Author's Note: Some will hate me for posting yet another story instead of continuing with Mage and Warrior. Sorry. I write as and what I like writing, and though I have written bits and pieces of many later chapters of Mage and Warrior, the current chapter is giving me a lot of headache, just being problematic. Began writing this as a sort of cure to my writer's block...
Pairings: None as this story is pre-Hogwarts. There will be Harry-AstoriaGreengrass friendship, yeah, I know it is new.
Disclaimer: The story and most characters are property of JKR. There are two characters that belong to Tolkien rather than Rowling, however - Tom Bombadil and Goldberry.
With Roses Be Dight
Rain poured from above in a rhythmic clatter, and the thick window pane faced the full brunt of the wet attack. The solitary occupant of the warm room gazed outside, his head heavy with stress and fatigue. He pushed the window, opening it slightly and took a deep breath, relishing the cool breeze that brushed against his face. He smiled at his sudden connection with nature and rubbed his forehead wearily. Dark clouds had gathered above, not unusual for that time of the year, and surrounded by cutting droplets of rain, the red and brown colors of autumn were settled in lethargic contentment. He took a deep breath, forming cloud on the glass pane, and completely out of habit, he raised his fingers up and traced his standard signature, a heart with the initials JP and LE scribbled inside.
He jumped out of his reverie when a hand touched his shoulder. Lost in a daze, he had failed to notice the arrival of a newcomer.
"She'll be all right, Prongs!" spoke a shaggy dark haired man, lifting his hand from the other's shoulder. "And it's not as if she hasn't had experience on delivering a child."
That shook him out of his stupor completely. Turning with intensity, he clutched the other person firmly by the collar and snapped, "What are you doing here, Sirius! You were supposed to stay with Harry!" His face contorted painfully and he squeezed his throbbing forehead. "Don't tell me you brought him to the hospital! Oh Merlin, if Lily finds out, she…"
"Relax, buddy. Harry is safe," said Sirius Black with a weak smile, attempting to assuage his friend. "Moony stopped by and is playing wolf and cub with Harry. He'll be fine and I thought you could do with some company… James, what's wrong?"
But James didn't respond. His face twisted with horror and anguish as he took a backward step. With an alarmed gasp, he turned around and ran to the door. But before he could reach it, it was thrown open from the other side and an orderly approached him and said urgently, "The Caesarian surgery is over, Mr. Potter. Your wife wishes to see you."
James froze. The orderly's face and tone was grave as if foretelling a dire situation. James stifled his pain and turned to Sirius. His voice held little evidence of the surmounting anxiety that was visible in the creases of his forehead as he spoke in a rushed whisper. "Go back to the Hollow, Sirius, and stay with Harry. I don't want Remus to be alone with him."
"James?" asked Sirius in confusion.
"Look," James said with a frustrated frown, "I don't have time to explain. Dumbledore came to us one day and ordered us to give Harry to him for his own safety, the senile old fool said. He claims to know some prophecy or other. When we refused, he said he would have to take matters to his own hands, for his usual greater good. Look, I love Remus as a brother, but you know how he sees Dumbledore. Please Sirius, I beg you to go back. Lily needs me right now. Please stay with my son."
Sirius felt a cold shiver strike against his spine at the fear and worry in his friend's voice. James Potter rarely ever lost control before anyone, he was one of the strongest individuals Sirius knew personally, and seeing him so vulnerable was unnerving. Sirius barely managed a nod before James rushed to his wife.
An unusual group of people were gathered, albeit hidden from each other, in a serene and peaceful neighborhood in Surrey. The sound of rain beating down with vehemence sheltered conversations from unwanted ears. A man emerged from the shadows and looked around. He held a bundle in his arms securely and with much gentleness, as if sheltering the bundle from the rain with his own body. He walked to a corner where another man was standing, sheltered beneath a tree and handed him the bundle.
The bundle jerked and a baby's face became visible, and as if aware of the fate that was being bestowed upon him, he started crying. Tiny fingers emerged from the blue sheets and pulled grey hair from the beard of the man who had just taken him.
"No Harry," said the grey-bearded man calmly after chuckling at the baby's actions. "My beard is not a toy."
"Albus," the other man began hesitatingly. He appeared uncertain of what to ask but his companion took care of his anxiousness by smiling with kind eyes full of warmth.
"You have done well, my boy," said Albus Dumbledore, as he held Harry Potter securely in his aged arms. "Harry's safety is of prime importance. Here in the muggle world, he will thrive, away from prying eyes of those who mean him harm." He patted the boy's forehead and turned to his companion. "I am sorry for putting you in such a position, Remus, and it pains me that Lily and James do not trust me as they once used to. But please understand the utmost importance of this task."
"Albus, I do not understand what you wish to achieve," said Remus Lupin after a pause. "You do realize that Lily will eventually return to the Hollow and find her son missing, and she knows where you wished to send Harry. Privet Drive will face her wrath before you and I."
But Albus Dumbledore smiled kindly, his eyes bright with humor from behind his crescent shaped spectacles. "I will take care of that, Remus. Do not worry. The wards will keep out anyone who intends to remove Harry from his new home." So saying, he stepped out into the rain with the baby's head jutting out of his sheets and walked towards a specific house. He stopped midway and turned to Remus Lupin and said, "Thank you again, Remus. It is heartening to know that there are other people willing to put aside their own interests and selflessly rise to fight for all that is holy and good." He waited as his companion took his words as a dismissal and departed. With a contented smile, Albus Dumbledore conjured a basket and placed the baby inside and walked towards the door of Number Four, Privet Drive.
Unknown to Albus Dumbledore, he wasn't the only person lurking around in that quiet and untoward neighborhood. Crimson eyes followed the movements of the Headmaster of Hogwarts as he placed the toddler in front of the door. Lord Voldemort stood still and unmoving in the shadows, biding his time. His spy had brought news from within Dumbledore's innermost council and he knew what he had to do. The prophesized child had to be dealt with to ascertain his power. Lord Voldemort was prepared to murder a fifteen month old boy. But he wasn't prepared to duel Albus Dumbledore himself.
Standing next to Voldemort were the regal forms of his two most loyal followers. One stood a few steps behind. His mask had been removed and pale grey eyes stared at the scene unfold in the dark shadows of the night. The Death Eater stared at the son of his one-time nemesis with apathy. He had many regrets in his life but this wasn't one of them. He remembered the boy's parents. His eyes fell on his other companion.
Silver hair was the sole identifying feature of Lord Voldemort's right hand, his face hidden behind a mask. And it was sufficient. Lucius Malfoy also observed the movement of Albus Dumbledore. He also observed the reaction of the man he had pledged himself to. For an instant, regret and horror flickered through his eyes, hidden beneath his mask. Despite the rain, the baby's wails carried to his ears and he felt revulsion in his heart. A revulsion that was aimed solely at himself. He nearly sighed but caught himself in time just as Lord Voldemort made his move after seeing Albus Dumbledore apparate away.
"My Lord," he began uneasily, breaking the long spell of silence and enduring the wrathful eyes of the Dark Lord. "Forgive me for my directness."
"Speak swiftly," came the sharp command.
Lucius Malfoy was a brave man. Despite what others might think of Death Eaters, it wasn't an easy task for Lucius Malfoy, not after he became disillusioned with the vision that he was promised. He was the lord of a noble family, and murdering innocent children, regardless of their being heir to prominent pureblood families was never his intent. His eyes flickered towards the cold demeanor of Severus Snape and found no assistance, no support. He sighed and spoke. "Perhaps we could raise the boy instead of killing him. My son is of his age and…"
"You dare question my authority, Lucius?" the Dark Lord hissed sharply, his voice piercing through the rain filled night like steel through butter.
Lucius Malfoy took a step back and shivered. "Forgive me, My Lord. The Potters are an ancient family. It would be a pity for them to…"
"Silence!" came the swift command from Lord Voldemort as he took a step towards the basket with the boy. "Do you think I would care if the entire Potter clan vanished without a trace. You will be punished for this interruption, Lucius. Be glad that right now I have a more important task to perform."
'Like killing an innocent baby,' the thought permeated Lucius and he lowered his eyes. He then made a decision. Pureblood supremacy must be achieved through other means, not via the insanity of Lord Voldemort. He made a decision. He would save Harry Potter. He fingered his wand deftly but before he could make a move, he was struck with a soundless petrifying curse and Severus Snape marched towards the Dark Lord. Shock and rage filled Lucius Malfoy's head as he tried to make sense of Snape's actions.
"Ah Severus," called out the Dark Lord. "I see your Legilimency is as effective as ever. A pity about Lucius, he was a good tool while he could be used but his woefully loud treacherous thoughts were beginning to annoy me."
"I live to serve, My Lord," said Severus Snape with perfect poise. He reached within his robes and brought out a vial of black liquid.
"You seek to avenge yourself of James Potter by burning the insides of his son," Voldemort remarked gleefully on recognizing the potion for what it was. "You interest me, Severus. Do proceed."
With a curt nod, Snape walked towards the patio of the house, his robes billowing in the wind, creating an aura of darkness and malice that resonated in the presence of the Dark Lord. Severus Snape was ready for his greatest condemnation. With a smirk, he looked at the innocent face of the baby, staring at him through the eyes of Lily Potter. He repressed the urge to tear the messy mane of dark hair that was so reminiscent of his childhood tormentor and tilted the vial to the baby's mouth.
Lord Voldemort waited eagerly for the screams to resound but after several long moments of silence, a sudden fear grabbed his heart. His eyes flashed with rage at the Potions Master and he screamed, "What have you done?"
Snape smirked maliciously at the Dark Lord and sent a silent telepathic message to Lucius Malfoy before fixing his attention back on Lord Voldemort. "I condemn you, Tom Marvolo Riddle. Die." With his final proclamation, he whipped his wand out. But he had barely raised his wand to his foe's level when a jet of green light filled his vision.
Had Tom Riddle, the Dark Lord, cared to observe the dying smirk on Severus Snape's face, he might have proceeded with greater caution than he eventually did. But his betrayer had barely fallen before he turned his attention to Harry Potter and flicked his wand downwards.
Lucius Malfoy had been released from his petrified state following Severus Snape's death but he made no movement to come between the Dark Lord and his prey. The honor of saving the boy's life would not be his. Snape had seen to it. He turned his back to the Dark Lord and apparated away, recalling the final somber message of Severus Snape, 'The boy is immune to the Killing Curse. It is a potion I created. All it needs is a willing sacrifice. The curse will rebound on the fool.'
James Potter looked forlornly at the frail and sickly form of his daughter. Her eyes were closed and her lips raised. But what bothered him most was the lack of movement from the baby and the absence of any sign of life. He looked with pained eyes at his wife's face and his heart constricted. Lily's eyes were dulled and devoid of any emotion. She tenderly clutched her baby, but in her gaze James was confirmed of the healer's grave proclamation outside the room. James had hoped to walk in and discover a mistake, a miracle, anything that would fill the hollowness in his heart, but to little avail. With both hands, he slowly reached for his wife and stillborn daughter.
Lily blanched at James' touch and clutched the baby closer to her heart. "No!" she shouted, slapping James' hand away. "She's just sleeping!" And then she turned emphatically to the baby and begged, "Why don't you wake up, sweetheart? Mummy wants to see you smile. Please wake up."
James sighed but didn't withdraw his hand from around his wife. After a few moments, his wife turned to his shoulder and wept against it. Sitting next to her on the bed, he wrapped his arms around her protectively, his gaze often turning to the lifeless baby on her lap, the daughter he could never have. He kissed his wife's head and patted her back consolingly.
For the next three hours, the husband comforted his grieving wife, pushing aside his own sorrow for the time being. But he did permit himself one slight indulgence by kissing his daughter's forehead for the first and only time, and whispering her name in her unhearing ear, "Diana Rhys Potter, beloved daughter, may she rest in peace."
Then he turned his attention back to his hysterical wife and kissed her brows. After a long time, Lily spoke again, but it wasn't to James that her words were directed. "Have you brought Harry with you, Sirius? I need my son."
With sinking spirits James turned his head and saw the horrified and tearful face of Sirius Black standing at the door. He was trembling and held himself with the support of the door handle. Fury rose within James and in less than a blink of an eye, he had grabbed Sirius by his collar, staring intently at his eyes, silently confirming his worst fears. Unwittingly, James' grip had tightened. He couldn't bear the thought of losing both his children at once. His head pounded heavily and every fiber of his being raged with fury but seeing the pain and grief in his friend's face, James forced himself to release his fingers and he turned around. His gaze fell on Lily and he felt as if a mountain had been dropped over his heart. Once again, he closed his eyes and tried to ebb his grief away. He had to be strong for his wife.
"Where is my son?"
James opened his eyes and saw alarm, fear and anger in his wife's face, all at once, twisted and contorted beyond anything he had ever seen in her face. He closed his eyes again and allowed Sirius to explain.
"I-I-I-," Sirius Black stammered, unable to look at either of the grieving parents directly. "Merlin! I'm so sorry! This is all my fault! I should never have left him with Remus! I will kill that bastard!" Sirius turned around and was about to leave when James' firm grip fell on his shoulder. Sirius prayed for the first time in his adult life. He prayed to gods he never knew existed, and his prayer was simple, 'Please hit me. Please hit me. Please hit me but don't hate me.' But his prayers weren't answered.
"Go to Little Whinging, Surrey. There is a block of houses on a street called…"
"Privet Drive," muttered Sirius Black in distress. "I-I went there! I bloody tore apart your house to find the address. He's not there, James! He's not there! That oaf Petunia married left him in some back alley! I tried so hard to find him! He's not there, anywhere!" By the end of his statement, Sirius Black's voice had attained a shrill pitch and was so loud that several orderlies came to see if everything was all right.
While James dealt with the orderlies, Sirius Black collapsed on a chair amidst torrents of tears. James observed Sirius quietly. Though he was furious with the man, he didn't have the heart to voice his displeasure. But he couldn't deal with having to look after yet another hysterical person, not with Lily's needs. The thought of his wife made him turn around and the sight made him freeze. Lily was no longer in bed.
"Lily?" James called out uncertainly, darting his head in all directions. Looking at the bed again, he saw that his stillborn daughter had also disappeared. He weakly stumbled forward.
"She always did have a quiet Apparition," Sirius commented, wiping his tears and getting up. "I don't know how I can make up and I know I don't deserve forgiveness, but I will do anything to find Harry."
"I know," stated James plainly. "Go to Longbottom Manor and tell Frank and Alice. Dumbledore tried to attempt something with their son as well. Also… also ask Alice if… if she wouldn't mind having us over at their place for a few days. I can't stomach the thought of returning home without my children."
"You know my place is always open to you," Sirius commented before fading from view.
James sighed sadly and dug a few galleons from his coin bag to settle their medical bills. 'If only I could stomach the thought of being near you, Padfoot,' he thought sadly as he departed from St. Mungo's and went in search for his wife and son.
However, Dumbledore and Voldemort weren't the only two powers that were present and involved in a fifteen month old baby's fate that night in the peaceful and ordinary neighborhood of Privet Drive.
A tall and spry, for lack of a better word, man, had been walking around civilized regions of the country. His own home, on the other hand, was an untamed and wild patch of earth where he had his modest cottage. In there, he lived with his wife and rarely did either venture beyond their boundaries. So one might say that it was perhaps chance that brought the blue coated man to Little Whinging the same night as Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort. Then again, perhaps it was fate.
As he walked, or rather hopped along in merry strides, he hummed to himself:
"Hey! Come, merry dol! Derry dol, my darling!
Light goes the weathered wind and the feathered starling!
Down along cobbled streets, shining in the moonlight!
Tom's in a hurry now, for dawn will follow the night!"
He halted abruptly on seeing a flash of green light at a distance and shook his head. The light was green but to him it appeared an ugly crimson. Bloodshed, hate and greed, three things that were rampant in the outside world that he cared little about. But then he saw something he hadn't expected and nearly gasped.
"Oh my! Many a long year has Tom been gone!
That blood comes to him first when it comes not alone!
Whose soul is it, so selflessly guarding, so pure, so strong!
Fear not, child, in death you'll survive for ever long!
Tom has spoken now, Tom old Tom Bomdadillo!
Go and rest now, leave thy task to Tom! You can go!"
The hermit called Tom Bombadil walked towards the scene of disturbance with a rare grim expression on his face, for as he approached the place, he saw a stout man pick a basket carrying a child, and along with it, the corpse of a hideous looking man, and dragged them both towards a monstrosity, which he knew to be a modern chariot called 'automobile'.
Tom shook his head and followed after the car with his long strides, often stopping by to allow the soul that guarded the infant to guide him. He moved through roads and paths he never desired to see again, as the moon began its downward descent, making way for the daily advent of the sun. Tom made haste, not even pausing to think of a song to fit his new activity, for there was little time to waste, even for the master of wood, water and hill. Finally, he reached a dark and dingy alley with a foul stench, the basket carrying the boy had been stashed away in there, while the corpse was taken elsewhere. Tom cared little for corpses of men who tried to kill innocent children and slowly walked towards the basket. Before he reached, however, he stopped and gasped.
"Tom, what is this that you see before you?
One child marked by a fell doom, a curse so true!
Her sister gave up her life, before her brother lay!
Lost child, I speak to thee, your time is at bay!
Your brother lies before you, come back to the ring!
Tom Bomb calls you back, in his hut you will sing!"
Tom sighed when a white dome of light encircled around the boy. With his eyes not bound by the limitations of humans, he could perceive what happened within the dome, but he chose not to speak of it. Instead, he smiled serenely, knowing that perhaps the day that he had been waiting for since his arrival in the world had at last arrived. His smile, always a ready feature in his merry face, perhaps became even wider than ever when the dome cleared and the basket returned in sight. Only this time, the child wasn't in the basket but outside. And he wasn't alone. Curled against each other, Tom smiled as he saw a sight never seen before and never to be seen again, were a human child and a baby unicorn, their heads against each other. It was a sight that personified innocence and tenderness and Tom smiled.
With a chuckle, Tom took a long stride and picked up the boy and the unicorn in either hand, and resumed his humming, as he went about his way.
"Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow!
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow!
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master!
But perhaps his time is up now, for now he is a father!"