The Long Walk Home

Disclaimer: JKR owns the characters. I am just taking them out to play, for fun, not profit.

A/N: This story is dedicated to my dear friend, sa1boy, who always makes me laugh like a lunatic.

The Long Walk Home

By dracoredeemed

Chapter 1

The water was lapping idly over the pebbles, washing across the sea-moulded stones before being drawn inexorably back by the tide. It was barely sunrise and the soft rays of pink and orange light that glazed the horizon cast a shimmer over the rippling water of the little bay, reflecting back in a million tiny pinpoints of light as they danced across its dark blue surface. It was quiet still, and although lights blinked out of the windows of several of the seaside houses, most were still in darkness, for it was summer, and those who had enough sense to know, were still in bed, savouring the residue of sleep in preparation for another long, warm day.

In this tiny seaside village, which meandered along the coast for barely a kilometre, there was very little to catch the eye. A lone shop, it's hand-painted sign weathered and slightly askew where it had lost a nail; a small brick church, its neighbouring cemetery dotted with mossy gravestones that rose out of the grassy plots as if they had sprouted and grown there; a long cobbled road that wound its way through the village, past the church and a small dark pub, on down to the sea, where it swiftly turned and meandered again onto the next village, barely acknowledging the rickety old jetty that stuck out across the water where it stood like a sentinel, guarding the beach and those who lived beyond it.

This summer morning, which held the promise of a fine and sunny day, a lone figure made its way along the beach toward the shadowy stumps that rose out of the water at the far end of the cove. He was a familiar figure, the only animation in this pleasant landscape, and he walked a familiar path across the pebbles before climbing the water worn steps of the jetty, an old fishing rod in one hand and a pail in the other. Setting down his pail and rod at the end of the pier, he lowered himself down and dangled his legs lazily over its edge. His face had an air of contentment that spoke of easy familiarity and, as he settled his back against a wooden stump, the line from his rod wafting lazily back and forth with the tide, he reached up and absently brushed his hand through dark, wavy locks in a well-practiced motion that had no impact whatsoever on the state of his unruly mane. After a few moments the hand dropped of its own accord, brushing against dark morning stubble on its way before coming to rest against the care-worn softness of his faded dungarees.

None of this was remarkable in the slightest. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a more practised morning routine than that which was currently playing out across the little village and its stony cove… unless one looked back over the meandering road, past the pub and the church, up and over the hill towards the grassy knoll that separated the town from the neighbouring farms. For it was at that spot, which was marked by a sign that read, Busselton, pop.276, that the peace and quiet of the little village was shortly to be held to ransom.

As if sensing a change in the air, the man on the edge of the pier lifted his head and gazed about him curiously as unseasonal clouds began to roll in from the north in fluffy grey pods, buffeting against the accompanying breeze that, without warning, was now brushing thick locks of hair into his eyes. If you'd ever looked into those eyes, you'd be surprised at their hue, which might be called green, if one was crass enough to label such a luxuriant shade with such a mundane word. A more romantic soul might think they were jade, tipping almost into emerald, but with a fire behind them that was reminiscent of absinthe in flames… if one were romantic enough to think that way. The man himself had often cursed those absinthe eyes, the dead giveaway that there were, being the bane of his existence for as long as he could remember. He could change his name, he could disappear into blessed seclusion, but he couldn't disguise those eyes.

At this moment, those eyes were scanning the tiny cove with some apprehension. The breeze that had only so recently arrived to disturb the grass and the leaves at the edge of the beach was now picking up, lifting and swirling the air around him into invisible whirlpools and tugging at the tide to draw foamy waves from its heretofore undisturbed depths. Furrowing his brows, he pulled his jacket closer around him and began to reel in his line. There'd be no fish to catch in this blustery weather; the depths of the water now churning enough to warn them off to deeper environs. Sighing heavily, he picked up his gear and trudged the length of the jetty and down the steps, which were now wet with foam, and made his way quickly across the beach toward the little white cottage that stood at the far edge of the cove.

As the wind grew in strength, and darker clouds rolled in, the man picked up his pace, and had almost reached the white picket fence that framed the yard of his home when the skies opened and the first heavy drops made their decent towards the earth below. The man looked up when he felt a splash across his cheek and silently cursed the heavens for choosing this day, this hour, to deliver her aqueous bounty.

"Better get in out of the weather, Jim!" He glanced over at the words to see his elderly neighbour leaning out to grasp the edge of the casement window, pulling it in quickly to block out the inclement weather.

"Morning Mrs. Bayliss," he replied with a quick wave. "No fish today!"

"No, indeed." She leaned out quickly as she pulled the window shut. "Be seeing you at the Pig and Whistle tonight, then?"

He nodded and waved as she disappeared behind the curtains and he hurried through his own gate and up the steps of his house, thrusting the unlocked door open as he carelessly dropped his fishing gear on the landing. Once inside, he shut the door behind him and leaned against it. He was breathing heavily from his hasty journey across the beach and he made an effort to slow his breathing, to bring himself back to some semblance of calm.

The sense of utter powerlessness that suddenly overwhelmed him took him by complete surprise. Looking out the window nearby, he forced himself to regulate his breathing as he took in the torrent of rain that was presently assaulting his little piece of earth. It was relentless, inescapable, as unyielding as the tide. But the tide was predictable, its continuous ebbing and flowing a comforting daily presence in his life. But this storm—it was distracting; it was annoying; it clanged against his nerves like fingernails on a blackboard. He didn't expect it and he couldn't stop it. It forced him into action, completely disregarding his plans, his hopes, his inner need for sameness.

He couldn't stop it. It came regardless. Finally giving in to his emotions, he slid down the door and collapsed on the shabby wooden floorboards, his unkempt head in his hands. All he wanted was peace and sameness. To know what to expect and to have the expected happen with monotonous regularity. To know that his expectations and his wants had a place in the world. He was so tired of being at the mercy of cruel fate—had thought that fate had finally forsaken him. But here he was, in a sodden heap in his front hallway, crying. Because it rained.

#

The Harley Davidson slowed and moved over to the side of the road as the first heavy drops of rain began to fall. It's rider frowned and looked to the heavens in disgust. He'd never make it to London at this rate. Why he hadn't taken the train, only Merlin knew. He could have Apparated, of course, but he didn't want to arouse suspicion, what with the Magical Detection Charms that had been cast upon him only having been lifted barely two weeks ago. He didn't trust the Ministry one bit; though he had served his penance for supposed war crimes, he still felt like a fugitive, as if they were watching him every moment of every day, trying to catch him at some Dark deed or other.

Lifting his leg over the bike seat, he leaned back and settled against it, regarding the sign before him. Busselton, pop. 276. Well, this is a roaring little town, by the looks of it. He grimaced in disdain and reached down to adjust the straps of his boots. Several more drops of rain spotted his pale cheeks and he brushed them away as he considered his options. He could continue to ride through the inclement weather and be in London by dark. Or he could accept his fate and just camp here in this dinky little town for the night and make an early start tomorrow.

Busselton, eh? It wasn't long before the rain was falling in earnest and he pulled his visor down in irritation as he slid his leg back over the seat and thrummed the motor into action once again. Gunning the engine, he leaned back as he eased the bike back onto the road and headed towards Sweetbury Central. Well, there had to be a pub, at least. A few pints and, hopefully, some nice, solid country grub, and he'd sleep like a baby. Lowering his head against the continuing onslaught, he moved the bike swiftly along the old country road, pulling up outside the Pig and Whistle barely five minutes later. The rain had eased a little by then, but the road was still wet and slippery and, as he parked the bike in front of the pub and pulled his helmet off, he was suddenly glad he would have a chance to relax for awhile. Grabbing his pack, he secured the bike and sauntered through the front door into the cool dark within.