Prologue: Potion Confusion
Summary: Everyone's lives are put in jeopardy when a secret revealed causes identity confusion and a tangle of assassins after the Boy-Who-Lived. When the hunter becomes the hunted, who can put things right? A tale of love, family, lies and blackmail.
Warnings: Angst, violence, strong language, references to slash/rape, non-slash mpreg
Disclaimer: Harry Potter is not mine
Author's Notes: This little plot bunny came to me aeons ago when I was planning Emeralds and Green Light. I found myself writing out scenes just to get it out of my head, and it turned, first into a fic, and then into a series. This is number one. Numbers two and three will be prequels. I once posted the prologue to this, but deleted it due to plot changes and the need to focus on EaGL. I'm still working hard on EaGL, but I decided to post the prologue as I wait for my beta to get back to me with chapter two. So, here's the first instalment of A Butterfly's Wings. Thanks to Fairy for beta'ing – enjoy! Reviews welcome, no flames please!
They say that time changes things, but actually you have to change them yourself
- Andy Warhol
"Where's Dumbledore when you need him?" Ron said exasperatedly.
He and Hermione edged around the alley, watching the battle through appalled eyes.
It was horrendous. Voldemort and about two dozen Death Eaters were duelling fiercely against the residents of Hogsmeade – the ones left. Most were dead. The tallest Death Eater was the worst – sending powerful Dark curses in all directions. He was responsible for most of the deaths so far. He'd killed even more than Voldemort had, and tortured a great deal.
Upon hearing of the Death Eater attack at Hogsmeade, Ron and Hermione had sneaked out of the castle to do what they could to help – against the teachers' wishes, obviously. Harry would have been with them, had he not been … indisposed. Absent. Missing.
Their minds, however, were on the subject at hand, rather than their friend.
Ron gripped his wand. It wouldn't do for the Death Eaters to catch them; contrary to what Harry would have done, were he present, he and Hermione were waiting out of sight at the sidelines, waiting for someone – preferably a Death Eater – to come round the back, so they could ambush them. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing; DA members or not, they wouldn't stand a chance against the tallest Death Eater, let alone Voldemort.
Or should it be the other way around?
"Oh, that's horrible," Hermione whimpered. The tallest Death Eater had cast a curse that swept through the battle, ripping apart most without masks. Now only a handful of the villagers remained.
She wondered vaguely who it was behind the mask.
There were shouts from out of their sight, before half the Order came rushing towards Voldemort and his followers.
"And about time too," Ron muttered, wincing as Tonks was Stunned almost at once.
The Death Eaters seemed to be asking Voldemort if they should retreat, but apparently the response was negative. The tall figure, only beaten height wise by the vicious Death Eater, radiated confidence, which all seemed to revolve around said follower.
"Hermione …" Ron said slowly. The tallest figure seemed to be backing away from the battle, as if trying to escape without being noticed. Hermione spotted the sign, and exchanged a nod with Ron. The two tightened the grip on their wands and slipped back around the corner and crouched in the shadows, waiting.
The Death Eater, caught off his guard, crumpled to the ground, Stunned.
"That was easy," Ron said wryly, lowering his wand and standing. "Now let's see who that mask hides."
Hermione moved nervously forwards and tugged it off, revealing a face of the least likely person imaginable to be a Death Eater. They both gasped.
"Merlin," Ron breathed, "it's Dumbledore!"
How it all began …
The Informatio spell had been outlawed in 1834, because of 'moral issues' with the Ministry of Magic. It comprised of two separate potions, one for each caster, and a complicated incantation that was to be cast by both.
Aberforth Dumbledore came across the spell accidentally. He knew his brother Albus and his wife Minerva had given up on the idea of having children; they'd been trying for years, with no success. Aberforth's sister-in-law was due to leave the country soon to put her Healer training to good use in the war, but he figured there was enough time for them to brew the potions and try the spell before she left.
He ran the idea past Albus, who in turn asked Minerva. She agreed, and the two of them put the time before she left to good use.
For such rare potions, they were surprisingly easy to make. The last two ingredients of each consisted of a lock of hair from each of them. Once the first step was over, Albus took them off the fire, waited for them to cool and placed them in separate vials.
Halloween, the day before Minerva's departure, came.
"Min, are you sure about this?" Albus asked for the hundredth time. Minerva looked pale and nervous, but nodded firmly.
"I've never been surer in my life."
Albus handed over the goblet containing Minerva's potion. He had only poured out half of each one, as a precaution, in case something happened to the first lot. He poured out half of his own and they stood facing each other, wands at the ready.
"On three. One – two – three!"
Both drained the goblets. The potion sent a warm gush down Albus' body, and he felt a tingling all over, and a strange sensation that made him think for a moment he was going to throw up, but it passed, then he and Minerva began to chant the spell.
As they finished the last word of the incantation, a flash of blinding white light came from both wands. Both of them winced and shut their eyes, half-blinded.
And it was over. The two lowered their arms, and looked at each other.
"Minerva? How do you feel?"
"A bit queasy," she said shakily. "You?"
"Fine." In truth, Albus didn't feel all that good, but he didn't want to worry Minerva. He put his wand away, taking a couple of subtle deep breaths.
"Well… I guess that's it, then." Minerva put her own wand away and managed a smile. "Let's hope it works out this time."
Her husband wrapped his arms around her and kissed her head. "It will, Minnie. It will."
Albus and Minerva had tried so many times to have children and failed, they'd agreed not to tell anyone when they attempted the spell. Minerva left the next day, promising to write the moment she found out whether it had worked. The staff noticed something was distracting Albus, but left him to it, putting it down to him missing his wife.
A fortnight after Minerva left, Albus received a letter at breakfast.
Things are not going so well over here. You-Know-Who is still killing like crazy. We're beginning to suspect there may be a spy in our midst. He seems to know almost exactly what our moves are, so he can work around them.
I'm sure you know all this already, so let's get to the real reason I'm writing. I know you wanted me to write as least as possible, but you need to know this.
I only found out this morning – the spell didn't work, Albus. I really thought this time it would, but it never did. I'm not pregnant and never have been.
I don't know what went wrong. Maybe this just wasn't meant to be.
I miss you so much, Albus. I wish you were here, especially now. But now I know the truth, I'm going to stay longer. I'll let you know when I come back. Keep in touch; I still want to hear how things are doing your end.
Ever since the arrival of the tear-stained letter, Albus had spent a lot of his spare time in the Restricted Section, trying to find out what went wrong with the spell. There had to be a logical explanation; he couldn't believe it wasn't meant to be.
He had expected the spell to take a lot out of him; it was a very powerful one, even if it hadn't worked. Albus was feeling more tired and even fluey. He wondered if he was coming down with something, but he didn't go to Madam Pomfrey; he had to find out what happened. He owed Minerva that much.
His research led him to a history of the spell being performed. He couldn't find a single case of the spell not working when cast and brewed correctly; yet he was positive he had done everything right. What he did find were records of the lives of the children and families that had used it. The author stated that he was sure all of them had either died, or fallen victim to terrible bad luck early in life.
Albus wasn't sure he believed the superstition, but found part of him silently thankful that the spell hadn't worked after all.
When the library got him nowhere, Albus turned his attention to the leftover potions. He wondered whether he should double-check it was brewed correctly. If it hadn't, there could be a nasty side-affect that he didn't realize, and if so he ought to find out.
The morning he resolved to examine the potion, he felt worse. His stomach churned when he woke and only just managed to get to the bathroom in time before he was sick.
Pushing aside the voice of his conscience telling his he should visit the nurse, he took out the vials and set to work. It wasn't until mid-afternoon he realized what the problem was.
Albus stared at the two bottles. He cast his mind back to the morning.
How can I have been so careless?
He fumbled with the bottles, his hands shaking badly, as he put them in a bag to take to Poppy Pomfrey. She had to see them.
Albus, you absolute idiot. What have you done?
Aberforth had left it several weeks, deciding that he would wait until Albus and Minerva were sure to know whether or not the spell had worked. He couldn't help but feel exited at the thought of being an uncle – in his opinion he was the lucky one; the parents had to parent, whereas he just got to spoil.
He arrived at Hogwarts on a Saturday, as jumpy as a Mexican Jumping Bean (what clever things those Muggles thought up!). Once inside the castle, he hunted for his brother, but couldn't find him anywhere. After interrogating half the staff, he surmised that no-one had seen much of him since Minerva had left.
He left a note on Albus' desk saying he'd been round but couldn't find him, and decided that to prevent the trip being wasted he would call upon Poppy, whom he'd always had a soft spot for.
When he appeared in the Hospital Wing, he was surprised and somewhat disconcerted to find his brother pacing the ward.
"Er, morning, Albus. What are you doing here?"
"Don't ask," Albus snapped. Aberforth blinked.
"Okay, I won't. I just came over to see you."
"Well, now you've seen me. Goodbye."
"You don't have to be all stroppy with me, bro. All I wanted to know is if I'm gonna be an uncle or not."
Albus groaned and stopped pacing. For some reason, his face was unusually pale.
"That, dear brother, is what I'm waiting to find out."
Poppy opened the door and entered the room, her face anxious. Albus looked up.
"Er …" Poppy was twisting her hands nervously, as if afraid she said the wrong thing, she'd get fired. "the test was … positive."
Aberforth let out a whoop. "Yes! I'm going to be an uncle! You owe me old boy; being I was the one who dug out that spell for you!"
Albus had sat down heavily and Poppy was pale. Aberforth's grin faded.
"Er … am I missing something here? That was a pregnancy test you were talking about, wasn't it?"
Albus slowly nodded.
Albus shook his head.
Aberforth looked from his brother to Poppy. "I'm lost. What's going on?"
Poppy held up two potion bottles and mimed switching them. Aberforth was still blank, and said so. The matron sighed.
"Mr I-don't-make-mistakes here labelled the potions wrong. Minerva drank Albus', and he drank hers."
Aberforth's mouth fell open as the Knut finally dropped. "Well, that was stupid."
"Filius, have you seen Albus? We had a … um … meeting earlier, and he didn't show."
The tiny Charms Professor looked up at Poppy, who had her head round the door.
"Not since breakfast," he squeaked anxiously. "He got an owl with some bad news and asked everyone to leave him alone for the day. He's probably in his rooms."
A knot formed in Poppy's stomach. "What was the bad news?" she asked, praying it wasn't anything to do with Minerva.
Filius said he didn't know; nor did any of the staff. Poppy thanked him and retraced her steps up to Albus and Minerva's rooms.
She knocked softly on the portrait (who huffed irritably). "Albus? Are you there?"
There was a small pause before the portrait swung open.
The curtains were drawn, and at first Poppy didn't see Albus, uncharacteristically slouched on the sofa. She pulled the curtains a little way apart; the light fell on his face, and she saw tear streaks.
A letter was held, crumpled loosely, in his hand.
Dear Professor Dumbledore,
We are very sorry to inform you that yesterday our Healer headquarters was ambushed and attacked by Death Eaters, and several of our Healers were badly injured, including your deputy headmistress, Ms Minerva McGonagall.
She sustained severe injuries to her head, and is at present unconscious. Her condition is critical, and if she survives it is possible she won't come round. We are doing everything we can to help her.
Unfortunately, we are unable to allow visitors, however bad the patient. It is far too dangerous for everyone involved. We hope you understand. We will owl you as soon and often as possible with her progress.
We know that you and she were close friends and work partners, and we are very sorry for your loss.
With my condolences,
The letter was dated some three weeks before. It took a long time for mail to get through from the battlefield.
A cold hand clutched Poppy's heart as she finished reading. For a long time she couldn't speak.
"Oh, Albus," she breathed when she finally found her voice.
He squeezed his eyes shut, but couldn't prevent another tear leaking out.
"What am I going to do, Poppy?" he whispered hoarsely. "I can't do this without her. She needs to be here." Albus hiccoughed softly. "It's her child too, and she doesn't even know – I didn't get a chance to tell her …"
Poppy felt tears pricking at her own eyes, but blinked them away. Minerva was her oldest and best friend, and she owed it to her to be strong for Albus. Even he needed someone to lean on; now more than ever.
She couldn't tell him she'd be all right, because she didn't know that. She couldn't comfort him, because she didn't know what to say.
Albus had his head in his hands. It was one of those rare moments when he looked hopeless and helpless. Poppy hadn't seen him like that since the time of Grindlewald; she immediately resolved to do everything in her power to help him.
And she'd start with the check-up he was meant to have that morning.
Courtroom Eleven, the Ministry of Magic
Cornelius Fudge's predecessor had much more common sense that Fudge did. There was a war on, and in dark times like these, sometimes one had to bend rules to fit in with the situation.
Which was why, when he heard the news, he decided to act a little differently.
After all, Dumbledore was the only one You-Know-Who ever feared. If a scandal like this got out, the public would lose their respect for him, and that was all that was keeping the wizarding world sane.
At first no-one believed Jasper Malfoy when he stated his claims to the Ministry. But the ex-student insisted on a hearing, where he would bring forth his proof. After an internal debate, a hearing was called.
It was stressful on everyone. The interrogators felt as if they were under pressure from both sides – which, in a way, they were. To begin with, most were undecided who was telling the truth, and who wasn't. Both parties were well-respected with a decent reputation, and until the hearing they wouldn't have any evidence either for or against either side. The majority started out on Dumbledore's side, but it didn't end that way.
Whispers filled the courtroom when he entered. Albus ignored them and settled uneasily in his seat. Only those nearest him noticed how tightly he gripped the chair handles, or the raw fear in his eyes.
Jasper was asked to stand and say his part. He was an extremely good actor; playing up the poor-little-victim-me act. Albus had to admit it was convincing; not that it particularly needed to be, considering the situation. After all, Jasper was most likely paying, and he had an advantage over Albus that couldn't be ignored.
The Malfoy child described what he claimed in great detail; some of the Wizengamot shuddered, glancing in Albus' direction. This did not look good. Jasper had obviously thought through the whole plan to the last detail, and his talk sounded well-rehearsed. Albus wondered how many times he'd run through his story.
There were other people there on Jasper's side; Albus didn't recognize either of them. One was Jasper's lawyer, the other a Healer.
If Minerva was here, the situation would have been different. He could have told the truth and she could have backed up his case. But it wasn't like that. He was on his own.
Malfoy sat back down in his seat, shooting Albus a brief look of triumph. Albus longed to reach for his wand, but settled for increasing his grip on the handles of his seat. His knuckles were white.
"Is this true, Mr Dumbledore?" the interrogator asked. Not even 'Professor' any more. That wasn't a good sign either.
"No," Albus said firmly, causing the whispers to start up again.
"Then perhaps you could tell us your story."
Albus swallowed and stood. He caught Poppy's eye; she gave him an encouraging nod. He clasped the bar in front of him as he spoke, looking straight at the interrogator and trying not to look at anyone else in the court.
He kept the tale short and to the point. He was proud that he managed to appear outwardly calm, but inside he was shaking. Albus knew even the Ministry wasn't stupid enough to send him to Azkaban, whatever the verdict. But that held little comfort; he wasn't worried for himself. He was frightened for his child.
When he had finished, he sat down heavily; he felt exhausted. The Wizengamot looked at each other; they seemed to be silently debating who was telling the truth. A couple glanced at him, and the expressions on their faces calmed Albus slightly. Maybe he would be all right after all.
It was just as he was thinking that, the judge asked Jasper's Healer to stand.
Either she was being paid, or she was a Death Eater too; Albus didn't know, but he privately suspected both. She backed up Malfoy's tale, causing the Wizengamot to go into shock, shudders to run around the vicinity, and Albus suddenly became the subject of a lot of stares. He wished they wouldn't.
Poppy stood and said her bit, but the Wizengamot didn't think it was proof enough for Albus' version of the tale. He'd expected that, but he felt like a cold hand had clenched around his heart. He had fought with everything he had; he had nothing left, only an agonizing wait for the verdict to be announced.
And it came. The room went disturbingly still as he was declared guilty. He had been expecting this. Now all he had to do was find out what action they would take.
Albus had never felt so scared in his life. He was visibly shaking as Jasper stood and told the court what he wanted. He'd known it was coming; the boy himself had told him what he'd planned, wanting to boast about his well-laid plans.
When I get the chance, Albus silently swore, I will kill you, Jasper Malfoy. I will rip you limb from limb. Just you wait.
The court didn't seem surprised by Jasper's demands, but there were protests. Albus hadn't expected any of them to agree to the press release; it seemed half of Malfoy's plan had failed there. The fact that Malfoy hadn't succeeded in publicly discrediting him meant nothing to him; he didn't care about his reputation. Hope, however, arose in Albus as several members of the Wizengamot objected to the other part, declaring it unfair and immoral. Maybe he could still get out of this …
It was up to the judge. The silence before he spoke was the longest Albus had ever experienced; he could feel the blood pumping in his ears; could see Poppy's anxious face nearby.
Finally the judge spoke.
"No!" Albus cried, standing up suddenly and almost falling over as a wave of dizziness hit him.
"That is the court's decision."
Minerva McGonagall came round on the evening of the thirtieth of July. At first the other Healers worried that she didn't seem able to remember anything, but as the weeks went on, she regained her memories. Regular letters were sent to Albus Dumbledore, but for some reason he didn't reply. They could only hope that the letters had got through, and that he was simply choosing not to reply, even if that was out of character.
It took months for Minerva to regain enough strength to return to Hogwarts. She worried about why he hadn't written, but she assumed it was simply because he was anxious about letters being intercepted. He had always been very protective of the secret that they were married; only close friends and family knew.
She'd found him in his office, pouring over paperwork. Although there was nothing unusual about that, Minerva knew immediately something was wrong. She kept quiet during their reunion, but she secretly worried.
He didn't come clean with whatever he was keeping, and she knew that trying to get him to tell her would be like trying to get blood out of a stone without the use of magic. Albus seemed oblivious to the noticeable signs he was exhibiting, and Minerva decided to leave it a few days at the least.
Albus was already in bed when Minerva entered the room that evening. She wondered if he was asleep; his arm was lying on the pillow at the right angle he had a habit of, his eyes were closed and his breathing even. The more obvious sign was the lack of comment as she undressed. Usually, however tired he was, he could always sum up the energy to let flow a string of adoring compliments, or an 'I love you' at the very least. When nothing came, Minerva was convinced he was asleep. She slid carefully under the covers and gently wrapped her arms around him, and was taken by surprise when he took her hands and held them close.
"Albus! I thought you were asleep!" she scolded lightly.
"Almost," came the weary reply. Minerva tried hard to suppress a hot stream of worry that coursed through her, and she leant over and kissed him gently, stroking his hair.
"I don't know what's upsetting you," she whispered without knowing why, "but I am here for you if you need me."
Albus nodded, still with his eyes closed, and she settled down next to him, still holding him close.
Several times during the night Minerva woke when Albus turned over. She wondered how long he had not been sleeping properly, and if it was the cause of his tiredness.
When she woke in the morning, she found she had slept in slightly later than usual. Albus was still asleep, his hair a mess from his constant tossing all night.
Minerva reached over and shook his shoulders gently. "Albus? It's time to get up." He groaned and buried his face under the covers, and she sighed and rolled out of bed.
When she had washed and dressed, she went back into the bedroom, and was surprised and slightly alarmed to find her husband back asleep. This is not normal.
"Albus!" she hissed, shaking the covers more vigorously.
"You've overslept; you need to get up now."
She half-wondered if she'd imagined the "Shove off, Minnie," that emerged, nevertheless muffled, from under the covers. She seized the quilt and pulled it completely off the bed. Albus moaned and recoiled into a ball, his arms up over his head.
"Albus, come on, you need to get up!"
This is definitely not normal. Minerva, while trying to suppress the disturbing thoughts in her mind, attempted to pull Albus to his feet only to get swatted away.
Being the target of all the activity, Albus was beginning to feel more awake when Minerva showered him with cold water.
"Aargh! All right, all right, I'm getting up!"
He pushed himself upright, wiping water off his face, and reached for his spectacles. His sharp-eyed wife didn't miss the slight wince of pain.
"Albus? Are you all right?"
"Yes," he said, a little too quickly. Minerva frowned.
"Right. Where does it hurt?"
He stared. "What?"
"Albus, what's wrong? What are you hiding?"
"Minerva, I'm not hiding anything!" he snapped.
She barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes. He could be so stubborn sometimes.
"Please, Albus, don't lie to me. I know there's something wrong and I'm not letting you out of this room until you tell me." To prove her point, she crossed the room, shut the door and pulled out her wand.
Albus groaned. She could be so stubborn sometimes.
"Minerva, really, there's nothing wrong," he lied fruitlessly. He knew it was pointless, but he wasn't ready to talk about what had happened while she was away. He hadn't spoken to anyone of it since the next morning. Poppy and Aberforth had both tried; they knew it wasn't good for him to bottle up his emotions, but it had been and still was too painful.
"Albus, really, you're behaving like a child!"
The effect this simple accusation had on him was unexpected. Albus froze, and his eyes clouded. Minerva realized what she had said too late.
"Albus?" She reached forward tentatively. "Is that what this is all about?"
He looked at her straight in the eye. He said nothing, but the blue clear pools were begging her to understand. She swallowed. She had no idea how strongly Albus had felt about having children – she knew he wanted them, but she didn't realize it had affected him so.
Finally he spoke. "I think I owe you an explanation, Minnie."
A/N: No, I haven't given up on EaGL, I'm simply posting this b/c I'm bored while my beta's going over chapter 2. I swear I'm not going to discontinue it. Promise.