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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.
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.
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
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
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.
“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.
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
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.”
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
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?”
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
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
“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
“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
“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.”
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
“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
H BleGorgona(The Blue Mermaid)
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
“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
“Rough night, eh?” Sirius’ face
sported a teasing grin. “Where’d you sneak off to? Wormtail and I were looking
“Spent the night in the Shrieking Shack,”
Remus replied. “Dumbledore suggested—”
Sirius stopped walking. His grey eyes bored into Remus’ face. “You’ve been
acting awfully strangely of late. What’s up, Moony?”
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.”
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