The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Grim Dawn  Chapter: Chapter 2: The Fidelius Charm
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Grim Dawn

Disclaimer: I don’t own Harry Potter; anything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling, who is kind enough to let people play in her sandbox from time to time. 

 

 

 

Grim Dawn

 

CHAPTER TWO: THE FIDELIUS CHARM

 

            Harry sat quietly, hardly able to believe what he’d just heard.  The entire last hour had proved absolutely surreal; first, he’d been led into a dilapidated old house, where he now sat at an old and dusty kitchen table; then, he had listened to the most incredible and unbelievable story.  His mind was whirling under the pressure of trying to comprehend so much information, trying to sort truth from fiction—

            But if there was one thing that he had to believe, it was the barefaced emotion evident on Black’s face.  The older man was standing on the other side of the dirty kitchen now; he’d stopped pacing, and though he was trying to hide it, Harry knew that he had only done so to get control of his emotions.  Come to think of it, though, that was something that Harry desperately needed to do himself.  Hearing what he had made him feel cold inside.

            My parents were betrayed by one of their best friends.  Harry swallowed, staring at Black’s skeletal form, watching the wizard’s head bow briefly and seeing the glint of something shining on his face before Black swiped it away.  And another one of their friends got blamed for it.

            “I’m your godfather, you know,” Black suddenly said, turning back to face Harry.

            “You are?”  I have a godfather?

            “Yeah.”  He swallowed.  “Your parents appointed me your guardian, if anything ever…happened.”

            He didn’t seem able to finish any more than Harry was able to answer.  The silence stretched into long minutes then, and Harry began to trace circles into the dusty table.  Against the far wall, a fire crackled; Black had started it with a quick spell shortly after they had arrived.  The basement kitchen was a gloomy place with rough stone walls and dust covered furniture, and the iron pots hanging from the ceiling did not exactly make the atmosphere more cheerful.  Just like the front hall (which was the only other part of the house that Harry had seen), the kitchen looked as if no one had used it in years. Overall, it was an awful place to spend the night…but it wasn’t Privet Drive, and Sirius Black was his godfather.  His godfather.

            “Why…” Harry began, and then had to swallow briefly before continuing.  “Why did you escape?  Why now?”

            Why not before?  A wild hope was rising inside of him—what if he didn’t have to go back to the Dursleys?  Harry had spent his entire childhood miserable and alone, and at the moment, it didn’t matter to him that Black was an outlaw.  So was Harry.  They’d both broken Wizarding law, which meant that the Ministry was after them.  When Harry had stepped out the door at Number Four, Privet Drive, he’d been facing a cold and lonely path—but now, all of a sudden, it seemed that might not be the case.  Now, he might not have to be alone.

            Ever so slowly, Black reached inside his robe and removed a crinkled piece of paper, extending it towards Harry, who took it curiously.  Immediately, he recognized it as the picture of the Weasleys that had been in the Daily Prophet.

            “The rat,” Black said hoarsely. “On the boy’s shoulder.  It’s Peter.”

            Harry looked at him blankly.

            “He’s an Animagus,” the scrawny wizard explained.  “Just like I can become a dog, Peter can become a rat…” Anger tightened his features.  “I saw him, and it lit a fire in my head…it gave me purpose again.  So I escaped…”

            “How?”

            Black shrugged.  “I could turn into a dog when things got too bad…so, one day I was able to slip through the bars…Dementors can’t see, so they didn’t know. I swam to shore, and found you.  I meant to only see you, and to follow…but then Malfoy and Avery showed up, and I had to act.”

            Harry had to swallow, remembering how close he had come to…to what?  “Why do they want me?” he asked suddenly.  “Do you know?”

            “Not everything,” Black replied.  “Not enough…but from what they said, I gather that they’ve come up with a way to bring Voldemort back…”

            “And they want me for that.”

            “Yeah.”

            They sat in silence for another long moment, but now it was a less tense one.  Harry found his eyes resting on Black, still, watching how the man’s pale features were illuminated in the firelight.  At first glance, Black looked almost like a vampire, with his sunken eyes and skeletal build—but it was those eyes, now, that seemed to change.  Somehow, they were coming alive, little by little, and Harry found now that Black would meet his gaze openly.  There was still much hidden in the depths of his eyes, but there was strength, too…and something that inspired the boy wizard to trust this stranger, escaped convict or no.

            “Has Dumbledore told you why Voldemort wants you, Harry?” Black asked abruptly.

            He shook his head mutely, staring.  Harry remembered asking, once, back in his first year at Hogwarts—but what had Dumbledore said?  When you’re older, Harry.  He could almost hear the headmaster saying those words.  It was always when he was older.

            “There’s a prophecy,” the other began quietly, moving forward and sitting across from Harry at the dirty table.  “I never heard it, but your father told me a little bit about it.  The prophecy says that a boy will be the one to defeat Voldemort…a boy who was born in July of 1980.”  He swallowed hard.  “That’s why he went after your parents.  He wanted you.”

            “Me?” Harry whispered.  Was it his fault that his parents were dead?  Harry blinked, feeling torn and cold inside…had his parents died because Voldemort wanted him dead?  If so, it was all his fault, and—Black grabbed his wrist.

            “Listen to me, Harry,” he said urgently, seemingly reading the boy’s mind.  His touch was surprisingly gentle for one who had spent twelve years in prison, charged with murdering thirteen people.  “Your parents knew what they were doing.  They made a choice to bring you into this world, and to protect you… They’d be proud of what you’ve become.  And they would never, ever, blame you for their deaths.”

            “But—”

            “But what?” Black cut him off gently.  “I knew your parents for years.  I knew your father better than I know myself—and I know they wouldn’t blame you.  It’s not your fault.  None of this is.

            “If anyone’s to blame, it’s me.  If I hadn’t convinced them to switch at the last minute—” Black’s voice broke, and he abruptly let go of Harry’s’ wrist, looking away.  “I can’t tell you how sorry I am for that, Harry,” he whispered shakily.  “I would have died before I betrayed James and Lily…but I as good as killed them.”

            Harry swallowed once more as the silence lengthened.  Somehow, he knew that he couldn’t say anything to make it better—not now, not yet, and maybe not ever.  But he did recognize, from somewhere deep down inside, that chance was staring him in the face.

            “What now?” he finally asked.  “I mean, we can’t stay here, can we?  The Ministry is looking for us both…”

            “Both of us?” Black’s eyes zoomed in on him, still haunted and hurt, but highly intelligent, too.  “Why are they looking for you?”

            “I blew up my aunt,” he answered, shamefaced. 

            A smile finally creased Black’s face, and for a moment he looked vaguely human.  “You blew up your aunt?” he repeated dubiously.

            “I didn’t mean to,” Harry objected, failing to see what was so funny about the situation.  “She insulted my parents.”

            “Ah…” Black chuckled dryly; the sound seemed alien coming from behind his gaunt face.  “They’re not going to expel you or throw you into prison for something like that, Harry.  Magical children do that sometimes.  It’s just part of growing up.”

            “Oh.”  Harry took a long moment to mull that one over, remembering several other incidents in his childhood when he’d made things happen when he was angry or confused.  It made sense, of course…but that didn’t really add up with his other dealings with the Ministry of Magic.  Unfortunately, that didn’t solve their other problem.  He frowned.  “But we still can’t stay here, can we?  Because they’re looking for you, I mean.  Won’t they know you’d come here?”

            Black snorted.  “Not likely.  I certainly thought I’d come back to this awful place…” he grimaced.  “But you are right.  They might figure out I’ve come here…especially Malfoy.”

            “So, where do we go?” Harry didn’t relish the idea of running away, and forgoing the only life he’d come to love.  But if Black was right, and Voldemort’s followers were searching for him, there wasn’t anyplace safe for him to stay—except for Hogwarts, and school didn’t start for another two weeks.

            “You’ve decided to trust me, then,” Black said softly.

            Harry could have said that he didn’t really have a choice, but that would have been lying.  And it would have been wrong.  “Yeah,” he replied.  “I have.”

            “Then it’s up to you,” his godfather replied.  “We can run, and try to stay ahead of the Death Eaters…or I can cast the Fidelius Charm and keep you safe.”

            “The what?” Harry asked.

            “The Fidelius Charm,” Black answered grimly.  “The charm that was supposed to keep your parents safe.”

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            Remus Lupin sat quietly, staring blankly at the newspaper over a cup of tea.  He didn’t really care about the tea, of course; it was cooling rapidly and he wasn’t paying attention.  Then again, he hadn’t made the tea because he was thirsty, either.  Remus had cooked up a pot in the hopes that it might soothe his frayed and frazzled nerves.

            BLACK SPOTTED BY MUGGLES IN LITTLE WHINGING,” the headlines read.  The very thought of that made his stomach churn.  It had been bad enough knowing that Sirius—Black!—had escaped, but now… Now it was so much worse.  Remus wasn’t dumb enough to have forgotten where Lily’s sister and her husband lived.  And he certainly wasn’t dense enough not to understand why Sirius had gone there.

            Why, Sirius? he thought for the millionth time…but now the question was different.  Before, he’d always wanted to know why his friend had betrayed James and Lily, and had killed Peter—poor little Peter.  Now he just burned to know why Sirius had to slay their son, too.  Hadn’t James and Lily been enough?  Cold bile rose in his throat.  Haven’t you done enough?

            Not far away, on the kitchen table of his small cottage, sat a letter from Albus Dumbledore.  It was dated the day that Sirius escaped Azkaban, the day when Remus’ world had turned upside down.  For a dozen years he had been fighting to overcome his past, bouncing from job to job and trying to pretend that he didn’t yearn for the friends that he’d lost.  Remus had moved beyond those blissful—dark—years; he had left them behind.  He had refused Dumbledore’s offer of a job more than once—the last count had been six times, for six consecutive years.  He hadn’t wanted pity, and he hadn’t wanted charity, and no matter how much Hogwarts’ headmaster claimed that he was offering neither, Remus hadn’t been convinced.

            Until that letter.

            I need you, Remus, it had read without preamble.  Now, more than ever.

            As I’m certain you know, Sirius Black has escaped Azkaban.  You and I both know what—and who—he will be after.  And I believe you, more than anyone, can recognize the danger he presents.  Especially to Harry.

            He didn’t even need to read the letter again.  Remus remembered it word for bloody word.

I will not lie to you.   I need a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher whom I can trust.  I know you have turned me down many times, but I again ask you to reconsider, especially in light of recent events.  Out of anyone living, you know Sirius Black the best of all.  If anyone can predict him, it is you.

            And of course, he had accepted.  What else could he do?  Harry was the only living reminder of a beautiful friendship, aside from Remus himself.  Harry was the only thing that was left of James and Lily, two of the best friends he had ever had.  He was the little boy who Remus had babysat, who Peter had almost dropped and Sirius had jokingly threatened to steal—Stop this! he commanded himself, feeling old emotions begin to rise.  Don’t think of him.  He’s your enemy, now, and has been ever since he betrayed us all.

            Remus swallowed hard, forcing the memories away.  He had to focus on the future, not the past.  He was going to Hogwarts.  Against all odds, he was going to fulfill one of his wildest childhood fantasies—Remus J. Lupin, werewolf, was going to become a teacher.

            If the situation hadn’t been so desperate, he might have celebrated.  But now, werewolf and danger to the children or not, the gains outweighed the risks.  He wasn’t going there just to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.  His purpose ran much, much deeper than that; he was there to stop, and possibly—hopefully—recapture one of his best and oldest friends and send Sirius back to Azkaban where he belonged.  If he had to be, Remus would become the human shield between Harry Potter and Sirius Black.

            It was the least he could do.

            With a convulsive motion, Remus stood and tore his mind off of Harry Potter, Sirius Black, and Albus Dumbledore.  He had two weeks before the school year started, and he had a lot of research to do during that time.  Although he had always loved books, his recent bedside reading hadn’t exactly consisted of proper Defense Against the Dark Arts materials.  After all, it wasn’t as if Remus ever expected to use those skills again.  His kind wasn’t precisely welcomed into teaching, or into the Aurors—no matter how open-minded wizards like Albus Dumbledore were, most of the magical community despised werewolves.  Wandering over to a bookshelf, the future professor removed a volume from the top.

            The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection had been his own text back in his Hogwarts days, and Remus saw no reason to change it.  It was a good book that covered all the basics, including Dark Creatures (though the werewolf section was a tad inaccurate, in truth) to the Unforgivables to Defensive Spells.  He’d already selected a more advanced book for the fifth, sixth, and seventh years, of course, but for the first four, Trimble’s book would do just fine.  Flipping through the pages once more, though, threatened to bring tears to Remus’ eyes.

            This is crap, Peter’s handwriting declared on the werewolf page.  Even I know better! 

Desperately, Remus turned the page, trying to blink the sudden mist out of his vision and concentrate.  He’d been searching for good topics to open the third year with…hadn’t he?  His searching fingers suddenly landed on the Unforgivables section.

They ought to make the Dark Mark an Unforgivable, James had written in fourth year.  For once, he’d been quite serious—but then again, James had always done well in class, and Remus couldn’t help but agree.  As soon as he had thought that, though, the sudden image of the Dark Mark floating over Godric’s Hollow invaded his mind—No!

He tried to slam the book shut, but not before Sirius Black’s untidy scrawl leapt off the page at him.  What’s the use? Sirius had wondered darkly.  The Death Eaters won’t care.

Then the tears spilled over, and Remus Lupin wept for the man he would hunt and for the boy that had once been his friend.

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            Morning came all too soon at Grimmauld Place; having been up for most of the night, Harry had begun nodding off as Black started to explain the Fidelius Charm, and the older wizard had abruptly sent him to bed, promising that he would explain further in the morning.  A few Cleaning Charms had both left Black scowling and made one of the rooms habitable enough for the night, and Harry had fallen asleep almost before he could take his shoes off.  He had so much to think about, and had wanted to stay awake at least long enough sort out some of the mysteries that were whirling around in his head, but he’d failed dismally, and only woke up to the smell of bacon.

            Harry sat up, rubbing his eyes.  Sometime, when he hadn’t noticed, his trunk had found its way into the room he was in.  Daylight made the room look larger than it had the night before, but it also was disgustingly dirty—Black’s quick work had conjured up a set of clean sheets and a pillow, and had made the bed livable, but not much else.  Taking a deep breath made Harry sneeze, and he quickly decided to dress and go downstairs before any more dust could invade his sinuses. 

            The kitchen had been improved somewhat; the dust was gone and the hanging pots and pans seemed less ominous than the night before.  Also, the pantry was open and fully stocked with food.  Harry blinked groggily.

            “Where’d that come from?” he wondered.

            Black jumped, twisting around with an expression of surprise on his face.  For a long moment, something deep and haunted flashed in his eyes, but it disappeared before Harry could think of what to say. 

            “Sorry,” he offered quietly.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

            “It’s all right.” Black offered a forced smile.  His voice, however, sounded like he was still trying to remember how to use it.  “I was just going to get you up.  It’s almost eleven.”

            “Oh.”  Harry had never slept that late in his entire life; the Dursleys would never have thought about letting him sleep in.  It was odd, too, watching someone else cook.  Aside from the short time Harry had spent at the Burrow the preceding summer, he’d always been the one slaving over the stove and cooking in the Muggle way.  Black, however, seemed fairly proficient, and several frying pans were flipping eggs by themselves and a flick of his wand levitated bacon out of another pan and floated it over to a plate. 

            “You can sit down,” Black said, glancing over his shoulder at him.  “Breakfast will be ready in a minute.”

            “Okay.”  Feeling weird, he glanced around for something to drink before sitting down.  Once he spotted a carton of orange juice, though, he sat down at the table, wondering what he ought to do and finding himself watching Black curiously.

            For the first time, he noticed that Black’s dingy hair had been cut shorter; it no longer hung down to his elbows and seemed cleaner than before.  He had shaved, too, leaving behind a neatly trimmed goatee instead of the full beard that he’d had when Harry had first seen him. He’d also apparently found some wearable robes in the house, because Black almost looked like a normal person instead of the escaped convict that he’d been the night before.  If he hadn’t been so skinny and his eyes hadn’t been so haunted, Harry might even have been fooled.

            His thoughts were interrupted by food landing on the table, and Harry’s stomach rumbled, reminding him of how hungry he was. He hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before, and suddenly that seemed ages ago.  However, he waited cautiously, not quite sure how to react, and earned a strange look from Black in response.

            “Go ahead,” his godfather said, seemingly surprised that Harry hadn’t served himself already.  “It’s safe.”

            “I didn’t—” Harry tried to say that it wasn’t that he mistrusted Black’s cooking, but he found his objection waved away. 

            “I haven’t cooked in years, obviously, but the spells are simple enough, and I sent Kreacher to get the food early this morning.”  Black’s sentences were becoming longer now, as if he was rapidly adjusting to human conversation once more.  As if to prove his point, the scrawny wizard heaped a good amount of food onto his plate and gestured once more for Harry to do the same. 

            “Who’s Kreacher?” he finally asked through a mouthful of bacon, too hungry to think about manners.  Black didn’t seem to mind.

            “House elf.”  He scowled.  “Complete nutter, and I didn’t expect him to still be here—thought my Mum would have decapitated him by now—but dead useful, as I can’t exactly go shopping without being arrested.”

            “You have a house elf?” Harry asked, thinking of the horrid mess that the house was.

            “Yeah.  Not a very efficient one, or a very polite one, but Kreacher is definitely a house elf.”  Black’s nose wrinkled up in an expression of extreme distaste.  “If we’re going to stay here, though, we’ll have to do a lot of cleaning ourselves.”

            Something about that look told Harry that Black really didn’t like that place, though Harry had gathered that it was his home.  “Do you want to stay here?” he asked quietly.  “I can go anywhere…”

            “Unfortunately, it’s the safest place available,” Black grunted.  “It’s Unplottable and heavily defended, so anyone who tries to come in is in for a nasty surprise.  And with the Fidelius Charm in place, no one will have a chance of finding you.”

            “What exactly is the Fidelius Charm?” He distinctly remembered asking the same question the night—or had it been morning?—before, but Harry knew that he’d fallen asleep before he could get an answer.

            “The magical concealment of a secret inside one person,” his godfather replied.  “In your case, the secret would be your location.  No one would be able to find you unless your Secret Keeper told them were you were.”

            Harry swallowed, thinking of all the possibilities.  “You’d do that for me?” he asked very quietly.  “I mean, what if…?” He couldn’t bring himself to finish.

            “It’s what I should have done for your parents,” Black replied hoarsely, a shadow passing over his eyes.  “I’ve spent the last twelve years in prison, Harry, when I should have been protecting you.  If I’d have been a little bit smarter, or a little bit faster, none of this would have happened… At the very least, I owe this to your parents.  I owe it to you.”

            Harry opened his mouth to respond, but no words would come.  Slowly, Black reached out and put a hand on his shoulder.

            “I know you’ve never had a real family, and trust doesn’t come easily to you,” he said softly.  “But I’d die before I betrayed you.  I don’t say that to scare you, but you need to know.  I’ve messed up a lot in my life, but I won’t fail you.”

            “I never thought you would,” Harry whispered, meeting his eyes.  Black was right in many ways, and he barely knew the man—but in those haunted blue eyes he saw truth, and he saw hope.  Most importantly of all, though, he saw family.

            “What do I need to do?”

 

 

 

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