Author’s Note: This is the sequel to Promises
Unbroken. If you have not all ready
read PU, I highly suggest doing so, else this story will probably make no sense
whatsoever. Be advised that this is an
Alternate Universe tale as well. That
said, enjoy the story—and let the darkness come.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Harry
Potter belong to the wonderful and talented J.K. Rowling, whom I thank very
much for the loan of her playground. The
plot, however, and anything you do not recognize, belongs to me. I am not making any profit from the writing
and display of this story, except for gratification of my ego and quenching my
thirst to write.
The Sequel to Promises Unbroken
Chapter Two: Alone in the Dark
One of the last things
that the students loitering in the courtyard expected to see was Sirius Black
striding through the castle’s gates, dressed in dusty black robes and with the side
of his face caked in dried blood.
Sunset was falling, now;
the leaving feast had been cut short by the headmaster’s unexplained collapse,
and everyone was still trying to figure out what had happened. Although Harry had been the only student
permitted to stay during that mysterious ordeal, due to his unusual
relationship with the headmaster, even he didn’t understand what had
happened. All he knew was that Remus had
said that the Ministry had been destroyed and that Dumbledore’s phoenix had
come to Hogwarts—but how could Remus know about the Ministry? He’d fallen and laid there in silence for so
long, and it was impossible to destroy the Ministry of Magic. Everyone knew that.
Harry shivered suddenly. His parents were both at the Ministry, and so
was Peter and so many others… But the Ministry was unbreakable. Its security was the best. He swallowed.
If it was impossible, why did he feel so cold?
Looking at Sirius didn’t
help matters at all. The godfather he’d
so recently come to know looked different from how Harry had ever seen him; he
was cold now, expressionless and implacable.
Sirius suddenly seemed dangerous, and he strode forward with long and
purposeful strides, sweeping across the courtyard as if his eyes saw nothing
and everything at the same time. His
gaze was both distant and furious, and Harry had never, ever, seen someone move
with such unconscious power and presence.
For a moment, it was almost frightening to see, but then he reminded
himself that this was Sirius, his godfather and his father’s best friend. There was nothing to fear.
Others didn’t seem to
agree as Harry jogged up to intercept Sirius’ path; whispers were coming from
nearly every student in the half-full courtyard. No one knew what to think or what to do. Harry heard Hermione’s shocked exclamation
from behind him, but he ignored her and hurried to catch up with his godfather.
The Auror broke stride
and only seemed to notice Harry when he heard him speak. His voice was terse. “Not now, Harry.”
Harry stopped, unable to
believe his ears. “What?”
“There’s not time.” Briefly, Sirius reached out and squeezed
Harry’s shoulder, but even that motion seemed distracted and distant. His blue eyes grew dark. “Later.”
“What are you doing
here, Black?” A cold voice suddenly demanded, and Harry turned to see Snape
approaching. Sirius, however, did not
remain still; instead, he moved forward again, striding straight up to the
hook-nosed terror of Hogwarts.
“I need to speak to the
across the other’s features; his face was tight. “He is resting.”
important.” Harry had never seen Sirius
so cold. “I would not be here if it was
“At the moment, I don’t
particularly care,” Snape snarled. “I do
not believe you understand the situation—”
“No, I don’t think you
understand,” Sirius cut him off, and then suddenly peered at the deputy
headmaster with newfound worry. “Unless
you didn’t know—?”
Realization dawned on
both faces at the same time, and Snape went pale. His voice was hardly above a frightened
whisper, and Harry doubted anyone further away could hear him. “The Ministry.”
curtly. “We may have bigger problems
that I thought.”
Within the next few
hours, the students were sent home—a day early and without explanation—on the
Hogwarts Express. All of the students,
that was, except for a specific few, and Harry found himself along with all of
the Weasleys, amongst them. Neville
Longbottom, too, stayed, and so did several others—all of which, Harry
suspected had parents in the Order of the Phoenix. Although they discussed the circumstances
quietly amongst themselves, none could figure out the reason for their
continued presence, unless there was some danger to them, as children of
members of the Order. But none of them
could understand what the Dark Lord would want with a bunch of underage witches
Things started to get
more interesting when most of the professors left that evening, and their
parents started arriving a few hours later.
Harry almost missed his
mother as she arrived by Molly Weasley’s side; he’d never seen his mum and
Ron’s together, and almost didn’t recognize his mother’s tired and strained
features. Not far behind the pair, Bill
Weasley helped his father along; Ron’s dad was walking with a pronounced
limp. Before he could reach his mother’s
side, though, he saw Sirius stride out to meet her.
“How is he?” Harry’s
godfather asked immediately.
Lily shrugged, looking
very old and tired. “They don’t know
yet…” she swallowed. “The Aurors you
left with him are still there.”
“Good.” Sirius turned to the short man at Lily’s
side. “I hear you did well today,
The blonde wizard
frowned and shook his head. “Not well
Finally, Lily seemed to
notice her son as Harry waited with growing impatience. She spoke without preamble. “I have bad news, Harry.”
“Is it dad?” He wasn’t
stupid enough to miss his father’s absence, and wished that he didn’t have a
sinking feeling that the he his mum and Sirius were talking about was
none other than James Potter. Harry
swallowed nervously. Just because his
father had wound up in the hospital before didn’t make it any easier…
“He’s in St. Mungo’s,”
his mum confirmed quietly. “There was an
attack on the Ministry…”
Even as a shadow passed
over her eyes, Sirius reached out to grip her elbow and cut her off. “We need to get inside, Lily,” he said
quietly. “Remus and the others are
“But what about dad?”
Harry demanded even as his mother nodded shakily. Oddly enough, it was Peter who answered.
“I was just at St.
Mungo’s with him, Harry,” the short man said quietly. “They’re certain he’ll live, but right
now…right now he can’t walk. And they’re
not sure how to fix what’s wrong.”
Harry felt his stomach
drop down to the ground. “He can’t
“We don’t know if it’s
permanent,” Sirius interjected, and for the first time, Harry noticed the deep
lines around his eyes. “The healers are
There was so much more
that he wanted to ask, but something in Sirius’ face stopped Harry from doing
so. The exhausted expression his mother
wore only added to Harry’s worry, though, and while he knew that now wasn’t the
time to ask questions, he vowed to do so later.
He wasn’t ignorant, after all, and it was his father in the
hospital. If anyone deserved to know,
Harry figured that it was him.
He had no idea, however,
how complicated things were about to become.
It was the first time
that the entire Order of the Phoenix
had assembled since the early days of the war against Voldemort. As the years passed, the Order had become
first too large, and then too secret, to gather in one place; time had allowed
the Dark Lord to worm spies into their midst even as the Order worked their own
into his presence. They had not been
able to risk coming together before, but at this moment, there seemed much more
to lose by not doing so. Spies or no
spies, they had to act.
Scarcely eight hours had
passed since the attack on the Ministry, and the Order of the Phoenix gathered in Hogwarts’ Great
Hall. The school was the one
unbreachable place left to them; with the fall of the Ministry, nowhere else
was safe. Thus, fearful faces stared at
one another, clueless and hopeless. All
were acutely aware of the absence of the Order’s one constant: Albus
Dumbledore. None, however, could imagine
an Order of the Phoenix
existing without the legendary wizard’s guidance or strength. They needed him, now, but he was not
there. Few, therefore, expected such a
slender and brown haired wizard to step forward and take his place. At merely thirty-two years old, Remus Lupin
was entirely too young.
“Thank you all for
coming on such short notice,” he said quietly, swallowing almost
imperceptivity. “By now, I’m certain you
have all heard the rumors.”
“Late this afternoon,
the Ministry of Magic was attacked by Lord Voldemort and his followers. We do not know now how many people died in
this assault, but we know that many witches, wizards, and Muggles did, slain by
both Death Eaters and Dementors. Right
now, the Muggle news is calling it a terrorist attack. They have no explanation for the soulless
wandering the streets of London.
“We do know, however,
that Albus Dumbledore and Arabella Figg are amongst the dead. So are many of the Ministry’s Department
heads. The only two we have been able to
contact are Cornelius Fudge, the head of the Department of Magical Catastrophes, who was on vacation with his
family; and James Potter, the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, who is currently
being treated in St. Mungo’s. As of right
now, our government is all but nonexistent.”
Remus paused and took a
deep breath; Sirius could see the exhaustion on his face and noticed both Snape
and Fletcher watching him closely. Remus
hadn’t been able to explain much about what had happened earlier—there simply
hadn’t been time, but Sirius knew that he’d had a vision and collapsed. What had frightened them both the most,
though, was that Remus had seen the Ministry crumble, and had known that
Dumbledore was dead the moment that Fawkes had arrived. Almost as worrisome was the fact that the
phoenix had come to Hogwarts—to Remus—and both understood what that
“And so it falls to the
Order of the Phoenix
to carry the war,” the headmaster continued quietly. “Until the Ministry can be reformed, we are
all that is left. After conferring with
the Inner Circle, I will assume leadership
of the Order.” His eyes swept across the
gathered crowd. “Unless there are any
who think I should not.”
Silence greeted his
words. Few in the Order knew about the
Font, but they could recognize that Remus had changed. The difference was obvious, even to
uneducated eyes; and when Fawkes floated gracefully down to land on Remus’
shoulder, the decision was clinched. The
phoenix had chosen Remus J. Lupin. The
mysterious and unknown Inner Circle had
concurred. The Order would follow.
“Thank you.” Remus’ quiet voice echoed in the stillness,
and then he turned slightly and nodded to Sirius. After a deep breath, he stepped forward,
struggling to keep a frown off of his face.
I hate this, he thought acidly. I
hate the way their eyes are following me, hoping that I’ve got the answers just
because I was stupid enough to face Voldemort and survive. These people are supposed to know
better. He resisted the need to swallow.
There were too many faces missing in the crowd, from the presumed dead to
those who hospitalized like James and Alice Longbottom. And like so many of his Aurors.
“In James’ absence, I have taken command of the Aurors. Although we lost several, we are probably the
one Ministry division that has not been effectively decapitated by the
attack. Right now, I have Aurors
guarding both surviving Department heads and as of nightfall, searching the
rubble for survivors. So far, there have
been very few.”
Sadness and fear
reflected off nearly every face as Sirius paused to study the crowd. Each had known what the risks were when they
had joined the Order, but no one had ever expected this—even Dumbledore. Dumbledore. Sirius blinked. Peter had told him of the old man’s sudden
warning, and Lily had related his last words to Voldemort—“It is time, Tom.” Had he known?
Could he have? Sirius shivered
suddenly, thinking of the darkness that must have lived in that old man’s mind,
and hoping that he had finally found peace.
If he knew, why did he do it?
Why did he choose to die?
That was the sad and
sorry truth: Dumbledore could have lived.
He could have escaped. Instead,
he chose to die. It was time? He sacrificed himself for others, yet Sirius
knew that the old wizard had been too smart to do so if he was still
needed…which meant Dumbledore had believed that they would not need him. Sirius swallowed back the bitter laughter
that threatened to rise without warning.
What did he accomplish, aside from leaving us leaderless and
rudderless in a storm? There had to
be more. Dumbledore never did anything
without a reason. Sirius just couldn’t
see it yet.
“I have asked you to
come here today not to make you lose hope,” Remus finally continued, “but to
help you understand what the Order will be called upon to do this summer. Voldemort has won a victory, but he has not
yet won the war, and if we stand together, we will survive.”
Dawn found a skeletal
form of the Inner Circle meeting in Remus’
office. All five of them had been awake
all night long, and Lily looked the worst off.
Dumbledore’s death was hitting her hard, Remus knew; in truth, the old
man’s absence was felt by them all, especially Severus. Remus understood that his deputy headmaster
had always felt a special kinship with the old headmaster; Dumbledore had been
the one who had accepted him, trusted him—he’d given Snape a second
chance. Remus swallowed. He’d given so many people chances…and had so
often denied them to himself. There
wasn’t one of them in that room who didn’t owe Dumbledore something.
Fawkes, in the corner,
was still mourning silently, setting a heavy and sorrowful tone for their
meeting. Finally, when Remus could stand
the silence no longer, he cleared his throat.
He began hesitantly, “I’m sorry to keep all of you up so late.”
“I doubt any of us would
have slept anyway,” Severus commented dryly.
Dung’s answering snort revealed his agreement, and Lily just stared at
her hands, overwrought and exhaustedly nodding.
“Tonight’s not a night
for sleep, anyway,” Sirius agreed from where he stood staring out the
window. “There are too many unanswered
tiredly. “I agree.”
“What worries me,” Lily
finally put in quietly, “is that you, Severus, did not know about the attack
ahead of time. That seems to imply a
certain lack of trust on Voldemort’s part.”
Snape snorted. “You mean that he suspects me,” he replied
bluntly. “There is no use tiptoeing
around the truth.”
“Well, yes.” Lily shrugged apologetically.
“But why? Or how?” Fletcher wondered.
“It could be any of a
hundred reasons,” the Death Eater responded.
“Or it was simply—possibly, but unlikely—an oversight on the Dark Lord’s
“And if he knows you’re
a spy?” Remus asked quietly.
“I suppose I’ll find out
if I live through the next time he summons me.”
Severus’ voice was dry, but the headmaster could see the worry behind
his dark eyes. They were playing a very
high-stakes game, Remus knew, and any wrong move could very well mean death.
“That’s not very
comforting,” Lily replied.
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
“We’ve got other
problems, too,” Sirius suddenly interjected, making Remus frown.
“What?” he asked.
“When I talked to Fudge
earlier, he very specifically asked me who was in the running to be the next
Minister of Magic,” the Auror replied grimly.
“I told him that now wasn’t the time to worry about that and got my head
out of the fire as quickly as humanly possible.
But he’s very interested.”
“Oh, lovely,” Lily
Fletcher snarled with distaste. “Fudge is the most ambitious windbag I’ve
ever met. If he gets the job, we might
as well surrender now!”
“Which is precisely why
Malfoy and every other influential Death Eater will be supporting him every
step of the way,” Snape reminded them, earning angry glares in return for his
comment. Before anyone could lose their
temper, though, Remus intervened.
“And that is why we
simply can’t allow that to happen,” he replied far more calmly than he
felt. “Therefore, we need to advance a
candidate of our own—preferably one who is in the Order.”
“It makes the list
short, Remus,” Dung remarked.
“Especially if you want someone in the Inner
“Unless we can get Lily
to do it,” Sirius suddenly said with a wan smile, making her head jerk up and
her voice squeak.
Remus felt a smile tug
at the corners of his own mouth; Sirius had read his mind. “Who else?” he asked. “You probably know more about that job than
the rest of us combined. How long were
you Dumbledore’s assistant? Eight
“That’s not the point,”
Lily objected. “I’m not a
politician. I’ve never even held
“That, Remus, is just a
little different.” Lily’s green eyes
were finally awake now, though, as she turned to stare at each of them in
turn. “Look, I’m touched by your
confidence, but I work behind the scenes, remember? I’m officially a secretary, nothing more—and
I can’t give people the confidence that you’re going to need them to
have.” She swallowed. “You need someone a lot better known than me
Remus started to open
his mouth to reply, but was cut of, much to his surprise, by Severus. “What about James?”
The response had been
instinctive, but after a moment, the idea began to grow on Remus. James.
He would have never thought of his friend, but James was well
known, and he was strong enough to do what had to be done. So much of the Wizarding world considered
James a hero; he’d led the Aurors for many years, and had somehow managed to
survive it all, even Voldemort’s spirited crusade to end his life. Furthermore, he was smart, powerful, and a
member of the Inner Circle. James met every criteria that Remus could
think of for an ideal Minister of Magic, and he already was a department head,
so he could meet Fudge head on.
“You know,” Lily said
quietly, her face a study in concentration, “that just might work.”
“It would be the perfect
solution, too,” Dung mused. “I mean, we
can’t exactly get Remus in there, so… No offense.” Remus just shrugged in response to Fletcher’s
apologetic look, understanding that his condition barred the Order from having
its head as the Minister of Magic again.
Besides, he would never have wanted to leave Hogwarts, even if such a
thing had been possible. It was almost a
relief not to have to worry about two new kinds of responsibility.
“Wait a minute,” Sirius
interrupted, turning away from the window and leaning on the wall tiredly. His hands were stuffed deep in his pockets
and his face was still bruised slightly—he hadn’t bothered to get it fixed
yet—but his voice was grim and pointed.
“We ought to ask James before we start planning anything.”
Severus gave him a tired
glare that wasn’t nearly up to his normal standards. “Of course we will,” he retorted, rolling his
eyes. “However, I believe the question
at hand is if the idea will work or not.
If Fudge can get in early enough and start gaining support, this entire
conversation will have been for no purpose whatsoever.”
“Won’t happen.” Sirius smiled tiredly, and they all looked at
him. Remus felt his own eyebrows rise doubtfully—his
friend didn’t really know Fudge all that well, and had no idea how ambitious
the politician could be—but was that a mischievous glint in Sirius’ eyes? He knew something, and Remus opened his mouth
to ask what, but his deputy headmaster beat him to it.
“Forgive me for saying
that the rest of us don’t necessarily share your confidence,” Severus remarked
“Fudge won’t be a
problem. At least not for awhile,
“Wipe that stupid smile
off your face, then, and tell us why,” Lily demanded testily. Remus snorted, but Sirius finally grinned.
“I assigned Hestia Jones
to protect him.”
Remus couldn’t help it;
he burst out laughing. After a moment,
so did Lily, who tried to hide her sudden amusement behind a strangled cough,
but both Dung and Severus only stared at the three of them crossly as Sirius
chuckled tiredly and explained.
“Hestia isn’t exactly
the forgiving sort,” he smirked. “Under her
watchful eyes, Fudge is not going to be making any public appearances, speeches
for the ‘good’ of the Wizarding world, or acting on ‘behalf’ of the government
in any way. He’ll stay on
vacation, nice and safe, where he belongs.”
Dung snorted. “Excellent.
Serves the bugger right.”
“Indeed.” For once, even Snape had to agree with
Sirius, and the thought of that happening ever again made Remus smile. But the amusement instantly vanished with his
next thought. The world has indeed
turned upside down, the new leader of the Order of the Phoenix thought grimly.
Now we’ve just got to
figure out how to turn it all right side up again.
“We talked to Lee
today,” Fred said suddenly, startling the others out of their silence.
Harry looked up. To his right, Ron and Ginny (who had arrived
with her parents the evening before) were attempting to concentrate on a game
of Wizard’s chess—and failing miserably.
Even the normally obnoxious Weasley family chess pieces were more
subdued than usual; it seemed that they sensed the mood prevalent in the
Gryffindor common room. Not far away,
Neville was reading a book on Herbology, but Harry could swear that the other
boy hadn’t turned a page in over an hour.
Fred and George both sat to Harry’s left, exchanging glances from time
to time, but otherwise silent. The two
of them had originally been playing a game of Exploding Snap with Harry, but
the game had somehow petered off, leaving them with the soulless and stony
Percy, of course, was in
the library, having called the younger Gryffindors immature and stormed out
thirty minutes before. But they didn’t
mind. Even with the school year
officially over, he still had a habit of acting like a prefect, and he kept
harping on them to do something useful, though what he meant they were not yet
sure. It was, after all, only the
beginning of summer, and the younger children were having a hard enough time
trying to figure out how to waste the rest of the afternoon.
Gryffindor tower seemed
so empty without their classmates, so empty and so dead. Their excitement over the Order of the Phoenix’s arrival had
faded; all six children had quickly been informed that they were “far too
young” to attend those meetings and would have to find a way to occupy
themselves. Even Harry’s mum, who was
usually much more open and informative than Mrs. Weasley, maintained an
unexpected silence and refused to answer more than the most basic of
questions. Harry had tried valiantly to
worm information out of his mother, but they had eventually been sent packing,
and in times like this, mischief wasn’t much fun. The castle was too quiet, and there were too
many adults around—but it wasn’t an occasion for jokes, anyway. So they found themselves alone in the dorm,
wishing futilely Neville and Ginny weren’t present; otherwise, the Misfits would
have indulged themselves by at least studying a very singular map that the
twins still had in their possession.
Unfortunately, even if had considered letting Ginny in on the secret,
and none of them wanted to leave Neville alone to do so. So alone they sat, waiting and wondering.
“Mum let us Fire Call
him,” George explained. “He’s doing all
right. He got home last night.”
“Sorry we didn’t tell
you earlier,” Fred apologized. “Mum was
kind of batty about letting us use the fire at all. Kept going on about secrecy and such.”
“Is he going to be able
to come back?” Harry asked quietly.
Lee’s mother was a
Muggle, as they all knew, and ever since his father’s death, Reina Jordan had
been hinting that she might not allow Lee to return to Hogwarts for his fourth
year. Lee had screamed protest, but his
mother was understandably afraid. She’d
all ready lost her husband to Death Eaters, and knew that Lee, as the
Half-blood son of an Auror, was now in extraordinary danger. To her mind, the best was to protect him was
to withdraw entirely from the Wizarding world, no matter how much magic meant
Just thinking about that
left a great gaping feeling inside all of the Misfits.
“He doesn’t know yet,”
George answered after a moment, frowning worriedly. “Professor Fletcher talked to Mrs. Jordan and
Lee said his mum is thinking about it.”
“What if he can’t?” Ron
asked suddenly, his voice very small.
“Mrs. Jordan can’t just
not let him come back, can she?” Ginny demanded unhappily when no one had an
answer for Ron’s question. “I mean,
doesn’t she understand that his magic won’t go away no matter what she does?”
“She’s a Muggle,
Gin. She doesn’t get it,” Fred replied
“That’s crap,” Ron
George shot to his feet
suddenly, growling impatiently under his breath and storming out of the room. His voice came out angry and clipped from
over his shoulder. “Welcome to the
world, little brother. Nothing’s fair
Long after midnight,
Bill Weasley spotted a tall figure wandering across the Hogwarts grounds. Sitting underneath the castle’s shadow, Bill
was all but invisible, and he watched curiously as the other wizard paused at
the lake’s edge, staring down at the still waters, seemingly deep in
thought. When the other moved again,
though, the slight limp he walked with gave his identity away immediately. Although he did not know him well, Bill knew
that Sirius Black never allowed the limp to show; one could only notice it when
the famous Auror wasn’t paying attention.
When he thought he was alone.
His slow walk was
aimless and drifting; clearly, Black’s mind was elsewhere. Watching him almost made Bill feel guilty
because he felt like he was intruding upon something that wasn’t meant for his
eyes. But before he could find something
different to concentrate on, Black unexpectedly turned his way and walked
towards him, the limp now completely gone.
Even in the darkness, Bill could see the uncannily light blue eyes focus
on him, and he shivered, remembering seeing this man step, very calmly, around
a corner and face Lord Voldemort himself.
He’d never really spoken
to him, had never really gotten the chance, even though he’d always wanted
to. Bill started to rise, which seemed
to be the least that he could do, but Black waved him back down
“Couldn’t sleep?” he
“No.” Coming from anyone else, Bill would have
given the question an evasive answer, but if there was a man who knew what he’d
gone through, it was Sirius Black. How
he survived a decade in the Dark Lord’s hands, I will never understand, the
Auror thought to himself. Nor will I
“Mind if I join you?”
Black gestured casually at the spot of grass to Bill’s right.
“Not at all.”
Bill watched out of the
corner of his eye as the other Auror lowered himself to the ground. There was an odd amount of caution in Black’s
movements; one moment, he seemed to favor the game right leg, and the next he
possessed an unconscious grace that couldn’t be faked or calculated. However, Bill’s unintentional study revealed
much more than he’d initially expected to find.
In the moonlight, Black’s small and subtle scars were harder to miss;
obviously, he’d been expertly healed, yet like Bill’s inner demons, the outer
marks of Black’s time in hell seemed like they would never fade. There was a very faint scar that ran from the
top of his left ear around and under the bottom of his chin; Bill looked away
before he could start to stare in an effort to solve that puzzle. Doing so, however, brought his attention to
the faded marks still evident on both of Black’s arms.
“How do you do it?” Bill
asked suddenly and without meaning to, tearing his eyes away from something
that he felt was none of his business.
“How do you deal with everything?”
Black’s head turned
slowly to face him. “Silencing Charms, mostly.”
“You mean—” Bill
“The nightmares don’t go
away, kid,” the other said quietly, sighing and staring off into the distance
once more. “You just learn to deal with
them… Or maybe yours will. I hope they
do, for your sake. But if they don’t…”
He shrugged. “I can’t say it gets
better, but it does get simpler, if you know what I mean.”
“I can’t imagine
becoming used to the nightmares,” Bill said.
They sat in silence for
a long time, but it was somehow a comforting quiet. Ever since his rescue from Azkaban, Bill had
felt as if he was alone. There were few
that could understand the horrors that haunted his dreams, and ever fewer still
knew how to help. His parents had tried,
of course, but Bill had found himself oddly reluctant to speak of his
experiences with them. For the first
time in his life, even the comfort of his loving family was not enough, because
a darkness lived inside of him that they could not touch. Before the attack, the Ministry had also
offered help, but Bill, like all his fellow prisoners, had declined. He didn’t need healers poking around in his
head, trying to find solutions that might not exist. In many ways, he feared that they would call
“You were there for so
long,” he whispered, staring into the darkness.
“How did you hang on without doubting yourself at every turn? You faced him…I can’t even dream of doing
that. And the world thinks you’re
fine. Everyone always talks about how
strong you are, and yet…how can you do that if you feel how I feel?”
Black snorted. “I still wake up in the middle of the night,
when I sleep at all,” he admitted. “It’s
all a matter of perception—and of choice.
I choose to be what I am. No one
else can do that for me.”
“I wish it was so simple
for me,” Bill replied wistfully.
“I just don’t think I’m
Black finally turned to
look at him again, arching one eyebrow quizzically. “Your vacation’s almost over,” he said
unexpectedly. “What do you plan on doing
when it is?”
Bill blinked. “I’ll come back to the Aurors, if they’ll
“And why is that?”
“What else would I do?”
It was hard not to stare at the older man strangely; Bill could hardly see the
point to this line of questioning.
“You could run,” the
other said quietly. His pale gaze burned
into Bill’s. “You could try to
hide. No one would blame you if you
chose another route.”
“Yet you choose not to,”
Black overrode him easily. “Tell me
“Because I want to do my
part,” Bill answered with a frown. “The
war is more important than how I feel.”
softly. “And you said you didn’t
understand why I do what I do.”
breathed. “I guess. But I just wish I knew how to get past it.” Anyone who hadn’t been in Azkaban could not
have possibly comprehended all the layers contained in that simple word, but
Black’s understanding nod said that he did.
The nightmares weren’t just about torture. They weren’t just caused by the constant
presence of Dementors and having to relive his worst memories over and over
again. The feelings of loneliness and
hopelessness were far longer lasting than any obvious effects of Voldemort’s
hell; there was the feeling of cold that crept up on you in the middle of the
night without warning and there was always the sudden realization that you
could not fight back… Bill shivered, even though it was a warm night.
“You’ve got family who
cares for you,” the older wizard said quietly.
“Take advantage of their love.
They’ll listen, if you let them.”
Bill opened his mouth to
protest, but Black shook his head.
“They can’t ever
understand, not completely, but you need them.
When it’s dark, and you’re alone, it’s not determination that pulls you
through...You need something stronger and deeper, a feeling that doesn’t just
come from yourself.” Suddenly, Black
looked away, and his next words were distant.
“Letting down your shields is hard, but sometimes you have to…even when it
kills you to do so.”
“Silencing Charms don’t
work with my friends.” Black smiled
“Oh,” was all Bill could
say as the other’s words rattled around in his head. For a moment, he was tempted to argue,
especially considering Black’s earlier comment, but then he remembered, almost
irrelevantly, back to his own Hogwarts years.
As a first year Gryffindor, he remembered seeing four boys, impossibly
different and yet incredibly close, and recalled how they always seemed to
understand one another. Those four boys
were now adults, of course, and famous ones who Bill rarely saw together, but
there was something in Black’s voice that told him they was still much more
than met the eye.
“Trust your family,
Bill,” Black said quietly. “In times
like this, they’re all you have.”