Title: Shards of Black
Written by: sweet apple pie
Beta Read by: Madam Celeste (of Perfect Imagination)
Disclaimer: The Harry Potter universe belongs to J.K. Rowling. I'm just borrowing.
Author's Note: This story is an AU, all the way from the beginning of the series. There may be some mild swearing and violence, but rating is just to be spoilers from books 1-6. Without further ado, enjoy!
CHAPTER 1: The Choice
"We are not taking him in, and that's final!"
Dumbledore suppressed the urge to sigh, settling instead for closing his eyes for a brief moment before he wearily opened them again. His gaze was grim as he surveyed the thin, horse-like woman before him, sitting on the couch with her arms crossed in defiance and jaws clenched in determination. Despite the gentle autumn sun streaming through the windows and the cheerful chirping of the birds outside, tension ran unbelievably high in the perfectly ordinary living room of number four, Privet Drive.
"Please, Mrs. Dursley," Dumbledore began patiently, "you are the only relative he has left. Surely, you can let your nephew seek shelter under your roof, if only to guarantee his safety—"
"I said no," Petunia snapped. "Whether the boy has other relatives or not is none of our concern. We will not be bothered with the trouble of raising an orphan. As you must know, we have our own son who needs much care, a son who deserves our undivided attention. What if the boy contaminates my little Dudley? I thought I'd made it clear that I am not going to tolerate him and his horrid nature in my house for another hour?"
Dumbledore's eyes hardened. Oh, how he hated prejudice. It was clear that Petunia Dursley was what one might call a racist. But Dumbledore had his own plans, however much he detested this woman's ways.
So she wanted to be difficult. It was time for a trip down the guilty lane.
"And as you must know, Mrs. Dursley, Lily has sacrificed her life for this boy," he said softly. He was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath from Petunia, and he knew his words had scored a goal. The subject of her sister's death, it seemed, was one thing that Petunia couldn't ignore altogether. "Won't you at least grant Lily's last wish that her son grows up safely?"
For a moment, Petunia seemed to waver. Her gaze drifted over to the baby in question, fast asleep in the crib on the coffee table. Dumbledore thought the boy looked like an angel. It broke his heart to think such an innocent child was a victim of Voldemort's callous acts, and that he would have to continue to deal with the Darkest Lord of the century, perhaps even the millennium, until the prophecy was fulfilled.
But the Muggle woman knew nothing of this infant's burdens. He glanced at Petunia Dursley, who was staring at the baby with an unreadable expression on her face. Just when he thought she had relented, Petunia turned her gaze back to Dumbledore with a flat look in her eyes.
The temperature in the room dropped several degrees.
"No?" repeated Dumbledore, projecting his displeasure through the calmness of his tone. "Why so quick to judge him, Petunia? He is Lily's only son. He is your own blood kin. Wouldn't you take him in, if not to raise him as your own, then at least to keep him sheltered from harm? You know that your sister would have done the same for you—"
Petunia paled. The hands on her lap balled into trembling fists. "Really, now? And how, pray tell, should I know what dear Lily would have done?" she seethed at Dumbledore, her eyes shining in anger. "My sister died, just as my parents did only months prior. Why is it, Headmaster, that I should sacrifice peace within this household just to make my dead sister happy, when she had done nothing for me?"
"This is not about anything as simple as give-and-take, as you are well aware," said Dumbledore as he gazed over his half-moon spectacles at Petunia, unfazed by her venomous outburst. "I rather thought you loved your sister enough that you would not turn down her last, and only, request."
"Love, my foot!" she exclaimed, jumping to her feet like a particularly angry horse. She snorted derisively, the tone of her laughter somewhat higher and more desperate. "When have we ever loved each other? Not since that letter from your school arrived, I remember . . .."
Dumbledore watched silently as Petunia struggled to regain her composure. The woman seemed to be on the verge of hysterical tears, though out of frustration for his persistence or grief for her sister's memory, he couldn't tell. He suspected that Petunia couldn't, either. When she calmed down enough to carry on a civil conversation, Dumbledore said quietly, "That's not true. Ask yourself why Lily has continued to send letters to a sister who never wrote back, who refused to even acknowledge her presence. Forget about your differences and the wizarding world for the moment, Petunia. Jealousy will get you nowhere."
Petunia took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes. "Get. Out."
"No!" she shouted, her voice shaking and steadily rising. "GET OUT!"
Dumbledore looked from the enraged woman to the sleeping baby in the crib, and sagged back against his chair, recognizing defeat. It seemed that his comments about Lily had had a rather adverse effect on Petunia. He'd hoped to guilt her into taking the boy, but apparently, the rift between the Evans sisters ran too deep for amendment by his hand. He sighed in resignation. "Very well."
The Headmaster stood and took the baby in his arms, before he allowed himself to be led to the front door by a fuming Petunia. Wordlessly opening the door, Petunia gave a pointed look that screamed for Dumbledore to leave. He stepped out into the chilly November day.
Just as Petunia was about to close the door, Dumbledore turned to her.
"I thank you for your hospitality upon my unwelcome visit, Mrs. Dursley," he said, his blue eyes cold even as he smiled. "I think it only fair that I give you a warning. Lily's shield of love runs in her son's blood. The protection was supposed to work both ways for her child and her sister. As circumstances have it, you and your family are prone to becoming a target for Voldemort and his followers, but without Lily's child as your charge, you are completely vulnerable to their attack. While we can protect a wizarding child under our laws, you should be made aware that neither the Ministry of Magic, nor myself, can do anything to help you should you fall under attack. Your best bet would be to try not to stay in one place for too long."
Petunia scowled fiercely and slammed the door shut in his face.
Dumbledore heaved a massive sigh as he stepped off the front porch of the Dursley residence, not caring if the Muggle neighbors noticed his bright purple robes and his other decidedly abnormal bits of attire.
Things were not going as he'd originally planned. Far from it.
He looked despairingly down at the baby in his arms. The small boy had been startled awake by the sound of the slamming door, and he was staring up at Dumbledore with wide, innocent eyes. Those eyes, vivid emerald in color and bright with curiosity, captured the Headmaster's attention at once. He nearly started, caught off guard by the child's gaze.
It may have been just his imagination, or perhaps a trick of the light . . . but Dumbledore could have sworn he saw a flicker of raw power within the infant's orbs.
The boy himself appeared completely oblivious to Dumbledore's momentary shock, however. Upon finding a convenient play-tool in his range of sight, the baby grabbed a handful of Dumbledore's long, silver beard and pulled on it with a happy gurgle. That jostled the Headmaster back into awareness. He gently pried the baby's small hands open to make him release his newly found toy.
The child really was adorable, thought Dumbledore with a wince as his efforts were proved fruitless. But that was neither here nor there.
"Whatever am I going to do with you, Harry Potter?" he muttered helplessly.
The baby only giggled.
Dumbledore paced the length of his office, uncharacteristically impatient. Desperate times call for desperate measures. This was the conclusion that the Hogwarts Headmaster had reached on the subject of where to place young Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived . . . or at least, that was what Dumbledore kept telling himself. The reason he decided to take such a drastic course of action was solely based on the severity of the situation, and the simple fact that he could find no better solution to deal with the problem of who to appoint as Harry's new guardian.
It had nothing to do with how irresistibly adorable he found the child, or the fact that he was already getting attached to this little green-eyed monster. Nope, nothing at all.
He was just doing his duty. Honest.
Dumbledore's rather one-sided mental conflict was brought to a halt by a knock at the office door. He glanced back at his desk to make sure that the crib and the baby sleeping inside were securely disillusioned before he answered the door.
"Ah, Frank," he greeted as a tall, broad-shouldered man entered. "Thank you for coming on such a short notice."
Frank Longbottom gave a friendly smile. "No problem, Albus. They've given me a week off Auror duty anyway," he said brightly. Dumbledore noted that the man appeared a good deal healthier and happier than three days ago, when the war had still been raging and Frank and his wife lived under the constant threat of a vague prophecy—a prophecy which might, or might not have concerned their son, Neville. Now, though, it was glaringly obvious whose shoulders fate had decided to dump her rubbish upon. Neville was safe for the moment, and the reassurance did wonders for his parents' state of mind.
"So, what did you want to talk to me about?" Frank asked as they settled into comfortable chairs. Sensing Dumbledore's discomfort, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. "Does this have something to do with the Order?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "No, no. The Order of the Phoenix is disbanded so long as Voldemort remains dead, or at least stays at bay. I called you here today to ask a . . . ah, personal favor."
Frank looked slightly relieved that their talk was not heading in the direction of Dark Lords and condemning prophecies, but he also appeared curious about what the older man might ask of him. Upon seeing that the Auror was ready to blindly agree to any requests he'd make, however, Dumbledore silenced him with a raised hand. "Please consider this favor before agreeing to anything, Frank. What I'm about to ask of you may well place you in danger."
Frank drew back, startled. "What is it?" he asked, his curiosity piqued.
"Well," Dumbledore began wearily, "simply put, I need you to sneak into some Ministry folders, tweak their documents a little, and then make sure that these documents cannot be reached by the wrong individuals. Before you ask, yes, this blatantly violates the law and jeopardizes your career, and so it should be executed with utmost discretion, if at all." He fixed the Auror with a serious gaze. "If you want out, now is the time to tell me; to hear any more details would put you at further risk."
To the Headmaster's surprise, Frank chuckled.
"That's not fair now, is it, Albus?" he said in mock resentment. "You already grabbed hold of my curiosity. I'd gladly take the risk to hear a bit more about your favor, though I fail to see why I should be in any danger. It shouldn't be that difficult to change the documents without detection . . ." he trailed off, before he rephrased sheepishly, "not for me, that is. The Ministry is too lax with information access by high-ranking officials and Aurors for their own good. Anyway, it won't be the first time I did something like this for you, and you know it."
"I was not talking about the dangers of the Ministry finding out," Dumbledore said with a sigh. "I have faith that you can carry out secret operations without drawing attention to yourself. I am, however, worried that you might become a target for Lord Voldemort's supporters should they ever suspect you of holding this information."
The reaction was immediate. Frank was said to have a sturdier backbone than most, and he was a feared Auror among the Death Eaters. But even if he was not a man to flinch at the Dark Lord's name, Frank visibly stiffened in his seat.
"I guess it was too much to hope that this favor wouldn't concern the war effort, then," he said tightly.
"I never said it would," Dumbledore pointed out. "I am not sure whether this affects the war at all, though I suspect it will cause some indirect influence in the future. Given the risk, do you still want to hear?"
Dumbledore's threat was enough to cause a moment of indecision. But Frank's mind was already made up.
"I do," came the firm response.
With a solemn nod, Dumbledore stood and walked over to his desk. Frank watched in bewildered silence as the Headmaster took out his wand and tapped it on an apparently invisible object on the wooden surface. A muttered spell later, a baby crib appeared, from which Dumbledore picked up a bundle and carried back to where he previously sat. He gently set the sleeping infant before a wide-eyed Frank.
"Harry Potter," the Auror whispered, avidly staring at the lightening-shaped scar on the child's forehead.
Dumbledore regarded the man quietly. The Longbottoms, like the Potters, had been warned of Sybil Trelawny's prophecy. It may have only been on a whim that Lord Voldemort sealed the fate of the Boy Who Lived, and it was for reasons unfathomable that the Dark Lord chose the Potters' son over the Longbottoms' as a more potent threat. Neville could have easily been the 'marked equal' as referred to in the prophecy. It could easily have been Frank and Alice that Voldemort killed, leaving their son an orphan. Dumbledore could see a flurry of emotions play across Frank's face; sorrow, pity, awe, worry, confusion . . ..
"Why is he here?" Frank finally asked once he shook himself out of his stupor. "I thought you decided to place him under his Muggle relatives' care?"
Dumbledore smiled bitterly. "The Muggles didn't take kindly to the idea of one of our kind living under their roof. Their mind seems to work as the Muggle equivalent of wizarding blood purists. I never would have imagined Lily's sister could be so different from her." Indeed, it was hard to see their relation, not only from their completely different looks, but also from the aspect of their conflicting personalities.
"Three days," Dumbledore sighed heavily, "it's only been three days, and they claim they'd had enough. I've just retrieved him this morning."
"That's . . . disappointing," said Frank, narrowing his eyes. "But I'm sure that if they found him so intolerable, he would be happier off with another, worthier guardian. Speaking of which, is that what your favor's about?"
"Yes," he confirmed, and breathed in deeply. "I have appointed myself as the new guardian."
Frank gaped. "You?" he all but sputtered. "But what about Hogwarts? How are you planning to run the school while raising a baby and keeping him safe from vengeful Death Eaters? Lily's shield only ensures protection through blood relations, and as far as I know, you and Harry don't share such connection."
Dumbledore merely nodded, but didn't say another word. The Auror continued on seriously, "Surely, there are many other families that are willing to take him in and raise him as their own. Even if it weren't for Harry being the Boy Who Lived, people would still care for him out of goodness of their hearts. Hell, I would do it. Lily and James would have done the same for Alice and I, and we owe them as much."
"If only the Dursleys were half as understanding," sighed the Headmaster. "But I must insist. Seeking volunteers to raise Harry Potter will force the information of his current lack of guardian to go public. And legally speaking, anyone can nominate themselves to such a task so long as they fulfill certain requirements. Harry's future will be determined by court, where the most influential would claim the right to take him—influential, meaning those like Lucius Malfoy, who would offer Harry to Voldemort the moment he returns. We can't risk the boy being found by the wrong hands."
Frank threw his hands up in defeat. "Alright, alright, I get your point," he grumbled. "I do suppose he'd be safest with you. But still, even you would be hard pressed to keep your position, both as a guardian and as a Headmaster. What do you plan to do, exactly?"
Dumbledore averted his eyes. "The first step would be to move Harry somewhere far away from harm. The place I have in mind is America."
Frank stared, his mouth hanging open.
"I knew you, and many others, wouldn't like the idea," continued Dumbledore uncomfortably, "but my reasoning is that no one would think to search for him in the States. As for my duties as Headmaster, I will manage them with Minerva's help and with much illegal uses of a Time Turner. I plan to spend at least twenty hours each day with Harry, until he is old enough to be able to take care of himself."
The Headmaster peered warily at Frank, expecting a heated opposition. He was aware of just how selfish his plan was . . . but then again, how was it any more unfair to Harry and those who loved him than leaving him at the Dursleys? Frank sighed.
"You're right. I don't like your idea," the Auror said, rubbing the bridge of his nose tiredly, "and don't think others would, either. I know for a fact, though, that nothing I can say will change your mind, and I also know that I can trust you to carry out your promises." Frank looked up and gazed evenly into Dumbledore's clear blue eyes. "Remember that I'll hold you to the promise of keeping Harry safe. And I'd also advise you to try to keep your sanity while dealing with mountains of work and toying with time, but I'm not too sure whether you're sane enough to start with."
Dumbledore's eyes positively twinkled. "But of course, Frank."
The Auror stood up with a sigh. "Then I'm off to the Ministry to make you the boy's legal guardian. I wonder, though, if I can ask you a favor of my own."
"Ask away," Dumbledore said with thinly veiled cheer.
Frank shook his head in exasperation. "You know that you've been our Secret Keeper for the past fortnight or so," he started, ignoring Dumbledore's annoying twinkle, "and that you cancelled the Fidelius two days ago because we were no longer in danger. Well, given this new development, I'd like the Fidelius Charm back on our house. If, by chance, Death Eaters decided to hunt us for information, I want all protection available for my wife and son. Will you be our Secret Keeper again, and come over soon to perform the Charm?"
The Headmaster smiled. "I will drop by your place tonight, if that's fine with you."
"Sounds fine," replied Frank with some relief. However, his expression became stormy as he glanced down at the soundly sleeping child.
Harry Potter had already become a legend at the age of one. There were speculations of his great powers, and there was even the theory of his greater evilness being the driving force behind Voldemort's demise. It was quite ridiculous. Frank could only see the child as he was; a child of Lily and James, a child who was yet too young to know of his destiny. Frank felt his chest clench, remembering the late Potters. The child would grow up never knowing his mother's loving hugs or his father's proud smile. All because of a stupid prophecy and a traitor.
"I'll certainly sleep more peacefully knowing that you would never betray us. Perhaps the only remarkable difference that divided our paths had been the choice in Secret Keepers," Frank muttered, almost to himself.
Dumbledore easily understood what Frank was talking about.
"I heard that Sirius Black was sentenced to life in Azkaban," he said quietly. "Did you see him off?"
"Yes," said the Auror tightly. "Not a word of regret. Came up to me and asked if I was as blind as the others. The nerve of him! I can't believe he'd been betraying the Order the whole time—that he'd killed Lily and James and even Peter! He fooled all of us. Everyone's devastated, especially Remus." Sorrow and sympathy overtook the previous fury in the Auror's eyes. "Can't really blame him, can we? The poor bloke lost two of his three best friends in a single night, and by the hand of the third. Will you at least tell him that you're moving Harry to America?"
Dumbledore nodded. "Of course. In fact, I wouldn't prevent you or Remus from visiting Harry any time, though on the condition that both of you tell no one else of Harry's whereabouts or other such information."
"That's good to hear. I'm sure Remus would love to see him sometimes . . . and it would be absolutely delightful to go mock your child-raising skills every now and then," joked Frank. He offered a hand, which Dumbledore got up to shake firmly. After a final inclination of his head, the Auror made for the door. Just as he was about to exit the Headmaster's office, however, he turned back to Dumbledore.
"Good luck," said Frank with a grin. "You'll need it."
With that, the door shut closed before Dumbledore could come up with a witty reply. He smiled and shook his head at the empty office.
But as he sat down and held the baby in his arms, he thought better of his retort. Perhaps Frank was right, Dumbledore mused with a wince as Harry woke up and began his recent hobby of tugging at his beard. Already, every one of his plans involving Harry Potter had spun out of control. The boy seemed to have a knack for causing the unexpected. Perhaps there was more truth in Frank's words than he would have liked.
Perhaps he would need all the luck in the world.
A/N: Feedbacks are very welcome :)