This story is part of my complete, fall 2003 revision of the original "Darkness and Light" trilogy, significantly altered from the form in which it first appeared on the web in the spring and summer of 2001. In order to fit with HP canon up to and including OotP, new scenes have been added, others moved to different times and locations, and others trimmed or excised. I have also smoothed out what I considered to be uneven or poor characterization, corrected errors in usage and style, and fixed two or three minor but annoying Flints.
I am profoundly grateful to everyone who assisted me in the process of revision, tracking down and identifying discrepancies between D&L and OotP, as well as making helpful suggestions for improvement: first, my long-time betas and dear friends Teri Krenek, Alec Dossetor, Liz Barr, and Erica H. Smith; and second, the members of the "D&L Revisions" mailing list, particularly Christy/Sabrina, Sarah Izhilzha, Kim Krajci, Sannali a.k.a. Morwen, Emily Bytheway, Carole a.k.a. Snape's Witch, Laura Page, Elaine Lahey, Liz E., Julia Steinberg, Manda, and Zebee Johnstone. My heartfelt thanks to you all.
Comments and criticisms are always welcomed.
Darkness and Light 1: The Potions Master's Apprentice
by R. J. Anderson (Revised 10/2003)
Chapter One: Inferno
The moon, and fire, and the voice of a man. These three things were stamped indelibly upon her memory of that night, more clearly than the stuffed kneazle her four-year-old self could not sleep without, or the expression on her father's face as he kissed her for the last time.
For fourteen years now she had waited, listening, for that voice to speak again. And when she heard it, she would recognise it at once.
What she would do when that happened, however, she had never been entirely sure.
"From where?" The black-haired boy froze mid-step, round glasses winking in the light as he turned to stare at the girl beside him. In haste, not wanting to be seen, Maud retreated behind a suit of armour at the foot of the staircase. The little owl on her shoulder shifted uncertainly from one foot to the other, but she murmured "Watch," and Athena obeyed, following the other three students with unblinking yellow eyes.
"I just told you," said the girl, shifting the load of books in her arms. "Durmstrang."
"Oh, great," groaned the last member of the threesome, a lanky boy with red hair. "Just what we need, on top of everything else. A Slytherin who's spent the last six years studying the Dark Arts."
The girl gave him a severe look. "We don't know that! Viktor told me-"
Of course, thought Maud. I should have recognised her at once. The young woman's photograph had accompanied Viktor Krum on his return from the Triwizard Tournament, and though he had little to say about the rest of his time at Hogwarts, he had been very nearly eloquent when it came to Hermione Granger.
"Wait." The bespectacled boy shoved his hair back out of his eyes, exposing an ugly scar running across his forehead, and all at once Maud knew his name as surely as if he'd shouted it at her: Harry Potter. "How do you know she's in Slytherin, Ron? She wasn't Sorted with the others last night."
"Of course not," Hermione answered primly, before the other boy could. "She only got here this morning. And anyway, only first years get Sorted."
"Well, she's got to be put in one of the Houses," objected Ron, "so I don't see why they wouldn't Sort her like everybody else."
"We could ask Professor McGonagall," said Hermione, but she sounded dubious.
Harry's mouth took on a bitter twist. "You could. I've had enough of being told to mind my own business, thanks..."
From her place in the shadows, Maud listened to the three students arguing their way down the corridor and gave a wry smile. News travelled fast here at Hogwarts: not like Durmstrang, where the air was thick with secrets, and the truth never ventured anywhere without a retinue of lies. It would take some getting used to.
Athena gave a questioning hoot, and Maud put up a hand to reassure her, running the soft feathers between her fingers. "Yes," she said. "We'll go now."
After all, Dumbledore had told her to report to the Head of her new House, and it wouldn't do to be late.
As she readied herself for bed that night, her parents sat together at the kitchen table, drinking tea and conversing in low voices. An open newspaper lay between them. "I can't believe it," her mother said. "First they threatened the Maberleys, then they tortured Betty Tibbits. Where will it stop?"
"Shhh, Margo," said her father, with an unspoken warning in his tone:
Not in front of the child.
Standing on tiptoes she kissed her mother, and tugged at her father's hand, begging him for her bedtime story. It was a special one, invented just for her, and although she must have heard it a hundred times she never tired of it.
When the story was done he tucked her in, kissed her and left the room, shutting the door gently behind him. Still wakeful, she lay gazing at the moon, straining to read and interpret it as her father did the magical artefacts entrusted to his care. Its bland face gave away nothing, but its presence comforted her. She imagined it as a great silver shield, protecting her house and the family within it, guarding them from You-Know-Who, the terrible Dark wizard she was only just learning to fear.
Her eyes were drifting closed when she became suddenly, horribly aware of a presence in the room with her, a lean unfamiliar shape coalescing in the darkness at the foot of her bed. She bolted upright, mouth opening in a shriek of alarm, but a voice spoke a single brusque command:
And she could not make a sound.
Swiftly the stranger stalked around the bed and caught her by the wrists, pinning her with ease despite her struggles. Staring into her eyes he spoke again, his voice barely more than a whisper:
"Listen, and don't be a fool. Your life is in danger."
She stopped fighting and froze, gazing back at him in shocked disbelief.
"The Death Eaters are here. They will kill you if-"
From the far end of the hall came a crack of splintering wood, and her mother's hoarse cry.
"Avada Kedavra!"barked an unfamiliar voice, and the scream ended in a muffled thump.
The man holding her went still, listening, his sharp features white in the moonlight. All at once he looked very young. Then he turned back to her and continued more urgently:
"There's no time. If you want to live, you have to trust me, now, and do what I say.
Exactly what I say, girl. No matter what happens, no matter what you see. Do you understand?"
Daddy, she mouthed, tears welling up in her eyes. Mummy.
The stranger hesitated, looking at her. Then, in swift decision, he drew a wand from his robes and spoke the words that would change her life forever:
"On time, I see. You may sit down."
For a moment Maud hesitated, her breath frozen in her throat; then she forced herself into motion and obeyed, taking the chair in front of the desk. Through her new Hogwarts robes, so much lighter than the furs and leathers she had worn at her previous school, she could feel Athena's talons digging into her shoulder, and she barely suppressed her wince.
"I have just been informed-" this said with a slight curl of the lip- "that you have transferred here from Durmstrang to complete your magical education. May I ask why?"
That answer, at least, came easily. "The previous Headmaster of Durmstrang maintained a high academic standard for his students. I do not have the same confidence in the new Headmaster. Also, my uncle wished to have me closer to home, and since he raised me as his ward, I felt it would be ungrateful to disobey." She spoke calmly, her face expressionless, but her heart was pounding.
"And you chose this House." He sounded sceptical.
"It seemed appropriate."
"Appropriate to what?"
"My future... ambitions." And you can make of that, she added mentally, whatever you like.
The Head's brows lifted, but he did not look displeased. "I see. Well, then, welcome to Slytherin, Miss Moody."
She took his hand in hers, feeling the shape of it, the calluses and bones.
"Thank you, Professor Snape."
She does not remember much of what happened after that. Enveloped in an alien darkness, unable to speak, she was but dimly aware as the stranger carried her out to the kitchen, into a storm of threats and arguments and her father's desperate, tear-choked pleading. But through the rough tapestry of sound the stranger's voice ran like a thread of silk, and she clung to it while he bargained for her life:
"The girl's barely four years old, and blind on top of it. What are you afraid she'll do to you?" His words were layered with scorn. "Anyway, she's pure-blood: killing her would be a pointless waste."
"But if she tells-"
"Tells what? That three people whose faces she never saw came to her house and did something everybody will know about tomorrow morning anyway?"
"Maudie," gasped her father. "Don't hurt her, please-"
Her mother was dead, but she did not know it. Her father was helpless, his glasses shattered and his wand in splinters at his feet, but she could not see that either. She tried to stretch out her arms to him, but the stranger held them in a grip like steel, and she realised that he did not want her to react to what she was hearing, that she must pretend to be deaf as well as blind and dumb.
"The Aurors will be here any minute," growled a deep voice. "Get out of here, then, and take the brat with you. Leave her somewhere she won't be found for a while, keep 'em busy looking for her."
"Obliviate her," said another man. "We can't take chances."
"Don't tell me what to do." The stranger's voice was a snarl. "I'll take care of it." His arms tightened around her, she felt his muscles shift, and as the night wind slapped cold across her face she realised he was carrying her out of the house, away from her parents and the only security she had ever known.
Daddy, she screamed. Daddy!
But no one could hear her.
"What's your name?" The question was flung in her face, like a challenge to a duel. Maud stood by her half-unpacked trunk, resigned to another verbal battle.
"Maud Moody. And before you ask, yes, I am related to Mad-Eye. He's my uncle."
The other girl paused, evidently shaken, then resumed her pacing. Maud did not bother with the illusion of turning: Athena's gaze could follow the Slytherin no matter where she went.
"Why don't you have a 'mad-eye', then?" taunted the girl. She was tall, though not quite as tall as Maud herself, and as dark as Maud was fair. Her eyes were small and piggy, her mouth twisted into a derisive shape. "You look like you need it more than he does."
"No doubt," said Maud calmly. "But do you have any idea how much that thing cost? If he hadn't been an Auror they'd never have given it to him. And in any case, my uncle lost his eye. I still have both of mine, and I don't relish the thought of having them dug out of my head. Would you?"
She'd put a deliberate emphasis on the words dug out, and the other girl flinched. "No," she snapped with a renewed attempt at bravado, "but at least my eyes work. They're not all creepy like yours."
"You know," said Maud, "I can't remember the last time I saw an advertisement in the Daily Prophet for 'small-minded bully, apply in person'. Shall we start again? I'm your new roommate. And you are...?"
"You're what?" The girl's mouth dropped open. "They told me you were a Gryffindor."
"And you believed them? How would a Gryffindor get in here?"
"Well, I mean, your uncle..."
"Is my father's brother. So?" Maud sat down on the end of her bed and continued her unpacking. "Ask Professor Snape if you don't believe me. He'll tell you I'm in Slytherin, all right."
The girl hung back a moment, sizing her up. Then she mumbled, "Muriel Groggins," and stuck out her hand.
She hadn't apologised, but Maud knew better than to expect it. "Pleased to meet you. This is Athena," and she gestured to the little owl sitting on her shoulder.
"Is that how you get around? Some sort of spell that lets you see through her eyes?"
"Most of the time, yes. But she can't be with me all the time, so I have... a few other tricks as well." Actually, without Athena she would find navigating the corridors of Hogwarts extremely difficult - acute though her other senses might be, even they couldn't compensate for a total loss of vision. But in the middle of a nest of serpents like this, it would be madness to admit it.
"Oh," said Muriel, sounding grudgingly impressed. "So... got your timetable yet?"
And with that, it seemed, a truce had been declared. Within minutes two other girls, seventh-year Slytherins like themselves, drifted into the room and joined the conversation. One was a pretty, round-faced girl with tousled auburn curls, the other blonde and green-eyed like Maud herself, though her features were slightly horsy and there was a noticeable gap between her teeth. They introduced themselves as Annie Barfoot and Lucinda Swann respectively, and within minutes the room was swimming in gossip.
"Did you hear what the Weasley twins did to the Teachers' Bath?"
"Did I? I was right outside the door! You should have heard the yell when Madam Hooch turned on the tap!"
"They're lucky they didn't get sent down. But that's just like the Gryffindors, they get away with everything..."
"Not everything. Snape caught the Weasleys handing out Dizzy Drops to the first years and took ten points from Gryffindor - each."
"Twenty points before classes even start? Ooh, that won't make them popular..."
"Speaking of classes, Snape, and Gryffindors," said Muriel, "I've got Potions first thing this morning. You, too, Maud?"
"So does Lucinda. Let's go."
The stranger set her down on the hillside above her house and crouched beside her, gripping her shoulders.
"Listen," he said, his voice sharp with urgency. "The Death Eaters who were here tonight - they were looking for an artefact. An amulet that your father was supposed to have been studying. But they didn't find it; that's why they took him instead. I'll do what I can, but you have to-"
A dull crump echoed through the night, and a wave of heat hit her face. All at once the air was full of the whine of popping timbers and the smell of hot ash. Fire. Her house was burning, and with it all the things she had loved.
Mummy, she whimpered.
"Are you listening, girl?" The man shook her fiercely. "I'm going to try to help your father. But I can't do that if I'm dead, or locked up in Azkaban. When the Aurors find you, tell them what happened here tonight, but tell them nothing - nothing - about me. If your uncle asks you how you escaped, tell him you climbed out the window and ran. Do you understand?"
In spite of her tears, and the terror of the fire, she nodded. His voice was beautiful, and she trusted it, as she had trusted the moon - and perhaps just as foolishly.
"Abrogo silentium," said the stranger, and she could speak again, although she had nothing to say. She simply waited, expecting him to give her back her sight, and she was not disappointed:
But nothing happened.
Maud's head jerked up at the sound of the Professor's voice, but she could see nothing: Athena had gone to sleep on her shoulder. That was no surprise, considering that it had been a long and busy morning, with precious little sleep for either of them the night before. In the warmth of the Potions class, with cauldrons bubbling and chuckling all around her, Maud had nearly nodded off herself.
"Yes, Professor Snape?" she said.
"If you are quite finished with your nap-" his voice drawled sardonically on the last word- "would you mind informing the class of the properties of hellebore in combination with eye of newt?"
Tired as she was, the answer came automatically: Potions had always been her best subject. "The two should never be combined, as their effects cancel each other out."
She could not see or even guess at his expression, but when he spoke again, the sarcasm was gone. "Excellent. Class, write that down. Make it an equation, if you like: hellebore plus eye of newt equals a waste of your valuable time. Miss Moody-" the words came low, soft as a caress- "I am glad to see that Durmstrang Academy lives up to its reputation."
Her throat was dry. In a hoarse voice she said, "Thank you."
If Snape heard her, he did not acknowledge it. He turned and walked away, saying crisply: "Now. Name two other ingredients which should not be combined, and explain why: Fred Weasley."
"Porridge and owl droppings," came the prompt answer, "because if it happens again my mum'll kill me."
Laughter rippled through the classroom, was cut off by the sound of Snape's hand hitting the desk. "Silence!"
Maud could not suppress a shiver: even at fourteen years' distance, the parallel was too close for comfort. Snape continued with deadly softness, "If in the course of your infamous experiments, Mr. Weasley, you should one day accidentally blow yourself up, I for one will not be even slightly surprised."
"Oh, don't worry," said another voice, sounding nearly identical to Fred's, "neither will he."
At that moment, as if on cue, there was a shriek of rending metal and one of the cauldrons exploded. Instinctively Maud pulled her feet off the floor and took shelter beneath the desk as hot liquid splashed over the classroom and screams filled the air. The assignment was supposed to be just an Enervating Elixir, but with a reaction like that, somebody must have got their proportions seriously wrong.
It was a good five minutes before the chaos was under control, and several students with minor injuries had to be sent up to Madam Pomfrey. Snape gave a savage tongue-lashing to the Gryffindor responsible for the explosion - not, amazingly, one of the Weasley twins, but a sobbing girl who had accidentally knocked her bottle of dried scorpion's tails into her cauldron - and dismissed the class.
Athena had been awakened by the commotion, so Maud could see again. She began gathering up her books, ready to leave, but Snape's voice arrested her.
"Miss Moody. You will remain behind."
"Better watch out," George Weasley whispered as he passed her on his way to the door. "I think he likes you."
"If he tries to take advantage," added Fred gravely, a step behind, "confide in us. We promise we'll do everything in our power-"
"-not to throw up-"
"-or die laughing."
"OUT!" thundered Snape, and the twins, with a last wicked grin, disappeared.
In a whirl of black robes, the professor stalked to the door and shut it firmly. Then he turned and looked at her, his dark eyes searching her face. What he saw, or expected to see, she did not know: but at last he seemed satisfied and sat down at his desk, shuffling aside a stack of assignments and taking out a parchment from the bottom of the pile.
"It is evident, Miss Moody," he said, "that your high marks in your Potions classes at Durmstrang were not unwarranted. Your knowledge of the subject far exceeds that of your classmates - even taking into account the considerable, though idiotically squandered, talent of the Weasley twins - and I can see that you are likely to find this year's studies tedious unless you are presented with some additional challenge."
She said nothing, merely watched him through Athena's eyes. His head was bent over the parchment in his hand, lank black hair falling about his face. He looked, she thought, like a man exhausted, and not merely by the demands of teaching.
"As you will see here," he said, turning the paper around and pushing it toward her, "I have made a list of some independent study projects which may interest you. If you require assistance I will make myself available for consultation, as my schedule permits. But I expect you are... quite capable."
She watched him a moment longer, then inclined her head toward the list, Athena instantly following her cue and copying the gesture so that she could read it. Veritaserum, she read. Wolfsbane Potion. Nerve-Regenerating Potion-
Her breath stopped.
"And while you are deciding, Miss Moody," said Snape quietly, "would you tell me again why you chose to be in Slytherin?"
She closed her hand around the parchment, crumpling it between her fingers. Did he know what was in her mind, or had he only guessed? Well, she would have to take the chance. If he had not changed, he would understand. "Because I want to be an Auror," she said. "And the first rule of survival is: know thine enemy."
For a long moment he met her gaze, or Athena's, without moving. When he spoke at last his beautiful voice was rough:
"Not all Slytherins are the enemy, Miss Moody."
"I know," she said. "One of them once saved my life."
"And severed your optic nerves in the process," he snapped, with a savagery she knew to be directed at himself, not at her. "One hasty moment, one wrong Latin verb - and to think I used to believe in the benefits of a classical education."
He tried again, using the same phrase and different ones, but her sight did not return. She was bewildered by his failure, and though she could not see his face she knew that he, too, was baffled. Again and again he spoke the words of command, his voice cracking with frustration and eventually with anger, but at last he gave up.
"I will fix this," he said flatly. "In time. But there is nothing I can do for you now."
She had tried, until then, to be brave. But this disappointment, on top of her exhaustion and fear, was too much. She burst into hiccuping sobs and buried her face in the stranger's robes. He smelled of roots and dried herbs, like her mother's pantry, and as she wept she felt his awkward, feather-light touch upon her hair.
"Do you really think a potion will work?" she asked him.
His black eyes narrowed. "Are you prepared to try?"
"If you'll help me."
For the second time that morning, he extended his hand to her; for the second time she took it, and held it as though it were precious.
"Miss Moody," he said. "I will."