Disclaimer: Characters and situations all belong to JK Rowlings, not to me.  The song "Stars" is from the musical Les Misérables (the London version, not the Broadway one) based on the book by Victor Hugo, whose wonderful characterizations of Inspector Javert provided much of the inspiration for Polaris.  The lyrics were written by Herbert Kretzmer, and thus belong to him, and not to me. Vesta McGonagall belongs to Draqonelle, and Altair Black is mine.  In addition, I got the name Polaris Black for Sirius's sister from someone else's fanfic, but I can't remember whose (her character, however, belongs entirely to me and Draqonelle).

Both Les Mis and Harry Potter have made their creators a great deal of money.  This fic, however, is not making me any.

Posted by:  Elspeth (also known as L Squared)

Ships:  Polaris and societal order.

Companion piece to "Not All Scars are Visible."  Place in timeline: beginning of PoA.

Black Hole

There, out in the darkness

A fugitive running.

Fallen from grace,

Fallen from grace.

Polaris gazed out her open apartment window into the twilight, staring blankly at an evening sky that, thanks to the anti-light pollution spells on all her window frames, appeared as clear and perfect as it would have in an uninhabited wilderness.  A little bit of beauty in what would otherwise have been a starless and lamp-lit London night.

            She stared, trying to lose herself in the last remnants of the fading sunset, trying to push away the thoughts that had been lurking on the edges of her mind all day, ever since she had seen the photograph staring out at her from that morning's copy of the Daily Prophet.  He was out there, somewhere… 

            Those sunken, shadowed eyes had seemed to glare up at her accusingly.  "You were supposed to take care of me, Polaris," they had whispered.  "You were supposed to watch out for me.  But you didn't, did you?  Never even argued when they hauled me away.  Never protested when they locked me up without a trial.  Because it made things easier for you!"

            "I will not feel guilty," she whispered to herself fiercely.  "I will not.  He deserved every second of it, all thirteen years, the bastard."

God be my witness

I never shall yield

'Till we come face to face,

'Till we come face to face!

            Thirteen years in Azkaban, and now he was free, free to continue the work of his dark master, to resume his old crimes.  Azkaban was supposed to be unbreachable, inescapable, but if anyone could find a way out, it would have been him.  He had never considered himself bound by rules, or indeed, as it turned out, by wizarding law or even common morality.  Why assume that chains and stone walls would be any more binding.

            "Just wait until I have you at my wand point again," she snarled, once again picturing the photograph.  "I won't hesitate this time.  I won't leave it to Vesta to bring you in; I'll do it myself.  I'll hand you over to the dementors and enjoy every second of it.  You are not my brother anymore."

He knows his way in the dark,

But mine is the way of the Lord

And those who follow the path of the righteous

Shall have their reward.

And if they fall,

As Lucifer fell

The flame!

The sword!

            She still remembered that horrible morning, full of rejoicing for most of the wizarding world, but carrying nothing but sorrow and bitterness for her.  It could have been the scandal of the century, had the ministry not leaped so quickly to cover it up, to slam Voldemort's murdering henchman in jail and hope that any further speculation on the part of the press would be swallowed up in the general rejoicing at He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's downfall.  It had been their greatest nightmare, the specter of the auror who went bad, the muggle phenomenon of the "dirty cop" carried to its most horrific extreme.  "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you."[1]—words to live by for an auror.  Mad-Eye Moody had had them inscribed onto a plaque in his office, next to the one saying "Constant Vigilance!"  Was that where he had gone wrong?  Had he "gazed too long into the abyss?"  Surely not.  Not so young, after only a few years as an auror.  It must have been something deeper, more fundamental than that.

            When did he change?  When did that impulsive, happy-go-lucky exuberance become something darker?  How could she, who had always prided herself on noticing the details, pick up on all the signs in Severus, Evan, and Lucius (the bigoted little creep) and be blind to them in her own brother?

Stars, in your multitudes,

Scarce to be counted,

Filling the darkness

With order and light.

You are the sentinels,

Silent and sure,

Keeping watch in the night.

Keeping watch in the night.

Polaris leaned her elbows on the windowsill, staring out the open window into the gradually darkening night sky, watching the stars appear one by one.  There was the blazing silver light of Venus; the fainter, reddish glow of Mars; the fingernail-thin white sliver of a waning moon.  "A piece of moon," Altair had always called it.

There was Draco, wending its serpentine way across the sky, and Taurus the bull, the glittering arm of the Milky Way like a trail of tears, and overhead, Ursa Major, her own constellation.  It was an old ritual, searching out her star, oddly comforting even now, years after she'd stopped believing that wishing on stars could change anything.  The pole star, guide of sailors and travelers for untold centuries; the only star in the sky that did not move. 

You know your place in the skies

You hold your course and your aim

And each in your season

Returns and returns

And is always the same.

            And there, of course, rising up over the horizon, were Orion and Canis Major.  The hunter with the dogs at his heels—no, she would not read symbolism into it.  Her father had always said that the brightest stars burned out the fastest.

            "Brightest star in the sky," she muttered, glaring at the two constellations as if the distant collections of suns were responsible for all her pain.  "Pretty enough to look at—until it goes nova! Goes out with a bang and takes out everything around it, leaving nothing but a black hole behind to fill the vacuum."  Black hole—bad joke, really bad joke, but horribly apt.  A black hole, a Black-shaped hole, a hole where a Black should have been, sucking all the warmth and life out of her family.

            Their father, a muggle astronomer, had barely understood who Voldemort was, but he had been able to grasp the fact that his son was a murderer easily enough, and it had all but destroyed him.  He had died six months later, and then little Altair, only eighteen and unable to handle the pressure and the disgrace, had disappeared from the wizarding world, to marry a muggle and die in a car crash years later.  Polaris had been the only one left, the last survivor to bear the family name, with only her work and the stars for company.  Even her fellow aurors had disappeared, one by one: Vesta to the Department of Mysteries, Denise and Frank Longbottom to St. Mungo's, most of the rest promoted up to supervisory positions, while she moldered away, still assigned to field work.  There were no promotions for the sister of a traitor.

And if you fall

As Lucifer fell

You fall in flame!

            To think that she had once been proud of that treacherous monster, that snake in the grass.  The ministry's very own Loki, he had been; the prankster with a heart of secret hate.  She could still remember the letters he had written her from Hogwarts, ordinary missives that could have come from any adolescent, with no hints of the evil that would come to lurk in that deceitful soul.

            "Dear Pols,

The Git got an owl today—his dad was killed by ministry wizards.

They said in the Prophet that it took seven aurors to bring Caligula

down, and he did for four of them.  D'you know, the ministry didn't

even send the letter 'til the morning edition of the Prophet was

already out?  Harsh.  If he wasn't such a slime ball, I'd have felt sorry

for him, learning about it like that.

Hey Pols, be careful, okay?  I've seen enough of my classmates

            get those ministry owls.  I don't want one about you.  Don't do something

            stupid and get hurt, okay? That's my job.  Oh yeah, and speaking of the

Git, did you have to tell Vesta McGonagall about that little 'incident' this

Fall?  She sent me a howler!"

            "Pols."  She had hated it when he called her that.  So silly, so undignified.  Perhaps what had made it worse was that she hadn't had some equally obnoxious diminutive for him.  His friends at school—"friends" hah! Some friend he'd turned out to be!—had always called him Padfoot.  Some sort of obscure joke, she thought.  She had never totally understood the logic behind it.  James, of course, had always been "Prongs", and knowing the two of them, she could imagine exactly the sort of reasoning that had gone into that charming little nickname.

And so it has been, and so it's written

On the doorways to Paradise,

That those falter

And those who fall,

Must pay the price…

            How could he have done it?  He and James had seemed so close; the two of them had been like brothers.  How long had he been secretly spying on him and Lily, on Polaris and Vesta and his fellow aurors?  How much of that famously close friendship had been a lie?

            She should have seen the signs earlier, recognized him for what he was.  He always had been a bit of a bully, over fond of rather brutal practical jokes and with a truly frightening ability to hold a grudge.  Even his skill at quidditch and as an auror had revolved around violence and brutality.  He had been the most brutal beater Hogwarts had ever seen; his record for the largest number of fouls ever scored by one player in a single match had never been broken.

            Still, when she pictured him on the quidditch pitch, it was not the often gruesome collateral damage he inflicted on opposing players that she remembered, but rather the spectacular save he had performed in his second year match against Ravenclaw, when he had blocked a bludger headed towards James Potter with his own body, and been knocked off his broom in the process.  She had had her wand out and had shouted out a levitation charm before any of the teachers had so much as moved—even as a student her dueling reflexes had been excellent.  When the smoke had cleared, James had the snitch, he had had two broken ribs, and Polaris had had apoplexy.

            She had been so proud of him once, proud of his quidditch skill, his talent at transfiguration, of his dedicated and determined performance as an auror.  The two of them had been the perfect double team.  Veritsaserum had greatly simplified the job of extracting information from captured enemy agents, but on the few occasions when more strenuous methods of interrogation had been necessary, the Ministry had called in the Blacks.  "Polar Ice," Alastor Moody's protégé, ruthless and totally without pity, and "Padfoot," who, contrary to his soft-sounding nickname, had had no qualms about beating a confession out of a prisoner with his fists.  And if he drew the line at using physical force on women, Polaris had not.  Those who sold their souls to the Dark deserved exactly the amount of mercy they showed others—that is, none.  Which was why, when they had read the verdict at her brother's sentencing, she had not protested, nor spoken so much as a word in his defense.

Scarce to be counted,

Changing the chaos,

To order and light.

You are the sentinels,

Silent and sure

Keeping watch in the night.

Keeping watch in the night.

            They had criticized her for it, calling her cold, unnatural, unfeeling.  Her co-workers were mostly Hufflepuffs, and prone to putting personal loyalties above principles.  They didn't seem to understand, as Polaris did, that some things were more vital than individuals, that personal wasn't the same as important.  Society was built on rules, on law, on right and wrong.  No one was above justice, above the law and the penalties for breaking it.  "The wages of sin," as Paul had said, "is death."[2]  A criminal was a criminal, no matter who he was related to, and evil was evil, and beyond redemption.  A fallen star burned up on its way to earth; it couldn't be picked up and placed back in the sky.  Begin making exceptions, take away that basis of order, and the whole structure would collapse.

            A society not bound by law and justice would destroy itself, just as the planets, were they not locked into steady, unvarying orbits, would crash into and destroy each other.  That was what she told herself, each time her mind flashed on the look of bleak, hopeless terror her brother had worn as the dementors had lead him away.  He had known the penalties for his crimes, known, as only an auror can, the inevitable cost of selling your soul.  Azkaban had only been a fraction of what he had deserved.

            Spectacular escape or not, he couldn't run forever.  Polaris herself was one of the aurors assigned to hunting him down—she knew how her brother's mind worked, and could be trusted never to let old loyalties or ties of blood interfere with the execution of her duties.  And if she didn't find him, someone else would.

            Maybe, once he was finally given the dementor's kiss, her little brother's eyes would stop haunting her.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche

[2] Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our lord."