16 years ago the Potters' faked their sons death, hiding him at an orphanage in France to save him from the prophecy. But when the effects of a thirty year war prove too much for the world, the sea...
Chapter One: Lost Time
At two years of age, Louis Ackart went to live with his first ever foster family.
He was returned to the orphanage a week later.
... ... ...
At three, Louis had learned the hard way that life was Not Fair.
How was he to know that it was weird, frightening even, to hiss at the garden snake? He was only trying to talk to it. How was he to know that it was considered bizarre, freakish even, to appear out of thin air with a crack? He hadn't meant to do it! It wasn't his fault!
But they never believed him. Never.
... ... ...
At four, Christmas was Louis' favourite time of the year. Better than Easter, better than birthdays, and better by far than the 'Open Days' where rich heads would look on from afar, picking from the selection of children like a menu. But it wasn't the carols, nor the festive decorations, nor the chocolate pudding that would draw Louis' excitement so - no, it was the presents.
That year he had received a box of soldiers, and Louis was quite disappointed, having wished for his very own personal live Circus - but not nearly enough to give them away, and when another child with a quivering smile and blond curls threatened to steal the box, Louis had lost control.
The smile tore and curls dropped to the floor, head rolling, exploding with a hollow resounding bang. The assembled orphanage looked on in horror, wall to wall covered in sticky red, pulsing flesh, strings of intestines and clumps of brain. Tears and screams mingled in the cumulative pandemonium; save the dark haired green eyed child still clutching his box of soldiers between long, protective fingers.
After that Santa no longer visited and Louis was Not Happy.
... ... ...
At five Louis had no friends, and he knew exactly why.
But he didn't care. He didn't need them. He didn't want them.
... ... ...
Six years old, Louis had many questions.
Who were his parents? And why had he been left at the orphanage?
No-one had the answers he sought, though they all thought they did.
Louis gave up hope of any mysterious relatives ever coming to get him.
... ... ...
At seven Louis had heard a whisper too much, felt a glance too many and tasted the rusty copper of injustice fill his mouth. Anger consumed him and Louis began a cruel game of terrorising anyone and everyone that happened to be unfortunate enough to cross his path. Three were placed in hospital, two needed counselling and one would never recover.
Louis was given a separate bedroom all to himself, far apart from the dormitories where other children slept together harmoniously. It was small and dark, infested with spiders and other nastier creepy crawlies. But Louis liked it that way.
No-one ever dared to bother him again.
... ... ...
At eight Louis lost a bet and subsequently discovered how much he liked to win. He made a vow then, never to loose again.
He would not be beaten. He would not be bested.
... ... ...
At a tender nine years, Louis felt his heart break, his hopes die and his dreams shatter. He'd never find a family, he'd never be loved, and he'd certainly never fit in.
Louis Ackart was ordered off limits then to the public, having been classified as 'dangerous and delinquent' soon after the thirteenth prospective-parents had returned him to the orphanage, screeching of his countless abnormalities. Madam Hassel, who was then in charge of such matters, had punished the young boy profusely in hopes to 'knock some sense in'.
Louis was burning in his want for revenge - on France, on Fate, on the world as a whole and his own dratted life.
And he got it.
... ... ...
At ten Louis ran away.
He past as far as three blocks before he stopped walking, turned around and went straight back to the orphanage. When asked why he had returned, Louis simply shrugged. Talking became a waste of breath. He seldom went outdoors, and spent more and more time alone, locked up in his tiny bedroom.
... ... ...
At eleven Louis received a letter and his first ever personal visitor, life changing in one tenuous heartfelt moment. He smiled for the first time in ten long years and left the orphanage for the last time with his head held high, knowing that he would not be missed in the slightest.
A sigh of relief escaped the city.
To Beauxbatons he'd go.
... x ...
Years past at a rapid pace, Europe pushed to the brink of collapse. War hung about the land, hope of a Light future dwindling to thin, fatal threads. Albus Dumbledore and The Great Lord Voldemort rested at a standstill, the Dark upper hand growing steadier by days. The acclaimed Order of the Phoenix was no more. The schools were closed. The British Ministry of Magic lay defunct and forgotten.
Many had died and many had fled. A small few battled on.
Three friends overcome with grief and loss clung to one last desperate ploy - to save the world, to save themselves, to save other little ones that had taken His place - convinced that the time had come to confide their deepest secret. And so Sirius Black then spent his time, at Dumbledore's request, travelling the continent in search for his misplaced Godson, knowing little but what he may or may not look like - though finding but a trace of one formerly named Harry James Potter was proving damn near impossible. He was tired of lying, tired of looking, and tired of crappy motels.
... x ...
...October 31st, 1997...
Peter was delirious, not knowing whether to feel giddy of terrified, and could hardly believe he had drawn such courage within himself to make an appearance - even if such was merely sitting hidden away in the kitchen, squished comfortably between a sombre Lupin and a very drunk Black.
It was obvious that a lot of effort had been spent on the nights occasion - exotic food, elaborate decorations, juggling skeletons and chocolate coated bats (Peter decided hurriedly that he did not want to know whether or not they were meant to be edible). Guests had come from far and wide, the low and the high, muggle, magical and not all explicitly of mankind - though this was all unerringly harder to recognise in the array of fabulous costumes.
Godric's Hollow was unfamiliar, embedded as it were in the festive celebration. Lost in such territory Peter had immediately sought refuge in the only room untouched and vacant - planning half heartedly that he would return to the other guests when he felt so inclined, or perhaps when his personal supply of stolen firewhisky ran short. His scheme, however, was interrupted when Remus had hauled Sirius in just moments later, grumbling of nuisance mongrels and contented to brood in companionable silence.
But no, he wasn't there for the party or the sometime missed company, Peter reminded himself dully, fighting to edge his mind back on track. He had work to do. Friends to deceive. Information to extract.
"And what are you meant to be?" a voice jeered from behind him, making Peter jump, breaking his jumbled stream of thoughts. "A hag? A goat? Oh no, my mistake - you've come as yourself, haven't you Peter?"
Peter bit his cheek, hard, but couldn't keep the flush from erupting and submerging his face in the most embarrassing shade of bright tomato red. He hadn't realised people would go to such lengths in their dress - though now he understood completely, realising the preferable benefits to being masked and anonymous. He turned to see who it had been to speak so rudely, knowing he distinctly recognised the voice, and was confronted with his worst nightmare: a mutant frogspawn.
A shiver of fear trembled down his spine.
"And what are you, Prongs?" Remus shot back quick to Peter's defence, seeing the spawn for exactly who he was, and drowning the last dregs of wine from his glass in a curiously large gulp. "A chicken?"
Peter breathed a sigh of relief upon the obvious discovery of the newcomers identity, and wondered fleetingly how he could not have easily placed James immediately before. The Marauders had not met, complete, for close to two years. Though he missed them dearly, Peter liked it better that way - he was safer. They were safer.
"No!" James cried, pointing an unsteady finger to his mask; a jumble of thorns, jello and a sludgy brown muck that looked suspiciously like poo. "I'm the Loch Ness Monster! Duh!"
Remus raised a sceptical eyebrow. "Isn't that what you did last year?"
James pretended he hadn't heard the question, rolling his shoulders and heading to make himself comfortable opposite them at the table. "What are you lot doing out here anyway? You're missing - " he stopped, his bottom not quite resting on the velvet lined recliner, thunderstruck, having just then noticed Sirius - passed out and drooling on his antique oak table, in the Potter family for twenty eight generations counting. "Oh."
"Hmph," Remus confirmed, yawning. "He's been out for ages."
"He only got here a half hour ago!"
Remus shrugged, a tight smile pulling his lips. "Never has been able to hold it, the pillock."
Peter couldn't help but chuckle at his old friends expense, absent for a moment in their peripheral youth, enjoying the presence he hadn't met with for so long - too long, almost. He wondered with niggling agitation if they knew - the truth about him and what he had become. The veritable levels to what he had sunk in the glorious days of gruesome war. As quick as it had landed the mirth was lost, and Peter fell grudgingly back to his depression. Again, he angrily reminded himself why he was there, and the consequences that would transpire if he didn't find something - anything of even mild significance to pass on.
"Well then?" James asked. "What the hell are you meant to be, Wormtail."
Peter shrugged in his plain brown dress robes, sweat beading on his forehead and thoroughly wishing he had never even thought he might come tonight, and even more regretful that he had conceded it fit to inform his master of such an invitation. He eyed Remus, feeling the suspicion radiate and deplete the air between them. "A rat," he answered shortly, naming his ever fitting animagus. And to Remus, "and you, Moony?"
Remus grinned wolfishly. "The same as always, my friends."
"Hear, hear!" James chorused, flicking his wand to send four full glasses of mead from the pantry heading their way, lifting his own quickly in the toast. "To friends - the good ones and the bad ones," James snickered, his eyes flicking lazily across the table. "I drink to your health, your prosperity and your good fortune - which gives you a rough idea of how hard up I am for a drink."
Peter gave a tiny half smile, watching as James' glass came to a rest on his lower lip, tipping back and back, scarlet liquid pulsing forward, when a quivering voice cried out - "No, wait!"
It took Peter a moment to realise it had been he who had shrieked the words, Remus' frown and James' grumbled impatience glaring back at him ambiguously. But Peter couldn't handle this, not then and not ever - the situation was too far above him, leagues from his reach, so impossibly, inevitably disastrous it made him want to faint. Not to friendship, brotherhood, his fellow companions, and especially not with them there and then - he couldn't drink to that. He knew they were suspicious, and there was little doubt that they knew he knew they knew. Peter frowned. "Sirius," he heard himself blurting. "We can't make a toast without Sirius!"
"Phpp," James snorted, turning disapproving eyes to his best friend collapsed on his kitchen table, drool slipping down his lip between frequent grunted snores. The sight that greeted him was not uplifting nor in the slightest way encouraging him to wait. "Why not?"
"No," Remus agreed. "Peter's right."
And then James produced his wand from seemingly nowhere, and Peter loathed himself the more for the way his stomach protested and his eyebrow twitched. James paid him little heed, however, swishing his wand in a murderous sobering charm.
Sirius groaned, swaying in his chair and slowly lifting his face from where it had been resting in his arms. Sirius, to put it mildly, felt like shit. And, despite his charm and most always handsome face, he quite looked it then too.
"Padfoot? Sirius?" Remus cooed softly, quiet, stern and annoyed at once.
"Padfoot, are you with us?"
James, not waiting for a reply, hit him with the sobering charm again, merciless. Sirius pushed his chair back abruptly, grating the heavy wooden legs to scratch deeply into ancient floorboards.
"What did you do that for?" Sirius grumbled, stretching his arms above his head, running a hand through thick tangled hair. "I was sleeping!"
"No," Remus corrected. "You'd passed out."
Sirius looked sheepish, not quite sure he believed it, but knew better than to argue. The werewolf was far more often than not correct in such matters.
"We're having a toast," James informed him, sliding a drink along the slippery surface of the table towards him. Hazel eyes flicked over the raunchy Nurses uniform he now saw his friend wore, but James decided quickly not to comment. Yet.
"Oh, right," Sirius grinned. "To the Marauders! Forever and always!"
Peter froze, but again the mead reached no further than before, the group interrupted by the sharp knock of a beak on the kitchen window pane echoing from outside. James groaned, sending his untouched glass down with a heavy THUMP, flicking his wand quickly to allow the owl entry. It was a plain brawny with uncanny purple eyes, and Sirius jumped, his face suddenly deathly pale, upon recognising it. The owl flew down around the expansive kitchen sink, landing unsteadily on the table between the group on jittery feet.
"Is something wrong, Sirius?" Remus asked, quite concerned.
He got no answer.
Sirius making no move to take the attached envelope, James did in his stead, untying the knotted cord from the owls leg with practiced ease.
As soon as the owl was free it hopped from the table, gliding back to the open window and away into the eerie night breeze. James examined the envelope briefly, the few years he had spent working in the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry of Magic, before its abrupt defeat, working in his inquisitive favour. His dream career as a Quidditch superstar had lasted three weeks after their graduation from Hogwarts, the sport placed on permanent hiatus by the Ministry until the war was deemed manageable. Nineteen years later, James was still waiting.
The envelope itself was nothing special - cheap and plain, not of any intrigue to Peter's interest. Sirius, on the other hand, was the former Auror - and it was rumoured that since his bereaved leave he had been working directly for Albus Dumbledore, doing who-knows-what. Peter perked up in his seat, his eyebrow twitching, again, but this time for an entirely different reason.
Sirius was beside himself. The night should have been perfect - the long needed break he had promised himself, that Albus had practically forced him to take. As much as Sirius longed for his search to end, for the time to come where he could settle down, guilt free, to a comfortable home back in England, for the long stream of one night stands to end, for once, in a proper relationship - he wasn't quite sure he was ready for this. Sirius had not imagined, in the dimmest of lights, that Shackleblolt might get back to him so quickly.
James raised an eyebrow behind his ridiculous mask, hazel eyes sparkling casually with blatant, unhidden curiosity.
"Who's it from?" James queried, trying to look uninterested and failing dismally as he slowly handed the envelope over.
But Sirius, remaining still and silent in his chair, again made no move to make any claim.
He faltered slightly, shifting in his seat, a battle of confusion rattling his brain. Sirius turned briefly to Peter and Remus, still indecisive, before his rasher, more impulsive side took over, as it usually did in such circumstances. "Open it, Prongs," he urged, his voice barely a whisper, still unsure of himself and the company they kept. "It's for you more than me, really."
Sirius would never forget, that conversation engraved in him forever.
"He may well be our last chance. Our last hope."
Sirius growled his frustration, refusing to feel guilty at the pressured words underlined meaning. They had done the right thing, the best thing they could have in such a situation - the Longbottom's ongoing suffering should have been proof enough of that! "We took him from this life for a reason - that reason precisely."
Albus was disappointed, and he took no care to hide it. "We need him, Sirius."
"Tell that to Lily and James!"
"At least give Harry the opportunity, the knowledge, to decide this for himself," Albus concluded, his eyes downcast. "He's old enough for that now. You owe him the truth."
Finding 'Harry' was another matter entirely, and Sirius was tired, dog tired, of the relentlessly unforgiving pursuit. He looked up to James' face then, shrouded as it were in sticky glup, and a regretful surge passed through him. Had it really been wise, helpless and desperate enough to inform Alus of their sacrifice? Had they really, honestly, beyond any question, done the right thing all those long years ago? And Sirius looked to the envelope in his friends waving hand, knowing it would confirm the whereabouts of his final plight, the last uncounted and unchecked male teen in the whole of Magical Europe, the only one he hadn't been able to track down from his own source.
Peter was wetting himself, unable to believe such good fortune might fall his way - he certainly didn't deserve it. More than ever he wanted to leave, before he got in too deep, but at the same time he felt the pull of reasoning, that he was so close now to uncovering something big - something far bigger than he could ever hope to understand.
"What is it?" James asked him again, impatient. He waited for the briefest of moments, favouring Sirius with an oblivious, joyful grin, and tore into the envelope with an animalistic fever, quickly bringing the parchment short to shreds.
Peter watched, his breath stopped, as James' face bore down intently on a small picture cradled in his palm, his other arm shaking the shredded envelope upside-down, as if hoping there was more.
A dredged silence reined down upon the party, waiting in anticipation for James to say something, anything.
He looked up at them then, locking eyes again with Sirius, a look of horrified understanding passing between them. And, wordlessly and uncertainly, he passed the picture across to them, Sirius raising it to be viewed amongst the three of them, sitting opposite James.
Peter's tiny eyes clouded over, greedily milking the glossed paper for all it was worth, perched precariously in Sirius' outstretched hand.
It was a photograph - a cheep little wallet-sized muggle one, unmoving, taken from one of those bizarre little boxes Peter sometimes passed when hiding out in the grungest parts of unmagical London.
And there were two figures in it; a teenage boy with his arm wrapped securely around a pretty blonde vampire - at least three hundred years his senior. Peter's lips thinned, his eyes glazing over the boy with apprehension - unnatural blue hair, iridescent green eyes, two lip piercings and an eyebrow ring, ghostly pale skin and handsomely contempt features. He was the perfect picture of the newage retro funk-punk-rocker, and Peter gave no thought to his never wishing to meet with the boy, ever.
But then Peter choked, comprehension of the photograph crashing down on him in waves, as the uncanny resemblance the young man depicted bore to James Potter resolved like a forgotten puzzle in his mind.
...Harry Potter, the lost boy of Fate.
Could it really be?
James, looking from opposite as Peter and Remus criticised the picture, stared predominantly at the back of the photograph.
"Louis Ackart, La RosÃ© Noir. Paris," James read slowly, his frown rising, and Sirius quickly turned the photo to read the messy inscription on the back.
"La RosÃ© Noir?" James repeated thoughtfully, his frown increasing tenfold, mind buzzing as the name caught and stuck in his jumbled, disorganised mind. He'd definitely heard it before. "Isn't that?.."
"Oh fuck," Sirius guffawed, flipping the photo front to back, again and again. It had to be a mistake...
"What is it?" Peter asked quietly, his voice tilting, not having a clue to the reality, the significance of what was really happening around him. But he had to know.
"It's a..." James paused, perplexed, not quite sure then if he really wanted to know whether or not this 'Louis Ackart' was his firstborn son. "It's a strip club!"
... x ...
Bodies were compressed close, hot and sweaty and pumping. Music screamed through the club, reverberating through walls and vibrating burdened hearts, lighting the dance floor in flickering blasts of neon red, green, blue, beating loud and continuous without pause. He walked amongst the common, gracing them kindly with his presence, and they revered at the sight of him, clinging, throwing themselves forward. Clothes were discarded and forgotten, lost to the celebrated Magical night.
Powder lined before him, tempting, one thin carefully spread line.
Two little pink pills, perfectly round, alluring in his face.
Three shots; lime, mandarin, guava. Four. Five. Six.
He lost count. He drowned.
The club swam back, spinning, and he was dancing, squeezing, laughing, shirtless. A blonde held his hand, whispering in his ear, pulling him back through the crowds.
And then he was in a toilet cubicle, and there were giggles, vomit stringed the air, and he was unhooking a bra, unzipping his jeans. The blonde was pressed against him, sandwiched with the dirty, sticky graffitied wall, and he was inside of her, and the world was spinning again, thrusting, down ... down ... down.
Louis laughed and cried and then he was back to spinning, snorting again, swallowing again, drowning again.
It was a good night.
But it wouldn't last forever.
... x ...
Malfoy, grey eyes flicking carelessly to his silver wrist watch, was making it painfully clear what he thought of such a summons: a complete and utter waste of his precious time. Wormtail occupied no delusions to what regard the blond held him in - an incompetent, indecent fool. An embarrassment to be associated with, a humiliation to The Cause, and of such form to the lowest, sickliest Deatheaters.
He was a traitor. A spy.
"And what, pray tell," Malfoy hissed, "begs my urgent presence at this ungodly hour?"
"I know where he is!" Peter hissed - or, rather spluttered - back. He could barely restrain himself from jumping up and down, crying out with exuberant joy.
Malfoy was not in the slightest bit impressed. "Who?"
Peter faltered, for the briefest of moments, before the weight of the knowledge he carried - and the popularity, the stigma and the privileges is was sure to grant him - won over, swelling his mind and unclouding any lingering doubts. "Harry Potter."
The pointed, disbelieving look piercing his way was priceless. "He's dead," Malfoy spat, his hand itching towards his wand, ready to Avada Kedavra Peter right then and there for wasting his time so.
"No!" Peter cried jubilantly, a crazed grin cracking over his face. "He's alive. And," his voice quivering, dropping another notch, "I know where to find him."
... x ...
"This is it. We're here."
There was nothing weird, nothing of any note within the context of oddity. An ordinary neighbourhood, an ordinary street, an ordinary apartment block. Number seven, level four. The door was beige, weathered and loomed before the pair like a beacon of hovering nightmares. For some reason, James did not - could not - bring himself another step closer.
Sirius decided it best to wait and ponder.
"You shouldn't have let me open it."
"What?" Sirius asked, startled. "Open what?"
"Why not? Don't you want to know?" Sirius scoffed. "You mean in front of them - Peter and Remus?"
"No, it's not that." James rolled his eyes. "But..." he couldn't explain. How could he justify his hesitation? Was it simply fright that held him captive, that twisted his stomach and tore at his scalp, scratched his eyes and levelled an unbearable, horrifying foreshadowment?
Sirius looked back at him, blinking sleep from his eyes and furrowing a sceptical brow. "Come off it, we're here now." He looked again towards the door. "May as well knock..."
"I know. I know." James held his breath.
The moment lasted an eternity - the thrill, the suspense ... the gradual let down.
No one answered.
"Maybe we got the wrong address," James started, and he quite loathed himself for the glimpse of relief that stole over him then.
"Hmm," Sirius mused, frowning. "Maybe."
'La RosÃ© Noir' had been closing when they'd apparated into Paris, through the Regulator gates and across the border. They hadn't left Godric's Hollow till well after three that morning, James feeding his wife a half-assed excuse he knew she wouldn't by, and tucking his children into bed far after their usual sleep time. The guests had slowly, eventually dispersed - not all soon by any means - and cleaning was, thankfully, left to the obliging house elf's methods. Louis Ackart - a bartender, and oh, how James had been assuaged to learn of that - was regrettably taking his night off. The manager, after a little persuasion aided with a clutch of several heavy coins, had very kindly given them Ackart's home address.
Sirius, however, was not ready to give up quite yet - not nearly.
"We should just ... check."
"Check what?" James barely had time to finish his query before Sirius had his wand out and spells were flying from his lips, decoding, disarming, dischanting and deciphering the barriers woven through the thick beige painted wood.
A click, a snap, and the door creaked ominously open.
Sirius gestured for James to go in first, but after a brief glance at his friends face, went on in his stead.
What they found inside - a harem of illegal drugs in all shapes and sizes - was enough to put Ackart away in Azkaban for years. Sirius resigned to make a note: if push came to shove, they could always arrest him. More panties than James could count lay about in curious places of Ackart's small bedroom, a shameful amount of empty pizza boxes and a pyramid stack in the living room two metres high of beer cans. A display of bizarre shaped bongs lined his bookcase haphazardly between dangerous spell books and colourful marbles. On his mantle and fridge a litter of photographs, magical and muggle alike, displayed the blue haired teen with an alarming amount of differing women, his hair colour changing continuously; blue, green, black.
It was, undoubtabley, the home of a young single male adult.
James swallowed. There was no mistaking it, no denying - James knew this was Harry, it simply had to be. And soon, far sooner than James would have liked, he would have to explain to Ackart why they had given him away, and why they needed him back again now. James could only hope he might understand.
Sirius stalked about the apartment, plots and plans taking flight. James made himself comfortable on the soft leather armchair, gazing at the large stereo system in wonder, temporarily unable to do or think anything.
It gave them both a terrible shock of fright when a voice yelled out angrily -
"Qu'est-ce que vous faÃ®tes!"
La RosÃ© Noir - The Black Rose. A symbol of love, romance, tragedy and soul - often affiliated with brothels and the like.
Ackart - Of French origin (surname), meaning firm-hearted, unyielding. I thought it seemed fit.