The Sugar Quill
Author: Eudora Hawkins  Story: Forbidden Fruit  Chapter: Chapter 1: The Assignment
Next Chapter
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit

 

A/N: This story was inspired by characters and events created and owned by J.K. Rowling. No copyright infringement is intended.

The year is 1980, the height of Lord Voldemort’s first reign of terror.  In OotP, Remus Lupin says “…last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one.” The original Order of the Phoenix had about twenty five members when Moody’s photograph was taken (circa 1978-9). By Lupin’s estimates, that would put the number of Death Eaters at nearly 500.

Only about twenty-five Death Eaters are mentioned in the books. As my astute beta-reader, Mrs. Lovegood, pointed out, there were certainly not hundreds of Death Eaters in the graveyard scene in GoF.  To reconcile this account with Lupin’s, I can only conjecture that those assembled in the graveyard were the inner circle of Voldemort’s followers only. For the members of the original Order to have been vastly outnumbered, there must have been many others in addition to those mentioned. According to Karkaroff in GoF, only Lord Voldemort knew the identities of all of them.

What would make Voldemort feel so vulnerable when he was at the top of his game? And just what steps did he take in his quest for immortality? This tale, told over nine chapters, proposes one possible answer.

 

Chapter 1: The Assignment 

Friday, June 27, 1980

Remus Lupin walked past the waiting carriages queued up outside the gates of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Thestrals strained against their harnesses and tossed their dragon-like heads, whipping their black manes. Hot breath puffed from their nostrils and mingled with the cool mist evaporating in the morning sun. Remus reached out his hand, threading his fingers through the silken strands of a mane.

“I wonder what Dumbledore has for me this time,” he said to the skeletal beast. The creature whinnied in response and returned a mournful, haunted stare. “Easy, boy. I won’t bite,” Remus said with a smirk.

Thestrals. Harbingers of misfortune. Remus had seen enough death and misfortune in the past two years to last a lifetime. And none of it could be blamed on a Thestral.

The beast licked at the back of his hand. Its tongue tickled, lapping off the last bits of dried blood from a fresh wound.

“Right then.” His hand stroked the Thestral’s muzzle. “Time to find out, shall we?”

Remus shrugged the stiffness from his shoulders and walked up at the stone stairs of the castle, glowing golden in the morning light. The massive front doors burst open even before he reached them. Students streamed through the exit, hauling their luggage. The older students levitated their trunks, while the younger, less experienced ones dragged their belongings behind them.

Remus wove his way against the onslaught, dodging a cage and an errant suitcase or two. A large trunk hurtled toward him. He ducked it in the nick of time. Constant vigilance, Moody’s mantra rang in his ears. Sound advice from the old combat veteran. There was little difference between avoiding flying suitcases and ducking a Death Eater’s hex. Either could pack a hefty wallop.

He passed through the front doors, left the flood of departing students, and followed the well-worn path to Headmaster Dumbledore’s office. Familiar, comforting smells and sights from his past filled his head. He was sixteen once more, walking these same steps behind two tall, dark-haired youths and a smaller fair-haired boy. All of them in trouble for one of Padfoot’s harebrained pranks. He smiled at the remembrance. The best years of his life. Ah, to be that carefree again.

Only two years had passed since his graduation from these very halls. Two years that felt like an eternity. The horrors of Lord Voldemort’s reign of terror would turn any child into a man quick enough. His associates were dying or disappearing one by one. He rattled off their names in his head: Marlene McKinnon, Benjy Fenwick, the Prewetts…

Distrust and suspicion were rampant. He never knew who was acting under the Imperious Curse. Who would betray him next? Who could be trusted? Remus knew. He could depend on Albus Dumbledore…and his best friends: Peter Pettigrew, Sirius Black, and the Potters. He would trust them with his very soul.

Remus knocked on the door to the Headmaster’s office and entered. The circular office, filled with spinning orbs and magical curiosities, held only one living occupant this morning. Headmaster Dumbledore turned to face Remus and smiled. The blue eyes of the ancient warlock twinkled behind half-moon spectacles perched on the end of a crooked nose.

“Ah, Remus,” Dumbledore said. “I trust that the accommodations last night were suitable.”

A wry smile crept over Remus’ face at the remembrance of his night in the Shrieking Shack. He’d thought he’d seen the last of that dodgy dwelling when he’d left the school. But the magical wards placed around it made the Shrieking Shack the safest place for a werewolf transformation. Dumbledore had thought of everything. Madam Pomfrey had even left a supply of salves and bandages to treat his resultant wounds. Remus’ hand wandered to massage a recent contusion on his forehead. All in all, he had fared better than usual last night. And, for that, he was grateful.

“Yes, Headmaster,” Remus replied. “Thank you.”

“Please sit down.” The headmaster gestured toward a table set for three. “I have ordered breakfast for us up here. I thought a little repast in order before we get down to business. I find it difficult to think clearly on an empty stomach.”

Remus nodded and took his seat. The third chair remained empty. Who else would be coming?

“Sirius,” Dumbledore replied in answer to Remus’ unvoiced question. “I expect him momentarily.” The aged wizard turned his gaze toward the fireplace. “Ah, here he is now.”

A flash of green sparked in the fireplace grate. Moments later, Sirius Black stepped down into the room. The familiar face leered at him from under a fringe of straight black hair.

Oy, Moon…er…Remus,” Sirius said, checking himself. Then he nodded to the headmaster. “Morning, sir.”

“Good morning, Sirius,” Dumbledore said.  That knowing twinkle glistened in his eyes. “You are just in time for a spot of breakfast. Please sit down.”

Dumbledore motioned toward an empty chair covered in red chintz. The old warlock snapped his fingers. A breakfast feast such as Remus had not seen in two years appeared on the table:  a flagon of juice, a basket of muffins, platters of eggs and sausages, and an enormous kettle covered with a red and gold tea cozy in the shape of a phoenix.

“Splendid!” Dumbledore said, settling into his chair and helping himself to a muffin. “Do begin.”

Sirius did not have to be asked twice. He loaded his plate with sausages and eggs, and tucked into his breakfast. Remus watched his friend with amusement. Sirius always did enjoy a good meal. Remus himself savored the sausages, not refusing the second and third helpings offered him.

“So,” Sirius ventured, between mouthfuls of food, “what’s the assignment this time? Are we finally going after that Death Eater cell in Wiltshire? I’m itching to get my hands on Malfoy.”

“No,” Dumbledore replied serenely. “A new strategy. Some new information has come to light that changes everything.”

Sirius stopped with a forkful halfway to his mouth. His hand lowered back to his plate. His grey eyes sparked with interest. “What new information?”

“A prophecy,” Dumbledore said. “Concerning Lord Voldemort and someone in the Order.”

“Who?” Remus asked, his gaze drawn to the old headmaster’s face.

“A very good question, indeed,” Dumbledore mused, brushing muffin crumbs from his snowy beard. “The prophecy was sufficiently vague that it may apply to more than one family in the Order. Only time will tell its true meaning.”

“And what is this prophecy?” Sirius asked, then took a bite of sausage.

“Well,” Dumbledore hesitated for a moment. His piercing gaze moved from Sirius to Remus. “It would be useless to keep it from you. The prophecy foretells the birth of a child in July, a child born to someone in the Order, a child with the power to vanquish Lord Voldemort.”

The sausage almost shot from Sirius’ mouth in fit of choking coughs. “The Potters!” he sputtered.

Remus’ teacup dropped to the saucer with an unsettling clink. Warm liquid sloshed over the brim and onto his hand. He dried his hand hastily and stared at the headmaster.

“Let us not be too hasty,” Dumbledore said. “The Longbottoms are also expecting the birth of child. The prophecy could refer to either one.”

“And what do you want us to do?” Remus asked.

“Muffin?” Dumbledore passed the basket. “The black currant ones are delightful. You really must try one.”

“No, thank you.” Remus shook his head, but did not take his eyes off the headmaster. How long was Dumbledore planning to keep them in suspense?

“You see,” Dumbledore continued, “one of Lord Voldemort’s followers overheard part of the prophecy. Lord Voldemort knows. It has made him feel vulnerable. That he has an Achilles’ heel.”

“A what?” Sirius cocked a questioning brow.

“Achilles,” Remus replied, turning to face his friend. “An ancient Greek warrior. His mother dipped him in the river Styx to make him invulnerable. His only weak spot was his heel. He was later killed in battle by an arrow to his heel.”

“Precisely,” Dumbledore replied. “Voldemort has assumed himself to be invincible. That is, until this prophecy. Now he knows that he has a fatal weakness and he is determined to remedy it.”

Remus’ mouth went dry.  He swallowed hard.  His next question came out in a hoarse whisper.  “So he’s going to try to kill the child?”

“That is a logical conclusion, yes.” Dumbledore nodded.

“Over my dead body,” Sirius mumbled. The low voice rumbled in his chest like the warning growl of a protective watchdog.

“But that is not enough for Lord Voldemort,” Dumbledore continued. “My sources inform me that he is going one step further. In short, he also plans to take measures to insure his immortality.”

“What?!” Sirius snorted. “That’s bloody impossible.”

“I assure you that it is not,” Dumbledore replied. His azure stare took on a steely hue. “He is searching for ‘fructus lignum vitae,’ the fruit of the Tree of Life.” Dumbledore rose from his seat, extracted a large, dusty book from his shelves, and opened the leather-bound volume to its first chapters. On the page was a picture of a tree in full leaf covered with gilded fruit. “The Tree of Life resides in the center of the Garden of Eden. Whoever eats of its fruit will have eternal life and will never die.”

Eden?” Remus said. “But that’s just a myth.”

“So we are led to believe.” Dumbledore cast Remus a paternal smile. “Safeguarding it is so much easier when no one believes in its existence. But it is very real.”

“Then where is this Garden of Eden?” Sirius leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Carefully hidden and guarded with many wards,” Dumbledore replied with a sage nod of his snowy head. “Few know of its whereabouts. It would be disastrous for all mankind, if the truth were to become public knowledge. Imagine the consequences if someone were to pass the barriers and consume the fruit.”

Remus could well imagine. There were worse things than death. Being trapped for all eternity in a disease-ridden body with no cure or hope of release was a fate far worse than even the most gruesome death. His teeth clenched. His determination rose.

Remus straightened to attention and faced the old wizard. “What do you want us to do?”

A sad smile crossed Dumbledore’s face. “I knew you would understand.” The old headmaster stood up and placed a gnarled hand on Remus’ shoulder. “That is why I have chosen you both for this mission.”

“But if there are already guards and wards in place,” Sirius interjected, “then why do you need us? Wouldn’t it be better to protect the Potters and the Longbottoms?”

“This search is of such high priority that Lord Voldemort will stop at nothing to acquire that fruit.” Dumbledore’s voice grew stern. “The wards will hinder him, but I fear that he will find a way around them. Your mission is to ensure at all cost that he and his emissaries fail.” The old warlock aimed his most commanding stare at Sirius. “This mission requires the utmost secrecy. My contacts will direct you step by step.” Dumbledore held out a small slip of parchment. “Read this.”

Remus leaned over and gazed at the slip of parchment. Words appeared across the surface in a graceful, inky scrawl that he recognized as the headmaster’s handwriting.

 

Wednesday, July 2

14:00 hours

H Ble Gorgona  (The Blue Mermaid)

Thira, Greece

 

The words became etched in Remus’ mind. Then a spark ignited the parchment. Flames consumed the ink and paper. Flecks of blackened ash, all that remained of the message, floated down to the headmaster’s plate.

“You will meet your next contact in that establishment at that exact time,” Dumbledore said. He extracted two bundles of paper from the pockets of his robes and handed them to Remus and Sirius. Official seals and stamps from the Ministry of Magic covered every surface of the documents. “Here are your papers. Magical modes of transport are being monitored, so I suggest that you travel by Muggle means. You will find tickets for the ferry crossing and train passes among your papers. I trust you will find everything in order.”

“How will we recognize our contact?” Remus asked, taking his papers and rising from his seat.

“You will not need to.” A mysterious twinkle lit Dumbledore’s eyes. “My emissary knows to expect you and will contact you.”

“What about James?” Sirius asked. His grey eyes clouded with concern.

“I daresay James will be busy with the arrival of his first child,” Dumbledore replied with a reassuring smile. “I have given him an assignment close to home for Lily’s sake.” He patted Sirius on the shoulder. “Do not fret. James is as resourceful as you are. I have no doubt that he will take care of Lily. Lord Voldemort will not touch them.”

 

* * *

 

The grounds of Hogwarts were deserted when Remus left the headmaster. The lawns spread before him, glowing with an iridescent green in the morning light. The sun beat down on Remus’ cloak, warming his shoulders with its radiant heat. The warmth felt good against his sore muscles. He shook off a lingering stiffness. Sirius walked beside him and noticed.

“Rough night, eh?” Sirius’ face sported a teasing grin. “Where’d you sneak off to? Wormtail and I were looking for you.”

“Spent the night in the Shrieking Shack,” Remus replied. “Dumbledore suggested—”

“Without us?” Sirius stopped walking. His grey eyes bored into Remus’ face. “You’ve been acting awfully strangely of late. What’s up, Moony?”

“It’s just…erm…” Remus looked away, avoiding Sirius’ inquisitive stare. “Lily will have the baby soon…and…well…you know…” Remus’ voice trailed off.

He knew what sort of creature he was. Self-loathing filled him at the thought. His friends weren’t likely to want him around a young child. Things were bound to change once the baby was born. Best to get an early start. Create a little distance. Then the blow wouldn’t be so bad, when it came.

“Yeah,” Sirius replied, clapping him on the back. “I know what you mean, mate. Nothing will be the same once the little sprog’s born. You think you know a bloke and then he goes off and gets married. Then it’s the wife wants this…and the wife needs me home. And now, kids.” He shook his head. “Not that I have anything against Lily, but do you think we’ll ever get the old Prongs back?”

Remus’ eyebrows shot up. He could see the crease of worry on his friend’s brow and the hint of loneliness hanging in the grey eyes. Remus could not suppress his smile.

“Don’t worry, Padfoot.” He returned the pat to his friend’s shoulder. “Lily couldn’t take your place in James’ life. The baby won’t either. You wait and see.”

“I suppose you’re right, Moony.” That easy grin was back on Sirius’ face.

“Right then,” Remus said. “Best to get packing. We’ve got a job to do.”

 

 

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --