Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Missing 24 Hours

I have a really swamped work day and a stack of typing at home a mile high, so I thought I'd share a piece of my 'roots' with all of you... Harry Potter Fan Fiction... you should easily be able to follow if you've read even the first book--that is the only one this one is dependent on.

This is part of my Epilogue for Awakening, which is an extremely long story about the redemption of James Potter—you see, I feel like the James we see in the books is sort of a jerk, but I would like to believe he doesn't stay that way. This piece stands alone as a short story, though. In the Wizard War, we used to talk about the 'Missing 24 Hours'--that day between Harry's parents dying and Harry turning up on the Dursley's doorstep when all the wizarding world seemed to already know what happened. This short is what Dumbledore was up to.

There are a couple details from the long story a person needs to follow, but only a few...

1) Dorcas Meadows in my story is an Unspeakable who Lily studied under for a time (before the war got bad enough she decided to delay her studies)--Dorcas left Lily her professional papers when she died.

2) DD's watch works very much like Mrs. Weasley's clock. He added hairs of Harry, Lily and James when they went into hiding.

3) Dudley's life was at risk the summer prior and DD and Lily save him. In exchange, DD extracts a promise from Petunia that if Harry's life is ever in peril, she will protect him.

4) Peter stuns Harry briefly while he retrieves LVs wand and

5) Even though the Potters only cast the Fidelius Charm a week ago, there was a Confundus spell that protected them in Godric's Hollow prior to that, so they've been there since August--it was a family summer home of the Potters.

Without further ado

The Missing 24 Hours



Albus Dumbledore, first as Professor, then as Headmaster, had had his life entangled with others for more years than he cared to count. Yet not since Grindelwald had he felt so completely subsumed by the fact of someone else, so completely responsible, and yet so helpless.

The Potters were lovely. Mischievous, loyal James had become a respectable, loving man. And Lily had always been extraordinary. But Harry… this really had everything to do with Harry, not even born when his own role became the central feature in Albus’ existence. He supposed, truth be told, it boiled down to the prophecy.

Two couples had defied Voldemort three times. Two couples who both gave birth to baby boys at the end of July. Somehow Albus had known, no matter that the Longbottoms were spectacular, well-loved, pure-blood aurors, that Voldemort… no, that Tom Riddle, half blood himself, would find Harry Potter the threat.

Lily Potter had won the respect and loyalty of Dorcas Meadows. Dorcas had a kind nature, but she did not effuse lightly. Yet she had believed Lily had amazing gifts. And then James had descended from the same Peverells who were connected with immortality… and the unbeatable wand. Yes, Riddle had probably done his homework.

And there, from the very beginning, things got complicated. The prophecy had been heard by one of Voldemort’s minions. A minion, it later turned out, who had a soft spot for Lily Potter… a minion who, when he realized the result of his own role, had been willing to spy.

There was confirmation of a spy in the Order, and insight into the workings of Voldemort’s army, neither of which were as fascinating to Albus as the generous, open mind of Lily Potter.

As Albus met with her, tutored her, he confirmed not only her intelligence, but his own failings. Lily loved not in the abstract, but in very tangible terms, saw people compassionately and pointed out how their flaws led to their strengths. Her read of Dorcas Meadows’ papers gave him insight because he had never once before considered that love had to be quite so… personal. It made him sad not to have it in his life, yet she had it, even for her casual friends… a deep, loyal, profound love.

When the Potters had gone on the run in earnest was the first time Albus had considered the Peverell myth might be true. His discussions with first Lily, then James, on the Invisibility Cloak had been quite intriguing. He knew he personally held the ’unbeatable wand,’ but the idea that the whole story might be true opened old wounds that began to fester. The cloak, fascinating in its own right, might prove the possibility… the resurrection stone…Ariana… his guilt ate at him. He wanted to see her badly, yet he feared her. If anyone in his life had a right to judge him, it was she.

And so as Albus worked with Lily so she could learn the Fidelius Charm, he debated with himself whether or not he wanted to know… did the resurrection stone exist? The answer was as easy as proving the cloak was the cloak… but would he then waste his remaining years searching for the stone, neglecting his other obligations?

And then he remembered how he had stumbled across Death’s other Hallows. It had been quite accidental. He could convince himself to wait… but only if he knew.

And so the moment approached. Lily had learned the Charm. The couple had chosen their Secret Keeper. Albus was sure it was Sirius Black. It could hardly not be.

The watch had been a last minute inspiration. He hadn’t kept track of anybody for many years, but this entanglement had grown very personal. And so he had added the hairs of the Potter family members for peace of mind… if only it had worked that way.

*

The Fidelius Charm was performed on October 25 and the following day intelligence was received regarding the personal threat to Millicent Bagnold and her expected guest, Russian Minister Fyodor Tolstoy. Albus, knowing the local Ministry would believe no such intelligence, had gone himself to Saint Petersberg (Leningrad would never exist in his mind) and gave the warning to the Russian Ministry. He assured them the Order of the Phoenix took the threat seriously and would be guarding, but suggested they also take precautions. They appeared grateful.

He returned to Hogwarts on Halloween morning and found Hagrid dragging his giant pumpkins into the Great Hall.

“Went to the Potters for dinner while you were gone.”

“Did you? I’m glad both that they had the pleasure of your company, and that you can get there if needed.”

“I could take you there.”

“No, it wouldn’t work. You’d arrive happily, and I’d be slammed into a wall of protection,” he smiled, “but I do appreciate the offer. I’ll let James know in the morning though, that he can bring me the secret.”

“Tha’s good. I think ‘e could use that cloak.”

“Did he mention it?”

“Lily said she planned to go see old Bathilda, but couldn’t cross the street.”

“Oh, yes… tomorrow, first thing.”

That conversation would give him nightmares for several months. He’d known staying in was safest for the Potters, but of course there were a dozen times a week they could have found use for the cloak without undue risk, yet here it sat in his own office. Its study had been fascinating, actually. He thought he may have even discovered from it a spell for personal invisibility, temporary of course, but far better than being dependent on a cloak. He would teach it to Lily. He was sure she could master it. She was, after all, a very gifted witch.

*

And it was with those thoughts that the Great Hall began to fill for the Halloween feast. He had always enjoyed Halloween, but tonight the Minister was under threat and his mind was elsewhere; he really felt he could be more useful elsewhere. His speech was rather rambling and even he had trouble paying attention.

When he invited everyone to eat and sat himself, Minerva McGonagall leaned over to him. “Are you alright Headmaster? You don’t seem quite yourself.”

“And that might be a good thing,” he joked, but it didn’t fool her. He glanced at his watch.

Danger.

Three Potters in danger. He wasn’t sure if it had said that before and he cursed himself for not paying better attention.

He scooped food onto his plate, ate a few bites, made polite conversation and looked again.

Danger.

It hadn’t changed. Surely he was imagining things. Dinner plates disappeared. He scooped up his dessert.

And then something happened that had the entire hall rapt and time stood still. A large silvery doe charged into the room and Lily’s voice rang in his ear. He’s here. Help! He looked at his watch as all three Potter hands moved to mortal peril, and then within seconds James’ hand disappeared entirely. Albus stood for a moment, stunned, and then began to make his way quickly out of the Great Hall, eyes on his watch, when Lily’s hand also vanished. He stopped, disbelieving, watching the ‘Harry’ hand, frozen, for some seconds before he shouted, “Hagrid! I need you!” And then oddly, Harry’s hand slid calmly away from ‘mortal peril’ to ‘home’.

*

Hagrid followed Dumbledore into the small chamber off the Great Hall. As soon as the door was shut Albus turned, “James and Lily are dead. Hagrid… Harry is not. He needs us. He needs you!” He willed his gamekeeper to hold himself together.

Hagrid gave a large snuffle.

“Hagrid, I need you to fetch Harry. Take him, invisibly if possible, to Bathilda Bagshot’s house across the street. Wait for me there. I’ll be there in two hours time.”

Hagrid nodded and left, blowing his nose on a blanket-sized handkerchief.

Albus had to alert the Order and find out if their warnings for the evening had amounted to anything. He also needed to ask some people to have some information ready for him for later.

*

It was as he thought; the Minister attack had been a ruse, a decoy. News of it had come on the 26th, only one day after the Potters had performed the Fidelius Charm. Sirius Black had wasted no time.

He arrived at Bathilda’s just after midnight.

“Albus,” her face was sad and Albus just nodded, confirming James and Lily were dead. “They’re in the back room,” she said sadly.

“I’ll need a little time alone with Harry,” he warned.

Bathilda frowned, “what, to ask secrets?”

“In a manner of speaking…”

Bathilda rolled her eyes, annoyed now.

Albus thought she perhaps blamed him for this. It wouldn‘t be the first time, and it would also not be the first time he partially shared her opinion.

“I’ll set tea for Hagrid.”

“Thank you,” Albus went back and asked Hagrid to leave he and Harry momentarily.

Hagrid also frowned, but only shrugged and left.

“So Harry…” Albus picked up the child and sat with him. “I hate to do this when you really aren’t old enough to give permission…” It was true. It seemed horribly invasive. And to do it, he had to bring the thought to the front of Harry’s mind. “Harry, can you show me mumma?” He looked in Harry’s eyes and then put his wand to Harry’s temple.

A long silvery strand came out and Albus put it in the pensieve he had recently freed from his cloak, then he took Harry to Hagrid for Harry’s comfort.

*

Albus entered the memory as James handed Harry off to Lily. He followed Lily and Harry up the stairs as Lily asked Harry what daddy taught him. “No poopa. Siy daddy!”

Lily laughed. She then gave Harry Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, and kitty kisses as she changed him. He giggled and tried to give some back, pressing his eye to Lily’s cheek.

Then there was a crash downstairs. Lily turned to look, nearly starting for the stairs, returning and setting Harry in his cot, and then starting again before she heard James yell.

“Lily!” He shouted, “take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!”

‘Him’ could only be Voldemort. There was a pause as Lily paced just three or four steps. Albus watched as Lily’s jaw set. She came to Harry and looked him in the eye, “Harry, mummy and daddy love you more than anything in the world. Please, always know that.” And she kissed his brow, wet tears marking his forehead. She went to the window then, threw it open and sent her Patronus, Albus knew it was to him. Then, there was the flash of green light; Lily began to scream, recognizing the curse for what it was, knowing James was now dead. She tried to move a chair, then several boxes in front of a door to barricade she and Harry in.



But as it became clear she couldn’t hold him out she picked up Harry protectively and turned to face the creature entering. When he easily cast aside the blockade her eyes grew wide, as if the sight of Voldemort was too much. She changed her mind and turned to replace Harry in the cot; he was protesting, tugging at the back of her robes. She spread her arms in front of her child and her words were tortured.

“Not Harry, not Harry. Please, not Harry.”

“Stand aside you silly girl… stand aside, now!”

“Not Harry, please no, take me. Kill me instead--”

“This is my last warning--” Voldemort raised his wand.

“Not Harry. Please… have mercy… have mercy… Not Harry! Not Harry! Please-- I’ll do anything!”

“Stand aside--stand aside, girl--”

Albus watched, transfixed, as Lily bargained for her son’s life. It was remarkable that Voldemort had offered to let her live. He wondered if she had Severus Snape to thank for that.

And then the curse on Lily… and she fell.

Harry, more curious than upset, pulled himself up on the bars of his cot and looked at Voldemort, wondering if this were a game. But when Voldemort drew closer and pointed his wand at Harry’s forehead, the boy began to cry, recognizing the danger.

What happened next was confusing. Voldemort said the words, “Avada Kedavra’, just like he had with Lily, and there was green light, but rather more diffuse than Albus had seen and it caused a massive explosion around them. Within it, Voldemort seemed to evaporate, robes and wand falling to the floor, part of the roof crashing, Harry crying. The child was partially covered in debris and he cried and cried. Albus didn’t know how long the child’s distress lasted, it seemed hours, though it was probably fewer than fifteen minutes.

Then there was brief muttering and all went black. Albus stood for a time in nothingness, and then he heard, “Harry!” In Hagrid’s booming voice. Things came into focus again. Harry began to cry again and Hagrid came up the stairs. Albus looked around. Things were subtly different. Voldemort’s robes still lay on the floor, but his wand was gone. Someone had come to retrieve it… had taken the time to make sure Harry didn’t see them, so it had to be somebody Harry would recognize.

*

Albus debated not returning the memory to the child. It was a truly awful memory, yet… it was perhaps the most loving act Albus had ever witnessed, and he felt perhaps having the memory in there would help Harry know how loved he was.

Albus looked at the child again. The lightning-shaped scar that marked the curse was on the exact spot his mother’s tears and kiss had marked him earlier that night. He wondered what sort of conduit of protection Lily Potter had managed to create, her love, her tears…her life…

He pulled himself out of the memory.

He went back out, “Hagrid, stay with the child. I’ll send word where and when to bring him.”

“Shouldn’t he go to Sirius Black? He’s the boy’s…”

“No!” Albus didn’t elaborate for a moment, then calmly said, “I believe I have a protection that will be the most safe.”

“Can I take ‘im to Hogwarts?”

Albus looked at his watch, “yes, perhaps that’s best, but come back by dark tonight. It will be easiest to travel from here… and… don’t the Potters have a cat?”

“Yeh.”

“Perhaps fetch her, too. She will need a home. Bathilda, do you mind watching her in the short term?”

“Not at all.”


Albus left, looking at the destroyed house across the way. Such heroism and the town wouldn’t even remember them.. or would it? The Confundus Charm should have worn off. All they needed was a reminder. He walked the few blocks to the town square and stared at the war memorial. He concentrated hard and then raised his wand.

The white hot light shot forward, reforming the marble into man, woman and child. A perfect likeness. It would only be visible to wizards, but then, only wizards would understand their unique heroics.

Albus then set to work consulting the texts he’d seen regarding blood protection, researching the surviving family of Lily Potter, and reaching the sad conclusion that the strange oath extracted in August would be necessary. Petunia Dursley and her son were Lily’s only remaining relatives aside from Harry. At the very least however, the promise had been given. Harry would be taken in.

Albus set to establishing additional protections on the physical location of the house, and then set about searching who might be of assistance in the area who might go unnoticed by Lord Voldemort‘s allies.

He finally stumbled across the answer in a rather arbitrary way. He’d been desperately thumbing through old correspondence for something to trigger an idea when he found a thank you note sent by the daughter of an old friend. The daughter was a Squibb and had sent it after her father died, as Albus had helped with several of the Wizarding World details she could not manage. This Squibb happened to live in Surrey.

He sent an owl. Thankfully the woman was both home and gracious. He explained the situation to her as he scratched one of her dozen cats, and begged for assistance.

“Professor, my father always spoke highly of you. And you were very helpful to me when he passed. I’m pleased to have a way I can be of assistance. And I’m honored to keep an eye on the boy.”

“Thank you, Arabella. It’s important though… these relatives of Harry’s are difficult… you cannot be direct with them or they will shun you, as they do anything connected with the magical world. I’d advise, for the first few years, to just be a friendly but distant neighbor. Get a feel for them. And please, keep me informed.”

“Of course.”

“And Arabella… the Potters had a cat… you wouldn’t have room…”

“To take in a kitty who’s lost her family? Of course I have room!”

Watchperson established, Albus sent a return Patronus to Remus. He felt very bad for the man. Albus had received word earlier that morning that Sirius Black was in custody and that Peter Pettigrew was dead. Remus Lupin had effectively lost all three of his close friends in the last twelve hours, four if he counted Lily, and he felt sure Remus did.

Once that was done, he stopped by the Ministry to make a formal statement regarding the Potters and their Secret Keeper, and then began final preparations that would protect Harry Potter at his aunt’s house for the next sixteen years.

It was old magic, based in blood, and he was very glad he’d done the preliminary magic months earlier in hope Petunia might protect the whole Potter family. It might be too late for that now, but at least she would protect the child. She had sworn, after all.


When Albus arrived at Privet Drive to meet Hagrid that night, he had been awake forty-two hours, but he was sure it had been time well spent. The only thing left was the evasive explanation to an impatient Professor McGonagall, the arrival of Hagrid and the child, and the explanation left next to the bundle.

Petunia, remember your oath. Harry’s parents, your sister Lily and her husband were killed this night. Harry needs you to protect him as you swore you would.

Harry Potter was safe.

~Finite~

4 comments:

Terry Odell said...

You're a lot braver than I am. I wrote Highlander Fan Fiction when I was starting to write. I'm sure those feeble attempts are still out in cyberspace somewhere, but I don't think I'd have the nerve to post one on my blog!

Watery Tart said...

Ah, well I still write a little of it. It is what I do when the current WiP is misbehaving. I wrote this one about a year ago, and I still like it.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I like it!

I never was happy that James was portrayed as a jerk. I hoped maybe he'd just been misunderstood. Because I've always had a soft spot for Snape. I like that you redeemed him as a "respectable, loving man." And I love how you shine a little light into an area of the series that Rowling didn't delve into. Bravo! :)

Elizabeth

Watery Tart said...

Elizabeth--my LONG story really details out the redemption--I think there were a lot of 'spoiled, talented, popular' things that made him not as nice until he had a couple rough life lessons, but he had a good heart, so came around.

Soft spot for Snape?! I actually do for YOUNG Snape, but adult Snape, not so much...

Thank you for indulging in my madness!