Chapter 1 : Bermuda, August 1993
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“What does the old woman have to write to me today?” Althea muttered, tapping the slim, long white envelope against her chin.
Althea Morrigan sat alone upon the grey stone bench in the center of the rose garden, surrounded by blooms of red, orange, and pink. The warmth of the early morning sun and thick humidity heightened the smell of the fragrant roses as Althea inhaled deeply for courage in anticipation of her grandmother’s letter. Frowning slightly, her slim fingers tore into the envelope, prepared for the banal letter that detailed missed village fête and the scandalous goings on of her Muggle friends. Instead, an article from the Daily Prophet slipped into her lap. She wrinkled her nose—why would the old woman send her an old newspaper clipping? Taking the article into her hands and unfolding it, her eyes focused upon the bold black font at least two inches high:
Immediately, her body lurched forward and, with a trembling hand, she attempted to steady herself upon the bench.
“Oh, bloody hell,” she murmured weakly, licking her unnaturally dry lips. “How?”
Gripping the paper tightly, her eyes slowly descended from the headline to his recent prison photograph. She swallowed the sour, caustic liquid that had climbed into the back of her throat. Transfixed by his photograph, she refused to believe that it was Sirius glaring back at her. He could not have survived that long in Azkaban; surely, he must have died some years ago. Except, she would have known if he had died—at least she thought she would. Only when she looked into the sunken, hollow eyes hidden by long, matted hair did she realize it was actually Sirius. He was older, so much older than when she had seen him last, and his features grotesque, as if he had been dead for years and his body was slowly decaying—except, Azkaban had not totally broken him. Her body instinctively cringed when she detected a small air of arrogance in his photograph. It was as if he knew she was looking at him and knew that by her reaction to his photograph she was still alive. She had a wild, fleeting thought that if she turned her head at that moment, she would see him standing behind her with his arms folded, smiling smugly at her. Refusing the overwhelming urge to turn her head, she folded the article along the creases and slipped it back in the envelope. It was then she noticed another paper neatly folded inside the envelope. It was in Gran’s handwriting, and the only message written on the paper was the words:
Immediately, before she could make any decision about returning to England, an owl dropped another letter into her lap. Fearing it was another letter that described Sirius’s whereabouts as Bermuda, she timidly turned over the letter to open it. She sighed with relief as it was from Hogwarts. Under the circumstances, Dumbledore would surely let her stay away from Hogwarts this year—a replacement for Muggle Studies wouldn’t be that difficult to hire, would it? Hastily opening the envelope, she frowned at the message from Dumbledore:
However much she wanted to, she could not defy an order from Dumbledore. This was the one moment in her life she wished she had a choice….