Chapter 21 ~ Halloween 1981
When Rick arrived at Godric’s Hollow, he found himself outside the Potters’ cottage, in what must have been the garden. It was an unruly mass of weeds now. The cottage itself lay in ruins. The roof was gone, and nothing remained of the doors or windows. Creepers and vines grew thickly over what remained of the walls. It looked like it had been left untouched since that fateful Halloween night, sixteen years ago. Rick held up Godric Gryffindor’s wand, twisting it slightly as he closed his eyes and concentrated on going back in time. This time he paid attention to the process. It was like stepping out of the present into no-where, or more accurately No Time, then stepping back into another time. It was a bit like stepping out of one compartment on the Hogwarts Express into the corridor and then entering another compartment.
When he opened his eyes, the cottage looked quite different. It was no longer in ruins. It looked very picturesque, with creepers growing up the stone walls. Light shone from the windows on the autumn leaves scattered about outside. Rick was very much aware of Dumbledore’s warning about not changing anything. He had to make certain that no one noticed him. When he had been spying on Umbridge, Draco, and the Slytherins, the previous term, he had discovered that he could Disapparate without having to immediately Apparate somewhere else. It was like his body was nowhere at all, but his mind and senses were wherever he wanted them to be. It was much better than just being invisible, because no one could trip over him, hear him, or smell him. He decided to use the technique now. He had to make sure that he wasn’t noticed.
Upon entering the house, Rick found himself in a large, comfortable, and homely lounge room. There was a lively fire burning in the fireplace. The room was a bit messy, with toys spread over the sofa and spilling onto the floor. Rick couldn’t see anyone, but he heard voices coming from the next room. Following the voices, he found himself in the kitchen, where the Potters were finishing their evening meal. The first thing that struck Rick was how young they looked – only a few years older than himself. Yet here they were, already married – and with a baby. Rick tried to picture himself in a scene like this in a few years’ time – with Hermione, of course. It was quite appealing.
James was laughing at Harry, who was thumping the little table of his high chair, amusing himself as his empty bowl and cup danced about. There was no doubt at all that this was James Potter. Rick had expected him to look a lot like Harry, but the resemblance was so striking that he had to tell himself No, that’s not Harry Potter, that’s James Potter – Harry’s the baby. The thick black tufts of hair standing out at all angles from the baby’s head, and the bright green eyes, were a dead giveaway, that the baby was, indeed, Harry Potter.
“James, you’re supposed to be cleaning up the baby, not playing with him,” said Lily, sounding exasperated, as she cleared the table. She was an attractive witch, slim and petite. Those green eyes and pale white face, framed by masses of dark red hair, made a striking combination. “Sometimes I wonder which one of you is the baby – honestly!” She flicked her wand at Harry, muttering a Cleaning Charm. “There, I’ve done it. Now all you have to do is take him to the lounge ... I’m sure you can manage, if you put your mind to it.”
James laughed at Lily’s admonishment. “I sure can. Come on, Harry, it’s time for your flying lessons.”
“Oh, do be careful with the baby,” said Lily, sounding concerned. Harry was making happy excited noises; he obviously knew what flying lessons were. Lily knew he loved them, but she always worried that James would get carried away and not be careful. Honestly, sometimes it seems like he’s hardly changed since he was at Hogwarts, pulling all sorts of dangerous pranks with his friends – when will he ever grow up? she thought, smiling to herself and shaking her head.
James, meanwhile, had cast a Levitation Charm on little Harry, who was gurgling happily as he rose up from his high chair and waved his arms and legs as he floated about the kitchen, guided by his father’s wand. He loved this game. James would bring him close to things which he would try to grab hold of – but not close enough for him to actually grasp them. Lily had her back to them as she tidied up. James floated little Harry right over her head. He was delighted to be able to grab hold of his mother’s thick red hair with his tiny little hands. She reached up above her head and pulled Harry into a hug.
“So, you want to be a Seeker, my little man? You think Mummy’s your Snitch, do you?” she said, holding him out in front of her and smiling lovingly at him.
Harry waved his arms about, saying “Snitch, fly, fly, Snitch,” smiling happily at his mother. They were the only words he could say so far, apart from ‘Mumum’ and ‘Dada’. Lily laughed and gave him another cuddle and kiss before holding him up.
“Our little Seeker wants more flying lessons, James,” said Lily, as her baby gently floated up, out of her hands. James flew a happy little Harry into the lounge.
“Snitch! Snitch!” demanded Harry. James reached into his pocket and, with a grin, pulled out a special Snitch which he had enchanted to go wherever he pointed. It was quite a bit smaller than a regulation Quidditch Snitch – just the right size for his son’s tiny little hands. He threw it up in the air, and then with his left hand moved it so that it was flying just in front of Harry. Harry gurgled happily, stretching out a little hand towards it and calling to it, “Snitch! Snitch!” This was Harry’s favourite game, and he was having a great time as his father flew him around the lounge room with the Snitch ducking and diving in front of him, its golden wings beating rapidly. Whenever the Snitch came within arm’s reach, Harry grabbed it in his little hand, much to his delight – and that of his proud father.
“You’re going to be a great Seeker some day, little laddie,” said James, smiling indulgently at his son. “I can hardly wait ‘till you’re old enough to fly on a broom – then we’ll have some serious fun!”
“James! Don’t you even think about it! There’s no way I’m letting my little boy go off on a broom with you! The minute you get on a broom you lose all your common sense. Although in your case all isn’t all that much,” said Lily grinning at him. “Come on, hand over that little man to his Mummy. You’re getting him over-excited again, and it’s time for him to go to sleep.”
“Come on, Lily,” said James, bringing Harry gently down into his mother’s waiting arms, “you know heaps of Sleeping Charms; you never fail to send our little chappie off to dreamland. Bring him here so he can give his Dada a big kiss goodnight.” Lily smiled as she placed Harry in James’ arms.
“Watch out!” called Lily. But it was too late.
Quick as flash, Harry had pulled his father’s gold-framed glasses from his face and was waving them around happily, crying, “Snitch! Snitch!”
“For heaven’s sake, James,” laughed Lily. “You never learn, do you? Remember – you’re supposed to take your glasses off before you take Harry in your arms – before he takes them off for you. Here Harry, here’s Padfoot,” she said, handing him a large dog with shaggy fur, and grabbing James’ glasses from him as he held out his little hands to take his favourite fur animal from her.
Harry grabbed his fur dog. “Padfook!” he exclaimed, hugging it. James and Lily burst out laughing at his mispronunciation of Sirius’ nickname.
“Padfoot,” said Lily slowly to Harry, who was happily holding on to his dog as his father held him in his arms. “Padfoot,” she said again, pointing at the fur dog.
“Padfook!” said Harry, grinning happily.
Lily sighed. “Sirius will be over the moon when we tell him that his name was the fifth word spoken by his favourite little godson.”
“Yeah,” laughed James, “even if he didn’t get it quite right. I kind of like the way Harry says it, actually. I think I’ll start calling him ‘Padfook’ as well.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” laughed Lily. “He’ll probably start calling you something nasty ... like ‘Pongs’.”
“Pongs!” said Harry, happily.
“Oh, no!” said James, aghast. “Now look what you’ve done. I’m going to have to memory-charm the little blighter!”
“Don’t you dare,” said Lily, in mock horror. “It’s time for bath and bed for this little man.” And with that, she took Harry from his father’s arms and disappeared up the stairs.
James sat down in a comfortable armchair near the fire. He summoned a pouf to put his feet on, and then summoned a book that was lying on a table. It was a book on defensive spells which Rick remembered speed reading at Flourish and Blotts. Rick turned his attention to a large bookshelf which covered half of one wall. Many of the books were unfamiliar to him. He wondered if perhaps one of them might contain information about the magic Lily had used to protect Harry.
By the time Lily returned, Rick had finished speed reading all the books that were new to him. Lily waved her wand at the mess of toys covering the sofa and the floor. They rose up into the air like a hurricane, before pouring into a large toy trunk, against the wall. “Honestly, James,” she said, as she closed the lid of the trunk with a flick of her wand, “you could at least have cleaned up the mess – there were toys everywhere.”
“Really? What mess?” asked James, puzzled, looking up from his book. “I didn’t see any mess.”
“You never do,” sighed Lily. “You’d be perfectly happy living in a pigsty!”
“As long as you were my sow, I’m sure I would,” said James, looking at Lily affectionately.
“I’m not sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult,” laughed Lily. “But I definitely don’t want to live in a pigsty – even with such an intelligent, charming, and handsome pig as you!”
Lily sat down in the other armchair in front of the fire, opened a large cloth bag, and pulled out her knitting. She was making a cute little cardigan and pants outfit to keep Harry nice and warm as the days grew colder with the approach of winter. She waved her wand at the knitting needles and they rose up a little way in the air and started knitting quietly. “So how was the Order meeting this afternoon?” asked Lily.
“Pretty depressing, actually – things are going from bad to worse. The Death Eaters seem to be able to attack with impunity, and the Ministry of Magic isn’t making any serious effort at stopping them. The Ministry’s lousy with Death Eaters. All the Ministry does is issue reassuring press releases – which are nothing but lies – about how everyone should stay calm and that the situation is under control.”
“Dumbledore took me aside after the meeting,” said James. “It seems he’s got a very well-placed spy in Voldemort’s camp.”
Snape, thought Rick.
“According to Dumbledore’s spy,” continued James, “someone close to us is spying for Voldemort, although he doesn’t know who it is.”
“Who could it be?” asked Lily, sounding worried. “I can’t think of any of our friends who would go over to Voldemort. Can you?”
James just shook his head. “During the meeting, Sirius said something about how Voldemort had been recruiting all the Dark Creatures.”
“James, you don’t think Remus would —”
“No, I don’t think so. I never would have imagined it, but ... I just don’t know anymore. So many people are going over to the Dark Side. Maybe Voldemort has some special power over Dark Creatures. It’s so hard to know who you can trust these days,” said James, sighing. “I’m just glad Dumbledore came up with that Fidelus Charm to protect us.”
“But what if it’s Peter? What then? We’ll be defenceless,” said Lily, sounding worried. “Maybe we should have stuck to the original plan and made Sirius our secret-keeper.”
“Yeah, Sirius was the obvious choice – I trust him absolutely. But it was his idea to switch to Peter. I mean, Sirius is such an obvious choice, and like he said himself, who would think it would be Peter? No, Peter’s OK, he’s been my friend since we were eleven, he’d never betray us,” said James, but he didn’t sound completely certain. It was hard to be certain of anything these days.
“I hope you’re right, James. I worry so much for Harry,” said Lily fearfully. “Did you ask Dumbledore for more information about this Prophecy – I wish he wouldn’t always be so secretive about everything. I mean, if it affects us, we have a right to know, don’t we?”
“Yeah, I asked, but he just said the same as before. According to this Prophecy there are two babies who could grow up to be the one who defeats Voldemort – and Harry is definitely one of them. He won’t tell me who the other one is. Only that Voldemort has heard the Prophecy, and should be able to figure out who the two of them are. According to Dumbledore, Voldemort is obsessed with his immortality, and he’ll attempt to eliminate anyone that threatens it.”
“God, why does it have to be Harry – my beautiful baby?” cried Lily, tears running down her face. “It’s just not fair.”
“I know, love,” said James getting up and sitting on the side of Lily’s armchair, putting a comforting arm around her. “But just think. Maybe our little Harry will grow up to be a powerful wizard. He might be the one who finally kills Voldemort and rids the world of all this evil. Just think of that!”
“I don’t care about that!” sobbed Lily. “All I care about is my baby. I want him to be safe. I want him to be happy. I don’t want Harry to be the one who has to face Voldemort. Let someone else save the world – and leave my little boy in peace! God, I wish we could find a way to protect him from that monster,” she cried.
“You haven’t found any new protection charms?” asked James.
“No,” sighed Lily. “I’ve read every book and research paper on the subject. The only one that might be useful is the Sanguis Contego Charm. That’s the one I cast on Harry last week.”
“Lily, I don’t want you to activate that charm; we’ve already talked about it. You’d have to sacrifice your own life to make it work, wouldn’t you?”
“So? Do you think I’d just hand my baby over to Voldemort, to kill? What kind of mother do you think I am?”
“But Lily, love, if we knew for sure that the charm would protect Harry, it might make some sense. But you told me yourself that it won’t. All it will do is stop Voldemort from touching him, physically – and maybe give him some kind of protection if he’s living with your blood relatives – which means your horrible sister Petunia. That charm won’t stop a Killing Curse – you know it, you told me so yourself.”
“So what do you want me to do, James? Just hand my baby over to that monster? Is that what you would do?” she cried out, tears running down her face, her bright green eyes filled with fear and anxiety.
James tried to comfort her. “If Voldemort comes, I’ll fight him,” he said defiantly. “He won’t touch a hair on Harry’s head while I’m alive. Maybe I can defeat the evil bastard. But if I can’t, there’s no way you can. If Voldemort kills me, there is no way you can save Harry – and you know it. Voldemort will kill him. You won’t be able to stop him, either with curses or the Sanguis Contego Charm. Lily, please promise me that you’ll Apparate away if I’m killed. You can’t Apparate Harry with you, so you’ll have to go alone. It’s bad enough if Harry and I die – I don’t want you to die as well. Please Lily, love,” he pleaded.
Lily shook her head, determinedly. “James, what’s the point of talking about it. I could never leave my baby. It’s not just about protection – I just couldn’t do it. Please, let’s stop talking about it,” she said, drying her eyes. “It just makes me so sad. What will come, will come – and who knows – maybe it won’t. Let’s just be happy together while we’ve got each other and not think of all the horrible things that might happen some day.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” said James, pulling her closer and kissing her affectionately.
Rick was becoming confused. What the hell is going on? he thought. Its not some day – it’s today! Voldemort will be here soon, and they don’t have a spell to stop him killing Harry. This can’t be right. Can they find the spell before he gets here? They don’t seem to be trying very hard – it looks like they’ve given up searching.
Apart from being confused about how Voldemort would be stopped, Rick was feeling terribly sad. They were a wonderful couple. You could see how much in love they were with each other, how comfortable they were together. Then there was little Harry. Rick didn’t have much experience with babies – well, none that he could remember – but little Harry looked like such a happy little fellow. It was obvious his parents loved him dearly. They were such a happy, loving family. It was just unbearable to think that this idyllic little family was about to be shattered and destroyed. Rick felt like his heart was breaking – it was just too awful to contemplate.
Rick knew what was about to happen and there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Well, no – actually there was – that was the problem! There were lots of things he could do to prevent it and save them all – but he knew he mustn’t. It was so hard. Will I be able to hold myself back when Voldemort arrives? he asked himself. He was seriously beginning to wonder if he would.
Lily had taken a book and was reading, trying to distract her mind from all the fears she held for her baby. James had returned to his armchair and his book. It was a lovely homely scene, thought Rick. He occupied his time imagining that it was him and Hermione living in this lovely little cottage with their own baby. But this happy image was not enough to keep the thoughts of impending doom from his mind. Rick didn’t know exactly when Voldemort would come – but come he would. As the minutes ticked by, Rick became more and more tense. The waiting was unbearable.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
When Voldemort finally appeared, it all was a bit anti-climatic. No doors bursting in, roofs lifting off, just a small pop as Voldemort Apparated, alone, into the living room. Lily turned and gasped in horror, but James was out of his chair, wand at the ready, poised for action, in an instant.
Voldemort looked quite different from when Rick had seen him last. He was twenty years younger, of course. But also, this was his real body, before it had been destroyed – not the one that had been magically created that night in the graveyard at Little Hangleton. He looked more human, thought Rick, less like a reptile – yet still he did not look completely human – there was something undeniably evil about him – it was palpable.
“You picked the wrong side, Potter,” he said carelessly, not bothering to take up a defensive stance. “Did you really think that old fool Dumbledore would be able to stop me? He’s impotent against me. Do you know why?” he gloated. “He doesn’t understand power – and how to use it. All his goody-goody morality prevents him from attaining real power – he’s afraid of it. Well, I’m not afraid of power – and I have attained it. I have more power than Dumbledore – more power than any wizard on earth!” he boasted.
James said nothing; he just crouched, like a panther, ready to pounce.
“It’s a pity you threw your lot in with him, Potter,” continued Voldemort calmly. “You’re from an ancient Pureblood family – you would have been an asset ... to the winning side. Not only did you pick the wrong side, you also picked the wrong secret keeper. I imagine you’ve realised that by now,” he chuckled evilly. “Your little friend Pettigrew isn’t as foolish as you – he knew which side was the right side – and he was very eager to ingratiate himself to me ... so eager, in fact, that he told me everything. Not just where to find you, but also about your futile attempts to find a spell to protect your son from me.”
“Lily, Apparate, now!” screamed James, before turning his wand on Voldemort, yelling “Flatus Fortis”.
Voldemort just stood there laughing in James’ face. “You’ll have to do better than that pathetic Blasting Curse, Potter, if you want to stop me.” James hit Voldemort with every powerful curse he knew, but Voldemort just continued standing there, laughing evilly. “You’re wasting your time, Potter. I’m wearing the Cloak of Salazar Slytherin. It protects me from all spells – you can’t touch me.”
James leapt bodily at Voldemort, attempting to attack him physically, but somehow, he seemed to slide right past him, falling to the floor. “Oh, and it also protects me from physical attacks as well – I’m invincible. You’ve wasted enough of my time. I still have to visit the Longbottoms tonight, to dispose of their son – after I’ve taken care of yours. Goodbye, Potter, Avada Kedavra!” he said, pointing his wand at James, who was struggling to get up from the floor.
Just before the curse hit him, James noticed with satisfaction that Lily had Apparated away. I hope she’s safe, was his last mortal thought. Rick saw the deadly flash of green light hit James. He fell back motionless to the floor – eyes frozen open.
But Lily had only Apparated to Harry’s room. She grabbed him from his cot, opened the window, and levitated him carefully to the ground, before Apparating down to join him. But, before she could get away, Voldemort was there, standing right in front of her, pointing his wand at baby Harry. He had a wicked, self-satisfied grin on his face.
“So this is the one who would deign to destroy me, Lord Voldemort, the Immortal – the most powerful wizard on earth!” he crowed. Lily was clutching her baby desperately; she turned her back on Voldemort to shield Harry, with her body.
“Not Harry, not Harry, please not Harry!” she begged tearfully.
“Stand aside, you silly girl... stand aside, now....” said Voldemort, trying to get a clear shot at Harry.
“Not Harry, please no, take me, kill me instead —” Lily implored him.
“Get out of my way and give me the baby – now!” said Voldemort, becoming impatient, as Lily kept twisting and turning to prevent him from getting a clear shot at Harry.
“Not Harry! Please... have mercy... have mercy....” were her last hopeless words before she screamed as the Killing Curse hit her.
Rick felt numb as he watched her fall to the ground – dead. It had been the most difficult moment of his life – restraining himself, when he wanted so desperately to intervene. He was glad he had no physical presence. Voldemort may not have been able to see him, but he would have heard him howling in despair. Rick was overcome with grief from the two deaths he had just witnessed. It was hard to believe that there was goodness and justice in the world when such good people as these could be struck down in cold blood by so cruel and heartless a monster. Rick tried to console himself with the thought that no more innocent lives would be lost that night. Harry and Neville, at least, would survive. It was time for Voldemort to experience the evil of his own curse.
“Mamam?” said baby Harry, pulling at his mothers hair, not understanding what had happened, as he crouched over her face, looking into those unblinking, lifeless green eyes. Suddenly there was a loud bang. Harry looked around uncomprehendingly. The house was in flames.
Voldemort smiled, seemingly pleased with his handiwork. “Ha, ha, my little Potter,” laughed Voldemort cruelly. “Your parents are dead, your house is in flames. You’re defenceless before me!”
“Mamam! Maman!” cried Harry plaintively, turning back to his lifeless mother. He knew something was wrong with her. He was becoming more and more upset as she continued to lie there, unmoving. Why wasn’t she talking to him in her sweet comforting voice? Why wasn’t she taking him in her arms and hugging him like she always did when he was upset. Why was she just lying there like that? Harry started crying over his dead mother.
Rick was overcome with grief as he watched the heart-breaking scene before him. Why didn’t I do something to save them? he asked himself. How could I have been so cold-hearted to let this terrible tragedy happen? But deep-down, despite the over-powering feelings of guilt, he knew there had been no choice, but to let these gruesome events unfold. But something else, other than his emotions, was troubling Rick. What would protect Harry when Voldemort turned his Killing Curse upon him? he wondered. Everything he had heard earlier that night made him doubt that the curse would rebound upon Voldemort, the way it was meant to – the way it had actually happened that night. Was it possible that Harry was not protected? Was it possible that Voldemort would succeed in killing him and retain all his powers? Rick felt increasingly confused and uneasy.
“Your mother can’t protect you now,” said Voldemort, staring with cold unfeeling eyes at the distraught baby. “It’s time for you to join her. Now, according to Pettigrew, she’s used some blood magic on you, so perhaps I had better be careful. She wanted me to kill her – that much is obvious. Probably, she needed me to kill her – to activate the protection. But what does it do, I wonder? Pettigrew said that I would not be able to touch you; but there’s no need to touch you to kill you with a curse, my little enemy,” he said thoughtfully, more to himself, than to Harry.
“I know – I’ll try putting my mark on you, first, little Potter. If I can do that, then I’ll certainly be able to kill you,” he said in a cold, heartless, calculating voice. Harry was looking up at Voldemort, as he spoke to him. Voldemort pointed his wand at Harry’s head and said “Signum Ego Concateno.”
Harry recoiled, writhing on the ground and screaming in agony from the excruciating pain. When he was still for a moment, Rick recognised the famous zigzag lightning-bolt shape on his forehead. For now, it was a bleeding wound – not yet a scar. But what does this mean? Rick asked himself. If Harry was protected, Voldemort wouldn’t have been able to mark him like that. Surely it means he won’t be protected from the Killing Curse either. Voldemort is going to kill him – unless I do something!
Rick knew he could cast a Reflecting Shield over Harry, which would not only protect him, but also send Voldemort’s curse back at him. Dumbledore kept warning me, over and over again to do nothing to change the past, he reminded himself. But what if I was always here on this night? What if it was always my Reflecting Shield that saved Harry – not a protection from his mother as everyone has always thought? Then it would be OK for me to cast it – in fact, I have to, because I’ll be changing the past if I don’t!
It’s so damn confusing, thought Rick. Maybe Lily really did succeed in putting a protection spell on Harry without realising it. Maybe it’s not meant to protect him from Voldemort’s mark – maybe it’s only meant to protect him from mortal danger. Or maybe his mother’s protection will only work after Voldemort’s mark has been put on him – maybe that helps to activate it. Did Voldemort made a fatal mistake in putting his mark on Harry? Could it be that the mark itself will protect him? There are just too many possibilities, thought Rick desperately – time was running out. If I place a Reflecting Shield on Harry, it’s going to double the strength of Voldemort’s curse. It might end up killing him, rather than just destroying his body. That would really be changing the past. What am I going to do?
Voldemort drew himself up triumphantly to cast the Killing Curse, while Rick was still frantically trying to decide what to do. Yes, I have to protect him with a Reflecting Shield, he finally decided. But just as he was about to cast it, he hesitated. No, wait – what if I don’t cast it. What if I just watch to see what happens? If Voldemort’s curse kills Harry, instead of rebounding back on him, I can go back in time, a bit, to just before he does the curse and then cast the Reflecting Shield. That should work, shouldn’t it?
Voldemort pointed his wand down at little Harry, who was lying curled up, crying in pain, in the foetal position – his little hands clutching at his forehead. “Avada Kedavra!” cried Voldemort victoriously.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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Coming up: Chapter 22 ~ Welcome to My Nightmare
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