Author: Rannaro PM
Between Voldymort's attack in Godric's Hollow and baby Harry's arrival at the home of the Dursleys, there was a gap of around thirty hours. Why did it take so long? What was happening during that time?Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 21,506 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 2 - Published: 04-26-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8062547
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For those who have read my other stories, the timing in this one is different. It is an attempt to make sense of JKR's time line.
Saturday, October 31, 1981 — Halloween Morning (3.5 days after the new moon)
The earliest to awake that fateful Halloween morning was Peter Pettigrew. Truth be told, he'd never been to sleep, but he'd at least had the sense to lie down and allow his body to rest, however rebellious his mind might be. Today was the day, the day he'd longed for, dreamed of, for ten long years. Today was the day of his emancipation.
There had been a moment when he, eleven years old, wide-eyed and innocent, new to Hogwarts, had been proud the Sorting Hat had placed him in Gryffindor. He'd never considered himself brave, but clearly the Hat did. His joy, his pride, his elation, had lasted exactly two and a half hours, all through the Welcoming Feast and right up until the moment he realized who he'd have to live with for the next seven years.
"Pettigrew?" the one called James Potter had snorted. "Looks like Petty never grew at all, doesn't it?" He nudged his friend.
Sirius Black cocked his head to one side. "Sideways maybe. Give him a year and he'll be broader than he is tall. Get your things off that bed, Betty Blue. That one's mine."
Peter 'd moved his things and quickly learned that the best way to survive was to pretend he thought the two bullies were god-like. It wasn't hard; they never questioned the sincerity of adulation, not imagining any other response to their exalted persons to be possible. Seven years of hell and three of plotting, and today Peter would have his revenge.
It had, in the end, been ridiculously easy once old Dumbledore suggested the Fidelius Charm. All Peter had to do was say to Sirius, "I'm glad it's you and not me. I'd never be brave enough to hold up under questioning if You-Know-Who caught me."
"I wouldn't worry," Black sneered. "No one would think James or me dumb enough to chose a mouse like you for a Secret Keeper anyway. You're safe."
That was it. It took two days to percolate in Black's head, but by the time the thought matured, he honestly believed it was his own. All Peter needed to do was let himself be persuaded.
Today, today James Potter would get his comeuppance, and not just Potter. That snotty mudblood he'd married, who with her dorm mates had always made Peter feel unworthy, almost dirty… she'd go, too. And Black. Something special for Black, for Peter had a powerful patron now, a Lord who valued his work and guaranteed his advancement…
"No black cats?" Professor McGonagall looked down her imperially straight nose at Professor Flitwick. "You cannot have Halloween without black cats. Do you have some sort of prejudice against cats?"
Flitwick tried to sidestep the dangerous question. "I didn't say no cats, Minerva. I said fewer. Every year we limit ourselves to cats, bats, and pumpkins, and there are so many more images of Halloween that I thought we might introduce. It's a day when the world of the living and the world of the dead overlap, a day of ghosts and skeletons. And it's a harvest day, of cornucopias and the bounty of the field. I just thought fewer cats and bats…"
"You!" McGonagall called to the newest and youngest of the professors, who was trying to sneak unseen out of the Hall, a feat made difficult by the fact that most of the professors went home for the weekend, most of the students slept late, and the Hall was thus relatively empty. "You. Severus. Come settle a matter for us."
"Ma'am?" Professor Snape came over, abandoning as fruitless all efforts to escape.
"Filius here wants to discard our ancient traditions and replace the tried and true of cats and bats in this evening's decoration with odd, outlandish things like skeletons. It sounds terribly colonial to me."
Caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of the older professors, Snape defended himself by attacking. "The cat and bat are only two of the many creatures that have served as familiars to witches. I personally wouldn't mind altering the decorations to include toads, ravens, foxes, spiders, hares, and rats. And owls, of course."
This answer pleased neither McGonagall nor Flitwick, and they released young Snape to his own devices. He exited the Hall with great alacrity. McGonagall watched his departure with narrowed eyes. "Do you ever wonder about him?" she asked Flitwick.
"Why Albus engaged him?" Flitwick replied, the cats and the bats momentarily on hold. "You don't think…"
"Of course I think!" McGonagall snapped. "I just wish I knew."
Lily Potter, her son perched securely on her left hip, called up the stairway. "You could at least get dressed and come down for breakfast. Here's Harry, all wide awake and ready to play with his daddy."
"Mumph!" huffed James into his pillow. "Are you sure Sirius isn't coming over today? It's been a week!"
"Don't you want to play with your son?"
"That's all I ever do anymore!" From the sound he was still lamenting to the pillow. "Baby games are all well and good now and again, but Lil… all day! Every day!
"You know we agreed. No contact for a week. Sirius couldn't come anyway; Peter hasn't given him the address yet."
"Thought that was supposed to be yesterday." The bed creaked as James gave in to the inevitable.
"Wishful thinking. I think Sirius is going to pop round tomorrow and get it from him." With James now safely up, Lily headed for the kitchen to finish the breakfast. "We agreed to wait 'til after Halloween."
James's voice still floated down from above. "I can't believe I'm not going to a Halloween party. What kind of respectable wizard family doesn't celebrate Halloween?" A velvet dressing gown now wrapped around him, James descended the stairs.
"Dumbledore said it was dangerous. They're looking for us." Harry now settled in his highchair, Lily busied herself with toast, eggs, sausages, tea… her wand playing the kitchen like a miniature orchestra.
"I still can't see why we're more important than any of the others." James slumped into a chair to wait for his food. "I wish I hadn't lent that old man the cloak. If I had that… I don't think he wanted to do any experiments on it. I think he just didn't want me to have it. He knew I'd sneak out."
Lily set a cup of tea in front of her husband. She didn't mind waiting on him. He'd grown up with riches and a house elf, and there'd never been a day in his life when he'd had to get his own breakfast. He'd fight like a demon in a battle, so the business of setting a table seemed minor. "It's only two days more, and then you'll have Sirius back," she reminded him.
James glanced over at his baby son. The child was cute and filled him with pride, and James had to admit that he did love the little boy, but baby games all day… every day… well, that was plain boring. James sighed and sipped his tea.
In London, Sirius Black stretched and yawned. It was far from noon, and yet somehow he couldn't stay in bed any longer. He sat up and listened. The old house was quiet.
Nineteen seventy-nine had been a bad year for Sirius, starting with the deaths of old Mr. and Mrs. Potter, who'd become more like parents to him than his own. Then James and Lily had married, something Sirius knew would happen eventually yet would never quite be reconciled to. James had gained a family, but Lily had stolen a friend. The baby would have been a godsend, as it kept Lily busy and preoccupied, but this threat reported by Dumbledore's spies had locked James away again.
No mind, Sirius thought as he rose and hunted for something to throw on so he could go downstairs, after tomorrow we'll have good times together again. As long as Peter didn't forget.
Once out in the corridor at the head of the stairs, Sirius listened again. That was another thing about 1979 — both his brother and his father had died. Regulus was killed by his own comrades, Sirius was sure of it. The only reason he could think of for it was that Regulus must have seen the light and tried to change sides. It had broken Orion Black, and Sirius's father had died shortly after.
For a while Sirius had tried living alone and found he didn't have the knack. Then he'd stayed off and on at the Potter residence, but that was awkward… being with newlyweds. Now for several months he'd moved back in with his mother. Standing at the head of the stairs, Sirius rather wished he could hear something, even her screaming at him the way she used to. His mother's mournful, passive silence since the death of her husband was more unnerving than any temper tantrum could be.
With a shrug and a deep breath, Sirius started down the stairs to begin another day. At least that evening he'd be celebrating at a Halloween party with a group of friends. James wouldn't be there, but Sirius could have some fun, and then tomorrow… well then he'd tell James all about it.
"Kreacher!" Sirius yelled. "Where's my breakfast, Kreacher?"
He sat wrapped in the silence of his own mind, the space around him dark beyond the circle of light. He had no need of the frivolity of decoration, for the depth and portent of his own thoughts eclipsed all else that came near. Today he thought of victory, and of a vengeance long withheld – all the sweeter now that the wait was over.
Two years. Two years he had lived with the knowledge of a rival… rivals… but today would end them both, and the old man would know defeat. The thought was one to hold and savor.
Two years ago today, he had heard a prophecy, carried on the lips of a frightened boy, and had waited the long months to find of whom the words spoke only to learn that they spoke of two, and no way to chose securely between them. That dilemma was over now. Two young servants, dedicated and loyal, had taken the dilemma from him. Tonight both rivals would go, and there would be no other for all the long years to come of his rule.
The problem had been all along that there were two boys, two born as the seventh month died. That, and the unavoidable fact that Dumbledore, too, had heard the prophecy. The auror's brat and the spawn of a muggle. Whichever of the two he might have chosen to destroy first, Dumbledore would instantly have increased the guard over the other, and the attack would have been in vain.
In vain no longer, for Dumbledore had given the muggle-spawned whelp away, to be crushed now with no warning to any, and the auror's boy could be taken the same night. Only after both were dead would Dumbledore realize the foolishness of this misguided provision for safety. Fidelius Charms worked two ways, if the Secret Keeper was the lynchpin.
He thought of the pudgy, rat-faced servant, so mediocre and yet so valuable for the secret held in trust. That one would be rewarded. The other as well. He focused on the second face – thin, pale… glittering black eyes and raven hair. He was pleased he had not punished that one as was deserved for failure, for now, even now, there was at last success. The security of Dumbledore's stronghold was breached and a tiny, venomous snake lay curled at Hogwarts, ready to strike at enemies on command.
Both should be rewarded for their service. He smiled a joyless, cruel smile. Both wanted the same thing. His rat had not spoken of it, but he could see the longing when this servant spoke of the prey. The other, his hawk-beaked young potion maker who was maturing into a falcon, had spoken of it, timid and stammering, a year before. They would be given this muggle woman. It would be amusing to watch them fight over her.
"Why me?" Lucius demanded, pacing the drawing room while Bella Lestrange languidly poured herself a small glass of wine. It was early in the day for wine, but Bella raided Lucius's supply whenever she visited.
"Don't whimper," she admonished him, throwing an exasperated glance at her husband Rodolphus as she spoke. Lucius was always so timid. She was amazed he'd lasted this long. "You're not the only one. He's entrusted something to us, too. Dolph's put it in the vault at Gringotts. You'd be wise to put this somewhere safe as well."
"What does it do?" Lucius demanded. "What's it for?"
"He hinted it might have something to do with Hogwarts, with the Chamber of Secrets, but I wasn't stupid enough to press for information. All I know is you're supposed to guard it."
Rodolphus Lestrange nodded and added, "He also hinted that Sev's looking after something at Hogwarts. Don't worry, Lucius. You're just one of many."
"Many? He's got more of these things?"
Bella chuckled. "Dolph's teasing. We only know what we were told, and I wouldn't question it any more than I'd want you to. He's working on something, and I think he's going to finish it soon. This is part of it. He wants it safe. You do have somewhere to put it that's secure, don't you?"
Lucius bristled. "You don't think I'd tell you!" Another thought made him pause. "Why didn't he send for me himself? Why did he entrust this to a third party?"
"A third party? You make me sound like an outsider. I'll have you know I've risen far; I'm at his right hand now. You should be grateful, you know. He's aware of your half-heartedness, don't think he isn't. I've been covering for you for Cissy's sake…" She laughed at Lucius's expression. It wasn't nice laughter. "Don't worry. You're safe. For the moment." Picking up her cloak, which she'd tossed carelessly on a chair, she turned to leave.
"Let me see you out," said Lucius, his attempted smile little more than a grimace.
"Don't bother," Bella replied. "We know the way." She swept into the hall and out of the mansion, Dolph in her wake.
Behind them, Lucius stared down at the old diary they'd left, wondering why it was important and, more pressing, where he was going to put it to keep it safe.
Around noon, Lily Potter responded to a loud knock at the front door, knowing who it was before she opened it. "Hagrid!" she cried, pulling the gamekeeper into the house. "James will be thrilled to see you. You're the most entertainment he expects all day."
Indeed, James had already hurried from the sitting room, Harry in one arm and a miniature broom in the other. "Hagrid!" he echoed. "Come to wish us a Happy Halloween, I expect."
"And many more t' come," replied Hagrid, lifting a sack from his shoulders and taking Harry from James. Harry had been straining towards Hagrid's arms from the moment he saw him, squealing 'Hagar! Hagar!' all the while.
"What have you brought us?" Lily asked, taking the sack and pulling from it a series of Halloween toys – a plush black cat with a witch's pointed hat on its head, a rubber jack-o'-lantern, a little dancing skeleton on a stick, a bat that would stick to and climb up or down a wall, and a tiny witch on a broomstick that would fly round and round the room until ordered to stop.
"I thought Harry 'd need t' learn a bit about Halloween," Hagrid admitted. He always managed to have an excuse for bringing toys. "What with him being cooped up 'n all and not able t' dress up 'n go out like the others."
"One year old is still a bit young for that sort of thing," said Lily firmly, "but the toys are definitely appreciated." Her eyes were now on James, who was experimenting with the bat. "Though not entirely by Harry. Come into the kitchen Hagrid. I'll fix you a cuppa."
They left the two 'boys' with the playthings and went into the kitchen to chat. Hagrid was, so far, the only person who'd been given the Secret to the enchanted cottage. Peter had written the location on but one piece of paper, and that paper was given to Hagrid by Lily herself. It would soon be augmented with others, but for the moment Hagrid was the Potters' only liaison to the outer world.
"So," said Lily calmly as she poured Hagrid a cup of tea, "how are the staff getting along? Are the new teachers settling in all right?"
"Well, that Dark Arts chap ain't making too many friends, him being… well, what he is, but Slughorn's replacement, now he seems t' be working out fine."
"That's nice." Lily glanced at the doorway, but James and Harry were engrossed in Hagrid's gifts. "It's safe and comfortable at Hogwarts. It's good to know there are people who've managed to stay out of the storm."
"Yes, ma'am," said Hagrid. "It's always good t' stay out of a storm. Good t' come in from one, too."
Slughorn's replacement was at that very moment sneaking up to the owlery. It wasn't really that he had to sneak, for Headmaster Dumbledore was well aware of what he was doing, and he wasn't in any danger. He just didn't want the other teachers to see him because that would mean questions. Polite but barbed questions. They knew he had no relatives to send messages to, and most of them had guessed long ago that he had no friends. He simply preferred not answering or having to evade questions, howsoever polite they might be.
The little role of parchment was innocuous. Everyone busy with Halloween, it said. No excursions expected. Halloween was the reason why this Saturday of all Saturdays he was not required to report south in person. "My absence would be remarked on," he'd explained the weekend before. To his surprise, his reasoning had been accepted without suspicion, and the message he was now sending was exactly what was expected. Even better, it was true.
The message went to an old dorm mate, one Mulciber. He would take it to Bella, who would hand it to the Dark Lord in person. Duty done, young Professor Snape scurried back down the stairs into the infinitely more dangerous world of the decorative squabble between McGonagall and Flitwick.
The thought brought something like a smile to Snape's mobile mouth. That he could, even in private jest, consider the McGonagall/Flitwick feud dangerous was a sign of how far he'd come in just two and a half months. The tight knot that had ridden in the pit of his stomach for three long years was gradually, gently loosening. He no longer dreaded the beginning of each new day. He no longer glanced automatically over his shoulder to see who might be following.
Please let this continue, Snape prayed to whatever deities guide the fates of wizards. Please let me stay here at Hogwarts. Please don't force me out into the storm again.
If only for its fervency, it was a prayer that deserved to be granted.
Before the morning melted into noon, Peter Pettigrew had finished clearing out the room he called his home and transferring what meager property he had there to a modest and well-hidden storage site. There was hardly anything, only those items he couldn't leave with his mother because they were, by their nature, incriminating. She must not be seen to have been involved in his recent life in any way, so clothes he had recently worn, the cup Remus had drunk from on his last visit, the thank-you note Lily had written for the toy dragon for Harry's birthday, all had to remain outside her possession.
He had no illusions as to the reaction of Sirius Black once the plan unfolded… no, none at all. In fact, he was counting on Sirius Black's reaction. If all went well, he would be free not only of Black but of the retaliation of the entire wizarding world, free to serve the Dark Lord with no threat of reprisal. There were, of course, moments when he dreamt of being free of even more, but the dark mark on his arm was an inescapable constant, and at this point he was willing to take what he could get and not begrudge the rest.
One thing Peter desired almost as much as he desired vengeance was the final, open admission to the society of his new comrades. Right now, he was the Dark Lord's secret weapon, and as such had to remain hidden and secret. No one knew. The members of the Order of the Phoenix thought he was still one of them, and the society of the Death Eaters was denied because they still considered him an enemy. That would change after today. They would learn who he was, and admire him for his devotion to their cause, and he would at last learn who they were and join them in their work. A whole new world of friends was about to open to Peter, and he rubbed his pudgy hands in anticipation.
All traces of him now locked away, and a careful check showing that he was not being watched, Peter apparated to London, to a spot some streets distant from his destination so that he could not be traced, and from there walked to his meeting with the Dark Lord, to the fulfillment of his mission.
Lunch time was animated at Hogwarts school that day, for it was not just Halloween – it was also the school's first Hogsmeade excursion of the year. The third year students in particular were engaged in detailed planning, having pumped their older classmates for every scrap of information about Zonkos, Honeydukes, and Madam Puddifoot's that they could. It was going to be a raucous Halloween party that night.
Albus Dumbledore met with the teachers in the staff room. "We must be more alert than usual," he reminded them all. "We are all… most of us at least…" this last with a nod toward Professor Snape, "aware of the challenges surrounding the combination of Hogsmeade and Halloween. We appreciate the dedication to duty of Professor Kettleburn and Professor Sinistra, who have given up their weekend, half of it anyway, in the interests of maintaining discipline among our nearest and dearest neighbors. What are the assignments, Minerva?"
Professor McGonagall referred to a large piece of parchment she'd been carrying rolled up under her arm. "Professors Sprout and Sinistra will patrol the castle. Madam Pomfrey will assist by patrolling the first floor, while Madam Pince will check the fourth. Pomona, if you would take the second and third, while Aurora, you stay on the fifth and sixth, Sibyll has agreed to patrol the seventh and the towers. Hagrid will monitor the dungeons, the ground floor and the outer areas. There are rumors that some of the older students are planning on taking advantage of the opportunity to tryst in isolated rooms instead of going into the village, so the classrooms will all be sealed off. Check periodically to be sure no one has attempted any opening or unlocking spells.
"In Hogsmeade, Professor Flitwick and I will be in charge of the area around Zonkos and Honeydukes, as these are likely to be the hottest spots, especially since it's Halloween. Filch will patrol the edges of town and the area around the Shrieking Shack. Albus, I'm putting you near the Hog's Head to supervise that side of town. Professor Kettleburn will patrol around the Three Broomsticks, and Professor Snape in the area around Gladrags. Are there any questions?"
There were none, so the professors went to get their own lunch in the time of peace left before the hordes were released to descend on Hogsmeade. This first excursion, after two months of being confined to the school, had a tendency to get rowdy. "I don't envy you," Kettleburn commented to Snape on the way to the Great Hall.
"Gladrags sells costumes. They'll be acting up, and they'll all be wearing masks. You'd better practice some unveiling spells." Kettleburn walked away chuckling.
As Snape digested this bit of information, Dumbledore approached him. "May I take it that all is well today? No surprises prepared?"
"None that I know of, sir," Snape replied. "Not that I'm in that loop anymore. I warned you I might not have access to that kind of information once I got here."
"It is a risk I am willing to take." Dumbledore smiled gently. "What happened last Halloween?"
Snape shrugged. "The usual parties. We're all witches and wizards, and it is Halloween. In fact, Malfoy invited me to a party tonight, but I had to turn it down. School duty. He understood."
"That is a good sign," said Dumbledore. "Good luck on your first Hogsmeade supervision. Let us hope all is in relatively good order this afternoon."
At the Malfoy mansion, Halloween was also the focus of attention.
"Lucius? Really Lucius, I do need to get in there." Narcissa Malfoy rapped at the drawing room door. "Can't you play your little games tomorrow? We absolutely must have this decorated for tonight, and the elves will be busy with the food later on… Lucius?"
Her husband opened the door. "It's quite all right, dear," he told her. "Everything is taken care of. Just one or two things to put away." He stood aside as she swept into the room.
"It's just that everything seems to be conspiring against me this year," Narcissa complained." It isn't bad enough that we'll never be able to have Walburga over again, poor dear, but I was at least expecting mother. I could understand last year, still in mourning and all over father, but that Evan boy was just a nephew. You would think after all these months. But she says the Rosier family is staying together on this… Are you sure the Wilkeses can't come?"
"It's the same with them as with the Rosiers. It's hard on them, Cissy, losing a son. But Nott's coming, he told me last week…"
"And you forgot to tell me!" Narcissa abandoned Lucius to direct the two house-elves who popped into the drawing room at that moment. "Now remember, Ditty, lace bats on the lamp shades and the moon candelabra in the center. And Dobby, pumpkin jacks for the sconces. And here I was, about to write Nott off the guest list for not RSVPing. A fine predicament you'd have gotten me into!"
"I wish we had more of the younger ones coming," Lucius sighed, holding the door for his wife as the elves commenced their work. "But Barty has to be with his family, Severus is up at Hogwarts…"
"At least the Averys and the Mulcibers will be here. And Lucretia and Ignatius are bringing their two eldest." Narcissa paused and sighed herself. "But I vow, Lucius, there aren't more than seventy at the most. What has become of good society?"
A late lunch had been laid on the veranda, and Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy went out to eat in the sheltered area, the lawns and gardens spread before them in delicious splendor. "There are others you could have invited, you know," Lucius reminded Narcissa. "I'm sure Walden would have loved…"
"That odious man!" Narcissa cried. "How could you be so crude? You might as well ask me to invite the Goyles or the Crabbes. Or that horrible Dolohov person." She laid her napkin on the table. "Now you've put me off my appetite."
"Are the Lestranges coming?" Lucius asked in the momentary stillness. "I wasn't sure you'd invited them, and I didn't want to mention it at headquarters for fear…"
"How could I not invite my sister?" Narcissa chided. "Her husband and brother-in-law come with her. Honestly, there are times when I think you have no social sense at all!"
"Please, dear," Arthur Weasley pleaded with his wife Molly, "don't you understand how important this could be? Crouch could be the next Minister for Magic. Being invited to his house for Halloween is a great honor. I may be up for a promotion next year and…"
"…and I'm sure Ginevra is beginning to teeth, Ronnie's been coughing, and both Fred and George are…"
"Ginny's too young to be teething," Arthur pointed out with some exasperation. "Ron's got a simple cold, and Fred and George are playing your strings to get you to stay home and coddle them. Bill, Charlie, and Percy are all fine. Muriel's sat with them before. It's only for one evening. Molly, please. This is important to me."
In then end, after more token resistance, Molly Weasley agreed to accompany her husband to the Halloween staff party co-hosted by Bartemius Crouch, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and, by several steps removed, Arthur Weasley's boss.
Many miles and a whole culture away, a muggle named Petunia was discussing the holiday with her Ladies' Lawn Group.
"I've got my Brian all decked out like a pirate for the evening," said Maggie Whiteside. "He's just so adorable. He's only two, but it's so much fun for them."
"My Tess is a gypsy," countered Milly Smith. "She loves the long earrings, and she wanted to wear heels, but I'm afraid she'll fall. What're doing for your Dudley, Petunia?"
Petunia Dursley turned up a long, not quite patrician nose. "We don't hold with such things," she told the astonished ladies. "Quite pagan, you know. We'd rather keep Dudley away from such nonsense. I mean… witches and black cats. It is rather bizarre, isn't it?"
Bathilda Bagshot fixed herself a mid-afternoon cup of tea and sighed as she sat quietly in her kitchen sipping it. She hadn't thought she would be this lonely, or that she'd come to depend so on visiting young Mrs. Potter and her delightful baby a couple of times a week. The week just past had been distressingly dreary without that spark of companionship. Bathilda was already quite old, and getting out and about was harder every year. It was so nice when the Potters moved in – quiet and respectable, welcoming Bathilda's visits and brightening Bathilda's lonely life.
Mrs. Potter had warned her that this separation would happen. "It's only for a few weeks, and then we can have you over again. We just want to be sure that everyone's forgotten about the house."
It was some sort of powerful spell. That's what happened when you were friends of people like the Dumbledores. Always depending on spells and charms to solve problems when most of the time all you needed was to talk it over. From the moment they moved to Godric's Hollow, the Potters had excited Bathilda's sympathy. So young, so vibrant, and yet they had to hide in the last little house at the end of the road going out of town, never going out to meet new people.
For a moment, Bathilda tried to remember what that last little house looked like. She'd seen it a bit over a week earlier, but the memory had faded. She couldn't bring it to mind, or be sure of the place where it stood. And she certainly would never be able to point it out to anyone else. That was because of Albus Dumbledore's spell. That was Albus's idea of protection – to make a cage and keep someone in it.
Tonight Bathilda would have company. She'd invited a few old friends in the village to come over for Halloween. The muggle children would be going from house to house begging sweets, and she'd baked some things for them. It was like this every Halloween, a pleasant, comfortable little custom for a pleasant, comfortable little village.
Bathilda sipped the last of the tea, then got up to dust and straighten the house before her guests arrived, her wand flicking here and there, wherever she noticed that something needed to be tidied.
At Hogsmeade, the unleashed teenagers, nearly two hundred of them, invaded every shop, every eating place, every den of amusement, with only half a dozen adults to ride herd. On the whole, it was loud, boisterous fun with remarkably few serious problems except for the fistfight between Felix Frobisher and Patrick Pucey, apparently a follow-up to a disagreement in Potions rather than something started at Hogsmeade.
Around three o'clock, Headmaster Dumbledore abandoned his own supervisory post to seek out Professor Snape, who truly had been given the hardest assignment. Many of the oldest students had been schoolmates of his only a little over three years earlier, and they thought it no end of fun to play little pranks on him from the safety of their costume masks, at some detriment to his professorial dignity. The appearance of Dumbledore caused this highly amusing game to be placed on hold.
"Are you checking up on me?" Snape asked somewhat defensively as he tried to comb bits of colored paper from his long black hair.
"Here," said Dumbledore by way of reply, taking out his wand, "let me help you with that. They seem to have sprinkled it with some sort of adhesive. I take it that as you did not seek me out earlier, everything is in order with your house."
"Perfect," Snape assured him, though he was not referring to their behavior. "Every eligible Slytherin student came into the village. Nobody had homework to catch up on, nobody became suddenly ill… nobody's family warned them to stay away in case something happened. It looks like the afternoon will be peaceful."
"I am pleased." Dumbledore looked fondly around at the chaos of young people. "It would have saddened me to think that someone could retaliate against children for the sins of their parents. And they do so enjoy the outing. Are you looking forward to the feast? It has a different feel when you are at the high table, you know."
"Yes, actually. Halloween was one of my favorite holidays as a student. Have Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick come to an agreement on the decorations?"
"Alas, no. But Minerva will win in the end. She has both rank and tradition on her side. Which of them did you favor?"
"Flitwick, to be honest. I looked at the same decorations for seven years, and I thought maybe it was time for a little variety."
Dumbledore chuckled. "And I have looked at the same decorations for as many decades. No, Severus, I fear this will be a Halloween like every other, with no distinguishable markings to make it memorable."
In London, kneeling in the circle of light in the nearly empty headquarters building, Peter Pettigrew was completing his mission. "…and on the other side of the village there's a road with a single row of houses. The last house, the very last, is the one…"
At the end of October, the sun sets early on the border of Wales. By seven o'clock that evening, darkness had for two hours settled on the village of Godric's Hollow, a night of scattered showers and cold wind. Almost, but not quite, enough to keep the costumed children from making their rounds. It was the one night of the year when a stranger, not too tall, garbed and hooded in black, could walk the streets unremarked, or if remarked, then with understanding and admiration.
"Nice costume, mister!" cried one of two nearly identical pumpkins. His comrade approached the ghoulish specter, then retreated in panic, running to put several houses between himself and the vision of blood-shot eyes and slitted nostrils. Confronted for details, all he could say was, "Wow! Better than Jason!" referring to a movie he'd seen the year before.
The cloaked figure ignored them, gliding unheard through the town, for he had a spell that would silence autumn leaves. He was searching for the road into the woods, the road at the other side of town where the last in a row of houses housed a wizard family. The nearest neighbors showed dark windows, for one young couple had gone into Gloucester to a Halloween party (muggles have them, too), while the other young couple were walking their two children from door to door in search of sweets. The last house in the row was alone, isolated far enough from other human presence that any sound issuing from it would disturb no peace. Not that there would be any sound – the spell he would use was noiseless.
Through the open window, he watched as the mudblood wife collected the child for bed, she with waves of auburn hair to contrast with the darkness of husband and son. The two servants would be grateful for their gift. With practiced eye he scouted for the wands – one on a table in the entryway, useless for either defense or attack, the other casually tossed on the sofa. Did Dumbledore impart no sense of caution in his people? Such dereliction of duty would not go unpunished among his followers.
Timing was everything. Destroy the husband, then go upstairs after the wife, leaving her to be picked up later when the tasks of the evening were accomplished. One dead prophecy child – the easier of the two – and then a quick trip north to remove the other in the same night. That one would be harder, for the second child had an auror to guard him… one who would never leave a wand out of reach, not for a second. Still, there would be no warning, no advance alert that danger lurked in the darkness. The first would die unnoticed, and the second would follow unprepared. Maybe with a bit more difficulty, but the second would follow.
Destroying the blood traitor turned out to be easier than even he had anticipated. Idiot! he thought as the father collapsed to the floor. What kind of warrior are you? I have a simple potions brewer who knows that when attacked and unarmed you retreat first to force the attacker to defend both flanks. Even wandless magic can threaten and delay. But to run forward into instant death… It is not even courage. It is stupidity. May all Dumbledore's slaves be such fools!
Upstairs the woman was screaming. Scream away. Are you aware that there are no neighbors near to hear you? Somehow she knew that he came for the child, for she placed herself between him and his prey and begged him to take her instead. Instead! What use was her death if the prophecy child lived? He ordered her to stand aside, but she refused. She had given him no choice, and she quickly followed her husband.
That left but the one. Slowly Lord Voldemort raised his wand, and slowly he pronounced the words: "Avada Kedavra!"…
In London, Bella Lestrange winced as she grasped her left arm, then ran from the bedroom still half dressed to find her husband. "Did he call?" she shrieked at Dolph, who was studying his own left arm in wonder.
"It's gone," he said. "It flared up and then it was gone. I don't think he summoned us. I wouldn't know where to go if he did. Maybe he just had a flash of temper. Whatever it was, it's not there anymore."
In Wiltshire, Lucius Malfoy hurried to his wife's bedroom. "The craziest thing," he gasped. "It was like he wanted to see us, and then it stopped. What do I do?"
Narcissa stared at him in fear, then took a deep breath. "It stopped, you say. That means he doesn't want you anymore. If it starts again, then you have to go. If it doesn't… we have guests arriving in an hour."
At Hogwarts, Professor Snape scurried up to the seventh floor, all in a panic. "The mark," he informed Headmaster Dumbledore, "it just burned like fire for an instant. I don't know what it means."
"Sit down, Severus. Take deep breaths. What is the mark doing now?"
Snape stared at his left arm. "Nothing. It's doing nothing. If anything, it's fainter than usual."
In London, Sirius Black picked up his cloak, said good night to his mother, and headed out the door to his Halloween party, whistling because he anticipated a very enjoyable evening.
The party at the Malfoys' went badly, leaving Narcissa so frustrated she could scream, but didn't as such behavior was bourgeois. The only consolation she had was that it wasn't her fault as a hostess, and all of her guests recognized that fact. No, the food was delicious, the decorations superb, and the entertainment a delight. What destroyed every thing was that so many of the guests – some of the brightest lights of the wizarding world – insisted on huddling in corners discussing the relative intensity of tattoos, for all the world as if they were at a business meeting instead of a celebration.
"Bella, please," she cajoled her sister, "take Dolph out on the dance floor and help put some life back into things. All this talk is making me feel as if I were in a graveyard. I'm really getting quite cross with you."
"You talk in graveyards?" A glance at Narcissa's expression made Bella relent at once. "Oh smile, Cissy! You know you can't be angry with me for long. I'm your best-loved sister. It's just that this was so strange. Almost creepy."
Narcissa's smile was forced. It was true that Bella was her 'best-loved' sister, but only because the other sister had been disowned for unforgivable transgressions. "I don't see why everyone is so upset over something that lasted for a few seconds. If he wanted something, he changed his mind. It isn't as if you were expecting him to call. He told everyone…"
"How do you know what he told us?" Bella's eyes narrowed. "Did Lucius…?"
"No. No, he didn't tell me anything. Only that I shouldn't worry about the guests, that there was no cause for anyone to turn down an invitation. And they haven't. It's just… people could at least try to have fun."
Narcissa wandered off to continue her duties as a hostess. As she passed by one of the tall windows, she noticed for the first time the unusually large number of owls perched on the trees in the garden. They were all too well trained, of course, to break in on a social occasion – which meant that the message senders had not considered the messages urgent – but the sheer number of them was something Narcissa had never seen before.
The Weasleys arrived late at the party on level two of the Ministry of Magic because three-year-old Fred and George had decided to rig the family toilet to flush backwards. Aunt Muriel had chained the offenders to her right hand and her left, Molly was still flustered and angry, and Arthur was trying to anticipate what the two rascals might be able to accomplish by the time they were five. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement Halloween party was about as dull as it usually was, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were counting the minutes until they could reasonably excuse themselves because of parental duties and leave.
Each Department had a separate party, and it was understood that no one could even contemplate leaving before the Minister had made her complementary visit. The current Minister, Millicent Bagnold, was relatively new, having stepped into the post the previous year. It was well known that the appointment had put Barty Crouch's nose more than a little out of joint, since he'd been lobbying for the position himself. He was now setting his sights on being her successor, and wanted to make a good impression. His co-host was Rufus Scrimgeour, who would step into Barty's shoes the moment Barty vacated them.
"Unusual amount of owl traffic tonight," Arthur commented to Alastor Moody, one of the aurors. Moody was a gruff, craggy man who was currently out of favor because he opposed Crouch's decision to use any and all means to crush the rebel Lord Voldemort's Death Eater followers. Not everyone would have wanted to be caught dead talking to Moody, but Arthur was notoriously apolitical.
"Not to be wondered at," Moody replied. "Most people send Halloween greetings, even if they don't for the other holidays. There's always an upswing on Halloween night." He accepted a glass of whiskey from a house-elf bartender.
"I know," Arthur said as he took a glass of wine. "Still, it seemed like a lot."
Molly, meanwhile, was looking for the ladies' room, birthing seven children having made her susceptible to calls of nature. She found herself on the other side of a drapery from an agitated conversation.
"No. You cannot leave. This affair is important to me, and you'll do your duty by the family and make yourself pleasant. The Minister is due any moment. How will it look if my own family cares so little…"
"I want to be with my friends, not this bunch of stuffed shirts! This party's boring!"
"You were willing to be here two hours ago!"
"That was before… I realized how boring it would be. Your old minister isn't going to notice if I'm here or not…"
Molly beat a hasty retreat from the family squabble, but not before she noticed that Crouch's son, Barty Junior, seemed to be rubbing his left arm, as if remembering a vanished pain…
Bathilda Bagshot and her little circle of elderly friends had a tendency to retire early. Their quiet Halloween celebration was therefore ending when they received what Bathilda knew would be the very last of the costumed visitors. The children, one a smiling ghost and the other a very un-terrifying devil, got their sweets and their compliments from the ladies. Their parents paused to chat for a moment with Bathilda. They were, after all, neighbors – neighbors from the end of the road leading out of the village.
"Did you hear the loud bang earlier in the evening?" the mother asked. Bathilda could never remember their name, but it was something very common for the area, like Jones or Rees. "About seven-thirty it was. Someone said it sounded almost like a bomb."
"I told them that was silly," the husband interjected. "Who would set off a bomb here? Besides, a bomb would create damage, and nothing's been damaged. You know what I think it was? I think it was one of those 'booms' from that faster-than-sound airplane, that Concorde."
Bathilda smiled sweetly to cover the fact that she had no clue what he was talking about.
"Dear, you know they're not supposed to do that over towns and the like," said the wife.
"They're bound to make mistakes sometimes. It should be banned, a thing like that," the husband continued. "Fearful disruptive thing, a sonic boom."
"Now that I recall, we did hear it," Bathilda said. "We even went to the window to see if anyone else remarked on it. There weren't many on the street with the rain and all, but several were looking. Nothing came of it, though, so it may have been one of those 'boom' things. It certainly seems to have caused no damage."
The neighbors took their children home, and Bathilda's friends took themselves likewise. No one saw anything unusual on the way, except the young couple with children found a chunk of lathing with plaster in their front garden. But for that, the night was quiet, peaceful, and undisturbed.
The night had not been so quiet and peaceful an hour and a half earlier. The 'sonic boom' had been the refraction of a powerful magical spell that had encountered a barrier and rebounded onto its caster with slightly diminished but nonetheless lethal force. In accordance with Newtonian laws of physics, it had also had an equal but opposite reaction to the barrier, flinging the small child against the bars of his crib and the crib into the opposite wall. The forward action of the rebounding spell careened upward from its contact with the spell caster and exploded through the corner ceiling of the room. That trajectory meant that most of the debris from the damaged house would fall back into the room, some into the garden of the house, and only a few fragments into the neighboring gardens. The 'bomb' was, in fact, quite well contained.
Quickly recovering from the shock of being tossed about so, the little boy Harry had begun to scream, a sound that would have been heard in the road outside had there been anyone standing in the road to hear it.
The state of the house would remain essentially unchanged for over twenty-four hours. In the front room, its invisible lights still blazing through a window no one could see, the crumpled body of James Potter sprawled on the rug. Upstairs Lily Potter also lay like a rag doll cast carelessly to one side. The exploded corner of the room where she had died let in gusts of rain, wind, and cold. Harry, in his crib, could not escape, for the crib had been enchanted with holding spells to keep him from nocturnal wandering, and the spells continued to hold since they were by nature protective rather than detaining.
For quite some time, Harry continued to scream, but it eventually became apparent that his screaming had no effect. The man who had come into the room was long gone. His mommy was in the room, but she was asleep, and he could not wake her. He felt that his daddy should come up to cuddle him, but he did not. Harry was cold and terribly sleepy, but he could not stop crying. After a while, he crawled under the covers of his crib and curled up in a small ball, still sobbing in a hiccupy kind of way, and fell asleep. The concussion caused by the rebound of a killing curse is extraordinarily powerful, and he slept for a full twenty-five hours, give or take a few minutes.
At Hogwarts the Halloween celebration continued well past curfew. Costumes purchased at Gladrags were paraded to great applause. Jokes bought at Zonkos ricocheted off the walls, even normally stodgy Hufflepuff providing its share of false wands, whoopee cushions, hair-growing jinxes, and life-like but fake spiders. Professors Sprout and Flitwick struggled to maintain some kind of order, and brand-new Professor Snape was throwing conniption fits.
"Calm down, Severus," McGonagall cautioned. "You'll burst an artery." She herself had a paradoxically high tolerance for mayhem. "You did this when you were a student."
"I did not!" rejoined Snape. "This was one of the reasons I always skipped the Halloween dinner!" The psychological trauma of being in the position of the supervisor rather than the supervised had temporary caused him to forget that Halloween was one of his favorite holidays.
By midnight, the last of the students was at last in bed.
Owls continued to wing through the night bearing anxious messages of loss and confusion. Given that the majority of the wizarding world was at some sort of a party that night – large dances, small private get-togethers, festive dinners, not all of them as socially correct as the Malfoys' – it was inevitable that the news the owls carried would leak out not only to Death Eaters, but to the parents of Death Eaters, the brothers and sisters of Death Eaters, even to the aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends of Death Eaters, none of whom were bound by any requirements of secrecy. Slowly, gradually, inexorably, the rumor began to spread on the night air that something (no one knew what) had happened to You-Know-Who.
Shortly after two o'clock in the morning, the rumor reached a night duty officer at the Ministry of Magic, who hesitated due to the improbability of the news, then connected by floo with Minister Bagnold, who came at once, dusting floo powder from the shoulders of a cloak that she'd flung over her dressing gown and pajamas. She sent for Crouch, who rousted out all of the aurors. Their first task was to check with spies, stool pigeons, and snitches to find out how widespread the alarm was. Anything that had Death Eaters dispatching owls in the wee small hours of All Hallows morning merited investigation.
Human memory is a tricky thing. Our absolute, positive recollection of an event can be affected by a variety of stimuli. The last meal shared by Jesus and his disciples was so heavy with Passover symbolism that most of them later remembered it as having been a Passover seder, though it was actually the day before. Your humble author is unable to separate the 1969 moon landing from the World Series victory of the New York Mets – chronologically nearly three months apart – due to the similar sense of euphoria both events imparted to the nation. Vernon Dursley was no different.
Forever after, Vernon Dursley would blame the disruption in the normal routine of his life on the unnatural events transpiring within the wizarding world. Before the midnight that separated November 1 from November 2, his life was calm, orderly, predictable. After that, it became disorderly and chaotic, a constant tightrope walk between normality and the insane. For that reason, he always insisted that the day leading up to his apocalypse had been a Tuesday, the most uncompromisingly normal of all the days in the week for his drill business.
The objective truth was that Vernon Dursley's routine had already been disrupted by delays in the shipment of an important consignment of drills. He was getting up at the ungodly hour of seven in the morning on a Sunday to go into his office because of a foul-up with the drills.
At Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore was also awake at an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning while the world around him slept. One of the reasons was the owls.
Owls had begun arriving at Hogwarts at about two in the morning, but it was school policy that the students not receive their owls until breakfast time. None of the owls carried a declaration of emergency that would indicate, for example, the sudden demise of a parent (which required immediate action), and so the owls were directed to the owlery to await normal mail call. By five o'clock there were nearly fifty owls squabbling for perch room and nipping each other in a most unfriendly way, and caretaker Filch decided (to his great glee) that it merited awakening the headmaster.
"Who are they for?" Dumbledore asked mildly, trying not to yawn.
"Mostly Slytherin students. Do you want me to wake Professor Snape as well?" Filch grinned, though it looked more like a leer.
"No, no… Let the poor boy sleep. I have an idea what it might be about." Dumbledore returned to his bedroom where there was a floo message waiting impatiently. It was Alastor Moody.
"Thank goodness. I can't stay here long. They've called us all in. Seems they think something's happened to Voldymort. Have you got anything from your 'people?'"
"Only an unusual fluctuation in the quality of the mark. Nobody knows what it means. Should I come in as well?"
"Wouldn't hurt. Crouch is trying to stop Bagnold from calling in the Wizengamot, and you could help there. I'm not going to lie to you, Albus; this is beginning to look big. None of the Ministry's sources has any information on his movements since seven last night. Underline that. Nothing. Every Death Eater in England has been owling every other Death Eater in England. Something's gone down, but nobody knows what because nothing else has happened. Seriously, Albus. They're all worried about their dark lord, but other than that nothing else has happened."
On his way out of the grounds of the school, Headmaster Dumbledore stopped to speak with gamekeeper Hagrid.
"Everything wizardly seems to be covered. But we mustn't forget that some of our charges have non-wizardly weaknesses. The Longbottoms have the aurors to assist them, but the Potters have a muggle Achilles heel. If Minerva could keep an eye out there, I would feel safer."
It was still slightly before six o'clock when Dumbledore joined Minister Bagnold in a conference room on Level One of the Ministry. Already present were Bartemius Crouch, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and Cornelius Fudge, Deputy Minister in the Department of Magical Catastrophes. A stream of aurors arrived shortly after Dumbledore, however, and he had the feeling they may have been awaiting him. Dumbledore nodded politely to those he knew: Alastor Moody, Rufus Scrimgeour, Frank Longbottom, Gawain Robards… There were many of the younger ones he didn't know, but he was certain that he would in time.
Millicent Bagnold called the meeting to order, and Crouch immediately asked to speak. "What's he doing here?" he asked, indicating Dumbledore.
Bagnold looked down her nose in that irritatingly superior way she had and said, "Professor Dumbledore is a member of Wizengamot, any of whom I may invite at my pleasure. In addition, as headmaster of Hogwarts, he is in daily contact with the children of many of the people we are currently investigating. His insight may be valuable. For example…" She turned towards Dumbledore. "Has there been any unusual communication between your students and their families in the last twenty-four hours?"
"Indeed, yes," Dumbledore smiled at her. "At this moment there are well over fifty owls waiting to deliver messages to students, mostly in Slytherin house. They cannot make the delivery until breakfast starts, which on Sundays is at eight o'clock."
"Is fifty an unusual number?" Bagnold inquired.
"It is. On an average Sunday we get about thirty, and none arrive before the proper hour. The mail during the week is a bit heavier, but not on the weekends. Parents know their children like to sleep in, you see." He spread his hands and shrugged slightly, inviting them all to share his amusement at the coddling that parents gave their offspring.
"Now," the Minister continued, "Just exactly what do we have?"
Robards, who had more of a desk job and usually handled logistics, supply, and legal liaison, opened a folder in front of him. "Informants tell us that You-Know-Who…"
"Voldemort," Dumbledore reminded him.
"Voldemort. That Voldemort left their headquarters in London around seven last evening. We have no reports of him since. All indications are that their entire personnel were given permission to attend Halloween parties and other festivities, and that no one is aware of any operation planned for today or the near future. Our best estimates are that people began to notice something strange around seven-thirty because the owl traffic drew our attention at eight. It's been going steady ever since. We've been given access to some of the messages by our contacts, and the general tenor of the communication is – 'Did you feel that? What's happening? Where is he?' We are assuming that this all comes from an alteration in the dark mark tattoo that each has received. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the limit of our knowledge."
"It's been more than ten hours," Bagnold pointed out. "There must be something more."
"My information," said Dumbledore, "– and perhaps your people can confirm this – is that the mark flared suddenly and then subsided. It is now quiescent. My sources have no more idea than you do…"
"May we speak to this source?" Crouch leaned forward across the conference table. "It might be useful to have a first-hand account."
"Dear me," Dumbledore replied, glancing at Bagnold. "Dear me, but no."
"Don't we have anything on Voldemort's movements?" asked Longbottom.
Robards shook his head. "No," he answered, "not yet at least. We haven't located his disapparating point. Without that, all we know is that he could be anywhere within a two-hundred-fifty-mile radius of London. Five hundred if he was risking long-distance apparation."
"Or he may not have left London at all," suggested Bagnold.
"On the other hand," said Moody, "he may have left Britain altogether."
"That might," Dumbledore agreed, "account for the weakening in the strength of the tattoo."
Fudge spoke up for the first time. "What's the possibility he's gone overseas to drum up support for his cause here? Where would he have gone?"
"Durmstrang!" several voices chorused, including Crouch, Moody, and Robards. Dumbledore was silent, but his eyes had begun to glitter.
Bagnold was on her feet. "Get International Magical Cooperation. We need to contact Durmstrang at once to find if You-… if Lord Voldemort has attempted to communicate with anyone at their school."
Sirius Black arrived home from his Halloween party after daybreak that Sunday. Although somewhat the worse for wear and for numerous glasses of firewhisky, he managed to sneak into the house at Grimmauld Place without awakening his mother, who tended to sleep soundly in any case. Kreacher noticed his arrival, but Kreacher would say nothing, not wishing to disturb his mistress with things that could not be helped.
It was Sirius's intention to sleep the day through. For this he had three excellent excuses, the first being that he had celebrated mightily the night before. The second was that he was going to see James again that evening, after he got the secret from Peter, and the third that he always slept the day away of a Sunday.
In Sirius's favor, it must be said that he did not pass out. He distinctly remembered taking off his shoes and other unnecessary items of clothing before getting into bed in the room on the top landing, the room papered with posters of girls and motorcycles. Once his head touched the pillow, however, he was asleep at once, and no noise, no emergency, no pressing need of friend or family would have been able to rouse him for several hours.
At Hogwarts, McGonagall rose at six o'clock on Sundays. Her routine never varied. She performed her ablutions, dressed, and then spent some time reading for moral and spiritual enrichment. At seven precisely, she went downstairs to make certain that everything was proceeding in good order for the students' breakfast at eight.
On this particular day she found that things were not proceeding in good order at all.
"What do you mean, a hundred and twenty-seven owls? On a Sunday? That's unheard of. Have you told Professor Dumbledore?"
"Two hours ago, ma'am," said Filch with his usual leery grin. "He seemed to think it was important and left early for London. There's something brewing, I can feel it."
Having no intention of discussing the matter in detail with Filch, McGonagall thanked him and went looking for Professor Flitwick. He was just making his way down from the seventh floor, and she stopped him on the marble staircase with her news.
"And he didn't wake you to let you know?" Flitwick was at the heart of the matter at once. "Why, Minerva, you're deputy, and now you're in charge. You have to know. Whatever was Albus thinking of?"
"Exactly my thought," McGonagall concurred. "How am I to handle an emergency if I have no idea what it's about? He might have spoken to me. He knows he may wake me in an emergency."
At that moment, Hagrid entered the building, bringing a great gust of cold wind in through the oaken doors with him. "Ah, Professor McGonagall!" he called. "I've a message for ya from Professor Dumbledore. He was off t' the Ministry a tad early this morning."
"Well spit it out, man," cried Flitwick. "It's probably important, you know."
"Somewhat's happened with You-Know-Who's people. Everyone's all of a tither, but no one knows what's wrong. Owls everywhere, but no attacks reported. Dumbledore's worried about some o' his own people 'n asked if you could keep an eye on that rat Dursley 'n his family."
"You shouldn't speak of people that way, Hagrid," McGonagall admonished. "It isn't polite."
"Ain't a speck on what Dumbledore called him. Said he was a muggle kill-ease heel. He did. I heard him."
"A muggle Achilles heel?" echoed McGonagall, quick on the uptake even at that hour. "You don't think he expects a kidnapping, do you? Who is this Dursley person?"
"Chap what married Lily Potter's sister. I understand the sister's the only kin Mrs. Potter's got. 'N seeing as how You-Know-Who knows the Potters work for Dumbledore…"
"I have the picture," McGonagall said. "Where do these Dursleys live?"
"I don't rightly know, Professor, 'n Professor Dumbledore, he didn't tell me."
"I have a fairly good idea who might," said McGonagall slyly, and skirted around Hagrid to descend the stairs and head for the dungeons. She, you see, knew more about young Professor Snape and the Evans girl than she had ever let on.