Chapter 1 : The first victim
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The Low Shine of Light
Chapter One – The First Victims
Time passed slowly as Harry lay sprawled on his bed with his arms beneath his head and stared at the shifting of light and shadow along the walls on the smallest bedroom in Number 4, Privet Drive; his bedroom. Better to call it his prison cell. The bands of light were blurry because his glasses were on the bedside table.
Nearly two weeks had passed since Harry left King’s Cross to return back to his relative’s house, which was so far away from the Wizarding World. Here, isolated in his room from his now-solicitous relatives, he relived the events in the Department of Mysteries. Every time he closed his green eyes, Harry saw a familiar face set in a surprised, almost frightened expression. Sirius’s laughing voice dying away as he slowly falls backward through the veiled archway.
As the silence of night wore on, more images and sounds from his recent past echoed through his thoughts. Here in the Privet Drive, he did not attract misadventures as he did at Hogwarts. Here, deprived off the right to use his magic, Harry felt horribly powerless and vulnerable.
His fifth year at Hogwarts had been the worst year in his entire life. Though Harry loved Hogwarts for many reasons including being able to get away from the Dursleys, he now felt torn; longing to be back at school while also strangely reluctant to return.
During his more rational moments of grief, Harry knew that Voldemort was truly the only one guilty for the tragedies that had occurred. Voldemort had murdered Harry’s parents, who had actively worked against the Dark Lord’s forces. Murdered them because of an incomplete prophecy about a wizard boy born in the end of July. Harry survived the Dark Lord’s attack with only a lightning bolt scar on his forehead while Voldemort’s rebounded spell reduced him to a mere shadow.
He had also murdered Cedric, a brilliant and well-trained young wizard during the Tri-Wizard tournament during Harry’s fourth year simply because Cedric had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Indeed, it was Harry’s blood used in the spell to restore the dark wizard back to his powers after 14 years of relative peace for the rest of the Wizarding World. Harry was sure that in Voldemort’s hidden lair, the Dark Lord was currently busy plotting Harry’s demise.
But when his thoughts made their inevitable circle, Harry still despaired over the deeply rooted feeling that he, Harry Potter, was as much to blame for the deaths around him as Voldemort.
Wearily, the young man closed his eyes to try to sleep. The previous week had passed without Harry being able to find any uninterrupted rest. Always, the dreams would wake him, shaking and nauseated, after only an hour or two. In desperation Harry had taken to exhausting himself as much as possible to avoid the dreams, but still the dreams found him night after night.
His depressed thoughts also led him back to the prophecy and his seemingly inescapable fate.
Harry opened his eyes again and stared at the ceiling while in the back of his mind a small voice kept asking, “Why me? Why didn’t he choose Neville? I don’t want this, let somebody else take my place…. why can’t I be someone, anyone else than Harry Potter?”
Sighing, Harry turned toward the wall and pulled his numb and prickling arms down from beneath his head; he had remained in that position so long that his arms had fallen asleep. The pillow had gone flat so he punched it into a slightly puffier shape before lowering his head.
To distract his mind from the self-pitying inner voice, he though about what small bits of innocuous news contained in the letters that his two best friends, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, had just sent.
Ron was excited to help out his older twin brothers Fred and George Weasley in their new wizarding novelties shop. Business had been excellent in the Diagon Alley location, and Ron was making a decent income minding the store. Mrs Weasley was quite concerned over their safety, but with no further news of attacks or movement from Voldemort and his followers, she had relaxed a bit about Ron working there. His red-haired friend closed with a hope that his mother would convince Dumbeldore to permit Harry to visit before the end of the holidays.
Hermione had inquired about how Harry was feeling, and stated that what happened at the Ministry wasn’t Harry’s fault. She also was anxious to get her OWL scores and wanted Harry to owl her with his results the moment he got them. Unlike Ron, however, she had been scouring all wizarding and muggle papers and news broadcasts for anything unusual, but the summer so far had been remarkably quiet.
The voice trailed away after a few moments as sleep finally stole over his troubled mind. Even as he dozed, Harry knew the rare peace and stillness would not last long.
Darkness, silent and encompassing, swallowed any dreams that seemed would have come. Slowly, stars began to emerge from the abyss, followed by a comfortable coolness that surrounded him. Shadowy shapes formed out the darkness below him and Harry knew suddenly that he was hovering in the air. The amorphous shapes became recognizable as roofs of houses many feet below his point of view.
The homes were comfortably large and arranged similar to Privet Drive, but one home stood out to Harry. It seemed to be a muggle home with a too small chimney, cheery planted flowerbeds, electric lighting and winding walkway to the street. An incredibly powerful chill swept through Harry as he recognized the flash of magical green light spilling like lightning from the home’s windows.
His point of view lowered slowly until he looked through the large front windows into what seemed to be the front parlor of the home. Four people stood in the room, a couple in muggle clothing huddled against the far wall; two dark cloaked individuals stood opposite the couple, their wands pointing toward the man and woman.
As Harry concentrated on the scene, he suddenly was in the room behind the attackers. The dark wizard on Harry’s right raised his wand and in a sibilant voice said, “Crucio.” The red beam shot out and held on the older man across the room.
Horrified, Harry witnessed the man contort and writhe in agony, not screaming until he collapsed on the floor under the spell. The woman beside him cried out for the attacker to stop and tried to hold her companion. Realizing the dark wizards to Death Eaters, the young man fruitlessly searched for his missing wand to stop the attack.
Another voice screamed, “NO!” from Harry’s left. The two Death Eaters turned to face the direction the cry had come from, breaking off their attack on the man. The young woman moved forward into a swath of light from the outside and Harry recognized her. It was Hermione.
She raised her wand as the Death Eaters chuckled with evil glee, raising their wands to curse her. All three spoke their incantations but Hermione finished her spell first.
“Expelliarmus!” One Death Eater’s wand shot from his hand, disrupting his spell. Hermione managed to duck the red beam of the other’s attack. As she cast her next spell toward the remaining Death Eater, a strange globe of light absorbed the spell. He then Stunned Hermione as his companion retrieved his wand. Both turned back to the Muggle couple that Harry now recognized as Hermione’s parents and raised their wands.
Hermione struggled to her feet, screaming in denial as the attackers began to mutter an incantation Harry couldn’t quite place. Pulsating green light enveloped the Grangers, who both collapsed. Hermione found her wand and spun around to attack only to be caught in the spell cast by the Death Eaters.
Hermione’s screams echoed shrilly through Harry’s mind as he fought to try and help his friend. The vision began to blur as Harry felt himself being pushed away. Evil laughter, distant, cold followed Harry into consciousness.
No, no, this can’t be real…NO!”
Harry sat straight up, his scream still ringing in his ear. He panted as he listened to hear if he had disturbed the Dursley’s, but no shout of indignation at being awoken came. As Harry swung his legs over to the floor and placed his head in his hands, he tried to calm himself.
“It can’t be true, what I saw…The Order is watching over the Grangers. Voldemort was just trying to trick me again… He wants me to go outside….” He kept repeating sensible statements that he heard in his mind, spoken in Hermione’s crisp, know-it-all tone.
Glancing at the alarm clock on the bedside table, he placed his glasses on so he could read the time. It was almost 4:21 am and the sun was starting to brighten the day in earnest. Harry sighed and just chalked it up as another night’s sleep lost, and rose to dress for the day.
As he pulled on an old t-shirt over his head, Harry reflected on how isolated he felt here at Privet drive, separated from the magical world. Trying to tame his wild hair, the changes in his body due to proper feeding and exercise while he attended Hogwarts showed in the tight fit of the t-shirt across his shoulders and chest. Before, this old cast-off of Dudley’s would have hung loose over his skinny frame.
Harry tamed his hair into a semblance of order with effort, noticing that his scar seemed more prominent and redder than usual this morning. A distant squeal of car brakes drifted through his open window. Moving over to the window, he watched a bright red Vauxhall car turn into Privet Drive and headed up the roadway. From the way that the vehicle swerved from side to side, Harry suspected the driver might be ill or intoxicated. It continued toward Number 4, barely missing the post-box of Number 3 Privet Drive.
“What in the devil’s name…?” Harry whispered, unbelieving, as the car came to a screeching halt halfway in Number 4’s driveway. From his window, Harry couldn’t see who the driver might be, so he hastily gathered his wand and headed downstairs to the front door. Careful not to make noise and wake any of the Dursleys, Harry crept to the door and cracked it open slightly, his wand at the ready, to see the strange vehicle and its driver.
What he saw had him jerking open the door and running to the small form huddled on the grass with her head on her knees. That it might be a Death Eater trick didn’t cross Harry’s mind until he had almost reached her.
“Hermione! What are you doing here? What’s happened?” Harry slowed his approach as he spoke, coming to stand a few feet away. Hermione lifted her tear-streaked face up to him and tried to speak but nothing came out, and she starting shaking visibly as Harry, his concern overcoming caution, flung himself onto his knees beside his friend.
Her clothes were torn in places, and bloody in others. Tears started streaming down her face as Harry gathered her under his arm and tried to soothe her.
“Shh, you’re safe now….”
Hermione found her voice at last, “Oh, Harry… they came for us…two of them…”
Harry’s heart froze, the dream he’d had coming back with crystal clarity. Caution reasserted itself and Harry asked her quietly, “Hermione, what form does your Patronus take?”
Startled by Harry’s question, Hermione stuttered a moment, then realization flashed across her pale face.
“My Patronus is an otter.” Harry, closed his eyes, pain in his countenance, then he held her tighter as she sobbed against his chest.
“I’m sorry, Hermione –so sorry…” She cried for a few moments before attempting to try and tell him what had happened. Harry stopped her quickly.
“I saw the attack in my dream last night.” Hermione leaned back against his hold to stare horrified at him. Harry’s agony was visible in his eyes, and Hermione suddenly wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight.
“I couldn’t do anything to save them…I just grabbed Crookshanks and jumped in the car…didn’t even know if I could drive it …”
Harry smiled a bit at Hermione’s response. Obviously there hadn’t been a book handy to help her out in driving the car. A tired meow brought Harry’s head up to see Crookshanks on the grass in front of them, looking back over his shoulder. As Harry focused on the cat, he headed off down Privet Drive a few meters, and then looked back at the pair. Looking past the cat, Harry saw the street sign pointing to Magnolia Crescent. Mrs Figg, of course!
“We need to contact the Order at once, Hermione. We’ve got to get to Mrs. Figg’s, come on!”
Still in shock, Hermione stood up shakily with Harry’s assistance, and they headed toward Mrs. Figg’s house. Harry found himself trying to go faster, but Hermione was slowly starting to recover a bit as they went, so he curbed his anxiety and moderated the pace for her benefit.
Time seemed to be flying past as the pair crossed into Magnolia Cresecent and headed to Mrs. Figg’s home. Crookshanks trotted at their side, purring in encouragement for his mistress.
They reached the front door and Harry started pounding on the door when the doorbell didn’t produce Mrs Figg quickly enough. Hermione stood at the bottom of the steps and clutched her cardigan tighter around her body. Her familiar sat at her feet and leaned against her leg, purring loudly. She seemed to be swaying on her feet, her eyes becoming glazed.
“What’s wrong, Hermione?” Harry let off on his knocking as he noticed the change in his friend. She focused with difficulty on him, and then said, “I can’t anymore…anymore….the curse…”
Harry turned back to the door, frantic now. Hermione was in definite trouble and needed help.
“Mrs, Figg, open the door! It’s Harry!”
The door lock rattled and then the door swung open.