Chapter 1 : Tears in the Dark
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Nothing hurt worse than watching him walk away and knowing that this might be the last time she would ever see him. She struggled to fight against the chill in the night, by remembering the warmth of his arms holding her close. Her eyes began to burn with the sting of the hot tears forming. She refused to allow them to fall knowing that once they began falling, she would be powerless to stop them. She did not have the time for a meltdown right now.
Alice Longbottom collected herself and headed back inside her house to check on her precious baby boy. She listened carefully to the gentle whisper of his baby breath as he slept peacefully, completely unaware of the fear his parents were feeling.
Not for the first time, Alice began to feel guilty for bringing her son into such a world full of villany and danger. It just didn’t seem fair that he would be forced to grow up in such a world. The sun in the sky even seemed afraid to shine. There was no warmth to the days and the horrible cold of the nights seemed to chill straight to the bone. This was not a time to be raising a child.
As she stared down and studied the face of her son, with his soft chubby little cheeks and his ears that stuck out a little too far from his head, like his daddy’s had when she had first met him. Seeing him lying there so innocently, she made a silent vow. Her son would not know what it was like to live a life of constant fear. She would not allow that. She had become an auror so that she could combat this evil that was trying to take over their world. She would not allow that evil to ruin this life that she and Frank had built together. She had to believe that good would win and that everything would work out for them in the end.
Her heart ached painfully with her absolute need to protect and care for her family. The horrible helpless feeling she often felt when she was between shifts was returning full throttle. She knew that she should have been trying to get a few hours of sleep before reporting back to the ministry, but she could not seem to be able to settle her mind.
She walked out of her son’s bedroom and headed into the tiny office that she and her husband had set up. The dimly lit room contained only a standing white auror call board that looked like a common white board, and a heavy oak desk with a swivel leather office chair underneath it. Several files littered the desk that desperately needed her attention, but she focused instead on the gruesome pictures taken at the crime scene at a muggle home. Judging by the pictures it seemed as though the death eaters toyed with the family before killing them. They allowed the muggles to put up a fight which only appeared to have wrecked their house and turned the whole thing into a sick game for the evil wizards. The only thing troubling Alice now, however, was why this family was targeted. It did not seem as though it was a random hit, but she had not been able to gather much evidence before the muggle authorities arrived on scene. A team was supposed to go back and investigate tonight, but Alice knew that was not likely to happen.
The tempo at the auror office had become so overwhelming that they couldn’t even keep up with the summons that came into the office. It had gotten to the point that they had to filter through the incoming calls and just screen out the most urgent ones to respond to. Every day it seemed to get more and more difficult to determine which calls take priority. Muggle incidents had to be taken care of most immediately in order to try to hide traces of magic from the eyes of the muggle authorities.
It had been on one of these muggle calls that Alice had been on the night that her dear friend Marlene McKinnon and her family had been attacked. The calls came in at the same time and a choice had to have been made. She had intended to deal with the muggle situation as quickly as possible and probably would have been able to if it hadn’t been for the witnesses left on scene. By the time the Obliviators had shown up to modify the minds of the witnesses, it had already been too late for the McKinnon’s.
It had been hard for Alice to not have taken on a portion of the blame for what had happened. Everyone had tried so hard to reassure her but it had done no good. Marlene had been a tough and extremely competent witch and it was doubtful that any of the aurors would have been able to have prevented the tragedy that happened. Unfortunately that hadn’t eased the nagging “What if?” that continued to plague her thoughts and nightmares daily.
Shaking her head Alice brought her attention to the call board that sat in the corner of the office. It was an exact replica of the one that was in the auror call center at the ministry. It wasn’t usual protocol to have a call board in a private home, but difficult times had made it a necessity. They were losing aurors at an alarming rate which required everyone to be on almost constant call. Plus it allowed everyone to keep an eye on each other in case backup in needed in a difficult situation.
The call board was an amazing magical artifact that continued to fascinate Alice. The board was charmed so that all a witch or wizard had to do in the event of an emergency was to wave their wand and say, “subitis” causing their location, name and the nature of their emergency to appear on the auror call board. If for some reason a witch or wizard needed help from the aurors and did not have a wand they simply chanted the incantation “subitis” three times and the message would then be displayed on the call board. Once an auror was assigned to a call the message became that auror’s color.
With a small smile Alice still remembered the horror on Frank’s face the first time he took a call and his color appeared on the board. It was pale lavender, the exact color of the lilacs that he had picked from the grounds of Hogwarts on the day that he had finally confessed his feelings to her. Much to Frank’s dismay, there was no changing the board’s color once it had been chosen. Alice tried to reassure him by telling him how well the color matched her own vibrant purple, but it hadn’t seemed to do much more than mildly placate him.
Glancing at the board now she saw several routine calls about unconfirmed suspected death eater sightings, one domestic dispute, a vandalism call and a shoplifting incident in Diagon alley. As she watched a new call came in that seemed to make her heart stop beating and cause the very blood in her veins turn to ice.
GODERIC’S HOLLOW – EXPLOSION/FIRE – POTTER HOUSE – 2 KIA
The call immediately turned the familiar lilac color, telling Alice that Frank was responding to the call. She stared in horror at the board and realized that she could not just sit here at home for this call. She had to be there.
Without hesitation she ran downstairs and summoned Frank’s mother, Augusta with her patronus. She paced back and forth restlessly until the fireplace burst with green flames and her mother-in-law emerged looking bedraggled in her night clothes and wearing an extremely concerned expression.
“What is it, Alice? Is Frank ok?”
Alice nodded and struggled to find her voice. “It looks like the Potters. Frank is on scene, but I have to go.”
Augusta looked grim. “I have Neville. Go on, dear.”
Alice hurried out into the street in front of her house, did a cursory check around her to be sure that she was alone and then spun away on the spot.
When the world stopped spinning she found herself on the outskirts of Godric’s Hollow and immediately began running against the brisk wind. She arrived at the Potter house at the same time as a muggle police cruiser did. She raised her wand to perform a disguise charm on herself when she felt an arm grab her around her mid-section and pull her into the hedge bushes at the front of the property.
A quick jab of her elbow caught her attacker square in the jaw, releasing his grip. Alice spun around with her wand drawn and found herself looking down upon her own husband, who now was holding the side of his face and grimacing in pain.
“Frank!” she whispered and she bent down to help him up. “What are you doing?”
With a grunt, Frank with sat up and spit out a stream of bloodied saliva. ”I was trying to keep you from running in there and making a scene in front of the muggles!”
“I wasn’t going to make a scene, Frank. I wanted to help James & Lily! We need to get in there!” she cried as she tried to stand.
Frank stared at his wife sadly and shook his head. “There is nothing we can do, darling. They are gone.”
Alice felt as if the world was spinning too fast underneath her feet. Her knees gave way and she dropped to the ground. It couldn’t be true. Not James and Lily. They were supposed to have been in hiding under the Fidelius charm. There was no way that Voldemort could have gotten through that. Dumbledore himself had cast the charm.
Yet Alice knew in her heart that the words her husband spoke were the truth. Somehow the charm had failed the Potters. Lily, the kindest and most innocent of witches and James, the most talented and brave wizard, she had ever had the privilege to know, were both dead. Evil had won. Good had failed in the end and the world had been robbed of two of the greatest people ever to walk upon it.
The weight of the situation all came crashing down upon Alice and she as looked into the watery eyes of her husband and collapsed into his arms. Her heart wrenching sobs echoed into the night only vaguely disguised by the sirens of the approaching fire brigade and the concerned murmurs of the villagers as they gathered around the destroyed house in shock and horror.