Title: Powers of Dawn and Dusk
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairing: None, gen
Content Notes: Transformation, massive AU (Harry raised by a transformed Walburga Black), angst, canonical character deaths.
Wordcount: This part 5100
Summary: Her husband and one son dead, her other son in prison, Walburga Black sees the end of her family line coming for her, and part of her is grateful. But another part rages and calls out to the powers that exist in the world, powers that are neither of Dark nor Light—and one answers her. A chance to matter remains to her still, if she sheds her bodily form and raises a child powerful enough to defeat the Dark Lord.
Author's Notes: The first in my "From Litha to Lammas" fics, a series of one-shots and shorter fics being posted between the summer solstice and the first of August. This one will have one more part.
Powers of Dawn and Dusk
Walburga stood before the tapestry and stared at it. The death dates glittered at her in silver no matter whether her eyes were closed or open: Orion in 1979, Regulus in the same year. The black blur that was her disgraced elder son was there, too.
Except now it was more disgrace than Walburga had ever dreamed of. Sirius had betrayed his friends, and he was in Azkaban for life. He would sire no child that Walburga might steal away to raise, a child who might be the Black family's redemption.
She had relatives living, still, but all of them were either disgraced, too old to have children, married into other families, or, like Bellatrix, would end their days in Azkaban, too. Walburga sank to the floor, still staring at the tapestry.
Part of her, part of her that had first awakened in the shadows when Regulus's death date appeared, whispered its gladness. Perhaps it all should pass into nothingness, this dusty, moldering glory of gilded chairs and tapestries and oaken wardrobes. Perhaps that was what she had always wanted since she had been born a Black, every move she would make known for years in advance and constrained down to the second. Nothing, from her House at Hogwarts to the man she had married, was a surprise.
But another part of her reared back and screamed.
No. It would not end like this, with the disgraced ones and those who had chosen utterly to turn their backs on their heritage smiling into their soup. Walburga would not have it said that Andromeda Tonks and Narcissa Malfoy were the glory of the Blacks. She would find a way to survive.
But how? The Dark Lord was gone, and the Blacks had hitched their chariot exclusively to his star in the last generation. The Light wizards would gladly enough throw her into prison of they could prove any hint of conspiracy on her part. The Black vaults were low on coin after how much they had hurled into the war. Minister Bagnold was under the influence of others.
Walburga felt a whisper stir to life in the back of her mind. She turned and went to the library, following the promptings of an old memory. Something, there was something. She had stumbled across a book that she had hidden in one of the old cubbyholes that dotted the house. She had known when she found the book that its time was not yet.
She went right to the cubbyhole, and put her hand in. Moldering pages crisped and cracked under her hand and answered her. She drew forth her hand, and a puff of grey dust came with it.
But the book was resistant to decay, and its title still glowed on it in letters of muted silver, more grey than anything else.
The Crepuscular Powers.
Walburga stood on the flat floor of black tiles in the center of the cellar beneath the kitchen. There was no light here except what a wizard or witch brought with them. The tiles shimmered, dully reflective. Walburga could see shadows trying to escape her when she turned her head.
There was no ritual or summoning circle here. The circle was purely the will of the Black who dared to use this place.
Walburga raised her hands. Magic answered her, leaping from the empty torch sconces on the walls to crackle against her fingers in a wave of blue lightning. Walburga kept her voice light and flat as she announced, "I offer myself to the powers of dawn and dusk in exchange for the preservation of my family."
The book was open at her feet. Walburga had silver and ash with her, things of grey that the powers that lived in the shadows between the Dark and the Light might appreciate. But it was her will and her prayer that would make them answer—or not. If she was not sincere, this would fail. If she was venal, she would be consumed by the forces whose attention she had drawn.
But was she not Walburga Black? She waited.
There was a long moment when she thought she would have failed, after all. And then a wind picked up, whirling dust that did not exist in a room like this around the corners. Walburga did not step back, but stared into the center of the dancing air, which coalesced into a whirlwind and then faded away, leaving a figure standing there.
The figure was not human. Walburga had not really expected it to be. The crepuscular powers adopted the shapes of animals, because animals were more focused on the goal of those powers: survival.
She had expected to recognize the shape of the animal, though. This beast looked a little like a dog and a little like a wolf, but was neither. It moved forwards, long-legged and undeniably canine, and sniffed around the black floor as though expecting some food. Then it sat back on its haunches and stared at her. It had a long muzzle and a coat that showed shimmering hints of brown and grey.
"You are a power of Dusk?" Walburga asked, since it was twilight outside.
The thing nodded.
"What are you? What form do you wear?"
"They are beasts called coyotes," said a voice that echoed and whispered from many invisible throats. "Humans in the Americas tried to kill them off. They returned in greater numbers. They walk the human cities there. They intrude even into the magical sanctums. They respond to danger by having more children. They are survivors."
Walburga nodded and said, "You know what I desire."
"You know what you would give up?"
"I am prepared to give more than my life."
The coyote blinked, and the voices seemed to center on it, so that although there were still many, they came more from its throat. "How can there be more than your life in the grip of your will?"
Walburga swallowed. She hated the feeling thrumming through her now, but she would do far more than this for her revenge and the survival of her family. "I am prepared to give my bodily form. To surrender it to you. To become one of you. If will preserve my family in power."
"You do not say—in blood."
"I do not know if that is possible." There was a chance that Sirius would be freed from prison or that the Tonks girl would turn out to be a worthy heir, but Walburga was not prepared to take that chance. "I want power. I want revenge. I want the world to remember that the Blacks existed once and exist still."
"You would become an anonymous power if you became one of us."
"But I would be working for the survival of my family. That would make all the difference."
"You believe there is a decision you could make that would lift you in power?"
"What is it?"
Walburga looked straight into the creature's eyes. "Even powers as distant from the battle of Dark and Light as you are must have heard of the fall of the Dark Lord. No one knows where the boy who caused that fall disappeared to. I would—"
"Take him? Kill him?" The coyote's voices were disapproving. The powers of dawn and dusk killed for food, Walburga knew, and in self-defense, but otherwise, they loathed the notion. They did not fight wars. They did not commit murders. Their priorities were an animal's priorities, and animals did not do those things.
"No. Take him in. Protect him. Help him survive."
"And you would gain—"
"I demand that I be allowed to retain enough of my own name and form to communicate with him, and tell him who is doing this for him. He will be raised as a Black, with my family's traditions. There would be some of us, there would be me, always, who would retain enough to tell him that."
The coyote sat back again and closed its eyes. Walburga waited. She knew it was communing with the powers who were not here at the moment, and she could do nothing to rush that and probably not even something to challenge its decision.
The coyote's eyes snapped open at last, and it said, "You would aid someone else in the name of survival. You would help him live."
"He is the Boy-Who-Lived. We will help him achieve the present tense of his voice."
The powers descended on her.
Walburga screamed once. It hurt, being torn out of her human skin. Old thoughts and perceptions and desires unraveled from her, and she found herself standing, naked and shivering, in the presence of a vast, seething shadow world.
And she understood.
There was life everywhere, flourishing beneath the notice of the great Lords of Light and Dark. What did a weed care for their battles? It grew through the concrete of the Muggle cities just the same. Muggles and wizards alike struggled to eliminate rats, and they flourished and ate and survived. Humans increased their presence and their waste, and wondered—in stupidity—why the numbers of crows increased right along with them. Cities hosted the stray cats, the stalking coyotes, the skulking cockroaches that no one bothered to name. And along with traveling and flying and ocean-going humans spread the diseases that would one day increase to the next great plague that would begin to kill them off.
The powers of dawn and dusk cared nothing for whether some certain members of a species died. They cared for life in general. They cherished the living, not the dead.
And Walburga understood, and she joined them, and she left behind her mourning for the Dark Lord, who was dead. It was the living who concerned her now.
Using the eyes of rats and crows and cockroaches, it was no trouble at all to find him in the Muggle world.
She settled as a crow on the fence of the garden across the street, and watched as the Muggle man and woman went about their day. They were tense and scowling most of the time. They looked around as if they expected something strange to approach them. They did indeed look like Muggles who had adopted a magical child.
Willingly or not, Walburga decided. She had never seen such great Muggles—not that she had seen many before she became part of the powers. But they did not look like those who would love or welcome wonder into their lives.
She waited until the sun began to set, and the powers grew throughout the world, in the creatures of dusk that began to open their eyes, in the stretching shadows, in the combination of light and clouds in the sky. Then she spread her wings and lightly flew across the street, landing near the corner of the house behind a high hedge. She transformed back to a body close to her original one there. But she wore a dress that imitated the Muggle woman's, and she had her dark hair twisted and braided close to her head.
She walked towards the door briskly, no wand in hand, and knocked. She needed no wand now. It puzzled her how she had ever lived with her human body and its limitations.
The Muggle man jerked the door open and growled at her, but she must have matched his version of Mugglehood enough to soothe suspicions. He cleared his throat gruffly. "Yes?"
"I am from nowhere," said Walburga, but thanks to the magic working through her, he would hear the name of a perfectly respectable Muggle organization of some kind. "We are here about the child recently left with you."
The man's face began to turn red, but it was dusk, and Walburga simply stood and looked patiently at him. A second later, the Muggle said pettishly, "What about him?"
"There has been a mistake," Walburga told him. "The child has living relatives who share his peculiar traits and are willing to take care of him. I am here to fetch him."
The man's face immediately turned bright. "Best news I've heard all day!" he said, and stepped back to wave her in. "Come in, come in, please, Mrs., uh—"
"Black," said Walburga, which she knew, thanks to Muggleborn pretenders to her family lineage over the centuries, was a perfectly respectable name in the Muggle world as well. She stepped into the house.
"Black, then." The man grabbed and shook her hand. Walburga felt none of the disgust she would have felt as a human if a Muggle had touched her, but she did feel a certain crawling irritation about this Muggle touching her. "Come in, come in, please have some tea and sit down. PET! Someone's here about the freak!"
The woman came bustling around the corner, wiping her hands off on what looked like a towel. She beamed at Walburga, probably because her dress was the same. Walburga, meanwhile, was wondering why she had wanted to name herself after a domestic animal. "Oh, hello! I'm Petunia Dursley. Welcome to our humble home, Mrs. Black."
"Thank you," Walburga murmured as she touched the woman's hand in turn. This one had a faint, far spark of magic. She was a Squib, and might someday have magical children. But she didn't have enough sympathy with it to be fit for raising a magical child.
"I'll just get my nephew," said Petunia eagerly. "Who are these relatives, did you say?"
The Muggle man turned around and looked as if he was interested in the answer, too. Walburga replied coolly as she kept walking into the kitchen. "Some cousins of his father's. They were far away when his parents died and had not heard about the commotion. But they're back now and willing to take in young Potter."
"You don't know what a relief that is to me," Petunia breathed, a floury hand pressed against her throat. "Thank you, Mrs. Black."
Walburga sat down in an inferior chair and had inferior tea and decidedly inferior conversation with Mr. Dursley while she waited for the child to be fetched. She was doing him a positive favor by getting him away from here, she thought. Harry Potter would grow up in the wizarding world and in the embrace of the powers of dawn and dusk.
Soon enough, Petunia came into the kitchen with a dark-haired toddler behind her. He had brilliant green eyes that Walburga had never seen before. She bent down. "I am Mrs. Black, Harry," she said. "Would you like to come with me?"
The boy just stared at her and said nothing. Mr. Dursley coughed behind his hand. "Afraid the boy's a bit slow," he explained in a booming whisper. "Nothing like our Dudders."
Who has a deeply unfortunate name, as well, Walburga thought, and stood. "Well, there is no reason for us to remain here any longer. Harry's cousins are eager to meet him."
"Of course they are," said Petunia, though her face was twisted, as if she couldn't imagine anyone being eager to greet a magical child. She shoved Harry forwards with her hand between his shoulders. Walburga caught him and hoisted him up on her hip. The Dursleys looked as if they were about to swallow their tongues at the sight of her carrying the child, but Walburga didn't give them the chance to object.
"Thank you for your help, Mr. and Mrs. Dursley," she stated, in the same monotone that would make her seem Muggle to them, and walked out the door.
She waited until she was firmly out of sight to transform into a flock of crows and carry young Harry Potter upwards. She rejoiced in his sharp shriek—of joy, not horror.
They went back to the Black house, but the powers had already been at work on it. The Dark magic had been expelled, and they had healed Kreacher's affliction caused by his exposure to a Dark thing that the rats had carried off to study. The house-elf heads were gone from the walls. The portraits that would try to corrupt any young wizarding child had been put into storage.
The powers did not destroy. They cleansed.
Walburga assumed her human form and ordered Kreacher to prepare a dinner. Potter sat on the other side of the table, eyes huge. He stared at Kreacher as if he didn't know what he was. Then again, his parents in their isolation had likely had no house-elves.
"Ask questions," Walburga said, seating herself opposite Potter.
He only treated her to the same big-eyed stare, and Walburga sighed. She had forgotten that a child this young, of course, would have a limited vocabulary and limited comprehension. The only good thing about that was that he was unlikely to retain any bad impressions from his time with the Dursleys.
"You will have food here," Walburga said, deciding to talk to Potter as though he could understand her. "And you will have a safe place to sleep, and dedicated guardians." She raised her hand, and two of the powers coalesced, one as a crow sitting on her shoulder, the other as a coyote beside the boy's chair.
The boy reached out and embraced the coyote with no sign of doubt. Walburga blinked. Well, perhaps the Potters had had a dog.
"And you will have magic."
The boy looked up at the word. "Magic? Mamma?"
Walburga tilted her head. The word was appropriate for neither the mother she had been when Regulus and Sirius were hers nor the quasi-immortal creature she was now, but it would do for the creature Potter would create mostly in his own imagination until he was old enough to understand.
"Mamma," she agreed.
The boy ate messily, but the coyote patiently licked the sauce off his hands. It was not so intolerable having him here, Walburga reflected.
Harry was learning how to fly.
Walburga stood beside the house and watched him tumble around the air with the crows. It had been a long time, and taken a lot of thinking, until she was willing to let them have Harry to teach. The crows were not careless; none of the powers were. But there was still the chance that an accident might happen, carelessness or not.
Still, Harry was adapting better than many magical children might have if placed in the same circumstances. He woke up in the morning and hugged the coyote the powers had seen fit to give him, and chattered to Walburga about the magic he would learn that day. He ate what Kreacher had made and ran out to the garden. The powers taught him about plants by forming into cockroaches that crawled from leaf to leaf.
Harry's afternoon, after a lunch that was always some kind of sandwich because that was what Kreacher made, was devoted to the study of languages. The powers made his English better, and then started teaching him Latin, and French, and Gobbledegook. Those were the languages they considered most useful: Latin for the betterment of incantations; French for the language of the country he would most likely visit when he first left Britain; Gobbledegook because it was always useful to be able to converse with those who tended your money.
After dinner, lessons varied. Sometimes the powers taught him maths, coyotes holding different amounts of coins in their mouths and picking them up and putting them down based on the answers to equations. Or they took him flying, as they were today. Or they drilled him in the movements of simple spells, and the motions that, someday when Harry was ready, would become more the motions of fighting.
Walburga objected to none of it. She was the one who put Harry to bed and told him stories of the Black family, which someday he would use his glory to restore.
But for now, everything was "someday." It had barely been ten months since Walburga had taken Harry from the Dursleys. They had plenty of time.
One day, Walburga opened the door of the Black house and found Albus Dumbledore standing there. She remembered him from her days as a student at Hogwarts, when he had been the Transfiguration professor, but he had looked different then. She had to blink at him for a long moment before it occurred to her who he must be.
"Oh, hello, professor," she said. "Are you here to visit? I'm afraid that I can't let you use the Black library. Too many of the books are limited to blood family."
"No, I am not here for that. I want to know why your magical signature was found about the home of Harry Potter's Muggle family."
Walburga forbade herself to frown. It seemed that the powers had not changed her magic as much as she had thought. "Well, I went there to visit him, Professor. My son is in prison because he betrayed the Potters. I wanted to see whether it was for a good reason or not. Whether the child was really capable of defeating the Dark Lord."
"I found myself disappointed. It's hard to measure magic in a child so young, but it didn't seem to me as if he had an extraordinary amount of it." And that was right. Walburga was tutoring Harry to release his potential, rather than insisting that he be as strong right now as she knew he could be.
"Did you kidnap him?"
Walburga stared at him. "What?"
"I repeat: did you kidnap Harry Potter?" There was magic gathering around Dumbledore, an aura that rang at her ears and teeth, and seemed to manifest as a shimmering black buzz on the edges of her vision. "His relatives told me that a Mrs. Black claiming to be from an organization acting on behalf of children came to them and told them that Harry would grow up with distant relatives."
"That is true."
"I did not kidnap him, Professor. His relatives willingly released him to me, which ought to tell you something about the quality of the guardians that you chose for him."
The magic by now was large enough to make the front door vibrate, something Walburga found annoying. She clenched her left hand down by her side. In seconds, shadows there formed into a feral cat. It lifted its head and regarded Dumbledore with intelligent green eyes. It would attack if she needed it to. The powers defended their own.
"Harry Potter must grow up under the blood protections! He is at risk from Death Eaters otherwise!"
Walburga rolled her eyes. "What blood protections would those be, Professor? They cannot be based on the blood of the family, because Muggles can't hold magic like that, and neither can their residences. They can't be based on love, because of how willing the Dursleys were to hand Harry to anyone who came looking. They can't be based on a vow of protection, which Muggles likewise are unable to make—and these would be unwilling Muggles if I ever saw a pair. Well?" she added, while Dumbledore stared at her. "I'm waiting."
"They would be based on his mother's sacrifice!"
"But Muggles who don't love him aren't going to provide him a safe environment, Professor. I told you that before. How would they even teach him about magic if they did love him?"
"Growing up at a distance from his fame is best for the boy. Otherwise, he would have his head turned the minute he entered our world."
"I assure you, we don't talk about his fame yet. I consider it inappropriate for a child so young. He's learning languages and maths and history and the right muscle memories for wand movements when he's ready for them."
Dumbledore still stared at her. Walburga looked mildly back. She was just thinking that she had never seen so perfect an illustration of the word "flummoxed" when Dumbledore spoke again. "You don't care about his survival?"
"Of course I do. I just told you that I am teaching him age-appropriate—"
"He must live at a distance from a Death Eater house such as this one is!"
"Oh, I wouldn't support the Dark Lord any more, Professor. I support making my family great again, and too many of us died following him." Walburga held out her hand, and the feral cat leaped up to her shoulder and pressed against her neck, studying Dumbledore with those clear eyes that really were almost the color of Harry's. "I made an alliance with the powers of dawn and dusk, who exist outside the realm of Dark and Light and care mostly about survival. Harry will live, don't worry about that."
Dumbledore apparently tried to stare down the cat, which didn't work. Then he turned to her, and Walburga thought his face now illustrated "desperation." "You cannot trust such powers. They might ask for—"
"They asked for the sacrifice of my life. Or really, my existence as an independent entity. I am one of them now, although I retain this kind of body and existence because Harry needs a mother. There's no price that he will have to pay."
"There is always a price."
Walburga blinked. "Because you think there must be? What price would Harry have to pay?"
"He will grow up surrounded by magic. He must inevitably learn of his fame, and he will have to learn of your own family's past. He will feel betrayed when he learns what his own 'mother' has done. Not to mention his godfather."
Walburga shrugged. "And he will feel grief when he fully realizes how his parents have died, I'm sure. He would have felt worse than that if those Muggles kept charge of him. Those aren't prices, Professor. They're called living."
"I must ask that you give the boy back to me."
"You have no legal right to raise him." Walburga caressed the cat on her shoulder. "And you would not find it so easy to take him from me, Albus Dumbledore."
The professor raised his wand. Walburga called to the other powers, and they answered in a rush of crows from the air. The professor ducked and swatted frantically at his face as they flew past, snatching at his eyes. One grabbed his wand and would have flown away with it if Dumbledore hadn't Apparated then.
Walburga calmly shut the door and went back into the house. It was possible that she might face political difficulties in the future, but for now, she had Harry's lunch to oversee.
A coyote materialized quietly in front of her on an evening perhaps four months later. Walburga sat up with a frown. Harry had just gone to sleep, and the powers usually departed once twilight was done and her stories to Harry about the Black family's legacy had ceased. "What is it?"
The coyote paced in a circle, its body becoming steadily mistier. Walburga leaned forwards and gazed into the shadows that made it up. The shadows stirred and parted, and she was looking down on what seemed to be a dark, narrow space from a height. One of the powers must have been in this place in the guise of a crow or perhaps a spider.
There was a man sitting beneath her, with tangled and matted hair. Tears glittered on his cheeks. He lowered his head and shook. Then he whispered, "James, Lily, I'm so sorry."
A Dementor glided past outside the cell. Walburga growled in unison with the coyote. She hated the Dementors as much as the rest of the powers. They took souls and happy memories, and either way, left people alive in a mockery of life. It was anathema to the powers' gift of survival.
The man cringed, but didn't seem to be as badly affected as most humans would have been. Walburga blinked and watched as the perspective shifted. Now the power was more likely in the form of a rat at the man's feet.
The Dementor passed on. "James, Lily, Harry," the man whispered, and fell asleep on a filthy bed of straw.
And finally, memories seemed to come rushing back that she had shed with her human life, and Walburga knew who he was. Sirius Black, the son of her human body.
And she knew, from the lack of effect the Dementors had on him, that he must be innocent.
Walburga materialized slowly in front of her son's cell. It had taken the powers some time to learn the regular rounds of the Dementors and when they would be near the cell. She tossed her hood back and stared at Sirius.
Sirius raised his head more slowly than Walburga had managed to form. For long moments, he stared at her with eyes as blank as mirrors when no one else was nearby. Then he stumbled up and clutched at the bars. "Mother?"
Walburga nodded. "Sort of. I've joined with the powers of dawn and dusk, and I'm no longer strictly human." She took a step forwards, and knew that at her heels was a feral cat and hovering in front of her face, unseen to Sirius, was a cloud of gnats. The gathered magic of the powers would force truth out of Sirius. "Did you betray your friends?"
"No," Sirius whispered, staring in the direction of the gnats even though Walburga knew he couldn't see them. "I loved them. I wasn't their Secret-Keeper. It was that rat, Pettigrew."
The powers rippled in protest at hearing rats maligned, but Walburga was calmer. She still retained enough of her memories to know how often humans would use the word to simply mean a coward or a traitor, not the animal. "So he was the Secret-Keeper? He was the one that your friends chose?"
"Yes. Because I suggested it to them." Sirius's face collapsed back into lines of anguish. "It was my fault."
"I understand why the Aurors thought you were guilty, if you were shouting that," Walburga murmured. She looked up the corridor as she felt another Dementor drawing near. "I will be coming back to get you out. But I need time to think about how we are going to do that without immediately raising the hue and cry. Try to stay strong, my son."
"I don't understand how you're like this. How you're so different."
"I told you. I've joined with the powers of dawn and dusk. Dementors don't make you deaf, Sirius. Do try to listen."
Before the Dementor could round the corner or Sirius could ask another stupid question, Walburga added, "I have Harry Potter and I'm raising him to know of the Black legacy. So you won't have to be with just me," and then turned into a ripple of dusk and soared out of the prison into the sunset.