Chapter 1 - Nightfall
Cudham – Greater London
Its late September and the long days of an unusually hot summer are now beginning to give way to the cool of autumn. The ground lies covered in a carpet of yellow and red leaves which lay like so many fallen bodies on a battlefield - they twist and sway every now and again, brought back to life by the gusts of wind that whistle through the branches of the trees.
Through the center of this landscape runs a small country road. On either side lies a fence made of logs, cut lengthwise and built with nothing more than spit and elbow grease. The wooden railings, after many years of exposure to the wind and rain, are now brown and twisted with age; but still strong - with perhaps one exception.
On the ground one railing lays broken. It’s possible a particularly strong gust of wind might be responsible or it may have succumbed to time and decay. Still, whatever the cause, this log that now lies broken, has become an oracle, a portent of things to come…….a promise of what will be.
Behind the fence lies a row of trees, behind them a field covered in a mixture of grass and autumn leaves. The grass is still green, still youthful. It has not yet succumbed to the effects of autumn’s increasingly cold embrace; but it will, winter is coming fast.
Amidst all of this, seated on the ground is a man dressed entirely in black. The hood of his cloak is pulled low, covering his forehead, hiding his face. He sits patiently waiting, all the while staring at three piles of freshly turned earth which lie in front of him. The woods surrounding him are quiet. This is not the quiet of the countryside, but the silence of the grave.
As the last rays of sunlight vanish, a wand emerges from his cloak. Pointing towards the night sky, the man whispers the word “Morsmordre.” Green energy spouts from the tip of his wand and streams upwards, to form a skull. The mouth opens and a great serpent crawls out. With the spell cast the man stands up, the glimmer of a smile on his lips. He looks at the sky for a few more moments, watching the serpent coil and slither on its endless journey around the grinning skull. “Time to go” He whispers to himself. There is the sound of a small explosion - air rushing in to fill the vacuum left by his sudden disappearance.
Time passes slowly and as the grinning skull begins to fade into the darkness, the cacophony of night sounds finally begins. It doesn’t last long. Two more explosions follow in rapid succession of each other. This time the sound is caused by the sudden rush of air moving outwards as it is suddenly displaced by the presence of two men.
They have come with questions; why after so many years should the “Dark Mark” have returned? Whose death does it signal? And last but by no means least who made it?
“There’s another one here.” The man shouted. He got on his knees and began to dig with his hands. The earth was soft, recently turned and it wasn’t long before he found what lay buried underneath. It was a body, wrapped in a rough brown cloth. The man carefully unfolded the cloth and held his lantern close to the face underneath. Unruly black hair and as he lifted the boy’s eyelids - emerald green eyes. “What do you think Sir?” The man asked looking back at his superior.
Dennis Creevey looked down at the body, it was the third one they had found tonight. He reached down and smoothed the hair back from the boy’s forehead and saw, just as he had expected, a lightning shaped mark carved into the forehead.
Dennis stood up and ran his hands through his hair. A cold feeling had crept up his spine after they had found the other two bodies, now that cold had spread to his stomach threatening to make him sick. Swallowing the bitter taste in his mouth he said
“Lawrence, have the body sent back to the Aurors Office. Get the chief coroner down there, I want him to take charge of the body and the autopsy.”
Lawrence looked a little nervous. “He’s not going to like that sir.”
Dennis gave him a look that said “I don’t care.” Lawrence shrugged, resigned “What do you think he’ll find sir?”
Dennis looked thoughtfully at the body “Your guess Lawrence is as good as mine. But whatever killed this boy and the other two, it wasn’t a muggle weapon, you can be sure of that.”
Dennis forced himself to look at the boy. Memories of his time at Hogwarts came flooding back to him. Memories of a childhood hero now tarnished and a brother who would never grow older. It was too much he turned his head away. “Check his top pocket Lawrence. You should find a pair of glasses in there”. Lawrence lifted the body and reached carefully into the pocket of the boy’s shirt, he took out a pair of glasses. Without looking Dennis said. “There’s tape around the middle of the frame, isn’t there?”
Lawrence asked. “How did you know sir?”
Dennis gave a wan smile. “Just a hunch. Ok lets get this over with as quickly as possible so we can find out who this young man was and notify his family.”
Lawrence was gently putting the boy back to the ground when he felt the body shiver slightly in his arms. He gave out a scream and scrambled backwards into the shallow grave. Dennis looked at the body. The boy was alive.
“Get a hold of yourself man!” He shouted at Lawrence “Come out of there and give me a hand with him.”
He cradled the boys head. The boy’s eyes fluttered and suddenly they opened in sheer terror.
“He’s coming! He’s coming for me!” The boy croaked.
“It’s ok son.” Dennis said stroking the boy’s hair “No one is coming for you. You’re safe now.”
But the boy didn’t seem to hear him. He began struggling, trying to shake himself loose from Dennis’s grasp.
“Let me go, you don’t understand, he’s going to come back. He’ll kill me if he finds me here.”
‘Who lad, who’s trying to kill you?” Dennis asked. “The Dark Lord, Volde.......”. Suddenly the boy began to shake violently, flecks of blood and foam flew from his mouth. Dennis rolled him onto his side and stuck his finger in the boy’s mouth, trying to make sure he didn’t swallow his tongue. He needn’t have bothered. The boy gave one final lurch, bending his back at a near impossible angle and then was still. He checked the boy for a pulse but there was nothing, he was gone.
In his time as an Auror, Dennis had seen death many times, but never like this. He lowered the body and covered the boy’s face. A range of emotions flashed through him, mostly anger. Anger that someone would be so heartless as to kill three innocent children, anger that the Dark Mark had been used to signal it and anger that he couldn’t have been there to prevent it.
“I can’t stay here” he thought. He could have apparated to within a few minutes walk of the Auror’s Office, but he wanted time to think, to try and make sense of all that had happened in the past few hours.“Accio broom!” He said loudly. Dennis always travelled with his broom even when he apparated. It was a safety measure he always tried to follow. Better to have a broom and not need it, that to need it and not have it.
The broom came streaking towards him and within a flash Dennis had grabbed and mounted it. “Sir” his assistant shouted running towards him “What about the body?” Dennis hoovered for a few seconds. “Do what I told you. Send the boy’s body back to the Auror’s Office to await the Chief Coroner. Once the autopsy is finished we can try to find out who he was. I’ll meet you there later. And Lawrence, no word of this must leave the office understand.”
He aimed his broom upwards and pushed it to it’s maximum speed. Within minutes he was drawing dangerously close to his broom’s limits. Only when the wood began vibrating in protest to the strain he was putting it under did he ease up. His mind however was still racing, far faster than his broom ever could. What the boy had said before he died, about the ‘Dark Lord’ coming for him. Surely he couldn’t have been talking about Voldemort. The Dark Lord had been vanquished years before and at a terrible price; few knew better than Dennis what the final battle had truly cost.
London was soon within Dennis’s sights and he pulled his broom to a halt, hovering over the city. His mind though kept darting back to the problem at hand. “Could the boy have been telling the truth?” He asked himself. He didn’t think the boy had been lying per se - but what a person believes and what is real can sometimes be two very different things.
Still Dennis told himself, look at the facts. The three bodies were deliberately left there as a message to Potter and perhaps the Ministry itself. The boy had been left alive long enough to deliver the news that Voldemort was back. Either the Dark Lord had again risen or someone potentially as dangerous was now making the rounds.
Whatever the truth was Dennis knew he would have to do something about it and fast.