TITLE: Double Back
DISCLAIMER: All things Harry Potter belong J K Rowling... basically, if you recognise it, it isn't mine... Please don't sic the Aurors on me, I'm just here for the fun.
AN: Adult content ahead, while not explicit, there is sections of this chapter that might trigger abuse or rape victims. No explicit scenes, but aftermath and victim support.
Thursday, 7th November
Sirius nodded with a small smile as Remus opened his front door, obviously surprised to see him drop by. "Hey Moony."
"Didn't expect you," Remus smiled, standing aside and welcoming in to his little flat. It was only a small place, a single floor with one bedroom, a lounge, kitchen and a small bathroom, but it was comfortable and cheap enough that he could keep it with his meagre income. "How are things?" He asked, closing the front door behind them and gesturing for Sirius to move through to the small lounge area.
"Alright," Sirius smiled, sitting down on the couch comfortably. "What about you?" He asked, honestly curious. "I was kinda giving you some space after... you know." He gestured in the air to indicate everything they'd talked about on Halloween.
"It's a lot," Remus admitted with a grimace, sitting down on the couch next to Sirius. "With everything that Harry talked about... the older Harry, that future..." He trailed off awkwardly.
"Yeah," Sirius sighed, knowing exactly where his friend was coming from. "We all screwed up." He admitted with a grimace.
"It's no wonder he hates me," Remus nodded morosely. "After abandoning him so many times, I can't even blame him for it."
"He doesn't hate you," Sirius shook his head at that. "He doesn't, really." He reiterated when Remus looked at him with a disbelieving expression on his face. "Look, we've all got a second chance here. Junior, me, you, everyone. I'm all for taking hold of it and making sure that future of Junior's never comes around again."
"I want to help, I really do..." Remus nodded. "I just... I don't know how I can face him after learning what I did... am going to do... what the other me did." He settled on, trying to get the tenses right in his head. "It's weird enough with him looking like Prongs, but he's not like him at all."
"I know," Sirius grunted in amusement, happy that he finally had someone to talk about things like this with. "It's his face right? You should see him whenever he's looking at someone doing something stupid. He gets this look like he can't believe what he's seeing." He explained with a snort of laughter.
"Prongs would have just laughed at it or encouraged them." Remus smiled, happy to reminisce about the old days.
"He's not Prongs, I get that now. He's never going to be anything like him, the little Harry either." Sirius sighed. "I think Junior just wants to make sure that Harry doesn't grow up to be like him this time around."
"That makes sense I guess," Remus nodded thoughtfully, if he could go back and stop his younger self from making all those mistakes, he would take that chance in a heartbeat. "But what can I do to help with that?"
"I don't know about helping with Harry, but I do have a job offer for you. Something that could really help us out." Sirius prompted him.
"Oh?" Remus asked, perking up at what sounded like an honest offer and not just charity.
"Amelia Bones, heard of her?" Sirius asked.
"DMLE Director, pretty tough from what I've heard, not a bigot or anything though, tough but fair." Remus mused after a moment of running the name around in his head.
"She's with Junior, you know," Sirius gave a salacious grin at that, causing Remus to blink in surprise. "Likes it rough apparently, or Junior does judging from the marks I've seen her leave on him." He continued with a bark of laughter.
"That's little Harry, I really don't need to know that." Remus grimaced, shaking his head to clear the mental images that came with that discussion.
"Anyway," Sirius snorted, waving away Remus' complaint. "She's looking for you."
"Me?" Remus blinked in surprise, pretty sure he hadn't given the director of the DMLE any reason to be hunting him down.
"Not like that," Sirius shook his head, seeing the look of fear rising in Remus' eyes. "She wants to offer you a job."
"Werewolves aren't allowed to be aurors." Remus frowned automatically.
"How about teaching the aurors?" Sirius corrected him with a grin, causing Remus to tilt his head in surprise as he considered that. "Don't know if it's going to be a long term gig or anything, but she's looking for someone to train the aurors and get them up to scratch. She mentioned the patronus at least, but I figure you probably know a hell of a lot more than that that'd be useful to her squads right?"
"Probably," Remus mused thoughtfully. "Did Junior put her up to this?"
"Nope, asked me to put you in touch on her own," Sirius shrugged. "Figure she knows Junior learnt the patronus from you originally, and if you're good enough to teach him then..." He trailed off with a grin.
"She knows then? About the future and everything?" Remus asked.
"Yup, think she actually knew before I did." Sirius nodded. "At least, well, Junior and her were bumping uglies before I knew anyway, and he probably told her before they got around to the bedroom right?" He smirked as Remus shook his head again.
"I never thought I'd get an offer from The Auror's like that," Remus muttered, happy moving past Sirius' salacious thoughts for now. "You're sure it's real, not a trick or anything?"
"Yup," Sirius nodded emphatically. "Know 'Melia pretty well by now, she's not the type to try anything like that. Pretty much as much of a straight caster as you can get. What you see is what you get with her."
"Alright," Remus gave a small smile at that. "I'll go and visit her then, see what she wants."
"That's all she's asking for right?" Sirius grinned.
"What else has been going on? How's Harry doing at Hogwarts?" Remus smiled, happy to at least be back on amicable terms with his old friend at last.
"Harry's alright, got his own merry band of friends, bunch of six according to Junior, in Hufflepuff, Gryffindor and Slytherin if you can believe it." Sirius explained with a bemused expression on his face.
"Slytherins and Gryffindors being friends?" Remus raised both eyebrows at that.
"Blame Junior for that one, or 'Melia, or the pair of them. You know what 'puff's are like, they'll make friends with anyone." Sirius snorted in amusement. "They're not too bad I reckon anyway, not for snakes, if they're hanging around with Harry and his muggle-born, I reckon they should be alright anyway."
"Harry's muggle-born?" Remus questioned, curious about that turn of phrase.
"One of Junior's regrets," Sirius frowned. "Said she was his big love, but he never had the balls to get together with her before she went back to the muggle world. He hasn't said much about it, from what I can figure out, pretty much his entire childhood was fighting Voldemort and the Death Eaters, trying to have a life without Dumbledore pulling his strings around, and then trying to put everything back together after the war." He explained, gesturing to Remus' muggle flat around them. "I figure he was being jerked around by Dumbles so much that he never really got to be a kid. He never even spoke about having a proper girlfriend or anything before he came back here, like there wasn't even anything he missed back in the future for him to worry about leaving behind." He explained with a grimace, not liking the sound of Junior's future one bit. "He's doing everything he can to make sure she gets a fairer shake of things this time around."
"What's she like?" Remus asked, pondering what sort of witch little Harry would carry such a torch for.
"Small, really small, tinier than we were, big bushy hair, big teeth." Sirius shrugged. "What do you want me to say? She's a firstie, babbling a hundred words a minute and probably spending more time in the library than even you did." He explained with a smirk. "'Parently Junior, both versions of him, has a thing for brainy girls, because Amelia's no slouch in the brains department either."
"They probably get that from Prongs." Remus chuckled, thinking about how Lily was the only witch Prongs had ever been really interested in in school. "What else is going on?" He asked, smiling indulgently at Sirius' description of the young witch.
"Prongs' cottage," Sirius sighed. "After the last attack, the arseholes at The Ministry reckon it isn't safe anymore." He explained with a sullen frown on his face.
"What does that mean?" Remus asked.
"They gave it to Junior, back to Junior I guess? Figure it's his place anyway right?" Sirius shrugged. "Think they just didn't want the bad publicity of pulling it down, but if Junior has to do it, nobody's going to say a thing?" He muttered with a frown.
"He's going to pull it down?" Remus asked, not sure exactly how he felt about that.
"Don't know," Sirius shook his head. "Apparently it needs doing, but... I couldn't... I couldn't sit around when they were discussing it. Not Prongs' place."
"No," Remus nodded his head in agreement with what Sirius was saying, he didn't think he'd be able to sit around while they were talking about that either. "What about fixing it? Rebuilding it?"
"Haven't really spoken to Junior about it," Sirius frowned. "Going to be weird enough right? I don't think it'd be somewhere he'd want to live, not knowing... you know, Prongs and Lily died there."
"No," Remus nodded, at least he could understand that. He couldn't see either of the two Harry's wanting to live there with that sort of past hanging around the cottage.
"But it's not like it's something he'd want to sell either, or just hand off for someone else to live there. It wouldn't be right." Sirius sighed, slumping back in the couch. "It's just... It was Prongs' place, it doesn't seem right you know."
"Yeah," Remus grimaced, not seeing a right answer either. Demolishing the place didn't feel right, but nobody that should be living there would ever want to live there, and selling it off wasn't right either.
"I don't know, maybe it's right to pull it down, clean the grounds up, somewhere fresh for Harry and his muggle born to start when they get together right?" Sirius mused thoughtfully. "Build a new place on the land, something just for Harry?"
"Maybe," Remus nodded thoughtfully, considering what Sirius was saying. "What about everything else? There has to be some happy news somewhere right?" He asked hopefully, making a concerted effort to put Prongs' cottage out of mind for now and try and focus on happier things.
"I keep looking for the silver lining myself," Sirius snorted. "Come on, I need to head to Diagon anyway to pick up a few quartz slates to finish up some bits, you can fill me in on whats going on with you while we shop."
"Sirius, I can't just..."
"Come on, lunch, my treat, we'll make a day of it." Sirius pushed again as he stood up from the couch. "Then you can head over to The Ministry and do whatever you need to do with 'Melia there." He said, looking down to Remus and fixing him with a look that left no room to argue.
"Fine," Remus huffed as he stood up himself, knowing there was very little use in arguing with Sirius when he was in this sort of mood. "Let me grab my coat." He muttered, wandering through to the kitchen where he always left his worn old jacket hanging over one of the chairs by the small table there, and hoped that today would be the start of repairing what little friendships he had left.
Lac des Bouillouses
Des Bouillouses Enclave
The Pyrenees mountains
James sighed to himself as he appreciated the comfort of sitting down, resting his weary legs as he sank to the comfortable wooden bench outside one of the large wooden log style cottages that were dotted around the lake shores of the veela enclave.
Jean had slipped inside to talk to two of the veela there and hopefully get some more details about what had happened the night that Cierre had gone missing, leaving him to rest outside and recover from their morning excursion.
They'd both been up early, with Appoline bringing them both to the enclave before returning home to look after Gabrielle while Fleur attended her daily classes. It had been three hours of hard walking around the enclave grounds, looking at the various unicorn herds that were happily milling around the surrounding forest and looking for any signs or clues that the invading Death Eaters might have left behind.
So far though, they'd come up empty, and Jean had been quick to point out that as much as James was fixated on thinking the worst might have happened, there was no actual proof that Cierre had been taken by Death Eaters, and that any number of things could have happened to the young veela. Which was certainly true, but in his gut, James knew that it didn't feel like any accident or simple case of the girl wandering off here.
Despite their lack of progress with the Death Eaters or veela, the trip had been more than worth it as far as Harry was concerned. Thanks to Jean's help with a handy translation charm, they'd managed to make their way through quite a good selection of the books from Flamel's section of the Beauxbatons library, and had come across quite a bit that had confirmed to him that Voldemort certainly had come to Beauxbatons in his original time, either that he'd come himself or had someone infiltrate the library for him and steal Flamel's books.
While he hadn't found the pages of alchemical rituals for making the homunculus that Nicolas Flamel had talked about, the two specific pieces of magic he had come across in those ancient books had proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Voldemort had read the same books at some point.
The charm for replacing a lost limb with magical quicksilver was certainly more complicated that he'd first envisioned, and took a hell of a lot of power, but it was doable and with the directions and information in the Flamel journals, he could easily see where Voldemort had followed manipulated the charm and added his own changes toit, twisting it into something that could spy for him through then wearer and turn on them under his control.
Without Voldemort's changes, it was quite a masterpiece of magic, but it was exactly as Nicolas Flamel had explained, the quicksilver limbs would always be part of the casters magic, never the recipients, and he could easily see why the charm had fallen out of favour with healers, with witches and wizards not willing to put that much trust in someone else's magic to sustain a lost arm or leg.
But that piece of magic hadn't been the masterpiece that he'd found, the crowning jewels of the journals so far had been several references to a wandless incantation for unaided flying.
He'd found it thanks to Jean-Paul's help, and with a bit of translation and a lot of help, he'd figured it out.
Voldemort's flying trick had baffled them all in his original time, the only other person they knew had learnt it was Snape, obviously taught by Voldemort. Even Dumbledore hadn't known how Voldemort had done it, which meant that despite everything that had happened originally, Dumbledore had never actually spent time going through the Beauxbatons libraries with Mr Flamel like this.
It was entirely likely the originally Voldemort had ransacked the libraries, possibly after Nicolas Flamel's death, or maybe they went into hiding, or making another stone, regardless. Either way Voldemort would have had to get to Beauxbatons somehow and get into the libraries for the charms and alchemical rituals he'd used, though now those secrets were his to protect, and he was going to make damn sure that Voldemort never got his hands anywhere near them.
The incantation was tricky at best, but certainly doable and made even more sense as a silent cast, requiring a decent amount of concentration and a focus that occlumency would definitely have helped with. Casting it silently required a hell of a lot of power and the intent to truly break free of all the chains that held you down. It required power, will, focus and drive, and he could very easily see why none of the other Death Eaters had mastered it where Voldemort and Snape had.
Now those secrets were his though, between him and Nicolas Flamel, Voldemort wouldn't have access to those two pieces of magic, and who knows what else that had had learnt originally from the journals. He just had to keep Voldemort from getting his hands on the books this time around.
Thankfully Nicolas Flamel had been in firm agreement with him about not returning the Journals to Beauxbatons until the threat Voldemort posed had been dealt with. They could both agree that the risk of Voldemort figuring out how to create his own body to possess was too great of a risk to leave to any security measure, so for now, separating the journals between them and keeping them apart was the best option available to them.
"I have it,"
James looked up from his bench, blinking away his thoughts as he focused on what Jean was saying. "Have what?" He asked.
"Cierre's friends told me the path she normally takes through the outer forests, apparently she's quite the painter and there's some views out there across the valley that became her muse." Jean explained with a wide smile.
"Alright?" James frowned, wondering how this actually helped them.
"Further down the valley, there's some old hunters cottages, nobody's lived in them for years. Too far away from the enclave for the veela, but too close to leave out for anyone else to use." Jean explained.
"They're abandoned?" James asked quickly, catching on to what Jean-Paul was saying.
"Precisely," Jean nodded, offering his hand to pull James up from where he'd been sat. "Close enough to sneak in and out of the forest without being seen, nobody would ever think about looking that far down the valley."
"How far?" James asked as he flexed his feet, curling his toes and trying to get some feeling back inside his hard wearing boots.
"Two hours walk, maybe more, it is hard slog down the trail to the old cabins apparently." Jean admitted with a grimace.
"It's better than nothing," James admitted with a nod, a small lead was certainly better than they'd had all morning so far. "Come on, but if we find them, you stay back and let me deal with them, alright?" He said firmly.
"I will not get in your way," Jean-Paul nodded. "But you cannot expect me not to fight to protect these people."
"Just... just try not to get yourself hurt, I've got no idea how many there are down there or what how many curses they'll be throwing around, but you can bet the killing curse and crucio will be two of them." James warned firmly as they started walking.
"I have faced such before, and I will not balk now to leave you to face such monsters alone." Jean-Paul explained bluntly as he fell into step alongside James, directing him to the path around to the other side of the lake where they could find the trail Cierre took down into the valley.
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Highlands of Scotland
Professor McGonagall nodded absently to the house elf that popped in to clean up the plates and cup she'd used for her lunch, having decided to enjoy her mid day meal in her office rather than traipse all the way down to the great hall for the meal only to have to come all the way back up again afterwards.
At this point she was actually thankful that she'd handed off her position of Head of Gryffindor to Aurora, as juggling that position along with teaching transfiguration and keeping up with her Headmistress duties would certainly have been more than enough to send her into an early grave.
As it was, she could now understand why Albus had only taught his alchemy course part time to the upper NEWT years, and had already started putting feelers out to search for a new transfiguration professor to take over the first five years.
She wasn't quite willing to give up teaching entirely, and teaching the sixth and seventh years always gave her the greatest pleasure, seeing them shine and really push themselves to master the art was always a wonder and gave her a real sense of accomplishment that she would be loathe to surrender.
Not to mention that actually having time away from the duties of the headmistress and all the paperwork and meetings that came with it was a boon and a convenient excuse that she certainly wasn't going to give up no matter what anybody said.
"Um, I'm Hestia Jones? I'm here for an interview?"
A hesitant voice asked, drawing Minerva to look over at the small gargoyle statue on her desk that mirrored the larger one on the stairs below the office and acted as a guardian and announcer for visitors.
She'd been amused to find out about the protean charm that had been worked into the two matching statues, and hearing students voices come out of the small gargoyle had certainly explained how Albus knew who was coming up his stairs all the time.
"Come in." Minerva announced to the gargoyle, nodding as she watched the small gargoyle rotate around on her desk, mirroring the actions of the larger gargoyle as he moved aside on the stairs.
She watched as the younger witch came in, nervously looking around before sitting down and shuffling some parchments together on her lap.
"I didn't know the school was trying to replace Professor Binns." Hestia said, trying to offer a nervous smile over to Professor McGonagall.
"I am aware that he has been kept on for quite some time now as somewhat of an institution of the school, but times must change, and it has been brought to my attention that while he is undoubtedly an expert on the Goblin Rebellions, that is practically all he teaches. Which has caused many a student to fail their History exams when other questions are brought up that Cuthbert refuses to teach."
"Oh, right." Hestia nodded in understanding, having suffered through Cuthbert Binns dry lectures for all of her seven years in Hogwarts.
"The reason I reached out to you when you applied, was the fact that despite Cuthbert's restrictive classes, you managed to pass both your OWL and NEWT History exams with the highest scores in your year." Minerva explained her reasoning.
"I... I didn't know that," Hestia smiled, feeling a bit better about herself now that she knew that piece of knowledge.
"While I admit that you are somewhat perfect to replace Cuthbert, and given any other year previously I would be offering you the job already, there is one question that I must ask before we go any further." Minerva frowned, leaning her elbows on the desk and steepling her fingers as she considered the younger witch in front of her. "I am well aware of your association with Albus Dumbledore, which leads the question of why you quit the auror corps instead of signing the official contracts brought in?"
Minerva steeled her expression, watching as Hestia's face showed confusion, then shock, then back to confusion again as she thought about the question.
"I am well aware that both you and Kingsley Shacklebolt, among others, were working for Albus in The Ministry. Just as am aware you both quit your jobs rather than signing The Ministry's loyalty contracts and keeping your employment there." Minerva carried on when Hestia didn't answer. "The job offer I have for you will be under exactly the same restrictions as The Ministry's contracts, and will not allow you to subvert the school or pass information on to Albus Dumbledore as you have done so before. If your loyalty is only to him, then you may leave now as it will be pointless continuing this interview."
"I... I quit because Professor Dumbledore told us that the new contracts would make it easier for You-Know-Who to take over The Ministry." Hestia justified herself after a moment's pause. "Professor Dumbledore said all You-Know-Who would have to do would be to Imperius The Minister or his under-secretaries, and he would have the entire Ministry loyal to whatever The Minister did because of the contracts they signed."
"I see," Minerva frowned, thinking about that possibility for a moment. It certainly wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for someone to imperius or bribe Minister Fudge into acting against the country's best interests, and the loyalty contracts would certainly act as she thought they would.
It was definitely a disturbing notion, something she hadn't considered before and would have to bring up with James as soon as he returned so that she could share the worries with Amelia.
"And it's simply Albus Dumbledore now, not Professor Dumbledore." Minerva corrected Hestia absently, having accepted her using that term of address just out of habit when she'd been explaining herself. "However, those consiquences do not apply here at Hogwarts. Your loyalty is to the school and it's students, not to Albus Dumbledore. Is that something you can accept?"
"I..." Hestia frowned for a moment before slowly nodding. "I read about what Profe... Mr Dumbledore did at the sorting, and what James Potter accused him of. Was it really that bad Professor?"
"Worse," Minerva admitted hesitantly. "As much as it galls me to admit it, I myself turned a blind eye to many of Albus' faults and dubious actions over the years, and can confirm many of James' accusations personally."
"I didn't think Mr Dumbledore would ever do anything like that," Hestia sighed despondently, slumping in her seat slightly. "I... yes professor, I need the job."
"And your loyalty to Albus?" Minerva asked curiously.
"I think... I mean... Mr Dumbledore helped me out so much when I was here. When the Slytherins were bullying me, nobody did a thing when they were attacking people, but he stood up for me when he saw a group of them ready to attack me during the summer holidays in Diagon Alley." Hestia explained. "He told me to keep an eye on the worst Slytherins and let him know who was the ring leaders and doing the worst things."
"Did he ever act on this information you gave him?" Minerva asked curiously, inwardly wincing at the fact that this young witch was another person that seemed to perfectly fit James' accusation of Albus' in-debting young students to him, and then using their loyalty to his advantage as spies and young soldiers for his war.
"I never saw him do anything, but he always made sure to take note of everyone I told him about." Hestia defended Albus quickly.
"I see," Minerva frowned, wondering how many other stories like this she would likely get from other people that Albus had recruited to his cause over the years. "Very well. I have indicated the terms of your employment here. If you are found to have breached them by informing Albus of the comings and goings in the school or any student or staff information, you will be dismissed instantly, is that understood?" She asked, fixing Hestia with a stern look to make sure she understood the message.
"Yes Professor," Hestia nodded quickly at that, making a firm mental note that no matter what, she couldn't screw this up now.
"Then I welcome you to the Hogwarts faculty," Minerva nodded, standing up and offering her hand to shake. "I will have chambers and an office made available for you. When are you available to start?"
"Um... tomorrow?" Hestia answered as she stood up and shook the offered hand.
"Excellent," Minerva gave a small smile at that. "Then I will show you to the classroom and inform Cuthbert of your hiring immediately." She said with a small smile, happy that this had been taken care of.
If replacing Cuthbert went as smoothly as the interview had, then she could move on to the reported problems with the Muggle Studies course and find a replacement for Charity Burbage if it was needed.
After that, she could actually work on dismantling the hopeless Divination course and removing it's OWL and NEWT courses from the school entirely. Even after all this time she still didn't know why Albus kept that ridiculous course on the syllabus or why he allowed Sybill so much freedom in her utterly imbecilic constant lectures about student deaths.
The sooner she had brought the courses up to the level where she could be proud of running the school as it was, the happier she would be.
Lac des Bouillouses
Des Bouillouses Enclave
The Pyrenees mountains
James grimaced slightly as he stepped forewards and used his boot to gently nudge open the already ajar door.
His wand was already at the ready, but despite various charms telling him that the cottage was abandoned and that he and Jean were the only people around, he was being definitely careful with the smell in the air that set him on edge.
Even Jean had smelt it when they'd approached the cottages, and had hung back to keep watch on the wider area while James moved in for a closer look inside.
His left hand flew up to cover his mouth and nose as soon as he stepped inside the cottage, the smell from inside hitting him like a wave of heat in the face as he quickly put up a bubble head charm and an insect repelling charm to push away the clouds of flies that were buzzing around.
"Is everything alright?"
"Fine!" James yelled back, reaching back and pulling the front door open wider to allow more of the flies to clear out and some fresh air to be pulled in to the cottage.
He didn't have to look far to see exactly what the cottages had been used for, and it seemed that Jean had been right on the money with his guess at who had been using them.
The potions equipment along one side of the room was telling enough, even though it was dirty and obviously regularly used, it spoke of various potions that he wouldn't even like to consider, especially given the few small cauldrons around and the various ingredients he could see.
Carefully flicking his wand around with a few charms to make sure there wasn't any jinxes or hexes around that had been set up to prevent intruders, he pushed his way further in, moving through to what should have been the living room of the cottage only to back out quickly in regret, his hand covering his mouth to stop himself from throwing up.
Inside was a unicorn, or the remains of one, hung by the hooves from the ceiling and fully bled out, half of it's organs cut and stripped from the body already, likely for potions purposes or for sale in places like Knockturn or worse.
He took a moment to steel himself, reading his wand as he looked around before heading upstairs.
While he couldn't do anything for the innocent unicorn right now aside from bringing the perpetrator to justice, finding clues about who it was that was using the cottage for such horrific deeds was the most important thing now, especially if it meant finding Cierre before the Death Eaters killed her.
A silencing spell on his boots and a second one on the stairs just in case made things easier as he slowly started making his way up, his wand at the ready just in case.
While he was pretty certain of his detection charms, there were always ways around any charms and being careful when facing an unknown number of opponents was always the best way to approach things.
Getting up the stairs didn't take long at all thankfully, and he quickly made his way around the landing of the cottage, snorting in disgust at the open door ahead that led to a bathroom that had obviously seen regular use recently but without anyone cleaning or taking care of things inside.
Another few silencing charms around and he braced himself against one of the closed doors, listening quietly for a moment before he twisted the door handle and gingerly pushed the door open, keeping his wand ready for anything that might come from inside.
At first glance the room looked empty until he stepped fully inside, turning and sweeping over the entire room until his eyes fell on the bed in surprise at seeing the young veela tied up with leather cords around all four of her limbs, keeping her spread eagle on the bed and gagged, completely unable to resist.
The fear on her face was heartbreaking as he held his finger up to his lips, shaking his head and trying to reassure the young girl that he wasn't here to hurt her or do anything else that the Death Eaters must have done already.
Her hair was a bloody and tangled mess, and judging from the cuts and bruises that littered her body, he had absolutely no doubt in believing that whoever had kept her here had done so under the absolutely worst conditions imaginable. There was no telling what the girl had been through, and he was probably the worst person in the world to try and help the girl through her ordeal.
He saw the panic in her eyes wasn't going away as he approached, so he lowered his wand gingerly, angling himself to he could kneel by the bed and keep the door to the room in sight as well. "I'm not going to hurt you, I'm here to get you out of here." He whispered, leaning to the bed and trying not to get too close and cause the girl to panic more. "Can you understand me?" He asked, grimacing as he realised that he didn't even know if the girl could understand English or not.
The hope on the young girl's face was heartbreaking when she nodded after a moment, staring at him with tears already forming in her bloodshot blue eyes.
"OK, give me a minute and I'll try to untie you." He whispered again, looking at the leather straps dubiously. "Are they conjured or cursed in any way?" He asked.
The girl seemed to struggle with his question for a moment before she shook her head slowly.
"They're real?" He asked, getting a small nod in response. "Not cursed or jinxed?" He asked again, getting a shake of her head this time. "Great." He gave a reassuring smile as he brought his wand up again, causing the girl to flinch away automatically. "I need you to stay quiet alright? I don't know where they are or who did this to you, so they could come back any time." He explained quietly.
The girl just nodded quickly at that, tugging at her arms to indicate that she wanted to be freed as soon as possible.
"Alright," Harry nodded, flicking his wand to the leather ties around her wrists first, vanishing them before turning to the ties around her ankles.
He stood back for a moment as the girl literally tore away the cloth gag that was tied around her mouth, throwing it to the floor and bursting into tears as she flung herself at him.
"Lets get you out of here," Harry whispered, shrugging off his dragon-hide coat and draping it around the girl, seeing her tiny frame practically being swallowed up by his heavy and well worn trench-coat.
He led the way as the girl stayed silent, gingerly pushing his way into the other room first to make sure that this girl was the only victim here before heading downstairs, his wand leading the way as he quickly led the way outside and into the fresh air.
He didn't need to say anything as the girl obviously clearly recognised Jean, running to him with a burst of tears as soon as she saw him.
"I will take her back to the enclave," Jean whispered over, doing his best to reassure the girl and hold her while tugging James' coat around her to preserve her modesty. "You can make your own way there yes?"
"I'll be right behind you," James nodded, watching as Jean apparated away with Cierre with a crack.
He took a moment to return to the cottage, pulling the door shut again and placing a few notification charms around the outside of the cottage to let him know the moment that anyone returned there, before he followed Jean on and apparated away as well.
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic
It was a very nervous Remus Lupin that gingerly followed Sirius into the halls of the DMLE, edging away from the aurors that were working around the various offices and hallways as Sirius led him through to Amelia's office.
Knocking on the door Sirius paused for a moment before Amelia's shout of "Come in!" Came from within, letting him push the door open and lead the way inside.
"Sirius... and Mr Lupin I presume?" Amelia asked, standing up from her desk and walking around to introduce herself to the new person Sirius was bringing in.
He had obviously been out of work for a while, and his threadbare robes spoke of far too many repairing charms and not enough actual attention. While the man was supposed to be the same age as Sirius, he wore the years a lot harder on his face, where even Sirius had regained some of his youthful vitality after his ordeal in Azkaban.
The scars across his face however told his story plainly enough, and marked him in a way he would never be able to hide from the people that recognised what those claw marks signified.
"Amelia Bones," She introduced herself as Mr Lupin stepped into the office properly, holding out her hand fearlessly for the man to take. "Thank you for agreeing to see me."
"It's no problem," Remus smiled heartily as he took the offered hand and shook it, happy to actually meet the woman that Sirius had told him was in a relationship with the older Harry.
"Please," Amelia nodded, gesturing to the seats around the room as she indicated for Sirius to close the door behind them so they could speak privately. "Did Sirius tell you why I asked you to meet with me?"
"He might have mentioned a few things," Remus said cautiously as he sat down, happy when Sirius flomped down in the chair next to him, setting a more casual tone for the meeting with his actions.
"Very well," Amelia chuckled as she flicked her wand around, bringing up the security charms around her office. "I'm told you're aware of what is going on with James... Harry?" She asked, looking at Sirius when he nodded before Remus could say anything.
"Yeah, he got filled in on Halloween," Sirius explained with a nod.
"Ah, then I assume you're still coming to terms with the knowledge," Amelia frowned for a moment as she considered this. "Has James... the older Harry I should say, shown you much of his future then?"
"Nothing like that," Remus admitted with a shake of his head. "We spoke a bit, talked for most of the evening really, but we haven't really spoken since then."
"I see," Amelia nodded as she took this on board. "Well, as much as I know you will likely have more questions from this, James... Junior I know Sirius calls him, showed me that you were instrumental in teaching him the patronus charm during his years at Hogwarts originally."
"I did?" Remus asked, his eyes flicking to Sirius for confirmation of this before he frowned thoughtfully. "I was teaching at Hogwarts?"
"For his third year from the memories he showed me," Sirius confirmed. "Same year I escaped from Azkaban." He added with a roguish grin.
"While I don't know why Albus brought you to Hogwarts that year personally, and from what I saw in James' memories, he doesn't know either, the result is that you were able to teach him a rather powerful patronus, something that barely a handful of my aurors can do right now." Amelia explained.
"It's not as simple as that, not for the patronus charm." Remus shook his head at that, continuing on when Amelia looked at him for an explanation. "The patronus charm is advanced, I'm not denying that, and I'm definitely surprised that Harry could cast one in his third year."
"Oh?" Amelia prompted him to continue when he lapsed into thoughtful silence.
"The patronus charm needs a strong memory, a very strong memory with an emotional connection behind it." Remus explained. "There are some people that might never be able to cast the charm because of that, and other people struggle to even cast a shield with it." He continued on when he saw Amelia paying rapt attention to what he was saying. "It's a complicated charm, I'm actually surprised Harry could cast it after what I've been told about his childhood."
"Quite," Amelia frowned as she contemplated this. "What do you mean by an emotional connection to the charm?"
"The charm requires a purely happy memory, one that you can actually feel in your heart." Remus explained, touching his heart in the process. "Family, a loved one, a wedding day, the birth of your first child... memories like that."
"I see," Amelia drummed her fingers on her desk as she considered that. "I'd always believed it was far more complex than that."
"Oh it is, I'm simplifying it quite a bit." Remus chuckled lightly at that. "You still need to be powerful enough to cast one, and holding such a happy memory when there are dementors around is almost impossible if you're not prepared for them."
"I had assumed," Amelia nodded in understanding. "I am capable of creating an incorporeal shield, though I do have to admit a touch of jealousy when I saw James' stag."
"Stag?" Remus asked in surprise, the shock visible on his face as he rounded on Sirius for an explanation.
"Right, sorry," Sirius grimaced. "Junior's patronus, it's the spit of Prongs." He explained with a sad expression colouring his face. "I've seen it, I almost believed it was the ghost of Prongs right there." He whispered sadly.
"He never said," Remus said softly, wondering how many other things the elder Harry had yet to tell him.
"Would you be amenable to a teaching contract then?" Amelia asked curiously. "I have the budget to be quite flexible, and won't deny that there are worries about Azkaban that are forcing me to push this ahead of what I would prefer."
"If it'll help," Remus nodded after a moment, checking with Sirius and getting a reassuring smile before he answered.
"I would like to set you up at the academy, I've already brought Alastor Moody out of retirement to bring the corps to readiness, having you there to help boost their offensive and offensive capabilities might be the push we need to actually get the corps to a level where we can win this war." Amelia explained.
"You've got Mad-Eye teaching recruits?" Sirius snorted before bellowing a laugh at the thought.
"You both know Alastor then?" Amelia asked curiously.
"Yeah, he was part of Dumbledore's group back when we left school," Remus smiled at the memories of a happier time. "I hadn't heard he'd retired."
"Several years ago now," Amelia confirmed. "Is he... aware of your condition?" She asked curiously. "I only ask because if he is, then he can cover things for the times when you are unavailable to teach."
"Yeah, he knows." Sirius nodded. "He said a few times that he didn't care, Mad-Eye's just like that." He said with a grin.
"Indeed," Amelia gave a small smile at that, knowing full well that Alastor held no form of bigotry at all. "Would you be amenable to that Mr Lupin?" She asked hopefully.
"I... yes, I could do that." Remus said with a small smile as he considered the offer. "Since you know I'll need the full moon's off, I don't need to take sick days right?" He asked with a self-depricating grin.
"No, I will make sure that your schedule is planned around your condition," Amelia confirmed. "I assume you are taking wolfsbane and have somewhere suitable to be safe over those nights?"
"Yeah, he'll be with me." Sirius answered before Remus could say anything in reply. "Romi offered to mix you up that horrible stuff, so we can find somewhere out of the way to buckle down for the night." He explained when Remus turned to look at him.
"Very well," Amelia smiled at that. "Your help might save more than a few aurors lives, I hope you know that." She offered, giving Remus a thankful smile as she considered what an asset the man might really be.
"Then it'll be worth it," Remus smiled back. "Thank you, for giving me the chance." He explained when Amelia looked curiously at him.
"It was no bother," Amelia shook her head when she realised what Remus meant with his comment. "Both James and Sirius have vouched for you, and I would be remiss to dismiss your obvious skill simply because of your curse." She explained. "Hopefully more people will become accepting of things over time."
"Maybe," Remus sighed, his face showing that he didn't hold out too much hope for that at all.
"I'll take you to the academy now and have you authorised as an instructor, since Alastor already knows you, I'm sure he'll be happy to show you around the academy grounds and to the various training rooms." Amelia said as she stood up, happy to have actually made some progress today.
"Mad-Eye, happy about something?" Sirius snorted as he stood up. "You sure about that?" He asked with a smirk.
"Grudging acceptance with a bout of paranoia then," Amelia allowed with a small laugh of her own as she cancelled the security charms around her office before leading the way out as she led the way down to the atrium where they could floo through to the Auror Academy itself.
Lac des Bouillouses
Des Bouillouses Enclave
The Pyrenees mountains
James was casually sitting on one of the piers as the sun went down across the veela enclave, casting a warm golden glow over the entire landscape and causing the sirens in the lake to look more alluring than ever before.
He'd already tossed one warming charm over himself, and was sat on the edge of the pier with his legs dangling over, wearing just his t-shirt and jeans as he considered what he'd learnt today.
There were definitely Death Eaters around here, skilled ones as well. Skilled enough to take down a unicorn and drain it dry, along with gutting and preparing the various organs for harvesting and sale.
The interesting thing was that now he wasn't sure Voldemort was here at all though. His Death Eaters certainly were, probably only one or two, not many, but not Voldemort himself.
Voldemort wouldn't have set himself up in abandoned cottages like that, not in squalor when there were château' around that he could have taken for his own.
No, he felt almost certain that Voldemort wasn't here at all, and that he'd sent only a couple of Death Eaters to harvest the unicorns and send the blood and organs somewhere else.
Whether that meant Voldemort was back in England, or closer to the school, perhaps already possessing a student or staff member to infiltrate the school libraries already, he didn't know.
Musing on the thought for a moment he frowned when he heard footsteps on the pier behind him, causing him to turn around and see Jean-Paul walking slowly down the pier with his trench-coat folded up in his arms.
"How is she?" James asked as he stood up, accepting the coat back from Jean when he held it out for him to take.
"She had been through a lot," Jean said softly, shaking his head as James pulled the jacket on and shrugged it around his shoulders.
"I saw," James nodded, feeling the comforting weight of his coat settle around him again. "Did she say anything?"
"Not to me," Jean shook his head. "I let the veela take care of their own." He explained softly. "The told me she said there were two of them. Older, much older than she is. Tall, blonde, one much larger than the other, but didn't have any distinguishing marks that she could tell."
"Hnh," James grunted as he considered that, pacing around on the pier as he racked his memories to think about all the Death Eaters that he knew and what they looked like. Blonde Death Eaters narrowed it down quite a bit thankfully, and his first guess would have been Malfoy had he not had confirmation from Amelia that Malfoy had been in England and in her office earlier today.
There was a chance Malfoy could have apparated or portkeyed between the countries, but it was unlikely, and he couldn't see Malfoy living or even stepping inside those cottages, let alone sullying himself with the work needed to successfully exsanguinate a unicorn.
"Did they both have the tattoo on their arm?" James asked.
"She did not say," Jean shook his head sadly. "I did not want to press, not after those men..." He trailed off.
James simply nodded at that, he wouldn't have pushed for more information either. It was enough that she was safe and away from them, for now that was a victory he was going to take.
"She was so close, all this time." Jean frowned, walking to stand alongside James and looking out over the lake at the sunset. "If I had only gone down sooner, perhaps..."
"Perhaps nothing." James shook his head. "You couldn't have known, and if anyone went down there, they might have killed her to make a quick escape so that she couldn't identify them."
"I know what you are saying, but it does not assuage the guilt." Jean said softly.
"I know," James admitted in a soft voice, having more than his fair share of guilt about things that he wished he could have changed.
"I have notified The Ministry, but I do not expect to see them investigate further." Jean explained with a sigh. "We saved her, you saved her, but so many veela are taken every year, and they do nothing."
"What was it you said last night?" James asked, turning to look at Jean. "Take the small victories?"
"Oui," Jean chuckled mirthlessly. "The small victories."
"I don't think she'd think it was a small victory." James pointed out.
"Non, you are correct there." Jean nodded. "She asked for your name, I told her carers who you were, I hope you do not mind."
James simply shook his head at that, it didn't really matter one way or the other, and if the aurors did come to investigate, they'd find him easily with or without her help.
"Come, we should return to the Château, I know Pol will want to hear Cierre is safe." Jean smiled, reaching up and holding James' shoulder. "We will have a meal tonight before you return to your books." He said with a dry chuckle. "And perhaps you can take some time to answer more of my daughters questions about your magic?"
"If she wants," James smiled over, allowing Jean to guide him back down the pier and onto the grassland again as he thought about all the questions Fleur had had about the patronus and his other specialities last night.
"You know she wants you to teach her, the patronus and all the other magic you know?" Jean laughed as they walked. "My little rose has ambitions to be the premier charms mistress in all of France." He explained with a chuckle.
"Does she now?" James allowed himself a laugh as he considered that. "I'll think about it." He allowed with a grin as Jean laughed and they both apparated away back to the Delacour Château.
It was after ten by the time Fleur had gone to bed, leaving him with Jean to go through more of the Flamel books tonight while Appoline floo'ed over to the enclave to see if there was anything she could do to help Cierre.
Both Appoline and Fleur had been relieved beyond anything when they'd heard that James and Jean had rescued Cierre without incident, though Appoline had made a point of glaring at Jean-Paul for risking himself with James when he wasn't as skilled when it came to shields and curses as James obviously was.
By the time Jean had gone to bed the stars and moon were shining brightly above as James stood on the courtyard that looked out over the beach cliffs and down to the sea below.
He could now easily understand why Fleur had spoken so passionately about her love for her country and home, and how drab and dreary England and Hogwarts seemed in comparison to everything that he had seen in France only in the last few days.
He'd already been invited back over the summer, and was definitely planning on taking Jean up on that invitation. Bringing his younger self, along with Amelia and Susan, Julia, Daphne, Astoria and everyone else along for a week or two in the hot south France summer sun would be like a slice of heaven for a while.
He could only hope that by then he would have figured out how to get rid of Voldemort once and for all.
Bracing himself he stood in the centre of the courtyard, closing his eyes for a second as he focused with his occlumency and silently incanted the charm in his head before he felt himself slowly lifting off of the ground.
It was definitely one of the trickiest and most demanding charms that he knew, but after an hour or so's practice and figuring out how to actually direct himself upwards, he was mostly confident in how he could use the flying charm now, well, vaguely confidant at the very least.
The charm required a hell of a lot of concentration, and visualising your entire area as well as yourself to direct yourself up, down, or in any direction around in the air. It was like having a tipping table focused in your mind with a marble on top, and you had to focus on moving it slowly around to direct the marble to go one way or another, but if you moved too fast, then the marble shot off and fell to the floor.
Only in this case, it wouldn't be a marble, but him that went crashing to the floor.
Opening his eyes he found himself a good six feet off the floor as he concentrated on drifting forwards and then backwards, rotating around before testing himself moving from side to side as well.
Simply mastering flying would be one thing, and feeling the air rushing through his hair and the taste of the sea breeze in the cold night was like nothing else in the world, not even flying on his broom came with this much sense of freedom and power.
Of course, holding the charm for flying while in combat, or casting spells or a shield would be another thing entirely, and would likely require weeks more practice before he was anywhere near competent with using the charm like that.
But for now, he could fly.
AN: Just a batch of 5 chapters for now as I've really been struggling to get things written lately... chances are I'll stick with 5's for now instead of reverting back to my 10 chapter batches, unless the muse seriously kicks me in the ass XD