Welcome to my first uploaded story, Crashing Into Darkness.
Thanks to Thobeobo for beta-reading this.
I do NOT own Harry Potter or its universe. All rights go to J.K. Rowling and her publisher.
Within the shadowed walls of Hogwarts, a man sprinted down the corridors, heading towards the Headmaster's office with a racing heart, praying with all his might that his suspicions were wrong. Just moments ago, he had felt his Dark Mark burning before it faded almost entirely. There was only one possible explanation.
The Dark Lord was gone.
As he ran, thoughts and memories flew through his mind.
Well, Severus? What message does Lord Voldemort have for me?
Up the stairs, he was halfway there.
No—no message—I'm here on my own account!
Practically flying through the hallways, grateful for whatever deity had allowed the corridors to be empty at this hour.
He thinks it means Lily Evans!
Fear clenched at his heart as he prayed to every god or goddess he had ever heard of that his worst nightmares had not come true—not on this night.
Hide them all, then… Keep her—them—safe. Please.
His heart felt like it would explode from his chest at any moment, it pounded so hard against his ribcage, echoing in his ears. He could scarcely breathe for fear of the one thing he dreaded above all else in this world to come true.
And what will you give me in return, Severus?
There, at the end of the hall, was the gargoyle that would grant him entrance to the office he had been racing towards for several minutes—ever since he had received the summons.
Severus nearly shouted the password at the statue from down the hall so that, by the time he reached the gargoyle, it was already leaping aside, the wall behind it splitting in two. Severus leapt forward onto the spiral staircase behind the wall as it began to move smoothly upward, the entrance closing with a thud behind him. He rose upward in circles, higher and higher, until at last he stopped before a gleaming oak door with a brass knocker in the shape of a griffin.
The door opened before he could knock, and Severus entered the headmaster's office, no longer feeling the awe he had as a student. The room was large and circular and full of noise.
Severus paid no attention to any of this, however. Instead, his focus sought out the very old man seated at the claw-footed desk.
"Ah, Severus," Dumbledore said. His blue eyes twinkled behind half-moon spectacles. "Take a seat—we still have a few moments until our next guests arrive for this discussion."
Severus chose to remain standing, his nerves making him restless. He was calmed somewhat by how composed Dumbledore appeared, but he wouldn't truly relax until he knew what was going on.
After a couple of minutes, the fireplace flared to life and a man stepped out of it.
Severus recognized him immediately, and it took every ounce of self-control he had not to instinctively sneer at the sight of him. As James Potter straightened up, ignoring Severus's presence entirely, it was clear that he wasn't alone.
Held in his arms was a tightly wrapped bundle, through which Severus could see a tuft of black hair just as untidy as his father's.
It was only a few seconds later that another figure stepped through, and any tension that had remained in Severus's body drained from him. The woman who had just arrived was pale, with thick, dark red hair and brilliant green eyes—the same eyes Severus had fallen in love with over a decade ago. She too held a bundle: another boy whose black hair was equally messy.
"James, Lily," Dumbledore greeted. "Thank you for coming."
"Headmaster," Potter replied with a nod.
"What's this about?" Lily asked, not even glancing at Severus.
A sharp pang of regret shot through his very soul. Severus wished he had never called her a mudblood, especially when she had only been trying to help him.
"We don't really have the time for this right now," she continued, and it was then that Severus realized something was wrong.
Never before had he seen Lily look so depressed, so utterly defeated, as she did right now. Whatever had happened was hurting her immensely, and Severus, in that moment, wanted more than anything to comfort her as he had in the past.
"This will take but a moment," Dumbledore assured them. "I wish to hear your account of tonight's events before rumour can muddle them."
"James and I..." Lily began, wiping tears from her cheeks. "We needed a night out, so we called my parents over to watch the boys for us…" She trailed off, choking back more tears.
Potter put his free hand on her shoulder and squeezed.
"Voldemort attacked the cottage," he said quietly. "Peter betrayed us."
Severus's eyes widened, but he gave no further outward reaction. He wasn't necessarily surprised to hear that Peter Pettigrew had turned to the Dark Lord's side, but he never would have expected Pettigrew to turn against his own friends in doing so. He had thought that Pettigrew was too devoted to the rich and powerful Potter and Black to ever consider something like that.
Dumbledore seemed to deflate, sighing wearily.
"What happened next?" he asked after a moment.
"Lily's family are all muggles," Potter explained. "There wasn't anything they could do… Her father was killed first. It looked like he was trying to buy them time to get away." Lily choked on a sob, holding the boy in her arms closer. "Her mother managed to get the boys upstairs to their room… but Voldemort was right behind her, I guess… She used her body as a shield. She stood between him and the boys."
Dumbledore stared at the two parents, looking as if there were a thousand thoughts racing through his mind.
"Continue," he said quietly.
"We don't know what happened next," Potter went on. "The wards let us know that something had happened, but by the time we got back, it was too late. I don't know how the boys survived, but Voldemort was ashes at their feet, only his empty robe left, and the cottage was completely destroyed—the boys' entire room was blown apart."
Dumbledore was out of his seat in an instant. He approached the grieving Potters and looked between the children. He waved his long wand over one of the boys and muttered an incantation Severus had never heard before.
"Unbelievable…" Dumbledore whispered. "The residue left behind on your son is that of the Killing Curse, but how did he survive?" He seemed to be asking himself more than them. He looked intensely at Potter. "You said that Lily's mother was between them and Voldemort?"
Potter glanced at his wife hesitantly. "Yeah, that's where her… where her body was…"
"Interesting," Dumbledore murmured.
After several minutes, during which Dumbledore silently contemplated this and Potter comforted his wife, all of them forgetting that Severus was still there—he had been debating whether or not they would notice if he left—Dumbledore chuckled softly under his breath.
"Love," he chuckled again, sounding triumphant. "Love. It was your mother's love, Lily, that spared your sons. Her refusal to stand aside and let Voldemort take their lives created a barrier that shielded them from harm. Voldemort would have seen muggles as well beneath him, unworthy of his time and effort, until the moment when she refused to stand aside. Your sons were spared because of your mother's devotion to ensure their very survival above all else."
"They were muggles, though," Potter said, frowning. "How could they use magic like that?"
"Love," Dumbledore replied, "is a magic that all are capable of."
Severus bit back a comment that would definitely not be taken well. He didn't quite see how a muggle could use magic of any kind.
Dumbledore looked down at the children, as did Severus, Lily, and Potter. Though both boys continued to sleep, unaware of the happenings around them, the lightning bolt scar on one's forehead stood out as a grisly reminder of what had occurred this night.
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches," Dumbledore said under his breath, gently tracing a finger along the scar, "and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal."
"If the Dark Lord is gone, why does it matter?" Severus asked. He was delighted at the way Potter jumped, and even more so at the nasty glare Potter aimed at him. "Has he not already been vanquished?"
It was the only explanation he could think of as to why the Dark Mark had faded.
"Voldemort will return," Dumbledore said grimly, his gaze returning to the boy with the scar on his forehead, "and this child will be in terrible danger when he does—more so than any other. Voldemort will believe him to be the child of prophecy and devote all of his attention to the boy's destruction."
An intense silence followed Dumbledore's words. Lily and Potter didn't quite seem to know what to say, whereas Severus was wondering if his presence was required anymore so he could leave. Now that he knew Lily still lived, he didn't care much for what happened next.
"What do we do?" Potter whispered.
"We move on," Dumbledore smiled, though it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Your sons, I am afraid, will both have difficult lives after tonight. All we can do is hope to stall Lord Voldemort's return long enough for them to find happiness and love. We have a long path before us, but we may just find peace after surviving for so long in the dark cloud cast over our world."
Lily and Potter looked at each other, as if holding a silent conversation.
Severus raised a hand to his jaw and stared into Dumbledore's fireplace. He was upset that the Dark Lord wasn't truly gone, but it was countered by the fact that Lily continued to live.
Lily held the child in her arms closer—the one without a scar on his forehead, Severus noticed—because he had woken up from his slumber. The boy stared up at her with hazel eyes that, as they watched, changed to a bright green, matching his mother's.
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