A cloudless night, a chill wind blowing through an idyllic village.
Four hooded figures, dark silhouettes against the street lights.
From the shortest of the group, beady eyes shining with anxiety, a whispered instruction.
A figure, once a man, now something else, leads the group. With his sharp features, he might have been considered handsome. No longer. Darkness had robbed his humanity long ago, a sacrifice willingly paid by untold and horrifying sacrifice.
He laughs softly, and gives an order to his companions. They depart, some more willingly than others.
He will do this himself.
Light through a lock, magical wards undone with a whisper. A sanctuary now violated.
His first obstacle is another man, young, with defiance in his eyes and courage in his heart. It will not save him. His wife flees at his command, just as the battle begins. It is over quickly. He grows tired of torturing the man, and finishes him with two words.
Savoring the moment, he steps over the body, not even deigning to look upon the face of James Potter. Just one more enemy vanquished. Another step in his plan for ultimate glory.
His unlikely Servant will be rewarded.
Power ripples through him, and the walls of the cottage seem to shake from his very presence. The very air is potent with his magic. It is exhilarating.
Almost lazily, he climbs the stairs, and enters the child’s room.
Lily Evans Potter stands before him, terror, grief, defiance warring across her young features. Her wand moves with deliberate care even as she tries to hide it from him. A curse bats it out of her hand. She is a clever and powerful witch, for a Mudblood, and he would not do well to underestimate her. Held against her chest is a crying infant. A boy that would not survive this night.
He recalls Severus’ request. It is not, he decides, too much to ask.
“Move aside, girl, now!”
“No,” she shakes her head fiercely. “Not Harry.” Her hand is bleeding badly, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
“Please, not Harry…Have mercy, have mercy,” she pleaded.
“Stand aside, silly girl! Stand aside!”
She refuses, and he tires of this game, extinguishing her life with a contemptuous slash of his wand. She crumples, the child landing atop her, wailing in terror.
Had he but taken a moment, he might have noticed the red sheen rippling out from the squealing infant’s body.
But Lord Voldemort is impatient, and he has waited too long for immortality.
The curse is cast, and something extraordinary happens.
A green bolt dissipates, then reforms to rebound in the opposite direction. With a hoarse cry, the Dark Lord is enveloped and his body burned away. The energy continues, sparking and crashing through the house, flames dancing across the wooden frame of the cottage.
And in his mother’s lifeless arms, a baby cries out, blood tricking down his forehead.
On the outskirts of the village, with a resounding ‘CRACK,’ a new player arrived on the scene.
She was young, above-average in height, dressed in robes of midnight blue, covered in a knee-length cloak of dark wool with an ornate silver and sapphire clasp. Athletic in her build, her appearance was, in a word, striking. Haunted grey-green eyes, burning with fear and rage and desperation, were set in a delicate face and framed by shoulder length honey-blonde hair.
They say one's eyes are the window to the soul. What looked out into the world from behind them was a keen intelligence cloaked in sorrow…but within that soul lurked a more malevolent presence: a searing fury that did not always know friend from foe; a raw anger that could burn any who came into contact with it.
But her most distinguishing facial features were a pair of relatively fresh scars. One was a long, wicked-looking blemish that ran from above her right eye down to her cheek, another a jagged scar on her neck that started beneath the left side of her chin and continued beneath her woolen cloak.
She moved confidently, powerfully, but as she took in the cottage wreathed in leaping flames that was once the home of the Potter family, she quickened her pace. Her disciplined stride broke, and she began to run, drawing her wand, a single thought racing through her mind.
Certain habits died hard. Even through her panic, she instinctively measured her surroundings: sizing up the terrain, locating any possible opposition, potential dangers - though she might well have missed a squad of Death Eaters in her growing panic.
Not Lily. Please, please not Lily.
But she knew what the burning cottage portended. The defences had failed. They had been betrayed.
And Lily was dead.
Her best friend, the woman she had grown to think as a sister, her last living family, was dead.
Along with her husband, James, and her son, Harry, Lily Evans Potter was dead.
She felt the urge to weep, to rage. It wasn't fair. First her parents and young brother years ago, then Edmund, and now...
A faint sound pierced the air, the last sound that Daphne Artemis Dressler, born of the venerable but nearly extinct O’Connor line, would have expected to hear.
A faint baby's cry; a cry that carried with it the same anguish that suffused the heart of this witch. A cry of a baby whose parents had been cruelly taken from him.
Filled with a new sense of purpose, she cleared the remaining distance between her and the cottage. Pushing through the licking flames with her cloak and a whispered charm, she ignored the smouldering timbers, the choking fumes, the stench of death as she raced into the house through the open door. She paused for a moment as her gaze found the dead body of James Potter, blood no longer flowing from a major stomach wound, his eyes dull and glassy. But the crying was growing louder, as were the flames that had enveloped the small cottage, licking their way slowly across the walls. Without sparing another thought, she dashed up the creaking stairs and into little Harry’s room.
Her first impression on clearing the threshold of the baby’s room was of powerful magic that permeated the air, magic that stank of darkness and death, magic of a kind only associated with the Darkest of the Unforgivables; a curse that was feared by all who would not use it, and a curse that always killed. A curse that left no marks except for those on the hearts of its victims' loved ones.
Yet there was something else in this small room besides the cracked and scorched walls, the voids in the charred ceiling where some tremendous explosion had ripped through plaster and wood to burst into the frigid October night. Something that to Daphne’s inherited sensitivities felt both altogether out of place and yet completely, utterly, right.
Something that held the darkness at bay, an energy that gave off a nearly tangible warmth.
Daphne let her eyes fall to the floor, and felt her stomach rebel.
Lily Evans Potter lay on the floor next to the cradle, the final victim of Lord Voldemort's reign of terror. Her dark red hair was spread out behind her like a halo, her expression disconcertingly dignified and serene in death, though her brilliant green eyes were dull and lifeless. Her limp arms were wrapped around the source of the noise that had summoned Daphne here, a small infant with his mother's green eyes and tufts of his father's jet-black hair. He was wailing now, the reason she could really believe the baby, whom she had somewhat reluctantly accepted as a nephew, even a Godson, still drew breath. Blood poured down his face from some sort of flesh wound on his forehead. She cleaned it with a wave of her wand, startled to see it resolve into a strange shape - a lightning bolt – cut into the baby’s forehead.
Before she could muse any further on this extraordinary scene, a burning ceiling rafter collapsed, sending up a cloud of sparks and setting the cradle ablaze.
She could not stay here any longer. She tucked the squalling child into her cloak to shield him from the smoke and flame. With one last look at her closest friend, she hurried down the stairs, wand held out to fend off fire and enemies alike. A quick bubble-head charm protected both her and her precious burden from the swirling fumes. This was no ordinary fire. Something terrible - something unnatural - had happened here. Her mind raced to put the clues together.
As reached the threshold of the cottage entrance, she heard the first floor begin to collapse behind her - instinctively she ducked as a gust of heat and fire blew over her head and jump-rolled onto the wet grass, careful to protect Harry, still cradled in her arm, from any impact. Pulling herself to her feet, Daphne looked back at the burning cottage, which was being steadily consumed by dark red flames. The inferno only seemed to be gaining in strength, as if Harry’s presence had been the only thing previously holding it back.
She wondered absently if there would be much of anything left of James and Lily to bury when it was all over.
Through the haze of shock and grief that seemed to deaden her thoughts and slow her movements, it occurred to Daphne that she would hardly be the only one coming to check on the Potters. Dumbledore, at least, would have received warning that an attack was underway.
She could stay. Perhaps she should stay, for Harry’s sake. Dumbledore was the Head of the Order, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, the closest thing to a leader that the fragmented wizarding world possessed since the sacking of the Ministry and the death of the Minister.
That didn’t mean she trusted him. It was Dumbledore who had set up the safe-house for her and Edmund. He promised her he would keep her safe, that they might have a respite, however brief, for a time after their hurried wedding.
He made so many promises. He kept so few. He played chess with the lives of the Order, used them as pawns to further his cause. And he had as many defeats as victories to show for it.
Could she trust him with her life? With Harry’s?
Voldemort was gone. Somehow, she knew it for a certainty. She had encountered the Dark Lord before, briefly, felt the sting of his magic. What she had felt in that bedroom was all too familiar, but it was wild, untamed, broken.
What made up her mind minutes later, as she watched the flames completely swallow the cottage, was a sudden realization of who might be entrusted with Harry if Dumbledore had his way. She had never met anyone with such unflinching trust in blood magic and the power of familial bonds. To him, sending Harry to Lily’s sister Petunia and her awful Muggle husband would be a logical choice. As the Fidelus Charm had failed, it seemed his Godfather was a traitor, and Voldemort’s followers might well seek retribution. And she was…well.
She was erratic.
No , she decided. She would not trust the last part of Lily left in this world to such people. Dumbledore be damned. She was not a child anymore. She no longer made the mistake of thinking that Albus Dumbledore knew everything, or even knew right from wrong at all times. Such illusions had been burned away once and for all in the flames of this wretched war.
With a renewed sense of purpose, Daphne raised her wand and began to trace fiery letters carefully and deliberately, letting them hang in the darkness before the burning cottage. She owed Dumbledore an explanation, at least. For Lily’s sake. Her friend had always thought well of Albus, and he of her.
With one last look back at the leaping flames, she vanished with a piercing CRACK.
The message remained.
Mere seconds later, an altogether different kind of noise thundered in the sky, and a cloaked figure descended atop a huge motorcycle. The engine revved loudly as he brought the flying vehicle in for a landing and jumped off.
At just a glance at the leaping flames, he broke down, falling to his knees with anguished sobs. He didn’t even need to see the bodies to know that his two best friends were dead. They had failed.
Pettigrew had betrayed them, he knew that now. And it was Sirius’s fault they were dead, for he had made the brilliant decision to switch at the last moment. He’d been there, where Peter was in hiding. The building was empty, but there was no sign of a struggle. He hadn’t been captured; he had gone willingly to his master.
He had delivered them right into Voldemort’s hands.
And Peter, good old Wormtail, would pay.
Oh, yes, he would pay for this.
Another CRACK resounded through the air, and Sirius Orion Black spun around, wand drawn. But he lowered it at the sight of a familiar silhouette. This veritable giant of a man looked far from threatening at that moment; leaning on his pink umbrella and bawling like a baby as he gazed at the scene of destruction in front of him.
“Sirius?” the man asked through his tears. Sirius nodded, his gaze never leaving the burning house. He wanted to go in, to see if anyone was alive, or at least move the bodies. But he couldn’t move. He couldn’t get it through his head that he would never see James or Lily again. My gods, we thought it was Remus. I..I as good as killed them…
Through his choked sobs, Sirius felt Rubeus Hagrid walk over to him and place a hand the size of a rubbish bin lid on his shoulder, patting gently, but still with enough force to knock him forwards. “S’gonna be alright Sirius,” he mumbled, sounding rather unconvinced by his own words. Haltingly, he removed his hand. “Sirius? Have yeh looked fer ‘arry? ‘e’s probably…yeh know, but…”
Somehow it was only then he noticed the words hanging in the air, though they were only a shade or two darker than the leaping flames consuming the house.
I have taken Lily’s son away. I will keep him safe. Do not look for me.
Daphne , he thought, almost like a curse. She would do something this reckless. She wasn’t right, not anymore. Not since she lost her husband of barely three weeks.
But he realized there was little to be done. If Daphne wanted to hide, few would be able to track her down. In addition to her own resourcefulness, she had quite a few powerful connections, family and otherwise.
The Grey Maiden was not to be trifled with.
Sirius had never really liked her that much, though her fierce loyalty to Lily was unquestionable. Her open skepticism of Lily’s relationship with James had done little to engender affection in the other Marauders, even if she eventually came around. After Hogwarts, they had gone through Auror training and orientation together, and he found her nothing if not ruthlessly competent.
Then again, given what she had gone through, it was hardly a wonder the woman was downright joyless.
Hagrid’s voice brought him back. “Who’s D.A.D, Sirius? An’ where’s ‘Arry?”
Sirius sighed. “Do you remember Daphne Dressler? Maiden name O’Connor?”
Hagrid looked puzzled. Bless the man; he could hardly fathom someone on their side blatantly disobeying Albus Dumbledore. “Lily’s friend, weren’t she?”
“One of her best,” Sirius confirmed. He paused, “She was always…fond of Harry.”
They were silent for a long moment.
“How did this ‘appen?” Hagrid wondered aloud. “Dumbledore said…”
“I know what he said,” Sirius barked, thoughts of his Godson and Daphne Dressler almost forgotten as rage at the true enabler of this atrocity boiled over.
A plan was formulating in Sirius’s mind. A plan of revenge. James and Lily might be dead, but good little Peter will follow them to the grave soon enough…
He couldn’t stay here; he couldn’t risk Pettigrew escaping and the trail going cold. “Hagrid, I’ve got…something I need to do.”
Dumbledore would stop him, would tell him to rise above the level of his enemies, to fight the urge for vengeance in kind. Sirius would have none of it. His family had not been wrong about everything; sometimes, blood for blood was the only way. “You can have my motorcycle, I won’t be needing it. I know Apparition doesn’t really agree with you”
Hagrid’s looked dumbfounded. “Sirius, what-“
Blood was pounding in his ears. “No time. Give Dumbledore my regards.”
Sirius Black vanished with a CRACK, neglecting in his haste to mention the only piece of evidence that might have proven his innocence.
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was the next to Apparate to the site of the Potters' cottage in Godric’s Hollow. At his side was Hogwarts’ Transfiguration Professor, Deputy Headmistress, and, less officially, his second in command of the Order of the Phoenix. Dumbledore was a very tall man with long white hair and an even longer beard. He wore golden spectacles that slightly magnified his blue eyes, eyes which normally held an amused twinkle. They were devoid of any such lightness or mirth now. The wizard was clad in flowing purple robes, and the look on his face was one of regret and sorrow for the loss of a pair of wonderful friends.
Beside him, Minerva McGonagall was a rather severe looking woman with a lined face and greying black hair pulled back into a ponytail. She wore robes of a deep emerald green, and tears were streaking silently down her face as she struggled to keep her composure.
Standing before the smouldering ruin, now just a shell of the idyllic cottage it had once been, was a massive, but familiar, figure. His hands were over his face, and he shook violently with sobs.
“Hagrid?” Dumbledore asked, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice. Something was wrong. He was certain about his interpretation of the Prophecy. Never in his wildest nightmares had he imagined it would come to pass like this, but Harry lived. He had to.
“Hagrid,” he said, as calmly as he could manage. “Where is Harry Potter?”
Hagrid met his gaze, his eyes red and puffy. “Professor, Sir.” He frowned. “‘Arry isn’t ‘ere.” His voice was downcast, as if he felt he had failed in the task Albus had assigned to him.
“What do you mean, Hagrid?” McGonagall asked, a look of panic flashing across her features. Dumbledore had shared his suspicions with her, if not the actual source of his certainty. “He lives, does he not?”
Hagrid nodded quickly, and Albus felt a weight lift from his shoulders. “Yessir. Problem is, somebody got ‘ere first. Before me an’ Sirius.”
“Sirius Black?” McGonagall asked, shock evident in her voice. Albus felt the familiar fatigue of betrayal crawl over his thoughts. “Wasn’t he the Potter’s Secret Keeper?” she continued. “Surely he had to be dead! What did he say, Hagrid? How did this-”
Hagrid looked thunderous. “Black was…Black was their Secret Keeper? ‘e…it was him?” His eyes darkened. “Bastard…Lyin’ traitorous bastard!” The man’s rage and grief seemed to shake the very ground underfoot.
“Rubeus, please,” Dumbledore said, hearing the weariness in his own voice. “We didn’t know that Sirius had followed the path of his family. But we all know how little is certain in this war, how friend can so easily become foe.” He felt Minerva stiffen beside him. There had been many betrayals, but this might have cut the deepest...well, since Gellert, of course.
Dumbledore closed his eyes, reaching out his thoughts. Now he was sure. “I can tell you only that Lord Voldemort, for now, has gone.”
“He’s really dead then, Albus?” McGonagall asked, “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead at last? We’ve won?” She sounded extremely reluctant to believe it.
“For now, Lord Voldemort is gone. However, I do not doubt that he remains in some form. But yes, for the present time, we have won this battle. Another war, I believe, remains to be fought.”
“What about the boy?” she demanded. Her face was pale. “Hagrid…Sirius Black didn’t…”
“It were Daphne Dressler,” he answered her quickly.” He gestured an enormous arm towards a spot in front of the smouldering cottage. “Over there…She left a note, written in t’air. Says she took ‘em, and that she don’t want anyone to look fer them.”
“Daphne?” Minerva repeated with disbelief. “Why in Merlin’s name would she do this?” Both looked to Albus.
“I cannot truly say,” Dumbledore replied slowly, even as he tried to make sense of these revelations. He had his suspicions, and they were worrisome. “But it is obvious that she intends to keep him away from me, for whatever reason.”
Hagrid and Minerva began to speak, but he waved them off. “We should not stay any longer. We will…we will speak of this later.” There was, in reality, little he could do.
In the past few minutes, the inferno before them seemed to have burned itself out completely, something that in Dumbledore’s experience betrayed its supernatural origins. Though he would need to consult his instruments, he was beginning to understand what had happened here even if it would be difficult to know for certain without a chance to examine Harry personally. Lily was...had been a truly brilliant Charms witch. He knew she had been studying advanced magics at his suggestion: protective magics, blood magics, preparing for the worst. Could she have done it? Woven an enchantment so strong with her maternal love that even Voldemort could not break it? The Prophecy might offer a clue.
…the power he knows not …
“What about,” Hagrid swallowed. “What ‘bout the…about James and Lily, Professor?”
Dumbledore looked at the gutted shell of the cottage. “There may be little left,” he said wearily.
“I won’t leave ‘em here,” Hagrid said determinedly, tears streaming down his face. “We owe ‘em that much.”
“I’ll assist Hagrid.” McGonagall’s voice was shaking, a very rare occurrence indeed. She had been close to both of the Potters, first as their Head of House, and then a mentor of sorts in the years after they left. James had been one of her best students, and their relationship only grew stronger as they fought alongside one another in what some of them would privately admit was a losing battle.
“I must,” Albus’s own voice broke. He had seen too much death in the last few years. To lose two souls whose lives had just barely begun…it was almost too much. “I must return to Hogwarts. The Order has to be informed of what happened here.”
“Do what you must, Albus,” Minerva said solemnly. “That’s all that’s left to us, now.”
Daphne Dressler and her infant cargo arrived at the gates of the ancestral home of her late husband’s family.
Edmund Dressler had been the only son of a very wealthy pureblood line, and the most kind and loving man that Daphne had ever known.
She missed him desperately.
Daphne had no intention to stay the night; it was the first place anyone would come looking for her. She needed to get away from Dumbledore, and that meant getting out of the country. She’d already decided on what spells to use to make Harry and herself Unplottable. But she couldn’t just trust magic for this.
She had safe houses, escape routes, back-up plans. One in particular came to mind.
Harry was sleeping soundly at the moment, though she had no idea how long that might last.
He presented an altogether more unfathomable mystery. His fresh wound had already vanished, leaving a thin scar of a kind she had never seen before.
Between the magical residue of the Avada Kedavra, a kind of ‘stench’ of dark magic so strong that it could not have only been caused by one death, and this peculiar scar, she had a feeling that it was a result of the Killing Curse. But then how was Harry still alive? Then there was the apparent demise of the Dark Lord himself, the strange aura of protection surrounding the baby, the fact that the fires consuming the cottage were not entirely natural, yet Harry was unhurt.
She didn’t have time to ponder all of that now. Gently rocking him back and forth in her arms, she approached the boundary of the estate, striding through the wards as they recognized her magical signature. Proceeding through the west courtyard, a tap and whispered password gave her entrance through the colonnaded gable entrance, and into the great hallway that opened up into the main residential wing. Her strides took her to the sitting room, where a roaring fire bled heat she barely felt. Beside an ancient bookshelf, atop a carved wooden table, was a picture that broke her heart all over again.
It was a copy of their wedding picture. A young woman she barely recognized, eyes as bright and full of life as they had been for years, wrapped her arm wrapped around a tall man with boyish features and a goatee, wearing handsome green robes and a grin that once made her go weak at the knees. A stately looking woman with graying brown hair pulled into a bun and a beaming elderly man with bright blue eyes and straw-coloured hair stood behind the happy couple, wearing looks of weary joy.
Of the four, she was the only one left alive. At least Clarice had passed from natural causes. No one knew for certain what had happened to Thomas, and Edmund…
Edmund had been murdered right before her eyes.
She was shaken out of her daze by the sound of scuffling feet, and sharply turned to meet the sight of a rather old, ragged-looking house-elf. The small creature’s feature’s lit up when he saw her standing beside the fire.
“Mistress Daphne, ma’am,” the house-elf bowed low, “It is so good to be seeing you again. Who is the small master?”
“This is Harry, Yonky, Harry Potter.” There was a slight lilt to her voice, what remained of her childhood accent from growing up in her family’s estate in County Meath.
“Mistress Lily’s son, ma’am?” the house-elf asked, his eyes lighting up in excitement.
“Yes, Yonky. Could you take care of him while I make preparations? I plan to leave England, tonight.”
The old elf straightened. “Yes, Mistress. Yonky knows how to take care of small masters. Yonky took care of Master Edmund when he was much smaller. Yonky was very sad indeed to hear of Master Edmund’s passing,” the house-elf said, a slight quaver in his voice the only visible sign of his grief and loss.
Daphne felt her eyes watering, and took a deep breath, trying to hold back the tears. She still couldn’t believe he was really gone. It seemed only yesterday that Edmund and she were discussing possibly starting a family, not just over six months. They had decided they would start one as soon as they could, damn the war. Four days later, Edmund was dead, cut down by Evan Rosier moments before Daphne had shredded him to bloody pieces in her rage. A stray Slicing Curse from Rudolphus Lestrange had nearly blinded her, and might have killed her but for a half-formed shield that blunted its impact. She would be lying if she said that she didn’t like awake and wonder what might have happened if she had not acted so quickly.
And if she did not wonder if maybe it would have been for the best.
Edmund was dead before they arrived at St Mungo’s. She had angrily refused any magical treatment for her own wounds. She would bear them as reminders. Reminders of her failure, and why she could never let her guard down again.
He had been the love of her life. Her soulmate, if she could bring herself to believe in such things.
And he had died, like all the rest.
He had left her behind.
No, she corrected herself. I have Harry. I will raise him as my own. I owe Lily that much.
She stared at a line of magical portraits stretching back centuries, generations of Dressler men and women in various states of confusion and fear. She could not hear their whispered questions over the pounding of her own heart.
I have Harry. And he will want for nothing .
She hurried up to the master bedroom to pack. She needed to be gone soon, before Dumbledore could catch up with her. Throwing open the wardrobes, she waved her wand and her necessary clothes and personal items flew into the trunk at the foot of the great four poster bed. It was easy: she already had them laid out in her mind. She knew they’d be able to access both the Potter’s and her accounts overseas, though she didn’t intend to rely on Lily and James’s generosity. Between her own fortune and Edmund’s, she had access to abundant funds for the both of them, though her cover might well require regular employment. It would be something to do. She certainly would not be returning from her Leave of Absence from the Aurors anytime soon.
She charmed the trunk to float and follow her, and ran back downstairs. Fossy, the Dressler’s other house elf, a female, had baby Harry in her arms, and was rocking him gently. The baby appeared to be sleeping soundly, protected for that moment. She would continue to protect him, with her life if necessary.
She would do…would have done anything for Lily. As she knew Lily would have done anything for her. During the dark days of her fourth year when the war had come for her, and in the creeping darkness and violence that followed. She had always been there, even when Daphne had not necessarily deserved it. She owed her friend so much.
And saving Harry from Lily’s horrible relatives, where Dumbledore, no doubt, would have sent him, was a way of paying back that debt. Truly, the only time she had met Petunia and her husband, she had instantly disliked them. Vernon was crude and distrustful of anything out of the ordinary. Petunia was a paranoid neat-freak who despised the success of her sister. No, Harry would not be sent to live with them. Dumbledore often thought he knew best. He was frequently wrong.
She was...she was not technically Harry's godmother, not like Sirius - traitor, she heard in her mind - was...had been his godfather. Her relationship with Lily and James had been strained at times, even before she had lost Edmund. But it seemed implicit to her that if something were to happen to Lily, it was her duty to look after her son.
Speaking of Harry, Daphne had very little she could bring for him. There were no baby clothes in Dressler Manor. If worse came to worst, she could always transfigure Muggle children’s clothing into what she needed.
Yes, she had everything she needed to make her escape. She would leave the house in the capable hands of the family house-elves and the manor’s powerful wards.
“Fossy, I’m taking Harry away now.” She paused. “I’m afraid we won’t be back for a long time.”
The house-elf looked crestfallen. Apparently, she had fallen in love with the small black-haired baby, but she recovered her composure. “Very well, Mistress Daphne. Fossy and Yonky will take care of the house while Mistress Daphne and Master Harry are gone.”
“Thank you, Fossy.” She paused. She never really liked dealing with house-elves – her parents had not kept them. They were undoubtedly eager to please and seemed content with their lot in life, but she had actually considered exploring options to emancipate the Dressler elves after Thomas’s disappearance. Neither Daphne nor her husband had any desire to live in such empty opulence.
With a final nod to the house-elf, Daphne took the baby out of Fossy's arms and pulled him gently to her own chest, breathing deeply to keep her composure. She picked her old broom from atop the trunk, a Cleansweep 3, and tapped it once, thinking clearly of the small house the Dresslers held in the wilds of Alberta, and muttering, “Portus.” The broom glowed blue for a moment, then faded. She didn’t care about the illegal Portkey; the Ministry wouldn’t find her in Canada either. Grasping her trunk and Harry securely, she spoke the activation words softly (‘new beginnings’) then placed her hand onto the broom. Harry let out a cry as she felt a tug behind her navel, and the world disappeared in blur of colours.
Sirius Black prowled through the streets of Muggle London, hunting his prey. He ducked down one alleyway, his keen sense of smell zeroing in on the Rat, as he had dubbed him. He emerged from the alleyway and moved into a large crowd of Muggles who were shopping.
Then Sirius spotted him.
He was furtively moving through the crowds of Muggles, his wand sticking blatantly out of his pocket as he ineffectively scanned for pursuers. Every so often he would sniff the air. Sirius’s eyes narrowed, and he stalked forward, elbowing confused Muggle aside.
Pettigrew spun around, almost losing his balance, and his watery eyes swept over his surroundings, before he made for a nearby alley. Growling, Sirius raced after him. When he had a clear shot, he snapped off his first spell, an Anti-Disapparition Charm that connected with Pettigrew’s arm. He wouldn’t be going anywhere that way, at least. He’ll be looking to transform now, Sirius thought, a curse on his lips.
Pettigrew stopped dead, face pale. Then he gave a strange smile, and drew his own wand. Sirius saw none of this, his rage boiling over, conscious thought overcome by a torrent of grief and hatred.
“You bastard. You lying, snivelling, traitorous bastard! Look at me, damn it! LOOK AT ME!” Sirius roared, his teetering self-control crumbling to dust, blood pounding in his ears. He was going to kill Peter, oh yes he was. Just a few more steps.
Wormtail cowered, and then bolted again like the rat he was, running into the middle of a crowded street, though he was quickly bumped and jostled by the crowd. Sirius pursued, damning the Statute of Secrecy. Muggles could be Obliviated; James and Lily could not be brought back to life.
He raised his wand, ready to incant a curse, and then stopped as his eyes registered something rather strange.
Pettigrew was fumbling with something, but it wasn’t his wand. He caught a flash of silver and realized it was a knife. Sirius faltered as he watched the man slice cleanly through his own finger above the last knuckle, the tip falling to the ground, blood spurting out to cover his robes. The knife vanished back into a sodden pocket, and then Peter had his wand again. When he finally met Sirius’s gaze, his words were very strange indeed.
“Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!” he yelled. Tears rolled down his cheeks, false ones, surely. What was the little traitor playing at now?
He didn’t particularly care. He began the incantation for the Blinding Hex, remembering just how much little old Wormtail had liked that particular lesson, when he saw that Peter’s wand wasn’t pointed at him. It was pointed backwards, directly behind him.
Into a crowd of bewildered Muggles.
“CONFRIGO!” Pettigrew bellowed. The powerful hex tore into the street, pulverizing two metres of tarmac and rupturing a water main. A geyser of water and rubble was blasted into the sky. The shockwave sent Muggles flying through the air and knocked Sirius flat as debris rained down around him. At one point, Sirius might have been impressed with the power Peter put behind that spell.
Sirius got to his feet unsteadily, his ears ringing, surveying the carnage around him. Muggles lay bleeding all around the crater, and he could see at least ten who didn’t look like they would get up again. There was a cacophony of screams and moans and a cry of "EYE ARE AY!" for some reason. There was no sign of Peter, but Sirius could not imagine the man had killed himself in some kind of suicidal last stand. The little rat is still on the loose.
Before he could take another step, a series of CRACKs split the air, red-robed Aurors and members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad appeared in amidst the chaos, followed shortly by a contingent of healers. The AMRS immediately threw up barriers to prevent the hysterical Muggles from fleeing the scene.
Sirius stood in the middle of the rapidly-closing circle. The first thing he saw the was the grim faces of several of his fellow Aurors, including the ruthless Rufus Scrimgeour, whose cold grey eyes looked at Sirius with nothing but contempt. Cornelius Fudge, one of the leading candidates in the upcoming election, was standing with them, along with Barty Crouch, his rival and a high-ranking official in the office of Magical Law Enforcement. All had their wands pointed firmly in his direction.
The other thing he registered was that his own wand was hanging limply at his side.
He suddenly realized what this must look like, especially since Dumbledore believed that he was the Secret Keeper of the Potters. Even if they were not aware of that, it now appeared to everyone that he had just murdered Peter Pettigrew and maybe a dozen Muggles. He was trapped. Just like Wormtail wanted, the bastard.
Scrimgeour stepped forward, wand still pointed at Sirius’s heart. “Put the wand down, Black, it’s over.”
The wand tumbled from his unresisting fingers to clatter on the street. Sirius dumbly stared around at the angry faces of his colleagues and friends. They all believed that he was a traitor. They believed that he, like his foolish brother, had joined Lord Voldemort. And now Voldemort was dead. And Sirius began to laugh maniacally at the absurdity of it all. All the while, tears of grief and despair streamed down his face. But he couldn’t stop laughing. If it hadn’t been him, it would have been hilarious. Two days ago, Remus was the informant. Peter was innocent. James, Lily, and Harry were alive and in hiding. Voldemort still held a curtain of shadow over Europe.
How things had changed.
He didn’t notice Mad-Eye’s Stunner until it was far too late.