Harry Potter
The Secret Promise

I don't own any of it. Legally – JK Rowling (and a few others) own all the rights. I don't even claim "ownership" over the ideas – most are heavily influenced by several of the wonderful writers that responded to Severitus' challenge before me and got me addicted to them.

At the end of GoF, Harry is sent home for a very specific reason – it is time for the secrets of Harry's past to end, for a new journey to begin and for old friendships to be tested, new friendships to be formed. And, as always, Dumbledore is right, only through friendship, trust and love will the treat of Voldemort be ended. This is a response to Severitus' challenge. Part One of a two-part (maybe three-part story)

Severitus' Challenge elements:

Severus is Harry's (biological) father. Remus Lupin returns to Hogwarts Harry must gradually, physically change starting on his birthday.

To my sister, for being patient and being responsible for my general Harry Potter addition – and for reading this story first and giving me feedback.

To Serenity – for being an amazing Beta reader, for not being skittish and telling me what she really thinks. A fan fiction writer's best friend is a beta reader willing to highlight an entire paragraph and say "Hello! Did we forget to explain something? Cause this makes NO sense!"

And finally
To Severitus – for dreaming up this challenge in the first placed. I had to go and start reading your story, had to go get addicted – now I am writing one myself. GRRRRRR….

Author's Note:
There are many things in my story that will probably strike you as familiar. Some of the elements are intentional – a kind of shout out to those authors; a thank you for their story. Others are completely unintentional and I can only say that your stories have saturated my brain.

Chapter One:
Out of Darkness

The Ministry of Magic had proclaimed a day of celebration. You-Know-Who was gone and his Death Eaters had been rounded up and taken to Azkaban. The Ministry had declared that the Boy-Who-Lived was safe and happy.

Arabella knew that throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its grounds, the staff and students reveled and bon fires blazed. Even here, high in her favorite tower, where she had spent countless hours with Lily and Severus during their years as students she could hear the faint echoes of their merriment.

She should be among them, celebrating what was supposed to be a joyous day. Arabella had worked long and hard to ensure this day; as an Auror assigned to assist with Hogwart's security and as a member of the Order of the Phoenix.

Instead, Arabella paced alone atop the tower, her black woolen cloak barely a defense against the bitter cold of the late November night. She fervently wished, if only for a moment, the frigid winds that whipped around the parapets and towers of the school would change direction and blow through the halls and grounds that were now occupied by those celebrating. That, for just a short time, those revelers could understand the dire cost that bought their joyous day.

Finally, Arabella stopped her pacing at the edge of the tower. She stared out over the turbulent lake, concentrating on the howling winds. The rushing of the water against the cliffs below her seemed to buffet against her own heart and soul, wearing away the anger and frustration that held her fragile heart and soul together.

Slowly, she slumped against the wall, sliding to her knees, her forehead pressed against the hard, cold stone. Her breathing became increasingly ragged as wave after wave of despair battered her.

Pulling herself to her feet, she stumbled away from the wall only to crumple to the floor of tower roof. Sitting there, her body shaking with grief, she huddled under her cloak, clutching a small, black leather photo album to her chest. Unable to do anything else, Arabella stared blindly ahead, her cries echoing the howling of the winds as she rocked herself slowly, back and forth.

Arabella had come back this night in the hopes of finding some relief and comfort in her memories of happier times. In the end, she was only able to grieve.

She quickly realized that nothing, not even memories could shelter her from the desolation that racked her very soul. Desperately, she struggled against the urge to sink forever into her memories; to use her gift to literally relive her favorite moments on this roof, moments long past. All she had to do was close her eyes, focus on a memory and whisper a simple charm.

Just one word and she would experience again her wedding day or the day she used the charm that bound her to Harry as his godmother. Just one word and she could relive any one of the memories of her and her two best friends, Lily and Severus. The memories that haunted every corner of this school, where they had spent much of their lives.

Curling her legs into her chest, Arabella let herself finally cry. She wanted the door to open. She wanted her best friend, her husband, to sit beside her and pull her into his arms like he had so many times before. She wanted to hear his heartbeat beneath her ear as she clutched to him. She wanted to be rocked and soothed, to hear that deep, rich voice whisper to her again. She wanted to hear his voice tremble slightly as it always did when one of "his girls" was hurting. She wanted him to tell her it was all a bad dream; that it was going to be okay again.

But he couldn't do those things. Like James and Lily, Severus was dead. He was lost in a Death Eater raid.

One by one, she'd lost them all.

The evening before Halloween, she opened her door to her quarters to find Dumbledore and her twin brother, Sirius, standing in the hall. It was only Sirius' strong arms that keep her upright when Dumbledore had placed Severus wedding band in her hands and told her he was dead.
Less than forty-eight hours later, even that solace was denied her. Lily and James Potter were dead at the hands of Voldermort and her much-loved twin, Sirius, had been declared a mass murderer and a traitor.

Now, two weeks later, the last of her hopes lay shredded in Dumbledore's office. The Ministry had denied her at every turn. First, her requests to speak to her brother fell on deaf ears. They had not even afforded Sirius a trial before condemning him to the hell of Azkaban. Then the Ministry declared her of questionable loyalty due to her connection to the "betrayer" and to a known Death Eater. These two factors made her unfit in their eyes to raise "The Boy Who Lived." The Ministry ignored her position of Godmother, ignored James and Lily's own stated preferences. Even Dumbledore sided with them. He believed it was in Harry's best interest to be with Lily's sister, where he could grow up a "normal" boy.

Arabella's sobs became harsher at the thought of that precious boy being condemned to live with hateful muggles like Petunia, without the kind of love he deserved. What good was his safety if he didn't have someone to hold him, to soothe away his nightmares and tell him the truth about those who loved him most?

Sometime, close to dawn, her tears dried, leaving behind only a dull ache in the center of her chest. Arabella continued to lie on the tower roof floor, listening the waves that rushed against the shore below, not ready to pull herself from the stone floor, not yet ready to say good-bye to this world.

As her mind began to clear and she knew there was nothing she could do now for Severus or Sirius. But Harry still needed her. Closing her eyes one final time, she let the grief well up, it choked her as she said her silent good-byes to the two men she loved, asking silently for Sirius to forgive her for leaving him to Azkaban. Pushing herself to her feet, she walked stiffly to the edge of the tower wall and watched as the sun slowly crept over the horizon.

Drained and numb but determined, she opened the photo album she still held close to her heart and removed one of two letters. Carefully, she detached a photo from her album, and tucked it inside the envelope that contained a final letter and wedding band and was marked in clear script - Severus. Whispering one final "I love you," she pulled out a loose stone from the tower wall and tucked the envelope behind it. It was the closest to a grave she could give him.

Taking one final look around, Arabella whispered her renewed promised to the ghosts of this place. She'd protect Harry, she would love him and when the time was right, she'd tell him all about his parents and the people who loved him. When he was ready, she'd tell him the truth they'd been so careful to hide.