A/N: Welcome to Part Two! Very excited to begin this portion of our story, which will follow Harry through the summer and his third year at Hogwarts. As a preliminary note, I realise this first chapter is short – very short, really, in comparison to my usual length. However, it serves as a prologue for much of the rest of this book, the set-up of an important tension, and an introduction to another POV character. It's also an exploration of past events that I have been sitting on for some time, and this felt like the right place to publish it. Any longer, and I feel that the impact would be spoiled. But don't worry – the next chapter will be longer, and return us to present day.
With that – on with Child of Hogwarts, Part Two: The Marauder Legacy!
DISCLAIMER: Any and all familiar characters and story lines are the property of the wonderful Joanne Rowling, in whose world I am honoured and privileged to have an opportunity to play for a while.
Chapter 1: 31 October, 1981
'Wormtail, open up!' Sirius called, pounding on the door again. The unusually blustery night roared around him, sending batches of dried and decaying leaves rustling down the darkened street. The wind whipped at Sirius' robes and shoulder-length black hair as he stood on the weathered steps of the dingy little terrace house. He glanced nervously about him – it was not wise to linger overlong on doorsteps these days, even in primarily Muggle neighbourhoods.
Growling his annoyance, Sirius pulled his wand discreetly, casting a cloaking spell at the flying motorbike he'd used to get to the house to hide it from Muggle eyes. He muttered a charm at the door handle. The lock clicked free, and Sirius pushed his way into the front hall.
The house was quiet and dark, an ominous feeling of abandonment permeating the place.
'Wormtail?' Sirius called again, more quietly. The hairs on the back of his neck were beginning to rise. There was no reply. Scowling, Sirius made his way through to the kitchen. A half-eaten casserole lay forgotten on the counter, a full goblet of wine beside it. There was no sign of his friend.
'Homenum revelio,' he muttered, swishing his wand through the air.
His sense of apprehension mounting, Sirius tore through the little house, checking the two bedrooms… the sitting room… the loo. There was no sign of Wormtail in any of them; nor could he find a trace of explanation, or even signs of a struggle. Perhaps Wormtail had merely stepped out for some reason? But that made no sense – he was supposed to be here tonight, they'd arranged it specifically. And Wormtail knew the risks of running off on his own… surely even he would not be that senseless. In all the time he had known him, Sirius never knew Wormtail to not take great care with his own life.
Something was terribly wrong.
The shooting pain in his arm jolted Severus from his musings, as he sat brooding over a Hallowe'en goblet of wine in the Great Hall. Most of the students had already headed off for bed, but the staff was lingering at the feast, drawing some small measure of cheer from the annual celebration. Severus, who could find precious little to rejoice in amidst his constant battle with anxiety, was merely stalling his return to the lonely dungeons. The summons was hardly surprising, given the pattern of his life these past years. He snarled, clamping a hand down on his left forearm and shooting a dark look at Albus. The headmaster nodded his understanding, and Severus excused himself quickly from dinner.
As he swept through the entrance hall and out into the deserted grounds, Severus tore up the sleeve of his robes. He could usually tell the urgency of the summons by the intensity of the burn and the shade of the Mark on his arm. This time, however, the sight brought him to a halt. He stared down at his arm in shock, rubbing at the skin. The mark was fading before his eyes, almost as if it were dissolving into new flesh. It did not disappear entirely, but the deepness of the black became steadily greyer – until Severus knew the casual observer would not have noticed its presence at all.
Bewildered, Severus spun to return to the hall, intent on showing the phenomenon to Albus – to demand an explanation. But before he could take his first step, a little silver newt darted past him toward the school. Severus froze. He recognised the patronus. It belonged to Bathilda Bagshot, a periphery member of the Order of the Phoenix who resided, if Severus remembered accurately, in Godric's Hollow. She was very old, and a touch scatter-brained in her advanced age. Dumbledore always spoke quite fondly of her, but she had not been active in any Order business since Severus had become privy to their confidences. They had used her house occasionally as a temporary safe house, usually for treating the injured when Hogwarts was too far a journey to make. But they hadn't even utilised her services for that, of late. Not since… not since…
And Severus felt suddenly as if he'd slammed hard into a solid brick wall. He staggered on his feet.
Not since the Potters had gone into hiding.
Had Dumbledore hidden them with her? Or in Godric's Hollow, perhaps?
Severus knew the place the Potters were hidden had been under the greatest of protections – the Fidelius charm. It should have been impenetrable… unless the Secret-Keeper had turned traitor. But Black, as much as Severus despised him, worshipped James Potter.
And yet, the faded mark… Bathilda's urgent patronus…
Severus broke into a flat-out run, hurrying for the iron gates and the end of the apparition boundary. He had to see – had to check.
Severus reappeared less than a minute later, in the middle of the high street of Godric's Hollow. He didn't know where it was he was headed, exactly, but he dashed off toward Bathilda Bagshot's home, hoping it might be a starting point. He passed a few straggling Muggle children in costume as he ran – the oldest of the trick-or-treaters, he suspected. They laughed as he dashed past him, probably assuming he was some sort of Hallowe'en spectre, in his sweeping black robes and buckled boots. He paid them no mind – those oblivious fools for whom magic did not exist but for the pages of fantasy and legend. In times like these, he coveted their ignorance.
As he turned down the alley that would take him to the historian's cottage, he was brought up short. Several houses down, something was off. The little cottage there stood in ruin, the bricks blown apart and scattered. Severus knew instinctively that this was the reason for the message – and he knew what he would find inside.
He slowed his pace, unease mounting as he approached the destroyed cottage. The first thing he saw as he crossed the demolished threshold was the lifeless form of James Potter, splayed out on the ground like a discarded figurine. He stepped over the body of his one-time rival, sparing barely a glance for his frozen eyes.
He darted his gaze around the sitting room and kitchen, but no other occupants appeared. Two forgotten wands lay upon the sofa, one very familiar. The knot in Severus' chest tightened again at the sight of the polished willow. As he turned for the stairs, however, he heard it.
A child's cry.
Severus froze with a foot on the first step. He did not want to look upon this child – did not want to see… but he had to know. He had to find Lily.
Swallowing his anxiety, he raced up the steps.
He found the correct room at once. The door had been blasted apart. Boxes and furniture were strewn about haphazardly, suggesting a makeshift barrier that had been entirely ineffectual. The outer wall of the nursey was a gaping, crumbling hole; the autumn night's air chilling the temperature of the room. A very small child stood in the little cot, holding himself up against the bars, crying and screaming at his imprisonment and, perhaps, in fear. Severus noticed that the baby had a curious lightning bolt-shaped cut on his forehead, still bleeding slightly. The boy stopped his carrying on for a moment as Severus crossed the threshold, staring intently at him through very familiar, almond-shaped green eyes.
But Severus had eyes only for the form upon the carpet at the foot of the cot.
'Lily,' he cried in horror, throwing himself to the floor at her side. He knew she was gone – had known it from the moment he apparated to this hateful village. She was clothed in Muggle jeans and a lightweight blouse, riding up above her stomach from her fall. Her arms and legs lay at odd angles, one hand spread back toward the cot that held her precious son. Her beautiful red hair covered her face like a shroud, and Severus reached with trembling fingers to comb it gently back. Her gorgeous green eyes came into view at last, their gaze forever fixed and empty, unknowing of his pain and heartbreak.
'Lily, please,' he whispered, running a finger down her cheek. It was still warm, the life only just drained away. But he knew the precious moments between life and death could not be unwound. Not now. The permanence of his mistake was staring him in the face.
Howling his misery, Severus lifted the dead woman's corpse from the floor; cradling her beloved form in his arms, burying his face in her sweet-smelling hair. He cemented the feeling in his mind forever – holding this woman he loved; this woman he had killed, with his foolish pride and selfishness. She was gone forever – and it was entirely his fault.
The child started to wail again behind him, but Severus tuned out the noise. He couldn't bring himself to leave Lily. He couldn't let go.
He sat in the room for several long minutes, alone on his island of regret and grief. Then, suddenly, a burst of bright bluish light glared through the remnants of the outer wall, startling Severus from his anguish. He whipped his head around to stare through the gaping hole, onto the street below.
A portkey, he realised, as the massive from of Rubeus Hagrid regained his balance on the street. Dumbledore must have sent him, to see to the child. The villagers would not be long in swarming now – it was not all that late, after all, and death and destruction called to onlookers like sugar to wasps.
He could not be found in this place.
Severus gently lowered Lily Evans to the floor again, and tenderly arranged her limbs into a more natural position. He reached out two pale fingers, shutting her eyes forever. He gazed for one long moment at her angelic face, swearing vengeance on his very soul.
And then he disapparated.
Sirius felt his heart pounding in his chest as he brought the motorbike soaring into Godric's Hollow. Somehow, he knew he did not want to see what awaited him below.
As he crested the steeple of the village church, he saw the scene he'd been dreading. He knew at once it was over; that James and Lily were gone; that the charm was broken. If it had not been, he would have been unable to see the devastation before he crossed the property boundary.
This was all his fault.
The house was half-destroyed, rubble and debris littering the little garden and scattered in the street. It looked as though a bomb had gone off in the back of the house, right where – to his mounting horror – he knew Harry's nursey to have been. The room was missing its roof and a portion of the outer wall, giving Sirius a view inside as he hovered lower to the ground. He recognised the massive form of Rubeus Hagrid among the destruction, picking his solitary way through the wreckage. As he brought the motorbike to land on the street, he saw Hagrid stoop down, straightening up with a tiny bundle in his arms.
The baby was wailing – miraculously, incredibly alive; his shrill voice the only disturbance in the stillness of the night. The blustery weather that had plagued the evening had faded now – snuffed out as suddenly as the lives of the people he cherished – leaving only cold and darkness in its wake.
As Hagrid's body turned, Sirius caught a glimpse of dark red hair over his shoulder, and felt another dull blow against his chest.
Sirius brought the bike to a standstill, cutting the engine. He ran for the open door of the house, intent on getting to Hagrid and Harry, but was suddenly distracted by a pale, still figure lying just inside the doorway.
He threw himself down at his best friend's side, though he knew already that it was hopeless. Choking down a sob, he reached a hand up to feel desperately for a pulse at James' throat. The answering stillness was louder than his own heartbeat.
'Oh Jamie, I'm so sorry,' he said quietly, 'This is all my fault.'
He reached up a shaking hand, sliding the lids over James' staring, glassy eyes, just as Hagrid came down the steps.
Sirius straightened from the ground as Hagrid stared at him, trying to block James' body from Harry's view. The little boy reached a pudgy hand toward him immediately, his lower lip still trembling.
' 'Adfoo!' Harry called, opening and closing his tiny fist as he strained in Hagrid's arms.
'Hello, Love,' said Sirius, trying to muster a reassuring smile for the baby. He started toward Hagrid, but the giant took a small step backward, holding Harry firmly against him.
'Hagrid, what has happened here?' Sirius asked.
'You Know Who came fer 'em,' said the giant sadly. Sirius could tell that he was fighting his own grief. 'Blew th' place apart, 'e did. An' poor lit'le Harry, all on his own now.'
'And Voldemort?' Sirius pressed, ignoring Hagrid's wince at the sound of the name.
'Gone,' said Hagrid, shrugging his shoulders. 'Weren' no body or anythin' though.'
Sirius frowned. 'Where's Dumbledore?'
'Had to 'ead off the Ministry,' Hagrid explained, bouncing Harry a bit to calm him, as the little boy continued to sniffle and try to reach Sirius. 'Ole Bathilda sen' word when the blast wen' off, and Dumbledore ran off for the Minister straight away. 'E wanted me ter get Harry out, 'fore they came lookin' fer 'im.'
Sirius nodded his understanding, looking down at the baby. He noticed a lightning-shaped cut across his forehead.
'He's hurt,' Sirius pointed out in concern.
'Jus' a cut, I think,' Hagrid acknowledged. 'Dumbledore'll fix 'im up.'
Sirius stepped forward again, looking intently at the half-giant. 'Give Harry to me Hagrid,' he said, softly. 'It's what Lily and James would have wanted. I'm his godfather. I'll look after him.'
But Hagrid backed away, shaking his head. 'I'm sorry, Sirius, I am,' he said. 'But Dumbledore's instructions were clear. 'E said Harry's ter go ter his aunt and uncle. 'Thas where 'e'll be protected.'
'He's my godson!' Sirius said sharply. 'He should be with me. Lily and James –'
'Are gone,' said Hagrid, not unkindly. 'It's 'orrible, it is, Sirius. But we've gotta listen ter Dumbledore now – fer Harry's sake. And Dumbledore says e's gotta go ter Surrey.'
Sirius hesitated, staring into Harry's beautiful green eyes. He wanted nothing more than to take the child and run – out of the country, if he had to. Away from all this death and destruction. Away from Voldemort, and even from Dumbledore. Lily would not have wanted Harry with her Muggle sister, Sirius was certain. Lily did not even speak to Petunia.
But he knew Hagrid was right. And he trusted in Dumbledore's wisdom.
He sighed. 'Take my bike then, Hagrid,' he said resignedly. 'And you take care with him. It's precious cargo you're transporting.'
Hagrid looked uncertain. 'I can' take it from yeh,' he said. 'Yeh love that motorbike.'
'I won't need it anymore,' Sirius said firmly. He glanced around the deserted street. 'You'd better hurry, before the Ministry or the Muggles start swarming about.'
Hagrid nodded, bundling Harry more securely in the blanket in his arms. Sirius moved in again.
'Just let me say goodbye to him?' he asked sadly. Hagrid nodded, and Sirius leaned over the little boy, brushing the soft down of his hair back from his face. Harry's eyes were drooping now, and Sirius knew he had cried himself into exhaustion. 'I love you, Scamp,' he said softly, stooping to kiss Harry gently on the unmarred side of his forehead.
Then he stepped back, letting Hagrid pass him onto the street. 'Safe travels,' he said, as the giant swung his leg over the seat of the motorbike.
'And ter yeh,' Hagrid replied, nodding solemnly at Sirius. With a roar, he kicked the bike into gear, and shot off into the sky.
Sirius watched them go, fingering the wand in his pocket. The street was awakening now, shouts and mutterings growing louder as curious villagers began to move toward the ruined cottage. He gave one last, devastated glance at the house that held James and Lily's fallen bodies.
And then he turned on the spot and vanished; betrayal, fury, and murder in his heart.
Eleven and a half years later, Severus sat at the same table in the Great Hall, quite alone, contemplating the memories of that night as he considered the child he'd left squalling in his nursery cot. The boy was due to return to the castle any day now.
He poured himself another measure of whisky, trying to dull his mixed emotions with the bracing alcohol. Trying, valiantly, not to think about Harry Potter…
James' son… or Lily's?
Eleven and a half years later, Sirius Black stared down at an unbelievable black and white photograph, memories flooding through his mind as ran long, dirty fingernails across the moving picture. The Minister was long gone, completely unaware of the incredible information he had imparted with this gift.
Sirius had not felt such emotion in years. It burned away the fog of the past decade, clearing his focus. It was not misery he felt now – but purpose, urgency, and hatred. He read the fateful sentence at the end of the article again, one thought planting firmly in his brain.
He's at Hogwarts.