They'd stayed up waiting, despite the Macready's verdicts. The Professor himself had told her that they wouldn't sleep until their sister came home. And then Peter came in from the stable, carrying Susan, the both of them soaked –
The Macready had taken charge. Thank goodness! Little as she was now, Lucy couldn't get Susan to bed, and in warm clothes, by herself.
Edmund bullied him into his pyjamas. Thank Aslan – we don't need the both of them ill.
Susan had caught a chill – was running a fever, the Macready said. Lucy, hand on her sister's hot brow, could feel it.
"What happened?" The Professor was sitting in Susan's room with them.
And she listened in ever-growing dismay as the story unfolded before them. When Peter finished, he looked drained as he never had – except, perhaps, at the Battle of Beruna Ford, when the three of them had been crouched over Edmund's still body, praying for her cordial to do its work.
The unlit pipe wobbled, was clenched firm between teeth. The Professor harrumped "I'll tell Finola that she went for an evening walk, and met a small mishap in the woods. It was luck that you found her, Peter. And of course, you are all too distraught to speak of it."
Like the best of lies, it was mostly truth. She could only be grateful he was sparing Peter from having to lie to the Macready in person. Though in his mind there's little difference. She ignored the fact that the same held true for her.
"When the weather clears, I'm going back to the castle."
"Why?" Strident demand.
Thank you, Edmund!
Blue eyes found theirs, held. "I need to inform Professor Dumbledore that we will not be returning there, for the foreseeable future. The man is responsible, and would be concerned if we were to disappear without a word. Worrying him unnecessarily would be unkind."
Not to mention, it would attract the wrong kind of attention, Lucy though judiciously.
"I'm coming with you." Edmund, solemn and stern, despite the pyjamas they were all wearing.
Peter didn't even argue. "Thanks, Ed."
Her eyes widened. He must be tired. As if everything else that had happened tonight weren't proof of that.
A sudden concern came to mind. "But what will we tell Susan?"
Warm. Soft. Where?
Lucy's brown eyes, hovering over her. "Thank Aslan," her little sister breathed. Damp warmth, soothing, caressing her face. "You've been asleep for over a day."
Susan stared, too tired to form words. The rim of a cup against her lips. She drank – cool wetness against her throat. What's going on?
"You've been ill," Lucy said quietly. "You were hit on the head – and then, soaked in the storm."
Events flooded back. Fear of the storm, a rush of safety, delight, warmth on reaching the castle. Reaching Tom. And the feast – so wonderful! She'd been able to forget the pain that was always with her. The loss of Narnia. Shove that thought away. She'd been . . . happy.
Her breath came in quick pants. Lucy noticed, tried to soothe. "By the time Peter got you back to the Mansion -"
Peter! Memory. Red-hot rage, coursing in her veins.
"Where's Peter!" she demanded shrilly, discovering her voice hadn't vanished. "I want to talk to him!"
"Susan – it's the middle of the night. He's asleep -"
"I want to talk to him!"
"Lucy! Either you get him for me, or I'll get up and get him myself!"
Her little sister gave her a helpless look, but read the pure intent in her eyes. "All right," she said softly. "Stay calm, Susan. I'll get him. Please, lie back down?"
"Peter," she insisted stubbornly. "I need to talk to him." Oh, yes, I need to talk to him. The nerve! First – to practically forbid me to go, and then – to chase me down – fight with Tom . . . Rage robbed her of every coherent thought but one. What's he playing at? He's not High King anymore!
Her eyes flew to the opening door. Her brother, blond hair on end, fingers resting on the handle.
"Just what did you think you were doing!"
A long silence. Peter met her gaze levelly, but didn't say anything.
She had no patience for this. "Answer me, Peter!"
Blue eyes looked at her. "It wasn't love, Susan," he said softly.
"As if you would know!"
He flinched, and in her rage she was glad for it. He has no idea what I feel for Tom! None!
"I have informed Dumbledore of what has happened," he said levelly. "And that we will not be returning to Hogwarts again."
What, does he think he still has the power to command me? This is not Narnia, and it never will be!
"You're not High King anymore, Peter!"
"Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen." But it was only an echo, and held none of Aslan's might. And Peter was only her brother, not King of anything, anymore.
Her words caught him, on his way out the door. "That only works if we both believe it."
All in all, she's taking it quite well. Except for wanting to march across the castle to string up Pettigrew before the entire Wizarding world. By his toenails.
But at least they'd been able to get Lu to listen to reason. Even if they'd had to practically sit on her to do it.
No, Edmund held back a smile. He looked at Lucy, talking with his brother on the settee. Peter just had to roll out the High King. And now they've got even more questions that need answering.
But that would keep, for awhile at least. Until they could refine their plan, Sirius would be staying in the Pevensie Tower, and whenever he wanted to go out, he could only do so as a dog. But it was doing Remus, Sirius and Harry all good to finally be able to speak together.
Harry was thunderstruck when he found out Sirius is his godfather. But it was binding them closer, even as he discreetly observed.
"But why can't you just tell them the truth, like you told us?" Harry insisted. Seeing the name Peter Pettigrew on the Marauder's Map had clinched the tale – and Sirius was vindicated, in all their eyes. Remus hadn't needed it to believe.
I don't think I've ever seen him this happy.
"The Ministry wasn't interested in the truth when I tried to tell them, twelve years ago," Sirius answered softly. "I doubt they'd be willing to listen to me now. Without proof, I might as well just swim back to Azkaban and make myself comfortable." Morbid humor was sometimes the only way to work through an impossible, terrible situation.
"Not a chance this side of hell," Remus snarled.
The two men smiled at each other.
Neither of them can believe this is happening. It was evident in every concerned glance, every hesitation, every quiet word. They need time to readjust.
Luckily, this plan would give them that. Peter had lost none of his tactician's cunning, though they had all wrought the trap together. It necessitated bringing Harry's friends Ron and Hermione in on their plans, but Harry assured them that the two could be trusted. And after hearing about their adventures with the Sorcerer's Stone and the Chamber of Secrets, Edmund had no trouble believing it.
After they had missed dinner – everyone was too busy still talking – the house-elves had brought food, enough for a feast when they were told that six people were wanting to eat. I don't understand them. Oh, he was grateful for their help. But to so love to slave their lives away for wizards – and Dobby is the strange one?
He had served his people, and been served by them in turn, but subjugation had no part in it. The worst bit was that the house-elves couldn't even feel their enslavement. And he had to wonder if trying to change things now would only do more harm than good.
"Edmund?" Lucy pulled him from his vague thoughts, with a hopeful look on her face. The duduk was in her hands. "Music?"
He reached for it. "Great idea, Lu!"
Cracking his knuckles – something that always made Peter wince – he flexed his fingers once, before putting his lips to the mouthpiece. And haunting notes spilled from apricot wood.
A Narnian lullaby. It held none of the power here that it would have there, of course. But it was of home. And it gladdens the soul.
He opened his eyes as the last note faded. Just in time to catch amazement from the three wizards clustered by the fire's warmth. Ah. Oops?
"What was that?"
Surprisingly, it was Sirius Black. And from the look in his eyes. . . . Maybe the power of Narnia is not diminished in this world, after all.
"Tumnus taught you that, didn't he?" asked Lucy quietly.
Edmund nodded. "On his reed pipe." The duduk was the only thing that came close, being a double-reed pipe as well. He looked to the men and boy, who were staring at the three Pevensies. "It was a lullaby."
"I've never heard anything like that," Harry said frankly. Awe was written on his face. "Muggle or Magical."
"You wouldn't have."
Remus started. It was easy to forget Peter was there, sometimes. He pushed Edmund's legs off the couch, making room. "Perhaps it's time we told you who we are, and why we're really here."
If you're certain, Peter. But Edmund was fairly sure they had nothing to fear from these. It was other members of the Wizarding world – the Ministry, in particular – that concerned him.
And the High King was looking at him from his brother's face. "No argument from me, my King."
And at the honorific, the wizards stared.
"My name is Peter Pevensie," he told them. "I was born in London, in 1927." He glanced at Remus and Sirius. "We first discovered Hogwarts near the end of 1941 – a time when your Dark Wizard, Grindelwald, was beginning his rise to power. And when a boy named Tom Marvolo Riddle was attending Hogwarts."
"But – that's not possible," Remus said slowly, looking them over. "You don't look much older than thirty -"
"An unexpected side-effect," Lucy broke in.
But she shook her head, taking over from her brothers. "I was the one who discovered it. You see," she smiled, "in a Mansion not far from here, there is a wardrobe . . ."
Listening to Lucy's voice weave the tale of their first adventures was pleasant. Like home, again. She'd always been the one most gifted in singing and storytelling, though they had all learned to enjoy such very quickly in Narnia.
"Of course, we have no proof," Peter said quietly, once she was finished. His eyes hardened. "Unless a witch or wizard attempts to use a spell on us."
"So that's how you did it!" Harry, green eyes thoughtful.
"Love for Aslan is a force stronger than magic."
Certainly stronger than the White Witch. The only thing to match it is the power of the Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea . . .
"But you knew Voldemort?" Remus, talking to him.
Edmund laid the duduk down carefully. "I didn't want anything to do with him. He was a fourth-year, or thereabouts, but something in him reminded me of the White Witch." He shivered. Lucy, curled next to him on the couch, dropped a soft kiss to his temple.
Peter shook his head. "I don't know if we could have stopped what he became. I have – thought about it." Now that we know more of what it truly meant. Then . . . Peter, you couldn't know. All you knew was that he was dangerous. And that was more than enough! "But now . . . we were just another step on the path he took to darkness."
"What do you mean?"
"Tom was only fourteen," Edmund broke in. "It's easy to look back, and say he was already on his way to becoming evil. But if he wavered from that path, even only for a short time, who now would notice?"
"Tom fancied himself in love with our sister, Susan," Peter said tightly. "I still have only suspicions as to why she believed him, and appeared to return the feeling. But one thing I know for certain. It was not love."
Peter had never spoken to himself or Lu about this, Edmund was certain. "Peter?"
"She was . . . an obsession, to him. He may have believed that he cared for her, but it was rooted in what we are – and we are not Muggles. He was fascinated by what he could discern of Narnia, within us all. It disturbed me. And the way he treated her may have been kind, and he may have claimed to change – but I could see no signs of it in his actions, when she wasn't there."
The body at his side was tense, unhappy. How could I never have seen all this? But he had been shocked, as Lucy had, on finding himself a young child once again. For Peter and Susan, the trip back through the wardrobe had not wrought such great changes.
"It seemed to grow worse, as time went on. He used her as a shield against the rest of the world, and the few times she couldn't come with us to Hogwarts . . ." Edmund put a hand over white knuckles. Beneath his beard, Peter's lips were tight. "He tried to separate her out from her family. And that . . . frightened me."
Dark eyes met Edmund's in mute shock. "I had no idea," Lucy murmured.
Some of that was natural, I think. Susan was ever quiet about these things. As for the rest . . . . I'll bet that Peter had a hand in that. Overprotective to a fault.
"I was relieved when it finally ended," his older brother admitted. For the benefit of their friends, he explained. "Susan ran off to meet him at the Halloween feast – through a storm. When I found out she was missing, I went to get her. I have no idea how she was planning on getting back. I think Tom would have persuaded her to stay the night."
"But she was thirteen!" Remus was aghast.
"The one thing you have to understand," Peter said quietly, "is that when we returned from Narnia, we were no longer children. We may have looked to be so, but inside . . . We had ruled a country for over a decade. We had grown, lived lives that were suddenly reversed, as if they had never happened."
"What happened?" Harry asked, soberly.
"I told her she was coming home," Peter responded slowly. "Tom attacked me, dragged us both outside. Tried to throw me out of Hogwarts. I had promised Dumbledore that I would not harm anyone in the school, unless one of mine was in danger. But I fought back. Susan got between us, took a blow that was meant for me -" A shrug, too emotionless to be casual. "Tom was shocked by that, I think. It gave me the chance to get her, and get us away. Back to the Mansion. Susan . . . has never forgiven me for it. Though I doubt that she remembers, anymore."
"And that's why Dumbledore brought you here," Harry reasoned out.
"In part," Edmund assured him. "Tom – Voldemort – holds a grudge. When he reappeared two years ago, Dumbledore apparently set agents from the Order of the Phoenix to find us."
"Convinced," Lucy added dryly, "That old Muggles would be an easy target for him. It took them longer than he expected to track us down."
"And gave him yet another reason to have us here, once he did," Edmund took over. He looked down at himself wryly. "We've gotten to be very good at covering our trails. And should we encounter Voldemort once again -"
"We appear to have everything he ever wanted." Peter's voice was tight. "We do not age, and we are unaffected by magic, though we control none. And should he remember Susan. . . ."
"Then she is in the most danger of you all," Remus realized. "Why is she not here, as well?"
Edmund's eyes slipped shut. I wish . . .
"Susan is no longer a friend to Narnia." Peter alone of them had the will to say it. "And for the moment, she believes we were killed in a train crash, months ago."
Dumbledore. Peter may have sworn an oath to do no violence in Hogwarts, but Edmundhadn't made any such promise. Too bad Peter's bound to stop me. Otherwise – Well. Hogwarts School would likely be short one Headmaster.
"That's awful," Harry said quietly.
"Yes," Edmund nodded, still angry. "It is."
"I take it this wasn't your idea, then?"
"No." Edmund smiled tightly at Remus. "We had no idea until it was already done. And perhaps we should just leave this subject there for now."
"Of course." Sirius, voice and eyes understanding.
They sat in uncomfortable silence for several moments, until Harry hesitantly cleared his throat. "Edmund?"
"Would you – would you play some more music?"
Edmund found that smiling wasn't as difficult as he'd thought it might be. "Sure."
"An' how are yeh, then? Doin' well?"
"Hey, Hagrid." Harry was still beaming over winning the Quidditch Cup. "I'm good." An' why shouldn' he? As good a player as his dad, an a sight better, I wager!
Then the half-giant saw the two other figures on his step, and beamed. "Ron! Hermione! It's good teh see yeh!"
Once he had them settled in with a nice cuppa, and the fudge he'd made yesterday, he looked them over carefully. "So, yeh finally made up, then?"
Ron reddened. "Yeah, well," he muttered. "Cats chase rats. Scabbers was old, and he was a bit useless. You never know, Mum and Dad might get me an owl, now." He sipped, turned even redder, and swallowed. "Hot," he whimpered.
"Oh. I fergot. Milk fer yer tea, then?" The milk bottle was in the cupboard, jus' there, an -
Hermione's eyes widened. "No, thanks, Hagrid! Ron and Harry don't want any either. Do you?"
"No, Hagrid, thanks!"
Looking at the sudden bright smiles on every face, Hagrid blinked. "Yeh three are actin' mighty strange," he mused. Ah, well, nothin' a cuppa won' cure. "Are yeh sure yeh don' want any milk?"
"It's just exams," Hermione said quickly. "They're coming up soon, and –
"And we're worried," Harry jumped in.
"Really worried," Ron added. "I mean, Snape's going to be awful, I just know it – and Divination's bound to be a nightmare, Trelawney said something about crystal balls -"
An' they were off, chatterin' away about what they were expectin', exams comin' up in less than a month.
" – and Care of Magical Creatures -"
He was the sudden recipient of a trio of hopeful looks.
"It's not going to be too bad, is it Hagrid?" Harry wheedled.
Hagrid shook his head. "None o' that now, yeh three! I'm yer professor, an' yeh'll fin' out abou' the exam when yeh get to it! Yeh won' get it outta me like yeh did your firs' year, with Nicholas Flamel an' the Sorcerer's' Stone!"
"Aw, Hagrid -"
"It wouldn' be fair, and yeh know it," he said firmly. "An' I'm not sayin' any more!"
Great. Looney bat.
Great. Looney bat.
Father had insisted he take Divination for the first year. He'd said there was a lesson in this that Draco would do well to learn. No kidding. He rolled his eyes. But he supposed his father's point had been well and truly proven by the insectoid Professor Trelawney.
I make my own fate, and no one else does it for me.
Especially not some feather-brained, ditzy woman who wandered around, Draco was convinced, half-drugged. Tea leaves. Yeah, right.
But at least he'd taken the final now, and there was no reason his father wouldn't let him drop this class and get the hell out of here. But he thought, instead, he might just take Muggle Studies . . . he could pass it off as another one of those 'Know Thy Enemy' things.
But it actually might be interesting. Edmund said that he doesn't know his family's plans, but it's likely that they'll be here next year.
He couldn't help but wonder why that was. Didn't they have – well, lives – to get back to, in the Muggle world?
Regardless, he could think now that attacking Peter had been the best thing that had ever happened to him. His year would probably have gone much differently . . . been much worse, he corrected himself, if he hadn't.
"Thank you, Professor Trelawny," he used his most polite manner. It was sweltering in the tower, and with the Professor's vague and irritating manner on top of the smothering fumes - I might just throw up. Ugh. An internal sneer, reserved for the tower and it's drifting, misty occupant.
"Very well, dear," she sighed mistily, waving a floaty hand. "I foresee a lovely summer ahead . . . do enjoy yourself . . . ."
Right. He bent for his bag.
"It will happen tonight."
He frowned. Her voice was harsh, different. "Sorry?"
But Trelawney didn't seem to hear him. White shone from her eyes – Draco stared. She's having a seizure – or something – I've gotta get someone – Pomfrey – Though probably by the time he got there and back, it'd be too late to do anything anyway, and she'd have recovered – or not.
But before he could move one way or the other, her mouth opened again, and that same, hoarse rasp emerged.
"The Dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followers. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant's aid, greater and more terrible than ever he was. Tonight . . . before midnight . . .the servant . . . will set out . . .to rejoin . . . his master . . . ."
Her head fell forward onto her chest, and she grunted. Draco stared. Was – was that a –
Her head snapped up. "I'm so sorry, dear boy," she said dreamily. "I must have dozed off . . . the heat of the day, you know . . . ."
Or . . . not.
But doubt, something he was unaccustomed to feeling, niggled at him. He didn't like it. "Good day, Professor."
"Yes, it will be, won't it . . ." followed him down the trapdoor.
What should I do? Should he even do anything? His father would say that knowledge kept secret was power. He was right.
But Draco had learned quite a lot this year – some of it, his parents would be horrified by. If he ever intended to tell them. But the beatings weren't worth it, really. He'd learned how to keep secrets early on.
Some of what he had learned, dealt with the difference between right and wrong. And he could finally see it.
Should he tell Dumbledore? There was no assurance the man would believe him. Probably not, given my track record. And that it's me. On the other hand, he had to tell someone . . . didn't he?
Though there was really no decision to be made.
Grabbing a quill, and a piece of parchment, he began to write down everything he could remember. Edmund will know what to do . . . .
Edmund's voice, hissing in his ear.
He nodded, slowly, rising from his chair in the library. "How do you know?"
A piece of parchment, rough against his fingers. Peter read the incredible words, and met brown eyes. "Where did this come from?"
A wry smile touched his brother's face. "Draco Malfoy, believe it or not."
Peter blinked. "Explain."
"He was leaving his Divination final, with Professor Trelawney." Edmund nodded to Madam Pince. The corridor was empty. Today was the last day of exams, and by now most of the students were outside, enjoying the weather. The Leaving Feast was planned for tomorrow. I'd hoped we could wait until all the students were gone. "Apparently, she made a prophecy."
He didn't trouble to hide his astonishment. The woman from the Christmas feast? "Sibyll Trelawney?"
Edmund grimaced, and pulled him out of the way of a group of shrieking second-years. "Apparently Dumbledore keeps her around for a reason," he answered, when they could hear themselves think once more.
"So it would seem."
"But prophecy in the Wizarding world isn't the same as prophecy in Narnia," Edmund continued. They were almost at the Gryffindor common room. "It's not as . . . inevitable, or as ineffable."
Wizarding prophecies mark turning points, then. Where the future can be changed. "We've got a warning that Pettigrew doesn't."
Edmund knocked on the Fat Lady's frame, brown eyes shining. "Exactly."
"Excuse me, Headmaster."
Careful glances, whispered words that he couldn't quite make out. " – plan – time – now."
Lucy Pevensie nodded.
The professor she had burst into the staffroom to find reached for his wand. Set his expression, and forced a smile in Albus' direction. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to excuse myself," he said. "A matter of some urgency has come to my attention."
"Of course, Remus."
Snape's eyes, ever-curious, were on them all. Unfortunately, Albus was just as much in the dark as his potions professor.
As quickly as she had arrived, they both left.
I'm sure I'll find out what's going on soon enough.
The big-one was back. Noise, knocking. The big-one had guests. The three children, probably. Owner-boy, cat's-girl, and Harry-Potter.
Scrabbling, claws sliding over cups and plates. Headed for the milk-jug. Safe. Small.
More voices – many more. Familiar voice, of someone –
Perched in a teacup, Scabbers froze.
"But what if he tries to escape?"
I don't know if I'm more nervous than Hermione, or less. Harry swallowed hard.
"He will." Ron was furious, now that the time had come.
"He'll hide." Lupin, full of cold confidence. He should know better than any what Pettigrew would do. He was friends with him for years. 'Was' being the operative word there. "Whatever he's in – teakettle, barrel, jug – stopper it with this."
He passed a blob of thick putty to Harry. It was green, and almost clay-like in texture. "This is going to hold him?" I mean, if Scabbers really wants out, I don't see this stopping him. Twelve years as a rat or not, Pettigrew was still a grown wizard. And a Death Eater.
"It doesn't matter how thin or thick you stretch it. When you tap the container with an Unbreakable charm, it'll lock in place and nothing can break it. If everything goes as planned, he won't be in there long enough to worry about suffocating."
From Lupin's expression, the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor didn't much care.
Harry's eyes flicked around the yard surrounding Hagrid's hut. He couldn't see –
"They're in the Forest," Lupin answered the unspoken question. "With Sirius. In case we give the signal he's escaped. It's the closest place for him to go."
And if he gets into the underbrush, only a dog's nose can find him.
Harry gripped the clay tightly. All right. "Let's go," he said softly.
Lucy loosened her stranglehold on the dagger Peter had given her. Sirius, in dog form, was only a few feet away. His attention was riveted to the hut she could barely see through the brush. After all, we don't want Pettigrew to know we're waiting for him. It would defeat the purpose.
At her side was Buckbeak. The hippogriff was close to Hagrid's large heart, and was never very far from the hut, enjoying treats and attention from the half-giant. Good enough reason to stick around when the rest of his flock is deeper in the Forest. Dead ferrets had never appealed to her, but to each his own.
"Nothing to do but wait." Edmund's face was tense. He's never liked waiting, for all he knows how important it sometimes is.
Peter, spread further down the line of man and beast, was unnaturally calm. I don't know how he does it.
He'd positioned them in a half-circle, completely surrounding Hagrid's hut, with Sirius in the center. The most likely place Pettigrew would run, as it was on a straight line from the back door.
Lucy's focus jerked to the hut – shouts, and cries. She winced at a small explosion. A soft curse reached her ears. Edmund!
And – something was coming toward them – towards Hagrid's. Not the owner of the hut, whom Remus was desperately trying to keep distracted outside. A group of figures, dressed in . . . suits? And the creatures that surrounded them . . . Dementors!
Buckbeak bolted into the woods.
And it had all degenerated into chaos. His brothers always had been better at getting their hands on Scabbers. Where're Fred and George when you need them?
"I got him - Ow! Bloody hell!" Ron yelped, dropping the rat. "He bit me!"
"Where's he -" Harry skidded through shards of what had been a milk bottle. "No – under the table!"
"Accio rat!" A terrified squeak, but no result. "Why isn't it working!"
"Well, he's not really a rat, Hermione! There!"
"Quick, with the bowl -"
Something exploded. "Son of a -"
"Will the two of you just - "
Harry lunged. "Got him!"
Ron shook his stinging hand, fishing for his handkerchief. "The little bugger bit me! Hard, too!"
"Ron!" Hermione's hair was standing on end. She had one foot on the bowl Harry had slammed down over Pettigrew. Good job too, judging from the frantic squeaking and scrabbling coming from underneath it. Bastard, Ron thought remorselessly. Serves you right.
"Good one, Harry!" He offered his friend a hand. The unbitten one. Harry'd thrown himself across the floor, slamming the bowl down over Scabbers as he'd raced along the wall from stove to fat armchair. "Where's the stuff Lupin gave us?"
Harry dug into a pocket, producing the squashed green putty. Looked at the bowl. "How are we going to get this on?"
Ah. Crap. They couldn't lift the bowl without letting Scabbers – Pettigrew – out.
"Carefully," Hermione said promptly.
Ron grinned. "You have a plan?"
"Is there parchment anywhere? A big piece, big enough to fit over the opening of the bowl?"
Ron shook his head, looking around. "I don't see any - "
"Got some," Harry waved a big piece of paper at him, with smelly brown stains.
"Gah!" Ron choked. "What is that?"
Hermione gave it a clinical look, taking it from Harry. "From the butcher's," she announced. Turned it over, pointed to a shimmering pricetag on the underside. "Probably dead ferrets for Buckbeak."
"Gross. . ."
"Will the two of you just come over here and help me?"
"Okay, Hermione, geez -"
"Slip the parchment under here," she instructed, lifting the bowl a hairsbreadth. "It's going to go all the way over, and it'll keep him in. Then we'll put the putty over top of it and cast the charm. Ready?"
"Yeah. Don't lift it anymore." The paper slipped reluctantly between floor and bowl, impeded by four tiny, clawed feet. "What if he slashes through it?"
"It's tough," Harry grunted.
"We'll be quick," Hermione assured him.
Shuffling sounds from the bowl, muffled squeaks of distress. "Oh shut up," Ron told it. Parchment all the way under, and Harry was ready to slip his hand under as well, keeping it in place. Keeping Pettigrew in.
"Ready? On three. One, two, flip!"
Cold seeped into his bones. Harry was shaking. "Harry – what – "
"Dementors!" Hermione gasped, eyes wild. "Here!"
"I say, what's going on here?"
He couldn't tell who dropped the bowl.
"STOP THAT RAT!"
"Professor Lupin!" Hermione shouted.
"What's all the commotion?" Fudge grumbled to himself. He frowned at the shrill shouts and noises of broken crockery. Were those – children's voices? Dumbledore informed me that the exams were over. What are children doing in the half-giant's home? Not safe, not even remotely sensible . . .
He sighed. A routine visit to the school, to judge the effectiveness of the Muggle-Studies program expansion at closing of term, and we find yet another area in which Dumbledore's rules are lax. The School Governors will not be impressed . . .
And as he had authorized not only this inspection of the school but the addition of Muggles to the Hogwarts curriculum, any repercussions were unacceptable.
"Wait here," he ordered his entourage. Including the Dementors escorting them from the gates to Hogwarts' front doors. After all, with a maniac like Black on the loose, and after Harry Potter . . . One can't be too careful.
He pushed open the door, and was confronted by an absolute disaster. Chairs upturned, cutlery strewn amidst bits of glass and pieces of plates and cups. And three children – a boy with fiery hair, a girl who looked as if she'd never seen a comb, and – Harry Potter!
"I say, what's going on here?"
The bowl they were crouched over fell with a thunk, and miraculously didn't break. A rodent raced out, headed for his feet.
"STOP THAT RAT!"
Something small, furred, and entirely too rat-like raced over his shoes. "Aaaggghhhh!"
The girl pushed past him, sending him reeling into the doorframe. He clutched at it for balance, as the two boys ran by.
"Professor Lupin!" she screamed.
Fudge winced at the loud whistle. What in blazes is going on here!
He tottered out of the hut, managing to make his way somewhat steadily down the steps. Once on firm ground, he straightened his robes, smoothed his hair.
And walked over to the children clustered in a panic about their professor. Ah, the werewolf. He still had extreme doubts about the wisdom of allowing someone like that to teach at a school.
But still, must see what all the commotion is about. No doubt it was something highly inappropriate. Dumbledore really must keep better control of his staff . . .
A shrill whistle spiked through the air.
"That's the signal!"
Tiny brown streak, darting into the brush. Scent of small-rat.
Brambles whipped his nose, tangled in fur.
Squeak! Squeak, squeak!
Scrabbling in the bushes. Scent thick in his nose. There -
Worse than the ocean he'd swum. Glacial, freezing chill.
Sirius pushed his way into the flat, but nothing barred the door. Lights were on. Nothing seemed wrong, but – "Wormtail?"
Auror's instinct screamed at him. From room to room he moved, motions quicker with every empty set of walls. "Peter!" Not here. No one was here.
No signs of forced entry. No scorch marks from curses – hell, no tingle in the wards indicating that someone had used 'Alohamora', the most basic of opening spells, to get in. Nothing.
Peter was gone.
Why? Where would he go? The entire plan hinged on him staying safe, out of sight, and Peter knew that. So why would he –
When he realized what it could be – what it must be, if Peter was gone of his own free will – Sirius raced from the flat. He had no time.
A gasp of air. He'd lost his grip on Padfoot, slipped back into humanity. And the Dementors were coming closer –
The Dark Mark, glaring serpentine and green, over the house. But he could still hope – that they hadn't been here, that he wasn't too late –
There were only a few lights on in the house. Front and back door, living room. And a window Sirius knew, from multiple visits and Godfatherly duties, to be Harry's.
The knob turned at his touch.
Dread weighted his heart.
No sound. Not even a baby crying, at being woken so loudly in the night.
"James? Dammit, Prongs, answer me!"
And then he stumbled, over something lying in his path. "Lumos."
God, no! No, no, no! NO!
This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening. James was – the Auror took control, coolly recognizing the killing curse, and moving on. Nothing to be done now. Weep later. Now – Lily, and Harry. God, were they still alive?
The body, on the nursery floor, answered his question. He wasn't brave enough to shift the spill of red hair, and check for a pulse. The chest wasn't moving.
And Harry –
He could see, only for a moment. The grey-cowled figure reached up with rotting hands, and lowered its hood. Scabbed skin stretched blankly over empty sockets. But there was a mouth – a great, gasping hole, sucking in air with the rattling sound of death.
The chill vanished, taking the immediacy of memory with it. Sirius gasped, felt someone grip his fingers, whispering – but he couldn't become Padfoot. Not yet – they were still too close, it was too soon –
And only one thought penetrated his consciousness. Pettigrew's gone.
Albus looked at the three desperate children in front of him. Their story would have sounded incredible, unbelievable – to anyone else. But he had been the leader of the Order of the Phoenix since its inception, and he'd thought to count himself among the few who knew Sirius Black. And Peter Pettigrew.
It makes too much sense.
Fudge had been placated, apologized to by the three children before him. Hermione had jabbed Ron in the ribs when he'd first opened his mouth, a disgruntled look on his face. She was the cleverest young witch of her age Albus had ever had the pleasure to teach.
Then, she'd proceeded to astonish her friends with a tearful story of how Ron's pet rat had been lost for months, and she'd been sure her cat had eaten him, and when they found him in Hagrid's hut they'd been so excited that they'd accidentally knocked over a few plates, and they were only trying to catch him but the Minister had startled them and now poor Scabbers was gone forever because he'd run into the Forbidden Forest and then the Dementors had come and scared them all so awfully. . .
The torrent of words was impressive. Where does she find the room to breathe?
And Fudge was too preoccupied soothing a sobbing, hiccupping young girl clinging to his robes, and dealing with her two stammering, wide-eyed friends, to notice Lupin had slipped away.
Now, firmly ensconced in the staffroom and being assiduously watched over by one displeased Severus Snape, Fudge was decidedly out of the way. At least until they had accomplished what they needed to.
The Pevensies were missing – in all likelihood, back at Pevensie Tower with Sirius and Lupin, planning their next steps from this point on.
Short of speaking to the man himself, Dumbledore was convinced of Sirius' innocence. But Pettigrew was still gone, and that posed . . . problems. It seems, at this point, that there is little we can do.
"But you believe us." Harry, desperate for an answer. They were waiting there, in his office, hoping that he might be able to cure the problem. He didn't know if it could be solved. But I have faith in them. And they – all of them – deserve the chance. There is a way . . . .
"Yes, I do," he said quietly. "But I have no power to make other men see the truth."
Harry's face went stark white. Ron's fists clenched. There was a tiny gasp from Hermione.
"What we need," Dumbledore said slowly, his eyes moving from the messy-haired and despairing boy in front of him to the one girl in the group, "is more time."
"But –" Hermione began. And then her eyes became very round. "OH!"
"Now, pay attention," he said, very lowly and clearly. "You must not be seen. Miss Granger, you know the law – you know what is at stake . . . You – must – not – be – seen."
Both boys looked to her, confusion on their faces. "Hermione, what - "
He cut them off. "It is five minutes to six. Miss Granger, two turns should do it. Good luck."
With that, he turned his back on the three children, moving around a bookshelf and out of sight. Spying Fawkes' perch, he made his way to the phoenix. Crimson rustled, and a soft chirp greeted him.
"Hello, Fawkes," he murmured.
A rumble of stone – the gargoyle was admitting someone. Three pairs of feet rushed across the office. Feathery weight settled on his shoulder.
I hope they've done it . . . .
"Hermione, what –"
"It is five minutes to six. Miss Granger, two turns should do it. Good luck."
As soon as the Headmaster turned away, she yanked the chain out from under her robes and hissed, "Come here!"
"Hermione, what's going on?"
"I'll explain later. Get in!"
It was a tight squeeze, but the chain on the Time-Turner was overlarge for a reason. Very handy.
She upended the miniature hourglass, and braced herself for the dizzying sensation. And as Ron and Harry stared, time reversed itself around them.
They found themselves standing in an empty office, the sun much higher than it had been moments ago. "C'mon," she hissed, making for the gargoyle. "Remember, we can't be seen!"
"Hermione, what is that?"
"It's a Time-Turner," she explained as quickly as she could. "It's been how I've been getting to classes all year. C'mon!"
"And what are you three doing outside the Headmaster's office?" Snape.
"Nothing!" She whirled, giving him her most earnest look. "I'd wanted to ask Professor Dumbledore about dropping classes for next term. As you know, my schedule is overloaded, Professor Snape, and I was just –"
"Of course," he snapped. Suspicious black eyes scanned Ron and Harry. At least they've had practice playing innocent before. Not that Snape was easy to fool. But it was the last day of exams, and he clearly had somewhere else to be.
"Oh, no," she moaned, dragging them down the corridor in the opposite direction. "He saw us!"
"Why's that so bad?"
"Because, Harry!" She peered around a corner, but exams were in session and no one was in the halls. "We're playing with Time. If you ran into yourself in the hallway, what would you think?"
"I – I'd think there was some Dark magic going on -"
"Exactly! Loads of witches and wizards have ended up killing their past or future selves by mistake! We've got to be careful!"
Ron nodded. "I've heard about that." His face was pale. "S'really awful, too, screws with the timeline something funny."
I really don't need to hear this right now! "We've got to get out of here. It's three o'clock, we've got -"
Stuffed into one of Filch's closets, they listened.
" – made a prophecy."
She knew that voice . . .
"It's Peter!" Harry blurted.
But any noise they might have made was overshadowed by a bunch of shrieking students. Probably just out of an exam. She pressed her ear to the door.
"Apparently Dumbledore keeps her around for a reason."
"They're going to get us," she whispered. "From the Gryffindor common room."
The voices faded. A few more moments of intense listening. Hermione cracked the door open. "All clear."
"That was . . . weird," Harry decided.
"No kidding!" Ron, looking up and down the hallway. "Trelawney made a prophecy?"
The Pevensies had just knocked on the portrait, and told them it was time. They'd all thought there would be time enough to explain later. Maybe there would be – later, later. She was getting a headache thinking about it.
"We have to get to the Forest," Ron said suddenly. "Hide out, before Peter, Edmund and Lucy get set up."
"That gives us less than an hour," Harry looked at his watch. Frowned, shook it, and then remembered.
"Or thereabouts," Hermione agreed. "Come on."
Their next obstacle appeared just outside the doors, in the form of an large, open, sunlit lawn. Very large. Very open. Very long way to go, without being seen.
"Can we cross the lawn without anyone spotting us?"
"There's the invisibility cloak. But it's in my trunk."
Hermione shook her head. "No time."
"Have to run for it, then, and hope no one's looking out a window," Ron said determinedly.
Oh, I don't like this plan! "If we stick close to the wall until we reach that corner - " she pointed. "From there's the shortest distance to Hagrid's hut. We can get to the Forest from there."
A moment of silence, in consideration of the route. Ron broke it. "Ladies first."
Ooooh, he – fine! Rock was warm against her back. And then there was nothing for it. Please don't let us be seen, please don't let us be seen, she begged as she race across the open field. Rounding Hagrid's hut, out of sight of the castle, she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Wow, Hermione, you're fast!" Ron puffed up behind her, face red in the summer heat. Harry came up behind them.
For a moment, they all caught their breaths.
"How're we going to catch him?" Harry asked suddenly. "It's not as if we can hold him." He nodded at the red-spotted kerchief tied around Ron's hand. "And if he transforms, we're in real trouble."
Are we ever . . . "Look around the outside of Hagrid's hut. There's always junk lying around -"
"Hermione," Ron had a strange expression on his face. "Scabbers. He's in there, alone, right now. Why don't we just - "
"Harry, Ron, think!" she demanded. "If we go in there now, and we don't catch him – he'll be off into the Forbidden Forest and there will be no way we'll ever have a chance at finding him! And then, when we come with the Pevensies, there'll be nothing here for us to find, and Sirius will be out here, for no reason when the Dementors come with Fudge. They almost caught him before – and the only reason they didn't was because he'd chased Pettigrew so far in!"
Harry paled. Ron gulped.
"Don't you get it! We can't change things from the way we know they're supposed to be, and we can't be seen! It may already be botched because Snape almost caught us coming out of Dumbledore's office – and he saw us!"
"Thought he was going to give us detention, he saw us," Ron muttered.
Oh, I'm going to kill him! He obviously saw the look on her face. "Okay, Hermione, okay."
"C'mon," Harry said quietly. "We don't have much time left to get to where we need to be."
Hermione looked around the outside of the hut. Logs, remnants of the Care of Magical Creatures class . . . . There has to be something – an empty cage, anything . . .
"Here, grab something to put him in – Harry, d'you still have that putty?"
"Good – we can trap him in this." Ron held aloft a small, battered cauldron.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. "That's perfect, Ron!"
"Ready?" He grinned. Turning to the Forest, though, the expression slid off his face.
"Let's go." Harry, quietly determined.
They got inside none too soon – the Pevensies were approaching Hagrid's hut, calling him out . . . . Plunging deep through the branches, Hermione heard faint traces of Lupin's voice.
"Are we far back enough?" Harry, looking very much as if he hoped so.
She didn't want to go any deeper either. But if the Pevensies came further in – she peered through the brush. "Shhhh!"
Buckbeak and Lucy were two yards away, Sirius further down the line. Good.
"They're in." They could just barely hear Edmund.
But the next few noises they could hear all to well. "Ouch," Ron winced at his own yell. Shouts, shrieks, the tinkling crashes of broken plates and cups.
"Wow, this is weird," Harry muttered. At the explosion from Hagrid's cabin, they all winced.
And something . . . large! . . . barreled through the branches. Straight at them. Feathers, fierce golden eyes. Buckbeak!
The hippogriff opened his beak, ready to scream challenge -
"Ron, Harry! Bow!" she hissed.
Movement next to her. She carefully, slowly, raised her eyes to the creature before her. He seemed to consider. I hope hippogriffs have better memories than –
It bent forelegs in a swift bow. Harry hurried forward.
The hippogriff gave a soft skreek, and Hermione chanced a look around. The Pevensies were still in position, but –
A high-pitched whistle cut through the forest.
"He's coming!" Ron hissed.
"Buckbeak! Where are they, Buckbeak?" Harry, I really hope he actually does understand us the way Hagrid keeps insisting he can – because if he tries to eat Pettigrew, we're in real trouble . . . .
The hippogriff clacked its beak, pushing through the trees, toward where Sirius had been.
A wave of cool air, slapping them in the face.
Dementors, headed their way. Weaving in and around the line of people made by the Pevensies – who could see them, but were unaffected by the leeching chill surrounding them.
A rustling in the brush.
A three-toed, taloned foot slammed downward – no, Buckbeak! – pinning the rat by its tail. Pettigrew froze.
And Ron scooped up Scabbers, dropped him into the cauldron. She slapped the putty, a big thick disk, over the top.
A flick of her wand, a few murmured words, and it was over. They'd done it.
But the Dementors were still advancing on black fur, which had stopped dead.
"Move, Sirius!" Harry breathed beside her. He was pale in the shadows of the Forest, and shaking. "Move!"
But black fur rippled into human skin, into the form of a man, stretched out and helpless before the freezing, soul-sucking horror of the Dementors. A soft moan reached them. "No. . . ."
Oh my God!
A Dementor, one of the at-least-ten gliding into the clearing, had reached the stricken man. It lowered its hood as they watched, frozen by chill horror, and grabbed Sirius by the neck, lifting him to its face -
And Harry was pushing past her and Ron, wand upraised, face filled with determination. "Expecto Patronum!"
A silver stag shot from the end of his wand. Hermione stared. That's a Patronus! But how did Harry –that's really, really advanced magic! Antlers lowered, it charged the Dementor about to steal Sirius' soul. With a soundless shriek, decaying grey robes fled. The silvery Patronus loped through the clearing, driving the Dementors before it.
Harry stood, panting, over the prone form of his godfather.
She darted out to the clearing, and dragged Harry back into the bushes. "Hermione, what -"
The three Pevensies burst into the grove. Seeing the man crumpled on the ground, they clustered around. Soft voices filled the trees.
Safe, Hermione sighed. Now all we have to do is get Pettigrew to Dumbledore –
"Harry?" Ron, staring at their friend. Who had gone rigid, and was shivering. Dread, and something more, filled her. Knuckles white on Ron's arm, she turned.
A Dementor was standing there – she couldn't move – it was cold, so cold!
"Begone," came a firm voice from behind her. Peter? "You have no right to hunt here. And you will begone!"
Grey robes vanished. Hermione blinked. Thought rushed back. He's seen us!
But Peter Pevensie glanced back toward the light, beyond the trees of the Forbidden Forest. Where she, Ron, and Harry were still talking frantically with Professor Lupin.
And he spied the stoppered cauldron in Ron's hand. In the silence that rose between them, the scrabbling of tiny claws against metal echoed loudly.
Peter smiled. "I think," he said softly, "that you three ought to go see Professor Dumbledore, as soon as we leave."
Hermione heaved a sigh. We don't have much time –
"I'll make sure everyone clears out of your way," Peter continued. "When you're done there, come to Pevensie Tower." Blue eyes latched on green. "Harry, don't worry about Sirius. Remus will help us take care of him."
With a nod, Peter disappeared back into the clearing. They heard his voice, coaxing Sirius to change form, collecting his family. Moments later, they were gone.
"Come on!" said Hermione. "We have to get back to Dumbledore's office – we only have ten minutes!"
"Can we make it?" Ron, extremely worried.
Harry gripped Buckbeak's leash, gave them a brilliant smile. "If we hurry. Let's go!"
"Are you alright?"
Pale eyes blinked at him from over a steaming mug, more at peace than he had seen them since they had been reunited. "I will be."
Remus sipped his own hot chocolate. Warmth shot through him. "Pettigrew's been captured," Peter told them. "How, can wait until later. We have to talk to the children, and to Dumbledore. They'll be along shortly."
And what a conversation that had been. Harry, Ron and Hermione were relating in detail their adventures with the Time-Turner; Albus had informed them that Fudge was in the staff room.
The stoppered cauldron was sitting in the middle of the room, refreshed with oxygen by a handy spell every fifteen minutes or so.
They hadn't decided what to do with Pettigrew yet.
"There must be a trial," Edmund said firmly. "In front of the entire Wizarding world. So that even the littlest child knows the truth."
"Handing Pettigrew over to Fudge is dangerous," Lucy agreed. None of them appeared to place any faith in the Ministry. After hearing how his government had attempted to force answers from an innocent man, and then locked him away anyway, Remus didn't either. There is no way I am letting that happen again. If something should happen -
Sirius would be right back in Azkaban. Suffering. And they would both be alone. Never.
Dumbledore stroked his beard. "It will not be easy," he cautioned. "The Wizarding world has believed Sirius guilty for over a decade. And the word of Muggles will not hold much weight in court."
"Really." And there was a look on Peter's face that only those who could see Thestrals would ever fully understand.
"It doesn't matter," Remus stated. "It is the truth – and we will make them see it." The first step being to throw the information out to the public. That Peter Pettigrew was alive – that Sirius had never had a trial – It will be dangerous. But they were already being hunted. It will raise public suspicion, and unrest. And when Dumbledore brings the proposition in front of the Ministry . . .
We have a chance. And we have sanctuary.
The Pevensies had told them both that there was room in the Mansion for two more. And so during the summer, Remus and Sirius would be there; rebuilding their friendship, and planning for the future.
The curse on the Dark Arts job seemed to have melted away – he would be teaching again next year, to his eternal surprise. He couldn't help but think that somehow, the Pevensies had something to do with that as well.
He smiled at his best friend. They had only one more obstacle before them, and then. . . . For the first time in over a decade, the future shone bright once more.
It was so . . . empty. That doesn't make any sense, she scolded herself. You never came back here with them, anyway. You've avoided them for years.
The tearstained letter in her pocket was proof of that. It had taken Susan almost a year to get up enough courage to come back here.
I didn't know.
How? How could she not know? She'd always thought she would, somehow, if – if something should -
"There is a letter, for you. From England."
She'd broken with them. Running from something she couldn't remember, and they couldn't forget. But it was just a game! A game!
But she would never – could never – stop loving them.
And now she would be the only one to ever return to the Mansion. Alone.
The sound of a door opening, behind her. She tensed. Who on Earth -
It can't be.
A different voice, this time. "Su?"
No! She wouldn't look. They're dead! All –
Fingers reached out. Pushed dark strands out of her face, an achingly familiar gesture. Two brown gazes, and one blue, met her tears.
"Lu? E - Edmund? Peter?"
Warm bodies enfolded her on all sides. She sank into the offered comfort. Harsh sobs ripped from her. Oh, thank Aslan!
Aslan . . . it flooded her, memories shaking off the dust of years, bursting from the boxes she had confined them to. How could I ever forget – Narnia! Oh, Aslan!
The chill that had encased her heart shattered, as the White Witch's grip on Narnia had been broken. Simply by the power of that name.
And she thought that she might finally understand. Faith.