A/N: Reviews for the final chapter of Book II are in my forums. Review responses for Book III will also continue in that same forum. Thank you for reading!
Firebird's Fury: Book III of the Firebird Saga
A Fanfiction by Darth Marrs
Note: This is a direct continuation of Firebird's Son and Firebird's Song. If you haven't read the first two, this will make no sense to you. Heck, even you did, it may not. Additionally, if you tried and did not like the first or second, you will undoubtedly not like this one.
Standard Disclaimers apply. I don't own Harry Potter or his world. Plotting and OCs are mine, yes, but not much else. This story was not written for profit.
Chapter One: Not That Kind of Fairy Tale
Shirley and Tom Dibbles lived a comfortable, middle-class life in Sheffield with their daughter Nancy. Shirley taught at Silverdale Comprehensive, while her husband Tom was a senior lecturer in Environmental Studies at Sheffield Hallam.
Their dual incomes allowed them a comfortable home on Chelsea Road approximately midway between each workplace, with a spacious back garden and neighbours who over the years had become close friends. In all, it was a very good life, and Shirley would have been content and happy, if not for Nancy.
Nancy was different.
Almost from the first, her baby girl stood out from the other children in the neighbourhood, and unfortunately not in a good way. While she looked lovely enough, she had an unhealthy pallor to her skin despite glowing health reports from her school. Additionally, she had the most startling brown eyes not so much of their colour, but in how very bright they seemed. But most disturbing was the shock of static electricity they felt whenever they picked her up.
At least, that's what Tom called it. "It's just static, love," he would assure Shirley every time she talked about taking Nancy into a specialist. "See, after a moment it passes."
It always did pass, but what followed was even stranger—a feeling of euphoria that made Shirley not want to put the baby down at all. That alone was as strange as the shock.
As Nancy grew older, the incidents began. Toys or snacks that were refused her suddenly ended up in her hands, and light bulbs tended to explode whenever she had a fit. Fortunately for both parents, it was easy enough to soothe her—a cuddle and a rock would usually be enough.
When she started school, Nancy's teachers reported that she did not appear to get on with the other students in her class. It wasn't so much that she was rude or mean—rather the other students seemed to grow uncomfortable around her after a few moments, and then proceeded to just ignore her.
Nancy cried almost an hour straight when she came home after that first day, moaning that none of the other kids would be her friend.
It did not get better as she got older, she just became desensitised enough not to let it bother her as much. That acceptance, as much as anything, broke Shirley's heart. She wanted her baby girl to be happy, but it seemed as she grew older that dreams of happiness became more and more unattainable.
She did her best to engage Nancy in other activities after school and between terms—Nancy enjoyed her violin lessons and she showed at least some talent, though she was far from a prodigy. She enjoyed swimming a great deal and even joined a swim club. She won every meet, until a rather shame-faced coach told Shirley that the other kids and parents were complaining. Nancy was so much faster than any of the other kids that parents were complaining it wasn't fair.
So, Nancy did not swim competitively any more. Still, there was always violin.
It was not unusual for Shirley and Tom to stay up late, sipping wine and talking quietly about Nancy and about their early dreams of having a second child. They tried for years just to have Nancy, and the specialist told them after Nancy was born that Shirley likely could not have another. They talked about adoption, but it was only talk.
Now that Nancy was ten, it was getting more and more difficult to ignore the fact that she was different. The girl insisted there was a ghost that hung around the cemetery, one time even trying to point it out to her parents in broad daylight. Of course, the Dibbles saw nothing.
But then there were the fits.
It was a recent thing they only started seeing as the last term of school ended. Mrs Tottensham reported an incident where the kids laughed at something Nancy did (Tottensham never actually saw it) and the girl screamed back at the kids. One of the windows in the class shattered as if struck by a brick, and the sound of her scream was so loud every teacher in the school came running, even the headmaster.
Not two weeks later, Nancy sat in the living room staring out the front of the house at a group of schoolmates playing football in the street, boys and girls. Nancy never touched the window; she just sat on the couch and stared out with a blank expression.
The glass cracked, but in a pattern that made it look like lightning falling amid raindrops. Somehow it seemed as if Nancy's dark mood literally imprinted itself on the glass.
So, on a warm night in late August, Tom and Shirley sat up in their bedroom with only Tom's reading light, sipping wine and talking quietly about what to do with Nancy. The latest incident involved a neighbour's girl, Sarah, who taunted Nancy about her eyes only to somehow end up covered head to heels in mud. Sarah's parents used to be good friends, but no longer, and the loss of that friendship stung.
They spoke about schooling options, including select schools and boarding schools. Their fear was that moving her to a new school would not solve the problem; it would just move the problem away. Unspoken, though both parents felt it, was a growing unease they themselves felt around their only child.
The conversation died abruptly though when they heard the creak of the third step on the stairs. Tom reached over and turned off his light before reaching under the bed for a cricket bat. As nice as their neighbourhood was, it wasn't unusual for drunken youths from other neighbourhoods to swing through their area causing mischief. They complained to the local constable, but were told just to stay inside.
Still in his thirties, if barely, Tom remained a fit, strong man who swam and exercised daily. Squatting down with the bat in his hand, Shirley had no doubt he could truly hurt someone. Thus it came as a shock when a shadow entered their room and Tom swung full-force, only for the bat to stop mid-air, caught by an impossibly powerful grip.
"Mr and Mrs Dibbles?" the shadow said in a whisper.
"Who the hell are you?" Tom said, fighting an urge to shout. He tried to jerk the bat back, but he couldn't.
"My name is Remus Lupin, and I've come tonight because you and your family are in immediate danger. I need you both to get dressed, gather what belongs are absolutely necessary, and then come with me."
"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what you're doing here!" Tom said.
Both parents stared as Nancy walked in behind the stranger, accompanied by two more shadows. In the darkness, her eyes were clearly visible, lit by some terrible interior power. More terrifying still, though, was that the shadows on either side of her had the same strange light in their eyes—one a bright green, the other a shade of brown not too dissimilar from Nancy's.
"It's about your daughter, of course," Lupin continued. "You've always known she was different. There are many just like her—so many there is a school just for them. Ordinarily you would have a professor from that school come and talk to you and Nancy about it. But something terrible has happened, and now there are people outside your home this very instant who wish to do all of you harm. For her sake, we ask that you come with us."
"Look, mum, they're just like I am," Nancy said, sleepy but for some reason sounding pleased. "They even feel like me!"
Lupin finally let go of Tom's bat and gave the couple an intense stare. "There are at least five people outside who are about to enter your home, kill you both, and take Nancy away. They are going to do terrible things to her if we don't get you out now. We have a safe house for other families of children like Nancy, but we have to go now."
The shadow with brown eyes sounded very much like a teenager when she said, "My parents just packed important papers and a few clothes when they had to run. We already have Nancy's things packed. Please, be quick!"
"They used magic, it was incredible, Mum!" Nancy said.
What finally decided them was the crash of their front door. The two shadows around Nancy hustled her into the room and quietly closed the door behind them. Terrified, Shirley ran to her wardrobe and threw on a pair of slacks and a blouse, and then grabbed several other sets of clothes and threw them into her overnight bag. She entered the en-suite loo to gather her things just as Tom left for his own wardrobe to gather his clothes. The third step creaked just as Tom began grabbing the family papers from the safe under his nightstand.
"Hermione, take the mum," Lupin said.
The girl with brown eyes moved closer to Shirley. With her eyes adjusting better in the dark, she saw a teenaged girl with a somewhat narrow, oval face that looked intelligent and quite fetching. What she thought was a hood was actually a mass of curly auburn hair, secured roughly in back with a hair tie.
"This is going to feel a little uncomfortable," she told Shirley.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and then squeaked. "Professor, I can't Apparate!"
"Bugger!" Remus muttered. "They must have figured out what happened with the Petersons. Harry?"
Harry ran to the window to look over the Dibble's back garden. "Two Hit Witches, disillusioned, three more coming up the stairs. My portkey didn't work either."
"We're going to have to fight then, damn!" Remus said. "Mr and Mrs Dibbles, I need you to listen closely. We are going to be fighting using something that you cannot see, but Nancy can. If she tells you to move, duck or run, listen to her. It may save your life."
"I don't understand, what are you talking about?" Shirley said.
"We'll explain later," the girl, Hermione, said. "For now, all of you get into the loo. Now, please." She herded Shirley, Tom and Nancy into the loo. Once inside, she spoke not to Shirley or Tom, but directly to their daughter.
"Nancy, you're going to see lots of bright lights. Think of the lights as bullets—they're very dangerous. If you see any of these lights heading toward you or your parents, get them out of the way, alright? Remember—it's like that ghost in the cemetery. You and I can see her, but your parents can't."
"I understand, Hermione," Nancy said, as if to a lifelong friend.
Hermione closed the door, leaving the Dibbles with only the distant glow of a street lamp through their window. Nancy squatted down by the door peering out through a crack. Through the crack, Shirley could hear the strange trio speaking.
"Could we call in more help?" That was the girl, Hermione.
"We already have four teams out," Remus said.
"We're not losing another like Demelza," the boy, Harry said. "I refuse to let them take another girl! They're coming now."
Suddenly bright light and the sound of roaring fire filled the room, followed by voices shouting. Though the Dibbles could not see whatever was being exchanged, they could see fire, and hear the sound of crashes, booms and a sharp, pained scream. Nancy backed away from the door, her eyes wide with terror. Tom grabbed her and pulled into a tight, protective embrace that she made no effort to get out of.
Suddenly the door opened and the boy with the impossible green eyes looked down on them. The side of his face looked covered in blood, made black by the shadows. "Come on, we've got to move! Get your things!"
The Dibbles followed. Lupin knelt at the door, while Hermione was pointing a stick at a motionless body on the floor. "The other two are coming up the stairs now," Remus said.
Shirley, though, was staring at the shattered remnants of her bedroom. The bed stood on its side, all the lamps were shattered, and the wardrobe was on fire which the others simply ignored. Harry pointed his stick at the wall to the back garden and suddenly thrust it out as if it were a sword.
Shirley screamed as the hole the size of an auto appeared. Without waiting a moment for the dust to clear, Harry jumped out of the hole, down the twelve feet to the lawn, and landed with barely a bend to his knees.
He turned around and said, "Nancy, jump, I'll float you down."
Tom tried to stop her, but Nancy jumped before he could. Shirley felt her jaw drop as her daughter floated gently down into the boy's arms. He looked back up and said, "You next, Mrs Dibbles. Hurry!"
Shirley couldn't move—her legs were locked together. She barely had time to scream before Hermione pushed her through the hole. She felt a strange, pillow-like feeling around her as she sank gently to the turf. Tom came a moment later.
Hermione hopped down with no more effort than Harry, while behind them in the bedroom they heard more shouts. Suddenly Lupin ran through the hole in a powerful jump as the whole house exploded.
Shirley crouched down, sure she was about to die, but the most amazing thing happened. The fire from the explosion billowed right up to them and then stopped, roiling against an invisible barrier that seemed to emerge from the tip of Harry's stick. The blast seemed to last an eternity, but then was gone in the blink of an eye. The house did not burn, but the entire first floor was gone.
Harry shook his arm. "That was hard. Everyone okay?"
Nearby, Remus picked himself up from the grass. "The jinx is still there; we have to go on foot until we're beyond its range. I'm sure they'll be sending more soon."
Too terrified and confused to really protest, Shirley allowed herself to be herded along with her family down their lane. She did not understand why none of her neighbours had come out to see what happened to their home, or to them. Couldn't they hear what was happening?
Two blocks down, Harry straightened. "We're clear."
"Are you okay to apparate, Harry?" Hermione asked. "You're bleeding!"
"I deserved it for being stupid. Lucky I'm not dead! I'm fine, though, promise." He took Nancy, and before her parents could say a word disappeared with a whoosh of air.
"Mrs Dibbles, I know you're scared," Hermione said. "We'll explain everything, I promise. Come with me, please." Shirley let the strange girl take her arm just as Remus did with Tom, and suddenly it felt as if she were being squeezed through a tube of toothpaste.
Moments later, she appeared in front of a refurbished country manor that still looked like the setting of a horror movie. Harry and Nancy were standing nearby, but her immediate thought was consumed by the need to retch, which she did all over the grass. Nearby, she heard Tom doing the same.
"Sorry about that," Hermione said, gently rubbing her back. The contact had the strange, euphoric warmth she had when she touched her daughter, after the initial shock passed. "Apparition is hard the first time, especially on Muggles. My name is Hermione Granger, welcome to the Potter Covenstead."
She held Shirley's hand as she guided her up the steps to the broad double-doors. Harry and Nancy were already through.
Shirley wasn't sure what to expect, but the manor inside was well lit with newly plastered walls and trim on the stairs, though it seemed sparsely furnished. There were also dozens of people ranging from children Nancy's age or younger, to adults dressed in an odd assortment of clothes, ranging from what looked like graduate robes to an odd leather robe on one woman. She couldn't help but notice that most appeared to be women.
One of them, a lovely woman wearing an oddly cut blue dress descended on their small party in an instant. "What happened?" she asked.
"They arrived seconds after we did," Harry said.
"And the curse?"
He touched his bloody face. "It was a choice of taking it myself or letting it hit Hermione. Are the other teams back yet?"
The other woman clucked her tongue. "You're the last," the woman in blue said. "Fred Weasley almost lost an ear, and Tonks was hit pretty badly. I have her in stasis at the moment until I get everything sorted. Anymore injuries here?"
The older man, Remus Lupin, said, "No. And don't let the injury fool you, he did spectacularly."
Harry, though, gave up listening and sighed in relief as the woman pointed another stick at the side of his head, and whispered. Shirley stared dumbfounded as the nasty, bleeding cut simply disappeared.
An unexpected hand on her shoulder made Shirley jump; she spun around with a gasp to see a creature so alien she almost screamed. The old woman looked like the villain from a fairy tale, with a long, pointed nose, unkempt black hair, deathly pale skin that seemed almost translucent in the lighting of the house, and a black dress and pointed witch's hat. Most disturbing of all, though, was the preternatural glow to her eyes. For a split second, Shirley wondered if she was looking at her own daughter's future.
The old hag even sounded like a fairy tale witch. "Hello, dearie. Oh, what a cute girl you have there!"
"Thank you," Nancy said, somehow unaffected by the frightening-looking woman. Shirley realized her expression must have given her fear away.
"Oh, don't worry, love. I won't hurt you," the ancient crone said with a chuckle. "Why, I was just like your lass there once. Granted, that was in 1794, but I remember it like it was yesterday! My name is Bathsheba Goldsmite—I'm a jeweller, you see. I've been selling beautiful things for almost two centuries now! But that's not why we're here, no, not at all. A hard night for you, no doubt, but a good night with no losses. Come, we'll have a chat and a spot of tea, won't we?"
"I don't…I don't understand!" Shirley blabbered.
The old witch laughed good-naturedly. "Oh child, I can see that. That's why we'll talk, you and the others. Come now, we have tea—and stronger drinks as well. Little one, you should come as well, dear. What's your name?"
"Nancy ... A beautiful name! Come, then, child. Let's go have our talk."
"Will Hermione come too?" Nancy asked.
"Of course I will," Hermione said, smiling down at the girl. She then brandished a rather impressive ruby, set in an intricately fashioned gold ring. "Bathsheba there sold this ring to my husband. Do you like it?"
Nancy goggled at the ring, and even Shirley had to admit it was impressive. "Husband?" she asked, as Hermione's words registered fully. "How old are you?"
Hermione looked up at the older woman and without smiling, said, "Too young to be married. It's a long story. If you will?"
With the old crone and young witch in the lead, Shirley and Tom walked across the spacious entry way into a sitting room to the left of a magnificent if neglected stairway leading up to the two wings of the manor. Within the sitting room sat four other families who looked startlingly like Shirley and Tom themselves. Not physically, perhaps, but in their obvious states of shock, tattered dress, and the fact that all of them had girls, usually one, though the family in the far corner had two girls.
Bathsheba walked toward the front of the room while Hermione went behind them and walked right to a well-stocked bar against the wall that also happened to have large containers of steaming tea. She poured three cups, and then looked at Shirley with a wink and added liberal doses of brandy to two of them. Shirley did not protest and accepted the cup gratefully as she and her family found the last sofa in the room and sank tiredly into it.
Meanwhile, the old woman looked over the crowd of shell-shocked parents and children. "Hello, dearies. I know it's been a long night for you all, but I think we'd all agree you deserve some answers. I'm afraid you'll have to get them from me since things are a mite hectic at the moment. My name is Bathsheba Goldsmite. And I'm probably even older than I look! Why, when I was a little girl, my father could not even hold public employment because we were Jews, you see. In case you're wondering, I am two hundred and fourteen years old, and I am a witch."
The parents were so numb from the shocks of the evening, that none could summon the energy to be shocked. "When I was eleven," Bathsheba continued without missing a beat, "a lovely older woman came and told my Papa and Mama that I was a witch, and that I was to be trained in magic. Papa refused because of course, I was a girl, and Jewish girls were not allowed to go off to school. In fact, I'm fairly certain he was going to stone me in the backyard! But that did not matter. Magic was run by witches, and even then they had little tolerance for intolerant fathers. And now your little girls are in the same position I was. They are magical, and in a perfect world they would be going to a school to learn their magic. But something terrible has happened, and that's why we had to save you all."
As the kind but ancient witch wove a terrifying tale of evil witches and wizards and a civil war being fought in large part by mere teenagers, Shirley Dibbles found her eyes drifting to where Hermione stood. Under full lighting, the young woman looked exhausted, with dark circles under her bright brown eyes. She hugged herself, and in one hand clasped her stick…no, wand.
The door opened to reveal the lovely woman in the blue dress from before, and old Bathsheba paused. "Ahh, this is Mary Carlisle, a magical healer and physician. She'll be handing each of you a small cup of liquid that we need you to take."
The pretty woman who healed Harry earlier carried a tray of small silver cups. "What is it?" one father asked.
"It's a potion to protect you while you stay here," Mary answered before anyone else had a chance. She spoke as she continued handing the potion out. "Everyone knows about the experiments the Nazis performed during the Second World War. What most of you don't know is that there was a magical conflict at that time as well. A Dark Wizard named Grindelwald allied himself to Hitler, and experimented on how magic affected the non-magical. The results were quite worrisome. You all need to take this potion to stay safe while you're in this house."
By now, Shirley had felt so much fear that this latest bombshell only served to make her numb. "How does 'magic' affect us?"
"Cancer," the healer said as she finished handing out the cups. "Magic acts much like radiation to you. It changes us as well, but our bodies are saturated with it already. But for you, long-term exposure to magic-saturated areas can in best-cases lead to skin cancer and in worst cases leukaemia and brain cancer. Even with this potion, you'll only be able to stay here for two days before you'll have to seek different housing."
This caused an increase in angry muttering from the parents around her; Shirley simply looked at her husband, who looked back numbly. It was at this point that another woman entered. This one was tall and lanky, with short, spiky hair. She had the same witch-eyes as everyone else.
"Okay, you've all heard the bad news," the woman said. "My name is Sybil Trelawney, and I'm a professor at this school. This is how it's going to be. Magical England is in a state of civil war, and you are one of the major points of contention in that conflict. There is a powerful force that wishes to take your children from you, kill you to prevent you from complaining about it, and then sell your little girls to a race of monsters who will use them to propagate their race. It is a fate exponentially worse than death. We wish to ensure that your daughters are taught to safely harness their magic and grow to be good, contributing members of society. In times past, you would be contacted when your child reached their eleventh birthday before September 1st of any given year, and they would be forced to attend school because accidental magic is dangerous. We contacted you early because the alternative was too awful to contemplate. But we are not the Ministry, and we do not feel we can hold anyone against their will."
The young man who helped save them, Harry with the Green Eyes, stepped into the room and looked over the parents. "If you leave, we will remove the memory of this night from your minds using magic. However, as Professor Trelawney pointed out, accidental magic is dangerous. My own grandmother was almost killed by my mum's accidental magic when she was eleven. More important, though, the Ministry can, and is actively tracking cases of accidental magic to find your little girls. And we've already told you what will happen if they find you."
In a one-two-punch, Trelawney continued. "The only way to ensure yours and your daughter's safety is for you to leave them here where they will be educated both in magic and in preparation for their GCSEs in a boarding-school setting. There are several dozen children already here. You will be free to return to your homes, with the exception of the Dibble Family."
"We're sorry your home was destroyed," Harry said directly to Shirley. "Nancy's accidental magic alerted the Dark Ministry and we had to rush to reach you. If you give it a day or two, you should be able to return to file any insurance claims you have."
"Wait, they were attacked?" It was the same father who demanded to know what was in the cups.
"Bad witches came!" Nancy announced, proud of such a terrible story to tell, as any ten-year-old would be. "Harry and Hermione and Professor Lupin fought them with magic! It was amazing! And then they floated me out of the house and when it blew up Harry stopped the fire from reaching us with magic and then magicked us here and he's the most awesome wizard ever, better than Gandalf!"
The girl's enthusiastic run-on sentence brought a few tired chuckles. Harry just shrugged. "We only fight when it comes down to saving lives. Your girls are worth fighting for. The question you have to ask yourselves now is whether you love them enough to let them go. As bad as that sounds, it's the only way we can be sure."
"Think on it tonight and let us know tomorrow," Trelawney said. "In the meantime, we have beds and snacks for everyone."
"Try to get some sleep," Harry said.
"Like that's going to happen," Tom muttered.
Shirley just shook her head and looked down at her precious, completely alien little girl As if reading her mind, Nancy looked up and patted her hand. "It's alright, Mum. At least I'm not alone anymore."
Shirley tried to force a smile, but she just couldn't do it.
Author's Note: Very special thanks as always to Teufel1987, JR and Miles for beta reading. If there are any major faux-pas, they are entirely of my own doing.