Author's Note: This was not my first story, but it's pretty close to that, being my first and longest "real" novel (it still is my longest, actually). The plot is weak, if not utterly confusing by the end; the canon information is unfortunately pre-HBP at times, and while I did attempt to inject HBP and DH information throughout, there are things that got missed, and other things that simply could not fit. So do be warned that this is not entirely canon, certainly not as canon as I'd prefer it to be.
However, the characters and their relationships are what is central to this story. If you do choose to read this, forget plot, forget canon, to me, those things were always less important than the people. There has to be some reason why this story has gotten two Dobbys (I'm still trying to figure out what, however thankful I am...).
- Violet Gryfindor, October 2011
Prologue: August 1961
"Darling, I’m going over to a friend’s for tea,” the young woman, in her early twenties, called to her husband. “I should be home in a couple hours. Can you watch Emma while I’m gone?”
The man sitting at the kitchen table looked up at his wife, who stood by the door. His dark brown hair drooping over his forehead from the hot, humid, air filling the room.
“Of course, Di,” he said with a small smile. “Just watch out on the road. There are some insane muggle drivers out there.”
Diana Nero smiled back, but it did not reach her blueish-green eyes. “Don’t worry, darling. I have my wand with me if any trouble arises, which of course it will not.”
She hesitated for a moment, then crossed the room and lightly kissed her husband on the cheek. He reached out his hand for hers, but she moved away.
“You worry too much, Mort. I’ll be fine.”
As she left, Mortimer Nero stood and watched his wife’s progress down the quiet street. Her blonde hair glittered in the strong sunlight, making it look as though a stream of molten gold hung down her back. Even though their only child Emilia, mostly known as Emma, was still very young, Diana’s figure was utter perfection. Diana had changed little since their marriage nearly four years ago, in mind or body. She had been barely out of school when she had accepted his proposal; he nearly a decade older, with a steady job at Gringots Bank.
Things had changed so much since they had moved to Cornwall. Mort felt that it was not for the better. Diana was drifting away from him and he knew not how to stop her.
Suddenly, a thought came to him. Last week, at the very same time, Diana had left to “go to a friend’s for tea”. That in itself was not unusual, as she was very outgoing and had made numerous friends in the neighbourhood. But, the problem was that the temperature was far above average, excruciatingly hot. Who drank tea in such heat?
There was something more in this, Mort thought. He would have to find out what it was.
Before leaving the house, Mort ran up the stairs two at a time to his daughter’s bedroom. She lay in her crib, fast asleep, as though even the most turbulent and unfortunate of events would not disturb her slumber.
With a gentle smile, Mort lightly touched the infant’s cheek. Emma stirred slightly, but did not wake. Mort left her and went back down the stairs. Checking that he had his wand safely in his pocket, he exited the house, carefully locking the door on his way out.
Walking down the street in the footsteps of his wife, Mort found himself thinking back over their relationship. For the most part, he remembered being happy, but there were some strange instances when Diana had acted peculiarly.
The day when he had announced that Gringots was moving him to Cornwall to look after banking interests in the west counties, Diana had not been at all pleased for his promotion. In fact, she had been so upset that he had needed to give her a sleeping draught to quiet her down.
Another time was soon before Emma’s birth. Diana had been so secretive about her friends, her doings, everything. Yet Mort had not asked a single question. He trusted his wife to do the right thing. She was a pureblooded witch after all.
The more Mort thought about his wife, the more he began to believe that something had gone completely wrong somewhere. The more he thought, the more he began to suspect that his wife - his beautiful, glamourous, wife - was being unfaithful to him.
If only he could find out that it was all in his head. That she had only gone to a friends as she said. That she would return to him happy and loving.
Mort wished that everything would be perfect, like it used to be.
It did not take him long to find out where she had gone. A few questions at the local pub had sent him to a small cottage near the cliffs. It was very secluded, perched on the cliffs uncertainly, as though it feared falling at any moment. There were no lights on in the cottage. It seemed very quiet, so much so that Mort began to think himself mad for ever thinking that Diana would ever do anything to hurt him.
Then he heard the voices, coming from the cottage. One was a man’s, soft and seductive. The other was intensely familiar to Mort. It was the bell-like voice of his wife, laughing blissfully.
His fears rushing in around him like the pounding waves beneath the cliff, Mort hurried towards the front door, his wand out and ready. The door was little match for his anger, splintering with the explosion spell he had used. The blood rising in his cheeks, Mort rushed through the cottage towards the room where the voices had come from.
The inside of the cottage smelled dank and unclean, with the sharp sent of human perspiration in the air, as well as something else. The walls were bare of any decoration and the little furniture there was tattered and dirty, the upholstery covered with numerous stains and tears. At the end of a short hallway, a door opened and a man stood there, surprise evident on his unintelligent face.
He was not wearing any clothes. He was also, from the look of amazement in his bland eyes, a muggle.
A muggle had seduced Diana. A foul, rotten, muggle had slept with his wife.
Mort raised his wand. “Crucio
!” he yelled as Diana tumbled out of the room, wearing as little as the muggle.
“No!” she cried, her wand also raised.
But she was too late, the muggle was writhing on the floor in horrible agony.
Diana looked up at Mort, fear in her eyes. “Stop it, you’re hurting him!”
Mort lowered his wand, his hazel eyes burning with intense hatred.
“He deserves every bit of it,” he growled, the tone of his voice causing Diana to shiver. “It’s your fault that he feels such pain. Does he even know what you really are?”
The curse momentarily lifted, the muggle panted, trying to catch his breath, but did not move. Diana looked down at him, her lower lip quivering.
“No, I never told him.” Her voice was flat, but it shook with emotion.
Mort’s face had become an ugly mask of demonic anger. “Do you not think of your people? Your family? Your honour?”
“Why should I?” she replied calmly. Too calmly for Mort’s liking. “I love him.”
That was the end for Mort’s short temper. He raised his wand once more as Diana bent over the figure of her collapsed lover. One curse, and everything would go back to normal.
Nothing could be normal now. Not for Mort, his wife, the muggle, nor the child Emma.
Hours later, Mort finally arrived back at his own home. Disoriented by what he had done, he had wandered the cliff side, looking for solace and redemption. Part of him was sickened by his earlier actions, but another part, one which frightened him immensely, was glad that he had stopped Diana from leaving him forever. Although Mort wanted to forgive her and disregard her unfaithfulness, the one part of his soul wished her great torment in the fires of Hell.
Slowly, Mort climbed the stairs and entered his daughter’s room. She lay there wide awake, her yellow-green eyes open. When she saw her father, she smiled and babbled happily.
Mort reached down and picked her up. She snuggled into his arms, her tiny hands grasping at the silver necklace Mort wore around his neck. Fortunately, there was no doubt that she was his daughter - a pureblood who would one day become a great witch - as her face had the same shape as his and her eyes were similar in colour to his, except for touches of green within them inherited from her mother.
“I’m sorry, my darling Emma, but I can’t take care of you anymore,” he whispered, his voice filled with sadness. What had occurred earlier was not his child’s fault, yet he had to abandon her all the same. “There is only one way that we can be tied together so that I can find you again. I don’t want to hurt you, but it’s the only way.”
Reluctantly taking his wand from his pocket, Mort gently placed Emma back into her crib and held the wand above her trusting face. Closing his eyes so that he would not have to see her innocent eyes staring up at him, he spoke the incantation.
There was a bright light, then the cry of an infant rang out over the tiny village of Lamorna. A few moments later, a shadow exited the house and seemingly flew into the night sky.
Mortimer Nero was never seen there again.
~ * * * ~
The next afternoon, two people stood over the crib of the child Emma. One was a middle-aged man with dark, grizzled hair and beady brown eyes that stared down at the infant half with pity and half with disgust. His face, which betrayed no emotion, was covered in scars and the tip of his nose was missing. He wore plain black robes, his arms crossed over them.
Beside him stood a tall, dignified woman, perhaps a few years older, with a kind face and bright green eyes. Her blonde hair was only slightly grey by the temples and was primly pulled back in a tight bun. Her clothing spoke of her evident wealth: dark green velvet robes made by the best of seamstresses. She looked at the man, tears in her eyes.
“I cannot believe that Mortimer would do such a thing, Alastor. He was such a calm, quiet individual...” She trailed off, her hand rubbing her wrinkled forehead.
“It was jealousy, Lyra,” Alastor Moody, a high-ranking Auror, growled. “Finding his wife like that made him go mad with it. I find it difficult to blame him for killing them both.”
Lyra Goldwyn, the infant’s grandmother, looked at him sharply. “But to do this to Emilia? For God’s sake, she’s only a child!”
“The particular curse he used was not intended for harm, Lyra,” Moody argued. “Few wizards would have the audacity or the skill to perform the Niveus Manus
Reaching her hand into the crib, Lyra lifted Emma’s left hand, which was now entirely devoid of colour. While the rest of her tiny body was perfectly normal, the infant’s hand was completely white. Although it no longer pained her, Emma still squirmed when Lyra touched her hand.
“Why would he do this, Alastor? To show his power?”
Moody leaned against the crib. “The spell is mainly used for identification. With her hand like that, Nero will be able to find Emilia when she grows up.”
Lyra was astonished. “Find her? But -“
”It means that he acknowledges her as his daughter, otherwise he would have killed her too. When he is able to return, Nero will search Emilia out and take her back.”
“No, I won’t allow it,” Lyra shook her head, eyes upon the sleeping infant. “As long as I live, Mortimer will not come near Emilia.”
“You cannot live forever, Lyra,” Moody said, his voice gentler than usual.
Taking her hand from her granddaughter’s hand, Lyra faced Moody, her eyes hard.
“Then promise me this, Alastor. Watch over Emilia when I am gone. Don’t let her ever know who her father was and what he did. She must never know.”
Moody looked down at Emma, who had woken and was now calmly staring at him.
“I swear that I will not be the one to tell her. You have my word, Lyra. She will never hear it from my lips.”
Emma reached out her pale hand to them, as though she was trying to grasp what was passing between the two adults above her.
Hundreds of miles away, Mortimer stood before another man, swearing his allegiance. He had made his final decision. He would be the quiet, devoted husband and father no longer. Now, he was the first of a horrible race of magical beings who would bring terror upon the known world. Mort Nero was the first of the Death Eaters, dark wizards who served Lord Voldemort, the darkest and most evil wizard who would ever live.
Chapter title from Josh Groban's album "Closer"