The Sugar Quill
Author: Robin (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Grim Dawn  Chapter: Chapter 3: The Rising
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Grim Dawn

 

 

 

Grim Dawn

 

CHAPTER THREE: THE RISING

 

            The first few days hadn’t been exactly difficult, but they had been trying.  If someone had asked Harry how he would expect to spend his time with an escaped convict, cleaning wouldn’t have been high on his list of answers.  Yet there they were, cleaning and cleaning and cleaning…and coming to know one another in the process.

            It was odd, Harry would later reflect, how quickly he had come to trust Sirius. But in his father’s best friend he often saw a reflection of himself—a lonely and burdened man who was desperately trying to overcome the injustices that life had done him.  Sirius, too, lacked any connection to the real world, and in many ways, that seemed to bring him and Harry closer.  They were each the only family that the other had.

            Little by little, Sirius told Harry of the past.  As he shared the funnier stories with the boy, the laughter would begin to creep back into his eyes until it was quashed by the vivid nightmares Harry knew he had each night.  The moments of melancholy, however, came fewer and further between, and there were times when the two of them could laugh easily, almost as if they were real family, and not caught in the dark tides of time.  The unorthodox pair of convict and boy tackled the bedrooms first, and then moved onto the drawing room; by unspoken agreement, they decided to put off dealing with things like Mrs. Black’s ghastly portrait and the boggart that was still stuck in the writing desk.

            Every now and then, if pressed, Sirius would tell Harry about the war.  He spoke very quietly about the time leading up to James and Lily Potter’s deaths, about how no one could be sure who to trust—and about the fatal mistake he’d made.  More than once, he’d told Harry about Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew, friends who had either betrayed or been betrayed.  His emotional scars were most evident, then, and usually he’d trail off into silence mid-way through a story.  Harry learned not to push too hard; in the end, he figured that there was plenty of time.  In that, he was both completely right and very wrong.

            “So, how does this work when I need to go back to Hogwarts?” Harry asked on the fourth day, which left him only a week and a half before he had to meet the Hogwarts Express.  “I mean, does the Fidelius Charm just go away, or do I just end up invisible to everyone but you?”

            Sirius snorted.  “Not quite.  Technically speaking, the secret that the Fidelius Charm is hiding is your location, not your existence.  Once you leave Grimmauld Place, anyone can see you, and you’ll be able to go back to Hogwarts normally.”

            “What will you do, then?” Harry suddenly wondered.

            “Watch over you,” his godfather replied.  Then his voice tightened menacingly.  “Find a way to stop Peter.”

            By which he meant that he really wanted kill Peter but wouldn’t, Harry was well aware, but he couldn’t really argue.  Not after he’d learned what Pettigrew had done to his parents, or what Pettigrew had done to his friends.  Learning that Scabbers was really Pettigrew had also been the last straw; Sirius had a hard time stopping Harry from owling Ron right away to let his friend know that his “pet” rat was really a murderer.  In the end, though, Sirius’ view had prevailed—and perhaps Harry had a bit of a steadying influence on his godfather, as well.  After all, without Sirius, he only had the Dursleys, and Harry had finally convinced his godfather to try justice first.

            “Can’t you just tell Dumbledore?” Harry asked after a moment’s reflection.

            “Sure.  If he’ll believe me,” Sirius replied darkly. 

Harry dropped the coat rack he’d been wrestling with and stared at Sirius. “What d’you mean?  He’s got to see the truth!”

            “Not necessarily.”  Sirius sighed and turned to face Harry.  “The way Dumbledore sees it, they already know the truth.  I was such the obvious choice, and everyone knew that I’d be James’ Secret Keeper if he needed one.”  His voice grew very quiet.  “Dumbledore had tried to point that out to us, and we just acted like we didn’t agree…then changed anyway.  But so far as they know, Peter’s dead, and no one knew he was an Animagus to begin with.  Except Remus, and he’d probably as soon kill me as talk to me.”

            “But if you bring them Peter, and…?” And what? a nasty little voice asked inside his head.  What if they don’t believe?

            “Well, if they don’t find me before I can find Peter, we’ve got a chance.”  His godfather shrugged.  “Dumbledore’s a fair man, Harry, no matter what.  He’ll hear me out.  And I suppose that’s all I can ask for, all things considered.”

            “It’s not your fault,” Harry said quietly.

            But Sirius just snorted again.  “Damn close enough.”

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            At Hogwarts, the door to Albus Dumbledore’s office flew open without warning.

            “Severus?” the aged headmaster looked up, immediately wary of the serious look on his Potions Master’s face.  Dumbledore had rarely seen Snape so pale, or with eyes that were so wide—and there was fear carefully hidden in the shadows of those black pupils, too.  Immediately, the headmaster was on his feet, instinctively searching for unseen threats, but there was nothing.

            A swipe of Snape’s wand made the door slam shut forcefully.  “He’s back,” the pale wizard said without preamble.

            “What?” Dumbledore demanded.

            Even then, he only knew one man whom Severus could be talking about.

            “The Dark Lord,” the other replied.  “Malfoy and the others preformed a blood ritual…” Snape took a deep breath.  “Avery is dead and so is Amelia Bones.”

             Dumbledore’s mind was racing, and he felt a chill race down his spine—suddenly, he felt very old.  He had to sit down, soon, or he wouldn’t be able to stand… So, slowly, he lowered himself back into the antique chair that had felt so comfortable and secure only moments before.  “Slow down, Severus,” he finally was able to say.  “Tell me from the beginning.”

            “I was summoned by Lucius Malfoy to aid in the ritual,” Snape began uneasily.  “Avery was to be the willing servant, and Bones the enemy—the Dark Lord wanted Potter, but he escaped.  It’s ancient magic, of which I’m sure you’re aware—”

            “Harry escaped them?  How?”  And how did they defeat the wards upon Privet Drive?  His heart was pounding like a roaring storm in his ears, and Dumbledore found it difficult to concentrate.  Snape, however, sneered.

            “Black, would you believe?” he snarled.  “Somehow Malfoy and Avery found the boy outside of his relatives’ house, but Black intervened.  Somehow.  Lucius was too furious to make much sense, but he Stunned both Lucius and Avery and made off with the boy.”

            “What…?”

            Snape shrugged.  “He’s insane, clearly enough.  The fool either doesn’t remember what is going on or wants to finish Potter off himself—”

            “Do you know where Harry is now?” Albus cut him off.

            “No.  But the Dark Lord still wants him, that’s certain enough—and he was not especially pleased that Avery was used in the boy’s place.”  Snape shuddered slightly.  “Lucius was, however, smooth enough to extract himself from the situation, earning the Dark Lord’s gratitude for resurrecting him.  Unsurprisingly typical, that.”

            Dumbledore’s mind was working ridiculously slow.  He let out a cleansing breath, trying to calm his racing heart, but it did no good.  For years, he’d known that Voldemort would return, but he’d never expected it to happen so quickly, and without warning at all—but he knew that Severus was not lying to him.  Albus knew him better than that.

            “The mark is still burning,” the Potions Master continued quietly, lifting the sleeve of his robe unbidden.  There, black and angry, gleamed Voldemort’s Dark Mark.  It was growing red around the edges, now, fading very slowly, but the strength and power behind the mark told Albus that the impossible had happened…Voldemort was back.  If he hadn’t believed Severus, this would be proof enough.

            “Very well, then,” he said softly.  “I shall assemble the Order.”

 

AMELIA BONES FOUND DEAD

 

Early this morning, Amelia Bones, the longtime head of Magical

Law Enforcement, was found dead near Little Hangleton.  At the

present, the cause of Madam Bones’ death is uncertain.

 

Little Hangleton is located over two hundred miles away from

where the Bones family resides, and it is unclear what the head

of the DMLE was doing in that area so late at night.  Ministry of

Magic officials are currently conducting a thorough

investigation into her untimely demise, and homicide has not yet

been ruled out as a cause of death.

 

Although the Ministry has not yet released the specifics of

Bones’ death, an eyewitness (who declines to be identified)

notes that the cause of death is hard to mistake, as Madam

Bones’ head has yet to be found.

 

            Harry had been the first to read their copy of the Daily Prophet, but due to his muffled exclamation, Sirius was looking over his shoulder by the time he’d finished with the front page.  Expecting his godfather to comment, Harry glanced upwards, but encountered only stonily pale features and grim eyes.  Sirius wasn’t wearing the haunted expression that Harry had grown accustomed to seeing, though; instead his face was a study in blankness, in empty concentration.  It wasn’t something Harry had ever from him before, and the lack of reaction was startling for a moment, until Sirius swore.

            Violently, colorfully, and creatively.

            After a long moment, his godfather seemed to regain his composure, but his eyes were still very angry. 

            “What is it?” Harry asked, certain that Sirius understood something that he did not.  However, he received no answer.

            Instead, Sirius strode over to a nearby bookshelf, scanning the titles one by one.  His eyes flickered rapidly over each volume, until he found the one he wanted, which was clearly the oldest book on the shelf.  A completely irrelevant thought crossed Harry’s mind as Sirius pulled the dilapidated book off the shelf—Hermione would kill to get a hold of this library.  Dust clouded the air as Sirius set the book down on a nearby table, wrenching it open without regard to its fragility or age.  His fingers flew down the pages, searching and scanning…but for what?

            Harry opened his mouth to ask, then thought the better of it, watching in silence instead.  Finally, Sirius let out another exclamation; this one was slightly milder and much quieter, but somehow seemed all the more angry from the way he hissed out the words between clenched teeth.

            “Damn.  Damn, damn!

            “What is it?” the boy wizard repeated, moving over to Sirius’ side to look at the same page.

            “Ancient magic,” his godfather answered tightly, “very dark, and very old.”

            But even as Harry tried to peer at the torn, wrinkled, and faded pages of the old book, Sirius, in a fit of temper, seized the book and chucked it against the far wall.  The book hit hard and fell to the floor quickly, trailing pieces of pages as it went.  For a long time, Harry stood in surprised silence as the pages fluttered lazily to the ground, peering alternately at the partially-destroyed book and his godfather’s angry face.  After a moment, though, Sirius’ angry faded abruptly, and the older wizard sighed, slumping against the table.

            “For nothing,” he whispered.  “All that, and for nothing.”

            Sirius suddenly seemed ancient and sad, and Harry could see the lines etched by every loss in his face and heart.  He closed his eyes briefly and let out a long breath; for the space of only a second, Harry swore that he saw Sirius’ hands shake.

            “What?” he whispered, feeling a fool but having to ask.

            Sirius’ eyes opened.  “Don’t you see it, Harry?” he asked sadly.  “Voldemort is back.”

            “How?”  Suddenly, he felt very cold.  Sirius had to be wrong.  He had to be.

            “Old magic, outlawed long before you were born.”  Wearily, Sirius walked over and picked up several chunks of the book he’d thrown, flipping again to the proper page.  He read in silence for a moment.  “I see now why Malfoy wanted you.  Your blood, your death, in the ritual would have strengthened Voldemort beyond reckoning.”

            Harry swallowed.  It was hard to believe… “He’s really back?  You’re sure?”  

            “No.  Not sure…but I can’t think of what else it might be.  No wizard kills by decapitation, Harry.  Not when the Killing Curse is so much more efficient.”  He shook his head.  “I could be wrong, of course, and I pray that I am…but nothing else fits.  Nothing else makes sense.”

            “I’m glad you found me, then,” Harry found himself saying in a tiny voice.

            “Me too, kid.”  Sirius put the book down and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder.  “I’ll try to get a hold of Dumbledore…he’ll know what to do.”

Harry looked up sharply.  “I thought you said that he wouldn’t believe you?”

            “He may not,” Sirius admitted.  “But this is much more important.  Even the Fidelius Charm may not be enough to protect you now—not with Voldemort on the loose.   We need to get you back to Hogwarts.”

            “I—okay.”  Harry opened his mouth to object, to say that he didn’t want to not live with Sirius, but he knew that his godfather was right.  And the last thing he wanted to do was put his godfather in danger because Voldemort wanted him.  Sirius had had a hard enough life already without risking everything to protect Harry, no matter what he said he wanted to do.

            “Don’t worry,” his godfather reassured him, misinterpreting Harry’s hesitation.  “I’m just being paranoid.  The Fidelius Charm has never been broken before…and I’m not about to tell Voldemort where you are.  No matter what.”

            No matter what.  The seriousness in Sirius’ voice told Harry exactly what he meant, although many adults would probably have assumed that Harry was too young to understand.  Inside though, he shuddered, thinking of what Voldemort would do to Sirius if he found him, of what lengths the Dark Lord would be willing to go just to get Harry.  To tear his mind away from such dark thoughts, Harry changed the subject.

            “Why are you the only adult other than Dumbledore that I’ve heard call him Voldemort?” he asked.  “Everyone else—Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Professor McGonagall—seems afraid to.”

            Sirius shrugged.  “I’ve never thought that saying a name lends power to someone, I guess,” he replied.  “And it seems slightly foolish to hide from that.”

            “Yeah.” 

            But Harry couldn’t get Sirius’ words out of his head, couldn’t escape the conclusion that Sirius was right.  Voldemort is back.  It seemed impossible.  Ever since Harry had been introduced to the Wizarding world, he had been worshiped as the Boy-Who-Lived, the defeater of Lord Voldemort, the most powerful dark wizard to ever live.  Everywhere he went, people stared at the scar Voldemort had given him, and thanked Harry for saving their world from such terror.  What would they think of him now, the Boy-Who-Couldn’t-Keep-Voldemort-Down?  From what little he understood of the previous war, Harry knew that the light side might not have won at all if it hadn’t been for his own blind luck…so could they even realistically hope to win now?  To defeat a reborn and powerful Dark Lord?

            He so much wanted to believe that Sirius was wrong, and could tell from the look on his godfather’s face that Sirius was wishing the same thing.  But Harry knew, in his heart and soul, that Sirius was right.  Voldemort was back—and now the faceless nightmares that had been plaguing him for the last month made all too perfect sense.  Somehow, he’d known that it was going to happen.  He had known that peace wouldn’t last.

            And Harry felt cheated, now, knowing that this one chance at happiness that he’d ever had was about to fade away.  “What now?” he whispered, sounding despondent even to his own ears.

            “We fight.”  Sirius’ hand was still on his shoulder, and it squeezed slightly, comfortingly.  “Just as we always have.  It won’t be easy, but things worth doing rarely are.”

            “He’s going to come after me, isn’t he?” Harry asked quietly.  “He has to.”

            “Yes.”  At least Sirius wouldn’t lie to him.  He never had.

            “And then what?”

            “I don’t know, Harry,” his godfather replied quietly.  “But I can promise you this…you won’t be alone.  Not again.  Not ever.”

            Harry glanced up Sirius, hearing the promise in his voice.  It was odd how, despite having known his godfather for only a few days, he trusted him so much.  And Harry cared for Sirius, as well, like he’d never cared for anyone except for Ron and Hermione.  That same care, he saw, was reflected upon his godfather’s face.

            “I know,” he said.

            On impulse, he hugged Sirius.  The motion clearly took his godfather by surprise, because Harry felt him hesitate, but after a moment, Sirius’ arms wrapped around him as well.  Harry had never initiated a hug with anyone before, but he’d wanted to let Sirius know that neither of them was alone, and he hadn’t been able to find the words to say so.  And words were not needed; they stood in silence and simply understood.  In that moment, Harry knew that he did have a true family, and a lack of blood ties did not make it any weaker at all.  He wasn’t alone any more, and he knew that Sirius would never abandon him.

 

 

 

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