Disclaimer: I own none of these characters, and my interpretations are my own. Harry Potter belongs to JKR. CS Lewis owns most everything else. I've never read The Last Battle, and will be AUing that as well. The only thing I lay claim to here is the plot, and my interpretation of the characters. Part 2 contains a few references to Robin4's lovely UU, which I have obtained permission to use.
A/N: Sequel to Elijah's Cup. I would recommend reading that first. To Sara, for the encouragement, and for reminding me of what canon is, and isn't. Also, for dozens of awesome chats, and for yanking me further into the realm of the UU. Always appreciated.
SHIELD OF DAVID
SHIELD OF DAVID
--18 July 1994--
It was a short article.
And given the series documenting every word, action, and hitch in his trial – including Peter Pettigrew's failed escape attempt – it didn't garner as much attention as the two other headlines that shared the front page.
After all, by now everyone expected to see SIRIUS BLACK DECLARED INNOCENT. The article just publicized a fact that it had taken the Wizarding world a month to accept.
Of less interest was the fate of Pettigrew. Revealed as a traitor, much of the hatred formerly aimed at Black had shifted target. Under Veritaserum, before the Wizengamot, the truth had at last come out. Pettigrew was sentenced to life in Azkaban; precautions, due to the nature of his Animagus form, were plentiful.
Of more interest was the confirmation that DEATH EATERS STIR ONCE MORE.
Well, it's not entirely rubbish.
Sirius dropped the paper, loosing a breath. The man who had gone to Azkaban might have thrown the Daily Prophet, might have raged and railed. The man who had escaped simply bit his lip on any number of vile curses, and scanned the article again.
Auror training had taught him control, and failed to teach him patience. Azkaban had refined that control to perfection, and forced patience down his throat, draught by bitter draught. The only thing that had separated him from the other inhabitants of that ghastly island had been innocence and sanity. One could be denied, but not undone. The other was much harder to hang on to.
Pale blue eyes narrowed, jumped back up to the name gracing the article. Robert Channesy. According to Remus, this particular reporter was well-known for exposing the blunt truth. He might not trust the press, but he trusted his friend. And if the Death Eaters were coming back once more . . .
Voldemort. The idea that he might have returned was unbearable. But so had life in Azkaban been unbearable. Somehow, something has changed. Something is different. It had to be. And the Order knows even more.
Not that he knew much about that. Or that I really want to.
Blessed – or cursed – with a solitary cell for twelve years, he had had the opportunity to do quite a lot of thinking. More than half that time he had spent drowning in miserable memories; replayed recollections of leaving home, of death, of betrayal and loss. But when the Dementors retreated, Sirius had had time to wonder about the quietude. The lack of any contact, even from those wishing to gloat over his misery.
And there are plenty of those. Some had cause to hate him for his actions, though most of those were there as well, locked behind bars and rotting gray cloaks. Far more hated him for his name and blood, for his House, and simply for his life. Yet even the insane prisoners received the occasional visitor. There was nothing. No one.
Not even a member of the Order, with malice and a Memory Charm, to take away what he knew of the covert group.
He had been far from reassured by that. Did Dumbledore think me no threat, locked in Azkaban? Did he think there was no risk, with Voldemort gone? Such action would have been remarkably careless of the man. The Order, after all, had not entirely disappeared in the wake of that horrible night.
Surrounded by filthy stone, his only reprieve a small, barred window that admitted both sun and rain, Sirius had come to several conclusions. And had lost all trust in his world.
There had been a lapse, somewhere. He'd more than once wondered if the thought was the first stirrings of insanity, but in calmer moments, he had known. There had been ways to prevent his fate; there had been people who would have listened. The attempt might have locked him away regardless, but at least it would have been made. But I fell through – no, I was forced through, the cracks in the system.
Beaten bloody by former colleagues and former friends who had been glad to do it, glad to know that they had gotten him, finished the war, saved the world – he had not broken.
It was over now. He was innocent, and the world knew. But he felt no relief, only a tired acceptance – something that not even Azkaban had been able to teach him.
Thin fingers reached for the paper, and paused. Pale eyes locked on the article. DEATH EATERS STIR ONCE MORE.
It's not over.
"Sirius?" The thin form jerked, twisting sharply. Remus hid a wince. Have to make more noise, next time. "Sorry."
But his friend gave him a small smile, relaxing. Blue eyes brightened in a face that was far too pale.
He took the chair opposite, giving his eyes a moment to wander around the Muggle kitchen. The strangeness lay in the similarities – but with the Pevensies, he'd come to expect that. They'd been staying at the Mansion since classes let out. Through the trial . . .
"It's made the papers, then," he noted.
Sirius slid the Daily Prophet over.
Remus kept his eyes on his friend, the pallor, the haggardness. He was slimmer than he'd ever been, but the weight was steadily coming back, muscle slowly building up once more.
But in his eyes . . .
The Sirius before Azkaban would have joked and smiled at him, passing any anxiety off with a grin. This man just looked tired. "Along with that."
Remus redirected his stare to the paper. He was glad for that spark of anger, proving it was still Sirius inside. Haunted, but strangely, impossibly – miraculously – whole. "You always did defy the odds," he murmured, looking up to catch a bemused glance.
"Nothing," Remus said quickly, refocusing on the page. Ah. So that's what had caught Sirius's ire. Death Eaters stirring, in . . . Surrey. And he knew why. All that – the pain and the years alone, and James and Lily – and now there were rumors that Voldemort had returned. He snarled, low and angry.
Remus lowered the paper, seeing all his pain and more in the blue eyes across the table from him. "The full moon's in a week," he offered, suddenly desperate to talk about anything else.
Sirius smiled at him, crooked, but understanding. "Yeah. I know."
Though he hadn't thought so at first, the Pevensies were well aware of exactly what they'd offered, when they'd insisted that Remus and Sirius stay at the Mansion in the summer.
"Do you – that is -" Remus felt his face heat. He hadn't stuttered so over his words since the train, that awkward first year. Oh, this is bloody awful. How do I – But this was his best friend. So of course it was awkward, trying to figure out how to repair a friendship that didn't need to be fixed. It just needed to grow, thirteen years' worth, in as short a time as he could make it.
But they could still read each other, almost as well as they ever could. And Sirius's smile became more real, somehow. "Don't be silly, Moony. 'Course."
And Remus couldn't help but grin back, feeling the wolf ease within him. Padfoot is back. It couldn't be perfect – what was? – but it was damn near close enough.
"You had to ask?" A bit of the ever-confident Sirius peeked through years of abuse to smile, unaccustomedly shy, at him.
He couldn't explain why, couldn't assume that everything would be the same. I wanted to . . . So badly, that he just couldn't. But now, he let the grin free. "I had to."
"– will. Or I'll have -" His father's voice, cutting through the shouts emanating through the study door. So much for silencing charms.
But Gibbon apparently wasn't cowed by his father's tone. More the fool he, Draco thought without pity. "No! What the hell would -"
Quiet, silky tones, familiar to anyone who'd survived Lucius Malfoy's anger. "– of the Dark Lord. Mine. And yours."
Careful, careful . . . Draco crept closer, watching the locking spells. After this many years, he knew every one inside out. Get too close, and the caster would be immediately alerted – but not the unlucky sod who tripped the alarm.
"You've all but guaranteed your own demise at our Lord's hands through your betrayal."
Lord? Father couldn't possibly be talking about . . . him, could he? He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was dead. Or close enough.
"You plan to do this, then."
Draco snorted, careful to keep it quiet. You didn't have to be able to see Gibbon to see the brutal-faced man's resignation. No one says no to Father. Haven't you figured that out by now?
"You will be the willing sacrifice," Lucius said bluntly. Willing sacrifice? That didn't sound good . . .
An indrawn breath. "You can't possibly – there must be some other -"
"You have two weeks to get your affairs in order."
Draco knew what that meant. Magic didn't call for – Old magic does, a voice of caution reminded him. The same voice that had him keeping regular correspondence with Edmund Pevensie, out of his parents' watchful sight. Dark magic.
"And the enemy?" Gibbon sounded upset. Resigned.
Draco snorted. Defeated so soon? No wonder Father said you were a worthless waste. Intimidating or not, the bulky Death Eater lacked any sort of defiance. Which Draco supposed was required in a servant. He sneered unconsciously. I bow to no one! No one. Voldemort least of all.
"Leave that to me."
Pale eyes widened. Time to go! The thin form skulked back into the shadows, skittering down the hallway. A careful jump put him across the squeaky step; soft feet placed themselves on the very inside edges of the stairs, ascending noiselessly.
A moment to seat himself at his desk, pull texts, ink and quill towards him. Perfect. Nothing amiss in Malfoy Manor. The boy? He's been at his books all day.
And he had homework – for a sterner taskmaster than any at Hogwarts. Despite the fact that it was summer, and in years past he had spent the summers on his broom, in the Wiltshire sky –
But it was different then, Draco reminded himself fiercely.
It had been. The darkening cloud that was Lord Voldemort's very existence hadn't shadowed his future. It's swallowing my entire life. And the thought brought with it the panic of a drowning man. No!
It had been different. Five years ago, Nothos had still been alive. 'An heir and a spare'. Malfoys were practical as any other pureblooded Wizarding family. Though his friends at school – and especially his 'enemies' – would never believe it, Draco hadn't been the heir.
Nothos had two years on him, had been a month away from his own Hogwarts letter, before the accident. Draco could forget, most of the time. Because no one in polite society will speak of it. He buried the rage, deep inside. Bottle it tight enough, and the explosion might one day set him free. Such a scandal. 'But at least you have a spare.'
Did they think him deaf? He'd been standing right next to Mother when Madam Avery had said it. Bitch.
And Nothos had been the heir, in fact as well as word. Upon turning ten, old magics had taken hold; magics that could be prevented if the parents wished, but once set, never undone. Many had tried, and failed, in doing so. Magics as old as wizardry.
After his death, on Draco's tenth birthday, those selfsame magics had turned their attention to him. As had both his parents, becoming actively intent on every aspect of their remaining son. Failings and achievements were seen equally, and punished appropriately. The best was no longer good enough.
Neither of his parents had seemed very remorseful at the funeral.
Until the end of last summer, Draco had never known why.
Fingers absently smoothed white-blond strands, blue eyes unseeing of the essay before him. He'd finished it some time ago, moving on to do the preliminary year's work for the Muggle Studies books he'd hidden with every bit of cleverness and magic he'd ever been taught – and a few he'd discovered for himself.
Eavesdropping was risky – not only for the obvious reasons. Draco had learned early on about getting caught. No, sometimes what happened when you didn't get caught was worse. What you heard.
Mother had always said that Nothos was a bit premature; and in the pictures, he had been a small baby. But Draco knew very little about how babies were supposed to look. Apparently, Father had had his suspicions from the very beginning. Which was why he'd named Nothos what he did.
'He was no heir of mine. Thanks to you,' Lucius sneered.
Mother's soft words were lost to the muffling carpeting and wood of Father's study.
An inelegant snort. 'Do be quiet, Narcissa. You know your family connections protect you, even from me. As for your son – well, there exists no problem anymore.'
No. The only way to survive was not to think of it. Not to think of how his father had… handled the 'problem'.
That problem was my brother! The only one I ever –
Nothos had been the only one close to him, his entire life. Draco could see in hindsight how Father had always tried to set them against each other. But in defiance of that, they had been closer than they might have been otherwise.
And when he'd found out that his brother, four years in the grave, had been murdered because he wasn't 'fit' . . . If Draco even tried to think about who had done the deed, he knew he might start casting hexes, and not stop until one of them was dead.
He certainly hadn't been in any way prepared to be hustled onto the train less than two days later, with those two bumbling idiots Crabbe and Goyle, who were only 'keeping a watch' on him. Not for his parents, but for theirs. Though you never know. It might be for both.
He reached for spare parchment and a quill. That's how life as a Slytherin is. Only he had the ambition to get free of it all.
And then he'd seen Granger, Potter and Weasley. Granger, whose family was safe as Muggles, at least for now. Potter, who had no family to speak of. And Weasley, who had so many brothers, he'd probably never notice if one died. None of them know real loss. Sure, Potter's parents were dead – but he couldn't even remember them, no matter what anyone said.
So the war against You-Know-Who might have taken away any chance the Boy Who Lived had to be loved – but it had done the same to Draco.
All in all, it hadn't been the best way to start his third year at Hogwarts.
He still didn't know who Nothos' father was, but that didn't matter. He'd pieced together enough, with what he'd heard these past few weeks, to come to the conclusion that his beloved older brother hadn't been as pureblooded as the world had assumed. Oh, I have no proof. And never would, knowing Father.
But it was You-Kn – Voldemort, and his pureblooded prejudices, that had stolen the only person Draco had ever loved. And who ever loved me. Lucius had ever been looking forward. And should his Lord return to find his staunchest follower's heir wasn't pure . . .
They will pay.
Quill-tip set ink to parchment.
'Dear Edmund . . .'
--20 July 1994--
--20 July 1994--
The view from the window of Dudley's second bedroom was really quite nice, especially now that the bars had been taken off. After all, Harry hadn't yet told them that there really wasn't anything to be afraid of, as his godfather wasn't as murderous as they believed.
Hermione had forwarded him the article from the Daily Prophet; she'd even had it framed. It sat next to Sirius' latest letter; one that filled him in equal measure with joy and nervousness.
'- some time to convince Dumbledore,' ran Sirius' bold handwriting. 'But if you like, you can come stay with me at the Pevensies' for the rest of the summer. I'll come and get you after the full moon.'
He'd scrambled then for a calendar and a date, and realized that Sirius would be there before his birthday. He'd be away from the Dursleys, for the first time since his parents died, on the thirty-first of July.
He'd been shaking so hard with excitement that he'd had to wait a moment before he could pen a response. Even Hedwig had caught some of the jittery joy.
Now that time had passed, he'd had cause to wonder. He'd gotten to know Sirius, but not as well as Lupin. He guessed he just needed time. Sirius had written that he did have a home; the last surviving scion of the Black family had been just as surprised to hear about it as Harry had, apparently.
'After the death of my parents and brother, everything reverted back to me. Grimmauld Place hasn't been lived in for years – God knows what's become of it.'
But they had the chance to explore it together. Sirius still needed a new wand, and Harry's Hogwarts letter had the list of books he needed for the next year. Apparently the Mansion owned by the Pevensies wasn't far from Hogwarts. And from Hogsmeade, they could floo to Diagon Alley.
So why was he so nervous about this?
Maybe it was because he was leaving the Dursleys, for the first time. The time he spent here was an awful, frightened and hungry part of his life – but at least he knew the rules. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Don't let them see you sneak the food; don't draw attention. Don't make eye contact, don't think or act or move out of place.
Harder this summer, because of what had happened at the end of last. Blowing up 'Aunt' Marge had slipped completely from his mind – but not from his relatives'. But also easier; with the threat of Sirius' retribution hanging over their heads, the Dursleys were less inclined to punish him for minor 'offenses'.
He felt awful, knowing he was manipulating them and lying. He felt even worse when he realized that the benefits of not being smacked around meant he wouldn't stop. He really wanted to talk to Peter. But sending Hedwig with another letter was the best he could do for now.
'Dear Peter . . .'
Fingers curled around a cup of tea, Edmund warily eyed the kitchen door. I don't think it's ever been this bad.
And it hadn't. Even as children, there had been no awkwardness between them. They'd known one another well enough to understand without needing words. Now, all they had left was words, and no understanding.
And it doesn't help that Peter's not here.
Edmund understood; really, he did. Peter'd had to go back, check in with his job. The government tended to get twitchy when those who worked for its shadier divisions took long leaves of absence, and failed to reappear at the end of them. The last thing we need now is more attention.
The Pevensies were trying to reconnect, after years of aching misunderstanding and distance. The mess with the Wizarding world . . . by now, Edmund was irritated enough to begrudge it its very existence, never mind the troublesome copies of the Daily Prophet that came by owl every morning.
Suffice to say, there's been a lot of explaining on both sides.
He'd escaped the uncomfortable conversation in the study on the pretext of refreshing his cup of tea. He'd much rather dump it and run, but he honestly did want to talk to Su again. If only we could . . .
If only they could get past the wall that had built up during their years apart.
Well, you're not doing much standing in the hallway like a dazed faun.
There was always that, after all – if at first you don't succeed, hit it with a bigger hammer. Not exactly diplomatic. But then, he'd always been the worst of his siblings at that. Turning on his heel, Edmund abandoned the idea of entering the kitchen. Lu and Su were in the study – So what in bloody blazes am I doing here? Time to shake things up a bit.
The door closed with a soft click, leaving him alone with a table and chair. And a two-way mirror. Peter almost smiled, but knew that the harsh lighting would catch the expression, reflecting it back to whoever was watching from behind silvered glass. If there's anyone there at all.
Mind games. They knew that he could recognize a two-way mirror; he knew that they knew – sometimes, it was enough to make Peter wish for an honest battle. At least there, lines were drawn and there was no chicanery.
He settled himself in the uncomfortable chair, content to wait. With years of patience gained in court, Peter held any sign of his unease from his face.
And he was uneasy.
The debriefing had been normal; or as normal as it could be, without his giving away many pertinent details. He'd had to attend to a family matter, such as it was. Rumors and hints of Voldemort . . . nothing tangible, but dangerous enough. And his family would always come above all else.
But there was no obvious call for alarm.
So why, now, am I going through a second debrief? Did something happen that I haven't heard about?
Possible, but unlikely. He'd kept in regular contact with his colleagues. Though no details were given from either end, that was expected. But surely he'd have heard if something had happened.
The door opened, and his head came up. The woman who entered was not his supervisor, as he had expected. Younger, and slender, with angular features and hair like sunset on grain. Familiar features, though he knew he'd never seen this woman before.
And she was wearing a witch's robes.
Peter felt his face draw into grim lines. Dumbledore. He didn't know how, and he didn't know why, but it was the only explanation.
The witch held out a hand, coolly professional. At least she doesn't have a wand pointed at me. Yet. Though the fat folder she held was hardly more reassuring. This could only have something to do with Hogwarts. Or Voldemort. "Aileen Macready," she introduced herself. "Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Peter hesitated, as he knew he should, before shaking her hand. "Peter Pevensie." Macready?! It couldn't be . . . It was a common name. But now that he'd placed it, he recognized the set of her features; green eyes, thin, angular face with high cheekbones.
She took the seat across from him, opening the folder.
Recognizing the tactic, he waited patiently as she slowly read through several documents. Green eyes finally settled on him. She pushed the frames up on her nose.
"I was hoping you could help me." She gestured to the file. He couldn't see whose it was, yet. But I don't trust it. Anything from the Ministry of Magic . . . who knew who was really in command, with Fudge's incompetence. "There are a few things I'd like to clear up."
"Of course," Peter gave her the polite response. And hoped he could bluff his way through, for the benefit of hidden recording devices that were no doubt thirstily saving every word.
"I understand you took a leave of absence for the past eleven months?"
"I needed to attend to some important family matters." The truth. Just not all of it.
"And you were . . ." Aileen probed. Eyes on the folder, hands sifting through papers, she even managed to look nonchalant.
Blue eyes were level. "In America." At least, that's what every Muggle paper trail will tell you. Oh, he'd bought the plane ticket, sure enough. And handed it off, soon as he could, to a friend of Edmund's.
He gave her credit; if he didn't know where this was going, he'd never have guessed it from her tone of voice or body language. She was perfectly relaxed, acting as if the barest of her attention was on the interrogation. And that's what it is, diplomacy be damned.
"I've never been to America."
He said nothing.
"I've heard it's quite a sight. The people especially," she chattered on, covering the pause she'd left him to reply. "A very different culture. It must have been interesting to experience it."
He said nothing.
Green eyes narrowed.
Here it comes.
"If, that is, you actually went to America."
He said nothing, continuing to stare levelly at her. Narnian courts were good practice. Use the silence.
"And I," she paused, interlacing fingers atop the folder's contents, "don't think you did."
Peter raised an interested brow, and said with utter confidence, "Where, then, do you think I went?" Just a little exasperation in face and body, a tint of irritation. Just enough for it to ring true. Just a profiler, trying to get back to the job with minimum hassle, landed with a woman who's got more than her share of paranoia.
"The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Lights, camera, action!
He let the silence hang heavy, before skeptically repeating, "The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Her lips pursed. "Yes."
Peter went for the door. Fingers wrapped around the handle before a strident voice rang out behind him.
"You seem to think this interview is over."
He turned, leant a shoulder against the wall. Folded his arms. And leveled a scathing blue stare her way. "You're insane," Peter said flatly.
She took it remarkably well. Just like the Macready. You can almost see the steam coming out of her ears. "What makes you say that?"
Peter eyed her. "Let me state the obvious. First," he ticked off a digit, "the clothes. Next, that whole 'witchcraft and wizardry' thing. Third, whatever you've got in the holster under your arm, it's not a gun."
No mention of her insinuations; keep attention as far from those as possible.
Besides. Given what Edmund would do if he were here, I think I'm behaving myself.
"Be that as it may," she responded tightly, "Your superiors have ordered you to remain for a debriefing. And you will stay, until I decide that it's over."
Peter snorted. "Stop me."
A heartbeat's pause, as he turned the handle.
Peter dove for the floor, the spell missing him by inches. He rolled behind the table for cover.
Carefully, watching her every move, he stood.
Between him and the door, Macready looked much more relaxed. Especially with what he judged to be about ten inches of dogwood casually aimed his way.
"What the hell was that?" he snapped, biting back a much more Narnian curse.
"A spell, Mr. Pevensie. Surely you're not going to try to tell me you've never seen one before."
"I have no idea what you're talking about. But I think you're out of your mind."
"Then why did you dive for the floor?" Sweet satisfaction, there, in the surety that he was caught.
Think again. "Because if I had a gun, that would be when I'd shoot."
The wand slipped back into its holster. She thinks she's won. "This interview is not over, Mr. Pevensie. Sit down."
"I don't think so." Before she could blink, he shouldered past her, and was gone.
"Enjoying the show?"
She winced. "It really is that bad, isn't it," Aileen murmured.
At her side, also perusing the playback, was Alberta Lopatin. The older woman was kind enough to stifle her snickers, as the replay of Pevensie's stubbornness goaded her younger colleague into snapping fury. At least she's not eating popcorn.
"I had no idea he was this good," Pevensie's supervisor said thoughtfully.
"Neither did I," Aileen grumbled. "You told me he was an ordinary profiler! Not an agent!"
"He's not." But by the look in her eye, Bert was chewing on an idea.
All my questions – evaded. Deflected. The only outright lie consisting of two words. He definitely wasn't in America. But I can't prove it! Not using purely Muggle evidence, at least.
Aileen kept her eyes riveted to the recording. "I thought he was a Muggle." From everything Dumbledore wrote me, he seemed ordinary enough. Except for the fact that this man had somehow managed to garner the enmity of Voldemort, if she read between the lines. And he had no other ties to the magical world.
Daughter of a Muggle-born wizard and a Muggle mother, Aileen Macready had gone to Hogwarts, and was familiar enough with both worlds to be more than useful to her government. Intra-governmental liaison between Muggle and Magical Ministries. Sounds so much more glorious than 'multiple-department slave'.
"He is a Muggle." Bert was staring at the film avidly. Cataloguing reflexes as he dove for the floor, no doubt. "No indication in his file of any magical tendencies. Quite the opposite, in fact."
"And his family?" 'I needed to attend to some important family matters.'
"All distant, apparently. And all in America."
"No immediate family in England?" she pressed.
Bert shrugged. Aileen wasn't fool enough to think that because sharp grey eyes were trained on the recording, that Bert wasn't paying attention. "Not according to our files. What do your sources say?"
Aileen considered the film, once more. On screen, Pevensie pushed past her and out the doorway. "What did he say when he got to your office?" she asked instead.
Bert folded her hands behind her back in amusement. "He thinks you are without a doubt quite off your rocker, my dear."
Aileen snorted. Not a bad actor.
"And he wanted to know what the hell I was playing at, sending him in there to talk to a madwoman," Bert finished calmly.
Aileen switched the recording off, pocketing the disk. Made herself comfortable in a leather chair. Nice office, Bertie. And tilted her head, intrigued. "He said that?"
"Not in so many words," Alberta said dryly. "He's always been more diplomatic than that." She pulled Pevensie's file in front of her, slipping her shoes off as she sat at her desk. Glasses came out. Perched on her nose, the lenses made her look grandmotherly, though few people said that to her face and lived to tell of it.
At least, more grandmotherly than Gram Macready. Her father's mother had been a cold woman, at least when it came to her son and his 'unholy' ways. Though Grams had always loved her. I guess it's a good thing she died before I got my Hogwarts letter.
"Well, disguising this as a normal debriefing didn't work."
"Thank you, Bert, for stating the obvious," Aileen drawled. She picked at her fingernails, thinking madly.
Alberta tossed her glasses onto the desk, sitting back. Aileen ignored the intent glare fixed on her.
"So your superiors don't know about this little venture of yours," the older woman said softly.
Aileen froze, then internally cursed the reaction. "What makes you say that?" She's never going to buy that.
True to form, the supervisor of this covert branch of Muggle government fixed her with a steely glare. "I've known you since you were toddling about in nappies," she stated baldly.
Aileen winced. I guess I asked for that.
"I can tell when you're lying. And I can tell," steely eyes softened, "when you're reaching just a little bit beyond your orders, when it comes to us."
The view from Bert's window was splendid. Especially in summer, when the Thames wasn't dirty from the spring thaw. The water glared at all of London, reflecting the sunlight -
The Magical government really did have a ridiculous policy when it came to dealing with its Muggle counterpart. Minimum contact? One liaison? One? Truth be told, it was probably only her father's position and her close connections with Alberta Lopatin that got her this job. They had to get rid of me somehow. And she had a devil of a time getting anyone to even listen to her at all . . .
And most of that's due to Fudge. The man is an incompetent windbag. It was completely beyond her how he kept getting re-elected.
"I might have done a little stretching," she admitted.
"Just to keep in shape?" Bert was suspicious.
"There is something there," she insisted, knowing she was rising to the bait and answering anyway. "I have direct confirmation of his link to the Magical world."
"But it's the indirect insinuations you need information about."
Bert had always had the distinct ability to cut through the crap to the heart of a situation. Aileen scowled. I really hate it when she does that. "Do you have an idea on how to get him to talk to me?"
Gray eyes twinkled in an otherwise pleasant face, lighting the gently wrinkled, strong features with an unholy glee. Oh Merlin, Aileen thought faintly. What have I done? She knew that look.
"As a matter of fact, I do."
--27 July 1994--
Arms wrapped in a hug around him, and Harry finally relaxed. It was real, he was gone, out of the Dursleys' and free for the summer.
The man held him out at arm's length, looking him over carefully. He knew that Edmund had told his godfather about what sometimes happened. It wasn't a big deal, really. Just some bruises.
But it gave him a warm feeling to know that Sirius had been furious; that only Dumbledore's intervention had prevented him from taking Harry with him immediately at the end of the school year.
He wasn't declared innocent then. It could have been a disaster.
But it wasn't – and now –
He looked the other over as well, noting the signs of health. Sirius had put weight back, had healthy color in his skin. He looks so much better . . .
Sirius' eyes were dark, worried. "How are you?"
Harry grinned. "Great."
Some of the concern slipped away, but not all, and Sirius flashed a quick smile. "Good."
The reprieve of this summer had been orchestrated by Edmund Pevensie. Appearing as a suitably respectable scholar, and obviously a Muggle, he'd played on the pretense that Harry attended St. Brutus' Secure Centre for Incurably Criminal Boys, claiming the need for subjects for an intense psychological study. In minor panic of being caught out in a lie, as well as jumping at the chance for a legitimate excuse to get rid of him for the rest of July and August, Uncle Vernon had agreed.
Appropriate forms transferring temporary guardianship of Harry into Edmund's care, which had been previously approved by a judge and notary, were signed. Harry had thought them all part of the farce, until Edmund had very seriously explained that they were real, and necessary.
The drive had been long, but fun and relaxed. He hadn't been able to believe it, not until the moment the car had pulled up the dirt path, and the Mansion came into sight.
"This place is unbelievable!"
Sirius ruffled his hair affectionately. "It sure is. Hey, are you hungry?"
Harry's stomach decided to answer that one for him. He blushed.
Sirius just grinned. "Come on, the kitchen's this way."
Harry couldn't help but stare at the insane jumble of stuff packed into every corner. It's almost like a museum. Weird. But exactly the sort of place he could see the Pevensies living in, somehow. It was just that wondrous bit beyond normal. Harry thought it fit.
There were two women hovering over the stove in the kitchen, and Edmund was making sandwiches. The taller turned, and Harry recognized auburn locks. "Lucy!"
She smiled, reaching out to give him a hug. "Hello, Harry. How are you?"
"I'm fine, thanks," he darted a curious glance at the other woman. She turned, and he saw that she had the same dark hair as Edmund, but shared Peter's blue eyes.
"This is my sister Susan," Lucy introduced them.
"How d'you do?" Harry managed.
"Fine, thank you," came a gentle voice. Blue eyes didn't sparkle like Peter's, but were warm and welcoming. "Would you like something to eat?"
They were chin-deep in savory soup and sandwiches when Harry found a question. "Where's Peter?"
Edmund grunted, eyes on a piece of parchment. A letter? "He has to go back to London during the week. For his job."
"He'll be back tomorrow night, for the weekend," Lucy added. "He takes the train to Coombe Halt, and Ed and I usually meet him there."
He'd be there before Harry's birthday then, on Monday. He didn't say anything, but Harry was excited at the idea of being able to sleep in. He didn't know what else he wanted to do, but he was sure he'd be able to think of something.
Harry refilled his bowl, drinking the soup down. It really was good. Conversation floated easily between them, and Remus appeared halfway through, engrossed in something he'd plucked from the extensive library.
Almost immediately, jokes started flying between the three older men. Lucy and Susan were involved in a quiet conversation, but everyone included him, talking to him instead of around.
It wasn't like any meal he'd ever had before, Harry decided. It was calm in a way Hogwarts wasn't. Pleasant. And close. Almost like family.
But he shied from that thought, snagging another sandwich.
"So Harry, if you like, I can show you to your room, and you can get settled in a bit before exploring," Edmund offered.
He looked to his godfather for a moment, and Sirius winked. "Sure!" Harry agreed, carrying his plates to the sink.
"Don't worry about the dishes," Susan told him. "It's my turn to take care of them."
Harry halted, water running over his hands. "Are you sure?"
Susan smiled, rising to nudge him out of the way. "Go on, have fun."
"Um, okay." He hid his awkwardness behind an answering smile. I guess this is going to take some getting used to.
But Sirius followed them, easily distracting him from his confusion with talk of the Quidditch World Cup. He unpacked in his room, before spending the rest of the day poking and prying his way through the house. By the time dinner rolled around, he was covered in dust and planning on spending all of Friday outside. Padfoot had offered to come with.
As he settled beneath the sheets that night, Harry found himself grinning.
Which one, which one . . . . It was an essential decision, one that could assure his place at the right hand of his lord, or bring him a torturously long and painful death.
The problem is not the lack, he mused coldly. Lucius rose to pace his study. There were plenty of people who opposed Lord Voldemort. Some of them were even worth the effort of fighting. It must be appropriate.
Harry Potter was the obvious choice. His blood would make the Dark Lord stronger than ever. But that fool, Dumbledore, knew the boy was vulnerable, and had shielded him with powerful magic. Old magic.
There are others, whose enmity is just as potent as the Boy Who Lived. And they were far more accessible.
Dumbledore was out of the question. Too visible.
He paused, staring out the window onto the sun-warmed grass. Draco was outside, practicing his flying. The boy had managed to adequately complete enough of his assignments to merit the privilege. I will not have him disgrace my name in any area.
He felt pride in this boy who looked so much like him. My true heir. Not like his mother's first son. Fingers passed gently over the spines of Dark tomes shelved at his side.
He would never show that pride to Draco, of course. The boy was willful and cunning – traits Lucius valued. But his place was at his father's side, in service of their Lord. He would gain power that way. But it wouldn't do to have the boy think more of himself than his purpose. And he exists to carry on the Malfoy name and pureblood legacy. No more.
Lucius stalked across the thick, hand-woven carpet to the mahogany desk that dominated the book-filled room. The article in the Daily Prophet was old, but still useful. He had found the proper sacrifice for the ritual.
But it is still too soon. Too soon, what with the trial and the attention turned to this forgotten quarter, for him to act directly.
For a moment, he recalled his son's letter to him, early in the school year. The . . . unsettling revelation that a figure from Lucius' past had returned.
As a boy, he had been frightened by Peter Pevensie, simply because the man was the antithesis of everything he knew. A Muggle who was unaffected by magic? Impossible. He'd come across nothing else like it in his life, before or since. And he had managed to convince himself there was nothing more to it than complex protections laid by Albus Dumbledore, and even forget.
Until that letter.
He seated himself comfortably in his deep chair. A Cooling Charm kept the study livable in the hot summer months, and even enjoyable at times.
After all, with magic, the unwary saw only what they expected to see. Battling for rights and prestige among the Death Eaters of his Lord had taught him that nothing was what it seemed.
And I cannot fault Draco for his reaction. One which had been nearly identical to his own. At least the boy had sense enough to stop after one failed curse. Something Lucius himself had not done, on his first meeting with the strange Muggle.
But he was unsure if Pevensie would be appropriate for use in the ritual. His strange imperviousness to magic might stir more problems than it would solve. And might destroy entirely what I am trying to create. After all, every book he had read on the subject pertained only to wizards, magical creatures, and Muggles. There must be information somewhere!
So far, he hadn't found any.
But that will keep.
Motion, out of the corner of his eye, jerked his attention to the window. Draco executed a spectacular dive, pulling up mere inches from the grass. The boy was more than a passable Seeker, but his continued losses against Potter were not tolerable. If he didn't begin to win, Lucius would forbid him from playing.
Better a gracious defeat than to continue striving and failing, he mused coldly. Something that those who resist my Lord have yet to understand.
Nonetheless, they had their uses.
And his eyes flicked once more to the week-old copy of the Daily Prophet. His decision firmed within his mind; it was almost perfect.
But not quite. First step is always a ruse. The attack would be executed with Malfoy precision. Once he had the necessary information, he would gather the appropriate support and make his move.
And Lord Voldemort will rise once more.
"And you've regained contact with them?"
"Yes." Severus' face was set.
He softened his voice. "Do they suspect anything?"
The black haired man might have tensed, but Snape was much too controlled for something like that. "No more than they always do, Albus."
In the magically-warded protections surrounding Dumbledore's office, it was safe to speak plainly. Or as safe as it ever was. But Severus has lived too much of his life in danger to allow for a moment's respite. No matter how much he may need it.
"At present, they have only plans," Snape continued, his black eyes distant. The mind behind them was no doubt methodically matching words, actions and ideas with shocking speed. He snorted. "Ridiculous plans, and Lucius thinks so as well. The number of Death Eaters is small – since 1981, some have died. More are locked in Azkaban. A few have fled. And active recruitment among the young is rarely successful."
"Because they known that Voldemort has been, and thus can be, defeated," Dumbledore mused. He sucked thoughtfully on a lemon drop, and tugged at his beard. "Do you have a number?"
"I would estimate no more than fifty. No less than thirty-five."
Troubling, if they continue to gain in numbers and support among those who are old enough to remember the height of Voldemort's power.
But they would not bend young minds to evil. Not if he could help it. "What of that list you gave me last year?"
The list of high-risk students, developed when the first hints of Voldemort's second rise to power had tiptoed to Snape's attention. Those children most at risk; because their parents were Death Eaters. A few more who showed what Snape termed to be 'dangerous tendencies'.
"I need to adjust it," was all Snape would say. He's certainly not about to admit that Edmund might have had a good impact on some of those students. Which the 'Muggle' undeniably had.
I don't know where he gets his information. But it's accurate. Somehow, Edmund had managed to develop contacts deep within the Wizarding world. Contacts that had more up-to-date and reliable information about the actions of the Death Eaters than even Snape.
And in the fight against Voldemort, they needed all the help they could get. So he wouldn't think on it, would ignore his suspicions and wouldn't ask questions.
"Yes." Dumbledore nodded, thinking of the future. Of the upcoming year, and the new students who would be arriving. And the old students, returning. We still don't know where Voldemort is. He felt a flash of fear at the unknown, and tugged at his beard once more. "Do that."
She pushed open the door in the study, hearing Edmund's voice. He cut off, smiling at her as she entered. Lucy looked up from where she was standing at the corner of the Professor's desk, rubbing at a tarnished silver tobacco-holder in the shape of an apple.
"Hello," Susan managed a smile. It wasn't easy between them, not anymore. But she had faith that time would fix it. Time and effort. "Here you are."
"Susan," Lucy hugged her. She'd been doing that a lot lately, but Susan couldn't find it in her to mind. For so long, I thought I'd never have the chance to hug her again.
And they still hadn't properly told her why. She'd asked, but they had promised to explain – later. And she knew that even if she pushed now, Edmund and Lucy wouldn't say anything until Peter got back.
She might not remember everything from Narnia, but she remembered their closeness. Something I decided I didn't want to be a part of. Something they still had, and she desperately regretted giving up. "I wanted to know if I could come with you tomorrow night to pick up Peter."
"Of course!" Lucy grinned.
Edmund nodded, running a finger along the edge of the desk. "The train comes in around eight thirty at night."
"When do you leave?" She considered a chair, but abandoned it for the old, familiar couch she'd heard the Professor's advice on. I dearly miss that man.
"Usually eight or so."
She still remembered how shocked she'd been when he died. The Professor had felt some of the effects of Narnia – but not to the extent they had. She'd wondered, at times, if they ever would die. Not from old age, it would seem. Not for a very long time.
"I'll be ready."