As always, I do not own Harry Potter.
This one was a nightmare. It's fought me every step of the way, but it's finally done. My apologies for the wait, and I hope that you enjoy.
One morning next week, Sarah sat next to Orion and waited for the Daily Prophet to arrive. Her alternate glanced at her, a faint smile tracing his mouth.
"If you keep fidgeting, someone's going to catch on that somethings up." He drawled, sipping from a cup of tea. Sarah gave him a vindictive squint, and he shuddered and leaned away dramatically. Sarah punched his arm.
"Ah! No! However can I compete with such elegant wit?" Orion continued sardonically. Sarah shook her head at him and devoted her attention to toast and jam, ignoring his snicker. She forced herself not to immediately snatch the Daily Prophet when the owl carrying it landed next to Hermione, instead trying to finish her breakfast. Well, she tried for roughly ten seconds, until Hermione squeaked in shock. Immediately Sarah whipped the paper from her friend and looked at the headline with silent amazement.
"Hogwarts High Inquisitor: Taking her title too literally?" she read aloud, a smirk starting to form. Oh, this would be good.
"For some time, falling standards at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have been alarming parents throughout the country. The lamentable condition of Defence Against the Dark Arts, barely alleviated by the strong showing made by Hogwarts in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, drove the Ministry to assign a teacher who we were assured would be more than capable of restoring the school to its former glory. But were we wrong?
Dolores Jane Umbridge. A name, perhaps, unfamiliar to most readers before her appointment to Hogwarts. As Under-Secretary to the Minister, it could be assumed that she is intelligent. Ambitious. Skilled. And yet, it could be expected that she is fair, and impartial, ready to hear out anyone."
Sarah paused long enough to choke a laugh. Much as she appreciated the way Rita was building Umbridge up before dropping her down, anyone with the slightest experience with politicians would be sceptical.
"Unfortunately, it would appear that Professor Umbridge does not live up to these expectations. While she was able to secure an Acceptable grade in her Defence Against the Dark Arts OWL, and she follows a course that, while largely theoretical, is accepted by Ministry experts, her impartiality is gravely in question following her treatment of Sarah Potter, the Girl-Who-Lived."
'She-Who-Could-Not-Be-Slayed.' Sarah mentally corrected, before continuing to read.
"During her most recent Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson, both Sarah Potter and Arcturus Argent- self-proclaimed son of Sirius Black- were given detentions, both deserved in the opinion of this reporter. The detentions were described as writing lines: a common punishment, and reasonable. However, this reporter has discovered a sinister extra: both Potter and Argent were apparently made to use a quill that wrote the lines in their own blood. Yes, dear readers, you are not misreading. The lines were in their own blood, drawn by what is surely a Dark Artifact, if not on the Ministry Prohibited Items list. We at the Daily Prophet would like to protest this treatment, and call for an investigation into the punishments at Hogwarts School. Even should Professor Umbridge be the victim of falsehoods given in good faith to this reporter, the fact remains that, not four years ago, several students- First Years, no less!- were taken into the Forbidden Forest to hunt for a creature that was attacking and killing Unicorns. The neglect does not end there…"
Sarah stopped reading as Rita began to go over the unusual and sometimes dangerous punishments sometimes handed over at Hogwarts, and looked up at Orion.
"Well that was interesting-"
Well, it was nice while it lasted. Sarah pasted a careful look of innocent inquiry on her face, and looked up.
"Yes, Professor Umbridge?"
Sarah supposed that Umbridge was attempting to loom over her, but the effect was somewhat spoiled by how short the High Inquisitor was. Although, in all fairness, the look of rage currently distorting Umbridge's face might have been intimidating to someone who hadn't had multiple near-death experiences in the past four years.
"What is this, Potter?" Umbridge demanded, thrusting a copy of the paper at Sarah. Sarah fought the urge to smirk, and decided to stick with innocence.
"The Daily Prophet, isn't it?" she said levelly. She was fully aware that anybody who actually knew her would realise that she was acting dull on purpose, but given that she was trying to enrage Umbridge, she'd let that pass. If the expression Umbridge now wore was any indicator, it was working rather well.
"You know what I mean, Potter! These…these…lies…"
Sarah saw the panic lurking beneath the rage in Umbridge's eyes, and felt a cold pulse of satisfaction. It was hardly fitting for a supposed heroine to enjoy this, she knew, but she was only human. Besides, the longer she could delay Umbridge the better. She had noticed that the other teachers could be somewhat slow to react, and duelling Umbridge in the middle of the Great Hall would end…badly. While Orion could probably break her out of prison, she'd prefer he not have to. It would just be messy.
"Well, Professor, if they're lies I couldn't have had any part in them. After all, I must not tell lies." She said, letting just a bit of the sardonic drawl Orion usually practiced into her tone. To her delight, Umbridge actually twitched a little bit. The Professor was starting to draw stares, and Sarah noticed that Theia had vanished from the Ravenclaw table. She probably had some scheme going with Orion.
"Potter-" Umbridge began, leaning forward and looking like she was on the edge of her temper. Sarah curled her fingers around the grip of her wand, tensing herself, but they were, fortunately, interrupted.
Sarah had only heard that cold tone once or twice before, but she knew she would always recognise it. There was something so fundamentally…wrong…about it that the sound would always stay with her. Evidently Umbridge thought so too, because she paled and stammered as she responded.
The elderly Headmaster had a slight, grandfatherly smile on his face, but Sarah recognised it as fake, lacking the warmth that his placid expression usually contained.
"May I ask why you are currently shouting at one of my students? I don't suppose it has anything to do with this article in the Daily Prophet? Rather intriguing, I must say. Rita has certainly returned to her strengths." He said, fixing his pale blue eyes on Umbridge. The Professor twitched slightly.
Sarah mentally commented that Umbridge was not good at being under pressure. Strange, considering that being able to smooth-talk your way out of situations seemed to be a key ability of politicians. Dumbledore remained unmoved, still smiling gently.
"Do not worry, Professor. I have already asked Minerva to contact the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I am sure that once they determine that the article is false they will help you find whoever is slandering you."
Sarah fought the urge to laugh, burying it deep inside for later. The sick look of panic Umbridge was barely concealing was almost too hilarious to her. Orion, she noticed, had turned away slightly to conceal his own expression of amusement. Dumbledore, of course, remained as he always did, just slightly amused. Maybe she should try adopting that? The Headmaster glanced at Sarah.
"Miss Potter, Mr Argent, I would like you to stay until the Department of Magical Law Enforcement representative arrives. I am sure they would like to talk to you." he said. Sarah shifted slightly, but nodded. She hadn't had time to talk with Orion about the possibility of being interviewed by the Aurors or whoever was sent, but she could guess what he'd say: tell them what Umbridge had done, not admit to telling Rita- actually, suggest that she hadn't talked to Rita- and make sure Dumbledore was in the room with her. After all, she was still a minor.
It was surreal to wait in the Great Hall while the rest of the school finished and left, many of them shooting her small group curious looks. Sarah ignored them in favour of looking at Umbridge with interest. It was amazing how many subtle changes fear wrought on the woman's face. And, once again, Sarah reminded herself that enjoying the fear of others was not heroic, and she shouldn't be doing it. On the other hand, what people didn't know wouldn't turn them against her, so she was free to bask in the worryingly warm glow of satisfaction.
"Perhaps we should adjourn to my office?" Dumbledore asked, breaking her out of a happy daydream of Umbridge being thrown into Azkaban. Caught off-guard, Sarah didn't react until Orion gave her a poke. She glared at him, causing him to smirk slightly as they followed Dumbledore and Umbridge through the castle. The Headmasters office seemed somehow cramped with them all in there, even though there was ample space. Maybe it was the tension. Umbridge, clearly nervous. Orion, tapping his fingers in a fast pattern. Dumbledore, wearing a considering expression far more unnerving than his usual slight smile. And herself, of course. Sarah wondered what her expression was like. All in all, in was a relief when Professor McGonagall walked into the room, followed by three Aurors. A severe looking, grey haired woman, a red haired man and Kingsley Shacklebolt. The woman must be Amelia Bones, Sarah decided, but she had no idea who the third Auror was.
"Ah, Amelia. I wondered if you would come yourself." Dumbledore said pleasantly. The woman narrowed her eyes, and Sarah noted that she wore a monocle. An unusual affectation, she thought in a detached manner.
"Yes. Minister Fudge was quite insistent that the root of these accusations against Professor Umbridge be found." The Head Auror replied. Sarah made a conscious decision not to react, forcing herself to act normal, which in itself was probably quite suspicious. Oh God, she was doublethinking. She forced herself to calm down, telling herself that that was not amusement in the gaze of Dumbledore and Amelia Bones.
"Hmm. No doubt. I assume you would like to speak to Miss Potter and Mr Argent?" Dumbledore said. Amelia tilted her head slightly.
"I would, yes. Would it be possible to use this office?"
"If I can remain. After all, they are my students." Dumbledore responded. Amelia nodded, indicating that she found that acceptable.
"Very well then, Amelia. Who would you like to talk to first?"
"I'd prefer to talk to Mr Argent first, Albus, and then Miss Potter." Madam Bones replied. Dumbledore shot them a brief glance, and Sarah nodded, knowing Orion was doing the same.
"Very well. If your Aurors and the Professors might wait outside…"
Sarah obediently stood and left, catching the wink Orion shot her on her way. She smiled slightly, noticing that Madam Bones had quietly asked something else of Dumbledore and wondering what it was. It didn't matter, she decided. She stood quietly, McGonagall doing the same while Umbridge shifted nervously and gave Sarah glares that the redhead pretended not to notice. The Aurors had vanished somewhere, but she didn't ask. After a number of minutes of boredom, the office door opened and Orion slowly walked out.
"You're up next, Sarah." He said quietly, before dropping his voice to barely more than a whisper.
"Be honest, but don't volunteer anything. I don't think they want to ask too much, but don't give them the option."
Sarah gave him a tiny nod, walking past and into the office. She was immediately struck by the thought that, intended or not, it was quite intimidating to see Dumbledore and Madam Bones facing her from across the desk. Fortunately, Sarah had quite a lot of experience in staring down authority figures, and so she took a seat opposite the older pair without batting an eyelid. It also didn't hurt that Dumbledore had an encouraging glint in his eyes, and Madam Bones looked carefully neutral.
"So, Miss Potter," Madam Bones said, quite quietly. "I'll be honest with you. Mr Argent has already told us about your evening last week, and that you did not meet with Rita Skeeter. His alibi was, to be frank, admirably crafted, and I'm not inclined to dissect your stories to find inconsistencies."
Sarah resisted the urge to smile. She and Orion had crafted an alibi, a purported evening of magical practice, but it looked like they wouldn't need it, and Sarah could read the meaning behind what Madam Bones had said- Bones didn't care if they had leaked the story. She cared if it was true.
"So, what I want to know is whether what Rita wrote was right. If Umbridge really has been…overstepping…her boundaries."
Sarah slowly brought her hands together, unconsciously rubbing at her left hand. It had scarred, but only very briefly, and it had faded now. She'd just have to tell them.
"Yes. Me and Orion did our detentions separately, but we had to write with a quill that didn't need any ink. It cut open my hand and used the blood as ink, but the cut healed immediately. My hand was only red by the end of the night."
Sarah wondered how Orion's handwriting had looked, since he would have been forced to use his off-hand to write. After all, his silver hand would have no blood to draw on if he had written with his right hand. Then again, he had more or less been forced to become ambidextrous, so he had probably been fine.
Amelia Bones looked thoughtful.
"Well, that certainly matches the story Mr Argent gave and Skeeter published. However, I will need more evidence than your word, as I'm sure you can appreciate."
Sarah nodded silently to indicate that she understood. Really, she hadn't expected anything like this to occur. She had just been hoping to damage Umbridge's reputation so that if something else about the woman came up the public would be readier to believe the worst. In hindsight, it was obvious that the Ministry would do something about a teacher potentially torturing students. Even if said students probably qualified as subversives in the eyes of the Minister of Magic.
"Very well, Miss Potter. If you will wait outside, I'll hear Professor Umbridge's side of this." Amelia Bones said, not unkindly, and Dumbledore rose to usher her out. When Sarah walked out she found Orion leaning against a wall, studiedly ignoring Umbridge and the glare she was pointing at him,
"Dolores. Amelia would like to talk to you." Dumbledore said, his kindly tone laced with just a hint of steel. Umbridge gave Sarah an ugly, triumphant look.
"Soon you'll be seen as the nasty little liar you are." She sneered as she walked past. Sarah ignored her, walking over to Orion. She wasn't about to rise to something so blatant, no matter how stupid and irritating it was.
"That didn't take long." She said quietly. Orion hummed an acknowledgement, lowering his voice to barely more than a whisper.
"I suspect that Madam Bones is just stalling for time. She sent those Aurors somewhere, and I daresay that finding the actual quill would be rather damning evidence." He murmured. Sarah thought it over and nodded slowly.
Comforted by the thought that maybe they had a supporter in Madam Bones, Sarah leaned against the wall next to Orion, who seemed to be deep in thought. He was so busy thinking, in fact, that he barely reacted when the door to the office opened again five minutes later and Dumbledore, Bones and Umbridge walked out. Umbridge looked a little less certain than before, Sarah noticed.
"Ah. Kingsley, Williamson. Excellent timing." Madam Bones commented, and Sarah turned around to see the two Aurors walking the last few steps of the corridor to them.
"I live to please, Ma'am." The redhead, Williamson, replied. He had a slow drawl and a calm tone, and Sarah wondered if gaining it was part of Auror training, since Kingsley had the same manner of speech. Then again, Tonks was hyperactive and Mad-Eye was insane, so maybe not. A cool insane maybe, but still. The man needed therapy. Sarah managed to get her thoughts back on track in time to see Williamson hand Madam Bones something with a quiet mumble of words, and Kingsley shift in a manner that suggested that he was covering the exit.
"Ah." Madam Bones said quietly, holding up a very recognisable quill pen. Sarah felt a shiver run up her spine, and Umbridge went a sickly white.
"Well, Dolores. If this was found in your office, I'd say you have some questions to answer." Madam Bones said, her voice quiet and steely. Umbridge replied after only a second, but her discomfort was obvious in her pale face.
"The brat must have planted it in my office! She's trying to discredit me, Amelia!" Umbridge gasped out. Madam Bones raised an eyebrow. At least, that was what Sarah assumed she was going for: what she actually did was a single eye frown, squinching the brow around her monocle. Sarah supposed that actually raising her eyebrow would cause the monocle to fall. Although why Madam Bones couldn't simply raise the other eyebrow-
Once again, Sarah forced her wandering thoughts back into focus. Now was not a time to get distracted, especially as Madam Bones was speaking.
"Well, Dolores, there is a simple way to test the truth of that." The Head of Magical Law Enforcement noted. In a brisk motion Madam Bones pulled out a wand and swept it in a pattern unfamiliar to Sarah, who watched with interest. The pattern ended with a prod at the quill, which glowed a lime green. Sarah looked around, and had to forcibly repress a squeak of surprise as she saw that she was also glowing, as were Orion and Umbridge.
"Well," Madam Bones commented quietly, "It would seem that you have at least touched this quill. And considering that Kingsley and Williamson found it in your office, and assure me that it has the effect Rita claimed, I believe that we will need to have a rather longer talk. At the Ministry."
Umbridge opened her mouth, but seemed to realise that it was hopeless. Either that or she simply lacked the will to defy Madam Bones- Sarah wasn't entirely sure which. Or it could have been a mix of both- Sarah wasn't sure she could have mustered the will to defy the Head of Magical Law Enforcement at that moment. Hopefully only Umbridge would be taken to the Ministry. Sarah didn't really fancy the idea of a more intense questioning session than the one she had already gone through, though really she wasn't certain that being asked a single question by Madam Bones counted as a questioning session. It had been quite calm and relaxed, actually, and Sarah was grateful for it. Madam Bones turned her gaze to Sarah, and a chill raced up her spine.
"I do not believe that I will need to speak further to Mr Argent or Miss Potter," Bones said, turning her gaze to Dumbledore, "But I assume that you will allow me to speak to them if I require?"
Dumbledore nodded, and Madam Bones nodded sharply.
"Very well. Dolores, let us return to the Ministry." She said calmly, and Umbridge reluctantly followed the Head of the Department of Magical Law, the two Aurors picking up the rear as the group walked towards the Headmaster's office. Sarah let out a slow breath, and let herself relax. As a result, she flinched sharply when she looked across and saw the sharp gaze that Dumbledore was directing upon her. Sarah hastily tried to salvage the situation, looking back and attempting a smile.
"Ah…that was unexpected, sir." She said. From the corner of her eye she saw Orion drop his head into his left hand, and mentally cursed. Fortunately, Dumbledore smiled.
"It was indeed, Miss Potter. You performed admirably, however." He replied. Sarah felt her heart rate slow from a panicked race to merely alarmingly quick, and broke eye contact with her Headmaster.
"Well, Miss Potter, Mr Argent, I believe you have classes to attend?" the old man prompted, and Orion grabbed her and pulled her away, leaving a smiling Dumbledore and a mildly disapproving McGonagall behind.
"That was far more traumatic than I expected." Orion noted happily as he dragged Sarah along. Sarah made a slight whining noise of protest, but decided not to resist.
"Do you think we'll have gotten rid of her for good?" she asked. Orion slowed slightly and let her go as they reached a good distance from Dumbledore and McGonagall.
"I…don't think so, no. Unfortunately, she has too many friends in high places. But that isn't really the point. Regardless of whether she comes back or not, we'll have planted some seeds of doubt, and she won't have nearly as much free-reign. Plus, it'll damage the image of Fudge and the Ministry, so we might have a less effective smear campaign against us." He eventually said. Sarah nodded quietly, her mind turning to something else.
"Orion…did you ever visit my parent's grave?" she asked. Orion actually stumbled as he missed a step slightly, his already uneven stride worsening.
"I…did, yeah." He said, glancing around them. Fortunately, lessons had already started, and the halls were deserted. Orion sighed, drawing his wand and casting a spell that Sarah recognised as Muffliato before continuing.
"It didn't go very well. I was on the run, went there to see the graves. It was just me and Hermione, but Voldemort had staked the place out with his pet snake. I got jumped when I wandered off and got my arm broken in the fight. Why ask?"
Sarah glanced down at her feet, a little hesitant.
"I wanted to know…I want to visit the grave. And from what you said, if I wait I may never get the chance." She said quietly. Orion gazed at her, his expression serious.
"You aren't wrong, I suppose. I've no doubt that even if we are allowed to go we'll need an Order escort, but asking the Headmaster can't help."
"We?" Sarah questioned. Orion gave her a slight smile, edged with a sort of sadness.
"Yes, we. I'm hardly going to let you go alone." He said gently.
Sarah dreamed. In some way she understood that the dream was not hers, not really: in all honesty, even to her sleep-fogged mind the definitely gothic surroundings and the presence of a deferential Lucius Malfoy were a warning, but she somehow found herself unable to wake. Perhaps it was some sick fascination, or maybe some fear that dragging herself into wakefulness would have repercussions, but she let herself remain. Watching. Listening.
The voice that should have been hers was soft, sibilant: a quiet, menacing whisper. That cemented her realisation. Either the Hogwarts House Elves had served something hallucinogenic at dinner, or she was seeing from Voldemort's eyes in her dream. Sarah wasn't actually sure which one was worse.
"My Lord?" asked the blond Death Eater. His voice was smooth, silken, with a deferential edge. Sarah wondered how he managed it, to suppress the monstrous pride she had always seen in the Malfoy family. Then again, Voldemort was terrifying. Few arrogances could stay strong before the aura of power and malice the Dark Lord exhibited.
"Fetch Wormtail for me, Lucius. I have a task to carry out, and I will require his services."
Sarah wondered if Lucius Malfoy felt any spite over being used as a mere messenger, his pride wounded by the disregard Voldemort showed towards him. If he did, he hid it well as he backed from the room. Sarah's vision, restricted to what Voldemort saw, abruptly tilted down, showing her long, pale fingers, slowly caressing a wand of pale wood. Fortunately- or unfortunately, perhaps, given that this would be an excellent opportunity to gather information- Sarah couldn't feel Voldemort's emotions, a sign that her Occlumency training hadn't been entirely useless. At least, that was what she thought. Her vision tilted up again, showing a plump, balding man walking nervously into the room.
"My Lord?" Wormtail asked timidly. Sarah's view tilted slightly as Voldemort stood.
"Follow me, Wormtail." He ordered, striding from the large room. The throne room, Sarah decided. Personally she felt that it was a bit stupid to call Wormtail to the throne room and then go somewhere else rather than telling Wormtail to meet at the destination, but she supposed that was why Voldemort was a Dark Lord and she wasn't. It was the little things, after all. Eventually Voldemort and Wormtail came to a large room that seemed to be equipped as a Potions laboratory, with many filled flasks and a large cauldron in the centre. Voldemort strode over to the flasks and picked two up: they were filled with a murky, glutinous looking potion. From experience, Sarah could see that it was Polyjuice.
"Aren't you going to ask me why I have brought you here, Wormtail?"
Voldemort spoke in a quiet voice that might have been reasonable, had it not been for the tone of underlying condescension and cold spite. In particular, the name Wormtail had a malicious bite to it. Wormtail replied quietly, with a bare hint of stutter.
"No, My Lord. I am at your service, whatever you require."
Voldemort laughed, high pitched and cruel. Wormtail cringed noticeably, and Sarah, astonishingly, felt pity. What had Voldemort done to Pettigrew to elicit such a reaction?
"At my service. Ah, Wormtail, such a loyal little rodent. Feel honoured, Wormtail. I have need of you, to free my greatest servants."
Pettigrew had gone a sick, terrified white, and Sarah could empathise. Voldemort's greatest servants also happened to be his cruellest, and Pettigrew did not seem popular among his fellows. On the other hand, Pettigrew was a traitor and a coward, so Sarah didn't feel that sorry for him. Voldemort thrust a flask of Polyjuice towards Pettigrew, the liquid inside now a deep burgundy- he must have added a hair without Sarah noticing, though she wasn't entirely sure how that worked given that she was seeing what he saw.
"Do not drink yet, Wormtail. Azkaban will be first." Voldemort commanded, and Pettigrew slowly lowered the flask. Carefully, the Death Eater removed a cork from a shelf and sealed the flask before tucking it into his robes under the gaze of his Master. As soon as the flask was stowed Voldemort gripped Pettigrew by the arm and the world vanished in the twisting whirl of Apparition. Upon landing Pettigrew lurched away, retching, and Voldemort laughed softly, amused at the discomfort of his follower.
"Drink once you are able, Wormtail. We have little time." He said. Wormtail turned a look on him, but there was just a hint of hatred in the frightened gaze. Sarah could feel the satisfaction Voldemort took in that powerless rage, and it disgusted her. For a moment she hoped that Pettigrew would find the courage he must have possessed to be placed in Gryffindor, courage to defy his Lord, but the moment faded quickly and Pettigrew hunched back into himself and raised the flask to his mouth, a broken shell of a man.
Voldemort watched, amusement lacing him at the pathetic sight, before taking out his own flask of Polyjuice and downing the dark blue liquid inside. Sarah could feel his disgust at the ploy he had to carry out, but she could see his reasoning. He had personal power, but only that. Until his loyal army was ready once more, stealth and cunning must serve where might would fail. Sarah could not see who Voldemort had turned into, but Pettigrew was recognisable: plump and short, the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Voldemort laughed again- the voice of the person he now wore was deeper and richer than the high, sibilant hiss that was Voldemort's normal voice, but that somehow made the malice in it more threatening.
"Do not think too highly of yourself, Wormtail. I merely require more freedom than…that…can afford. I assume you know of Auror Williamson?"
"The usual bodyguard to the Minister of Magic." Wormtail whispered, his timidity somehow not appearing unusual on the normally blustering Fudge. It was a little bizarre, however. Sarah felt Voldemort smile.
"Indeed. And who would ever think to delay the Minister and his loyal guard entry? Do you know where we are, Wormtail?"
Condescending. That was the only word Sarah could use for the tone Voldemort was taking, although she was surprised that he was talking so much. Maybe it was because he was talking to Pettigrew.
"The…the Auror evidence store. Kept separate from the Ministry. Five Auror guards." Wormtail said quietly, his voice shaking only a little. Sarah wondered how he knew.
"Yes." Voldemort said softly, elongating the word into a hiss that sounded wrong in the voice of Auror Williamson. The Dark Lord gestured to Wormtail.
"Lead on." He murmured. Sarah now found herself caught in a dilemma. Did she tear herself away from this, wake up, and hope that she could relay information to Dumbledore in time for it to have an effect? Or did she hold her nerve, wait and see if she could find more useful information? Insidiously, her logic took over, and she chose the second option with a feeling of self-disgust beginning in herself. Voldemort followed the Fudge appearing Wormtail – Fudgetail? - towards a building that, at least to Sarah, looked a lot like a derelict police station. How very…well, either appropriate or stereotypical. Both, maybe. The pair walked up to the boarded up door, and Wormtail leaned against it and murmured something too faint for Sarah to hear. A password? Whatever the case, the door swung open and the Dark Lord and the Death Eater walked in. There were two Aurors inside: a thickset, balding man seated behind a reception desk and a wiry blond leaning against the wall.
"Minister?" the balding man said, hastily standing. "I did not expect to see you here-"
The word was said very quietly, but with a firmness to it, and the blond man slumped slightly before straightening. The balding Auror didn't appear to have noticed anything, caught up in speaking to Wormtail and hearing the replies, and he didn't pay any attention when the blond slowly raised a wand in a trembling hand.
"Avada Kedavra." The blond Auror whispered, his voice shaking as he vainly fought against the Imperius. A streak of green, and the balding man crumpled like a puppet whose strings had been cut.
"Wormtail. Remain here. If any of the other Aurors should approach, kill them. Do not fail me." Voldemort ordered, striding into the station with the blond Auror as a guide. Sarah wanted to close her eyes, but she was trapped into seeing what Voldemort saw. The Dark Lord strode purposefully through the corridors, following the blond Auror. Twice they came across another Auror, and each time the Polyjuice disguise allowed Voldemort to get close until he could cast his spell. Another flicker of green, another body left in the wake of the Dark Lord. Sarah forced down the urge to vomit, to sob and scream, because now she needed to watch. All her self-recrimination could wait. Finally, they came to a large door. It was remarkably old fashioned: wood and steel, barring the way. Voldemort simply waited as the blond Auror fumbled with a set of keys and snapped open the door. The room within was dark, and Voldemort didn't enter, but the Auror walked in and returned several minutes later with several wands, bundled together and tied with string. He handed them to Voldemort, and Sarah realised that the man had sealed his own death warrant. Another flash of green light, and the man fell dead. Voldemort laughed to himself, high and cold, and turned away without a second glance at the man he had killed. Voldemort strode from the evidence room, the stolen wands tucked inside his room, and moved swiftly through the hallways. He turned a corner and stopped suddenly as he came face to face with a man that Sarah vaguely recognised.
"Ah, Auror Dawlish" Voldemort practically purred. The man lurched backwards, clutching for his wand as he stared at what must have been a nightmarish mirror, and Voldemort lazily raised his yew wand.
The spell was spoken quietly, but with an absolute aura of command. Dawlish wobbled, his face reddening and his eyes flickering open and shut, and Sarah realised that he must be fighting it. Voldemort leaned forwards.
"Fascinating. But insufficient." He murmured, looking more closely at the strain Dawlish showed.
Something in Sarah gave, and she knew that she had to wake up, to tell Dumbledore what Voldemort was doing. Had done. She strained to force herself awake, to drag herself away from the nightmare that was really happening, and nothing happened. If she could have screamed she would have. She had never really paid any attention to the fact that she barely existed like this, that she was just a passenger behind Voldemort's eyes, but it hit her hard. Sarah felt herself start to panic, the helplessness washing over her in a silent wave for an instant before it was swamped by a blazing rage. Always Voldemort. Always, he took away her chance to live as she wanted. To be free of the creeping, crawling fear that she would lose everyone she cared about. Always, she bore the weight of his enmity on her shoulders, and she was tired of it. Fury washed over her and she welcomed it, submerged herself in it, used it to fuel her struggle, and she could feel herself tearing free. Voldemort staggered slightly, his vision wobbling, and she felt a vicious satisfaction run through her. She hoped it hurt, but from the way the vision stabilised she suspected it was a false hope. Blackness twisted across her vision, and she could feel her mind returning to herself.
Sarah snapped awake as she crashed to the floor. A grunt was driven from her by the impact of falling out of bed, but she paid it no mind as she scrambled to her feet. Fortunately, it seemed that she hadn't woken the others in her dormitory- not that she really expected to have, they were all heavy sleepers. Well, maybe not Hermione. Speaking of whom…
"Sarah?" Hermione whispered, concern in her voice. Sarah glanced at her friend as she hastily dressed.
"Hermione. I…I saw something. Voldemort. I have to speak to Dumbledore." She said. Hermione hesitated for only a moment.
"I'll come with you." She said firmly. Sarah blinked.
"You don't have-"
"I wasn't asking." Hermione replied firmly. Sarah nodded sharply.
"I'll meet you in the Common Room." She said softly, hurrying through the door and snagging the communication mirror and her Invisibility Cloak on her way.
"Orion. Orion!" she hissed into the mirror, but there was no response. Sarah bit her lip, thinking. It was night. Deep night, and Orion would almost certainly be asleep. Evidently he wasn't going to wake easily, and raising her voice loudly enough to be certain would awaken more than him. Sarah shook her head silently. It didn't matter, she decided. She could report this to Dumbledore on her own…assuming that the Headmaster was still awake himself. Sarah cursed inwardly. Still, she could only try. As soon as Hermione came down the stairs Sarah stepped close to her and threw the Cloak over them both.
"This makes me nostalgic." Sarah mumbled as they hurried down a corridor.
"Oh?" Hermione mumbled. Sarah nodded.
"First Year 'till Third. Our little group adventures, saving the school without a second thought."
Sarah paused to smile, a little ruefully.
"Those were good times. Before everything got so serious."
Hermione laughed, very quietly.
"I'd say that they were still serious, Sarah. Voldemort. Quirrel. The Basilisk, werewolves and Dementors."
"Basilisks and werewolves and Dementors, oh my." Sarah mumbled automatically. She sighed.
"I guess you're right. But it seems less serious, looking back. Sure, it was scary and dangerous, but it didn't have…the world seemed a lot brighter back then, is what I'm saying."
Sarah could almost feel the sympathetic gaze her friend was giving her.
"You sound so old, you know that? Things will get better, Sarah. Voldemort won't be around for ever." Hermione said, and Sarah nodded slowly. That was true, she supposed, but sometimes the effort of it all seemed a lot to bear. Nevertheless, she continued on. It was, she had realised, one of her key traits as a person: she kept going. No matter what, she would never stop. If she was to be halted, death would be required, and Orion could reinforce her point. Willing to die he might have been, but at the end of a long road when his principles had been shattered and cast aside, and there was no foe left for him to cast down. Sarah smiled tightly, letting the warmth of that realisation wash over her. Voldemort would fall eventually, fall before her. She knew it in her bones.
Dumbledore, as it turned out, was not awake at such a late time of night, but he woke quickly, opening his office door while clad in what Sarah assumed to be a night robe- pink with bright yellow pineapples- and fluffy slippers. Sarah approved- if you were going to be garish then go the full way. As soon as Sarah began explaining he ushered the two of them into the room and listened carefully to what Sarah had seen.
"Troubling. Very troubling." The Headmaster said, his long fingers steepled before him and his eyes missing most of their customary sparkle.
"It is, perhaps, not so surprising that you would still be drawn into Voldemort's mind, given what Orion and Theia have theorised about your…connection. But to find it difficult to escape again? Curious, and not something seen in Legilimency. However, your particular case is unusual, to say the least."
Sarah nodded silently, waiting. Dumbledore sighed deeply.
"I shall investigate what Voldemort has been doing, Miss Potter, but I fear that the Ministry will not be cooperative. I suspect he is preparing to free some of his more devoted followers from Azkaban, if what you saw is correct, and I shall endeavour to prevent that from happening, whenever he decides to make his move."
The old man looked up, and offered her a gentle smile.
"You may have saved many lives by your actions tonight, Sarah, especially if we can prevent Azkaban from being breached."
Sarah flushed slightly.
"It's nothing special, I just-"
"Demonstrated the strength to drag yourself free of Voldemort once more, Sarah, overcoming a will that, even if not focused upon you, is singularly formidable. Do not mistake the value of what you have told me." The Headmaster said. He smiled again, his eyes twinkling once more.
"I am sure you will be glad to know that I have managed to arrange a visit to Godric's Hollow for you and Orion. Next weekend, as it happens, and I have arranged Remus Lupin to be your escort. Now, I think it is best that you return to your bed: I have much to do if I am to act of what you have told me."
"Um…yes. Thank you, Professor Dumbledore. Goodnight, Professor Dumbledore." Sarah and Hermione chorused, before hurrying off, back to the Gryffindor Tower.
Sarah had not expected Godric's Hollow to be so…quaint. Orion seemed oddly quiet as he looked around the streets, before he eventually spoke.
"Hmm. The village seems much less menacing when you aren't being pursued by Death Eaters." He commented, walking alongside Lupin towards the graveyard in the town.
"I can imagine." Sarah said softly. She was, herself, in a subdued mood- it was, perhaps, to be expected when she was walking towards the graves of her parents. Orion gently touched her arm, and gave her a slight smile that she returned whole-heartedly. Yes, it hurt a little, but she was not bereft of family. Lupin was quiet as well, contemplative almost, and Sarah wondered if he had visited before. It was not long before they passed through the town and into the graveyard, ignoring the ruined house that Sarah had spent the first months of her life in and which was now a monument to her parents. That could wait until later.
"There." Orion said quietly. He pointed with his hand, and Sarah followed the indicator to a single headstone. White marble, seeming to shine even in the watery sunlight, and she told herself that the moisture in her eyes was from the gleam of it. The inscription was quite simple.
James Potter, born 27 March 1960, died 31 October 1981
Lily Potter, born 30 January 1960, died 31 October 1981
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Sarah crouched before the headstone, her fingers slowly tracing the words of the inscription. Very slowly she leaned her head forwards, her hair hiding her now watering eyes as she rested her forehead against the cold stone. Orion rested his hand on her shoulder- it had to be him, there was a weight to his silver hand that normal limbs lacked.
"Just like I remembered." Orion said quietly, his voice rough somehow, as though it was a strain to get the words out. Sarah was unsure how long she crouched there, letting her tears fall and soak onto the ground while Orion stood protectively at her back, but eventually she ran out of sorrow and stood slowly. She was about to speak to Orion when a horrible, cackling voice sounded from behind her.
"Well well well, two Mudbloods and a werewolf traitor. The dark Lord will be pleased with this catch!"
Very slowly, Sarah turned and saw three people, all in ragged robes and with unhealthy, gaunt faces. Even so decayed, though, she recognised the woman and two men. Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband and his brother. Bellatrix and the other two leered at her, and Sarah felt a mixture of rage and fear boil inside her, even as Orion spoke very, very quietly.
"The Lestranges. Ah, Hell."