A/N: It's been over four years since I made my first public venture into the world of Harry Potter fanfiction. As a first effort, I am (with reservations) still proud of the original story. But it had a number of shortcomings, including some sloppy editing, plot discontinuity resulting from carelessness or uncertainty as to what direction things would take, unrealistic dialog (it took me a while to master writing emotional scenes), and excessive and (more importantly) unjustifiable angst at points. So, as I prepare to completely break from canon with the end of Sacrifice, I'm in the process of tightening things up, now that I finally know where I am going, and making this first part of the series as quality as I can.

While this chapter won't necessarily show it, I'm thoroughly overhauling most of this fic. I'm adding new scenes, significantly altering others, inserting some characters and relationships that weren't previously there, and trying (once more) for more realistic story-telling. If this goes well enough, I may revise Slytherin's Heir as well, although I feel that was a considerably improved effort.

Sorry for those of you hoping for me to just focus on Sacrifice and Fall of Night, but this is all an essential part of the process.

Oh, one more thing. I'm axing most of the author's notes, which frankly came off as whiny at points and gave away more than they should have. I doubt any of you will object.

Grey Maiden Part I: Philosopher's Stone

Summary: Taken from the lifeless arms of his mother on Halloween, 1981, Harry's life is forever altered. Lily Potter's best friend, a legendary ex-Auror with a tragic and dark past, has pledged her life to raise and protect Lily's only son. But how will an entirely different upbringing change the Boy-Who-Lived? Because whatever Harry has become, it's much different than what everyone expected...

Chapter 1: Halloween

On a cloudless night in the North, the tiny village of Godric's Hollow slept. All save one small cottage on the outskirts. A cottage that most passersby's didn't even know existed. Even for those that could see, it was lit only by a single light on the ground floor, a light mostly blocked by the heavy black curtains that covered all of the windows. In every way, an inconspicuous building.

Through the night came four black-cloaked figures, advancing slowly but purposefully towards the small sanctuary. The silver moonlight poured down around them, and the tallest of them raised his hand as they stood before the cottage, bringing the others to a halt. Slowly, he reached back and lowered the cowl of his robes, revealing a sharp-featured face framed by close-cut black hair. Its features may once have been quite handsome, but seemed now to be twisted and warped, his mouth a thin crease, his nose shrunken and deformed, and his eyes glowing a pale crimson. Coming to a halt beside him was a slender female figure, pale as death with hair dark as the night, her heavily lidded eyes cruel and cold. Behind this woman – who stood much closer to the tallest figure – was a graceful looking blonde, and bringing up the rear was a small and rather round man with slightly protruding teeth, thinning brown hair, and small, watery eyes that betrayed a tremendous apprehension. He was clutching a creased piece of paper in his right hand, a paper that said:

The Potters may be found at 23 Peverell Street.

in the Village of Godric's Hollow.

It was this one, this unassuming, pathetic-looking rodent of a man, who had led the others to this small, sparsely populated village far from the major cities of England. The man that had betrayed someone he had once called his best friend, condemning the man's family to certain death.

The tallest figure's nostrils flared as he sniffed the air, and a satisfied expression settled onto his inhuman face. Slowly, he reached into his jet-black robes and carefully withdrew a slender stick of wood. Gesturing for the others to remain behind (which the lone woman of the group seemed to do with the utmost reluctance), he pushed open the wrought iron gate with nary a sound, stepping calmly and carefully up to the door of the cottage. He whispered an incantation, and there was a brief flash of light from within the doorknob, all its locking mechanisms silently disengaging. He pushed it open to reveal the shocked face of a bespectacled man with messy black hair, whose hazel eyes widened with fear and shock as he recognized the figure in the door. He too held a wand, but it was pointed at the floor, and thus unable to immediately impede his entry. Stepping across the threshold, the man-who-was-no-longer-a-man felt a shiver of energy as the complex and elaborate wards protecting the cottage collapsed upon themselves, betrayed by one charm, correctly cast, but used unwisely.

"Hello, Potter," the man hissed, seeming to relish the fear he felt from the other. "You should have known it was only a matter of time. You cannot hide from Lord Voldemort."

"Lily!" the man yelled, "take Harry and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off-"

There was a gasp and a patter of footsteps as a woman with long red hair disappeared up a flight of stairs.

"It is pointless, Potter. I have disabled all Portkeys and thrown up Anti-Apparation Wards. You will die unless you step aside."

"You will not harm my son you snake-faced bastard!" Potter snarled as he raised his own slender stick. "Stupefy!" A jet of red light flew out the end of Potter's wand at the cloaked figure. His opponent waved his own wand, and the spell bounced harmlessly off the ethereal blue shield the snake-like man had wordlessly erected.

"A Stunner, Potter? One would think you had more skill than that… Discerpo!" A slender beam of light shot out of the wand, expanding in width as it went.

Potter barked, "Protego!" but it was too late to stop the entire spell as the powerful Severing Curse cut through the shield and hit Potter in the gut. He was knocked back into the wall, with a thump, sliding down and leaving a trail of crimson behind him. He slumped at the base, defeated but eyes defiant.

The man laughed a high, cold, ruthless laugh. "Crucio," he hissed, relishing the incantation. The air was filled with the sound of the man's screams as he convulsed and rolled along the ground. Finally, tiring of these games, the red-eyed man lifted his wand and completed the job.

"Avada Kedavra!"

A jet of green light struck the writhing form before him. James Potter stiffened before he fell back to the floor, his eyes wide open and glassy, devoid of all life. Dead. The high, cold laugh of the snake-like man filled the room once more as he turned his attention to the other inhabitants of the cottage.

Lord Voldemort stepped over the dead body of his vanquished foe and softly crept up the stairs. He strode down the hallway, radiating power and confidence, until he reached a small room across from the main bedroom. Inside, a terrified young woman desperately held a crying baby, whom she had taken from his crib.

Lily Potter, her red hair throw back over her shoulders and her green eyes shining with defiance, stared down Lord Voldemort as few had done. But as Voldemort stalked forward, wand extended, her courageous defiance seeming to give way to desperation and fear. She clutched the baby tighter to her chest.

"Please, not Harry…Have mercy, have mercy," she pleaded.

"Stand aside, silly girl! Stand aside!"

He was so close to fulfilling the Prophecy, and in so doing completing his journey to immortality. He could smell it, the sweet aroma of hard-won victory. Severus Snape would be rewarded beyond his wildest dreams for the information he had brought.

"No, not Harry, please, take me instead!" the woman pleaded again. The baby, a small child with a shock of jet-black hair and his mother's green eyes, wailed in Lily's arms. She clutched him tighter, shielding him from the monster.

Lord Voldemort let out a hiss that best resembled a sigh. "Avada Kedevra!"

The jet of green light connected with the woman, and she fell to the ground, her green eyes glassy and lifeless, staring into the abyss, dead as her husband. Her baby wailed at the sudden loss of his mother, as if he could sense that she was dead. The man stepped towards the young boy, a few months past his first birthday, still wrapped in his mother's arms. Had he been paying attention, he might have noticed the red sheen that was covering both mother and child. But Lord Voldemort was in a hurry.

Taking aim at the boy's forehead, he whispered, "Goodbye, child. Avada Kedavra!"

For the third time on this awful night, a jet of green light shot out of Voldemort's wand. But instead of connecting and wiping the life from the infant, the green light hit the red aura surrounding the baby, which flashed white. Lord Voldemort had barely a second before the light flashed back at him. He felt utter agony as the light ravaged his body, tearing his soul from him. His last thoughts were of utter horror as he realized the crucial mistake he had made.

And in the wreckage of the burning cottage, a baby, forehead now adorned with a bleeding, lighting-bolt shaped curse scar, wailed for his dead parents.

Minutes later, a lone woman appeared on the outskirts of the property with a small flash of smoke and began striding determinedly forward.

A mere glance at her was all it took to realize that this was not a woman to trifle with if you planned to escape with all of your limbs intact. She moved with the cat-like grace of a trained dancer, her slender build belying her hard-won strength and endurance. Her steps were quick and decisive, and her grey-green eyes scanned the area, sizing up the terrain, any possible opposition, and potential dangers, more out of habit than by conscious effort.

The woman would have been quite attractive were it not for a number of imperfections. Her honey-blond hair trailed behind her, over her shoulders, just framing her hardened face. Her eyes, once filled with the childlike glee and innocence of any young witch who has just received her first Hogwarts letter, were now clouded with anguish and despair.

They say one's eyes are the window to the soul. Inside of her, behind the sorrow, lurked an evil presence, a vicious fury that did not always know friend from foe; a raw, searing anger that burned with the desire for vengeance.

But her most distinguishing facial features were a pair of relatively fresh scars. One was a long, wicked-looking blemish that ran from above her right eye down to her cheek, another a jagged scar on her neck that started beneath the left side of her chin and continued beneath her emerald-green robes.

At the sight of the burning cottage, her mouth dropped open, her legs nearly giving way underneath her, as she realized that she had already failed.

She was dead. Her best friend, the woman she had grown to think of as closer than any sister, was dead.

Along with her husband, James, and her son, Harry, Lily Rose Evans Potter was dead. It was almost too much. It wasn't fair. First her parents and infant brother, than Edmond, and now...

A faint sound pierced the air, the last sound that Daphne Artemis Dressler, born of the venerable O'Connor line, would have expected to hear.

A faint baby's cry; a cry that carried with it the same pain and sorrow that was contained within the heart of this witch. A cry of a baby whose parents had been cruelly taken from him.

Harry.

Filled with a new sense of purpose, she cleared the remaining distance between her and the cottage. Ignoring the smoldering timbers, she raced in through the open door, and stopped as she saw the dead body of James Potter, blood no longer flowing from a major stomach wound, his eyes dull and glassy. But the crying was growing louder, as were the flames that had enveloped the small cottage, licking their way slowly across the walls. Without second thought, she raced up the stairs and into little Harry's room.

Powerful magic permeated the air, magic that stank of Darkness and was only associated with the Darkest of the Unforgivables; a curse that was feared by all who would not use it, and a curse that always killed. A curse that left no marks except for those on the hearts of its victims' loved ones.

Avada Kedavra.

Yet there was something else in this small room, the walls blown out by a tremendous explosion, what was left of the ceiling blackened and charred. A sense of love and protection that somehow overcame the darkness. Dreading what she'd see, Daphne focused on the sight before her. She felt her eyes burn with tears and an overwhelming nausea threaten to overtake her. She forced her eyes to look at the body.

Lily Evans Potter lay on the floor next to the cradle, the final victim of Lord Voldemort's reign of terror. Her dark red hair was spread out behind her like a halo, but her face was contorted in terror, her brilliant green eyes devoid of the life and intelligence Daphne had always associated with them. Her arms were wrapped around the source of the noise that had summoned Daphne here, a small infant with his mother's green eyes and tufts of his father's jet-black hair. He was wailing now, and Dressler supposed that shock had set in, the reason she only now knew that her 'nephew' was crying. Daphne noticed that his forehead was bloody, and reached for her wand to clean it. A burning ceiling rafter fell, and she knew time was running out.

Gathering Harry gently into her arms, she turned to go, but then realized what Dumbledore and the Order would assume if Harry had vanished without a trace. So she summoned a parchment and quill, and wrote quickly, a plan instantly forming within her mind.

Lily would have wanted this, she thought desperately, and signed the note with a flourish.

Hurriedly, she placed the parchment underneath Lily's left arm, which lay across her chest, trusting it would be found when others arrived for the grim task of removing the bodies. With a heartbroken last look at her best friend, she ran downstairs and cleared the Anti-Apparition wards. Harry was sound asleep in her arms. Dashing across the street and taking a final, painful glimpse of the destroyed cottage, she vanished with a resounding CRACK.

Mere seconds later, another noise thundered in the air, and a man with blue eyes and long black hair appeared on a huge motorcycle. The engine revved loudly as he brought the flying vehicle in for a landing and jumped off. He took once glance at the sight before him and broke down, falling to his knees with anguished sobs. He didn't even need to see the bodies to know that his two best friends were dead. They had failed.

Peter.

Pettigrew had betrayed them, he knew that now. And it was Sirius's fault they were dead, for he had made the brilliant decision to switch at the last moment. He'd been there, where Peter was hiding. The building was empty, but there was no sign of a struggle. He hadn't been captured; he had gone to his master.

He had delivered them right into Voldemort's hands.

And Peter would pay.

Oh, yes, he would pay for this.

Another CRACK resounded through the air, and Sirius Orion Black spun around, wand drawn. But he lowered it at the sight of a huge black-haired and bearded man. This veritable giant of a man looked harmless at the moment though; he was leaning on his pink umbrella and bawling like a baby as he gazed at the scene of destruction in front of him.

"Sirius Black?" the man asked through his tears. Sirius nodded, his gaze never leaving the burning house. He wanted to go in, to see if anyone was alive, or at least move the bodies. But he couldn't move. He couldn't get it through his head that he would never see James or Lily again. My gods, we thought it was Remus. Merlin, it's my fault they are dead! I as good as killed them!

Through his choked sobs, Sirius felt Rubeus Hagrid walk over to him and place a hand the size of a rubbish bin lid on his shoulder, patting gently, but still with enough force to knock him forwards. "S'gonna be alright Sirius," he mumbled, sounding rather unconvinced of his statement. Suddenly, he removed the hand. "Sirius? Have you looked for Harry? He's probably…you know, but…"

As if scalded, Sirius ran into the house, clearing the way with a quick Aguamenti charm. He ran through the front door and froze when he saw the body of his best friend. Still, he could mourn later. He hurried up the stairs towards the baby's room. The walls along the hallway were blackened and scorched, and the faint sense of powerful magic hung in the air. He found Lily lying next to the baby's cradle. It was was empty, and for a moment, Sirius thought that Voldemort might have taken the child. But a piece of parchment held in place by Lily Potter's left arm caught his attention, and gingerly removing the limp limb, he carefully unfolded the parchment, ignoring the smoldering beams and glowing timbers burning around him.

To any who may find this,

Harry survived what I believe to have been Voldemort's Killing Curse. I've taken him with me, to raise on my own. Do not attempt to follow me. You'll see him again when he's old enough for school.

D.A.D.

He read the message and the blood drained from his face. His features changed from baffled confusion to sudden recognition as he realized who had taken his godson. He slipped the paper into the pocket of his robes.

Picking up Lily's body, Sirius cradled her gently in his arms. He carried her downstairs. She deserved a proper wizarding funeral. He looked around the living room to see that Hagrid had already retrieved his best friend. He glanced at Sirius for a sign of Harry's fate, but Sirius gestured out the door. As they exited, the fire seemed to rise in intensity, and the upper floor caved in, causing the ground floor to be enveloped in sparks and searing flame. They just made it out in time. Somehow the fire now leaping into the sky hadn't alerted the Muggles living in the village. It was possible the Fidelus Charm, in a sick irony, was in effect, though, unlike those under its protection, it had outlived its usefulness.

Sirius gently laid Lily Potter's body next to that of her husband and ran over to Hagrid. "Hagrid, Harry's alive. But he isn't here. Read this," he said, handing the paper to the half-giant. He suddenly stiffened.

"Who's D.A.D, Sirius? An' where's 'Arry?"

"Do you know Daphne Dressler? Maiden name O'Connor?"

"Sure, she was Lily's friend, wasn't she?" A plan was formulating in Sirius's mind. A plan of revenge. Peter will follow them to the grave soon enough…

"Yes. Hagrid, I've got something I need to do. You can have my motorcycle, I won't be needing it."

"Ok, Sirius, but what-"

"No time. Give Dumbledore my regards."

Sirius, hell-bent on avenging his friend's murder, Apparated away to begin the hunt of his former friend. In his reckless, emotional haste, he neglected to mention the very evidence that would prove his innocence.

Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore apparated to the site of the Potter's cottage in Godric's Hollow expecting to find it deserted. At his side was his Transfiguration Professor and second in command of the Order of the Phoenix, Minerva McGonagall. Dumbledore was a very tall man with long white hair and an even longer beard. He wore golden spectacles that slightly magnified his blue eyes, which normally held an amused twinkle. They were devoid of any such light now. He wore flowing purple robes, and the look on his face was one of regret and sorrow for the loss of a pair of wonderful friends.

Beside him, McGonagall was a rather severe looking woman with a lined face and graying black hair pulled back into a ponytail. She wore robes of a deep crimson, and tears were streaking down her face as she struggled to keep her composure.

"Hagrid?" Dumbledore asked a hint of confusion showing in his voice. "Why have you not taken Harry to Hogwarts so that he can be delivered to his relatives?" The kindly giant looked greatly embarrassed.

"Uh, Professor, 'Arry isn't there," Hagrid said nervously. He looked up to the older man like a father, and was ashamed that he had failed when such an important task had been given to him.

"What do you mean, Hagrid?" McGonagall asked in a Scottish brogue. A look of panic came upon her aged features. "He lives, does he not?"

"Yessir. Problem is, somebody got here first. Sirius and I got here second."

"Sirius Black?" McGonagall asked, shocked. "Wasn't he the Potter's Secret Keeper? Surely he had to be dead! What did he say, Hagrid? How did this-"

"HE WAS?" Hagrid roared, "I SHOULDA KILLED THE MURDERIN' TRAITOR!"

"Rubeus, please," Dumbledore said, weariness in his voice. "We didn't know that Sirius had taken the path of his family. I must say I am shocked. However, nothing is certain in this war. Except the fact that Lord Voldemort, for now, has gone."

"He's really dead then, Albus?" McGonagall asked, "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is dead at last? We've won?" She sounded extremely reluctant to believe it.

"For now, Lord Voldemort is gone. However, I do not doubt that he remains in some form. But yes, for the present time, we have won the battle. The war is yet to be fought," he replied cryptically. He paused. "But what of young Harry?"

"The traitor gave me this sir," Hagrid said roughly. "Got it offa Lily, they're over there, yeh see," he said, pointing in the direction of the bodies. He handed Dumbledore the note.

McGonagall hurried over and let out a gasp. "Daphne?"

"I believe Mrs. Dressler has indeed taken Harry. Where and why, I cannot say," Dumbledore replied, his mind racing as he considered the consequences. "It is obvious that she intends to keep him away from me, for whatever reason. Come now, let us bring James and Lily back to Hogwarts, and we will discuss this later." There was, in reality, little he could do.

"I got Lily, sir," Hagrid said.

"And I'll," McGonagall sniffed, "get James."

Holding gently onto the two bodies of their departed friends, the three apparated back to Hogsmeade, before hurrying up to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to consult the remainder of their number of the great victory…and the tragic losses.

Daphne Dressler and her infant cargo arrived at the gates of the ancestral home of her late husband's family. Edmond Dressler had been the only son of a very wealthy pureblood line, and the most kind and loving man that Daphne had ever known. She didn't plan to even stay the night here. She needed to get away from Dumbledore, and that meant getting out of the country. She'd already decided on what spells to use to make Harry and herself unplottable and unlocatable. It wasn't so much that she distrusted the old wizard as that she was certain he would not approve of her decision. A decision that had been made, and that was that.

Harry was sleeping soundly at the moment.

She used a cleaning charm on his bloody forehead, and then a basic Healing Charm when she had determined that the wound was only skin-deep. She was shocked to discover that the lighting-bolt shaped cut had already vanished, leaving in its place a wicked-looking, thin scar. Between the stench of the Avada Kedavra, a stench so strong that it could not have only been caused by one death, and this peculiar scar, she had a feeling that it was a result of the Killing Curse. But then how was Harry still alive?

She didn't have time to ponder that now. Gently rocking him back and forth in her arms, she walked up to the front door of the estate, and opened it (the wards were keyed to accept her. Once inside the great hallway, her eyes fell upon a carved table, atop it a picture that broke her heart all over again. It was their wedding picture. It depicted a vibrant young woman with bright grey-green eyes, shining honey-blond hair, and a beautiful silk wedding gown, wearing a bright smile, her arm wrapped around a tall man with boyish features, short brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a goatee, wearing handsome green robes and a dazzling grin. Behind them stood a stately looking woman with graying brown hair pulled into a bun and a beaming elderly man with bright blue eyes and straw-colored hair. It was of Clarice and Thomas Dressler and their newlywed son and daughter-in-law, Daphne Artemis O'Connor and Edmond Samuel Dressler.

She was shook out of her daze by the sight of a rather old, ragged-looking house-elf. However, the small creature's feature's lit up when he saw her standing in the doorway.

"Mistress Daphne, ma'am," the house-elf bowed low, "It is so good to be seeing you again. Who is the small master?"

"This is Harry, Yonky, Harry Potter."

"Mistress Lily's son, ma'am?" the house-elf asked, his eyes lighting up in excitement.

"Yes, Yonky. Could you take care of him while I make preparations? I plan to leave England for our home in Newfoundland."

"Yes, Yonky knows how to take care of small masters. Yonky took care of Master Edmond when he was much smaller. Yonky was very sad indeed to hear of Master Edmond's passing," the house-elf said, sniffing into its otherwise neat pillowcase.

Daphne felt her eyes watering, and took a deep breath, trying to hold back the tears. She still couldn't believe he was really gone. It seemed only yesterday that Edmond and she were discussing possibly starting a family. They had decided they would start one as soon as they could.

She would never have a son or daughter of her own now.

No, she corrected herself. I have Harry. I owe Lily so much, and I am going to raise her son as she would have. I am going to give him the love and affection deserving of my own child. It's the least I can do. He's already suffered so much.

Their decision happened four days before the attack.

They had come in the dead of night, when Edmond was downstairs getting a late-night meal. There had been six of them, led by the Death Eater who had murdered the Prewetts and one of Voldemort's chief lieutenants, a man named Evan Rosier. They had ambushed Edmond, who had fought a brief duel before Dolohov had hit him with the Killing Curse. Enraged and maddened by grief, she had run down the stairs and began firing off powerful curses at random, many of them Dark. Dolohov had hit her with a deflected Slicing Curse, half-blinding her and giving her the ugly scar she carried as a trophy. She had ended up eviscerating Rosier and blowing another Death Eater's head to pieces with a Blasting Hex. She had grabbed her husband's body and activated her Portkey, spiriting them to St. Mungo's. After receiving some medical attention, she fled to her London flat, unable to face her friends, unable to process the traumatic events of that terrible night. Until this terrible night had come, when the alarm spells that Daphne had personally placed around Godric's Hollow had gone off, signaling a breach of security, and then a total failure of the protective wards.

She hurried up to her bedroom to pack. She needed to be gone soon, before Dumbledore could catch up with her. She waved her wand and her necessary clothes and personal items flew into her trunk. It was easy: she already had them laid out in her mind. She knew they'd be able to access both the Potter's and her accounts overseas, though she didn't intend to rely on Lily and James's generosity. The Dresslers were a very wealthy family, and she had enough funds to raise a wizard boy without needing a source of employment.

She charmed the trunk to float and follow her, and ran back downstairs. Floppy, the Dressler's other house elf, a female, had baby Harry in her arms, and was rocking him gently. The baby appeared to be sleeping soundly, protected for that moment. She would continue to protect him, with her life if necessary.

She would do anything for Lily. As she knew Lily would have done anything for her. And saving Harry from Lily's horrible relatives, where Dumbledore, no doubt, would have sent him, was a way of paying back that debt. She knew of the old wizard's trust in blood magic. But the only time she had met Petunia and her husband, she had instantly disliked them. Vernon was crude and distrustful of anything out of the ordinary. Petunia was a paranoid neat-freak who despised the success of her sister. No, Harry would not be sent to live with them.

Speaking of Harry, Daphne had very little she could bring for him. There were no baby clothes in Dressler Manor. If worst came to worst, she could always Transfigure Muggle children's clothing into what she needed. Yes, she had everything. She would leave Dressler Manor in the capable hands of the family house-elves.

"Floppy, I'm taking Harry away now. We won't be back for a long time."

The house-elf looked crestfallen. Apparently, she had fallen in love with the small black-haired baby. "Very well, Mistress Daphne. Floppy and Yonky will take care of the house while Mistress Daphne and Master Harry are gone."

With a final nod to the house-elf, she took the baby out of her arms and pulled him gently to her chest, cuddling him in her soft, emerald-green robes that perfectly matched the color of his and Lily's eyes. She took out her broom, a Cleansweep IV, and tapped it once, thinking clearly of the small house the Dresslers owned in Newfoundland, while muttering, "Portus." The broom glowed blue for a moment, then faded. She didn't care about the illegal Portkey; the Ministry wouldn't find her in Canada either. Grasping her trunk and Harry securely, she spoke the activation words softly, "New Beginnings," then placed her hand onto the broom. Harry let out a cry as she felt a tug behind her navel, and the world disappeared in blur of colors.

Minerva McGonagall, Albus Dumbledore, Filius Flitwick, and the remaining members of the Order of Phoenix stood in a loose circle in the middle of the Great Hall of Hogwarts. The house tables had been shoved to the walls, with only a circular table in its place. It made the massive room seem rather empty.

The entire Order was waiting spellbound for Dumbledore to continue his story of the fall of Voldemort. Most simply couldn't believe that the war they'd been fighting for so long was, for the time being, over. The Death Eaters were now leaderless and ineffective, and it was only a matter of time before they were rounded up and thrown into Azkaban to rot for the rest of their lives. England was going to wake up to the wonderful reality of no more Lord Voldemort, no more reign of terror.

Kingsley Shacklebolt, a tall black wizard with a hoop earring and shaved head, asked quietly, "How, Dumbledore? How did this happen?"

"Ah, yes, Kingsley. It seems that Lord Voldemort was undone by a baby, a baby named Harry Potter. Unfortunately, James and Lily appear to have been the final victims of Voldemort's reign."

There were a number of gasps, and several women broke into tears. Many held a great fondness for the Potters, especially within the resistance against Voldemort.

"But how did this child defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?" the wheezy-voiced Elphias Dodge asked. "And where is the boy now?"

"I do not know, Elphias, how young Harry defeated the Killing Curse that was cast upon him."

Whispers and gasps followed this proclamation.

"He survived the Killing Curse?" Arthur Weasley, the red-headed father of seven children, asked quietly.

"I believe so," Dumbledore said, mixing fact with educated conjecture. "It appears that Lord Voldemort cast the curse at Harry and it was somehow reflected back at him, ripping his own soul from his body. He is gone for now. As for Harry, he is safe, to the extent of my knowledge."

"What do you mean by that Albus?" Alastor Moody growled, always suspicious. "To the extent of your knowledge?"

"Yes. It appears that someone got to Godric's Hollow before we did, and took young Harry with them. It also appears to have been Daphne Dressler, based on the note she left with Lily's body. She plans to raise him on her own. I don't believe I'll be able to do anything, as she is quite an expert with all kinds of tracking counter-spells and one of the best Aurors in recent history. If she wishes to hide, there is little to be done about it. We can only hope for the best."

More questions came, and Albus sighed. A long night was far from over.

The Next Day:

Sirius Orion Black prowled through the streets of Muggle London, hunting his prey. He ducked down one alleyway, his keen sense of smell zeroing in on the Rat, as he had dubbed him. He emerged from the alleyway and moved into a large crowd of Muggles who were shopping.

Then Sirius spotted him.

He was furtively sneaking around through the crowds of Muggles, his wand sticking out of his pocket, his watery eyes scanning for pursuers. Every so often he would sniff the air. Sirius's eyes narrowed, and he stalked forward. Pettigrew spotted him, and his watery eyes widened in fear and shock. He raced into the alleyway, presumably looking for a place to transform. Sirius raced after him and fired the first spell, an Anti-Disapparition Spell that connected with Pettigrew's arm.

Pettigrew stopped, pulling out his own wand, sweating now as Sirius approached, his rage boiling over, conscious thought overcome by a torrent of grief and hatred.

"You bastard. You lying, sniveling, traitorous bastard! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO LILY AND JAMES! ANSWER ME!" Sirius roared, his teetering self-control crumbling to dust, blood pounding in his ears. He was going to kill Peter, oh yes he was.

Pettigrew cowered, and then suddenly took off again, running into the middle of a crowded street. Sirius stalked forward, damning the Statute of Secrecy. Muggles could be Obliviated, James and Lily could not be brought back to life.

He raised his wand, ready to incant a curse, and then stopped.

Pettigrew was fumbling with something. He caught a flash of silver and realized it was a knife. Before he could call out, Pettigrew in one motion cut off a finger on his left hand then rubbed the bleeding wound all over his robes. Sirius raised his wand again, realizing what Pettigrew was trying to do. He didn't see the wand that Pettigrew was now fumbling with behind his back with his good hand.

"Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!" he yelled, false tears rolling down his cheeks.

Sirius was about to roll his eyes and hex Pettigrew into oblivion when he saw the wand tip pointing at the street. "Diffin-"

"CONFRIGO!" Pettigrew bellowed. The hex tore into the street and caused a massive explosion behind Pettigrew, sending Muggles flying into the air as screams and chaos broke out everywhere. The blast also knocked Sirius flat, debris raining down around him, though he got up just in time to see a rat with a missing toe on his left forepaw run into the wide, smoking crater that he had just created, vanishing into the sewers.

His ears ringing from the blast, Sirius unsteadily got to his feet and surveyed the catastrophic devastation. Muggles lay bleeding all around the crater, and he could see at least ten who didn't look like they would get up again. Suddenly, the air was filled with CRACKs, as red-robed Aurors and grey-robed hit-wizards, along with members of the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad and a team of Healers, appeared in the square. The AMRS immediately threw up barriers to prevent the hysterical Muggles from fleeing the scene.

Sirius stood in the middle of the circle. He saw the faces of several of his fellow Aurors, including the ruthless and cunning Rufus Scrimgeour, who was looking at Sirius like he was Lord Voldemort reincarnate. Cornelius Fudge, one of the leading candidates in the upcoming election, was there, along with Barty Crouch, his rival and a high-ranking official in the office of Magical Law Enforcement. Based on the positions of the people around him, far closer than he remembered, Sirius realized he must have been knocked unconscious.

The other thing he registered was that his wand was hanging limply at his side, while every single other wand in the vicinity was pointed directly at him. He suddenly realized what this must look like, especially since everyone believed that he was the Secret Keeper of the Potters. It appeared to everyone that he had just murdered Peter Pettigrew and at least a dozen Muggles. He was trapped.

Scrimgeour stepped forward, wand still pointed at Sirius's heart. "Put the wand down, Black, it's over," he said in an ice-cold voice.

Sirius dropped his wand to the ground, still numb from the horrific turn of events. He dumbly stared around at the angry faces of his colleagues and friends. They all believed that he was a traitor. They believed that he, like his foolish brother, had joined Lord Voldemort. And now Voldemort was dead. And Sirius began to laugh maniacally at the absurdity of it all. All the while, tears of grief and despair streamed down his face. But he couldn't stop laughing. If it hadn't been him, it would have been hilarious. Two days ago, Remus was the informant. Peter was innocent. James, Lily, and Harry were alive and in hiding. Voldemort still held a curtain of shadow over Europe.

How things had changed.

He didn't notice Mad-Eye's Stunner until it was far too late.


A/N: As mentioned before, this chapter didn't need nearly as much work as some of the following ones will.

I would certainly appreciate any reviews or comments, from first-time or second-time readers.

One small thing I took liberty with: while it doesn't make all that much sense for Hagrid to be able to Apparate, Rowling sort of implies he can - Hagrid shows up at Godric's Hollow on his own, *before* taking Sirius' motorbike. Now, Rowling had not yet introduced the idea of portkeys, but I'm going to declare that using the bits of wand in his umbrella, Hagrid can indeed Apparate.

Also, I would say that Sirius is being less idiotic and more emotional and a bit genre-blind. Which, given the fact that he was probably *more* impulsive before his stay in Azkaban, makes as much sense to me as anything.