The Darkness of Harry Potter

Chapter Five

One morning not long before the end of September, Hermione was incredibly unsettled over breakfast. Harry sat back and watched her fidget for a while, but finally his curiosity overcame his half-hearted amusement.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Eh?" Hermione stared at him. "Oh. My Daily Prophet hasn't arrived."

"Post was fifteen minutes ago, if it's not here it's not coming," said Ron.

"How annoying," grumbled Hermione. "I'm going to feel like I'm blind for the rest of the day until I can get a copy. . . What are you two laughing at?"

"Nothing," said Ron, as he snorted into his cornflakes and Harry turned to talk to the person next to him so Hermione couldn't see the mocking grin on his face.

"You're both bloody immature, I hope you realise," snapped Hermione, going back to her breakfast.

***

A couple of hundred miles away, Remus Lupin was, unusually, still asleep. He wasn't used to late mornings, but they had recently become one of the new luxuries introduced to his lifestyle. Now that Harry wasn't in the house and thus unable to protest, Kail was half living there, half not. This meant that he was essentially living in the house, but hadn't brought enough of his own belongings with him to make it difficult to pretend he wasn't. Remus felt a little guilty about this. While there was no reason he could see that he shouldn't have to be completely alone just because Harry was at school, he knew his adopted son would hate the idea of Kail living with them. The pair had discussed the matter at length, and it had been decided that come Christmas, Kail would leave again before Harry returned, to give the boy and his mentor some quality time together. But there was still a weight on Remus' mind.

What if Harry was right?

Remus slept fitfully. In his dreams, a slender black-haired figure watched him from a distance, always just out of view, following him, never letting him out of his sight. That was just how Sirius had behaved in the time between Hogwarts and Azkaban – how they both behaved, to an extent. James had put it perfectly into words; "You two are bloody obsessed with each other." It was true; hardly a thought had entered Remus' head during those years that wasn't something to do with Sirius, and the other had confessed to the same thing. But Sirius had been almost fanatical towards the end; not only protective and possessive, but fiercely jealous at times. In those days everyone was concerned with the safety of their loved ones, but Sirius had a habit of taking everything too far. His sole purpose had become protecting his friends, but Remus was often thankful when Sirius' efforts were directed towards keeping Lily and James safe rather than him.

After Sirius' escape from Azkaban, things had obviously been different. Remus had had to conceal and protect Sirius this time round, and they had, in those final months, rekindled that old passion which had existed between them since their late teens. But Sirius had changed. He was less obsessive, nowhere near as playful or romantic. His mind was heavy with dread and worry, and as much as Remus loved him, there had been a part of Sirius, a secret, distant, haunted part, which Remus had failed to connect with, to understand. And maybe that loss of complete understanding between them had made it easier for Remus to let his lover go.

As he dreamed, he tossed and turned. He dreamed he was running from something now, and although he knew it, he refused to admit that he was running from Sirius. His dead lover's voice rang in his ears, young and energetic and youthful, and Remus knew he was remembering snatches of real conversation.

"I'll never let you go, Moony. Never. You're mine, always and forever."

"Do you promise?"

"I promise. I'll never let you go. . ."

And then in a flash he saw Sirius in Azkaban, that one time he had visited him, small and cold and trembling, talking about the things he heard at night, and how he couldn't sleep, couldn't think, couldn't breathe, and then he was in Grimmauld Place, watching as Sirius strode up and down the room, a caged animal again, longing for escape, and now he was standing in Godric's Hollow, staring at the charred remains of a house, and suddenly the rush of pictures and sound stopped. And he was standing before the veil, watching as Sirius plummeted backwards, in agonising slow motion, and he tried to scream but nothing came out. . .

It took Remus a while to realise his eyes were open. He was breathing heavily and trembling slightly. Someone was watching him with their back to the bright window so he couldn't see their face.

"Sirius?"

The figure shook its head and moved closer, kneeling beside the bed. "You've been dreaming," said Kail.

Remus nodded mutely, and took a couple of deep breaths. "Nightmare," he muttered.

"With Sirius in?"

". . .Yes. I saw him die again."

Kail made a small compassionate sound, and pulled the werewolf into his arms. Remus couldn't summon the energy to resist, and went limp, clinging to the bigger man. They remained like that for a while, but as Kail went to stand, Remus held him down.

"What if Harry was right?" he croaked.

Kail frowned. "Sorry?"

"What if Sirius would hate this. . .Me being with you so soon after his death?"

"He wouldn't," Kail insisted. "He'd want you to be happy, and I know you're happier with me than you would be alone. . .Aren't you?"

"Yes, but. . . He was always so jealous. . ."

Kail put a comforting arm around Remus, and looked him in the eye. "Rem, you can't cheat on a dead man. Stop feeling guilty, it won't achieve anything. We were never together while Sirius was alive, not even when he was in Azkaban, you've done nothing wrong. Sirius loved you enough to want you to be with someone, and he would understand that I love you too."

Remus tried to look convinced, but once Kail had left the house to try and buy a paper, as one hadn't been delivered as normal, he slumped back onto the bed and gave up trying not to cry in despair.

***

"Oi, Fred, got any more of them eyeball ice cubes? They went down a treat at work the other week."

Fred Weasley grinned at his most regular customer. "Got a new load ready just today," he announced. "How many people did you get with them?"

The small, green-haired man on the other side of the counter counted on his fingers. "Dozen or so. The best was the tea lady, she always has ice cubes in her drink and she's got this thing about disembodied bits. She screamed so loudly when she saw they'd turned into eyeballs that someone called security."

"Excellent, Hamish!" Fred shook his customer's hand. "How's it going at the Daily Prophet anyway? Having problems? We didn't get a paper this morning."

"Not been in since the weekend, Fred mate. I'll go get you one if you like, we're just round the corner."

Fred watched Hamish vanish out of the door, then ambled into the stockroom to make up a box of eyeball ice cubes. George appeared, trotting downstairs two at a time.

"Did I show you the letter we got from Ron?" he asked, waving a bit of parchment.

"Nope," said Fred, taking the letter. "You box these eyeballs up, will you?"

His eyes scanned the parchment as George scooped some of the eyeball ice cubes into a box. The letter was short, and basically described their new professor. "Doesn't sound too bad, does he?"

"No, but it's the nice ones you have to watch out for," said George mysteriously.

"Eh?"

"Nothing, just thought it sounded good."

"I bet if he tries anything funny, Harry will sort him out," said Fred confidently. "We taught that kid well."

George grinned. Then the bell rang, summoning the pair back out onto the shop floor. Hamish had returned, wearing a slight frown.

"They recalled the Prophet this morning," he told them. "Apparently they'd just finished printing when they got some major news, so they destroyed every copy and set to work printing a new lot. They'll be done within the hour."

"Can't they print them magically? That'd be quicker," suggested Fred.

"They do print it magically. Have you any idea how many copies they have to make? It's going to take a long time no matter what. What's troubling me is, what on earth this news could be. Nothing's made them recall the Prophet since the first time Voldemort led his Death Eaters to attack a whole village. . . That was nineteen seventy nine. It can only be something really big."

***

it was during a Defence Against The Dark Arts lesson that Hermione's Daily Prophet finally arrived. The owl delivering it came crashing through the window above Rinaldi's head, raining splinters of glass down on the teacher's desk. Rinaldi reacted instantly, sweeping his wand out and shouting "Resarcio!" The glass stopped falling inches above him, and as if in a played-backwards tape, flew upwards to re-form the broken window. The owl, who didn't seem to notice the trouble it had caused, landed on Hermione's desk and waited patiently for her to untie the paper from its leg. Rinaldi glared at it, then opened the window to let it out, bowing slightly as it ambled past him. When it had flown off, he shut the window again.

"Sorry, sir," said Hermione. "No idea why it's this late. . ." she began to open the paper eagerly, but a glance from Rinaldi made her apologise again and stuff it into her bag.

The seventh year were enjoying their Defence Against The Dark Arts lessons this year, for a number of reasons. Rinaldi was as fun and knowledgeable as Lupin or Mad Eye Moody, and nowhere near as insane, fraudulent or downright homicidal as their other teachers over the past six years. He was an efficient professor, quickly establishing what the students needed to know, and teaching it to them as well as possible. But best of all, he had a tendency to pick on Slytherins – especially the new Head Boy. The entire Gryffindor class found this highly entertaining, but only Harry, Ron and Hermione found it bewildering. Wasn't Rinaldi supposed to be a friend of Lucius Malfoy?

Today he was describing how to defend against the various magical creatures who were now known to have joined Voldemort.

"Trolls are the biggest and foulest of the lot," he said. "But even they are easy to deal with compared to the newest group of beasts to declare allegiance to Voldemort. All you have to do to defeat a troll is ask it a perplexingly difficult question – "what's the answer to two times four?" is the standard question – and while they're thinking, stun 'em. However, we're now having to learn how to deal with werewolves."

A collective gasp rose from the back row. Hermione was on her feet in a flash.

"Werewolves have joined Voldemort!?" She exclaimed.

"The Bohemian Clans of the Czech Republic have, as have a number of clans from Germany and Romania. These clans are your stereotypical bloodthirsty monsters. Even when they're in human form, they are dangerous. They live in large family groups, deep in the forests, and terrorise nearby villages. They're no new problem. . .And I know what you're all thinking. Civilised British werewolves are not being accused of involvement with Voldemort. However, knowing how to defend yourselves against them is essential, and it is the same for nearly all breeds of werewolf. . . yes, Miss Granger?"

Hermione lowered her hand. "Werewolves are repelled by silver and fire," she said.

"Almost everything is repelled by fire, but yes, werewolves cannot touch silver. These things are all that can kill them. A silver bullet is the traditional muggle werewolf repellent, but the best way for us to deal with them is a simple stupefying. It is quicker and cleaner than trying to destroy the werewolf. They are strong creatures, and any spell not perfectly cast will be easily thrown off, so we must practice accuracy. . ."

Hermione dug out her Daily Prophet under the desk, as Rinaldi continued to talk. Harry stared at her in surprise.

"Not paying attention to a teacher?" he whispered teasingly.

Hermione flapped a hand at him. "I can cast an accurate stupefying spell, thank you very much. I want to find out why they sent this so late. . .oh my!" She was looking at the headline. Ron and Harry peered over her shoulders.

"Attack on Scottish Village – four hundred dead," read the main headline. "Thousands injured," added a smaller headline. In a font slightly smaller than the first: "Death Eaters suspected."

"How awful!" Hermione gasped. Her hands were trembling as she held the paper, and she had gone white. Ron glanced at Harry, and when he was sure Harry's full attention was on the article, he put an arm round Hermione and held her close.

"It's true then," she whispered. "He's going to keep gaining power again until nothing can stop him!"

"Shh!" hissed Harry, glancing at Rinaldi, who hadn't noticed they were paying no attention whatsoever to his class. In fact, he seemed to be acting something out at the front of the room, to the delight of the other students. Harry wasn't in the mood to find out what it was all about. He was starting to feel slightly ill. World War wasn't a distant threat any more – it was real, and it was right on the doorstep.

. . . To be continued?