A/N: First attempt at angsty drama...do i pull it off? Read on and see...
EDIT (1/24/08): Like I said, I'm now editing all my chapters that have excess space. Enjoy and please review!
She had seen the article in the Daily Prophet, the In Memoriam by Elphias Doge. Only the previous morning had she smiled upon his portrait hung above the fireplace mantle. By now all of England had heard of the death of Albus Dumbledore, but she alone had still labored under the delusion of his invincibility. She was far, far away from England, and had not known until this moment.
The newspaper page carrying the offending article was so soaked with her tears that its print had become illegible, but the picture accompanying the article remained pristine. She could not throw it out. It hung, taped to the bathroom mirror, and the half moon glasses and piercing blue eyes soon became unbearable to look at.
In her helplessness a solution seemed to hold promise. She decided to make a pilgrimage back to where it began.
Their story had ended almost twenty years ago, when the trouble and danger from the Dark Lord had become too great. He had insisted she flee, lest she be turned by force into a weapon for the enemy. She had acquiesced in blind understanding, and ran for a remote corner of Southwest Brazil, where she had remained hidden and safe.
But even after the Dark Lord had disappeared, he had not sent for her; her hurt pride of a few letters every year had prevented her from returning to England on her own. If he did not want her, she thought, then she did not want to go back.
The last letter that she had received from him was dated almost two years ago, and held only bad news. She had long stopped hoping that he would ask for her to come back; she saw that he would always think it was too dangerous. The recent resurrection of the Order of the Phoenix told that the times were much worse than she had thought…although Harry Potter was still alive, and that in itself was a good thing. The letter identified the headquarters of the new Order at the old Black House. Despite the years that had passed since she had last been there, she knew exactly where it was.
And so, ill-prepared as she was, she had finally decided to go back. After all, who would recognize her for who she was after all these years? She doubted even the members of the Order (how many of them were still alive?) would recognize her.
It was a bitter mockery by the heavens that she was to be returning to England, now that the only reason she had wanted to return was dead.
And standing outside the door to Number 12, Grimmauld Place and pulling her billowing cloak tighter around her, she felt unsettled. She had once belonged to the Order of the Phoenix, and she knew its headquarters should have been bustling with activity. Yet she had been frozen here, immobile for at least an hour, staring at the door that she could not bring herself to open. For at least an hour, there was no sign of movement in the house. No lights were on in the windows.
She could not bring herself to open the door.
Standing there, in a wave of obscure sympathy, she felt that the house had a life in the past, and was stuck there because nobody needed it to be in the present. She was somewhat the same way…she was old, very old.
And the thought of seeing the vibrant young witches and wizards, the new generation of revolution that now ran the Order, was not encouraging. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Alastor Moody, Rubeus Hagrid, Sturgis Podmore, Emmeline Vance, Remus Lupin, Sirius Black, Arthur and Molly Weasley…all of them, she had met, and none above the age of thirty at the time…in fact, Remus, Sirius, and James Potter had just barely been out of Hogwarts…
When the letters had come long ago about Frank and Alice Longbottom, and James and Lily Potter, she had cried. They had been like grandchildren to her. She wondered how many more of them had died in the twenty years she had been absent.
She could not bring herself to open that door.
Wandering over to the fountain in the middle of the square, she sat down on its edge. A stray newspaper blew by, grazing her shoe, and it was the cover story that caught her attention:
Undesirable No. 1
Seventeen-year-old Harry Potter, wanted for questioning on the matter of the death of Albus Dumbledore, has managed to escape the authorities thus once more. This elusion, at the heart of the Ministry of Magic itself last week, is only more proof that this boy is of questionable sanity and needs to be apprehended as soon as possible. For any information on his whereabouts, inform the Ministry of Magic at once and receive a generous reward.
Her heart leapt up into her throat, and she threw the paper aside, ignoring the rest of the article. Harry Potter was still alive! Harry Potter was still alive—she ground her teeth to keep the tears back—yet somehow, Albus Dumbledore was not. In the end, all his intelligence and resourcefulness and belief in the benevolence of humanity had done him no good. His faults, as he himself had admitted, were too great... She ripped her mind from that thought.
Harry Potter was still alive, she mused, which meant that the resistance was still going strong. She had feared that the Order had fallen apart when she had seen the loneliness of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. She had feared the worst for all of her young friends, her grandchildren.
But that was ridiculous, she thought suddenly. It would have been in the paper. Anything of that importance would have merited a line or two, at least, in the Daily Prophet. Fears quieted, she rose off the base of the fountain and strode up the steps of Number 12, and quickly turned the knob. The door opened without protest.
No lamps had been lighted inside. The little sunlight that penetrated from the open door showed nothing but an umbrella stand that looked like a troll’s leg, propped up next to the door. Dust motes floated through the sunlight hauntingly. The musty air was suffocating.
“Sirius?” she called into the heavy darkness. “Sirius Black, are you there?”
There was no answer. The person she was calling to had been dead for two years.
Shutting the door behind her, she now stood in complete darkness. “Lumos,” she whispered, drawing her wand, and its tip ignited.
The entrance hall, in all its cobwebs and wavering shadows, looked completely normal. But her spine tingled a warning, and she just about jumped a foot in the air as sudden grindings and clankings sounded behind her. It was coming from inside the door. Her heart pounded as she realized she was now locked in. This was not right.
“Sirius!” she cried, a hint of panic in her voice. “Sirius…what’s wrong with your door? …Is there anyone there?” The light from her wand dimmed as her grip on her magic slipped out of concentration.
“Severus Snape?” A hoarse whisper growled from the shadows.
She shrieked, her head whipping around, looking for the person from whom the voice had issued. She knew that voice. Its owner was dead also, but had been so for only a month. If she had only known this, that the wizened Auror had fallen, she would not have called out...
“A-Alastor? Is that you? Where are you? Alastor!”
She screamed in panic. Her tongue was swelling, contorting, shrinking, twisting, and the pain forced tears to her eyes. She backed up against the door, clutching at air with desperate hands, trying to call for help but thwarted by the tongue which now rolled back and forth, gagging her so she could not speak.
“I am not Severus Snape!” she finally forced out, and almost as if it had never happened, her tongue returned to normal.
Sighing in relief, she wiped her streaming eyes on her sleeve and took a step down the hall, in search of Alastor Moody and the rest of the absent Order. It was probably a new defense mechanism set up by the Order, and a clever one at that.
Before she had gone three steps, way at the end of the hall, beyond the reach of her feeble wandlight, she saw a figure move. It rose from the ground smoothly and serenely like a ghost.
She peered into the darkness. “Alastor?” she asked. “Sirius?”
The figure glided forward. It hurried toward her in a cloud of dust. She raised her wand until the light illuminated its grotesque face, grotesque but recognizable. In the sudden horror of realization her heart stopped as she looked into the eyes that were dead and staring, and the finger, pointed accusingly as he glided, faster still, toward her…
The light bounced all around as her wand clattered to the floor.
“Oh!” she cried, her breath coming fast in fear and remorse. She collapsed to the ground, sobbing, cowering, her face hidden as the tears ran so she would not have to look at the monster.
“How could you! How could you think…” she cried out in anguish, “Oh, Albus! Albus…it was not I who killed you…” Choking on dust and grief, she rocked back and forth like a baby, crying softly. She dared not look up for fear of what she would see. She was sure Albus was still waiting patiently, tolerant of her even in death, standing quietly and waiting for an answer…
How long she stayed there, she did not know. At times she felt as though she could have fallen asleep and woken up, but the next moment knew for certain that she had not. Stay still a little longer, she thought deliriously, and he will go away. He will leave you alone.
The world had passed her by entirely, and still she lay, curled up on the tear-stained carpet…an eon had passed before she finally heard the clicking of the locks on the door behind her.
They’ve come, she thought blankly. The Order. But still she dared not look up.
The voices she heard as the door creaked open slightly were not familiar. They were rough and impatient.
“I told you, Yaxley searched everything already. He took care of that old house elf, too.”
A heavy boot kicked open the door.
“Well, what do we have here?” the man asked. She closed her eyes, willing him to go away. He was not someone she knew. He was not someone who could help her.
“I said, who are you?” the man said a little louder. “You alive, lady?”
She had no answer for that, but turned her head slightly so she could see their faces, and they hers. The light blinded her eyes, but when they had adjusted, she saw that Albus was no longer standing above her. He had left her to her own devices once again.
“What’s wrong with you, lady? You heard him,” the other man shouted, drawing his wand and pointing it at her. “What are you doing here?”
Dully she stared at them, looking for mercy in their eyes. She found none.
She opened her mouth. The words were about to start pouring out when green light flashed from the man’s wand tip, and froze her thoughts in place. Her brain screamed, protesting the lack of oxygen. When the pain finally stopped, and the noise gone, the old lady collapsed as she hurried to find her Albus, and join him.
A/N: please leave me a review! :D tell me what you think, please!
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