The Tale of Three Brothers was not a legend. It was a warning. No one cheats Death. And luckily for Lily Potter, the promise of the Cloak's return in exchange for her son's life was a fair deal.
What can be done, what cannot. What could not, would not, should not. Proper wizarding children know the rules of magic. It's in their blood. They don't set limits. They obey them. For the muggleborn on the other hand, it's always a matter of 'what happens if I do this?'
The infamous last words of many a muggleborn everywhere.
It began at the far side of the shed, one of the many old dilapidated and crumbling safe houses of the Order, a slight cold breeze that came from nowhere carrying the sound of a sigh. It swirled around lazily, flicking at the pages of her books, playing with strands of her red hair, stirring up the sawdust on the floor. As she shifted, the sole window mounted on the back wall began to darken, something like a mist creeping inward from the edges of the glass. When the first crack sounded, loud and sharp, she almost flinched.
"No spells, Lily," she told herself sternly, even as she triple checked her wand and her mouth went dry. "No spells." The cheap watch she wore just for this occasion ticked its way calmly toward eight o'clock as the window continued to splinter. "Absolutely no spells."
A spider's web of cracks decorated the obsidian glass panes, and Lily couldn't stop the small bubble of hysterical panic from forming in the back of her throat when several seconds passed with nothing happening. What if the conjured glass broke the rules? What about the Muggle-Repelling charms on the safe house? What if-
Her watch hit eight and only managed to get off one chime before Lily jabbed at the buttons, sharp silence almost ringing. Before her eyes, the darkness in the window seemed to swell, tentatively flexing, before exploding outwards in a shower of razor shards. She could feel the sting as a few sliced past her cheek and ear and beneath her feet, runes lit up in a sick yellow glow. She resisted the urge to check behind her, cringing as she imagined aurors from the ministry walking in on her, or even worse, Albus Dumbledore…
Dark mist began to pour out of the broken window, following the wall down where it came across the first line of her preparations. More runes, written in the oldest language she could reliably translate, rimmed with silver. The mist hesitated at the edge of it, tasting, and to Lily it almost seemed like it had half a mind to turn around and go back.
"It won't hurt you," her mouth said before she had a chance to think it through. A presence was in that mist and she could feel it give her its attention. "It's just for stability," she soothed. "A form."
It lingered, judging as the minutes ticked by. Lily spared a quick look at her watch; the mist surged over the line and towards her. The runes shimmered with power, sparking and her eyes widened with alarm as the silver melted into bubbling puddles. Overload. The mist that approached the second line boasted of a slightly denser quality, and with a second of casual inspection, drifted over her handiwork. Emboldened, it began to cross the lines faster, shadows gathering behind it in mass as a chill prickled her spine, a sigh whispering in her ear.
Eight by eight.
She could only watch, trapped behind a circle of runes, as it advanced. Every eighth line seemed to slow it a little, gaining a bit more of a shape, a bit more mass. Wisping shadows became searching tendrils, and then loose approximation of hundreds of fingers scratching across the floor. Another eighth line, and the mass sprouted skeletal hands, dragging. It gained definition, warped bones and twisted joints and quite suddenly, Lily Potter did not want to see what kind of form it would eventually take.
But it wanted to see her.
Another eighth line, and several hundred eyes opened.
"No spells, Lily," her voice trembled. "No spells."
It was closer, twisted arms slapping at the floor, and it began to wail as it bore on her, a song with words she understood and yet couldn't hear, dissonant chords that echoed inside her head, bounced behind her eyes and a black signal that carried a pressure…She wiped away the blood that was trickling out of her nose, it was reaching out, so close-
The moment stretched as she stared into the yawning abyss. Haunted faces stared back, twisting and silently screaming, beckoning; she could vaguely feel herself shift and lean forward-
Her watch chimed. Lily blinked. And standing in front of her was a dark figure, vaguely humanoid and cloaked in shifting shadow, a gnarled hand with dark, pulsing veins was outstretched, resting against her runic barrier. The yellow glow was worrisomely bright, but it held. Letting go of her wand took effort, and she winced as her knuckles cracked loudly.
For a moment, she just stood there, marveling. A curious low hum was vibrating off the walls and the being stood there, its eyes would periodically open and close. She made sure not to stare into them for too long.
Caller, a thousand voices whispered into her mind.
"My name is Lily Potter," she told it softly, carefully. "I am married to James Charlus Potter-," the runes she was standing on turned silver. "And my son is Harry James Potter."
It leaned in, ignoring the way the barrier flared with light. Mine
"Descendants of Ignotus Peverell, yes," she confirmed, sorely tempted to conjure a tissue for the busted vein in her nasal cavity as she wiped her face again. "We have your Cloak."
Mine it said again and to Lily's horror, the light of her runes flickered.
"Yes! Yes, I know! But you gave it away! It belongs on This Side now." Its numerous eyes began to narrow, but it wasn't trying to get at her either. "I'd be willing to bargain for it." When it didn't react, she plowed on. "The Peverell name is gone, finding others who can return your Hallows is hard enough, never mind finding those who would."
"I don't know where it is," she said earnestly, almost trying to will it into believing her.
"I don't know where that is either but you can have the Cloak if-" She paused, going over her intended wording and recalling the story of the youngest Peverell brother. "If you wait for him as a friend, until he is ready to go."
Lily dug into her pockets, before retrieving a small vial filled with her own blood and charmed to be unbreakable. Just in case. She held it out by her fingertips just short of crossing the runic line. "If I give this to you, that means you-" the runes sparked, brighter. "If you take, you accept."
With a weak fizzle-pop, the barrier failed and with it, the only light. Her gut twisted, a chill slithering from her fingers up her arms, and for a second, she cursed being such a Gryffindor. What had she been thinking? Was she mad to even think that anything she did could possibly—
She felt it take the vial from her, heard it shatter.
"I- yes, yours." She swallowed thickly, straining her eyes into the pitch dark. "All yours."
Friend it tentatively tried. Lily could feel her eyes pulse with a slight pain as small veins gave way. Mine
It began to draw away, slowly at first, and then picking up speed losing its form as it went.
54. 53. 52. 5150494847…
She waited until the last wisp of shadow vanished past the window, leaving only an image of a starry night sky before heaving a huge sigh of relief. She knelt down and brushed her fingers through the sawdust on the floor, inspecting the runes. She had carved them into the wooden floor using a simple pen knife but now they looked as if she had used a blowtorch. The culmination of seven months of research and foolhardy daring.
Her eyes fluttered closed for a moment. All her materials were here. All of the books she had found. Albus had asked to study the cloak just days earlier; it was only a matter of time.
It began at the far side of the shed, one of the many old dilapidated and crumbling safe houses of the Order, a crackle of burning embers and swirling smoke. It swirled around lazily, nipping at the pages of her books, reflecting off strands of her red hair, consuming the sawdust on the floor. When the first loud snap sounded, the shed's backbone broken from the fire, she turned away. Prophecy be damned.
Harry was safe now.
She slipped into her home in Godric's Hollow just a shade away from being utterly exhausted. A pulsing headache was making the blood rush in her ears and she had nearly splinched herself apparating , never mind the half a dozen hexes she sent at any suspicious looking shadow half-convinced that it had gone just a bit too well.
"Lily?" the soothing tones of her husband almost made her knees give way.
"James," she murmured. "Did Sirius leave already?"
"Yeah, a few minutes ago." He was peering at her, trying to see into the shadows of her hood. "Are you alright?" In answer, she let him see her face and was rewarded with his mouth dropping open. "Merlin! You look like death warmed over, what happened? Did you run into any Death Eaters? What were you doing?" he babbled, drawing her into his arms. "You're bleeding," he continued, softer. "Oh Lily…"
"It's just a nose bleed and a few scratches," she smiled, trying to look better than she felt. "I've had worse."
He chuckled weakly. "I'm not sure I even want to know. Honestly though," he said, frowning. "How did this happen?"
"I-" Lily spotted movement out the corner of her eye. "I-" was it? Yes, the window was darkening, a mist crawling along it like a shadow in a pond. She backed away from him, hand automatically going to her wand. James froze.
"Is someone out there?" he whispered, not moving his eyes from hers.
With a shuddering sigh, she let go of her wand. No spells. "It's in here." It followed her. She watched as the mist left the window only to reappear in one further along the wall of the house. She followed it simultaneously comforted and terrified by the presence of James at her back. It was in the living room window. As she approached, vaguely aware of James grabbing his wand from the table as they passed it, the mist moved on. The window on the stairs.
Each step creaked.
The mist went right and Lily felt her heart stop. "Oh god, HARRY!" She broke into a dead run and James followed her, bellowing at the top of his lungs. "HARRY!"
The door to the nursery was of solid construction much like the rest of the house, Lily noted as she slammed bodily into it having not quite managed to turn the doorknob all the way. It was noted for future reference as she finally got it open. She stopped dead just inside the room. Out the corner of her eye, she could see James lift his wand and she snatched at it. "Don't!" she hissed. Startled, he lowered it slightly. "No spells. Trust me."
A large disembodied eye was hovering around Harry's crib, flitting back and forth like a bizarre hummingbird. Harry was reaching out to it with an uncertain expression on his face as if he could tell that something wasn't quite right. Lily's heart was trying to hammer its way right out of her chest.
"You just wanted to see him, didn't you?" she murmured quietly, stepping closer and doing her best to appear harmless. James reached for her, stopped, and tried again.
She ignored him. "You just wanted to see Harry." The eye turned to her, bobbing the air gently. She gasped. It was a brilliant color of blue. "Well, what do you think?" she continued as if having a conversation with a floating eyeball was an everyday occurrence. "He's beautiful, isn't he?"
For a moment, it just stared at her.
She heard James hiss in pain and Harry began to whimper. Lily crept forward. "You hurt Harry when you talk like that. You don't want to hurt your friend, do you?" The eye's brilliance dimmed and she imagined it didn't like that anymore than she did. "How about you blink once for 'no' and twice for 'yes'?" she suggested, blinking obviously to demonstrate.
The eye immediately sprouted eyelids and deliberately blinked twice.
In spite of herself, Lily smiled.
If Lily and James seemed to have twice as many tense moments and screaming matches as before, no one mentioned it. If the shadows in Harry's room were a bit darker than anywhere else in the house, no one noticed it. When the window on the far side finally gave in to the pressure and shattered, Lily left it as it is with a strong Notice-Me-Not charm on the empty panes after sweeping up all the glass. If the Potters had taken to leaving their wands behind in other rooms whenever they went to Harry, it really wasn't much. They were in hiding for a reason after all and sometimes bad habits develop. After the Fidelius charm settled over the house, the visits from their friends dropped to record lows and the Potters were left out of more and more of the Order's activities.
If Lily occupied her time by teaching their mysterious visitor, no one outside of her husband and her son knew.
"No, Thana, like this, look," she held out her hand and flexed it slowly. "Skin wrinkles and moves, see? It bunches a little at the knuckles." James had been horrified when Lily suggested naming it, having realized exactly what it was. It's like naming a storm! It's a force of nature, it's dangerous and it doesn't care!
We do that you know, muggles I mean.
You-you do what?
As far as names went, it was far from the most original just being 'Thanatos' with the masculine ending chopped off of it but her entire list of names were derivative of pagan gods. A normal name, a common name parents wouldn't mind giving to their children just didn't seem right, not when that image from the shed
Far too many hands, too many eyes, too many mouths and that sound
Was burned into her mind just as vivid as when she had first seen it. In her dreams, she was always at that shed, watching it bear down on her with only a flimsy runic barrier for protection. More often than not, she woke up with blood pouring from her nose. If James noticed how often she awoke in the dead of night as cold as ice, he didn't say anything.
How come wizards don't believe in God?
We have gods. We just know better than to call on them.
She leaned in to get a closer look at Thana's latest attempt, absently removing the paw of 'Padfoot' from Harry's mouth. "Much better." She looked over the hand critically. "I would say that you are far too pale however." The skin flushed uncertainly a deep red as if it was coloured in with one of Harry's crayons. Lily stifled a laugh, smiling broadly instead. "Never mind! Never mind, the other color suits you much better."
Thana seemed to agree, reverting immediately.
"Moo'y," Harry gurgled. The shadows gathered underneath a stuffed wolf before depositing it in front of the little boy who wasted no time in grabbing it. "Ma!" he cried out, holding the toy up. "Moo'y."
"That's right Harry. That's Moony." Lily hesitated, shooting a quick glance at the shadowy figure by the window. "And Thana got the toy for you. Can you say Thana, Harry?"
Her son looked up at her and as always, completely captivated her with his eyes. "Ta'a?"
She smiled even as Thana went unnaturally still. "Thana. And what do you say when someone does something nice for you? Hm? What do you say?"
"T'ank you Ta'a," Harry said obediently and squealed happily when his mother gathered him up for a fierce hug just the way he liked it. "Ma!" Thana hadn't spoken since that first day, so she wasn't surprised when the figure remained silent. Harry didn't notice. Lily wondered.
Her dreams that night were different from what she had grown somewhat used to. The air was heavy with rain and there was always a faint spark, a faint crackle of lightning alive in the clouds. The shed was always there but this time it was on fire, the last image she had of it. She could feel the heat curling from the wood, glowing orange smoldering within. She approached the door after only a moment of hesitation. She had to go inside, that's how it worked.
Granted, it was on fire but it was also a dream. Lily suddenly paused. A dream in which she didn't have her wand on her.
She eyed the door a lot more nervously than she had just a moment ago.
Startled, Lily walked closer to the door. "Thana?" Now sure that she had to go in, Lily covered her nose and mouth with her sleeve before kicking down the door to the old safe house. It crumbled, shooting a wave of sparks and ashy debris into the air. "Thana?" The heat was stifling and it made her eyes blink rapidly in a futile effort to retain some moisture. "Are you in here?"
The inside of the shed was almost exactly the way she imagined it would look. The wood was peeling off in slivers as it expanded, her books were burning piles and bits and pieces of the roofing was falling down as the shed groaned. The back wall remained untouched. The fires raged around it, trying to grab purchase on something but the wall that held the window was pristine. She could see her runes, rimmed in silver, undulating like a serpent, shifting. It beckoned to her.
Tha thung, shax ghhutla', ghaa't a tuftkan natk
Lily reeled as her head exploded in pain, something crashed to the floor behind her.
Or xaftftugh, ghhuta ghiaaa' ruftgt allaa' su huga
The window darkened.
A ratha nus ur shut aa'sh, shuiagh nuna ga'at atk
A song was being crooned softly, the dulcet tone floating just underneath the crackling flames. The words sounded familiar but she couldn't get her tongue around it when she tried to sing along. It was as if it was in some language she had forgotten long ago and only had glimpses of a child's proficiency to fall back on.
She tried anyway.
"J-jiats ghhas shuta," her arms itched and Lily stumbled closer to the unburning wall that seemed to get even further away. "Raasia'at a'a, ghuth, fta-fta," she couldn't remember the next words. What were the next words? If she could cry, she would, mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other. Her tongue felt thick in her mouth. "Thana, please!"
Jiats ghhas shuta raasia'at a'a, ghuth ftaftga untuga
The shed continued to burn around her, sobbing with dry eyes. She could almost feel her mind expand, whispers of something other pressing deep into her. A colossal mind, an endless presence. It was so beautiful
Manx, un nan't ru'ts xuiash, tuiaghs uias shas gftughh
She was close. The window was visibly weakening, cracks spidering across its surface. She didn't even think of stopping.
Bias ghhas shax ruiang, nu una ghuftft a'a knugh! Ia! IA!
The window exploded outwards.
Lily woke up with her breath caught in her throat, still seeing shards of glass flying towards her eyes. She felt sick. She crawled out of bed with the practiced ease of someone who found themselves awake far too early far too many times and stumbled into the bathroom. Her charmed night light was still on and for a second she stared into it, its pale orange casting deep shadows. Orange like the fire.
Shuddering she turned away and splashed her face with water. And again.
"Just a dream," she told herself. "Snap out of it, Lily!" Splashing herself once more for good measure she looked up into the mirror. Her reflection stared back. Pale and wan with bags under her eyes, red hair hanging limply into her face, her eyes were positively bloodshot. "That was a rough one, huh?" She smiled at the mirror.
The Lily in the mirror didn't smile back.
She blinked and her reflection was normal again. She let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding.
She tensed. The shadows of the bathroom gathered in a corner and she eyed it from its reflection in the mirror. "Thana," she swallowed back the acid taste of fear. "I didn't think you could manifest without a window."
There was a moment of silence. "Lily."
Lily could feel her eyebrows crawl up into her hairline. "Congratulations," she strained as much pride as she could into the word as she turned around. "You've mana-"
There was nothing there.
She palmed her face. "I'm exhausted," she excused. "It is way too early and I need to sleep." Not to mention she was beginning to make a habit of talking herself. After toweling her hair, she slipped back underneath the covers and curled up next to James. Sighing, she slowly fell back asleep.
When James asked her in the morning what had happened to the bathroom mirror, Lily could only tell him the truth as she stared at the large crack that ran all the way through it.
She didn't know.
The Thana that visited Harry that day had a face. It was misshaped and ugly with lumps of malformed bone underneath scaly patches of skin. Harry had recoiled with all the innocence of a child that had just seen a monster. It left just as quickly as it had appeared. The next time it came, it was all shadows once more but instead of Harry it spent its time studying Lily. It followed her through the house as well as it could through the windows and during play time it drifted a bit closer than usual, fixated on her face.
Lily bore it with good humour even as her dreams seemed to stretch her thin and faded like a rag that was washed too many times. Sometime after the third day, she had placed their photo album in plain sight of the broken window and Thana had flipped through it curiously.
It didn't appear for five days after the photo album. Harry's birthday passed quietly, with only Sirius and Wormtail there to spoil the birthday boy. Remus was absent again. Significant looks were passed around over little Harry's head. Presents were opened, cake was eaten, jokes were made. When Lily carried a sleeping toddler up to his room, she was surprised to find someone already there.
But she would recognize those brilliant blue eyes anywhere.
"Thana?" It had done a good job, she was forced to admit. The pale skin it had taken a liking to was paired with long hair so dark it shone blue under the light. It had managed to give itself a delicate beauty that played off those eyes well. She tried to look for elements of Sirius or Narcissa or even herself in that face. She thought that maybe the nose belonged to Petunia which struck her as bizarre. "You certainly look different."
It stepped forward. "Lily," it rasped, its eyes were looking at her with such a fierce intensity she almost stepped back. "Harry?" It looked down at the sleeping boy with a something like hunger. "Harry friend?"
Lily hesitated. "Yes. Friends."
Thana held out a hand. A silver chain necklace with a sickle pendant hung from its fingers. The light caught in odd places and Lily realized that in between each chain link was a clear gemstone. "Oh…"
"You-," she stopped herself. While collecting her thoughts, she placed Harry in his bed and absently kissed his forehead. "You got a gift for Harry?"
Thana blinked twice and Lily felt an unbidden smile steal onto her face. "That's very thoughtful of you. Why don't you put it on his end table?" It did so and gave Lily a lop-sided smile that was both heartwarming and entirely insincere at once. Lily couldn't help but respond to the obvious plea for acknowledgment. "Well done. I'm proud of you."
"Lily friend," it declared. Then it added, "Lily Caller."
"What exactly is a caller anyway?" The question popped out. "I keep having these dreams…"
Thana's face scrunched up the way Harry's did when he was puzzling through something. Thana held out a hand. "This side." The other hand was placed a bit apart. "Other." And then it chopped a hand in the middle. "Lily."
"So I acted as a bridge," Lily clarified. That was probably what giving her blood did, opened the way for Thana to manifest and exist in the material world. She knew blood was a bonding agent, just that none of the materials mentioned exactly why. "A path."
Thana was shaking her head. "Not," she struggled with the new word. "B-b-rrrridge." It pointed towards the broken window. "Let Other in."
Lily stared at the broken window. A cold suspicion was forming a ball of ice in her stomach. "Can the window close," she asked softly. At its confused look she opened and closed the door to Harry's room several times. "Can I close? Can I stop?" God, of course, the dreams. "Can I stop?"
Thana tentatively reached for her and Lily jerked out of reach so hard she nearly fell over. "Lily?" It almost looked hurt. "Lily friend?"
"I-I just need some space."
Thana didn't look convinced. "Caller," it crooned softly. It began to sing in an undertone, dulcet tones that were so familiar Lily's sight blurred with tears.
Tha thung, shax ghhutla', ghaa't a tuftkan natk…
Lily awoke in her bed, James lightly snoring next to her. She got up, confused and missing time. Two steps into the bathroom and something sharp sliced into her foot. "Owwwww, bloody hell," she looked around guiltily as if expecting her son to be just around the corner all too eager to try out new words. Awkwardly shuffling to the side, she blinked hard as she looked into the bathroom mirror. Or what used to be the bathroom mirror. Small pieces of glass were still attached to the frame, but most of the shards were on the floor and in the sink. Wordlessly, Lily sought out her ward and cast a quick reparo while studiously ignoring the gathering shadows she could feel in the corners of the room.
It was a routine that would become very familiar over the next two months.
October 31st, 1981 Godric's Hollow
Lily knew the exact moment James died.
It was as if something had taken hold of one half of her heart and ripped it away and she welcomed the pain. It had been so hard to feel anything around the song flitting through her thoughts, so hard to concentrate when she could close her eyes and see the burning shed. The runes continued to seduce her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear every time she went to sleep. It was impossible to resist. She tried. God, she tried.
Tha thung, shax ghhutla', ghaa't a tuftkan natk…
She had books, dozens of them. Writing down everything she could remember from the dreams, everything she could remember from the original research she burned in that bloody shed and it was safe. It hadn't been until James had tried to read her feverish writings that she realized they were all in some kind of cypher or code. One that she read as easily as if it had been in English. And every time she thought she had written everything down, something new would reveal itself in her sleep and she'd have to write more, in the margins if necessary.
It would all go to her son, Dumbledore if necessary. He had the Cloak. He should know-
"I'm here, Harry," she tried to soothe her son as he fidgeted in his bed. "Mummy is here." The necklace glinted from where it lay around his neck, its sickle pendant creating a small bump in his shirt. "And I'm so sorry…" She had charmed a music box with the otherworldly lullaby, left it in the vault. The song was, it was beautiful and vast and it wasn't safe-
The door slammed open.
Bias ghhas shax ruiang, nu una ghuftft a'a knugh! Ia! IA!
"Lily Potter," the sneering voice of Voldemort spoke from behind her. "I'm giving you one chance to stand aside, girl."
Lily looked over her shoulder at him, and then her eyes shifted to the broken window and back. It was strange, how she could stand there without a wand in front of the man she had spent the last two years desperately hiding from and not feel a thing. "No spells," she whispered.
The window darkened.
Hundreds of years ago, the three Peverell brothers were travelling at twilight, and reached a river too dangerous to cross. The three brothers, being trained in the magical arts, simply waved their wands and created a bridge across the river. They were then stopped by Death himself, who felt cheated that they had gotten across the river…