Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters, places, objects etc belong to J.K.Rowling, not me. The plot, however, is mine.
A/N: I promised to begin uploading this in the New Year, and lo, here it is: Fallen. As it is now, it's planned to be book-length, with the most ambitious plot I've ever attempted – so you're in for a good story, if all goes well! Updates will be every Friday – and anyone wanting to be notified of updates by email, leave your address in your review (because, of course, you're all going to review, aren't you?) And also remember that as this is the prologue, it's shorter than the actual chapters will be. I'm aiming for a similar chapter length to Magnanimous, for those of you who've read that.
I'm dedicating this fic to all my friends, who despite having an insane estimation of my writing abilities and, in some cases, a great desire to embarrass me completely, are the most wonderful friends anyone could wish for. So wonderful, in fact, that no less than seven of them are betaing this fic, and they've each chosen their own Greek letter. So huge amounts of gratitude must go to my Gamma, Delta, Xi, Pi, Sigma, Psi and Omega, for their ability to spot mistakes, their support and opinions, and their relentless and seemingly unstoppable humour. You all rock!
And with that said, onto the story. Enjoy.
Many things have fallen only to rise higher.
-Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)
Albus Dumbledore sank into his soft, padded chair and sighed deeply. It had been a long day, he reflected as he polished his glasses with the hem of his robe. Replacing the glasses on his long, rather crooked nose, Dumbledore gazed around his office. All neat, all tidy. The portraits of long dead headmasters were slumbering in their frames. Fawkes was perched in his usual place, displaying every sign of settling down for the night.
Yes, thought Dumbledore. It was time for a mug of sweet tea, a quick glance through the paper – he hadn't been able to read it this morning – and then, bed.
The Daily Prophet lay on his desk among a collection of assorted magical items, still crisp and crackling as he picked it up. For once, there was no mocking Dark Mark splashed across the front page, as there had been so often in the past few weeks. Voldemort's return was out in the open; there was no sense in maintaining secrecy now.
Instead of the Dark Mark, his own picture smiled wisely back at him, giving an amused wink. Also in the picture was Cornelius Fudge, smiling the kind of over-enthusiastic smile of someone who's extremely nervous but wants to make a good impression. Above the image sprawled the headline: Ministry Meetings Start Today: Protecting England From He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Why they couldn't say Voldemort… it would sound far better in a headline, and avoiding saying his name was simply silly. Names had no power other than that which you gave them, by power of rumour and legend…
But that wasn't the point. He scanned the first few paragraphs – Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge, and Albus Dumbledore, the long-renowned Headmaster of Hogwarts, will chair the Ministry meetings beginning today. The meetings, which will be attended by five hundred of the most prestigious names in the Ministry, are discussing the recent return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and ways in which to protect the wizarding and Muggle worlds from the terrible threat we now face. Officials say…
The media, he reflected soberly, would never change. 'Long-renowned Headmaster of Hogwarts', he had been described as, when barely a month ago he had been a senile madman. Fickle, that was the way of the media. Always changing to reflect what the officials want the public to think. But so very, very effective…
Fickle. Too fickle, and too effective. Recently, Dumbledore had noticed a worrying trend. It was subtle, certainly, and woven into the articles with such simple ease that no one would notice if their job didn't require an intensive study of the newspaper, if they didn't know enough to pick up the signs. Even glancing at the second article of the paper, he could see it.
Two Muggleborn wizards, aged 25 and 27, attempted last evening to break in to the home of the Bennett-Edmonds family, an ancient line that has produced many famous witches and wizards. In the modern day, Hestia Bennett-Edmonds has achieved a celebrity status in the wizarding world by her generous nature and charitable heart. Only a day before the robbery…
Unnoticeable, unless you read the signs. But there it was, prominent in the second word of the article, the word that would stick in the subconscious of people. Muggleborn. The media – The Daily Prophet, Wizarding Wireless, even Witch Weekly – were all doing it. Every time a Muggleborn broke a law or did something wrong, it was pointed out, always subtly but always in a way that would imprint itself on the subconscious. If a Muggleborn did something good, it went ignored, or their parentage wasn't mentioned, or it was somehow written so that the reader was left with the impression that the person was Pureblood.
And what image of Muggleborns was this presenting people with?
Sighing, Dumbledore flipped through the rest of the paper, reading all the news relating to Voldemort, of which there was far more than he'd have liked. He also did the daily crossword, before folding the paper in half with a noisy crackle and placing it back on the desk.
Leaning back in his chair, his gaze came to rest upon the large window directly opposite his desk. It was a large window, and one which he quite liked; the view over the grounds was spectacular. At this precise moment, he could look out over grass like midnight velvet, the Quidditch stadium like a child's toy to one side, the Forbidden Forest darkening the horizon, and above, the sky, purple-black with diamond stars. It was raining lightly, little silver flashes of reflected light that streaked towards the ground.
Dumbledore levered himself out of his chair and shuffled over to close the crimson curtains, gazing out across the landscape. He wondered, briefly, where Voldemort was now, who would be next to die… and then his attention was diverted.
Something was flying towards the school, aiming directly for his own window, as far as he could tell. His first thought was that it was an owl, but surely it was far too big… and, though he couldn't see properly through the rain, it wasn't the right shape either.
Other people might have kept the window tightly shut, but not Dumbledore. He fiddled with the fastening, fighting with the stiff metal, before finally persuading it to open. The window swung back. Dumbledore's hand went to his pocket, drawing out the wand that he always kept with him, ready for anything.
The flying thing grew closer, and his eyes widened as he saw what it was, standing back to allow it – him – entry to the room. A winged human… and, Dumbledore realised as the flying figure came closer to the window, not just any human… This was extraordinary.
Then the figure was at the window, flying inside it, careful to fold his white-feathered wings inside the frame. His feet hit the carpet softly, and he straightened, his eyes meeting Dumbledore's.
'Professor Dumbledore,' he said, softly but confidently, in spite of being soaked to the skin and obviously freezing from his flight. He wrapped his wings around himself for warmth. 'I need to talk to you.'
Where do legends come from?
From human hopes and fears, from our desire and despair, from our own dreams of heroes and heroines, battles and romances. But the best legends, those that are passed down from parent to child and flavoured by a million tongues in the retellings, are those that are founded on a grain of truth.
And sometimes much, much more than a mere grain…
Think back to a time before humanity, when the Earth was an infant among planets, the playground of angels. Even then there were two kinds: the Good and the Evil, as different as fire and ice. Both kinds were physically identical, human-shaped with white feathery wings, although one must not make the mistake of thinking of them as human. For the angels were black and white, emotionless and single-mindedly dedicated to their side, and humanity can only ever be a shade of grey.
Both kinds had powers: the Good for healing and helping, the Evil for harming and killing. And so the playground became a battlefield, as Good and Evil struggled for domination.
In all legends, it is Good who wins, and so with this. The Evil ones fell, and the Good retired to a higher place – Heaven and Hell are only two of the thousands of names their current homes are given by mankind.
But some of the Evil angels did not end up in Hell. Some clung to the edges of Earth, to live on there, to see the advent of true Humanity, who learnt their story and gave the Evil angels a new name: Fallens. The Fallens co-habited with the humans for a while, using them as playthings and toys, and somewhere, somehow, the two species interbred. Not from love, not on the Fallens' part, for love is the antithesis of evil. And from these unions, children were born.
Do not imagine that these offspring, these half-Fallens, were at all normal. The mix of human and Fallen, grey and black, could not be reconciled and the half-Fallens essentially had two selves, two minds in the same body. The Fallen half was stronger, usually, and the humanity of the children rarely showed itself, although it was not unheard of. Sometimes, there were experiments to divide the two halves and produce a full Fallen and a normal human. Separated, both would die within an hour.
The half-Fallens had powers: weaker versions of the power of a full Fallen. They had an affinity for what mankind grew to term the Dark Arts, and the ability to change at will between the two forms, between Fallen and human, which helped them to disguise themselves, to pretend themselves to be a part of humanity. The Fallen genes were passed on mainly through wizarding bloodlines, each new generation producing some half-Fallen children.
And thus it continued, through all the ages of man. The original Fallens had long ago left the Earth, to join the next war between Heaven and Hell, but their bloodlines continued. Many of the most famous Dark wizards were aided by a Fallen gene in their bloodstream, that affinity for the Dark Arts making them powerful. But mankind forgot about them, these children of evil, and none would have guessed that half-Fallens still walked among them.
A/N: Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check back on Fridays for the latest chapters. Also, don't forget to review, because I'm utterly terrified about public opinion. So review. Please?