XXIX. Stained with Treason So Unkind
26 March, 1979
Two days later, Harry lumbered down the stairs to get breakfast going, despite the throbbing in his shoulder. Doc and Guin had covered the Head the whole day before, and the younger wizard knew they could do with a lie-in today.
He was lingering over his tea and eggs, mind blessedly blank for once, when a hesitant knock sounded on the Head's main door.
"Door's open, but we're clos—"
The words died in his throat as Lily Evans walked in and quietly shut the door, her face grave. When she turned back around, Harry caught sight of a silver dog tag gripped tightly in her hand.
Not good. Really very not good.
"We need to talk, Harry."
"Tea?" he managed.
Shaking her head, Lily sat down across from him at the table. "My sister and brother-in-law were attacked the day before yesterday. Death Eaters."
So she knows. Okay. He'd been scanning the Daily Prophet for news on the Dursley's counterparts, hoping that it had been Aurors who'd Apparated in, but thus far the paper had made no mention of Muggles hurt in Surrey.
"I'm sor—" His mother's counterpart sent him a hard look that made him swallow his response.
"I had set some charms inside their house to let me know if someone magical ever came there. Illegal, I know. No matter. They woke me up—I didn't actually know what was happening for a while. I've never felt wards triggered before. I thought it was a headache." Her tone was simple and declarative, and Harry felt himself becoming even more nervous. "I arrived with some friends to find my sister tortured, an unconscious Death Eater stuck to a wall, and my brother-in-law dead."
It was Lily who I heard arriving. Lily and the Order?
Coldness took hold of him as her words sunk in.
Vernon didn't make it.
Uncle Vernon's dead.
His hands felt numb and he wondered idly if he were in a dream.
It's March of 1979.
. . .
Dudley won't be born for more than a year.
. . .
Dudley Dursley will not exist in this world.
Harry tried to find his breath. I don't—I don't know how to feel about this. I can't—
It suddenly occurred to him that he'd never wondered if Dudley had lived through the Dementor attack.
Heedless that her nephew had been wiped from existence, Lily went on in the same clipped tone. "I finally managed to calm my sister enough for her to tell me what happened. Apparently, four Death Eaters broke into the house. Petunia then activated this," she placed the dog tag on the table, "as she had been instructed to by my mother."
Tension filled the silence between them. His numbness was burned away by mounting anxiety.
Lily watched him carefully before continuing. "When I called my mother in Europe, she confirmed that she'd passed it on to my sister, since Petunia refused to leave Britain. Mum said she got it from a glamoured young man on the boat she took to Belgium. A glamour that matched the description Petunia gave me of the person who saved her."
His eyes couldn't seem to stop blinking.
"This was the same man who knew to call me 'This Year's Head Girl.' He said it to my parents."
Damn damn damn
"So I'm wondering. If I were to check your chest—where Petunia said the man who saved her was wounded—would I find injuries?"
He braced himself. Fuck. This is just like with Alice. "Yeah. Yeah, I daresay you would, Lily."
Her eyes glinted at him like chips of pale green ice. His wand slipped into his hand under the table.
A deep breath rattled through her. "Then thank you, Harry." She reached out and gripped his hand. Suddenly her words were tumbling out. "Thank you. I don't know, I can't understand why you gave that tag to my mum and dad but, I—I won't forget what you did for us."
He gaped at her dumbly. He wasn't sure what he had expected, but this wasn't it.
His head seemed to be trying to nod and shake at the same time, words dragging themselves out of his throat without his mind having a say. "It just…just seemed the thing to do. I—well, actually I forgot all about it until it activated."
Lily nodded absently and toyed with the tag's chain. "You should know that someone I knew was," she paused, her hands gesturing helplessly. "Someone I knew was there. Taking part."
She…she knows? She knows Wormtail was there! How?
"His name was Regulus."
Who the fuck is Regulus?
"He wasn't a friend," she rushed on. "He's Sirius Black's younger brother. A sixth year. I guess he was home for the Easter hols. We interrogated the Death Eater that was left alive, and he said that Regulus was supposed to torture Petunia and then kill her. Regulus was attacked before he could see that part all the way through. Petunia confirmed that it was the smaller one—Regulus—who tor-tor—," Lily broke off and took a fortifying breath, "—tortured her at the order of a Death Eater we're positive is Bellatrix Lestrange. Sirius' cousin."
Harry hadn't really registered anything after 'Sirius' younger brother.'
"Bro—brother? What? Sirius has a brother? I…I didn't know Sirius has a brother…"
It was with only half an ear that he listened to Lily give a short account of Sirius' family. Christ, they sound like the Malfoys only crazier, but oh God, oh fuck, I didn't mean to kill Sirius' brother!
The look on his face must have worried her. "Harry—hey, Harry! Listen to me," she commanded. "Regulus was using an Unforgivable on my sister. From what little we got from the prisoner, my family was picked as a way to get at Sirius. Y'know, hurt him by hurting his Mudblood friend's relatives."
Harry dumbly shook his head at the strangeness of the Dursleys being attacked by Death Eaters because of Sirius.
"And I guess the Blacks are furious that I would dare raise my wand against their Dark Lord." Lily added, eyes glinting. "For that they attacked my family in their beds—my helpless family. I—I don't think you should feel guilty for killing him."
She breathed heavily and ran an upset hand through her hair. "Look, I'm grateful to you, and so are my parents. Granted, telling Sirius it was you who killed Regulus is a really bad idea, but even he knows that Regulus put himself in the position that led to, well...you know."
Harry barely heard her, half of his mind still stuck on the fact that Sirius even had a brother, let alone that he himself had killed him.
I'm sorry, Sirius. I'm so sorry…
It's just so much easier when they're nothing more than masks. When they have names, when they're real people…. His stomach roiled dangerously.
Lily snapped her fingers in his face. "Harry—stop freaking out! It's okay!"
When he met her eyes again, she plowed on. "Look, the fourth Death Eater, the one who killed Petunia's husband, the survivor didn't see him without his mask, and didn't know his name. Can you identify him? Please, it's important."
Everything seemed to slow down, but at least he could think of something other than-r.
Yes. I bloody well can identify him.
He's your friend! Peter-fucking-Pettigrew!
The words were there, ready and waiting.
. . .
But what if she doesn't believe me?
I can say I saw him transform…
This was an initiation. He won't have the Mark yet.
. . .
His voice cracked through the dryness of his throat. "He was masked." Harry licked his lips again. "What happened to the Death Eater that survived?"
Lily scowled. "Jugson. Dumbledore and the Longbottoms interrogated him. But it's against the law to use Veritaserum on someone unless they're accused of murdering or trying to murder a magical. They arrested him, of course, but he wasn't marked and will probably get off on an Imperius defense or some rot." Her disgust blanketed the table. "Alice thinks he'll be out by the end of the week."
And how likely is it that Pettigrew would weasel out of this if I point you in his direction?
I want to tell you…
But he knew now he wouldn't. He'd be admitting to playing the vigilante and would have to cobble together a reason for being at the Dursleys' in the first place. And Peter would just be on the streets again with days.
"Oh…well, thanks for letting me know, I guess." Harry looked at his mother. "Did you—are you going to tell anyone what I did?"
"I suppose..." she said slowly, twirling a lock of her hair. "I suppose I don't see the need. My family owes you for this, and I'm grateful. I'd like to tell James, but he'd just tell Sirius. That's…that's not a good idea."
He let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.
"But Harry, I know you know about the Order what with Gideon and all, and I know Dumbledore likes you. And you seem to want to help. Honestly, why don't you just join?"
Harry opened his mouth-but he didn't know what to say. He was already spying for Dumbledore, and his lover was a member. The time Dumbledore had Obliviated him stood out in his mind, of course. But after so many months working with the Nines, he had to admit that he wouldn't even blink if Myrtle had Gigi Obliviate someone to protect the rest of the group.
We all have our own priorities. It doesn't make what Dumbledore did right, but it doesn't make what I'm doing with the Nines right either.
It's just a question of which wrongs we can live with.
With a start, he realized he finally understood why Dumbledore had thought it necessary to Obliviate him.
Alice said I hadn't given them a reason to trust me, and she wasn't wrong about that.
Maybe…maybe he should join the Order. He wanted more than anything to defeat Voldemort, and working directly with Dumbledore's group could be another step towards that.
As he bit his lip, the sound of a familiar snort sounded in his mind.
But...I don't think that Ab would want me to join.
Suddenly it was all just too much for one morning. He needed to get away, needed to think.
"I…I dunno," he finally said. "I guess I should think about joining, maybe."
"Sure…" The young woman nodded slowly, as though she sensed that her questions had shaken Harry more than she had expected. She held up the tag. "I'm giving this back to my mum. I've managed to get Petunia to them on the continent. It still works, right?"
"Yeah. All she has to do is touch it and say 'help,' and it'll notify me."
She arched an eyebrow. "Well, then I think it's best if you hand over yours as well. I appreciate what you did, but I'd feel better monitoring my own family."
"Oh…yeah, 'course that's fine," Harry stammered. He detached its companion from the chain around his neck, making sure it was the right one. "Just, uh, just be careful with it. I don't think they're strictly legal."
Tucking it into her pocket, she rolled her eyes. "Obviously. But," she smiled ruefully, "breaking the rules can be rather exciting, can't it?"
"Says the member of a vigilante organization," Harry quipped, dragging himself out of his thoughts enough to be amused at his own hypocrisy.
"Excuse me? We have Aurors in the Order!" she responded with her nose in the air, though her eyes were bright. "I'll have you know that makes us the very best sort of illegal there is."
Lily's feigned indignance reminded him sharply of the far more priggish girl she'd once been. "It's kinda funny, isn't it?" he wondered aloud, "The first time I met you at Hogwarts, you despised me because I killed someone. And now here you are, thanking me for doing the same."
Her smile drained away. "I guess…I guess things change, Harry." Standing, she kissed his cheek. "Thanks again."
He gave her an awkward little wave and stared at the door long after it had closed behind her.
Harry bit his lip and rapped on the door, wavering between knocking softly enough to reflect the lateness of the hour, and loudly enough to actually be heard.
All day he'd felt smothered by emotions he didn't have the right names for. His mind couldn't stop dwelling on Sirius'—his Sirius'—stricken face, couldn't stop seeing a boy, whom he imagined as a dark-haired Draco Malfoy, bleeding to death on the Dursleys' floor.
What I did wasn't wrong! one voice would remind him.
But it wasn't all that right, was it? another would insist.
He'd gotten used to having to kill people. Everyone in the Nines had.
But this isn't about killing people. This is about killing Sirius' brother.
At one point during the blur of a day, he'd started to wonder just how many people he'd killed, and how many would never be born because of his actions. I've probably wiped people out of existence by killing one of their parents, haven't I? They're just…gone. How many students, gone like Dudley?
So now he found himself on the stoop of the clock shop at two in the morning, shivering in threadbare pajamas and drowning in his own thoughts.
He knocked again.
A very disheveled Fabian wrenched the door open, his chevron mustache sticking out at all angles. Wiping sleep from his eyes, he gave Harry a flat look. "C'mon, seriously? He's already in bed."
"I know. But—" Harry scratched his face awkwardly. I'm freaking out because I lied to Lily about something important and I killed my godfather's brother and I can't sleep and I just want to see him even though I know he's upset I didn't tell him what happened the other night—which sounded completely mental. "Please."
Fabian sighed dramatically, but motioned him in. He waved away the stuttered apology and trundled up the stairs, Harry following awkwardly behind.
While the elder Prewett stumbled back into his own bedroom, Harry watched Gideon sleeping through his open door before softly calling his name.
"Can I—can I stay here tonight? Please?"
Gideon cracked an eye open and stared at him blearily. "H'rry?" A moment later he held up the covers.
Relieved, Harry slid in beside his boyfriend, closing his eyes as an arm curled around him.
"S'late." Gideon yawned. "You okay?"
Burrowing into the warmth of the bed, he stared at the wall. "No."
The hold on him tightened. "Wanna talk 'bout it?"
I really, really do.
The other man sighed into the silence.
Harry closed his eyes and traced his fingers over Gideon's knuckles.
Time passed to the beat of all the words they didn't say.
He watched the wall for a while longer, his mind buzzing with everything and nothing at the same time, feeling his breathing even out to match his lover's. "Gideon?"
"Can we…can we go flying together sometime?" Where the hell did that come from? "It would be—"
Normal. Simple. Unstained by all this shit.
Gideon huffed sleepily in what seemed to be an affirmative.
Eventually Gideon's breaths slowed and deepened. The minutes stretched into hours as Harry stared at the wall.
Exhaustion pressed in on him and he wanted to sleep, but his mind wouldn't stop dwelling on Vernon and Petunia, of all people.
They were wretched, disgusting sods here as well, so far as he knew. But they'd been sleeping together, nestled in their bed (his mind staunchly avoided envisioning that), just like he and Gideon were. They'd gone to bed in peace, making plans, expecting tomorrows together.
Fury, dense and cold, swelled in him.
Regulus' life was forfeit the moment he decided to steal that from them.
Harry blinked when he realised he truly believed that, when he realised he didn't care about Regulus Black.
I'm...yeah, I'm freaking out because I did something that's hurt Sirius.
His lip was nearly bleeding from being chewed so much.
But that's not on me, is it? That's on them. They're the ones who decided to attack the Dursleys, not me.
They're the ones who really hurt Sirius.
Gideon snuffled in his sleep as Harry nodded to himself.
I can live with this as well.
With that, he shifted even closer to Gideon and let himself fall asleep.
27 March, 1979
His boyfriend shook him awake the next morning. "Harry? It's half-ten. You should get up if you want to make the match."
Match? He cracked an eye open. "What're you on about?"
"Well, you can't fly with that shoulder. So how about today's Magpies—Wanderers match?"
Harry stared at the two tickets in Gideon's hand. The Wanderers' logo, a silver cleaver, was chasing a black magpie across them, until the bird managed to nab it in a talon. "How did you—? So fast?"
Pink tinged the other man's face as he shrugged. "I know a guy."
"You know a guy?" Harry couldn't stop the giggle that escaped him.
Gideon sniffed with exaggerated dignity. "Yeah. I know a guy." A moment later, the pretense cracked into a broad grin. "So, wanna go?"
Harry was already casting hurried cleansing charms on his rumpled clothing. Even in his original world he'd never seen a League game. "Hell yes!"
The pair Apparated to what appeared to be a bus stop in a Muggle housing development. Gideon quickly led a very confused Harry around the nearest house to a back garden surrounded by a towering hedgerow.
"It's just like the barrier at King's Cross," he explained as he walked straight into the hedge and disappeared.
Harry just barely stopped himself from following. I never rode the Hogwarts Express in this world.
A moment later his boyfriend popped out with an apologetic smile. Linking their arms together, they walked through the insubstantial hedges and onto—
—a broad cobblestoned plaza filled with vendors peddling all manner of trinkets and treats to the thronging crowd. Beyond rose a huge stone stadium adorned at the ground level with marble statues of Quidditch heroes of the past. The statues waved enthusiastically to the crowds, some even hopping out of their alcoves to sign autographs
A gaggle of children ran between the two men and a nearby quartet of musicians struck up a jaunty tune, but Harry barely noticed.
Sprawling letters carved above the soaring entry arch proclaimed that this was Dudley Road Stadium, Home of the Wigtown Wanderers Since 1674. (*)
He stared in horror at its name, wondering if the universe was stepping in just to make sure that that no day was too good for him.
"Want to grab a few beers on the way in?" Gideon called as he bought them each Wanderers scarves from a nearby peddler.
The red-and-silver stripes clashed outrageously with both his hair and the wind-blown flush on his cheeks. The sourness in his stomach dissipated.
Oh, fuck off universe. Today's for me.
"Sure!" he grinned back.
Four hours later, Harry was lounging in his seat as the stadium grew ever emptier, his mind buzzing pleasantly from the over-priced stouts they'd spent the match drinking.
The whole thing had been brilliant. Sure, it lacked the extravagance of the Quidditch World Cup, but the entire game had been neck-in-neck until the Wanderers' Seeker just barely edged ahead of Magpies' for the win.
He felt giddy with a bubbly sort of lightness that had nothing to do with the stouts. Gideon had his arm draped lazily around him, his beer was cold, and the sun was on his face.
Yeah. This was a brilliant idea.
"I didn't realise how much I miss Quidditch," Harry mused. "We shouldn't have waited so long to come to a game."
The other man nodded. "I miss playing."
Harry sputtered in shock at that. "Wait, you—"
"Beater for a few years. Wanted to be a Chaser, but I'm too big." He leaned in with a smirk. "It drove Fabe crazy when he didn't make the squad. 'Course, he only wanted on the team as a way to get into girls' knickers."
"And you obviously did it for love of the game?"
"Obviously," Gideon agreed solemnly. "Well, that and getting into Tor Tuckett's pants."
Harry's jaw dropped. "Tor Tuckett? As in 'Lead Chaser for the Wanderers' Tor Tuckett?"
The redhead broke into a sheepish grin. "Well, I did say I know a guy."
He couldn't decide whether to continue gaping or laugh. "That's—Tuckett? Seriously?"
His boyfriend looked both embarrassed and more than a little pleased. "Jealous?"
Sitting back, Harry could only shake his head with an incredulous smile. "A little, maybe. But honestly…I'm more impressed. Tuckett! I mean, wow."
"I'm sure he'll have a litter of equally attractive children with his new wife," Gideon laughed.
A troop of house-elves clad in Wanderers-themed tea towels appeared on the emptied lower tiers.
"You know, I miss playing too," he remarked wistfully. "I've gone so long without it, I'd almost forgotten…"
"Mm-hmm. Seeker. I was…actually, I was pretty damn good." He smiled at the memory of catching the Snitch from under Malfoy's nose. "Though that Abercrombie woman on the Wanderers would eat me for breakfast."
The arm around his uninjured shoulder pulled him closer. The two men fell into a comfortable silence, watching the sun shine down on the empty stadium.
"I like it when you tell me real things," Gideon suddenly said.
Harry's stomach started to sink at his foolish lapse. I can't believe I gave that away! But the warmth of Gideon's body and the honesty in his voice stilled his panic.
I'll be more careful from now on. I will.
But fuck it, I'm taking the day off.
And…and I like it when I tell him real things too.
29 March, 1979
Two days later, Dalcop and Nappy were sleeping with their heads on the bar, reminding Harry of Dean and Seamus having a kip during History of Magic. Pel looked close to joining them as Harry flicked his wand to get the chairs on the tables.
Charming the mop, he rubbed his still-aching shoulder with a grimace. Thankfully, Poppy had come through and given him more dittany, which had sped the healing process along significantly. Granted, the Hogwarts matron had been furious he had hadn't come straight to her. It was only because a worried Guin had sent her an owl that Poppy even knew about the injury.
His ears had rung from that meeting for nearly a day but, on the upside, his promise to have lunch with her soon saw the matron not scowling too much when she'd left.
She wasn't the only woman angry with him.
Myrtle had shown up, her cheeks pink with simmering rage, and threatened to sideline him if he dared respond to a tag without backup again.
Of course, he knew as well as she did that she wouldn't actually follow through on the threat—there just weren't enough members of the Nines to start benching available fighters.
She's arsed because I scared her. She was worried about me.
It was really kind of sweet.
As Harry started guiding the mop underneath the sleeping barflies, Pel blinked and looked around in some confusion.
"Cls'n' time already, then?"
"Long past. We're not too far from dawn. You all just look so cute and innocent when you're sleeping that I hate to wake you."
Pel snorted and cracked his neck. "Argh, I should'a drank more tonight. I'm entirely too sober."
Harry raised a brow. With a flick of his wand he sent the mop to the corner and drew the man another beer. "On the house, then."
The old solicitor perked up some at that. "Cheers." Drinking deeply, Pel eyed him. "You've been pensive this week, my friend. Care to share?"
Pel's the one person left in the world who I can actually talk to about this stuff.
And he probably won't laugh at this, at least.
He smiled tightly.
"Uh, yeah, actually….It's just something that happened a few days ago." Harry double-checked to make sure the other barflies were completely asleep, threw up a privacy charm, and then activated the charms that protected the Head when it was closed.
Taking a deep breath, he launched into describing the fight at the Dursleys' home.
"...So I killed my godfather's brother, and then I could have just told Lily something so that she would suspect Pettigrew, but I didn't."
He poured himself a shot of Firewhiskey and flopped down next to Pel. "I mean, all I had to say was that the last Death Eater was an animagus who turned into a rat, and this whole thing could have come out. But I just didn't."
Pel sat back and lit one of his Muggle cigarettes with his wandless Incendio. "Well, first off I suppose you need to ask yourself why you did that. Because you don't trust her, or because you think she won't be able to get Pettigrew caught? Or do you just want to kill him yourself?"
Your dad…your dad would have spared me, Harry.
Harry frowned thoughtfully. "In my world, Mum and Dad chose poorly, and it got them killed. So...maybe I'm scared they won't believe it? And then there's the other Death Eater who's probably going to get off. Dumbledore and Aurors interrogated him and everything, and he's still going to get away with it! I can't let that happen with Wormtail, not again. I just…I need to be sure that he can't hurt them or anyone else."
"It sounds to me like you're scared of trusting other folks to get the job done."
"Yeah...I guess." The younger wizard rubbed his temples. "I remember when I convinced Sirius and Professor Lupin not to kill him that night. I really thought it was the right thing to do, and in the end it just led to Riddle being brought back."
"It's… it's just so tempting to be compassionate, I guess. Too compassionate. And I don't know if Lily and James know that yet. I mean, this is a war we're fighting." Nervous energy pooled under his skin. "But, fuck, Pel, I killed Sirius' brother. I just, I don't—I can't stand the thought that I…" He put his head in his hands. "I dunno, Pel."
Pel nodded, his eyes on the smoke rising from his cigarette. "I don't rightly think I can decide anything for you. Tell them about Pettigrew, or don't tell them. Just remember that you gotta live with your choice, my friend." He clasped Harry's shoulder. "But, for what it's worth, I don't think you can fault yourself for killing the Black boy. It ain't nice, sure. But none of this is nice. An' I'd rather it be him than you.
"Now," he sat up straighter with a low grunt, "you didn't ask my opinion on this, but I'm going to give it. You said your mum thought you should join the Order. I'm thinking you should consider it."
"What? Seriously? I thought you didn't like Dumbledore."
"I don't. Not much, at least, though I've never thought him a bad man. I worked with great men at the Ministry, an' I've had my fill of them, is all. An' some of your Dumbledore's actions, from your old place, I mean…well, I don't think much of them at all." Pel motioned for Harry to refill his glass. "But, you should ask yourself how much this Dumbledore has really done to you, an' how much you might be able to do for this war with him and his."
Harry thought back. Yes, there was the Obliviation, and he really didn't like some of the ways that Albus had 'helped' him when he was on trial. Generally, though, his actions were… understandable. Hell, other than thinking I'm Voldemort's kid, our last meeting almost felt like one from my old universe.
Pel nodded. "Good, I can see you're thinking about it. An' think on this as well. Ab was a damn good man, but his issues with Dumbledore stemmed from way back. No matter how much you loved Ab, you shouldn't borrow another man's baggage, Harry. In this life, you'll get enough of your own." Pel's eyes grew soft, but his voice was firm. "You don't have to be Ab's man in everything. Hell, even he wouldn't want that."
A part of Harry wanted to rebel against his friend's words, but another part wondered if the man had a real point.
"And," the solicitor continued, "joining the Order would give you an excuse to actually get to know your parents, or as close as you'll ever get to them. I understand why you avoided them your first year here, but you've been keeping your distance long past the time you needed to do that. Maybe it's because they don't live up to your dreams, maybe not, but I'd be gutted if you missed your chance an' realized it too late."
Harry gaped at the man. "I haven't—I mean, I don't—"
Why haven't I tried to get to know them? It's always Lily who comes to me here, and that's not a regular thing. I haven't spoken more than a sentence to James since the Hogsmeade raid last year.
Pel lit another cigarette. "Just think on it, for your own sake."
"Yeah. Yeah, I will." He shook his head, a bemused smile on his lips. "Thanks Pel. You're good at this."
"Yep. Now, get me another drink. Since I'm doing your job playing the wise adviser at the bar tonight, I get to drink free."
31 March, 1979
The Head was teeming with nearly double the regular numbers that Saturday night. Once again the White Wyvern had been raided and the thirsty denizens of Knockturn turned their hopes for drink and revelry towards Hogsmeade.
Doc hovered protectively whenever Guin came up to deliver food, and Harry had already snapped his Fire Whip twice to stave off brawls. Some bloke who looked a bit like Sirius had taken it upon himself to start singing for the crowd. At some point a hulking man who looked half-troll whipped out a guitar from God-knows-where and joined him.
The singer wasn't complete rubbish, but after thirty minutes of his music Harry rather wished that whoever had just lobbed the turnip at the man's head had better aim.
It was into such an unruly atmosphere that a very…odd man walked at half-ten. He made a beeline for Harry, his elegant stride contrasting sharply with his appearance.
The man's robes had the tatty, well-used look of most of the clothing worn by the Head's regulars. Harry frowned, however, as he realized that the material itself was far too fine, the lines too flattering, and the patches—seriously, are those silk patches?—almost artfully arranged.
So also the smudge of what he assumed was ash from a Floo, which stretched across one of the man's cheekbones as though it had been applied with an eye towards highlighting his bone structure. His features were entirely forgettable—brown hair, brown eyes, late-twenties—but he walked as though he expected every eye in the pub to turn towards him appreciatively.
"You there!" He looked down his nose at Harry. "I require the rental of a room."
"Sure." There's something familiar about his voice. "You can have Room Six, last door down the hall upstairs. Will you being wanting an hourly or nightly rate?"
"Hourly," the man bit out through gritted teeth.
Harry raised an eyebrow. Damn, calm down. No judgment here, mate. "If you want food or drinks sent to the room, just let us know."
"I shall require no…fare from this establishment. Two associates will be arriving shortly. Do direct them to me." He sniffed as he brushed imaginary lint from his lapel.
Withholding a snort at the man's tone and the interesting evening he was apparently planning, Harry simply took his coins and held out the key to the Gray Room. As the man moved to take it, his outer robe fell open momentarily, revealing a long encased wand strapped to his belt.
Oh, no bloody way.
The wand was topped with an elegant silver serpent.
Great disguise, Lucius, but you shouldn't use such distinctive accessories if you don't want to be recognized, you stupid sod.
The glamoured Lucius Malfoy turned without a word and moved smoothly through the public room, his lip curled.
Harry waited until the man was halfway up the stairs before heading casually towards the kitchen, where he quickly shut the door and turned to Guin.
"Lucius Malfoy's here, disguised. He just rented the Gray Room. Says he's expecting friends."
A wolfish grin flashed back at him.. "Well, go back to the pub and send them up! I'll get Ariana to turn the radio on and we'll see what the insipid little ponce has to say."
"What? No, I wanted to stay and listen in, why don't you go—"
A long rowan wand digging into his cheek cut him off. "Oi! Pregnant, bored, and Slytherin here! I get to be the spymaster, not you. You hear me? It's the only fun I can have any more!"
"Well, I mean—"
Guin narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice to a threatening purr. ""I'm the spymaster here. Right, Harry?"
He backed towards the door, hands raised in surrender. "Yes, yes, okay! You're the spymaster. Spymaster Guin. Sheesh."
A pleased smile spread across her face. "Great, so long as we're in agreement. I'll let you know what they say. Ari, dear, grab your fedora. We've got a case!"
Not much later, a sallow-faced woman who nonetheless boasted the haughty confidence of beauty stalked into the pub and demanded to be shown to the room her associate had let. She was followed by a man with unfortunate nose hair and shoes polished to a mirror-shine.
Business was booming though, so it took Harry a few hours to drop into the kitchen for a visit with the self-appointed spymaster, long after Malfoy had turned in the key and left with a final sniff of disdain.
"Well?" he asked without preamble.
Guin and the portrait both turned to him with cat-got-the-canary smiles. He kept himself from commenting on the fact that Ariana now sported a dark fedora. God, next thing I know, she'll be wrapped in a trench coat.
"Well," Guin began, "the woman was Lenore Rosier—Lenore Travers now. She was a Slytherin in the year below mine, and her family's definitely in His pocket. The man was Malfoy's old mate Phlegyas Parkinson. Definitely a Death Eater. Anyway," she licked her lips with relish, "quite a big bug has crawled up dear Lucius' bum. He's terrified."
Harry smirked. "I'm guessing a terrified Malfoy is the very best sort of Malfoy."
"Maybe….Look, you have to read this. I set a spelled quill to take down everything exactly. It's…it's not what I expected, to be honest."
Harry scanned the parchment quickly. Let's see….Being a smarmy git…purebloods're awesome …'when my father heard about this,' Seriously?…Mudbloods blah, blah, blah…more smarmy gittishness— "The fuck?"
He sat down heavily in one the kitchen's chairs.
Guin eyed him. "You got to the 'have you considered,' part then?"
He nodded absently, eyes glued to the parchment. "He seriously asks them if they've considered whether or not following the Dark Lord is in the best interest of their families? Lucius bloody Malfoy is having doubts about Voldemort?" It seemed impossible; he remembered all too well that the man had been devoted enough to unleash a bloody basilisk in his own kid's school.
"Keep reading. He's going mental over Regulus Black dying on his initiation raid, even though I guess Bellatrix was acting independently there. She wanted to fast-track Black, and apparently suspected some other wanna-be Death Eater of being a spy. Anyway, Malfoy's wife is Regulus Black's cousin— "
Harry nearly missed the next bit, as he was quite occupied with realising that Sirius and Draco Malfoy were related
"—and apparently half the Blacks aren't quite so keen on the Dark Lord now that their little heir's six feet down—"
He cringed a bit at that, but Guin was plowing on.
"But the shocker is coming up."
His jaw slowly dropped as ink on parchment glared back up at him.
Lenore Travers: You cannot truly be considering a break with the Dark Lord, Lucius. The littlest Black knew the risks, as did his family. He simply wasn't good enough. Such a loss is hardly a reflection of the Dark Lord's efficacy. Truly, the loss should be attributed to Bellatrix's recklessness.
Lucius Malfoy: Listen to me, Lenore. Neither of you have been in His presence for any period of time in ages. I have. I know. You were at Gringotts, Phlegyas, surely you felt it. Fine! Say nothing. I know you did, the same as I, the same as the rest of us. He's done something, drawn on magics that I fear ought not be drawn on. Have either of you even seen him uncloaked in the last few years? I did. Once, last week. All beauty is gone from him—
Lenore Travers: Shut up, Lucius. You speak things that should not be spoken, you know this.
Lucius Malfoy: Damn it, Lenore! Something is wrong. I fear we have thrown our lots in with a monster and—
Phlegyas Parkinson: You're treading closely towards treason, Lucius.
Lucius Malfoy: I'd rather treasonous words than a faithful death. I doubt that he cares about any of his followers at this point. All his time is spent in secret study.
Phlegyas Parkinson: That's not true. You know that he's been orchestrating getting us into position in the Ministry, and we've had to maintain quiet on that front—
Lucius Malfoy: Yes, but why? First we were to focus on Diagon, but you saw how that turned out. Our dead outnumbered theirs, and yet he still acted as though it were a success but for the lucky shots of those foolhardy sycophants. Yes, now all our attention is on the Ministry, yet we know nothing of why we're doing what we're doing. Meanwhile, it took us weeks to convince him to hold off on raids since our initiates kept failing to return. Weeks! How many children of noble stock did he throw away even as so few of the vermin died? And now he's—
Lenore Travers: I can listen to no more to this. We are committed, Lucius. You know this. You know what your mark means.
The last few inches continued in much the same vein.
Harry sat back thoughtfully. "What do you think he means, that bit about Voldemort—oh don't shudder Guin—having done something that freaks even Malfoy out?"
"No idea…You can't tell from the transcript, but Malfoy sounded well and truly petrified." She chewed her lip thoughtfully. "It was weird, honestly. Lucius was a ridiculous, puffed-up little shit in school, but he was never stupid, and rarely afraid."
"Yeah…" He mulled over Malfoy's words. "Afraid enough to even consider turning against Voldemort. I'd never have thought it possible. So…" Green eyes met blue ones. "So this is probably pretty awful for us, isn't it?"
Guin could only shrug.
"I'll Floo to Dumbledore and give him a copy of the transcript. This—all this, the Ministry, Gringotts—this isn't something to fuck around with."
"Yeah, Harry. Yeah, that's a good idea."
4 April, 1979
Harry was chuckling with Pel over Caff Burke's latest letter on a mild April evening a few days later. Apparently the Captain was besotted with the men of Polynesia, who were helping him "bear the heartache" caused by Harry's "ill-advised flirtation with monogamy."
Berk, he smiled to himself.
A second later the smile abruptly slid from his face, his heart pumping too fast.
The young man had followed Remus Lupin into the Head and was taking a seat with his fellow Marauder at a front table, heedless to the seething glare Harry was trying to school off his face.
Up at the bar, Pel had noticed Harry stiffen and was following his gaze.
What am I going to do?
He spent the next hour on autopilot, taking orders, smiling at the few patrons in the pub, and making small talk with the regulars, all the while keeping himself keenly aware of Wormtail's location.
At half-eight, Loch and some other werewolves came in, and Lupin moved to join their table. Pettigrew stood to come settle his tab with Guin.
He's leaving. He'll be alone.
His pulse thrummed in anticipation.
What am I going to do?
Pel sighed. "Harry, lad, you said you'd come to my flat to help me with that blasted Muggle coffee maker I got from Eloise, remember? Got time for that now?"
What the hell? Kinda busy here, Pel!
He may want to throttle him, but Harry also trusted the old solicitor. "Er, yeah—hey Doc, you two got the pub while I, um, help this old fool?"
Less than a minute later, Harry Flooed with Pel to what appeared to be the man's run-down, book-filled flat.
"What the hell is this about? Pettigrew was right th—"
"Alibi," the other man grunted. "You need one if you're going after him. Now you got one, an' everyone saw you leave before him. But hustle now back to the village if following him is what you're after."
What am I going to do?
The question was a pointless sop to pretending a moral crisis. Harry knew exactly what he was going to do.
Gratitude for Pel's foresight filled him, and he clasped the man on the shoulder.
"Go on then. An' don't be stupid, my friend. Whatever you do, get your arse here in less than an hour so you can go back to the Head with me."
Harry nodded absently and Apparated to a dark corner of Low Street.
Twenty-five minutes later, he was joking with the barflies about Pel's inability to correctly plug in a machine and locate an 'on' button.
The night never got very busy, and he, just as he usually did, spent his time chatting with the patrons. Meanwhile Guin rested her aching feet by sitting with the werewolves and talking about all things culinary with Loch. Lupin looked very amused by the addition to their group.
At midnight Harry bid good night to Doc, who was set to close the pub, and headed up to his bedroom, just as he usually did.
No one in the inn heard the soft pop of Apparation when he departed out the back for Myrtle's warehouse.
He had a date with a rat.
Capturing the man had been laughably easy, almost as though the universe were attempting to make up for the ridiculous cluster of flukes that had facilitated Pettigrew's escape back in Harry's third year.
Pettigrew had been headed for the little neighborhood of flats to the southwest of the Head off Low Street—whether because he lived in one or was going to visiting an acquaintance, Harry didn't know—and the street had been dark and deserted.
He'd Disillusioned himself and simply waited until Wormtail was walking in a shadowed part of the street. When he was only a few feet away, Harry hit him with a quiet Stupefy, caught his body before it could fall, and Disapparated with him to the parking lot behind Myrtle's warehouse. A Feather-Light and second Disillusionment charm later, and Harry was lugging an unconscious, invisible Peter Pettigrew into the Nines' headquarters.
He'd wanted to just kill the man and be done with it, but he had to know, had to hear from Pettigrew himself why he'd decided to attack Lily's family.
Myrtle had notbeen pleased, but she had listened to him. After shooing out the few other Nines in the warehouse, she'd allowed him to take Wormtail into the sealed interrogation room.
"What the hell, Harry?" she'd burst out when he'd lifted the Disillusionment charm on the man. "That's Pettigrew, right? Isn't he in the fucking Order?"
"Yeah. But he's also the fourth Death Eater that was at the raid in Surrey earlier this week. He's a rat animagus, and I saw him transform."
"So you're thinking he's a traitor?"
"Both he and the Death Eater I killed had connections to the Muggles in the house through Lily Evans—James' Potter's girlfriend. Pettigrew's the one who killed Evan's brother-in-law that night. Would Dumbledore really have one of his spies go that far?"
"Can I use the room, then?"
A searching look was followed by a sigh. "Come back late tonight."
And now as he re-entered the warehouse several hours later, he found Myrtle waiting for him, her expression serious.
"You really have to do this, don't you?" There was no humor in her laugh. "Nevermind. No need to answer that." The enchantress swore under her breath. "Shit. Yes. This one time I'll let you use the room for yourself. But I'll be on the other side of the warehouse not seeing a damn thing when you do it. I'm in this to help Muggleborn and stick it to those bastard purebloods, not to start a war with Dumbledore. You hear me?"
Dumbledore had taken him seriously and thanked him profusely for the information he'd gotten from Lucius Malfoy. Hell, he was pretty sure that the man had actually been telling the truth when he'd confessed he had no idea what Voldemort was up to.
I don't want to start a war with Albus either. At all.
But there's nothing for it.
"Yeah, I hear you, Myrtle. Thanks."
"Things are getting hot here. Too hot. I should leave Britain." She shook her head in disgust. "If he's an animagus, make sure to seal the room after me and use the cuffs."
Harry nodded tiredly, closing his eyes. The soft clicks of her boots were the only signs of Myrtle's departure.
He opened the door to the room and stared at Wormtail.
He's really only my age.
It's so much easier when they're wearing masks.
Sighing, he turned the stunned teenager on his stomach and fastened Myrtle's mock-up of the DMLE's magic dampening cuffs around his wrists. They were a far cry from Auror-grade, but they'd hold for a few hours.
Harry didn't think he'd need even a fraction of that time.
Sitting down in the lone metal folding chair in the room, Harry flicked a spell at Wormtail to sit him upright, then attached his back to the wall with a sticking charm before casting a Renervate.
The man came to life sputtering. "Wha—where'm I—Harry?" His eyes widened when he spied Harry sitting across from him. "Harry, have we…have we been captured?"
"You have." Harry watched with no pleasure as it dawned on Pettigrew that his companion might be his captor. "We need to talk, Peter."
He ignored the boy's stammers.
"You went to Petunia Dursley's house with Bellatrix Lestrange, Regulus Black, and Jugson last weekend," Harry began, voice flat. "There you killed Vernon Dursley. I suspect this was an initiation raid for your entrance into the Death Eaters. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Wormtail's laugh was nervous, little more than a wheeze. "No, Harry, this is crazy—I didn't—I wouldn't—don't know what you're saying, I—"
"I was there," he interrupted. "I was the one who came, the one who killed Black, the one who saw you turn into your animagus form and escape. I'll ask again. Do you have anything to say?"
The young man's gaze darted around the room. "You…you don't understand! This was all…it was part of the plan, see? We needed a spy in the Death Eaters, and I was chosen. It was all part of the act, I swear!" He met Harry's stare without shame, his own eyes wide and pleading.
He looks just like he did in the Shack.
Harry sat back and feigned relief. "Oh, thank goodness. I'll just send a patronus to Dumbledore to confirm."
Pettigrew realised immediately his response had been too quick, too sincere. "No, I mean…we—we didn't tell Dumbledore. We didn't think he'd approve of it, but we need a spy. You know that. They'd never believe that James turned and Sirius…well, Sirius didn't want to have to be with his brother, see?"
Harry stared at the man. "So you're asking me to believe that James Potter was in on you attacking and murdering his girlfriend's family? And Sirius?" He shrugged and raised his wand. "Well, seems out of character, but let's see what they say."
Wormtail sputtered, writhing in the ropes.
This pretense is tedious anyway.
"Save it, Peter," he sighed, standing up and drawing his old knife. "We both know the truth, I'd say. You decided to join the Death Eaters. I would like to know why."
The young man attempt to scoff, but the sound was brittle. "What, are you going to cut me with that if I don't answer, Harry?"
The effect that single word had on the other man was shocking. At once his face fell and raw fear flooded his eyes. The laughter died abruptly.
"Were you there?" Peter finally hissed. "At Gringotts? I can tell you were by your face. You must have felt Him then. The power…the Dark Lord has powers we can't even dream of, don't you see? We have no chance, and fighting back…James and Sirius, they have old families and power behind their names. But I don't have anything, no power! And—and I want to survive this war. I don't want to die, and I'll do what I need to see that happen!" Peter spat on the floor. "So don't you dare judge me. I—I'm the smart one here! The survivor!"
When Harry said nothing, Peter's tone turned confident and mocking. "Besides, Harry, I'm James' and Sirius' best friend. I work for Albus Dumbledore! What makes you think anyone's going to believe you? I've got no Mark yet. I'm a pureblood. They can't make me take Veritaserum unless I'm accused of killing a magical, not some worthless Muggle nobody."
Harry's face stayed blank as Peter slowly began to grin.
"You've got no proof! Heh, you can't even accuse me without putting yourself in a Muggle house using magic to kill a member of one of the most powerful families in Britain! You've already got a criminal record. Who's to say that you won't see more trouble for this than me?"
Harry closed his eyes.
"You're right about all that." Poor, stupid Peter. "I won't be telling anyone."
A nervous, unbelieving smile spread across Pettigrew's face. "Really? Oh…Our, uh, our little secret, then, Harry?"
"Yes, Peter," he agreed quietly. "Our little secret."
Then he took three steps forward and slit Wormtail's throat from ear to ear.
Peter's smile died with him as he bled out onto Myrtle's floor.
The knife felt impossibly heavy.
That was murder.
Harry watched the red pool under Peter's body grow.
Yes. Yes, it was.
. . .
He nodded to himself.
Five minutes later, he closed the door behind a pristine, empty room and handed the cuffs to Myrtle.
She accepted them silently, and Harry regarded her with a long, level look before planting a kiss full on her lips.
"No idea what you're talking about," she snapped, and he vacantly half-smiled in understanding. "But…if you're looking to explore the delights of the fairer sex, I—"
"Your loss," she shrugged.
His laugh was just a bit too hollow, a bit too tired. "Really, Myrtle," his voice deepened, "Thanks."
"Oh, get out of here. Go get naked with your man or something."
Harry left and walked through the city, vaguely enjoying the almost wintery chill of the spring night. He waited until he was a few miles from the warehouse before dropping a transfigured bone that had once been a traitor into a sewer grate.
. . .
When he finally returned to the village, Harry curled into Gideon's warmth and fell into an untroubled sleep the moment his head hit the pillow.
Two days later, Albus wrote to ask if there had been anyone suspicious in the pub the night Peter disappeared.
"No, Albus, everything was normal. Only regulars in that night, so far as I remember."
Three days later, a pair of Aurors he didn't recognize arrived to take his statement on a missing person.
"I wasn't here when he left—I was off at Pel's place. But he was gone when I got back sometime after nine or so. Sorry I can't be of more help."
They nodded and thanked him. Neither seemed optimistic about solving the case. Missing people were becoming more and more common since the Battle at Gringotts.
Dangerous times, after all.
The title of this chapter is taken from a line in Spenser's Faerie Queen (6.2)
Regarding Dudley Road Stadium: This was a real football/soccer stadium in the nineteenth century, the home of the Wolverhampton Wanderers. A housing development now stands where it once did. I liked the coincidence of its name and the fact that it was actually the stadium for a team called the Wanderers, so I used it.
Huge thank to my amazing beta AverageFish. Check out their story, Not as Clever as He Thinks (story id:12987401).
As always, thank you for reading my story! We're just about 2/3 of the way through it now.