The first of September was starting to be a very bad day for Albus Dumbledore.
Barely had it been 7:00 AM that morning when Severus had barged into his office, yelling frantically about an attack on Diagon Alley that was supposed to happen that very same day, in no less than thirty minutes.
Calling everyone in the order had taken some time, and by the time they had reached Diagon Alley, the fight was already over.
But not the way Dumbledore had expected it.
Instead of the corpses of innocent civilians littering the pavement, cheers rang out as said civilians danced around in the streets. Making their way over to the center of the Alley, Dumbledore saw why.
Dead Death Eaters. Hundreds of them.
Many were still alive, groaning or screaming in agony, but most were indeed dead.
"What happened here?" asked Snape to a passerby, while Dumbledore stared in shock at the dead bodies.
The civilian merely grinned at Snape and hugged him in joy. "Didn't you see them?!" asked the man. Snape glared at him.
"Of course I saw the bodies, fool! Who did this!" he snapped. The man seemed unfazed in his joy.
"That's who I meant! Didn't you see our savior? He and his men should have passed by you if you came from the Leaky Cauldron."
Dumbledore looked at the man with narrowed eyes, finally having averted his gaze from the dead bodies. "We didn't see them. Can you explain more fully, sir?" he asked calmly, though he was panicking inside. A fourth faction? Were they Light wizards or Dark wizards? What happened here?
A woman now joined in on the conversation. "Oh, they were the most handsome men! Dressed in red coats, they were. Carrying flags, too," she explained, starry-eyed, to which the other civilian laughed.
"Indeed," explained the man, "Carried long staffs, they did. Their leader, a young lad…sixteen…maybe seventeen years old, led them. Hair as black as the night and eyes as green as the Killing Curse," he ranted, not noticing both Snape and Dumbledore's eyes widening as they snapped their gaze to each other.
"What else?" pressed Snape
"Well, the lad called out to his men…something about two columns…or was it rows? Anyway, the men obeyed, it seemed, because the lad looked approving. Anyway, he shouted some orders, the men pulled up the staffs to shoulder height, and then loud noises went off, and next thing we know, the Death Eaters are all on the ground, dead or dying," recalled the woman, "It couldn't have taken more than a couple of minutes. The Death Eaters were too confused to do anything when the redcoats showed up, I guess, because they didn't even fire a single curse at them."
Dumbledore and Snape exchanged glances before returning their attention back to the two civilians.
"Did anyone mention the leader's name?" asked Dumbledore.
The two civilians shook their heads and shrugged. "Sorry, but if they did, we didn't catch it. The lad simply turned his horse --for he was on a horse, you see—and his men followed him over towards the Leaky Cauldron…now that I think about it, that is weird, don't you think?" asked the man to the woman, who nodded.
"It is a bit strange that the lad would take his horse over towards the pub. Maybe he transfigured it into something smaller?" suggested the woman. The man shrugged.
Dumbledore's shoulders slumped, however. Maybe it wasn't him. Then again, what were the odds? Their house was found entirely destroyed that fateful night, without any bodies found. Evidence suggested all bodies were cremated due to the fire. The only good thing to have come out of that night, however, was the so-called death of the Dark Lord, Voldemort. That, and Dumbledore had found his Chosen One, one Neville Longbottom, despite however improbable it seemed, seeing as the young boy was practically terrified of his own shadow.
Despite that, there had been several so-called sightings of the Potters. Acquaintances of theirs had reported seeing them alive and well in several places in England, but never for more than a few seconds. All had reported the same thing, though.
The Potters had a son with them.
A boy with black, unruly hair and green eyes.
Such sightings had stopped for a few years now, however. Despite that, there had been variations of the sightings. Some said that the Potters seemed to have two other, older children. Dumbledore doubted this, since the Potters would have made it known to the whole world had that happened; they were a very proud family.
However, one thing did make their livelihood remain in question: the disappearance of their family vault from Gringotts.
Or, rather, the apparent disappearance of the vault. As far as Gringotts was telling, the vault simply ceased to be, all materials inside with it. Being long accustomed to reading people, however, he knew the goblins were hiding something from him from behind their beady, calculating, and distrustful glares. Goblins did not like Dumbledore, and the feeling was entirely mutual. He simply couldn't trust a race of magical beings who would do anything for something as materialistic as profit.
Still, it was oddly suspicious that the goblins, of all people, would hide a wizard family, Potters or not.
Another thing that worried Dumbledore as he sat in his office later in the day were the still disappeared Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. Both men had vanished a day after Voldemort's attack on the Potters. Immediately, people had begun to blame Sirius and Remus for the Potters' attack, but that was quickly silenced when, the next day, Peter Pettigrew was found.
Rather, his corpse was found nailed to the doors of Hogwarts, a black Dark Mark charred in his left arm, and the words "TRAITOR" written underneath in lasting flames.
Needless to say, the psychiatrists from St. Mungo's Hospital had to work overtime to help the traumatized students who had bared witness to the sight of Pettigrew's body.
It had saddened Dumbledore to find Pettigrew in such a fashion. If Pettigrew had indeed been the traitor, he would have still hoped for a chance to redeem the poor man (or, at least, poor in only his own opinion; everyone else was glad).
A small vial had also been recovered from the scene, containing memories of shadowy figures interrogating Pettigrew, unmasking him as both the traitor to the Light and the Potters' secret keeper, thus absolving Sirius Black of all guilt.
The question of the moment, however, remained: If Sirius was innocent, why had he disappeared?
Disappearances were not uncommon during the War. Indeed, many had disappeared before, never to resurface, but Voldemort had just been beaten, his troops were in disarray; who would have ordered such a hit, and leave no mark of engagements behind?
'No,' concluded Dumbledore, 'Sirius has disappeared of his own volition, and Remus with him'
Possibly for the best, too, that Remus had left. With Cornelius Fudge in power, the werewolf laws had been tightened even further than his predecessor had. Remus would have been unable to maintain a job for more than a few days.
Of course, Dumbledore had not done anything to oppose these measures. He rather thought that if the werewolves were slighted enough, he might convince one or two to spy for him on the others, promising the slighted werewolves better treatment after the war was over.
It was cold, Dumbledore realized, but it was necessary, even now with Voldemort still gone.
However, that brought him to his third problem: the Death Eaters.
Even with Voldemort still gone, now sixteen years in the past, the Death Eaters continued their reign of terror. Though quiet for the first thirteen years, they renewed their activities in 1994, beginning with small hit-and-run attacks on muggles, isolated wizarding families, or common civilians. However, by 1995, their attacks changed for the worse.
In a recruitment drive unprecedented in Death Eater history, according to Snape, the Death Eaters had recruited nearly 300 new candidates, launching a massive, simultaneous attack on Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and the wizarding sector of Dover.
The attacks were a complete success for the Death Eaters, having killed or injured over 600 wizards and witches. Within the hour, Snape had reported, the Death Eaters had acquired another 200 recruits.
The problem was the Death Eater leadership, Dumbledore had concluded. No one, not even Snape, knew who coordinated them or ordered them. All that was known was that it was neither Malfoy or Macnair, nor the Lestranges, who had been broken out of Azkaban in the Winter of '94 Breakout. All of the prominent Death Eaters seemed to take the orders rather subserviently, which confused Snape, since the only one who had previously instilled such loyalty was Voldemort.
However, Snape did report the fact that Barty Crouch's son, Barty Crouch Jr., had not shown up at all, despite having been asked about at a meeting, much to the surprise of Dumbledore and the Order, which had also been reconvened in 1994. Dumbledore did not mention this information to Crouch Senior, of course, rather keeping it secret so as to be used later as leverage, should Crouch Senior be uncooperative. It was blackmail, granted, but necessary for the greater good.
For now, though, Dumbledore recollected his thoughts and tried to summarize his worries in a list. He always found it easy to think clearly once he had ordered his priorities. So far, his list of worries were,
Finding the whereabouts and condition of Voldemort
Unmasking the Death Eater leadership
Finding out who the Redcoats were fighting for
Uncovering the truth of the Potters' disappearance
Looking for Black and Lupin
Such simple sentences that carried such enormous trials. He knew that the first and fourth items were probably related in some way. The fifth was probably related to the third, but not the first, and the other two seemed completely unrelated to the rest.
Dumbledore sighed in exasperation. He was nearing one-and-a-half centuries of age, and now, more so than ever, was he feeling his age. The twinkle in his eyes, a by-product of his restraining of his rampant natural legilimency, had dimmed, showing a slight emotional movement towards sadder emotions. It was fortunate that no one had deciphered that part of Dumbledore; it would give the enemy a great weapon, being able to discern Dumbledore's state of mind.
Suddenly, a shout jumped Dumbledore from his thoughts. It was McGonagall, and she seemed very, very disturbed.
'It's going to be one of those days…' thought Dumbledore as he greeted the distressed professor with his usual, "Lemon Drop, Minerva?"
McGonagall shut him up, however, by quite literally saying, "Shut up and listen, Albus!"
To say Dumbledore was shocked was an understatement. He was baffled at how forceful McGonagall, one of his most loyal followers, was speaking to him. But then, it had to be big news indeed, should it fluster someone as calm as Minerva McGonagall.
"Filch just came to my office, Albus, running like a madman, carrying a letter," she explained, although she did seem slightly embarrassed by her previous tone of voice and choice of words, "He says a man in a red coat, on horseback gave it to him at the gates. Albus, the man was a muggle."
Dumbledore's eyes widened. It shouldn't have been possible for a muggle to reach the gates of Hogwarts, much less see it as it was and its occupants. For one to have reached Hogwarts, seen it, and be able to carry a conversation, no matter how short, with one of its occupants was…unheard of.
Dumbledore regained his composure, however, as he looked at the clutched letter in McGonagall's hand. "I see you did not read it, Minerva?" he half-asked, half-stated.
The Scottish professor nodded shakily. She slowly lifted the sealed envelope ('Sealed with a wax seal' noted Dumbledore) and put it in front of Dumbledore, face up.
Dumbledore's eyes widened as he looked at the address at the front, followed by the bottom right return address.
To Headmaster Albus Dumbledore
Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts, Scotland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
From Lord James Potter, Marquess of Godric's Hollow
And Her Ladyship, Lily Potter, Marchioness of Godric's Hollow
Griffin Guard, Godric's Hollow, Wales,