sirius grunted by way of agreement and scuffed his foot in the soil. James could just make out the beginnings of a bruise on his face.
“You all r…”
“We need to get Gideon and Frank to St. Mungos. Nothing serious, but I can’t do anything for them here,” Marlene announced, getting up from her knees and brushing her robe off. Remus was already levitating them on to conjured stretchers whilst Emmeline and Peter saw to the remaining Death Eaters.
James nodded and he and Sirius lumbered over to give whatever help they could.
James toppled from the fireplace, glasses skewed on his face. He’d never been good at Floo and almost invariably ended up on his face.
He swiped at his glasses on his robes, pushing them back up onto his nose before peering around at his majestic surroundings.
There was ruffle of feathers as Fawkes rather pointedly stretched on his perch. The phoenix always gave him a sense of comfort, even though he frequented this office for causing general mayhem and mischief not so long ago.
Things had most certainly changed.
There was a thump and a string of curse words that heralded Sirius’ arrival.
“Got caught up at St. Mungos,” he explained, dusting his robes. “Crouch, sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“Come now, Sirius. You’ve had your nose in quite a few places it oughtn’t have been.”
Dumbledore’s imperious figure has appeared in the doorway, smiling munificently and looking every bit as calm and dapper as if he had just been on the receiving end of a Cheering Charm. McGonagall followed on behind him.
His former Headmaster moved to sit behind his desk, McGonagall stood behind him, showing rare outward signs of stress: she kept flattening the material of her robes, and fretting with her sleeves, however, the stern look on her face never faltered.
“Headmaster,” James and Sirius chorused by way of greeting.
“James, Sirius,” Dumbledore replied, nodding benignly in acknowledgment. “There really is no need for such formalities.”
James didn’t answer, but if he had it would have been with a sly smile and a ‘Yes, Headmaster.’
“Now, the order of the day. Everything went accordingly, I assume?”
‘They never stop failing for it. I suppose their lack of respect does have its advantages,” James sighed. “Three dead, four stunned and two with injuries. All captured.” James recounted in a sterile manner.
Dumbledore nodded, his long fingers steeped before him on the table. He appeared to be deep in thought.
Professor McGonagall could no longer uphold her stately façade. She stepped forward, wringing her wiry hands. “And what of the Order?”
“Everyone’s fine, Professor. Gideon and Frank are in St. Mungos, but they’ll be fine. We talked to the Healers: just a powerful stunning spell.”
McGonagall’s face visibly paled with relief. Her thin mouth twitched as though she might say something, but she quickly regained her composure and straightened.
“You don’t have to worry about us Professor, honestly, we’re Hogwart’s best,” Sirius ventured, a loping grin on his face.
Dumbledore chuckled. McGonagall almost allowed a smile to grace her severe features. “I worry about you, Mr Black, because both you and Mr Potter have the attention span of gnats.”
Sirius guffawed and James shook his head and smiled.
“I am glad that you both have all your limbs intact.”
“As are we all,” Dumbledore intoned.
For all outward appearances Dumbledore was the jovial, quirky man he had known through his school years. But that famous ‘twinkle’ in his eye had dulled; his face seemed to droop with age and James was sure that Dumbledore had never looked this solemn three years ago. But perhaps those signs had always been there, now he just knew how to recognise them.
The illusion of innocence had rapidly faded with the knowledge and experience they had gained. It was no use holding onto ideals anymore: they were soldiers. They were fighting a war which threatened to kill them all, to put it plainly. He wasn’t a silly little boy anymore and he couldn’t talk himself out of the consequences. There were times when James would be sitting at home, washing dishes, or reading a book—those were the things that seemed surreal now.
James didn’t like to think too often about what his life might have been if Voldemort hadn’t come into the picture. He knew that his aspirations had changed in short time, staying alive was a priority. He knew that he’d had the potential to take his life in any direction he chose. But, he lamented, it did not do well to dwell on dreams.
Nowadays, the stuff of nightmares had become hauntingly mundane. He used to react to any trace of violence, now he could look at a body and think of numbers, of the big picture. He understood a little of what Dumbledore must have felt: the anaesthetic nature of having to look at the ‘big picture’.
He wondered sometimes if he was the only one to feel the numbness, he knew he shouldn’t have to wonder about Sirius, Remus and Peter, but this war had affected them all in no small way; it was hard to tell who was being honest and who was putting on their game face. Or maybe it was that he didn’t have the energy to care anymore.
Dumbledore was looking at him curiously. Sirius and McGonagall were having a rather animated conversation (or rather, Sirius had spurned off into monologue which required an inordinate amount of gesticulation while McGonagall tried not to laugh).
After shaking his head at the antics of his best friend, James turned his attentions back to the headmaster, and inquisitive but all knowing look.. He knew that there was little point in lying to him, but then again, Dumbledore had little use for questions. Albus Dumbledore was the sort of man who could appraise the meaning of picking one’s nose. It didn’t stop James from trying, he’d always done it, always liked to see just how far he could get with a lie before he was caught. The lies had changed, but this childish little game had remained the same.
James shook his head. “Fine,” he mumbled. “As well as can be expected.”
“You look tired.”
He smiled. “Burning the candle at both ends,” he replied offhandedly.
Dumbledore didn’t say anything; he just kept staring at him intensely.
James remained stoic, his own owlish features twisted into a rictus of nonchalance. He didn’t really feel like spilling his guts to his mentor, he was an adult now and there seemed to be little point in confiding in him. There seemed little point in doing much else than plotting and duelling these days.
And sleeping, he added unconsciously, there’s a world of point in that.
Lately he had been feeling the strain of being a symbol of the public’s hope. Having survived Voldemort’s intentions three times, he and Lily were very well known. He was used to fame on a small scale, but having the hopes of a Quidditch victory on your shoulders was slightly removed from the expectations of the Wizarding World.
He understood it, though, understood that they fulfilled a need. Represented and image of strength, vitality and prosperity. They survived, they very nearly thrived under the circumstances, and that was enough, he assumed.
But right now, it was becoming harder and harder not to let anyone down, he had started fighting this war with grand schemes of protecting the innocent, seeking justice and saving the future, but now his reasoning was far more basic than that: to protect his wife and his friends. To protect their futures.
They had all sacrificed too much to be entirely selfless at this point.
“It’s nothing I can’t handle, Sir.”
“Of that, I have no doubt,” Dumbledore said affably. He raised himself from his desk; the early morning sun had begun to stream through the high glass windows, bathing everything in a warm glow.
The rich tapestry of textures and colours in Dumbledore’s office seemed renewed by the start of a new day, last night’s antics were just another memory now. Another brick in the wall, as Lily would frequently say.
Dumbledore approached James, his face once again ageless, pleasant and determined. “Just remember what we are fighting for, James,” he said softly, but with conviction.
“I don’t need reminding, Professor,” James said, shaking his hand. Dumbledore smiled and turned to Sirius to say his goodbyes.
“Give my regards to Lily,” McGonagall said austerely. James smiled wryly and saluted her as he stepped into the fireplace.
“I expect I’ll be seeing you soon,” Dumbledore intoned just as he had raised his hand.
“Of that,” James replied, “I have no doubt.” He had just a moment to see McGonagall’s near melancholy reaction before he was gone, engulfed in green flame.
It was less than half an hour before he said his goodbyes to Remus, Peter and Sirius at the Hog’s Head. They met there as a way of touching base, socialising without the necessity of a bloodied struggle. James had jumped and twitched like a spider being threatened by flame, until Sirius smiled and had officiously ‘given him his leave’.
There was a time when you couldn’t have pried the four of them apart with a powerful Accio. But they weren’t schoolboys anymore, they each had their own complicated and horror riddled lives, James couldn’t even remember the last time he had been out on a Full Moon run with Remus, things had been so hectic, that he hadn’t even the time. He was responsible to someone else now. He’d once felt guilty for abandoning his Marauders, but that sentiment had been replaced with the same weary view he applied to everything in his life: Sacrifices had to be made.
Of course, Lily would clout him if she heard him refer to their marriage in that fashion.
Strung out on thoughts, James ambled up the stairs, his fingers trail the banister, the ancient stairs creak beneath his heavy footsteps. He was trying to be quiet, but he was so eager to just sleep, that he wasn’t as cautious as he might have been.
Photographs danced, waved and smiled at him from behind glass as he made he way to the bedroom. The air inside the house was crisp and fresh, feeling untainted and new, the morning sun now streaming in through windows he stumbled towards the bed, kicking off his shoes and shirking his robes.
She didn’t stir, even when he crawled into bed beside her, feeling heavy and exhausted, her hair was fanned out in stark contrast to the white bed linen. She didn’t stir when he groaned, feeling the new ache of muscles that he was quite sure hadn’t existed yesterday, she didn’t stir when he rolled over to face her.
He watched her sleeping for a few moments, the serenity on her features instilling a calm and awe within him. His hand hovered in indecision above her, before he ventured to lightly brush some hair from her face. He very carefully continued to trace down the length of her arm, feeling her skin dimple under his touch.
She made a very small sound and drew herself closer. James felt at ease now, his palm now splayed on her pregnant belly.
He did not need reminding.
Chapter 17: Gilderoy Lockhart
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Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.
- Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)
The Janus Thickey ward, also known as ward 49, is almost completely silent in the murky, still, forgotten hours of the morning. This almost-silence is punctuated only by a soft, coarse scribbling sound that floats across the long room, and the occasional whispers of breathing coming from the ward’s few sleeping patients. The closed ward is more homely in appearance than the others at St. Mungo’s, the patients’ beds and surroundings decorated with accumulated items from friends and family. On one bedside cabinet there are several Christmas cards, a few months old now, but lending a festive cheer to the small area around the bed that its patient calls home.
Only one of the ward’s residents is awake. He sits propped up against the headboard in a slant of moonlight that streams through the window and into his lap. Behind him, the wall is plastered with numerous photographs. The soft, scratching sounds are made by his pen, which is scrabbling fiercely across a photograph of himself. It is different from the ones over the headboard (but, like those, the man in the photograph is asleep and snoring quietly against the frame). His face, cloaked in the half-shadow, is pale and has a strained, desperate quality about it. It is the expression of a man who has been haunted, again and again, by memories that confuse and frighten him to his very core. His hair is incongruously bound in a hair net and curlers. Combined with the lavender hospital robe it makes him look a little like a very overworked, pale housewife.
He is breathing quite hard, as if the mere effort of writing exhausts him, and there are heavy, dark circles under his eyes, which are, although tired, a brilliant forget-me-not blue. He pauses, stares down at the photograph and then throws it carelessly to one side, where it falls onto a pile among the covers. Then he shoots an arm out and grabs a fresh one from a neat stack on the bedside table, places his tattered peacock-feather quill onto the photograph and begins to write again.
To my dearest fan, all my love and best wishes... Gilderoy Lockhart
He finishes the last letter with a flourish and sends it spinning across the bed and onto the others in the pile. He had started out by simply signing his name, over and over. That worked for the first hundred or so. It started to become repetitive, lulling him into sleep, so he decided to improvise a little.
He takes another photograph. The man in this one is slumped over a desk, snoring. His hair in the picture is hanging over his face in untidy curls, and the man sitting in bed curls his lip back with distaste.
Silly bugger. Look what he’s done to my hair.
He presses the quill to the paper and starts to write. Very soon his eyelids begin to droop; he can feel himself dozing off.
Mustn’t do that. Oh dear, no. That wouldn’t be a good idea at all. I’ve got to stay awake.
He jerks his head up and blinks rapidly several times, trying to force the sleep away. Staring out into the darkness, the moonlight falls onto his bed and casts spider-like shadows in the rivulets formed by his sheets. His mind wanders. The memories start coming back.
He’s in darkness. No… not in it, staring down into it. He’s standing above a hole like an open mouth, and his heart is hammering in his chest. He has to go down there for some reason. He doesn’t want to, but he must.
And now he’s falling into the hole, landing on something hard and crunchy, something that snaps when he walks on it. There is very little light to see by, but he can make out the walls of a cave, slimy-slick and smooth, cold rock. He’s following someone deeper into the cave. Into its heart.
Into its belly.
I don’t want to go in there!
He turns, and makes as if to run, but there is someone stopping him, a boy with dark hair and glasses, with dirt all over his robes. His eyes glare defiantly, and he has his wand out. No escape.
He is led further into the cave, on and on, and the deeper he goes, the more his fear increases. There is something down here… something bad… something terribly dangerous and evil. He wants no part of it.
That can’t be right. I wasn’t that scared… surely?
He can feel his heart in his mouth, as if it’s actually trying to escape from his body; he is more scared than he’s ever been in his life. He’s way out of his depth, here. He never fought any real monsters. It was all lies. All lies, to sell his books. It was all for the fame!
No, wait. That doesn’t sound like me at all. This has to be wrong.
There is darkness. A black so deep he could get lost in it and never find his way out again. But he has to fight; he claws his way out, struggling into consciousness. He sits up with a gasp, jerking his knees up, and some of the photographs slide off the bed onto the floor. A few of them wake up and start complaining, their voices muffled but very audible in the heavy silence.
“Shut up,” he barks harshly, cutting off their objections. Several continue to mutter irritably.
Lockhart slumps back against the headboard and stares wearily out into the gloom. The moonlight has passed over his bed and now falls in a neat, clear square onto the floor, illuminating a few of the fallen photographs. He’s signed hundreds of them. Almost every patient in the hospital, along with the Healers and the Welcome Witch at the front door, have at least one of his autographed photos; he’s long since run out of people to hand them out to. Certainly Alice Longbottom, the woman in the last bed, has more than one in her possession- bless her- she can’t seem to get enough of them.
True, she scrunches them up and leaves them lying around in pot plants, but still... well. The poor dear’s lost all her marbles, so I can hardly hold it against her.
Lockhart glances around the closed ward at the dim shapes of the other patients in their beds, listening to the sound of their breathing, and feels a sudden stab of envy in his stomach. If only he could sleep as they do, without a care in the world. Without fear.
What he wouldn’t give to be free of these nightmares.
Nightmares? These dreams… that’s all they are. They can’t be real. Not me. Not my memories.
With a slightly trembling hand, he digs among the covers for his quill, picks it up, and spends a few unnecessary moments smoothing out the feathers, his brow furrowed in concentration. Then, with his tongue poking between his lips snatches another photograph and continues to write.
To my dearest fan, all my love and best wishes, I am not going mad, I need to stay awake. Gilderoy Lockhart.
He smiles weakly at this little amusement, and tosses the picture over the side of the bed, not caring where it lands. Well if nothing else, at least my handwriting is improving, he thinks, and even lets out a little, half-hysterical giggle.
In the bed opposite his own, Broderick Bode, the sallow-skinned old wizard, turns over in his bed restlessly, emitting a few grunts and mutters. The smile fades from Lockhart’s face and he becomes serious again, focusing on the piece of paper in front of him. He focuses on forming the words. That’s all that’s important now.
However, all too soon he feels that sinking, heavy feeling settle over his eyes. The hand holding the pen goes slack, falling into his lap. His head slumps back and comes gently to rest against the headboard. He stares at the ceiling and fights the urge to sleep for a few brief moments, but loses, already slipping into unconsciousness. The ghostly arms of sleep enfold him and he sinks, gratefully, into its black embrace.
He’s in that place again. That stinking, filthy place. It’s a cave, but it’s not really, it’s a chamber. A chamber of secrets. He’s flying face-first at blinding speed, through the curves of the tunnel; the walls are speeding past at an ever-increasing rate. The sensation is nauseating, a feeling of falling towards something.
Or being sucked towards something.
He doesn’t quite know what, or who it is, but he has an inkling…oh yes. He has a horrible suspicion who that person might be. He doesn’t know the name. The name is lost; it’s floating somewhere in the back of his brain with all the other memories that are hidden and lost. But he knows who it is that’s waiting at the end of this tunnel.
It is a man with a pale face and slitted nostrils, and glittering black eyes. A man with a killer’s cold, remorseless smile and white, skeletal hands. A man with a stench of death and madness, of hatred and pure evil.
He is shooting toward this man at an incredible, blistering speed, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. He starts to scream. The sound is torn from his lungs and seems to rocket past his own ears as he speeds down the tunnel. His terror is absolute. He begins to recall things, images and words that send shudders of horror through him.
Voldemort. Lord Voldemort. Tom Marvolo Riddle. Mass Muggle killings. Reports of disappearances and torture, Unforgivable Curses. Slaughter and terror. Death Eaters. A prophecy. A new age of hatred. A quest for immortality. Thwarted. Goes into hiding. Regains his power. Waiting. Waiting.
Growing stronger, renewing himself, gorging himself on his own hatred. Waiting to kill again.
Gilderoy, flying through the darkness towards that terrible malice, screams until his throat hurts, screams with all his strength. I’m not a hero! I’m not a bleeding defender of the innocent. I don’t fight monsters; I’ve never done anything like that. I’m just a liar. A liar and a coward. That’s all I am! A coward! I don’t want to die…oh please, I don’t want to die! Don’t make me go any further, I want to stop! Stop!! STOP!!
The tunnel ahead of him opens up into a huge cylindrical chamber, and standing at the end of it, below a gigantic snake-like creature, is a man with dark hair and eyes the colour of death. Gilderoy know his name now. It’s Tom Riddle. As he hurtles across the chamber towards the man and the snake Tom begins to laugh in a voice that is high-pitched, cold and insane.
Lockhart continues screaming, and their voices merge into one.
He wakes up again, this time with a strangled cry that is almost a sob, and sits up in bed, his hair net tousled and slipping off his head. Some of the curlers are falling out. He doesn’t notice now.
He slumps forward and covers his face with his hands, whimpering quietly, trying to block out the memories of that dream. That dream that might, or might not have been a memory. He can’t tell the difference anymore between his nightmares and what is real.
He lifts his hands away and there are tears on his cheeks, but his eyes flash desperately with bright resolve. Already he can feel his strength, his will to stay awake, fading away. He breathes in slowly, a deep, shuddering breath, and then raises a bunched fist to his mouth and clamps his teeth down onto it.
He bites in hard, drawing blood.
He will have to hide his hands in the morning. But it’s better than falling asleep again.
In the silence of ward 49, one man sits awake in his bed, with tears drying on his cheeks, listening to the snores of the other patients. A tree brushes softly against the window, scraping it, and he shivers involuntarily.
In his mind’s eye he sees skeletal white fingers caressing at the glass.
A shadow moves, skirting along the edge of his vision, and his heart almost stops.
Is this what I am? He thinks, Is this me? Am I really a coward? Scared of my own shadow?
Beside the bed, his photographs stare at him from the floor. Most have fallen asleep again. What a bitter irony it is that they can sleep and he cannot. It could’ve set him off into more giggles again, but he has never felt less like laughing in his whole life. He sinks back down against the headboard, knuckle bunched underneath his chin, and peers desperately out into the darkness, trying to see into every corner obscured by shadow.
The Dark Lord…he can’t be real. That man in my dreams can’t be real. No one that evil could exist in this world, surely.
In the pauses between the tree’s skeletal branches scraping along the glass outside, there is an ominous silence. He holds his breath, imagining suddenly that everyone else has completely disappeared from the ward, and that he is entirely alone.
A few seconds later, the woman in the next bed breathes deeply, and he expels all the air from his lungs in a rush.
A little voice, from some cruel part of his mind whispers, so…who’s afraid of the big, bad wolf?
“I’m not afraid,” he hisses through gritted teeth. “I’m not.”
Chapter 20: Cho Chang
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It was an obsession. It wasn’t just an obsession, it became the why, the how—the reason everything had fallen apart in my life. It was sometimes easier to sit on my side of the fence and indulge in self-pity than actually just accept things the way they were. That was the reason for the journey that brought me to the moment that I lost everything. The journey was haunted with longing and forgotten memory.
I guess I should start at the beginning. It all started when he asked me to be his partner for the Yule Ball.
Who is he?
He was the first one that stole my heart and then left me. Cedric Diggory was one of the Hogwart’s champions during my fifth year. He was the kindest most understanding person I had every known.
I suppose that brings me to the next question.
Who am I?
My name is Cho. Someone once told me that my name means butterfly. I don’t think it fits me. A butterfly is a creature graces the summer sky with beauty, a butterfly’s life is so elegant and simple. No, I think of myself more as a moth; A moth that is constantly drawn to flames that are destined to burn and die out.
Cedric was one of those flames. He died during the Tri-Wizard tournament, and the last time I saw him he was embraced in Harry Potter’s arm, dead. I never really got a chance to say goodbye. It was that thought that has cursed me. He had always taken the extra step to make sure I’d never be without. Yet, in his final moment of peril, he was without me.
It took me a long while before I could even talk about Cedric. Still now, his name makes my heart ache. It’s amazing how some people can touch our lives within a single moment and shape our destiny.
The summer after I lost Cedric was both the longest and shortest summers of my life. It was the shortest because I dreaded returning to a Hogwarts without Cedric, and the longest because I couldn’t bear my mother’s coddling.
September 1st came and went and another chapter of my life began. It wasn’t until I had boarded the train and saw him, Harry Potter, did that chapter start to show its ugly face. My relationship with Harry was bitter sweet, not to mention short. He was also a moth, and apparently I wasn’t his flame.
I could probably drabble on for hours about my failed relationship with Harry, but it would be nothing more than my self-pity. The only important fact is that it failed, miserably.
This story really begins not on that first day of my sixth year, but my last. The news had broken and the Ministry of Magic was finally willing to admit that Harry had been telling the truth and he who must not be named was rising to power. It came one night towards the end of term, Dumbledore told us not to bother Harry with questions.
That was my first clue something was terribly wrong. Yet, at that moment, there was nothing I could do. Harry and I had already determined our difference were something we could not work through.
The last time I saw Harry that year was on the train ride home. I was walking by his compartment with my friend Marietta. Marietta could be called the reason for my failed relationship with Harry. The last words I had spoken to him had been over her betrayal.
I had convinced Marietta to join an illegal club Harry had created to train the student in the Defense Against the Dark Arts. It was only illegal because Dolores Umbridge had become the Hogwart’s High Inquisitor. Marietta’s conscience was just too pure and she betrayed the entire group, myself included. Harry was never able to forgive her, or me.
When I let my eyes meet his when I saw him on the train, he turned away. While I felt a familiar heat creep into my face and my heart race, his eyes found the floor. There was a coldness that I couldn’t explain. It was an emptiness that made my bones chilled. I don’t think I ever forgot that look.
I spent the entire train ride back, reliving his eyes. Even with my hand enveloped within my boyfriend Michael’s hand, my mind was with Harry. Michael--how I didn’t deserve him.
Michael Corner was a year younger than me and in my house. Our connection was simple; we were both suffering from broken hearts courtesy of two Gryffindors. It was enough to bring us together. By the time Michael had found me, I was damaged goods. Still he offered me companionship, which was something I was desperate for. I think he was to.
The summer between my sixth and final year at Hogwarts was enlightening to say the least. I discovered what was missing in Harry’s eyes that moment when he turned away from me. He had truly been a moth too, and like my flame had extinguished when Cedric died, his flame had died out.
Harry’s godfather, the infamous murderer, Sirius Black was cleared of charges. Little good it meant. Sirius Black had been murdered in the midnight raid that had forced the Ministry of Magic to recognize You Know Who had returned. Life always did have a sick sense of irony.
I decided that summer that my destiny wasn’t to be a weakling who sat by and watched the Dark Lord destroy all that I loved and knew. Rumor was that You Know Who was going to try to kill Harry.
It wasn’t really a rumor, everybody knew that He Who Must Not Be Named had tired to kill Harry when he was baby, but for some reason nobody knew, had failed. It was only logical that he would try again. Not to mention he had tried every year since Harry had reentered the wizarding world.
The more I dwelled on what could happen, the more I couldn’t sit back and do nothing.
That was the moment that it became my obsession. I planned out every detail that summer. I had a plan, a purpose.
When I boarded the train at Kings Crossing that September I felt more alive than I had felt since Cedric had died. It was a sensationally terrifying experience. I sat in my normal compartment, with the same group of chattering friends I had always surrounded myself with.
Michael was there of course. He held my hand, but he didn’t realize that my mind was already gone, and my heart already shattered beyond repair. He didn’t know that an obsession was brewing that would drive me away from him.
It happened when we were passing the river. I remember the river because it caught my eye and made my body rise from its safe position.
“I’ll be right back,” I said.
Marietta rolled her eyes and tutted, her usual response when I did something she didn’t approve of; “Where are you going?”
I gave her my boldest smile, “To the loo. Is that alright?”
“Do you want anything from the trolley?” Michael asked.
I shook my head in a ‘no’ response and crept out of the compartment before I faced any further objections. It wasn’t a complete lie, I did need to visit the loo, but I had other intentions as well.
Being a Ravenclaw, I was very perceptive. I knew where to find Harry. I knew which compartment he’s most likely be sitting in. I knew whom he would most likely be sitting with. My feet carried me faster and faster towards the back of the train. I knew seeing Harry was the answer to everything I had been contemplating all summer long. I just had to see the loss in his eyes; I had to know if what I was planning was justified.
I remember my heart racing in my chest as I inched closer and closer. I was just about to reach the compartment door when it crashed open and Harry walked out.
“Hello,” I remember uttering.
Harry looked at me with his sad eyes, and passed without saying a word. A coldness surrounded him, and it was unlike anything I had ever seen from him before. I stopped in my thought, my emotions. I think time actually froze in that one moment.
“Harry,” I remember calling out.
He stopped, but didn’t turn around.
“I’m sorry,” I said, as if it would mend all his pains.
He never turned to look at me, nor did he say anything in response. He just started walking again. Walking away from me. Eventually I reclaimed my mutinous legs, that had rooted me to the spot, and I made my way back into my compartment.
“What’s wrong?” Marietta asked almost the instant I got back.
I lowered my head; in fear my tears would give me away and softly said; “Nothing.”
“Oh, I suppose the site of a train toilet brings you to tears then?” Marietta continued.
I cringed at how well Marietta truly knew me, and I dreaded the next words that came out of her mouth.
“It’s Potter isn’t it?”
“No,” I said instantly, but I knew Marietta wasn’t the only one who was seeing right through my lie.
“Harry Potter?” Michael asked.
“No, Harriett Potter… of course Harry Potter,” Marietta fried back.
I took a seat near Michael, but avoided his touch.
“Did he bother you? Did he say something out of spite?” Michael asked, being true to his part as my boyfriend.
I forced a smile; “No, he didn’t…”
“Honestly, Cho, when are you going to realize that boy is nothing but trouble,” Marietta ranted.
“There is nothing going on between Harry and I,” I argued, knowing it was pointless. Marietta never did have any tact.
“Oh course nothing is going on. That doesn’t mean you still don’t have feeling for him,” Marietta continued.
I felt a squeeze on my hand and I noticed Michael’s face flushed; “Why would Cho still having feeling for that prat?”
“Mighty brave words, Corner,” Marietta taunted. “You almost sound worried.”
“I don’t have feeling for Harry any more. I did,” I said quickly, “but that was last year.”
“Then why are you so upset? You can’t lie to me, Cho. I know the Potter look from you,” Marietta interrogated.
I finally conceded, unless I gave her something to feed on, she’d continued her relentless attack; “I read an article this summer. Did you see it in the Daily Prophet?”
“The one about Potter’s Godfather being Sirius Black?” Terry Boot asked.
I nodded, “Did you notice what else it said? It said Black was murdered by you know who.”
“No it didn’t,” Marietta corrected, “It said he was murdered during the raid.”
“So it proves Harry was telling the truth. You Know Who is back,” I said as I lowered my voice to a whisper.
“Didn’t we determine last year that Potter was telling the truth?” Michael asked.
I frowned, “I just know what its like to lose somebody. I feel sorry for him.”
I noticed Marietta touch her forehead, where her scars were still faintly visible, “How can you pity him?”
The rest of train ride’s conversation revolved around Harry and the former DA. Marietta didn’t remember much of the DA, but what she did remember wasn’t a fond memory. I didn’t mention that I had tried to talk to Harry. Sometimes things are better left unsaid.
A couple uneventful weeks pasted, and the idea that was swimming in my head was almost forgotten. Whoever said that the seventh year at Hogwarts was the most difficult was not exaggerating. I had barely had a moment to think about anything besides Magical History, Ancient Runes, Potions, Charms and Transfiguration—among other subjects.
It wasn’t until I discovered where Harry had been spending his time. I didn’t say anything to him when I found him. I had said everything that needed to be said on the train. We clearly had a difference of opinion on our issues from the previous year, and I clearly wasn’t someone he wanted to talk to.
Harry had been hiding out in the far dark corner of the library-- the one that only desperate Ravenclaws sought when the silence of the library was just too noisy.
I was that desperate Ravenclaw that day I discovered where he had been hiding.
A couple of second years were at the table next to me, having a discussion by slipping notes back and forth to one another across the table. The scratching sound of the letter sliding across the table was just about to drive me mad.
I flashed the two a scolding look and gathered my books, and I made a dramatic departure from my place of study and headed to this rarely used sanctuary. I was so angry I almost didn’t even see him sitting there. However, Merlin was watching out for me, and I paused for a brief moment to send one more annoyed look back at the two second years. When I turned back to enter the little nook, I saw him sitting there, staring out the window.
I didn’t enter. Instead I watched him for a minute. I could have been longer, but in some situations, time doesn’t seem to really matter. He eventually noticed me. I quickly lowered my head and walked away. Part of me decided that if he truly wanted to talk to me, he would have called out. He didn’t.
As I was watching him in that frozen moment in time, I saw the same emptiness. I felt I would forever be haunted by that sadness.
Another irony of life-- sometimes when were searching for answers, we seem to collide right into them.
“Watch where you’re going,” hissed an annoyed voice as I winched at the impact.
I recoiled and grabbed my now bruised shoulder, “Sorry.”
“Next time I’ll hex you to make sure you’re sorry,” the angry boy added as he started to walk off.
I suddenly felt the gears in my mind turning and I called out; “Wait, you’re a Slytherin.”
“Brilliant perceptions you have there. How did ‘you ever become a Ravenclaw?”
I ignored his hateful comment and instead sacrificed whatever dignity I had left; “You might be able to help me.”
The young stringy looking boy sneered at my suggestion, but I digressed.
“Who would I need to talk to…” my voice caught in my throat.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to ask,” the boy finally said after a few moments of awkward passed.
I drew a deep breath, realizing if I said the next words that there was no turning back; “I want to know how I can find You Know Who.”
“No, I don’t know who,” he scoffed.
I felt frustration building in me. Perhaps this was a sign.
“He Who Must Not Be Named,” I whispered.
The boy raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Why would I know?”
It never occurred to me that not all Slytherins were involved with the dark rising.
“Well, because you’re a Slytherin…” I said matter of factly.
“And you’re a Ravenclaw, that doesn’t mean you’re intelligent, obviously.”
I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. The only option I had left to was to take my battered pride and run.
I thought it was suppose to be easy. I thought I merely just confront a Slytherin and he or she would take me straight to the Dark Lord. Once I was in the presence of the Dark Lord, I could take him by surprise and cast a simple killing curse. That would be the end, and nobody would ever be sad again.
Yes, I know it was a naïve thought, but it made perfect sense at the time. However, when I discovered that not all Slytherins were associated with the Dark Lord, I realized how little I had really thought everything out.
It also raised the problem that I had no way to actually get into the Dark Lord’s inner circle. If not all Slytherins were evil, then it left me in a real predicament. I couldn’t just wander up to everyone I saw and ask him or her if they knew how to contact the Dark Lord.
It seemed that my purpose had hit a dead end. I never thought about my own house as a place that breeds dark followers. So I was more than a little surprised when one of my own became the answer to my predicament.
It was about two months into the semester—about three weeks after I had seen Harry in the library. I was sitting in a corner in the common room; studying my notes Professor Binns had given us on another Goblin Revolution.
“Chang, I hear you’re looking for answers,” whispered a seventh year Ravenclaw I didn’t know too well.
Peter Chambers was one who kept to him self. Nobody knew much about him. He didn’t play Quidditch. He didn’t hang out with the other seventh year boys. You could find Peter usually sitting in a corner, reading a book.
I raised my eyes in curiosity; “What answers am I looking for?”
“You Know Who?” he murmured.
I almost gasped, and I did jump back slightly; “You?”
He gave me an evil grin, “Are you interested in joining a winning side?”
I felt my heart constrict. Could I really go through with my naïve little plan? I wasn’t always the most practical thinker. I was ever logical and meticulous, but not very practical.
“Can I … meet him?” I asked slowly, knowing my simple plan was hinged on the aspect of meeting he who must not be named.
“Perhaps, once you’ve proven yourself,” Peter said slowly.
The image of Cedric flashed in my mind. Then I saw Harry…
“How would I do that?”
“I’m going into the Forbidden Forest tonight. If you’re interested, you can tag along,” Peter commented.
I glanced over my shoulder to see if Marietta or Michael were watching me. When I saw it was safe and they weren’t, I nodded; “What time?”
“Meet me in the common room at midnight,” Peter said slowly.
Midnight came quickly. I should have stayed in my dorm room. I should have just forgotten about Harry and Cedric. I should have, but I didn’t.
As the clock crept closer to the twelve O’clock hour, I crept down into the common room, and towards a fate I could not foresee.
Peter Chambers was waiting for me in the common room, right at the stroke of midnight. He didn’t smile, or offer me any greetings. Instead he wordlessly tossed me a dark cloak and motioned me to follow him. He led me out of the Ravenclaw common room, and along the dark corridor towards the back entrance. I could see the dark forest glaring in the background, and for the first time I felt fear.
There wasn’t any turning back. I was pretty sure Chambers would hex me if I tried. The woods turned from shallow to dense before I even realized how far in we had gone.
“I hear these woods are haunted,” I whispered, pulling the cloak closer around my shoulders.
Peter didn’t respond. We traveled for what felt like a long time, and then he suddenly stopped. I saw his shoulders heave and then he turned to look at me.
“You don’t have any idea of what you’re getting yourself into,” Chambers sighed.
I lowered my head, fearing that my eyes would give me away, “I know exactly what I’m getting into.”
Chambers nodded and lifted his wand to touch a tree next to him. I found this action strange, but when a doorway presented itself in the base of this particular tree I understood. As I entered into the passageway I realized how this was the point of no return.
It was much shorter than I expected it to be. Part of me thought the passage should have gone on forever. The room we entered into was unlike anything I had ever seen. The walls were draped with a green satiny materiel and the floors glowed as if moonlight was shimmering upon them.
“This way,” Chambers motioned.
I followed. I felt a sense of dread touching my very soul, and I subconsciously felt my hand tighten around my wand. My mind was desperately searching for the wordsAvada Kedavra.
Peter Chambers seemed to be struggling, as if only part of him wanted to lead me any further.
“You’re taking me to him, aren’t you?” I asked slowly.
Peter nodded, “The Dark Lord trusts nobody. He will take your life and make it his own. You’ve just sold your soul to the devil.”
I felt my feet stop moving and I glanced over my shoulder to see if there was still time to run, but there was no escape.
“My dear…” hissed a voice that was so evil and so dark that I was sure I would never be able shake it from my mind.
I took a few steps forward clinching onto my wand as tightly as I possibly could. It wasn’t until this moment I realized I might not get out of here alive.
“Ah, so you want to kill me? You want to avenge those you so foolishly love,” the voice continued.
I felt my body shaking; I never really prepared myself for death. Looking back I realize how ignorant it was not to consider such a possibility.
“You foolish girl—you’re heart actually believes that Potter may return those weak feelings for you. There is no such thing as love… only power, and those to weak to seek it.”
I tried to speak, but my voice caught in my throat.
The voice cackled, “You’re grip on your wand is very tight—this would be your first kill. Are you powerful enough to go through with it? There is only one way to find out. A wizard duel than—which ever one of us can cast the first spell. On the count of three then?”
I felt panic surging in my body; “I don’t know where you are?”
Voldemort laughed louder and like a firecracker, appeared in front of me.
“Is this better?” Voldemort hissed.
I felt my knees buckle and my heart freeze. He was more terrifying than anything I had ever seen in my life. His eyes glowed a dark ember red and his skin was a pale ghostly white. He didn’t even look human.
“On the count of three?”
I felt my chest constrict, and I wasn’t sure at that moment if I should just accept death or fall to my knees and beg for mercy.
My hands had become so sweaty I could barely keep hold of my wand.
My face had become damp with tears of fear. I was a coward, and everything I had tried to prepare myself for had been in vain.
I ripped my wand from my robes and shouted at the top of my lungs, ”Avada Kedavra .”
I’m sure I got the spell out, but I never saw if the green burst of light hit its target. As my spell was sent, so was his. I heard the word ’Imperio.’
Suddenly my soul felt lifted and light. All the pain and suffering that I had felt in the past years was gone. It was wonderful. Everything that was Cho Chang no longer existed. In that moment, there was no good or evil, only power—and I was not too weak to seek it.
Chapter 21: Draco Malfoy
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“Draco,” a harsh whispered voice called urgently from the alleyway behind Madame Puddifoot’s. Draco quickly raised his head wrenching his hand from his Pansy Parkinson’s, drawing his wand in quick, fluid practiced movements, pointing toward the voice that had disturbed his peaceful winter afternoon.
Glaring down the shaft of his wand, he replied just as urgently, “Yes?”
The call was familiar, yet so oddly distorted he couldn’t even begin to fathom who would approach him from the shadows in such a manner. Surely it wasn’t a Slytherin for they all knew in these times if you wanted to keep your neck and all ten fingers than the direct approach in open air was best.
But very few people ever called him by his given name.
Draco moved forward a few paces, keeping Pansy behind him although he was aware than she’d drawn her wand as well, preparing to back him up if necessary. Such a faithful girl, he thought. It was rather unbecoming.
“Staring down length of your wand was not how I expected to greet the son of one of my oldest friends, Draco.”
Memories, and spirits of the past flitted through Draco’s mind as the connection between man and voice was made. A voice he’d not heard since the summer before his 5th year on the grounds of the Manor Malfoy, and with most of the Dark Lord inner circle taken the week before break the previous summer, he was almost elated to hear the voice again.
Draco lowered his wand just slightly, no more than was necessary in order to be armed and ready if need be. He glanced once and up and down the lane and crossed to the other side leaning against the wall of the adjacent shop, leaving Pansy behind to do the opposite.
“You’re in Azkaban, sir,” he stated as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Not as of this morning, we’re not. I am to take you to your father,” he whispered quickly. Draco felt his heart rising in his throat and a protest on his lips when the shadows muttered slowly, dangerously, “It was the Dark Lord’s request, boy, and you should know full well how he feel about it when his invitations are declined.”
Draco’s heart seemed torn between two distinct and gravity defying directions; a personal invitation by the Dark Lord mean one thing, and one thing only; to decline was certain death, but as furious as he had heard the Dark Lord had been after the alarming blunders of his inner circle he knew with certainly that an invitation such as this before he left the halls of Hogwarts meant that he too would be serving part of his father’s penance.
The very thought made a smile flash across his face.
Since the return of the Dark Lord here had requested, no he had begged –something he loathed to admit- his father to let him join the Dark Lord’s forces. It was his greatest wish to stand by the side of and learn the Dark Arts from the Dark Lord. To become as powerful and respected as his father was.
But for reasons Lucius Malfoy had refused to explain, he had been denied with no more than a stern look and a sharp tongue that said while Draco Malfoy resided under his roof Draco would not be joining the cause until he finish his education at Hogwarts and that was final.
But if his time was sooner rather than later as his father had demanded he would walk in with his head held high and proudly proclaim his allegiance.
But he wouldn’t go blindly.
He wasn’t stupid.
He would at least go armed with as much information as he could manage out of his father’s oldest acquaintance.
“Why could my father not fetch me himself? Why you?” he sneered at the alleyway. “How do I know you are truly who you say you are?”
Draco could almost feel the irritation vibrating off the walls of the alleyway, and aloud himself a small devious smile. He knew full well what the man thought of Theodore’s questioning of his actions, and knew it would get a rise our of the elder Nott, it was for certain, especially if the questions were as simple as the one’s he’d asked.
“Not exactly a good way to show yourself before the Dark Lord for the first time, Draco,” the man hissed. “Question his motives and with stupid queries to boot.”
“But I am still not certain of just who you are,” Draco replied with a practiced heir of innocence. “How am I supposed to trust you?” he asked carefully.
“Slytherins trust none but themselves, boy.”
“But you have yet to answer my question, sir,” he said arrogantly. It might have been a tad of the unfair to ask the older man to remember some small detail of his life in order to prove his trustworthiness. Normal wizards would not have taken the time to make themselves familiar with their peers’ children. But children grow-up, so Slytherins do.
“Your stuffed Dragons name is Poky.”
Draco felt his face flush Gryffindor crimson and he glanced defiantly at Pansy daring her to say anything, but she was already hunched over with silent giggles that would surely mean by the end of the day he would be the laughing stock of the common room. But right now, Draco found the he simply didn’t care. Much. Nott was finally playing along.
“What did I do with it when I was five?”
“You chased Theo around the side garden claiming is was real and when he didn’t believe you stole your father’s wand make it breathe real fire and almost torching the manor in the process.”
That sealed it. Lucius Malfoy would dare tell such a horrific tale of his son’s misdeeds to anyone, regardless of how innocent they were.
“What color is it?” he asked, trying to raise the man ire just a smidge more out of spite, enjoying the charade a bit too much.
“Is there any other color?” the exasperated voice questioned from the shadows. “Enough of this!”
The ragged, waif thin shade of Theodore Nott burst from his shadowy hiding spot, quickly stunning a shocked Pansy Parkinson and placing his sights on Draco.
Draco nearly lost his wand at the sight of once proud man he had so often looked up to in his younger days quickly disabling his date. His fingers finally caught up with his mind and he tried to cast a shield but he was seconds to late.
Draco woke with a start feeling for all the world as his face had been used as one of the practice targets he’d used recently in Defense against the Dark Arts class. His head swam and his body ached with a soreness that told him he’d been lying on the cold floor for quite a while. He shifted his wait around letting out a slow moan and blearily tried to focus as the world came into view. But before he could make out more than dark, stone walls and burning green torches that cast the surrounding area in sickening mossy glow, two sets of large calloused hands appeared before his line of vision roughly grabbing him under the arms shoving him to his knees.
With a rush of adrenaline he grunted and twisted and turned trying to find any position he could to gain the upper hand and slither away from his captors, scraping his knees on the cold granite floor in the process and ending up with nothing more than a slap in the face for his troubles.
Draco’s head snapped backwards and his mind reeled. Who would dare treat him in such a way?
“Don’t move, boy,” a thick and slow voice oozed from behind as he felt his arms snap back behind him. He tried once more to wriggle his lithe form out from their grasp, “Get off me! What is the meaning of thi…”
Pain, pain beyond reasoning, pain beyond anything he’d ever felt before tore through his body sending screams of unadulterated agony bellowing from his thin, pale lips. Draco kicked and writhed on the floor of the chamber feeling and thinking of nothing more than the tips of every nerve ending in his body exploding with fire.
And just as suddenly as it had come, it was gone.
Draco slumped forward on to his hands and knees shivering from the aftershock and retching bile all over the ground.
“The great aristocratic son of Lucius Malfoy isn’t so great now, is he?” a slow and stupid voice laughed behind him.
The same overgrown hand grabbed him from behind again tying his hands behind his back. This time Draco did not protest, he merely winced and groaned as his aching body was shoved this way and that send his frayed nerves alight with vigor.
Finally, the hands gratefully moved away and Draco took a slow steady breath to calm himself looking toward the floor. Two sets of overlarge feet stood in front of him, and he knew in the pit of his stomach why he had been subjected to such torture.
Draco took a moment to gather his wits and raised his head defiantly. “Mr. Crabbe, Mr. Goyle,” he sneered looking through the masks at the elder henchmen superiorly as though it were any day at the manor and they were still too inferior to be invited into his mothers dining room. “I was under the impression I was here at the request of the Dark Lord, when are we too acquainted?”
The pair had the audacity to look stunned at such a statement. Clearly hoping for some sort of outburst from the younger Malfoy, but he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction; on bended knee or no.
“Well?” he asked expectantly almost daring them to say something stupid. Not that he could do much of anything with his hands tied and his wand who-knows-where, but his father had taught him well how mind games could work on the weak.
Crabbe and Goyle merely started at him for a moment and then looked at each other and shrugged. “The Dark Lord will be with you soon,” the man to his right who he recognised as Goyle Sr. mumbled as if he was confused. The pair walked around Draco one of them shooting a half witted attempt at ‘Evenceo’ at the pile of sick and could be heard lumbering out of the chamber shutting a door with a definite clang.
Draco spun around as quickly as his weakened body would let him still clinging to the memory of the Cruciatus curse; and in the moment before his blood ran cold at the sight of the bars of the door to the crude cell he now realized he was in, he wondered exactly how two idiots could cast such a flawless unforgivable but could barely manage a simple banishing charm.
The Slytherin stared dumbly at the door for a moment before catching himself and replacing the look with one of indifference. Appearances must be kept after all.
Draco looked around the chilly cell looking for anything that would get and rough ropes from around his wrists. His father, despite his protests Draco not join his world would be absolutely furious with the junior Malfoy if he met his Master of the first time like nothing more than a common prisoner. No, Lucius would not be pleased at all.
But all though the walls were coarse and would do well to file Draco precisely trimmed finger nails there were no sharp edges in which to break apart the insufferable ropes and free him from his bindings. The few sparse green torches were too high upon the wall and a small, bare cot haphazardly secured to the wall yielded nothing of use either. He dared not go near the hole in he floor on the other side of the small cell knowing full well he would find nothing of use in it, judging by the stench.
Draco lowered his tender body down on the filthy cot and nearly growled at the humility of it all. Taken forcibly, barely lifting his wand to protect himself, being sick and shaking like a child at a simple pain curse. A curse no less provided by his father’s goons! He would have some questions to answer, he was sure. The disappointment he could already see in his father’s eyes flashed before him, and it made him feel as though he’d been kicked repeatedly in the stomach as if he were involved in some Muggle duel.
Draco decided to put his upset and disgust at the situation aside for the moment and try to figure his way out of the bindings. It would do no good at the moment to sit and stew. His father had told him on more than one occasion that the Dark Lord could sense things in others, and the thought of the Dark Lord sensing him pouting made his skin crawl.
Surprisingly, the ropes took little effort to come apart and free his arms. Draco thought he should have known better than to think that the two buffoons could tie a decent knot with out their horribly inept magic to help them. Which lead him to wonder, why exactly would the Dark Lord sent those two in particular to do the job?
Draco could find no answer that suited the situation figuring that it must be a test of some sort. He picked himself off the cot and attempted to dust his robes free of debris and of his worries. Despite his dire surroundings he was here at the request of the Dark Lord, the most powerful wizard in existence: the one who would conquer, the one who would prevail. And if he had his way, Draco would be by his side as his father had done for so many years before him. And if the Dark Lord chooses this as a place to meet, then so be it. The momentary inconvenience would be well worth the reward.
And what a reward it would be, he thought to himself with self-satisfied smirk. Though his mother and father demanded that he wait until after his schooling at Hogwarts was over until he became skilled in the fine and precise magic of the Dark Arts, at every opportunity he would eavesdrop on his fathers conversations hoping for any small hint of wisdom he could add to his small, but ever growing arsenal of dark magical knowledge. By joining the Dark Lord he would no longer have to wait. He would no longer have to be patient. The Dark lord would show him true power, something he’d long desired for, and the only thing he’d ever been denied.
Finally, his time had come, and the power he felt he lacked would soon be remedied.
He allowed himself another smile and brushed off his robes some more and adjusting them as befitted his station in preparation for his meeting. The conversation between his father and young recruit Draco did not recognize in the parlor of the Malfoy estate the summer before last played itself out in his mind.
“In his presence you must focus, you must be mindful of his mood, his speech, his stature. You must be humble and serve him in anyway he wishes- for if you do you will earn a place by his side and on his lips as we move forward into the new world he has envisioned. A world were wizards regain and mudbloods and muggles are put in their rightful place- beneath our feet.”
“How very accurate your father is, young Draco. How very precise-”
Before he spun himself around to face the Dark Lord, his future master, he could feel the power and aura of greatness behind his back that sent a chill and longing up and down the length of his spine. The look of the man before him now however was not what he envisioned. Truthfully the shock of such a horrid creature was a memory he would never be able to erase from his mind and he was sure it wore plainly on his face.
Draco gulped, suppressing a small shudder.
The Dark Lord grinned managing to narrow his slit like eyes even further.
“My Lord,” Draco pronounced, dropping to his knees prostrating himself in the manner in which his father had instructed the young recruit to do.
“You are not my servant yet, young Draco,” the Dark Lord declared, “I do not require such displays from you just yet –Though I can already see that your loyalties will be as great as your father’s – of that I have no doubt,” he said menacingly. “Rise, we have much to discuss you and I.”
Draco raised his head with his heart in his throat, standing deftly, waiting quietly, alertly for the Dark Lord to begin.
The Dark Lord however had other plans. He stood very still for sometime looking at nothing but one of the green torches bracketed on the wall.
Patience was not something Draco had in any quantity. Indeed it had run out making his arms itch with anticipation with in the first few moments after the Dark Lord declare his intentions to converse. But he dared not move, dared not show anything but unwavering loyalty and attention to the powerful wizard while his mouth ran dry and his stomach lurched to and fro.
Minutes or maybe even what Draco felt like hours passed before the Dark Lord turned his attentions from the fire and back to the young Slytherin. Appraising the scared but tempered youth with cold, merciless red eyes. He walked once slowly around the cell, his boots clicking loudly against the stone floor causing Draco jump with ever step.
Draco thought he couldn’t stand this sort of torture much longer. While his very bones chilled with every step the power he could feel intoxicated him with a sort of madness that made him think he would do anything or this creature. Anything for the sort of power he craved.
The Dark Lord stopped before him once more and grinned peering into Draco’s eyes, and Draco knew that which his father had often talked about, had often commented on. That the Dark Lord could see in to you very soul.
“You are much more like you father than you should give yourself credit for, Draco. Indeed, I stand before you impressed that he would give his seed to and rear someone so much like himself. And I know now why wanted to keep you from my circle,” he said raising a long bony finger to his lips and taping them thoughtfully. “Why indeed.”
“You already know why you are here. You’re father’s blunder last June, of course-” he cut off abruptly, leaving his disgust at the matter hanging in the air like some horrible dark cloud. He turned his head ever so slightly, an abrupt sinister smile crept along the length of his thin lips, and he said, “But you shall be his penance. His worst fear comes to pass.”
Draco’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head and he swallowed once more as the Dark Lord glided toward him swiftly, unsheathing his wand.
Draco didn’t hesitate, he kneeled at once feeling torn one way and the other, between his father’s wishes and his own desires but he knew which choice he had to make- he only hoped that one day his father and mother would forgive him.
“Do you wish to join me? Do you wish to wear the mark and stand at my side? Will you do everything I say without a second thought and do what is needed to win?”
“Yes,” Draco replied in barely a whisper, and he closed his eyes as the cold white hand took a hold of his own, pulling his arm forward and whispering the incantation that would forever change him. And as his arm burned with a heat so intense that he thought his very skin would melt, he heard the Dark Lord whisper in his ear through his screams: “You are your father’s son.”
Chapter 22: Luna Lovegood
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By timeturner & Noblevyne & MadameSnape
Luna Lovegood tossed restlessly under her bedcovers, unable to sleep and for good reason. How could she sleep after such a night? Breaking in to the Department of Ministries? Facing the same Death Eaters that had, most likely, been responsible for her mother’s death? Seeing Harry’s heartbroken face as he told how Sirius Black had fallen behind the mysterious veil? She let her mind freeze on the moment… the image of Harry’s distraught face burned deeply into her mind as she wondered exactly what their relationship was. Obviously Harry cared for the former Azkaban prisoner deeply. Was he really Stubby Boardman, former lead singer of the Hobgoblins? She hoped her turnip earrings hadn’t offended the man, it was a turnip attack, after all, that had ended his professional career in music, and she would hate to have reminded him of such painful memories just before he died. Hadn’t someone said he was Harry’s godfather?
Luna tried to remember but the myriad of voices from the battle were an indecipherable jumble. She wondered if she should go to Harry, to assure him that there was a world beyond the veil, that he would, someday, see Sirius Black again. But, then again, no one ever believed her, why should Harry Potter be any different?
Struggling out of bed and pulling on a woolen dressing gown, she tucked her wand behind her ear and quietly slipped down the stairs and into the darkened hallway, leaving Ravenclaw Tower before her housemates began complaining she was making too much noise. Normally one to remain out of sight, Luna was surprised at herself for sneaking around Hogwarts after hours. Her newly found courage, she assumed, was the result of her recently acquired friends. Harry, Hermione and Ron were, after all, the trio most known for finding new and exciting ways to break the rules.
She stopped in her tracks and sucked in a breath…friends. It wasn’t a word she had really ever used for the people she’d met at Hogwarts. She had seen and heard too many things in her life to allow herself to succumb to the ideas of others and, in retrospect, had learned this made making friends somewhat difficult. She wasn’t worried, of course, because she knew that eventually they would learn to believe in the things she did and then she could smile her dreamy smile and patiently help them understand the many mysteries that made life interesting.
Standing alone in the darkness, Luna fondled the ornaments on her dressing gown. She had collected each one… a petrified frog from a swamp in Ireland; a plastic thestral from a gift shop in London; a piece of mummy cloth from Egypt that she had embellished with her own drawings of Hagrid’s blast-ended skrewts. Each held a memory for her and, as she touched each one, a tingle of excitement rushed through her because of the many wondrous things she had seen. Her mind drifted to her newly acquired badge, Luna Lovegood – Rescue Mission, tucked safely into a knobby pair of socks in a drawer in her room. It would soon become the newest ornament on her robe… a tangible link to a memory that would loosely tether her to reality. That is, if none of her housemates decided to steal her socks as a prank, first. If they did, it was no matter. They usually returned her things . . . eventually.
Luna blinked for the first time since leaving her room. Where was she going, again? Oh, yes, to see her new friend Harry Potter. Friend. She savored the sound of the unfamiliar word, each letter a precious gift. Apart from Ginny, the members of the Golden Trio were the first real friends she had made in her four years at Hogwarts, and no matter what happened now, she would always have her new, hard-earned badge as proof that she had once had friends and been a part of something, even if it only had lasted for a brief moment.
Though she did suspect that their experience in the Ministry had now left them permanently bonded, something that even went beyond friendship. It wasn’t, according to
Ginny anyway, the first strike against You-Know-Who in this Second War, but it marked the beginning of something. Surely The Ministry of Magic could no longer deny His return any longer, couldn’t just pawn the blame onto Harry or Dumbledore; explain it away with cunning lies. This was something that she had rarely encountered in her search for truths untold and mysteries unsolved: proof. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was back.
Tiptoeing through the passageway again, she tried to figure out exactly how she could ease his worries and comfort his pain without scaring him away. Her normally wistful expression clouded as she tried to concentrate on the matter at hand. How could you explain a mystery, something she had always accepted on faith? A hard lump began to grow in her stomach and without warning, the memories came flooding back.
Standing in a small clearing, the thestrals had stood silently, eyes glowing and flowing dark manes whipped by the wind, as they had watched the youngsters bickering about the logistics of this rescue mission.
“More of them will come,” Ginny had pointed out smugly, “You’re both covered in blood and the smell will lure them.” And she had been right, more thestrals had come, unable to resist the scent of fresh blood, and a most fantastic thing had happened – they had actually flown all the way to London, perched precariously on the magnificent leathery skinned creatures, flying faster than anyone had ever flown before and Luna had laughed as she felt the wind in her hair, high above the tiny villages, for she was not alone.
Fingering the plastic thestral pinned to her dressing gown, she smiled. The thestrals had been her idea and she had felt so proud when Harry had embraced her idea so readily. It wasn’t often that others listened to her ideas and took her seriously, but it wasn’t really her fault if they lacked the faith to believe in things like Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, was it?
The veil shimmered and fluttered gently, undulating in a non-existent, cold breeze.
“What is it?” Harry’s voice was thick with nervous tension. “Sirius? Are you there? Hello? What are you saying, I can’t hear you!”
“Harry!” hissed Hermione. “Have you gone mad? There’s nobody there.” But the whispered murmurs grew louder and more insistent and the veil continued to flutter, beckoning seductively, like a siren calling a sailor.
She had heard the voices too, people calling from the other side of the veil, but she doubted if Hermione would ever believe them. Luna knew instinctively that she and Hermione would never be close, Hermione was too rationally minded and obsessed with proof and truth and knowledge which could only be found in books. It was her loss, there were a great many things to be learned that could not be found in books or libraries.
Dark shapes materialized all around them and suddenly they were surrounded by a ring of black cloaks – Death Eaters. There was no escape: the Death Eaters were blocking all possible escape routes and they were severely outnumbered, and they still hadn’t found Sirius Black or Stubby Boardman.
“Tell me where Sirius is!”
“Potter, give the prophecy to me!”
None of this made any sense to her at all, but she knew it was a part of something important, a tiny piece of a bigger puzzle. Whatever this prophecy was, Harry didn’t want the Death Eaters to have it, and Harry was her friend and one of the few who had ever shown any faith in her, so she would fight to the end for him, even if she didn’t know why. Idly, she hummed a chorus of ‘Weasley is Our King,’ as she glanced around the room, wondering what on earth they would do now. It would be dreadful to die before she found a Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
“NOW!” Harry yelled, and a barrage of curses flew through the air. The shelves had teetered dangerously as hundreds of glowing glass spheres had come crashing to the floor and slivers of broken glass had rained upon them. “RUN!” Harry had bellowed, and she had sprinted past him, followed closely by Ron and Ginny, covering her face with her arms to protect it from the flying shards of glass.
She still didn’t know exactly what had happened, but that didn’t seem to matter much, now. Perhaps the reason she had been there was so that someone who had been there would be able to comfort Harry. She was sure he would explain everything, in good time. Things had a way of making sense in the end, if she was patient enough, she had learned.
She flung open yet another door, desperate to find Harry and Hermione. There were a half dozen Death Eaters on their trail and Ron had become completely useless, his eyes glazed over as he babbled about Uranus. Ginny wasn’t in much better shape. She still had control of her mental facilities, but a hex had hit her directly on the ankle and Luna was certain she had heard the bones snap.
Naturally, Harry had rushed towards Ron and Ginny, hardly sparing a glance for her, but she didn’t mind terribly much. After all, he had known them for several years and she was somewhat of an afterthought, even if she was the only one who had managed to avoid being injured so far.
“Over there!” cackled a fearsome woman with dark hair and sinister looking eyes. “Get them!” Dozens of spells barraged them – stunners, from the sound of it and they barely squeezed into the next room in the nick of time, slamming the door in the face of that funny dark haired witch with the nasty voice. She looked around curiously. The room was filled with brains, floating in greasy jars of dark green fluid. They were probably part of some top-secret Ministry breeding program, splicing the genes of aquavirus maggots with flobberworms. She made a mental note to pass this bit of information on to her father.
“In here! WE’VE GOT THEM!” shouted another Death Eater, and she and Neville began bewitching the doors in a panicked frenzy. She was just about to seal the second to last door when suddenly it was flung open and she was knocked onto the floor by five Death Eaters who had charged into the room.
“There he is! Get Potter” shrieked that awful witch again, and then her world slowly faded to black.
She reached up and rubbed the bump on the back of her head, which still throbbed occasionally. She had been lucky, Madam Pomfrey had said, she could have broken her neck. She knew she had missed a great many important events while she was unconscious – some fantastic tale about Ron being attacked by a mutant, flying tentacled brain. And he thought her stories were far-fetched! Dumbledore had shown up too, and Professors Moody and Lupin, and a woman and the man she later learned had been Sirius Black. Ginny had filled her in on some of the details, about Harry had actually tried to use an Unforgivable Curse and how Dumbledore had battled He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and nearly destroyed the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic in the process, levitating and imploding statues all over the place.
Her head still ached, despite the vile potions Pomfrey had forced upon her, but she found she didn’t particularly care. It was a minor inconvenience, really, especially compared to the state the others were in. Poor Ginny had been dosed with Skele-Gro and was in for a very rough night, as the shattered bones in her ankle mended, and Ron was absolutely covered with hideous looking welts. Really, she had gotten off quite lightly, with only a minor concussion and a bit of a headache, while her friends all had to spend the night in the hospital wing for observation, even Neville, whose nose had been easily mended. Friends. There was that nice word again. She hugged her body with her arms and whispered the word again. Friends.
She smiled dreamily and took off, escaping into the crisp night air. As a first year she had been very curious about some of the ‘secrets’ that Hogwarts had held, she’d found nothing substantial, but the passages did come in handy.
She liked the way that the breeze has to move out her way, get around her and she fills in the space left behind; no longer separated from it by brick and mortar, just flesh and a few layers of clothing. The ground was damp beneath her feet, and her Hippogriff slippers were already sodden, they yelped and complained at the discomfort, but she didn’t mind them.
Her mother used to say that all things were connected in ways that could not be seen, that the answers were there if people just opened their minds to the possibilities. She found it much easier to think in an open space like this, with no walls or floors or anything to separate her from the elements. Her mind was less clouded out here, she felt as though she was just another object floating in space. Free of context, she almost feels a little more lucid.
The wind blew around her, whispering to her, she could feel her hair tangling around her wand. Softly singing a chorus of ‘Weasley is Our King’ she slid it out, careful not to pull. She toyed with it absently and looked up at the stars; they glittered with a fierce intensity tonight: tiny pinpricks burning holes in the sky. Her eyes traveled to the Dog Star. She wondered if Harry would be find comfort in it, or would he shun anything that might stir a memory.
She sighed and sat down, propping herself up against the wall of the castle. People were strange, each a series of mysteries and contradictions, it would be impossible to discover all of their secrets, but nowadays it’s so easy to understand them. Everyone follows patterns, set behaviors, they all accept things so easily and deny others so readily. She long ago learned to be suspicious of a mass produced ‘truth’. Chances are, if everyone believes the one thing, then it isn’t true, the words have passed through too many mouths and onto to too many pages. It wasn’t fair that words couldn’t defend themselves against whatever slights mankind will put upon them, they all get such bad reputations.
Her father had sought to protect them, he Knew Things and thought it most unjust that no-one else knew as he did.
No-one could deny Harry’s words anymore, they couldn’t substitute their own truth for the actual one anymore. Tangible. So real she could touch it, and the thought excited her. Everything had changed now, the Wizarding world was united in consciousness, all following the new direction of the wind.
She performs a quick Warming Charm and leans against the wall; it invites her to close her eyes: she is safe here and not alone, that castle will protect her. She knows that in the morning when she wakes up, all of her things will have been squirreled away by her Housemates, instead of wafting around the castle, going to all the places that they hide her things (following patterns), she will make a list and save herself the time, she will use that time to find Harry and offer him whatever comfort she can. But for now, she sleeps and dreams of reality.
Chapter 24: Ron Weasley
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Another row with Hermione. Great. This time, I wonder how long she’s going to ignore me.
Ron tossed and turned in his bed, trying to shift into a comfortable position. But it seemed that no matter how much he fidgeted around, his eyes just wouldn’t stay shut for more than five seconds. The temperature of the night didn’t help either, for Ron began to feel a bit clammy.
With a sigh, he pushed the bed covers down and reached for the top of his pillow.
He felt around for it, but his fingers only managed to grasp thin air and soft cotton. He couldn’t feel anything furry.
Then, reality sunk in. Scabbers wasn’t around anymore; in fact, there was never a Scabbers to begin with. All along, there had only been a nasty traitor by the name of Peter Pettigrew. He was a horrible turncoat that forgot his roots and used the love of friendship to betray his friends. As if that wasn’t enough, he used the kindness of Ron as an advantage.
But Ron had already learned about that in his third year. Why was he still thinking about the sneaky rat, when it was such a long time ago?
Maybe the reason was because old habits die hard. He had been so accustomed to reaching for Scabbers whenever he had any problems. Even after three years, he still couldn’t get rid of the habit. He had been through the same scenario a zillion times, yet he kept repeating it over and over again.
When would he be able to stop the ridiculous habit?
A barely audible snore emanated from the bed next to him. For the tenth time that night, he turned over to his right side, and saw Harry sleeping peacefully. The pale moonlight that streamed in from the windows illuminated Harry’s face, and his scar was clearly noticeable. Without his glasses, the scar seemed to stand out even more than usual.
A foreboding feeling began to stir inside Ron. He had never seen Harry sleep so soundly before. Merlin knows how many times Ron woke up in the middle of the night due to Harry’s shouts or screams. Nightmares and visions had always troubled Harry, and those close to Harry knew that these were all caused by Voldemort.
Ron was all too familiar with it. He heard the cries, the mutters, the screams and the shouts so often that he could almost feel Harry’s pain and fear. It was growing on him, too. His friend’s torment and pressure added to his own fear of Voldemort, and his dread of the future increased.
Neither can live while the other survives…
The words of the prophecy rang clear in Ron’s mind. When Harry first told him about it a few days ago, he merely laughed and dismissed the whole idea of it as a Trelawney joke. Trelawney rarely, if ever, made accurate predictions, and this was most definitely one of her usual incorrect prophecies.
Or, at least, that was Ron’s first impression. He even joked about the fact that Dumbledore believed the old fraud. This triggered a huge amount of scolding from Hermione, which Ron found surprising at the start. Hermione never had anything positive to say of Trelawney, but when informed of this prophecy, she had, unexpectedly, taken it seriously. Indeed, it was this very topic that caused an argument between Ron and Hermione.
As time passed, and Harry’s visions became more frequent, Ron began to worry and doubt his own thoughts on the matter.
He hadn’t given much thought of the prophecy until then, when he saw Harry sleeping like a log. Maybe it was a good thing that Harry was in such a deep slumber, but something just didn’t feel right. Ron’s instincts told him that maybe something might be astray…
Ron turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling. His pyjamas were already clinging firmly to his body from the sweat that had come on from his anxiety, but he didn’t care. His thoughts were focused elsewhere…
Maybe I just don't want to believe that the prophecy is real…I don’t want to believe that Harry has to defeat Voldemort, or die trying. The thought sent shivers of fear through him.
Deciding that he wouldn’t be able to sleep, Ron got out of bed and grabbed the black leather diary from his drawer. It was a gift from Hermione, and Ron found himself using it often whenever he felt that he couldn’t rest.
He lit his wand under the covers cautiously, and began writing. The sound of the scratching of the quill drowned out Harry’s gentle snores completely.
It’s strange to see that I can trust this diary…Ginny once poured too much of herself into a journal, to the point that it nearly caused her death. But I know this diary isn't harmful…
He jotted the words down allowing the thoughts to flow easily onto the paper as they came to him.
Ron found himself thinking about the past years at Hogwarts. The end and the second war seemed to be looming closer, and Harry might be in grave peril. Actually…no, everybody, including Ron himself, and Hermione, were in danger.
Closing his eyes, he leaned back against his fluffy, white pillow and scanned through his memories of Hogwarts. He wanted to preserve them in detail as much as he could…
Ron realised that he had never faced Voldemort directly, and he had only helped Harry along the way. Would he be the sidekick once more when it was time for the second war? Would he only be able to stand aside and watch like a coward, as Harry became the one to defeat Voldemort?
The memory surfaced, the towering chessboard stood in front of him, and realisation dawned upon Ron. They had to play their way across. After taking a few moments to decide, he directed Harry and Hermione to take their places. Then, they started the game.
“Move up, you, the pawn, yes, you,” he ordered.
The game went on, and countless black pieces were smashed and pounded to bits. The sight of it scared Ron. Wizard chess was always a fun game although it was violent; but when played with life-size chess pieces, the experience was terrifying.
Before Ron could command another piece, the white queen turned to him. Her blank face suddenly seemed so intimidating. Ron could feel all the colour draining away from his face, he imagined he looked as pale as a ghost. He felt his lips quiver, his fingers shake, and embarrassed because he couldn’t govern or control his body; it felt like jelly. This was truly the most frightened he'd ever been in his life. He remembered thinking, this is the only way—he knew it with all his heart…
The last thing he heard was Hermione’s scream…and then, all he saw was pitch-black darkness…
His hand shook as he relived the memory and wrote it onto the blank page.
Sacrifices had to be made in chess.
That was Ron’s rule in chess; sacrifice. Never hesitate to sacrifice if it contributed to victory. He had won that giant chess match, and was even awarded house points for it. Ron’s heart swelled with pride as he recalled how he had beaten McGonagall’s chess set.
Flashing at the back of his mind, unbidden was the vision…the scene of the pieces lying on the wall, most of them smashed and hit so badly until there was an enormous amount of debris on the chess board. The wreckage of the loser.
Ron couldn’t help but think that that image could very well be the result of a second war with Voldemort—the second war of the Light and Dark Side. A battleground, a few broken pieces, a few survivors, and ultimately, the winner. But who would be left standing, and which side would win; that was yet to be seen.
He glanced down at what he had just written in the diary. His eyes travelled across the page and he stopped at the word, Ginny.
Ginny. His one and only sister. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to forget the look on his sister’s face when she had escaped the Chamber of Secrets with Harry's help. The innocent, colourless drops of water that trickled down her face, mixed with the dirt and grime of the depths of that heinous chamber, and the narrow escape from a hideous death that was reflected in her eyes…
It was rather funny to think that even his little sister had faced Voldemort. In fact, she faced him even more personally than Ron had ever done. Ron had only been able to help Harry behind the lines, but he never had personal contact, not even during the time that Sirius died. Merlin, he thought to himself as he wrote, I haven't even been able to speak his name.
He wrote a line in the diary, almost unaware until he reread it.
Will I be brave or will I shame myself? i> The line read…
His vision became blurry and the words seemed to turn into squiggly snakes on the paper. His eyes swam with water, and suddenly, the image of the dormitory faded…
“Go! Leave me! Run with Hermione! Hurry up!” Harry shouted.
“No, we can’t just leave you, Harry. We’ll fight with you,” Hermione replied determinedly, ‘Right, Ron?’
A thud behind Ron was enough to let him know that another Auror had fallen. Ron whirled around, only to find Tonks lying on the ground, her eyes wide with shock. There was a hole burned into her robes at her chest. No curse killed faster than the Avada Kedavra; the evidence was right in front of him. Barely a minute ago, he had heard Tonks’ shouts. Now, all was left was her corpse.
“We won’t leave you, Harry. You won’t be fighting Voldemort alone. Although you have to be the one to kill him, we’ll fight against him too,” Hermione stated.
“Ron! Take her and leave! Only I can kill Voldemort, and there’s no point in you dying as well! Now, go!”
Ron looked in confusion at his two best friends, deciding which course of action he should take. Should he run with Hermione, or stay behind to help Harry?
A high-pitched cackle reverberated around them…Voldemort was there, he was near…
“Run now!” Harry yelled, as he pushed Ron and Hermione towards the exit.
“No, we won’t!” Hermione argued.
Ron found himself torn between his options. On one hand, he was afraid to die, and afraid that Hermione would die. On the other, he wanted to help Harry and fight against Voldemort. The scene around him was exactly like he had pictured it to be, a scene of mass destruction and dead bodies lying everywhere.
“Come, Hermione!” Ron grabbed her hand and pulled her away.
He saw a hooded figure head towards Harry from the other side of the room.
“Potter, all alone…left by his friends, I see. I told you, Potter, there is no such thing as love!” Voldemort laughed.
“I told them to leave because I want to be the one to kill you!”
“So you think you can kill me? Well, your friends are cowards for not even staying behind, aren’t they? But unfortunately, I don’t have any more time to waste now, Potter…Avada Kedavra!”
The green light that had hit Tonks before, now hit Harry. He couldn’t react in time, and slowly, he fell backwards, his body stiff and straight.
Voldemort turned towards Ron and Hermione. “Now it’s your turn…the filthy Mudblood and the poor old Weasel...”
‘NO!!’ Ron yelled and stumbled…
…and he found himself gripping his white bed sheet tightly. The voices of Dean and Seamus a few beds away, travelled to Ron’s ears. Apparently, nobody had heard his scream, perhaps because it was muffled by the bed sheet.
It’s a dream…it’s all a dream…Ron thought, letting out a huge breath of relief. He looked across the room, and the sun’s morning rays from the window almost blinded him. Instantly, he held his hand up to shield his eyes from the light.
Then, he shut his diary and chucked it back in his drawer. Harry was coming out of the bathroom, and heading towards Ron’s bed.
“You better get up now, you don’t want to be late to Snape’s class,” Harry said.
“Of course. I’m not going to be a lazy bum anymore,” he said, “Um, I think I still have work to just skim through for a few minutes right now. Since you’re ready, I’ll just meet you and Hermione at breakfast, okay?”
Harry shrugged. “Sure.”
The moment Harry and the rest of his dorm mates were gone, Ron grabbed his diary out hastily and jotted down on the page…
I’m not going to be weak anymore. I won’t let Harry fight alone…I vow to practise hard, and eventually, I’ll KILL Scab--no, I’ll KILL PETER PETTIGREW. I’ll make him pay for the lying he did in the twelve years. That way, I won’t ever think of him as Scabbers…and Voldemort will lose one of his followers.
And I will fight with Harry till the end. Whether I have to make a sacrifice, or die unnecessarily, I will be brave…there won’t be cowardly Ron any longer.
Neither can live while the other survives—it’s the prophecy of Harry and Voldemort, but it is also one of Harry, Hermione and I. We will stay together and fight Voldemort until the very end.
Chapter 25: Hermione Granger
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Don’t Say It’s the End
“I hold the line, the line of strength that pulls me from the fear”.
- Peter Gabriel, San Jacinto
“She’ll be alright. Just stay here, don’t try to move her. We’ll be back soon.”
Sounds. Voices. Voices in the dark. She was drifting in blackness; she was lost in the void. Something bad had just taken place, but she didn’t fully remember what it was. Something to do with her friends. There had been a fight. Harry… Ron…
Hermione opened her eyes with a harsh, tearing gasp that rattled down her throat and made her eyes water. There was darkness and dim pools of light. She was half-lying, propped up against a cold wall. She felt numb all over, as if she had been lying in a bath of ice cubes; her fingers clawed unfeelingly at the air. For a moment she didn’t know where she was. Then Ron came into view, his familiar freckled face hovering over her with a look of pale anxiety.
“You’re awake. Bloody hell, you scared me Hermione. Can you sit up?”
“I don’t know,” she replied in a hoarse whisper. The darkness seemed to be closing in on them from all sides. They were in a large, high-ceilinged room, and there were stars swimming overhead. She didn’t understand. “Where are we? Where’s Harry?”
“You hit your head when you fell I think,” Ron mumbled, kneeling next to her. His hands gripped her arms gently. Not really knowing what to do with them, he pulled them away. “We’re in the Great Hall. Harry’s gone off with Dumbledore; they’re putting colloportus spells on all the doors.”
Hermione gazed at him stupidly, and then suddenly the memories came back with a rush, fragmented but powerful. She reeled back against the wall. “Hogwarts… V-Voldemort is here… there were Death Eaters outside…”
“Yeah, Snape and McGonagall are still fighting them off.” He paused, and in the sudden silence, she realised she could hear the sound of distant screams and bangs. She shuddered, and clutched out at Ron’s arm instinctively.
“What about… the students?”
Ron swallowed. “In the dungeons. Those that couldn’t be transported out of here. Some of the teachers are setting up portkeys right now.”
Hermione nodded, though still feeling feverish and panicky, and tried to push herself off the wall. Pain exploded in her left leg and she shrieked. Ron jerked away from her, his forehead shiny with sweat. “You shouldn’t t-try to move,” he stuttered quickly, reaching out in a calming gesture but not touching her. “Dumbledore said I should stay here with you until he gets back. Make sure you don’t move.”
Hermione nodded, squeezing her eyes shut against the pain in her leg. She remembered running, flashes of light and noise. Running away from Gryffindor Tower. That was where the attack had started. She had fallen on the staircase and broken her leg. Someone must have helped her here. Eyes brimming over, she looked up at Ron and saw the fear on his face for the first time. “Is this it, Ron? Is this the war? Has it started?”
Ron opened his mouth to answer, his eyes dark with trepidation, but a sudden noise stopped him. It sounded like breaking glass, and it was very faint, from somewhere high above them. Hermione’s heart started to pound. She felt her face grow hot with fear. “Ron…” she whispered, not knowing what it was she meant to say; only that she was terribly afraid, and she hoped that noise didn’t mean someone had breached the castle’s defences.
“Did they get inside?”
“Yes. they did.”
Ron jerked his head around so violently that the rest of his body followed, and he rolled over onto his backside, collapsing next to Hermione. The girl’s eyes were fixed on the dais at the end of the hall near the staff table. A long, dark figure stood in the shadows at the end of the table, near the doorway to the antechamber. Hermione gasped as the thing moved forward, stepping into the light cast by the swirling lights overhead. Her skin seemed to shrivel up in horror at the sight of it.
It was Voldemort. He was wearing some kind of dark robe like a monk’s habit, with a hood that left only his flat, pale face visible. His slitted snake’s eyes pierced her own, glittering darkly. “My Death Eaters are swarming the castle as we speak,” he drawled, his voice sending a shudder of loathing through her body. “Your precious school and its students are not long for this world, now. I suggest you tell me where Harry Potter is so I may decide to have mercy, and kill you quickly.” As he spoke he seemed to slink across the hall, moving between the House tables in long, slow strides.
Hermione’s heart was drumming now, so loud she could hear it in her ears, feel it in her throat. How did he get in? How did he get inside? Her mind kept saying, over and over, stupidly. Beside her Ron seemed to be holding his breath; he was frozen, immobile, and deathly pale. Voldemort continued to approach and then stopped some distance away, and his hands moved beneath his robe. He brought out his wand, raising it slowly, and pointed it right at her.
“Are you going to tell me, girl? Or do I have to force it out of you? How about a little demonstration-” he jerked his wand towards Ron.
“No!” She screamed, a surge of panic rising in her throat, and she tried to lunge forward but her leg flared in agony. She fell back again, panting. Tears were running unnoticed down her cheeks. She didn’t even realise it. “Don’t you dare!”
Voldemort smiled, and it was like watching a wolf bare its fangs after a kill. She started to shake all over, hating herself for it, but unable to help it. This was it. This was really the end. She was going to die.
In the next few instants, time seemed to slow down to a crawl, and many thoughts ran through Hermione’s mind, none of them there for more than an instant, but flaring and dying like the last pulses of a beating heart. She saw herself running through the Department of Mysteries with Ron, Neville, Harry, Ginny, and Luna. Watching from the stands of the stadium as Harry flitted through the air on his broomstick above a monstrous black dragon, crouched low over its eggs, and thought, please be careful, Harry, please be careful… then she was sitting in the Common room in her favourite armchair, with Ron and Harry, and she was laughing, laughing… now standing in a dingy, dim room in a ramshackle old house, standing beside Ron who was gazing fearfully across the room at Sirius Black… she was eating breakfast in the Great Hall, she was worried about her NEWT levels, she was shouting at Draco Malfoy, hugging Harry, crying alone in the girl’s bathroom, kissing her father on the cheek, looking out the window of the Hogwarts Express and seeing her breath fog on the glass…
She saw all this in the space of a few moments, and when she came back to herself with a jolt, she found her cheeks wet with tears, and a terrible anger in the pit of her stomach. I won’t let all of that be for nothing!!! she thought vehemently, staring back at Voldemort, who appeared to be saying something, but she couldn’t hear the words. She didn’t care what the words were. They meant nothing now. All that mattered was her friends.
All the hurt you’ve caused. All the pain. What’s it all for? What’s the POINT? You were human once. Why do you hate so much? I don’t understand. Don’t you realise it’s all pointless, all of this hating? What do you WANT? Why won’t you leave us ALONE? You think you’re strong, you think you’re mighty. Think you’re better than us. But you’re not, you’re nothing, you’re not even a man anymore. What happened to you, Tom?
Why do you hate?
Do you even know yourself?
And in the deepest recess of her heart, she found herself pitying the thing that stood before her. The thing that was once a man. No humanity showed in his eyes now. He was something else. He was wrong. He was beyond her pity, it meant nothing.
She found herself hating him.
Voldemort had finished speaking. He was glaring at her, incensed now, as if demanding an answer to something. Ron was still sitting motionless beside her, but she could hear him breathing in tiny gulps of air. He was scared. So was she. But she wasn’t going to give in… she wasn’t going to let the fear become her.
Slowly she reached out and fumbled beside her; planting her hand on his arm, then her fingers crawled down it until they curled around his hand. She gripped it hard. The fear had made her chest tighten and her breath short, but she felt madly exhilarated at the same time; her eyes flashed at Voldemort defiantly. His wand swivelled around until it rested on her.
She wished for her wand. It was buried in her robes somewhere, no time to fetch it now. Ron made no attempt to go for his. There was no time.
Maybe someone would come.
Maybe they would both die.
She squeezed Ron’s hand and at the same time, a tear leaked from her eye, and she whispered, “I hate you, Voldemort.”
Voldemort’s head twitched to one side, in a gesture that was curiously human, and his eyes regarded her coldly, speculatively.
“I wish you’d die.”
“Do you?” He said in a monotone.
“Yes. Do you even know why you hate me so much?”
Voldemort’s eyes narrowed. It looked as though he was having an internal battle with himself, struggling to decide whether to let her speak for a few more moments or kill one of them. Decisions, decisions.
“My purposes are my own and are not worthy to be discussed with the likes of you, Mudblood. Do not try to stall me with pointless questions. Tell me where the boy is. Now. Or your friend will die. One limb at a time.”
“Hermione…” Ron said in a strained, stretched voice, as if the word was pulled from his mouth on a string.
“It’s alright, Ron. They’ll come. Someone will come,” she whispered, and felt his hand twitch in hers.
“You can’t tell him where Harry-”
“I won’t”, she said quickly, feeling a chill wash over her. Her head felt faint. “I won’t.”
Voldemort smiled again, with that same predatory malice. “So be it,” he said silkily.
Hermione threw herself off the wall and landed with half her body on Ron’s lap. He shouted, “NO!” And tried to push her away, but she clung on to him, her fingers digging into his arms.
“Hermione!” He choked, struggling with her, trying to peel her off. She was going to get herself killed.
“No,” she sobbed, fighting against him. Ron was strong, but he was weakened by fear and shock, and she could feel him shaking all over. “I won’t let him!”
Then suddenly Ron stopped fighting; it was as if all the energy suddenly drained out of him, and his hands fell away. She closed her eyes and pressed her face against his chest, and waited.
Waited for the end.
She wasn’t afraid any more. Everything seemed clear; it was as if someone had guided her to this point… she realised her whole life may have been leading up to this. To saving Ron. If she could protect him from the first spell, maybe the others would come back in time.
Maybe he would be saved.
That was all that mattered now.
Chapter 26: Neville Longbottom
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By She Who Must Not Be Named
Neville opened the drawer slowly, fingers stretching gently across the soft wood and putting a great deal of obvious care into such a small action. It slid out easily and silently from years of use, the wooden grooves now worn to a gently rounded shape that threatened to collapse at any minute. He couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t been full, when it hadn’t seemed close to overflowing; something that never happened but had loomed over him as a possibility for what seemed like an eternity. Still he couldn’t bring himself to move them, to disturb them. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but he was fairly certain it was for the same reason he hadn’t thrown them away in the first place. It would be wrong.
He carefully pulled a crumpled wrapper from his back pocket where he had pushed it so hastily, smoothing it gently. The faint gold of the Droobles Best Blowing Gum wrapper glinted under the soft glow of his bedside lamp. Out of every one he had received this was by far the most common. They filled the drawer, interspersed with patches of red and green and the other occasional variety in the sweet tooth of his mother. Under the light the drawer put him in mind of a hidden treasure chest or, more frequently, his mothers jewellery box. It was one of the few possessions of his parents that remained in the house, and he knew his Grandmother would be disappointed if she ever found out just how often he snuck into her bedroom just to open it and stare blankly at the contents. She wasn’t one for sentimentality or dwelling on the past, and it was a weakness she saw all too frequently in him, a weakness she never hesitated to point out
But when he moved the light away he could see it once for again for all it really was, for what his Grandmother would see: A sentimental collection of faded wrappers, a drawer of nothing more than waste. Some still shined deceptively, but beneath them he knew there laid the cracked and peeling remnants of a dream he still clung too. And whilst the wrappers may have faded, the gold and silver peeled away leaving nothing but a thin, transparent film, his dreams had not. They still shined as brightly as the new ones he added every week no matter how hard he tried to leave them behind.
Carefully he lifted a single blue one from the middle. It was his favourite, the only one of its colour; a deep, rich blue that shimmered in gentle waves. His mother had given it to him one Christmas, and it reminded him of her, of her eyes, or at least the way he thought they should have looked before they had dulled, before the sparkle had been lost leaving them only to stare unknowingly at him. Before they had been taken from him and stolen from him.
‘Neville, dear,’ a voice called from the bottom of the stairs. He didn’t need to see her to know she would be leaning heavily on the banisters, an old flowery apron tied round her waist and a tea towel held gently between her fingers. She had called him from that place for enough years for her image to be firmly engraved in his memory lest that too be taken from him. ‘You’d better hurry up or you’ll have no time for breakfast. We don’t want to be late.’
‘No Gran,’ he called back flatly, sliding the drawer shut again with a gentle thud as it hit the back of the old cabinet. He loved the familiarity of their mornings; there was something comfortable about its unbreakable nature. But for years he had wondered what it would be like to have his mother call him, to have his mother standing at the bottom of the stairs wearing the apron.
He could wander into the kitchen, which would be brightly painted in soft yellows, the curtains open to allow the early morning sunshine to filter through. It was such a contrast to the faded and peeling wallpaper he was used too, to the damp and the unfriendly light from the harsh bulb that suspended from the ceiling and made him squint. There was no sunshine in this kitchen. And she would smile when he entered, perhaps even kiss him on the cheek as the smells of baking wafted tantalisingly around him, warm and homely. His father would sit at a round table and read the paper whilst he ate his usual toast, heaped with butter and jam despite the gentle scolding of his wife to eat healthier, and they could talk. He didn’t know what about, nor did he really care, the conversation was what mattered, was what would matter.
There was no smile when he entered the kitchen though. His Grandmother was not known for her smiling, but for her formidable nature. She was as strong and hard as a brick wall, and almost as loving. Oh, she did love him, but it was in her own definitive way, a way that meant she never said. And he cared for her too. After all, she had raised him and taken care of him and been strong for them both of them when he couldn’t be strong for himself. But sometimes he wondered if things might have been easier if she had been weak just once. If she had cried, or held him, or even just admitted that perhaps everything wasn’t just fine. If she had admitted that perhaps he was allowed to miss them, to want them back to the way they had been. If she had admitted that he didn’t have to be proud of all they had sacrificed for him, that instead he could be angry with the people who had made them sacrifice it.
For that was what it all came down too, every day and every visit. The knowledge of all they had sacrificed for him, that they had given up their brilliance and their standing, their friendships and their future to protect him. That they had lost the kitchen and the scolding and every small sign of love and affection that could ever have past between them That for the future of their son they had given their very sanity so he could grow into someone they could be proud of, someone worthy of all they had done. They had given up the dignity of their death for a son who was nothing but a failure, a useless and pathetic excuse for a wizard barely capable of managing the simplest of tasks, a wizard everyone believed to be no more than a squib. He was not the son they could be proud of; he was no more than a wasted reason.
There had been no pride in their demise. It no longer mattered what people said to him. The stories and praises no longer held the same meaning as they once had. He knew now with more certainty than he ever had before. He had felt it himself, felt what the curse could do to someone, how it could tear you apart from the inside. He could hear the screams of his parents as easily as he could his own, knew that Bellatrix would have taunted them the same way she had taunted him. They had all but died screaming in pain, clawing desperately at the floor as a madwoman laughed and jeered, finding nothing but pleasure in her cruelty, nothing but power in her actions. They had been stripped of their dignity, had it stolen from them as they were left unknowing and ignorant of everything they were, everything they had. Ignorant of him.
Sometimes he thought that Harry had it easy, or at least easier. His parents had been granted death and the honour that came with it. They had died for their son at the hands of the Dark Lord himself, not been left to rot in a hospital ward as nothing but a shell of all they had previously been. Harry had never known his parents, but still lived in the knowledge that they loved him, that for their love they had died to protect him. All he had were his memories, memories that never changed and were impervious to the whims of time. They would never be contradicted, never suffer the lack of surety that came with being an unknown face to the people who were supposed to hold you dearest, meant to be closest.
Harry didn’t have to face his parents, didn’t have to meet their blank gazes in the vague hope of a slither of recognition. Harry didn’t have a drawer full of empty sweet wrappers.
It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his parents, no matter what his Grandmother believed or accused. It was far from it. He was ashamed of himself and felt that they deserved better. He knew that they deserved better. Better than the two forgotten beds in the furthest corner of the ward, better than their thin faces, their drawn skin and white hair. Better than to be tortured to insanity under the orders of a mad man who wouldn’t even grant them the honour of death at this own hands. Three times they had faced him and survived, yet it meant nothing now. They deserved better than a son who couldn’t live up to all they had hoped of him. He was ashamed that after hearing of all they had done, of their greatness, their devotion, of all the battles they had fought through, all that was left was to introduce the son who cowered in fear from his teachers, who shied from confrontation, who had faced the same threat only once and almost failed to walk away. They had fought against the Dark Lord, fought against his beliefs and all that he stood for. They had been valued and respected members of the Order whilst their son had achieved nothing. He hadn’t been any more worthy of the attention of the Dark Lord then his parents and had all but handed himself to the whims of the same woman who had been the cause of all their suffering. He had wanted vengeance on their behalf; he had almost gotten himself a bed of his own.
What sort of a son did that make him? He had been so close to the woman who had destroyed them and achieved nothing, done nothing. He had failed them as he failed them every day. He hadn’t managed to make a difference.
But he hadn’t gone for the chance of revenge, and perhaps that was where he had gone wrong. He had gone with his friends, not for the glory but because they needed him and he would offer all he had, even if what he had was next to nothing. And it had turned out that he had been needed, that his presence had made a difference even if not the one he had hoped for, he felt was expected. He had achieved a greatness of his own, he had fought and remained undefeated. And with that realisation came another, that perhaps it didn’t come down to sheer ability. Perhaps it wasn’t simply a matter of what he could and could not do, but instead a matter of what he did and did not do. He had stood by the sides of his friends as his parents had done for theirs, had put his very life on the line as they had done for him. And it seemed suddenly possible to him that it was these qualities that made him a good Wizard, that made him worthy of everything they had given him.
And so he faced the Dark Lord. He faced him everyday, in the vacant smiles of his parents, in his own self-doubt. He faced him in ways infinitely harder than it had ever been at the Ministry. And perhaps this was enough, this was all he needed to be the son they had hoped for.
Chapter 27: Dumbledore
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Albus Dumbledore sat in front of his office late into the evening. Fawkes crooned in attempt to divert his human’s attention, but the aged wizard was too lost in some distant memory to notice.
Voldemort’s Graduation Date
Commotion revolved around the Great Hall as students scattered to and fro with the excitement of the end of another term. Light laughter and loud whispers extended the animated conversations into the Entrance Hall where I found one student standing alone carefully hidden in the shadows.
I watched him as he looked around at the other students with an impassive countenance. Occasionally, he shared a barely noticeable nod with a select few that I’m sure knew him the best. ‘Though, I’m sure even their knowledge of his character is limited. He certainly is a Riddle,” I mused to myself, but there was no laughter that followed from the pun intended.
I turned my back to him when I noticed his gaze upon me, but not before seeing him dart his eyes straight forward to avoid any direct eye contact. Feeling his familiar gaze calculating my own perceptions, I turned slowly, some unseen force anchoring my feet to the place where I stand. His stance was calm and collected as he approached me, much like my own; however, under the surface, I was not as comfortable with this sudden face-off.
‘Professor Dumbledore,’ he acknowledged me with a slight smirk suppressed upon his features.
‘Tom,’ I return with a subtle nod.
‘My time has come,’ he started. ‘I will make a name for myself.’
‘Graduation is a time to reflect on a great deal of many things,’ I responded, a small smile graced my lips. ‘A reflection I’m sure you’ve thought much about.’
‘As if there was ever any doubt.’ His voice no longer held his previous arrogance. It was more of a knowing confidence.
My eyes widened slightly but my voice remained the same. ‘There is always room to doubt, but then you’ve always been a Riddle.’
His eyes narrowed at me. ‘One I’m sure even you will be surprised by.’
‘One can be surprised by a great many things, Tom,’ I said evenly, my eyes searching his own. ‘Especially change…’
He immediately looked down. ‘Change is only subjective to the nature in which it came from.’
‘That is true. I am glad you see that, not many do.’ The regret I felt for my previous encounters with this amazingly gifted wizard turned to one of measured hope. After a slight pause, I added, ‘It always is important to learn from that past.’
His lips twitched into a carefully placed smile. ‘To change the future.’
I looked appraisingly at him. ‘One day, our choices will shape our futures. Only time can tell for sure if the change is for the better... Good day.’ I nodded at him, giving him a selective smile before entering the doors to the Great Hall, but not before hearing a few words that truly made him the Riddle he was.
‘Yes, in time…’ Tom agreed. Out of all my time as his professor, that was the only time I was certain he was telling me the absolute truth instead of a familiar half-truth, and that worried me.
‘In time,’ Professor Dumbledore mumbled, as he sipped his tea. He sighed deeply and stared down at his now empty crystal container of lemon drops. Not even the Cheering Draught that laced the slightly sweet muggle candy could lift his thoughts tonight.
Fawkes trilled questioningly, worriedly looking at her human.
‘Tom was right Fawkes.’ Albus said after a long pause. ‘He certainly made a name for himself.’
Fawkes stared silently, his eyes piercing him like a sword.
Dumbledore smiled sadly to himself, interpreting the look as such. He glanced in the direction where Godric Gryffindor’s sword was displayed on top of a finely polished oak cabinet. A few feet below sat a pensive that contained some of his memories. ‘As did young Harry,’ Dumbledore acknowledged. He did not need a pensive to store the memory of the night Harry defeated Voldemort.
Dumbledore’s Office, 3 November, 1981
‘And what wonder are you trying to conquer now, Albus?’ The voice was hesitant, unusually so for the normally stern and blunt Deputy Headmistress.
‘As of now, handling the Minister is of top priority,’ I responded, giving her a wry smile. ‘Of course there are other things that must be put in Order.’
Her sharp eyes looked plaintively at me as she took the seat opposite of my desk. ‘The Order has other priorities,’ she said flatly. ‘Most of them are gone or missing. Remus has left the country. The ministry is busy rounding up what’s left of the Death Eaters-‘
‘And Tom has been defeated,’ I cut in pleasantly, interrupting her growing tirade.
Her upright form gave a curt nod. ‘But you said he was not truly gone,’ she argued immediately.
‘To a point, no…’ I responded evasively. ‘However it was a major victory for the light, a feat in which the wizarding world has long-awaited to see. We will not be hearing from Tom in the near foreseeable future.’ And from what I could access from the different stories of that night, I was stating the truth.
‘And what about the Potter boy?’ she asked bluntly. ‘You certainly don’t intend to leave them with those Muggles, do you?’
Ah, so this is what all this is about, I mused. ‘It is the best place for him,’ I responded simply.
‘I’ve continued to watch them, Albus,’ she pressed, her nostrils flaring slightly. ‘They really are the worse sort of Muggles imaginable. They hate magic! They hate our kind! The hated Lily!’ she argued vehemently.
‘I can imagine a lot,’ I continued. ‘Lemon Drop?’ I offered. ‘No?’ I popped one in my mouth. I surely needed one for this continuing debate.
‘Blood doesn’t mean anything,’ she argued, ‘Especially when they despise something that is so much a part of him.’
‘Surely, that is a mere exaggeration of your particular fondness for the boy,’ I answered reasonably. When she did not respond, I added, ‘Be that as it may, blood means everything for his own safety. He will be told when it is time.’
She seemed to take my words seriously, thoughtfully, before responding. ‘Merlin, only knows how a mere infant defeated Voldemort, but I cannot help but wonder if you fear the unseen power this child obviously possesses. Do you think you will make the same mistake with him as with Tom Riddle by placing him with his family?’
I did not flinch at the mistake Minerva was referring to. During my many years at Hogwarts after Tom’s graduation, I forged a friendship with this remarkable witch before me. Never once since Grindelwald’s fall had she protested so strongly against my decision as she was now. ‘I trust myself enough to ensure that I do not,’ I said stiffly. ‘So, I say again, Harry Potter shall remain in the care of his relatives until he is ready.’
A moment of silence passed between us, and she quietly said down to me, ‘Of all the wisdom and knowledge you have, and of all the power you possess, it was not enough to stop Voldemort from killing all those people before. I think you are making a mistake Albus. If you weren’t you-‘
‘Then I’d be someone else?’ I suggested, trying to soften the bluntness of her statement with an off-hand smile.
Her mouth narrowed into a straight line, but at least, she did not argue further. ‘They are his family,’ I reiterated. ‘They will come around in time.’ Minerva stood up from her chair and nodded resignedly. Then she stepped back and exited my office, walking away from me as quickly as her dignity would allow.
‘Tom certainly was surprised that night,’ Dumbledore paused, as if collecting his thoughts.
Fawkes made a series of trills that could be interpreted as a good telling off.
‘I was more relieved than surprised. You knew of Sybil’s prophecy as well as I. We had the advantage this time around,’ Dumbledore commented aloud. ‘Damn me for being blind for so long. I just wish I saw it sooner. When another piece came into play, Tom chose the one like him. Interesting choice, but I see his reasoning.’
Fawkes trilled his disagreement, and with a red flash of flames, the phoenix disappeared from the headmaster’s office.
Dumbledore sighed heavily yet again.
‘Even though to you have seen Darkness, old friend, you know nothing of it,’ Albus said in a weary tone. ‘I do what I must to rectify my mistake. Though, given time, Tom will ultimately do it for me.’
Exact Date or evening after night of Third Task
I sat in my office late into the evening in the line of fire. I only half-listened to Sirius’ tirade. It was nothing new. However, when I answered, I made sure I was alert to the sound of my own voice. I was tired and did not want to compromise my plans.
‘He has to return to his relatives,’ I answered calmly. ‘His safety depends upon it.’
‘What about Headquarters? He can stay there with me!’ Sirius shouted at me.
‘You are needed to help round up the old gang,’ I tell him calmly. “And Headquarters is not fit for you much less a teenage child.’
Sirius shuffled his face red. ‘I swear Albus, if those Muggles to anything to him, I’ll turn all of them into bloody cockroaches!’
Remus looked at me with a slight frown. I know he shared Sirius’ beliefs, but I had my reasons. A brief battle crossed his features. ‘Albus, are you sure? Isn’t there some other way, after all Harry’s been through…’
I shook my head at them and steepled my fingers. “Sirius, you may correspond with Harry as needed, but nothing else. Now if you’ll excuse us, I need to update Remus on the current events. I’m sure Harry would like to see you. He’s in the hospital wing.’
Sirius and Remus shared a look between them, and then Sirius transformed into his alternate form and bounded out of my office with great haste.
“Please sit down Remus,’ I said.
The tired werewolf gave a slight bow and sunk into the chair in front of me. I regard him with slight scrutiny. The weary expression on his features spoke of exhaustion and pain, a weathered rook moved out of turn.
‘How is Harry doing?’ he asked immediately, shifting forward slightly to read me better.
‘Harry will be fine once Poppy is done with him.’ Judging by the agitated gleam in his amber eyes, I continued further, ‘There should be nothing more than a few scars. According to him, Voldemort had Peter take his blood from his arm, which was used for his resurrection ceremony.’
Remus gave me a sharp look, visibly calculating what my words might just meant. “Why?” It was a simple question, meaning it was only one word, but it held the power of even the most articulately astute question to be asked in the given situation.
I know he is puzzled, but it was not the time to reveal my plan. However, nothing less than a satisfactory answer would settle his curiosity and fears, and the werewolf would know if I was lying. An assorted truth was my best option. It was not a lie after all. ‘Voldemort found his way around Lily’s protection of Harry.’
‘Then why can’t he go to Headquarters immediately?’ Remus asked, a light growl underlying his voice.
‘I know this is difficult on everyone, especially Harry,’ I paused, letting my understanding settle with him before continuing, ‘But Lily’s protection and the wards surrounding the area are still the strongest magic protecting him. We cannot risk putting him in further danger for friendlier surroundings.’
Remus put his head down in his hands to cover his face. He took a few deep breaths, and then lifted his head back up, looking me squarely in the face. ‘I know there is something you are not saying,” he said slowly.
I nodded my head in acknowledgment. ‘There is,’ I told him plainly. ‘And Harry has a right to know when it is time and to tell those he wishes.’
Remus frowned. ‘I see,’ he agreed reluctantly. He stood up, preparing to leave. My voice called him back. He turned to face me.
‘I must ask that you not tell Sirius of this. He is already reluctant to remain hidden, that is why I am sending him out to gather the old crowd. I would ask you to accompany him, but I’m sure you’ve already decided to do so whether I ordered such a thing or not.’ Remus nodded stiffly, and in a few fluent strides exited my office as so many have before.
Once the door shut with a soft click, Fawkes reappeared in a burst of flames. She settled on her perch, looking at me sadly. A few tears dropped from his eyes and fell to the floor. I contemplated what had caused the phoenix’s tears for they do not shed them of a whimsical emotion. They do not feel as humans do, yet their power is as strong as the love they feel for the select few they bond to.
I shake my head. ‘You must understand Fawkes, it’s not that simple. What is cannot be undone.’
Fawkes cocked his head to the side as if to second-guess me.
‘Tom chose Harry. He used Harry’s blood to resurrect his body,’ I explained, willing to make this noble creature understand. ‘The prophecy contradicts itself, meaning there’s another answer. Both Tom and Harry are only half alive. Their time is short; they both have a half-life. Their bond is forged, not of my own doing, but Tom’s. He made his fatal mistake. Don’t you see?’
Fawkes became agitated and made a few hissing noises at me. For such an intelligent bird, he does not understand. ‘He will in time,’ I assured myself.
Despite his own resolve, weariness overtook the Headmaster as he slumped back in his chair. The cushions on the chair shifted slightly under his wait and held the elderly man upright in his seat. Fawkes settled himself onto the edge of the chair and began a soothing song, which continued well after it lulled Dumbledore to sleep.
A few pearly tears dropped from his eyes, rolled over his beak and dropped into Dumbledore’s long white beard.
Knowledge is taught.
Wisdom is learned.
Power is sought.
Loyalty is earned.
Dumbledore woke the next morning to a soft chime that alerted him that someone spoke the password to enter his office. He stretched briefly to loosen the aches in his bones from falling asleep in a sitting-up position. He looked around his office and smiled sadly when he saw Fawkes sleeping on his perch with his head nestled under one of its wings.
There was a soft rapping on his office door. ‘Come in.’
‘I’m sorry to bother Albus, but Fudge insists on seeing you,” Professor McGonagall said hurriedly, looking obviously flustered. ‘He barged right into to Great Hall demanding to know where you were at. Some of the students were in a right state.’
‘Did the Minister express his wishes as to why he required such an immediate audience with me?’ the headmaster asked mildly.
Her face fell. ‘It seems Potter used an Unforgivable on Bellatrix Lestrange in the Department of Mysteries. He’s talking of sending him to Azkaban.’
‘No,’ Dumbledore said sharply. ‘I will not let that happen. Harry will practically be given into the hands of Voldemort if he goes there.’
‘Then do something,’ she huffed. “He’s trying to get into Gryffindor tower as we speak.’
‘Bring him to my office, and we will discuss it further here,’ he instructed calmly. ‘Whatever happens, Harry will not be placed out of my reach. I promise.’
As my instruction, she threw her arms up in exasperation. ‘I can’t! He won’t come. He said he doesn’t want to be manipulated by you, and now I see why!’ she turned abruptly on her heel. ‘As Deputy Headmistress, I will deal with him.’ With that, the door slammed her, leaving Albus alone in his office once more.
Dumbledore sighed deeply, a solitary tear rolling down his face. For so long, everyone expected him to have the answers. He was an old man, and had lived through rise and fall of Grindelwald, the first rise and fall of Tom, and he’d live to the second and last no matter what it took. He forced back the moment weakness that had escaped him and sunk back into his despondent detachment.
With great effort, he lifted himself from his chair in one fluid movement. It was time to deal with one pawn who thought himself bishop. After that, it was Tom’s next move, and until then, he planned and waited. It all will happen, ‘in time.’
Chapter 28: Harry Potter
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Harry by Natasha Vloyski
Harry was six hours into his self-imposed exile with the Dursleys. He stood in the kitchen stacking dirty dishes into the dishwasher and watched the television in the sitting room from afar. The images on the evening news washed over his eyes without making any impression on his thoughts.
The Dursleys had not spoke to him since they had returned from Platform 9 ¾’s. Only his Aunt had made a comment to him. She caught him as they exited the car on the way into the house at #4 Privet Drive. Vernon had driven the entire distance in furious silence. Harry, who sat behind him, saw the back of his neck grow scarlet with the pent-up rage. He knew that Vernon was angry at the confrontation on the platform.
Now his Aunt rounded on him and said between gritted teeth, “You will keep to your room or stay outside, mind your chores and stay out of our way for one month. Then your Headmaster promised that he would send someone to fetch you.” Her gray-brown eyes flashed both in fear and anger. “Is that understood?”
He thought about her words as he put the last of the dishes in the machine and turned out the light. It was still early in the evening and light outside. Since his conversation with Dumbledore and hearing the news of the prophecy, he found he could not keep physically still. The very thought of returning to his room and laying there was more than he could bare. Instead, he slipped out the door and began walking. As long as he was in before Dudley and away from Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon he was free to go where he wished.
Free, he thought. Like being free to wander in a prison yard.
And certainly not free on the inside. The tightness that seemed to constantly compress his chest lessened if he managed to keep his thoughts away from Sirius, from Hogwarts, his friends and from anything to do with the wizarding world. All of which was almost impossible to do. He could walk the street and notice people out in the cool of the early June evening, sitting in their gardens and not think about any of that for a little bit. Then it would all come flooding back.
“A month and counting down,” he murmured to himself. Even that didn’t seem to help. Anything could happen in that month. He didn’t like the idea that Dumbledore had people watching him, that he had agreed to write to someone every three days and let them know about what was happening at the Dursleys; he didn’t like any of it. He also didn’t relish the thought of returning to #12 Grimmauld Place after his tenure at the Dursleys.
Even as he walked the thoughts about Voldemort intruded. How will it be? he wondered. He doesn’t know about the prophecy yet. But he’ll come after me and he’ll keep coming after me. Once he finds out, there is nothing that’s going to stand in the way. He’ll fear no one, not even Dumbledore. And, he’ll kill me. Will it be a blinding green light and nothing else? he wondered.
There it was again, that intense feeling of panic. Harry had seen what Voldemort could do, had watched him fight Dumbledore in the Atrium at the Ministry of Magic.
I can’t fight like that, he thought, I don’t have any special skills.
He’d had these feelings of intense anxiety once before when he was faced with the Triwizard tasks. Now they were amplified by the guilt that almost immediately piggy-backed his memories of the Ministry of Magic. They almost always followed his memory of seeing Sirius fall back through the veil. It was as if the filmy curtain was waving Sirius’ last goodbye. He could see it even now as he walked. Along with it came the guilt, the regret and the remorse.
Harry strolled lethargically at first and then as the thoughts chased him, like a dog after a cat, his pace picked up and he moved more quickly down the street, not noticing direction or surroundings. He was moving ever farther away from Privet Drive and took to making a corner now and again so that he would be able to return before nightfall. Otherwise he thought his feet might just carry him off the ends of the earth.
The sun was just setting, a candied orange slice in the western sky. There was moisture in the air, which meant a cool, possibly rainy night. They’d have these kinds of evening showers through June and then it would turn hot. Harry proceeded up the street and stopped. His thoughts were now moving faster than his feet and he had stopped to catch his breath. He stood gawking at the empty alley that split the neighborhood block.
At first it reminded him of his and Dudley’s encounter with the Dementors the summer before. But this time it didn’t quite feel the same. It wasn’t the same hot muggy summer night like it was the year before. This time it was an cool spring evening and he was seeing something else in the alley.
He saw himself, but different.
It was an image that had flashed before his eyes on the television an hour before. An advertisement for a western movie. Only now, he-Harry- was walking down the center of the street, with worn-out, weathered storefronts on each side, and in front of him was the evil Voldemort, dressed in black, his six-shooter at his side. They were going to duel, he thought. No, not duel. That’s the wrong word, he decided unconsciously. Shoot it out. Yes, that’s what they did in Westerns.
He felt his feet take the measured steps, the sun in his eyes, towards the solitary figure at the end of the street. I will face you alone, Harry thought. People will be watching, hidden; with fear in their eyes. They’ll see us stand here in the street, waiting breathlessly for us to draw our guns. The western storefronts did have people peering out through the mirage windows watching. A few horses tethered at their posts would swing their behinds around as he walked past and stare at him with large brown soulful eyes.
Harry ticked off the seconds, his feet splayed wide, his hand at his holster. Voldemort stood, wide-brimmed black hat shading his ugly face, and cocked his hip, his hand fanned out over the gleaming pistol strapped to it.
Together they drew.
Harry felt his left hand come up, cock the gun and his finger pull the trigger. His looked into the eyes that suddenly revealed themselves from under the brim of the hat. They were evil, insane, laughing eyes. He didn’t aim. He let his practiced, trained hand do the aiming.
The bullets flew and Harry knew it before it happened. He saw himself flying backwards, hot metal piercing his chest, spewing out his red blood in a shower before his eyes.
And then, he stared at the blue sky and thought, I’m dead. He’s killed me.
Harry stood in the middle of the alley and had his head tilted back looking up at the sky, his arms spread-eagled out, mouth agape.
Coming to himself he looked around with some embarrassment and noticed that that the trash bins behind him were laying on the ground, rolling around. He turned and saw the way before him undisturbed. No western town, no dusty street, just a graveled alleyway with turned-over dust bins.
He kicked one in frustration. Once again he pondered what lay ahead. Will I be a coward when it’s time to face him? he thought as he walked through the alley and studied the backs of the neighborhood houses.
Exhausted with his exertions and worry he dropped down on a low stone wall and kicked at the ground. It was getting late and he knew that he should start the trip back.
“What difference does it make if I show up on time?’ he said aloud and heard a responding meow. Walking the tightrope fence-line behind him, Harry turned to see a black cat talking to him. It jumped down lightly with acrobatic agility and walked, feet tiptoeing in a single line towards him. The yellow-green eyes were clear and studied him with interest.
“Did you hear me?” Harry asked. “I’m talking to myself.” He told the cat.
The cat shook its head in an uncharacteristic human-like manner. It’s mouth opened in a yawn and the contrasting red-pink tongue and white teeth set off the cat’s beautiful face. It stared up at him with eyes that reminded him of Cho’s; which only served to bring back his memories of Hermione and Ron.
“It doesn‘t do any good to try and make friends with me,” Harry said aloud. He stared out at the growing dark. “My friends get hurt when they are around me- or they die.”
The toe of his worn-out runners kicked a little hole in the dirt. Harry studied the ground and watched an ant following its’ scent trail back to the nest. I wish I could be you, he said silently to the ant, small- part of the landscape. “I’m next. He’s going to kill me just like I could kill you if I wanted to.” Harry put his foot near the ant and watched it shy away in sudden fear.
The pain was back. “Everyone around me is at risk. I can’t make friends, I can’t let my friends take risks for me. I’m responsible for Sirius‘ death, the only chance I ever had for happiness and I let him die! It’s hopeless!” he cried out in anguish.
He tossed a stone from the wall across the street and watched it bounce into an open field. The cat followed it with her eyes and sat crouched down next to him. It’s black tail was swishing back and forth languidly. “I hate my life!” Harry cried out, bent over with his elbows on his knees and his head hanging down. The cat stared at him. The sound of night crickets and frogs began to erupt in the growing darkness.
Harry finally raised his head and turned to her, “What’s your name cat? Is it safe to know you? Can I trust who you are?”
The cat stared back and then turned to the open field. With some delicacy it jumped down from it’s perch, stopped and looked both ways from the road side and crossed over into the open field. The long shadows of end-of-day sliced through the new green grass and weeds that infiltrated the field. Harry watched as the cat crouched low, its haunches twitching and then disappeared after prey.
Prey and predator, he thought. I can be the prey or I can be the predator. Wishing he could shut off his brain and think of something else, made him also realize that the shades of night were closing in.
Harry got up stiffly, feeling the cold crawling up his legs. He’d been motionless for over an hour. Now the first stars of night were crawling out of the pinks and orange hues of the sunset and twinkling brilliantly against an indigo night sky. A grinning sliver of a moon sat on the horizon like an invisible silly Cheshire cat.
Harry knew the Dursley’s would not be worried about him, probably not even know that he was gone until they went up to bed. They would not be like true parents who would wonder if he’d been hurt, been in an accident or had someone assault him.
“I have no parents, he said to the growing darkness. “No one knows what I’m doing right now; if I’m happy or sad.” The thoughts made him, at first sad, and then, angry at himself. “It’s just rubbish to feel sorry for yourself!”
He was about to head down the street when he heard a voice come out of the dark, from beneath a spreading tree. He hadn’t noticed when he sat down that the stone fence bordered a garden, overgrown with lush vegetation and greenery. “Hello, son,” the man said.
Startled, Harry jerked around. He’d reached for his wand tucked into his pants pocket and withdrew his empty hand slowly.
He saw a short, fat man slowly walk to the fence bracing himself on a cane. He wore a white tee shirt tucked into large clown-like pants of plaid. His hair was white and cut short, almost to the scalp; where there was hair.
“Sorry,” Harry gulped, “I didn’t mean to trespass.”
“No problem,” the man said his head nodding in palsied jerks. He smiled. “I’ve watched you sit there for an hour boy. You’ve got the world on yer shoulders.” He strolled like a sailor on a rolling ship up to the fence and stuck out his free hand. “People call me Tut. Real name is Hugo. I got the name Tut because I was born the day they opened King Tut’s tomb in Egypt.”
Harry stopped short and then extended his hand slowly. “Harry,” he said, “my name’s Harry.” He knew the man was a muggle.
The man nodded. “Couldn’t help but hear you. Wasn’t trying to eavesdrop,” he said, bracing himself against the fence on the other side. He examined the field across from them. It was now almost completely in dark. “I’ve heard young men like you who’d sit in a fox hole and give up. Then there’d be some who’d be laying there in the mud, legs blown off and still have the fightin‘ spirit left in ‘em. Boy, I haven’t heard anyone talk the way you talked since the war, but I know when I hear someone preparing to die. It‘s not what ya said,” he breathed looking over to Harry, “it‘s the way you said it.”
Harry stared at the man’s friendly face, the man once again looking off into the distance. He knew the man was caught up in some ancient memory. Then the milky, aged eyes turned his way.
“Can’t be nothing’ that a healthy young man like you should be worried about,” he said. “But obviously appearances ain’t everythin‘. I will say one thing. It’s not my business who or what you’re dealin’ with laddie, but I’ll go a’ead with what I’m thinkin’ anyway. I faced some serious things in my life. Stuff that scared me to death. When I was young, I wasn’t proud of the fact that I was scared. But I learned it was natural; natural to not want to ‘ave somethin’ bad happen to the people ya love and to yerself, if ya know what I mean.”
Harry’s ears were hearing the words from the soft drone of the man’s voice. He drained the meaning from them and thirsted for more.
“I hear ya talkin’ about friends and such, ‘bout not puttin’ ‘em at risk, about be responsible fer them.” He shook his head and the jowls wobbled, as he continued, “I gotta tell ya that it’s not yer choice. Wasn’t mine anyway. We were in it together, me and me mates. I could’na done it without ‘em and they; well I hope they felt the same, cuz there were a few that gave their lives fer me. I‘ll never ferget ‘em. I know that I would‘na hesitated to risk myself for them; and did, many a time,” Tut said in a low, soft voice.
He cleared his throat in an unhealthy cough, turned and called out loud and clear, “Ruby, Ruby.” His head turned to the open field and Harry saw the sleek figure of the black cat run across the road and jump over the fence. “So here I am. I continued on livin’, an they didn’t. But we’ll meet up agin and I’ll have stories to tell, I will. It don‘t mean I don‘t miss‘em even now.”
“Did you stop being scared?” Harry asked.
He breathed in a gulp of the night air and said with a phlegmy voice, “ Nope. It didn’t stop me from fightin’, I just got over bein’ ashamed about it. Every good soldier is scared, Harry. We all have our share of hurt from watchin’ those close to us die. But it is the way of it you see. And we do it for a reason.“
“What reason?“ Harry asked quietly.
“To protect those we leave behind. To save our way of life. You pick one. It don’t matter, it’s personal ya see. Whatever ya choose, that’s why ya fight. That‘s what yer willin‘ ta die for.” He scratched his pug nose and waved a hand under his whiskered chin. “Good luck to ya Harry.”
Without turning around he started off back to the house and said, “Jus’ remember, ya can’t do it all. The world is a big place. Ya can’t fight a war by yerself.” The short legs in the loose trousers took the man down the uneven, overgrown cobbled path and he disappeared into the dark.
Harry stood for a moment, stared at the dark house, turned and headed down the street. This time his mind had a different fantasy. This time he felt his hand wrap around his wand, felt the tingling sensation he always had when he and his wand were One.
“Your not going to get me or anyone else you foul, evil, inhuman….” Harry breathed with determination. “You’ll have to face me one of these days Voldemort. Before you take another person from me, you’ll have to face me! And I‘ll be ready!”
The figure of the boy disappeared into the kaleidoscope colors of the street lamps, house lights and burnt orange dying sunset.
Dark glittering eyes watched until the figure could not be seen anymore. With a dramatic flourish the cloak was swept up and over the man who stood in the shadows and he was gone.
Ruby watched from the stone fence, studied the furtive figure, hissed, arched her back and then, disappeared into the garden.
Chapter 29: Epilogue
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The HPFF Anniversary Story
Newly born flesh, already stained with the blood of his foe, Tom Riddle emerged from the archaic looking glass that stood before him. How he had happened upon such a thing in the mystical Department of Mysteries was beyond him. But fate had sent him a gift… a gift of insight into the hearts and emotions of those he had faced or those he knew he was still to face.
The raw horror and intense emotion that these people faced was beyond anything Tom could have imagined. The depth of their fear had stretched not only through their lives but throughout generations as well. He gave a soft wicked laugh as he remembered the panic stricken looks on each of their faces.
The Riddles. Voldemort hissed as he remembered the day he stole into his former childhood home to destroy them. They had made him into a half-breed and for that, they would pay. He would show them once and for all that he was the most powerful wizard that ever lived. They cowered in his presence and Tom had felt vindicated.
Bella, his lovely Bella, so vehement in her loyalty, proud and strong…a woman incomparable. Her sister Narcissa was little more than a pretty face, she took pride in herself and her blood but did not believe as Bella did. Lucius was little more than a foppish son of opportunity, he was cold enough in his manner, but he knew that if Lucius did not find the arrangement beneficial to him in some way, shape or form, that his loyalty would not be so easily won. Right now, Malfoy valued his life so he found the arrangement very beneficial indeed. The younger Malfoy had a great future ahead of him, he was weak-minded like his father, and the promise of a little power would do very well in persuading him.
The cowards… Lockhart, Quirrel, Peter Pettigrew and Regulus. Poor befuddled Regulus. Tom had adored the day Regulus joined his ranks, a Black family member attesting to his power. But then, Regulus lost his nerve and tried to desert. He too had had to pay. Peter…the loyal servant that had more ambition and courage than Tom had ever anticipated from such a worthless man. There was, of course, Severus Snape, whose loyalty Tom was still unwilling to trust.
Tom’s eyes narrowed as visions of those who had so readily opposed him crossed his mind. The Longbottoms, Minerva McGonagall (who still thought she was above him), Molly Weasley, whose love for her children made Tom feel ill. The pesky Marauders who had spent some much of their time delaying the plans Tom had so carefully made. Lily Evans, who’s actions had been the greatest hindrance to any future he had hoped to have. He had lost so much time because of her.
Tom hissed as Albus Dumbledore came into focus. At one time, Tom had thought he had no greater enemy than Dumbledore. But Dumbledore had fixed… he had saved the Potter boy.
Those silly younger witches and wizards that foolishly believed they could save the world – Percy, Cho, Neville and Luna. Ginny Weasley, who had served him so well through his diary, would come to him eagerly once again or die as a consequence. Ron and Hermione - the asinine children who had been ridiculous enough to befriend the Potter boy – would feel the wrath of defying him.
Harry Potter. Tom’s vision of the boy was narrow and focused. Harry had once been a fascinating enigma to him. A source of annoyance and a waste of time. Over the years, though, Tom had learned to appreciate Harry for his perseverance. Harry was unwilling to give up and, for that fact alone; Tom knew either he or the boy who lived must die.
Tom knew it would not be him. He would not suffer the same fate again. Harry was a boy, and a mere boy was powerless to stop the most powerful wizard that had ever lived. The memories strengthened him and Tom knew his return was now complete.
He sighed contentedly as he left the Department of Mysteries, knowing his followers were waiting patiently to celebrate his return. He spoke quietly to himself, knowing only few remained as obstacles to his path.
I AM Lord Voldemort.
Chapter 30: Dedication and Thanks
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On an ordinary day in late February 2005, a small celebration that very few members or users knew about occurred.
In a little lost thread detailing the history of HPFF, congratulations were bantered about and fond memories were shared: It was the fourth anniversary of Harrypotterfanfiction.com.
It began with a PM titled "Not so crazy idea" and the idea for a collaborative fan fiction story was born. The idea met with an incredibly enthusiastic response: twenty-two authors spent a well over a month working on their stories and even though we lost a couple along the way, it has turned into the most magnificent project ever.
Now, through sleepless nights, un-cooperative characters, and numerous cases of writer's block, the story has finally been completed.
Thanks, Jay, for making this place home for so many writers and Happy Anniversary!
This fic is dedicated first and foremost to all of the dedicated authors and readers on this site. Whether you just signed up today or have been here since the beginning, we hope you found this story entertaining.
We also dedicate this with love to Jay, the site owner, for all the time, effort, dedication, and capital he’s put into making this site available for everyone.
Harry Potter Fanfiction.com has come a long way in four years. (A full history up until now can be found here.) From possibly being a site about Sherlock Holmes, to a list of Jay’s favourite stories, to an archive of original fan-created fiction, HPFF has seen many changes. We’ve gone through three different servers, various staff changes, an outrageous influx of authors, and almost closed on more than one occasion, but we kept on marching!
This story is a compilation of some of the best writers on this site. timeturner and Noblevyne recruited the authors and organised this beast, so thanks go out to them for their hard work. Thanks also to the participating authors. You all did a marvellous job. I’m honoured to have been able to read and post these chapters for you.
"Many thanks to Jay, who has put so much of his time into making this site the best source for Harry Potter fanfiction. From this site, I've met some wonderful people with amazing talent as well as improving my own writing abilities. Happy 4th birthday, HPFF.com!" – Violet Gryffindor/Golden Phoenix
“If it weren't for Jay and the wonderful nurturing support system that he has helped to create at HarryPotterFanFiction.com, I don't believe I would have ever put fingers to keyboard. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for making this site for aspiring writers such as myself. We couldn't do this without you!” – wulfeyez
“This site is remarkable in the fact that it holds at it's heart the importance of nurturing the writers who find a home in its "pages." I cannot express how much I have learned about writing as a process and as an art by my participation here. Thank you Jay.” – Alpha3760
Jay, I happened to venture across your site nearly a year ago, looking for a Harry Potter archive where there was a sense of community and nurturing. Since then I have had utmost respect for what you've given to this site, for us, for everyone and there is no way I can thank you enough. But I'll try: Thank you! – Noblevyne
I've always found HPFF the easiest, fun-est, most open fanfiction site on the web. I am dedicated to it because it seems to be a site with integrity and its' members are keen to keep it clean and usable for all. I think that's because Jay runs a tight ship, but a friendly one. Thanks." – Vloyski
HPFF helped me remember the joy of writing, something I had forgotten for many years. Not only this, but it gave me somewhere to share this with others, to learn from others and be inspired by them. – Siren*
HPFF has been part of my life for such a long time now. What started as mere way of killing time, and developed into a passion. I'm not sure how I ever got along without it. So, this story is dedicated to Jay and all the friends I've made at HPFF. Here's to a whole new era as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is finally released. May our next few years be even better than our last! – LogicalRaven
Thank you, Jay, for providing a space where my rapidly multiplying plot-bunnies can run wild, breeding rampantly and transforming themselves into symphonies of connected words and complex clauses (with a liberal sprinkling of semi colons, ellipses, hyphens and exclamation marks). Conceiving, birthing and nurturing this website is no less of a highly creative process, and in gratitude and recognition of your seemingly tireless efforts and energy, I offer you my humblest thanks and a batch of homemade pumpkin pasties. - MadameSnape
Jay, without your vision the diverse, talented community of writers we have here would not exist. HPFF.com has not only been a fantastic outlet for my writing, I am constantly improving with the help of the advice and inspiration I find here. Thanks so much for everything, and best of luck for the future! -melihobbit
I appreciate everything you've done for this site, all the hours of work you've put in. I have met some of the most incredible people through this site, and it's really helped me to grow as a writer. Thank you so much for all you've done, and I hope you continue the wonderful work for years to come. - SiriuslyLupin
Thank you, Jay, for creating such a lovely site that lets us share our creativity with the rest of the world. Harry Potter Fanfiction is fun, smart, entertaining, and very helpful. A fanfic writer couldn't ask for a better place to release his or her imagination - Cor_Leonis
Thanks for keeping this great site up and running, Jay! I know it's quite a lot of hard work, and you're even doing this for free--so everything is much appreciated! HPFF has become the haven for all us HP fanfic authors and readers, so, thanks a lot! - icy
HarryPotterFanfiction.com has been a place for me to meet with other people of similar interest and immense talent. I am grateful to have this place to come to share in and celebrate the work of others. - LlewellynMcEllis
Honestly, Jay, if you hadn’t bought the site back from ole sunny butt, I had no idea what I was going to do with all these chapters sitting on my computer. You’ve made this site into a home for so many aspiring writers, I just hope you realize the impact on their lives that you’ve made. I hope you enjoy the work that went into this project and, for once, you didn’t even have to lift a finger! So, kick back, relax, and celebrate… Happy Anniversary HPFF! - timeturner