It was near dusk and the air was foul with evil. The huge man stood staring at the burned out wreck that had once been a warm and comfortable home full of love.
He had tried to get here swiftly, warnings and portents having told him something wicked was walking Godric's Hollow, but an untimely call for help had detoured him so he arrived too late. Now all he could do was stare in anger and despair.
Standing there waiting for the rest of the order to arrive, a faint cry reached his ears. It came from the house. Frowning in concern, he hurried forward, pushing his way through the nearly blocked entryway. The door had been smashed to pieces but it was parts of the demolished roof that now choked the entryway. However, it proved to be no deterrent to the man who simply bulled his way in.
The cold, anguished-faced body of James met his gaze as it lay in the living area where the father had tried to stop the enemy. Shaking his head in sorrow, the man offered up a prayer for the departed wizard then continued on up the barely intact staircase. In a small bedroom with a huge hole in the ceiling clear to the roof, lay another cooling body. Lily looked as if she were asleep but he knew it was a lie. Her lovely smile and warm laughter were gone forever now.
The soft cry, he'd followed up here, came again, emanating from a dark corner of the room. The crib was upended as was an old rocker nearby but he was able to navigate around them to reach the origin of the sound. Poor little Harry Potter huddled there, emerald eyes filled with horror. A red smear of blood glistened on his forehead just visible in the flickering light of a nearby candle still sitting on a small table that had somehow survived the violence.
Making soothing sounds, the man carefully approached the child and knelt. His gentle manner and voice convinced the one year old the man meant no harm. Unhesitatingly, he raised his arms anxiously seeking comfort.
Smiling warmly, the man picked up the tiny child who nearly vanished within his big arms then stood up carefully.
Pressing his head against the man's huge chest, little hands clutching the rough shirt, Harry felt safe and protected.
The man wrapped his thick coat protectively around the child then carefully retraced his steps to the outside. There was no sign of anyone about. He stood for a moment in thought then came to a decision. Raising his left hand, he muttered a spell and made a strange gesture. Instantly, a blue glow covered the home and grounds for a few moments before winking out.
Satisfied the man hurried away from the house and into the darkening woods, vanishing into the deepening darkness.
Barely ten minutes had passed before a tall, lean, scarecrow of a man with lank, black hair appeared suddenly in the front yard. Making no move to enter the home, the man waved his wand, spoke a spell then waited. The results rent a scream of wordless grief and anguish from his mouth. With unshed tears glittering in his black eyes, the man disappeared in the blink of an eye.
His image had barely dissipated when barreling from the woods came a huge, shaggy, black dog. It came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the forest and stared, panting. Abruptly, it dashed to the house porch, halted again, sniffed the air, then made cautious entry, nose leading the way. But only minutes later it came racing out heading for the forest in a flat out run as if hell was chasing it, howling it's grief to the heavens. It too vanished from view.
"James and Lily are dead and there's no sign of the child," a dark cloaked man stated grimly to a tall wizard holding aloft his wand to provide light as the sullen moon did little to aid them in their search.
"You can't find a trail...anything to tell us his fate?" The tall wizard demanded, his face tight and worried.
"No sir ... sorry. All we've been able to find were the obvious evidence that death eaters had done this but if someone else had been here to whisk the child away, they left no trace of themselves."
"There's something else here ... ," a grizzled and battle-scarred wizard suddenly interrupted, his magical eye rolled in its socket reflecting his agitation. "There's a lingering trace of old, old magic. Nothing like modern wizards or even death eaters use."
Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, frowned. Turning away from his associates, he stared at the remains of the Potter's home, his mind working furiously. The salvation of the wizarding world was missing, lost, or kidnapped. They had to find him. But where to look? He shook his head and sighed. No matter how long it took, they must find the boy. Failure meant evil would soon swallow up their world and that must never happen. With a heavy heart he prepared for a long hunt.
Far away from the tragic scene, a huge man strode tirelessly through the forest until he came to a quiet glen at the very heart of the woods. Halting, he raised two fingers to his mouth and whistled a piercing note. In ten minutes there was a response. Out of the darkness an odd shape stalked sedately from between two huge oak trees. It stopped some twenty feet from the man. Pawing the ground with one hoofed foot, it raised its head, gave a harsh caw and flapped enormous wings. It cocked its head questioningly.
The big man made a bow with just his head, eyes firmly focused on the creature's own then waited. The creature returned the bow, lowering its long neck halfway to the ground before raising up and staring with sharp yellow eyes at the man, waiting.
In quiet tones, the man said, "Greetings, my old friend. I need yer help. This be a foul night, full of wicked deeds, and this little one has paid the price of it. I needs to take him to me mum's home. Are ye willin'?"
The creature had been listening intently. When the man finished, it raised its head and gave another caw before walking fearlessly toward the man, stopping as he came along side his friend.
"Thank ye. May yer family line never falter and always fly the skies in peace," the man said then climbed onto the creature's back, grabbing hold of the neck feathers.
With another roar of sound, the creature raced over the ground, down sweeping its broad wings, before leaping upward using its powerful legs. Surging upward, it reached a respectable distance from the ground within minutes before leveling off and heading south and east through the midnight sky.
Dawn's rosy glow was creeping over the land when the long flight ended. The creature made a smooth landing, not disturbing the smallest passenger it carried when it hit the ground at a run that slowed to a walk. It trotted the rest of the distance to a huge cottage that nestled beneath the trees at the edge of the forest. The view from the cottage's broad porch was of a pristine lake where water fowl floated majestically across its nearly glass-like surface. To the right of the dwelling, fields of grain, ready for harvest, waved in the morning breeze. Beyond that were orchards laden with a variety of ripe fruit needing to be plucked before winter set in. Behind the cottage, a small barn resided nearly hidden in the trees, where the voices of many animals bawled for their breakfast.
Reaching the porch, the creature bugled a call as it halted, allowing its passengers to climb off.
"Thank ye again for yer kindness." The man stepped away from his ride and gave another polite nod of his head. Dipping its head briefly in return, the creature turned and raced off, leaping into the sky just moments later, flying back the way it had come.
The creature's bugle had brought a few of the occupants of the cottage out to see what the hullabaloo was about. A huge woman, taller by two heads than the man who'd arrived, blinked in surprise. "Rubeus! How wonderful to see you but why are ye here?" She cried, stepping from the porch and hurrying toward him.
"Something terrible I'm afraid and be easy with the hugs, mum. The wee bundle I hold can't take a giant's greeting," Rubeus Hagrid, Keeper of the Keys of Hogwarts, warned his mother, gently fending off her attentions.
"Ach now! Where didst this wee bairn come from?" She asked halting beside him and looking down at the bundle he held. Using one of her large fingers, she gently moved the blanket covering the child's face to peer at it closely.
"This be Harry Potter. Lily and James were slain by Voldemort last night. I arrived too late to save them." His voice was harsh with anger and sadness.
She sighed. "Ah son ... even you cannot be everywhere. Do not berate yourself so over it. It's on Voldemort's shoulders the blame be set and no other." She gently patted her son on the back. "So, this be the savior of the wizarding world, eh. Well, he's nothing but a wee thing right now. Let's be going inside where its warmer and we'll talk of why you and he are here." She turned away and walked back to the cottage, Hagrid following two steps behind her.
In the doorway, another face peered out, curious but shy. As the two reached the door, Hagrid smiled down at the smaller figure watching them.
"I see you have company, mum."
"Aye, this be little Farley," his mother said, smiling. "He's your sister, Sherilyn's, fourth child. I'm just babysitting for a bit while she's off on one of her jaunts around the world. The other bairns are with her but little Farley didn't want to go so I said he could stay with me."
The small boy (though truly he was as tall as a twenty year old human) was only six years old and stared up at Hagrid with wide, curious eyes.
"Hello, there nephew. I'm your Uncle Rubeus and how are you this early morn?"
Eyeing his uncle for a moment thoughtfully, Farley suddenly smiled, making him look rather angelic with his mop of blond hair and bright blue eyes. "I be fine uncle. What you got there?"
"This be a very important little wizarding baby what had his parents killed last night. He's now all alone 'cept for us. Do you think you could be his friend? He's going to need one so he won't be lonely or sad once he's old enough to understand what he's lost."
Farley's eyes grew round at the tale of the little baby then very sad when his uncle finished. "Ohhh, the poor thing. Yes, I be his friend, Uncle and I will protect him from all the bad men too!" He swore, his face solemn.
"There's a good lad." Hagrid ruffled the boy's hair affectionately before walking into the warm, homey kitchen where his mother had gone to make some cocoa for them.
"Here, son, let's set little Harry in yonder cradle near the fire. He'll be warmer there and you can watch him for us, Farley...yes you may take your cup with you...there's a good laddie," Hagrid's mother said warmly as she set three steaming mugs on the table then handed one to her grandson.
Hagrid had done as she asked, placing Harry in the huge, beautifully carved, cradle. His mother tucked a few blankets around the child to make him feel more secure since he was completely dwarfed by his new bed, then left Farley, who had taken a seat beside the bed, to watch over little Harry.
"Come! Sit down at the table with me, Rubeus." She took a seat and her son sat across from her at the big oak table. "So, you wish me to help care for the wee bairn, eh? This be a grave responsibility you are undertaking Rubeus." Concern was on her face as she eyed him thoughtfully.
"Aye, I knowt it. But we knew this day might come. Elder Jason told everyone what to do if sommit like this happened. He knew what a threat the Dark One would be and what the spirits of the forest had warned we must do if this came to pass and how to save our world from the evil that walks among us. The foretold child will be guided down wrong paths by his kind so it be up to us, the forest folk, to set the lad on the right one."
"Meaning teach him the old ways." She confirmed, nodding to herself as she too remembered the warning they'd been given two years earlier.
"Aye, the old ways can help him better prepare for the prophecy laid upon him. Though, I haven't forgotten he needs to know wizarding ways too so I won't hold him back when he receives his letter from Hogworts. However, we must make certain he knows muggle ways too. Long has wizarding society ignored muggle kind to the sorrow of us all. While we sit in the dark ages, muggles have pushed forward and created things that help mankind but have also invented other more terrible things that they've already inflicted upon themselves and our world. It would not take much for them to turn those death dealing things upon wizarding kind." His face was grim as he remembered all that he'd learned over the past decade.
"Tis good to know you've paid attention during those stuffy elder meetings." She flashed him a brief smile of amusement. "We have been forcibly reminded muggle inventions are powerful enough to wipe all life from this world as we observed their destructive ways during all their endless wars but even more so the most recent ones they are involved in now, while wizard kind blithely ignores the danger. That fool, Voldemort is so fixated on his pure blood bigotry, he fails to see the true danger hovering outside our small world and continues to treat muggles with disdain and undeserved scorn. His intrusions into their world will not go unnoticed for long and will eventually bring down a terrible retribution on us from the muggles with their knowledge of science."
Hagrid could only nod. "Aye, tis true, mother. I fear for our lives if Voldemort isn't stopped soon."
Friends of theirs that lived half in the muggle world and half the wizarding one, made it their business to keep the old ones current on muggle affairs. All he had heard had only reinforced his fear for the magical world's continued existence. The modern world outside the outmoded and slow to advance wizarding society was a far more deadlier enemy than all the armies Voldemort was trying to raise.
"Tis a shame we could not use some of those muggle ways to take care of Voldemort ourselves. But being in spirit form makes it hard to capture the evil thing so we are left doing this the hard way and continuing to lose many a friend as we try to put an end to him."
Hagrid snorted in agreement then sighed. He could only concur with her assessment. Their only hope lay with Harry Potter and the training they could give him.
He let his mind drift back two years to the passionate speech Elder Jason had given the Elder council. He was the one who had advocated training the child expected by the Potters in the old ways when the prophecy had first been heard and the spirits had told them who the prophecy pertained to. Though the plan had been to approach Lily and James to gain their permission, that was no longer necessary. Jason's ringing words filtered back to him with the same clarity as when he'd first heard them.
"I'm warning you all ... muggles can wipe us out despite our use of spells and incantations simply because they out number us a 100 to one due to their much faster breeding. They already cover the earth in numbers that have us hemmed in. And let us not forget what muggles are like when they panic, becoming a deadly unthinking mob that will kill in fear and hatred for that which they don't understand." His eyes glowed with passion as he laid out the threat many had not wanted to believe existed.
"It isn't just their weapons, bombs, and modern vehicles wizard kind has to fear. Muggle science has also developed viruses and plagues that could decimate whole populations and there is no way to know if magical races are immune until it be too late. And, lastly, with the muggles abilities to see and be anywhere in the world in seconds with their communications systems and in person, within hours, by way of their vehicles and planes, our ability to apparate is no longer an advantage. Our only protection is our magical barrier but that won't hide us for long if Voldemort keeps attacking them. Once the muggles realize whole villages are being decimated, their tenacious nature will keep them digging to find out why and retaliate. So I say to you now, we must step in and take control of our future and that future is the Potter child."
Hagrid remembered the outrage and objections those attending hurled at Jason but the half giant didn't back down and was firm in his belief of the danger that faced them. After more than four days of heated debates, discussions, and deliberations by the council which was comprised of one member from all the magical races except wizards because they considered them part of the problem, it was decided the Potter's progeny would be trained in the old ways. However, no one had determined who would take on this responsibility by the time the meeting ended. Jason soothed them by saying the spirits of the forest would decide who that would be when the time came.
Apparently, he knew something none of them did because here Hagrid was in the unenviable position of taking on the responsibility but he wouldn't have it any other way. He had loved Lily and James and he was certain he would love Harry just as much so it wouldn't be a burden for him to do this for them.
His mother interrupted his introspection with a pointed comment. "So, little Harry will become our advocate for moving wizard kind toward the future and better relations with the muggles, eh?"
"Yes, that's the hope ... besides, of course, doing away with that evil spirit still lurking about."
She looked over at the cradle, a thoughtful expression on her face. "A heavy burden for such a tiny thing," she mused.
"Aye, it tis, but with many good friends and mentors at his back, Harry should rise to the occasion." As Hagrid eyed the cradle too, a feeling of heavy sorrow settled in his heart over what the child would face as he grew older. "Don't worry Harry, I'll always be by yer side," he solemnly promised.
"As will we all," his mother murmured.