The Sugar Quill
Author: Athena Arena (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Unknown Witness  Chapter: Prologue
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: Hey! Welcome to The Unknown Witness! What lies ahead is chapter upon chapter of murder and mayhem, chaos and conspiracy, drama, suspense and tuna sweet corn sandwiches. This is a Drama/Action/Adventure Rated PG-13 for Language and Violence in the later chapters. Ooer. Read and Review please darlings!

Disclaimer: The universe of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling, and is used here without her permission. I acknowledge that I have no rights to any cannon characters, settings or events mentioned. I have no intention and no desire to make profit from this piece, as the credit deserves to go to JK Rowling as she invented them and thus owns all rights to them. Not me. Got it? Good. Onwards!

Prologue

It was just an ordinary day. She rarely got the chance to go to London, especially that time of year. The 'leaves on the line' excuse for a train delay was normally in its element. She got on board at Rochester, and as usual she gazed across the valley as they crossed the Medway River in the early autumn light, the sun reflecting off the silently moving water. The castle's empty shell high on the riverbank was casting a daunting shadow over the centre of the city as we crossed the estuary. As she sat back in her uncomfortable seat, she never believed it would be the last time she saw it.

The capital city of Great Britain, the United Kingdom, Ye olde England. It always seemed to be viewed as such a cliché by outsiders. An ancient place of history and tragedy, the British race seemed to be personified in its concrete tower blocs and Victorian terraces, rigid in their views and traditions. The strong upper lip could be found in abundance among the patrons of the quaint pubs and hotels right across the city. That's the London for tourists. She could never understand how they managed it, trying to see the city from atop their open buses, on tours given in every language known to man while dodging the congested streets infested by cockroach black cabs - all out to make a quick profit. That wasn't her London. Her London existed in the back streets.

She'd headed to a little area off Covent Garden that day, a series of specialist shops that few knew about, almost acting as the gathering place for all that was unconventional. Tiny outlets selling vegan cuisine to suit every taste, grey haired women with a thousand trinkets selling crystals and oils to soothe away all ills, unusual bookshops catering to the most unusual request. This was her London. The remains of the satisfaction it brought were manifested in the empty take away packages that spilled from the dustbins, disturbed by the scavenging of the city's lovable stray. They too were part of the character of the district that remained isolated from the tourist trap that was Covent Garden. She used to live up here when she worked in the city; a little bit of eccentricity in the middle of the madness never did anyone any harm. Until that day.

The scavenging animals were there as usual. Her tuna and sweet corn roll bought from Louis on the Italian snack stand seemed to lack its usual attraction, her appetite lessening dramatically with every mouthful as she sadly nibbled at its edges. She would recall at a later date that her stomach must have known something her mind remained in blissful ignorance of. She sat on a bench in the centre of the quad, a merging of four or five streets a little way off from Neal Street, where cars were less common and benches were aplenty. She'd had a successful morning. Indulgence in the tools of alternatives, from meditation to divination, always seemed to offer the escape from reality she always sought when stuck in the stuffy office in the upper reaches of Whitehall. Pigeons were picking at her feet as the crumbs descended to the ground, scattering occasionally as someone approached their safe haven. She couldn't understand anyone wanting to rid London of these amusing creatures, especially from Trafalgar Square. So what if they shat on Nelson's head? That only summed up the general feeling of pessimism that was abundant in the country since the decline of the empire. Rule Britannia still got them singing in their droves. Land of Hope and Glory. Jerusalem. The only situation where the cliché seemed to fit.

The pigeons scattered once again as something else made its approach. A dog, looking as if he'd been dragged backwards through a bush settled down underneath the bench. Cowering almost; expectant. It began to whine. Making sure Louis wasn't looking, she tore off half her lunch and tucked it under the seat like a back hand deal. She sat up as the black beast devoured it in three large gulps. It was as if the rogue hadn't eaten for days. The dog was content for a minute, gradually emerging from his hiding place and sitting in front of her, head a little raised as an act of pride and defiance against whatever the world was about to throw at him. She rubbed his head fondly, ignoring the possibilities of rabies and whatnot from an animal living on the street. His matted fur felt cold against her skin as the beast closed his eyes for an instant. If she hadn't known better, she could have sworn he was smiling. He lay again at her feet, his head resting upon his giant-like paws as he followed her gaze down the street. A moment of pure contentment fell across them both, just for that instant.

Then, just as suddenly as he appeared, the dog belted to his feet, an evil snarl now adorning his face as a crowd surged into the quad. He began to growl; a deep noise of anger and outrage seemed to cross the animal's face as the crowd began to disperse. But she was running late. She was meeting a friend for coffee. She shot the dog an apologetic look as she turned to place her purse back in her shopping bag. She didn't notice him scamper away. She presumed later that he must have done, because the next moment he was gone, despite her attempts to spot the matted coat amongst the crowd.

For standing, almost in the exact place the dog had sat, was a man. His own dark hair was matted and messed up, a glint in his shining, sunken eyes seemed to prepare them for an imminent darkness that would overshadow them in the events of the next few seconds. Perhaps they were darkening for her. The man turned on the spot, grasping something tightly in the pocket of his jacket as he appeared to swallow a lump in his throat. She was mesmerised by his presence, a presence that seemed as daunting as the empty shell of the Norman castle out of the train window. He looked at her long and hard. In the briefest of moments, a million emotions shot across his face, the last face she would see. It ranged from the deepest grief to the ripest anger in a flicker of a single instant, distraught. His brow was furrowed in some form of deep concentration, gearing himself up for whatever task lay ahead within the crowd. Then he walked away.

The next few seconds seemed to last an eternity as the mysterious man crossed the quad, those darkening, soulful eyes now focused on his target. A short, rounded man with a shifty expression was standing with his back against the corner of the building as if he was a couple of stories up and about to take a flying leap. They conversed for a minute or two, her anonymous companion dominating the conversation, the other man looking more and more frantic as the dark-haired man edged closer. The exchange was taking place through gritted teeth, the dark-haired man shaking with visible anger edging on uncontrollable hysteria as his large, strong shoulders shook with the effort of self-control. She caught little of their conversation - words like traitor, broken, lies and death - but she didn't need to know the details. For once in her life, her sight was enough. The rounded man had done wrong and was about to face to consequences.

Suddenly, the situation changed: The dark haired man let out a howl of rage as he shoved his companion up against the wall, easily daunting his wimp-like figure; She began to edge off the bench. This was going to get nasty, but no one else seemed to notice. Surprisingly, the smaller man had a sudden surge of energy, pushing himself free of the other man's vice-like grip and edging back into the middle of the quad. The next words were vital to the plot. She stared at the black haired man left standing on the pavement, as he paled at the following accusation. The shrill voice that now cut through the mild autumn air would, to the casual observer, seemed genuine enough. The right amount of emotion was present to gain a realistic reaction and a positive belief. But all it took from her was one uncertain glance at the dark-haired man to see the dark nature of the manipulation that was about to occur.

'Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!'

The next pictures, the final ones to be processed in her mind, were slowed and dazed to such an extent that no one would believe her. Not the doctors, the police, her friends who helped with her long, slow rehabilitation. It was her imagination playing tricks on her, so they said. Magic wasn't real. People couldn't turn into animals. And you certainly couldn't blow a street apart with the force of a small army shell with a piece of painted wood.

But that was exactly what had happened. Just as her dark-haired stranger pulled out his elaborately polished stick and held it in front of him like he was brandishing a sword in battle, she glanced at his threatening enemy, holding his own weapon behind his back, pointing toward the street a few feet away. He muttered something in Latin. The memories she held only remembered the moving of his thin, pale lips as he uttered those fatal words. Then the world exploded.

Gas explosion. That was the official verdict. A ruptured pipe far below the street had its contents ignited by an anonymous spark, sending debris flying everywhere and covering her in scars she would never see. Such an explanation was far from adequate. It didn't explain the cause of her blindness. It didn't explain the light.

It was like staring at the centre of the sun. The blazing glow at first was completely dazzling, as she was knocked backward off the bench by the blast, the wind rustling her hair as the fall out past over her body. She couldn't close her eyes even if she'd wanted to. They were stuck rigid as the light painfully pierced them. She could feel her retina burning as she howled with the pain, tears failing to cool the fire that was erupting behind her pupils, darkened forever more.

The last thing she heard before passing out, as her brain began to scream out in the agony the loss of one of her vital senses caused, was a laugh. Not a laugh filled with happiness at a job well done, not at the satisfaction of the destruction caused, but the laugh of the dark haired man. She could imagine it, as if that image had been burned on her memory forever, etched into her skin as a reminder of how he'd been betrayed. It was the laughter of a man driven to the edge. A man who knew, in that instant, that he'd lost everything. A laugh at the cruel fate the world had awarded him. And as she felt the movement of a deserting rat across her feet, she would have sworn that underneath it all, there was the inner howling of the blackened, stray dog.

 

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