The Sugar Quill
Author: Dancing-pony  Story: A Butterfly's Wings  Chapter: Prologue -- A Whisper of Innocence
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prologue Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe was created and is owned by J.K. Rowling. My story is for entertainment purposes only, and no infringement of rights is intended.

Note: The phrase "Butterfly Effect" comes from the theory that seemingly insignificant events (such as the flutter of a butterfly's wings) can cause a chain of events which leads to dramatic or large-scale phenomena (such as the formation of a tornado).

Thanks to my beta, Emelye, for pointing out typos, adding Britishisms, and providing assistance and encouragement.


August 31, 1979

Darkness spread like a thick blanket across the parlour, but the man braced against the stiff upholstery of the armchair found no comfort in its obscuring cover. A single candle stub, flickering on the edge of the stone mantelpiece, allowed him to follow the steady progress of the carriage clock as it counted down the minutes until sunrise. Silence magnified every sound, from the rhythmic tick of passing time to his own measured breaths, while sleep, even rest, evaded him.

Eleven more hours, and he would be waving good-bye to his children as the Hogwart's Express rounded the first gentle curve on its journey north. Eleven hours, and they would pass into Albus Dumbledore's protection . . . as safe as anyone could possibly be while Voldemort's followers expanded his reign of terror. Perhaps, after the children had returned to school, Phaedra would be willing to abandon their facade of normalcy, and the two of them could move into his sister's flat in the city. Despite her unquestionable talents, he had grave misgivings about Amelia living alone during these perilous times, and there was a small measure of protection, for all of them, to be found in the strength of numbers.

His eyes drifted to the three trunks, lined up like beasts of burden along the parlor wall, waiting to perform their role in delivering the innocent from evil. How far into blackness had his world descended, that school was no longer an adventure but an escape? Would his children ever know the simple joys he had taken for granted in his own youth, without a cloud of violence threatening every step? Ten hours and fifty nine minutes, and they would be safe . . . .

He blinked several times, too exhausted for a moment to resist the downward pull of his heavy eyelids. In his mind's eye, he pictured Phaedra upstairs in their cozy four poster bed. She would be fighting sleep as he was, her hand convulsing on her wand, as she too counted down the hours and minutes until their children's departure. The image wasn't a comforting one, and he tried instead to paint a mental image of three tousled blonde heads, nestled into pillows amid untroubled dreams of friends and lessons and Quidditch practice. Ten hours and fifty eight minutes . . . .

A tiny creak caused him to bolt upright, tightening his grip on his wand as he pivoted in the direction of the wooden staircase. As his eyes adjusted once again to the darkness, he met the wide-eyed stare of his youngest daughter, who stood frozen on the bottom step. Wisps of honey-colored hair, having escaped from the long plait down her back, circled her head like a halo, and her bare toes peeped from under the edge of her nightdress. Her slender fingers were deathly white on the banister as her blue eyes flitted from his upraised wand to his face and back again.

"You're supposed to be asleep, Poppet." As he spoke, he forced his features to relax into a semblance of parental calm. Her lips compressed, and he thought for a moment she might be distracted by his revival of the childish nickname. She wasn't deceived, though, and her gaze remained riveted to his wand even after he dropped it casually to his side.

"Are you expecting trouble tonight?" she asked, with a calm maturity that both surprised and impressed him. She was growing up so fast, and he was torn between shielding her from the truth and preparing her for the worst.

"I'm not expecting trouble, Parthencia," he said, reverting to his daughter's proper name as he sought a middle ground, "but it's always best to be prepared. You've heard about . . . about the dark wizards who've been causing trouble in our world, and I'm concerned that things may get worse before they get better."

Her face was solemn as she considered his words. "Should I sleep with my wand, too?"

He looked down at the wand in his hand. Taking a deep, steadying breath, he set it on the small table at the edge of the staircase. "No, of course not. There's no reason for anyone to try to harm you. Besides, you know you're not allowed to use magic outside school. Your wand's packed away in your trunk." She continued to frown, looking unconvinced, so he added, "You can get it out tomorrow on the train, if it will make you feel better."

She nodded, but it was apparent from her pensive manner that she had more important concerns than the train ride to Hogwarts. "Will you and mum be all right, after we're gone? Maybe we should stay home . . . stick together until . . . until 'you-know-who' is gone?"

He cringed inwardly at the tone of mingled dread and awe as she whispered Voldemort's sobriquet. Reality was frightening enough without magnifying his powers with imagination and exaggeration. "You're going back to school," he said firmly. "We aren't going to let Voldemort prevent us from moving forward with our lives. If we hide from life, turn our backs on everything important to us, he wins without even raising his wand."

She nodded again, this time with quiet determination. "If you want me to go, I will." Her eyes brightened, and a flicker of a smile touched her lips. "We're to have a new Defence Against Dark Arts teacher this year, and there are loads of books on defence in the library. There's a way to stop him; we just need to find it. I'll never go over to the dark side, no matter what."

"I know you won't," he assured her, trying to answer her smile with one of his own. "Where you will go is back to bed, young lady, right now. We need to be up early in the morning." She smiled again, much more cheerfully, and his heart contracted as she stood on tiptoes to press a soft kiss to his cheek.

He stood at the foot of the staircase, listening to her receding footsteps and the soft rustle of fabric as she crawled back under the covers. If only he could somehow turn back the hands of time. He coveted the happy years before the rise of the dark wizard.

Slumping back onto the sofa, he forced his eyes closed, forced himself to believe that those happy times would someday return. His world would once again be at peace, and he would be surrounded by his family, one day even holding his first grandchild on his knee . . . .

The idea began to weave itself into his mind, and his deepest wishes filled in the details of the lovely dream. It was his first grandson's birthday, and Phaedra was holding out a huge cake as the family gathered round the dinner table, their voices raised in song.  The cake was decorated with colorful, frosted dragons, and its candles blazed with light. The fantasy was so real that the slightly acrid smell stung his nose while the words of the song boomed in his ears.

"Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday, dear Edgar . . .  

Edgar . . .


He woke, disoriented, Phaedra's terrified scream vibrating in his ears. The smell of smoke, too, was frighteningly real, and his last conscious thought as he dove for his wand amid flashes of green light was that Voldemort had won, after all.

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