DISCLAIMER: That part of this world and those characters you've seen before belong to their Creator: JKR. The rest is mine - although I cannot quit my day job as I make no $$$
A/N: Sorry for the delay. Had major troubles uploading over the last few weeks...
SATURDAY, APRIL 15th, 1995 - HOGWARTS.
He had been under deep cover for seven and a half months. It was, he was told, a mission vital for the Cause and the return of his Lord and Master. He was not a spy. Spies had to forward information to their handlers. He was, for lack of a better word, a saboteur. His mission was both simple and terribly complex and potentially dangerous, which was why he accepted it. This was his chance to shine and become a major player in the coming New Order. It was also a chance to get back at his father for letting him rot in prison and then later as a virtual slave, forbidden even basic free will. Prison was not nearly as bad as what his father had done to him later and the man would pay. Perhaps not with his life, although he would take the opportunity if it presented itself, but the man would be totally disgraced and ruined in the end. He wanted the man to truly suffer for betraying him and defying his Lord. His Lord feared death. He knew there were far worse things than death and he wanted his father one day to suffer those far worse things. For now, however, only the mission mattered.
For two weeks he had been torn. His orders were he could not break cover unless he had been exposed or unless the mission was a failure. He was not a spy. Whatever information he acquired during his mission was not to be reported until after unless the information rendered the mission a potential failure. His Master understood that the mission could fail through no fault of his own. But so long as the mission had not yet failed, he was to remain in place to see it through.
The first phase of the mission had been the hardest. He had to get Harry Potter into the Tournament and the lad seemingly had no interest and was also underage. In the past there had been no age restrictions. It was originally assumed there would not be this time and the fact that there were almost ruined everything. But it was a simple fix. He slipped the lad's name into the Cup under the name of a non-existent school and was able to alter the Cup to accept the name and school.
If Potter had died during the first two Tasks the Mission would have been considered a partial success. But his orders were to see to it that did not happen. Potter not only had to survive he had to win it all in the end. Thus, assuming the Tasks did not kill him, the agent's mission was to see to it that Potter did well enough to have a reasonable shot at winning. Potter had actually made that part easy for him. As much as he hated the boy, the boy had a knack for the unexpected and stood in First Place, tied with the other Hogwarts Champion.
Were he a spy there would be much he felt he needed to report. Potter could throw off the Imperius Curse. He had no idea how the boy could do that. To his knowledge no one had managed to do so before or at least not that quickly. The spell was useless on the boy. The boy had also recently developed exceptional Occlumency skills and developed them seemingly overnight. Then there was the part that Potter was married. Gossip aside this changed his status in the Wizarding World. He was now an emancipated minor and Head of an Ancient and Noble House and seemingly affiliated with at least four more. That made him part of the largest united coalition of votes on the Wizengamot in history, assuming they voted as a block. They had direct control of over forty percent of the votes and with allied Houses which theoretically gave him a slight majority. His Master's politicians had never even managed a solid third of the vote. During the last war the divisions within the Wizengamot and by extension the Ministry of Magic had been very useful to their cause. While they could not take over, their opponents were unable to truly oppose them politically. The only good news was that unless Dumbledore sided with this new coalition he was not as politically powerful as he once was. Still the old bastard had retained his gift of oratory and that could not be discounted. Were he a spy, his Master needed to know this.
But he was not. As important as this information was the politics was in the papers. His Master's chief political consultant had taken a major hit recently. House Malfoy had lost much of its influence with the recent scandals and was persona non grata at the Ministry and Wizengamot. Again this was public information but another severe blow to the Cause. Yet none of this mattered as far as the Mission was concerned. The boy was still in the Tournament. That was not about to change. All he had to do was ensure the boy won and with that useless victory, his Master would return and the boy would be dead. He would explain the importance of the rest of this to his Master once the deed was done although, he thought, the death of the boy would probably undo most of the damage.
For Ron Weasley this had been the worst few weeks of his life. That was his opinion of it. A few weeks ago he had two of the greatest friends one could ask for; money, fame and all of that aside. But he knew he threw that away and with that … well now here he was. For the last week he had no choice but to be here in the library and try and catch up on his homework. He was not allowed into Gryffindor Tower from after breakfast and until an hour before curfew unless it was for the sole purpose of exchanging school books. Other than that he was allowed thirty minutes per meal in the Great Hall at a space reserved for him at the front end of his House Table and he was watched as he moved. He had tried to sneak food either entering or leaving. It had not gone well at all. The elves had even barred him from the kitchens. Basically if he was not served it he could not eat it. And aside from that, unless it was between an hour before curfew or after Breakfast, he was only allowed to be in the Library or in class or the loo and that was it. The entire staff and all the Prefects were set upon him to enforce these new rules and, it seemed, so were most of the students.
He would be on this new schedule until he was caught up and proved he could remain caught up in all of his classes. Last Saturday, when his mother had called him for his academics, Ron was about a month behind in almost every class. He had started many of the assignments but had finished none of them. He had already had fifteen detentions for failing to turn in his assignments and now was effectively in a permanent one. Everyone seemed to suspect he was looking for a replacement for Hermione, someone he could get to do his work for him, so in addition to everything else people were steering clear of him.
He wanted to blame Hermione for his lot in life. After all he had been keeping up in class thanks to her. But he was beginning to realize she was not the problem. He was the one who was not doing the homework as his mother had pointed out. Ron's homework was not Hermione's or anyone else's responsibility, it was his and his alone.
He felt like he was being treated like a child; and he was. As his mother pointed out, anyway you looked at it he was now the youngest Weasley. Instead of turning fourteen in August, Ginny would turn sixteen in about a month on May 13th. She was married and had a kid which made her an adult in their world and she already had seven OWLs and was at least half way through her Sixth Year in those courses. Within the next year or more likely year and a half, she would take her NEWTs in those courses and, unless she decided to seek NEWTs in either Care of Magical Creatures or Muggle Studies, she'd be done with Hogwarts a year and a half before Ron could hope to be assuming he passed his own NEWTs. He could not even look to Fred and George anymore. They had both picked up four more OWLs and were likely to sit for their NEWTs in those classes next spring. They and their wives would be working through the summer towards that goal. His Mother was now accepting of their plan to open a shop, even if she was not enthusiastic about it and while having such a shop did not require any NEWTs, the Twins were intending to get them anyway.
His "probation" was keyed to his class performance. If he wanted any free time at all this summer he needed to pass all of his classes. If he wanted permission to play Quidditch next year or go on Hogsmeade visits he needed to more than pass. He needed at least an Exceeds Expectations in five classes including, to his horror, Potions. The only good news was that Harry and Neville were no longer in that class and Snape did not seem intent upon finding a new Gryffindor to heap abuse upon.
There was an added realization. The truth was Ron missed his friends. Harry had been allowed to drop Divination and would not be returning to that class next week or ever. He only saw Hermione and Harry in History, Astronomy and Care of Magical Creatures. He was a little surprised to note that Hermione was never in the Library until he overheard Parvati telling Lavender that the South Wing had its own Library. Aside from three classes and at dinner in the Great Hall, he almost never saw his two former friends and had no idea if things would ever be the same again.
He had just managed to finish and Essay he owed in Charms and contemplated the remaining essays and assignments he needed to do. He picked up his quill and proceeded to try and finish a Potions Essay from three weeks ago.
Bill Weasley had managed to set up the dedicated Floo connection to Gringotts earlier in the week. While it would be useful for all the residents of the South Wing as a safe and secure way to go to London and Diagon Alley, its main purpose was to serve the needs of the Ancient and Noble Houses in general and House Black and Sirius Black in particular. Even with Amelia Bones working on his case he was still a fugitive and despite Fudge's admission that he had never been tried there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. Sirius did not trust the Minister not to send him to the dementors if he was caught and no one affiliated with the South Wing blamed him.
Harry had reserved a large conference room at the bank. Mr. Jorgins, the owner of the Wand Shop in Knockturn Alley, had been invited to "set up shop" for the day at Gringotts. In addition to being able to deliver his new wands to their owners in person, Harry had promised him at least twenty new clients. Mr. Jorgins readily agreed as he seldom had so many customers in a year. He and his wife were already planning a long, summer holiday on the Continent with their young ones, the oldest of whom was set to start Hogwarts in the Fall so this was their last real chance to be a family in many ways.
Promptly at nine in the morning the door opened. Mr. Jorgins had set up his wood and wand core displays and had twenty polished or lacquered wooden boxes, each with personalized inlays of different colored woods and such waiting for their new owners. And the first who entered were, in fact, the twenty who had been to his shop a little over two weeks earlier. Jorgins handed Harry a rather large box made of a red colored wood with intricate inlays along the sides and top.
"What's this?" Harry asked.
"A box in which to keep your wand when you're not carrying it," Mr. Jorgins said.
"It's a bit large for a wand," Harry began.
"Open it," he added.
Harry did so. Inside was the fanciest wand he had ever seen. It was the same kind of wood he remembered, except for the handle which was another kind of wood altogether. The handle had many small carvings, apparently all around it. One he recognized immediately as Hermione's face and as he carefully picked up the wand and turned over he saw the faces of his other wives were also carved into the handle.
"This is…" Harry began.
"Just as the wand itself is both a work of art and unique to its intended owner, so is the handle and the box," Mr. Jorgins said. "The handle work and the box are part of the deal, although neither is anywhere near as expensive as the wand itself."
"What are these?" Harry asked looking at two other objects stored in their own place in the box.
"Those are wand holders or holsters. They have anti-summoning charms on them that prevent anyone else from summoning them or the wand they carry. You can place them anywhere on your person, even behind your ear if that's what you like," he added looking at Luna who had her wand behind her left ear. "It will also be invisible and almost totally undetectable to anyone but the wearer. Normally I charge extra for them, but given the amount of business you've thrown my way there'll be no extra charge. Now go on, try it out."
Harry wrapped his hand around the carved handle and the room was filled with a warm, golden glow. It was far more impressive than his first wand had been.
"A perfect match," the wandmaker said with a smile.
Harry carefully put the wand back in its box and closed the lid. "It's wonderful! Thanks!"
One by one the others received their wand, wand boxes and holsters. Each had a similar reaction to and from their new wands. Luna practically squealed when she saw the inlays on her handle, as some were inlaid not carved. "It's my friends, parents and a Crumple Horned Snorkack!" she gushed. "How did you…?"
"A very simple form of passive legitimacy," Mr. Jorgins said. "Made the mistake of studying that art in my youth. I really found I could care less what people were thinking. But the form I continue to use, combined with your wood and wand cores tells me a lot about each of you and I try to make the wand fit both your magic and, at least artistically, your personalities."
Twenty very happy customers soon left to continue their day. Hermione and Susan had meetings with the Goblins regarding the inventories of the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff vaults and Harry and Neville were joining them. The rest had shopping lists, although most of what they were buying were either birthday presents or things for the children. Gabrielle agreed to remain behind seeing as several of the wands just delivered had a strand of her hair as one of the core materials.
Sirius Black and his wife Marilyn were the first customers, seeing as Sirius had a meeting scheduled with the Account Manager for House Black. Mr. Jorgins used the two to explain his wand making process to all the others. It should not have been surprising Sirius wand wood was ebony, the darkest or blackest wood in the world. He had four core ingredients, each representing one of the four elements: hippogriff feather for air, fire salamander skin for fire, and African plant from the Nile Delta which was a water plant, and Tentacular leaf for earth.
"An impressive wand, Mr. Black," Mr. Jorgins said. Sirius kept his mouth shut.
Marilyn seemed a little disappointed in hers. She only had three core ingredients, none of which she was familiar with. But Mr. Jorgins said her wood, which was Ash, and her core ingredients came from the four corners of the world and it would fit her like no other wand made.
Every one also tried Gabrielle's hair, but only her sister Fleur had the necessary reaction. Fleur also reacted to her own hair, as did her husband Bill, but they were the only two. Fleur's wand would have two strands of Veela hair, dragon scale and something called Mist Moss which only grew atop the highest peaks in the Andes. Mist Moss was associated not with earth but air magic so her wand was a reflection of her Veela nature. Gabrielle was tempted to add it was also a reflection of the fact that Fleur was full of herself but kept silent. In the end, Mr. Jorgins had twenty-five new orders to fill and even though it had taken hours and was wearing on him and even though eight of those orders were for rather young people, he had a good day.
Hermione and Susan were surprised at what they learned. Their "Heir Vaults" had several million galleons piled up, over thirty million each. They were told that neither Ravenclaw nor Hufflepuff had died particularly wealthy. Most of their money had gone towards the school. But even a little inheritance sitting around gathering interest for a thousand years tends to pile up. But for Hermione, the real treasure were the other vaults. Most of the stuff was junk really. There were a couple of tapestries in each vault that were interesting enough they decided to find a place for them in one of the public rooms in the south wing, but the rest of the stuff was so out of date and simple as to be of little note except maybe to a historian. The real treasure, however, were books. There were around four hundred or so in each Vault which a thousand years ago was a huge number. Moreover, many appeared to be Journals. The Goblins in charge of the inventory said they had the Journals from all four Founders in those Vaults. Needless to say Hermione was thrilled and asked that all the books be transferred to the South Wing Library. There was only one real problem. As they were a thousand years old none of them were in English. Many of the books were in old Latin or Greek. Others were in three separate forms of Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon or Old English and even ancient Norse. There were very few scholars for some of the languages so translating them into Modern English might be a problem. But that was not the point in Hermione's opinion. It was a problem she was more than willing to work on even if it took years. So the tapestries and books were soon off to the South Wing.
For Sirius, he was pleased to learn that the Ministry had failed to seize the Black properties or to otherwise cut him off from them. The businesses and investments had been doing well, then again most Blacks left that sort of thing to others. To his dismay he saw he was now the owner of his former home 12 Grimmauld Place in London. Grimmauld Place had been in the family for almost two hundred years. It was never intended as a full time residence, only as a comfortable place to stay when members of the family were visiting London. Apparently his mother had insisted on living there and Sirius hated the place with a passion. Still it was convenient to Diagon Alley, St. Mungos and the Ministry. Perhaps if he gutted the place and totally rebuilt it it would be a habitable "Guest House." The place in St. Vincent's was his as well and much larger than he had thought. He actually owned three small bays and beaches and the mountains in between them. Only the "Middle" bay where he had stayed had been developed at all. This he decided to change. He ordered a large, long house to be build into the mountainside of Middle Bay, long enough to house all of House Potter and several more guests. North and South Bay would also have a long "Mountain House" and some smaller beach Bungalows. Tunnels would connect the three bays. He intended to spend the summer there and was planning to invite the South Wing and their families to stay for a time as well and enjoy the warm sun and water.
But having a beach getaway was not the reason for this visit. First off Sirius officially reorganized House Black. At present, aside from his new born son, he had no true heirs. Harry had been his Grandfather's possible heir, but was too distant to be his own. So he changed that. Tracey and Daphne's son's, descended from his Great-Grand Uncle were named as lines with right of succession as was any son of Nymphadora Tonks and any son of Harry as Harry should designate. Andy Tonks was reinstated into House Black.
Meanwhile, Sirius chose to close the door on many other potential claimants. Bellatrix Lestrange was cast out of House Black, not that she'd notice being locked up in Azkaban. But the off shoot of this was anything and everything in the Lestrange Vault that had come from House Black or had been placed there by Bella and could not otherwise be shown to be Lestrange property would now be moved back to the Black Vaults. Sirius knew that what was left of House Lestrange was about to lose more than two thirds of its wealth. He felt it was fitting. He never liked Bellatrix even before she had become a Death Eater.
Malfoy Manor had been a wedding present to Narcissa Black when she married Lucius. House Malfoy had money but it lacked land, so the former summer home and estate had been passed on, although it was still Black property. Sirius had no thoughts about Narcissa. He never hated her the way he had her older sister Bellatrix, but she was vapid and a doormat so he had little real respect for her either. Andy was the only one of those sisters worth a damn. And as Cissy had married Lucius Malfoy, a vicious and slippery Death Eater, Sirius had not qualms whatsoever casting her and her son Draco out of House Black. That this would soon cast the Malfoys out of Malfoy Manor permanently only made things better in Sirius's mind. He asked to time the expulsion for June 24th, the day of the Third Task. It seemed a bigger prank if it happened later rather than sooner and suddenly ruined Draco's summer plans. He'd figure out what to do with the property later.
TUESDAY, APRIL 18th, 1995 - THE SOUTH WING.
It was after dinner and Harry was back in the South Wing. Sirius found him in one of the Salons hanging out with Hermione and a few of his other wives as their children were already in bed and, should something arise, an elf would be there for them in seconds.
"Harry?" Sirius asked, "you don't have any classes tomorrow, do you?"
"Outside of the Wing?" Harry replied, "I think only the Second Years have a class. But we have Dueling at three and we're starting training with both wands."
"You're leaving the others out? They won't have their new wands until the 29th at the earliest."
"Something tells me you have something else in mind," Harry said.
"The Chamber of Secrets," Sirius replied.
"What about it?" Hermione asked.
"Well, aside from the fact that Moony and I are really curious, as are others, you never explored it, did you Harry?"
"I was a bit preoccupied about not snuffing it, thank you," Harry replied curtly.
"Never been back?"
"The ceiling's half caved in as I recall, and I really saw no reason to."
"What are the ways to destroy a Horcrux?" Sirius asked.
"We don't even have one of them yet," Harry began.
"Fiendfyre," Hermione said. "Flitwick's taught us that spell."
"Which you have to shoot out a window over the water lest it gets out of control," Sirius replied. "To use it effectively, you need a magical metal smith's furnace. It would have to be built outside of this Wing and even outside the castle, although maybe it could be built in the Chamber, I don't know. But the point is the furnace cannot be built by magic alone. You need real bricks and mortar and those who know how to put it together before you can even magically enhance it. They can take months to build."
"And seeing as we have no immediate need for one, not having a Horcrux to destroy, what's the problem?" Harry asked.
"You're thinking about that Basilisk down there, aren't you?" Hermione asked.
"It's been two years," Harry protested. "Surely it's nothing but a pile of bones by now!"
"Basilisks are among the most magical nasties around," Sirius said. "Even a small one takes far longer to decompose than normal and the older they are, the longer it takes. I looked it up. If that snake was Slytherin's, it will take decades or more before it even begins to really rot. Moony thinks the venom is still viable and … well he's had a few odd jobs over the years … basilisk blood is useful as a short cut in many potions. Goblins consider their meat, especially if it's not truly fresh, a delicacy. And Basilisk skin is impervious to magic. If that thing's as large as you said it was, it could provide close to a hundred suits of armor that might even stop the Killing Curse itself, not that I'd want to test that theory of course."
"So you want to pop down there and check it out?" Harry asked.
"And the Chamber," Sirius nodded. "It might prove useful in other ways and who knows what else we might find…"
"No!" Hermione began. "Not tomorrow! I agree this is something we should look into, but if we're going to be in and out of that place again and again, which is what this sounds like, I want that entrance warded. Moreover, I think we should have Bill here. A fully qualified Curse Breaker might be useful! Finally, I don't know how Harry and the others could have made it out of there without Fawkes, so you have to think about that too! And there's the cave in to consider!"
"Makes sense to me," Harry added.
Sirius sighed. "It was just an idea."
"It was a good one," Hermione said. "I just want protections in place is all."
"How long will this take?" Sirius asked.
"Give us a week and in the meantime figure out how to get out of that hole."
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19th, 1995 - HOGWARTS SECOND FLOOR GIRL'S BATHROOM.
Six young women entered the Second Floor Bathroom, a bathroom seldom used more than once or twice by any girl as it was haunted by a ghost called Moaning Myrtle. Hermione led the party. Daphne, Lucinda and Padma were there to help with the warding. Ginny was there to keep others out and Luna was there to deal with the ghost. Only Hermione and Ginny had ever been in this bathroom before and Ginny had no real memory of it. Luna said she had a plan, so she came along.
"YOU!" a voice cried and the ghost of a long dead Ravenclaw was suddenly hovering in front of Ginny. "You're here to let another monster out, aren't you?"
"I…," Ginny began.
"Myrtle," Hermione said, "she has no memory of that at all. She was possessed at the time."
"Sure she was!" Myrtle said. "And the boy who set it upon me was possessed as well!"
"She was, Myrtle," Hermione said calmly, "and that boy was not. And the monster is dead."
"I still see it," Myrtle said. "All the time…," she added in a whimper.
"It's gone," Luna said. "It'll never hurt anyone again. All you see is a memory."
"Who are you?" Myrtle asked. "I've never seen you before."
"I'm Luna. Harry sent me to talk to you."
"Harry? And why isn't he here?"
"'Cause this is their job for now and not his," Luna said. "Come. We'll talk and leave the others to do their job." Luna headed off towards the back of the bathroom and the others were surprised that the ghost followed. They soon began to work on the warding.
"What are they doing?" Myrtle asked.
"Warding this place."
"Warding," the ghost said. "I know I've heard about that. It' some kind of protection. Keeps people out… YOU WANT TO KEEP ME HERE! YOU WANT ME TO BE ALONE!"
"No Myrtle!" Luna said. For some reason, the ghost trusted her and did not fly into her usual rants and moaning. "Yes, we are warding this place to keep people out, and other ghosts for that matter, but not you. You can come and go as you please. But there's more."
The tone of Luna's voice truly caught the ghost's attention.
"Harry considers you a friend," Luna began.
"H-He does?" the ghost stammered.
"In a manner of speaking," Luna continued. "You were always nice to him when he was here and you helped him earlier this year with the Second Task. You asked little in return, he says, just that he was welcome to join you if he…"
"It was rather insensitive of me," Myrtle admitted. "I don't want him to be like me. But he was nice and … and … and if I were like you I'd be willing to … but that can't happen. It was all I could think of. He's as close as I've ever come to having a boyfriend and … and it had to be now and not when …"
"You didn't have many friends here," Luna began.
"I didn't have any, really," Myrtle said. "I was a Muggle Born in Ravenclaw which was almost as bad as Slytherin then! And not long after I started here I was an orphan as well. The Germans were bombing our Country and my parents died in one of their raids my First Year! They all picked on me! They picked on me 'cause I was Muggle Born. They picked on me 'cause I was an orphan as well and they picked on me for anything else, such as my glasses, which is why I like Harry. He's most of that and has glasses too and won't pick on me."
"I was nine when my Mum died," Luna said. "She was a brilliant witch, a Spell Crafter. A spell went horribly wrong one day and she died. It happened right in front of me and I was hurt too. I tried to save her, I wanted to, but… Daddy wasn't there at the time. He came home from work and found us. Mummy was dead and I was probably dying and he took me to the Healers and I lived. It crushed him. He was not willing to let me out of his sight again and almost kept me out of Hogwarts altogether. I am all he has left. Before my Mum died I had a friend. She lived nearby and we'd play together and such. Ginny. That girl you yelled at earlier was my friend. We're about the same age. We're in the same year but she was a Gryffindor and I was a Ravenclaw like you. And something was off about her First Year and we did not renew our friendship. I had no friends in Ravenclaw and they picked on me too, but it didn't matter to me.
"Yet now Ginny is my friend again and I have many others as well. So I guess it worked out well in the end."
"I was not alone?" Myrtle asked.
"No," Luna said. "Most of my new friends had few if any friends before Hogwarts and until this year few here as well. Most of them were picked on to some degree, but we got together in the end and, while I won't say there are not those who'd pick on us, I will say we don't care 'cause we have each other. We've decided that we'd like you to join us."
"How? I'm … I'm not real!"
"We have our own House now. It's not Ravenclaw, or Gryffindor or Hufflepuff or Slytherin, although there are some of us from all those Houses. We're not all orphans, but few of us ever really fit in. We fit in here in our new House. It doesn't have a name yet really. But we are happy and friends and even more. Each House here has its ghosts. As one, you're still an outsider in a way, but most all of us in my new House were as well. We like that. You were not sorted into our House and neither were we. We chose to be a part of it and that's what we're willing to offer you, Myrtle. We are offering you the chance to join our House as our Ghost … at least until such time as you might choose to move on."
"Why me? No one's ever liked me."
"Harry and Hermione have," Luna said. "I do. A few of the others who've met you do as well. Face it Myrtle, whatever you were before this happened to you, we think you're the coolest ghost here."
"Please! Consider your competition! Professor Binns is drop dead boring…"
"He was when I was alive as well, and is even worse now that I'm a ghost. Same thing over and over again…"
"Nearly Headless Nick is nice enough, but he's almost always on about his botched beheading…"
"It's all he's on about on this side," Myrtle agreed.
"That Fat Friar…"
"Died drunk out of his skull and hasn't sobered up in six hundred years."
"The Grey Lady…"
"Doesn't talk to me at all…"
"Or anyone else," Luna agreed, "at least as far as I've heard. And the Bloody Baron…"
"He speaks to Peeves and no one else."
"You do," Luna began. "Speak to others, I mean."
"Of course I do," Myrtle said. "For a ghost I am quite young. The older ones tend to shut down as it were and unlike almost all of them, I'm not tied to this place. I can leave, you know. I can go out and take in a picture show or something - not that anyone notices. Without magic around, I am invisible and inaudible. I need to be in a magical place or near a witch or wizard to be otherwise. Even then I can choose to appear or not. But I think it impolite to be invisible. Were I tied to Hogwarts, I'd become boring I should think, out of touch as it were and all that. Dumbledore would love to tie me to this place but I won't let him!"
"Why would he…," Luna began.
"If I were tied either to him or to Hogwarts, I'd have to serve them exclusively and could not leave. He wants us ghosts as spies and such and I'd rather not do that at all, not for him! He was never nice to me when I was like you and still is not! You won't tie me to your new House, will you?"
Luna seemed a bit surprised for once, but went on. "We merely invited you to be our friend; that's all, Myrtle. Now I admit we can't have a friend who'd help our enemies against us, but as our main enemies are the ones who made you a ghost so we figure you won't betray us. That's all we ask from you. We want you to be our friend and not ever betray us, but aside from that there are no ties that bind you against your will."
"You're trying to trick me," Myrtle began.
"No, Myrtle, we're not. That's not to say Fred and George Weasley won't…"
"Oh no," Myrtle said. "I know those two. The only ghosts they try to trick are Binns, then again he's a professor and fair game, and Peeves who enjoys the competition. They've always been nice to me."
"So will you join our House?" Luna asked. "We all want you to."
A ghostly tear trickled down Myrtle's face. Ordinarily, a tear led to a moan and then a rant or hysterical outburst of some kind. Not this time. The ghost hiccupped. "You want me to join your house?"
"Yes," Luna said.
The ghost could not answer, but nodded as tears streamed down her face.
TUESDAY, MAY 2nd, 1995 - SOUTH WING.
Squib syndromes were not exactly common in the magical world. To over simplify, a Squib was any person born to a magical parent who was not magical at all. While that was true, there were many different causes and manifestations of the condition. For example, a person could be rendered a Squib by a complex ritual curse, one which had been outlawed for centuries and all books describing such ritual were banned. Owning one guaranteed a book burning and a lengthy stay in Azkaban and worse if the owner was found to have ever used the curse. The curse used to be the punishment for certain crimes, but once the Ministry managed to control the Dementors, the punishment was felt both extreme and unnecessary. Certain magical diseases could render a witch or wizard a squib if they went untreated and if it went that far in most cases that was the last stage before the disease claimed them.
The truth was that in almost all cases a Squib was a child born with a magical birth defect. It was a condition almost unique to pureblood lines. Muggle Borns never had a Squib child, grand-child or even great-great-grandchild. To maintain magic, the ideal situation was for a family to ensure at least one Muggle Born husband or wife every three to four generations. Even the Pureblood elites knew this although they refused to admit it. In all but the most Pureblood families, they made a point to arrange marriages to a maternal line with a recent but acceptable degree of Muggle Born affiliation. There were, of course, exceptions either by accident or design and those exceptions greatly increased the risk of a Squib.
Remus Lupin was well aware of this. He was the youngest of four children born to a Pureblood couple from families of modest means. There had not been an arranged marriage in his family in generations. It just turned out his parents, grandparents and so on had married Purebloods not because of their birth status but because they wanted to marry each other. His oldest sister Karyn was born in 1952. Remus was born in 1960. It was not until he was sixteen that he learned about his other two sisters. They were born Squibs. His parents knew this and immediately placed them out for adoption in the Muggle world. It broke their hearts to do this to their daughters, but they knew how the magical world worked. It would have been cruel to raise those two girls in their world. Some families did. The worst killed the unmagical child since while a powerful enough magical core could be detected during pregnancy, it was not until a child was born that one knew for sure whether he or she was destined to be a Squib. A Squib in the magical world was even lower than a Muggle Born. They were limited to manual labor, domestic service for families who could afford them and did not want or could not buy elves or, in the worst of cases, begging or prostitution. His two missing older sisters who he never knew were sent into the Muggle World and adopted as newborns where they would have a chance in life. He did not learn of this until months before his mother was murdered by Death Eaters.
Karyn, his remaining older sister, left for Hogwarts when he was three years old. He barely knew her at all and had no memory of her aside from her being an occasional house guest during the school holidays. Even then her visits ended when he was six. That was when he was bitten by a werewolf. It happened shortly after she went off to school. His family lived in the countryside and he was allowed out to play as a child. There were no close neighbors, certainly not any magical ones. But there was, in 1966, no war either. Remus learned much later that he had been stalked. Fenir Greyback was the worst sort of werewolf. Most often he killed his victims and ate them at least in part and, when the sun rose and he was human again, buried the remains. He preferred children above all others. But every so often he chose to turn the child. Fenir was one sick bastard. He was a wizard who had been turned when he was eighteen. He was also the heir of a wealthy estate so he had no need for a job. Finally, he was probably a psychopath. Once he realized what had happened, he vowed revenge on the world and spent much of his time between full moons stalking his next month's victims. He killed muggles. He turned magicals. Remus learned later that while werewolves were always feared and reviled, most of the worst of the legal restrictions on his kind were due to one man: Fenir Greyback. He had single handedly set back the clock three hundred years and was responsible for over eighty percent of all werewolves in Britain turned after 1958.
Remus had become an expert on British Werewolf culture thanks to Dumbledore. Dumbledore had let him attend Hogwarts and despite his blood status and marks - he was at the top of his class - pulled him out of any chance of a decent job as he approached finishing. Under any other circumstances he should have been Head Boy. He understood why he was not made that and had few qualms with that honor going to his best friend, but he later learned why. As Head Boy he was expected to "go places." Dumbledore wanted him to enter the Werewolf world and keep them from siding with Voldemort. On the one hand the Remus Lupin who was at the top of his class had been cast down even below a Muggle Born and outed in a way as a Were. Remus was torn about Dumbledore for years. But he understood Dumbledore's reasoning or so he thought. As a Were, he would one day be discovered and cast out of regular society. But as a Were with an education, he could interact with the other Weres and hopefully keep them from siding with Voldemort.
Remus quickly learned that Dumbledore knew nothing about Werewolves and neither did he. Remus knew what it was like to be one, but nothing about their culture. He rapidly learned that most all Werewolves would never follow Voldemort or anyone else. The few who would were all Greyback's "turns" and had failed to affiliate with a pack or form one of their own. There were several packs in Britain, most had been around for centuries. Like real wolves, they protected and supported each other. Aside from the full moon, a pack taught their cubs and made sure their members had jobs or were cared for. Like wolves they were led by an alpha pair, a man and woman mated for life. The one difference was while wolves were about power and dominance, Werewolf packs were an oligarchy. The oldest pair in power ruled and should one of the pair die, rule fell to the next pair. Often, the oldest pair stepped aside at some point and remained in the pack as advisors to the next mated pair. They took care of their own.
Werewolves could not really breed. The women could never carry a child beyond the first transformation after conception. The packs sustained their numbers by turning humans. This was almost always left to the youngest mated female of "mothering age" which was usually in her early to mid twenties. Like real wolves Weres mated for life. They mated when they were both no older than sixteen or seventeen and more often when they were younger. Before then, they had been raised as siblings, but they never were that by blood. When the pack needed more pups, usually when a pack member died or was killed or otherwise about every ten years, the reigning alphas allowed a "mothering age" female and her mate to turn a little boy and little girl. For most packs it was the only time they ever attacked humans when transformed and they did focus on the young. Otherwise when transformed they, like real wolf packs, avoided all human contact during their full moon and would only attack to defend their pack.
Remus knew that the packs now seldom ever attacked humans. When the packs needed pups, they found them at the magical orphanage which had been set up by werewolves in the first place. Most of the children there would not be turned, although every year between two and four children were "adopted" into a pack and would be raised and cared for by the pack for the rest of their lives. The orphanage had a fair number of Squibs abandoned by their families, usually a number of similarly abandoned or "rescued" Muggle Born children and a handful of orphans from magical lines. This last group was the one most likely to be adopted as infants by other magical families. It was rare that a Squib or Muggle Born would be adopted unless it was by a werewolf pack. The new pups were acquired usually between the ages of three and five. They were by then old enough to survive both the turning and their first transformation yet young enough that they would retain few memories of life outside the pack.
The packs had little need or use for magical society as a whole. They were mostly self sufficient communities and provided their young with education and training both magical and otherwise. They avoided magical society. In magical society they were viewed as dangerous creatures, they were required to register and submit to random "inspections" and were also denied most forms of employment and education. Just as the magicals lived separate and apart from the magicals, the same was true with the packs. They wanted nothing to do with wizards, unless one included their own. Dumbledore was more likely to become a Death Eater or support Voldemort than any of the packs. The packs knew that as bad as things were for them, they would only be worse under Voldemort. The Werewolves who were most likely to be swayed by Voldemort were ones like Remus, those who were never a part of an established pack, those who had been turned by Grayback. Voldemort had made attempts to sway the packs to his side. The few emissaries he sent were never seen again. It was the solitary werewolves, shunned by both the packs and the rest of the world who were most likely to be recruited. But even then, they were reluctant. The packs did not like independents for the most part and would kill an independent who crossed them. Most of the few Weres who did go over to Voldemort were ultimately killed by one of the packs. The few who were still alive, including Grayback, would be killed on sight.
It had taken Remus almost a year to even find a pack. Until then, he had thought they were the stuff of legend as every Were he had met was like him, a solitary and a victim of Fenir Greyback. Actually he did not find the pack, the Dargoth Pack of North England found him and took him prisoner. The packs did not like solitary Weres. Solitary Weres risk the exposure of their world and reprisals given that without a pack they were predatory when they transformed. This made sense to Remus. When his friends and become animagus and had run with him under the full moon, his aggressive and predatory nature seemed to fade away. It was the story of his friends, what they did for him and how it tamed him that probably spared his life. There was also the fact he had never attacked or turned any human when transformed, but the pack saw him as suitable for "recruitment." Alan Dargoth, the pack Alpha male who was probably as old as Dumbledore marked him personally as an "affiliate." Remus would never be allowed a mate from within the pack nor the right to turn a cub and thus he could never rise to Alpha, but he was allowed to run with the pack and allowed to rely on the pack for employment opportunities during the rest of the month. While he was forbidden from every betraying his pack to its enemies, as an affiliate he could also join other packs. This was the way the packs had to control the solitaries. Remus was now affiliated with six of the ten packs in Britain and had the scars to prove it. After he first was marked and had learned about the pack culture, he tried to assure Dumbledore that his mission was pointless. Most Weres would never side with Voldemort and the few who had or would were hunted by the packs and their affiliates and killed if caught. Dumbledore refused to assign him to other duties.
His primary pack leader Alan then told Remus he was not surprised at this.
"Despite his pretensions and his previous ambassadors, the man is no friend of us. While he may use a velvet glove, he seeks to control us just as the others would. Answer this question if you can, my friend Remus: why were you allowed to attend Hogwarts?"
He had been asked this question many times, but never had seemed to give the right answer until yesterday.
"He wanted a puppet, a pawn," Remus said. "He wanted a Were he controlled in the hope that through me he would get control of the rest of us."
Alan nodded. "We suspected as much from the beginning, my friend. No Were had ever been allowed to attend or remain at a British magical school once his condition was known to any on staff. The laws prohibit it."
Remus nodded. "He seems to have managed to obtain a dispensation for me."
"Yet for no others," Alan said. "Even if you were an 'experiment' why only one? You did quite well in school, didn't you? Then again by all rights you should have been Head Boy and yet that honor fell to your friend James, the one who had a future in the wizard world after school whereas you had none. If Dumbledore was honest in his intentions regarding you and us, that would have been different. But he wanted you for his purposes and not ours."
"Why didn't you tell me this?"
"Would you have listened back then?" Alan replied. "This revelation would have been ignored. You were and are a very smart man, but back then you were grateful to that man for the opportunities he had allowed you. You were young and the young tend to believe what they will. It takes experience to see the truth in many cases and you lacked that at the time. To tell you Dumbledore was just as bad as the Ministry or others when it came to our kind … you would have rejected such notion out of hand. It takes time for the idealist in all of us to become pragmatic and learn that while ideals are admirable, reality must be considered as well. Wisdom is an individual path. It cannot be taught, only learned."
Alan was a wise old man. He was a wizard, although not nearly as powerful or knowledgeable as Dumbledore. But he was also head of his pack. All the younger ones were his pups or grandpups or whatever. The more Remus had thought about it over the years, the more he realized that Alan was the better of the two wizards. Everything Alan did or said was for the good of his pack. His needs and beliefs paled before those of his pack. Alan was a true teacher and mentor and it was only recently that Remus realized this.
"You do not come here today just because you've seen the truth about Dumbledore?" Alan asked.
"No Grandfather, I do not," Remus replied. Grandfather was the term all marked pack members and affiliates used for their Alpha. "As you once told me, realization is yours and yours alone, it is not something you brag about. I wanted to let you know where I now stand so that what I have to say next can be discussed objectively. Something has happened to me since we last met. It has nothing to do with him, but I seek your advice none the less."
Remus then explained Time Compression and what he had went through and how he had not once transformed.
"You were older when you were turned and not as a member of a pack," Alan said. "I have no memory of a life without that of a Were. I assume there's more to this than just that?"
Remus nodded. "I'm married now."
"Married? But what pack allowed you a mate?"
"She's not a Were, Grandfather. She's a witch of the House of Black but not a Were."
"Does she know of your true nature?"
"She knew it from the moment we first met, Grandfather. It's common knowledge where I am living. My new - er - home has magicals and Muggles in it or affiliated with it. They all know what I am. None of them reject me for it, not even the Muggles who know. They accept me for who I am and not my monthly condition."
"My wife tells me there's no evidence we cannot have children. No Were male has mated with a non-Were or if one has, there's no evidence of it. For all we know, I cannot pass on my condition to our child when we have one. Then again, she's aware that maybe I can. She knows she might have a Werepup and that it's possible such a pup might not survive the full moon. Either way, if she has a Werepup that survives or cannot have a pup that survives its first transformation, she would ask to be turned so that we can remain together and maybe turn pups of our own. Her parents know all of this and are in full agreement with her in this."
"And they are magical?"
"Pureblood mother, Muggle Born father," Remus said.
"You have seen to have found a most unique community, my friend. It is a pity it's so unique but it lends hope to our collective future. But I sense there is more?"
Remus nodded. "I didn't transform this past weekend."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I mean I did not become the wolf. I felt the symptoms but they were … repressed to a large degree. My friends had a space for me were I would be safe from them and they from me. My wife was there, but outside the barrier. Nothing happened. I paced around and could not understand why it wasn't happening. She was there to see the beast, not out of some bizarre curiosity but because she needed to see as she had accepted what was coming. Nothing happened. I was myself throughout the period."
"But that's impossible!" Alan said.
"One of my friends has a theory," Remus replied thinking of Hermione. "She thinks that because I went so long through Time Compression without changing, my body and magic have forgotten how. Now she's not willing to say I am cured. It remains possible I will revert back. They've decided that I should enter confinement each month for the foreseeable future just in case this was an aberration. But my question to you, Grandfather, my reason for seeing you today is: what if it's not? What if the curse is gone? What if this is a cure? What does that mean for all of us?"
"As we do not yet know, my friend, an answer would be pure speculation. I cannot say. For me personally, the life of a pack Were is all I've ever known. I cannot give up my family. For solitaries such as you, the choice might well be different. But for us raised in the packs? I cannot say. The outside society remains problematic. We still have our pup source to consider. Should we be cured, what would become of those children? The Squibs might do okay. Many of those we have not turned have. But what of the Muggle Born orphans? They're cursed by their very birth status and the few we are unable to turn … they're even worse off than otherwise. We try and turn every Muggle Born witch orphan. Their lives … should we not turn them, they have no real future unless one considers a brothel a future. If this is a cure, the packs must continue for now. Until that society gets things right, we must save those who we can from that fate. But I would not be surprised if pack members opted for it, especially the women. They will mate and bond as they always have, and turn pups as they were turned. But a chance to have their own children as well…? This is all speculation, of course. I will have to consult with my fellow Alphas."
"I understand, Grandfather."
"My one thought for now it this. One day, I would like to meet the leader of your new community. He's not Dumbledore, is he?"
"No Grandfather. He's one who trusts the old man even less than I once did. And he's not dark either."
"If he and his community are what you tell me, then there's hope for all our futures. We do not have to meet soon. As you suggested, we do not know if you're cured. A meeting with the packs is only necessary if you are for now. Join us next full moon for a run and we'll discuss this some more."
"But … but what if I don't…"
"You've been marked by the pack regardless, unless your scars are gone."
"They are not."
"You will be safe with us then. You can even bring your wife, provided you copulate beforehand. She will carry your scent and be as protected. You've not met them, but there are a few humans we trust and have marked without turning them so they may help us and we them. We shall discuss this more then, yes?"
"But what of my wife? What if I do transform."
"Copulate with her beforehand and be sure she does not clean up afterwards. She's not to wear any perfumes or anything that might mask your scent. Your scent will protect her from all of us."
"I cannot make any promises about my wife," Remus said. "But I will run with you and our pack, Grandfather."
"I've always considered it a pity we did not turn you, my friend. It is truly a shame you became us by that foul Fenir and you were almost subverted by that hypocrite Dumbledore. But know this, my friend, since even before I marked you as one of our own I've seen you as one of us and one of my children. I give you joy in your happiness, for that is what a father should wish for all his children."
"Th-thank you, Grandfather."
A/N: On Werewolves:
Dargoth may well be a factor later.
As will Greyback's backstory as to how he became what he became.
80% of the Were's turned in the last so many years by Greyback still represents a small minority of the total population considering that most of them ran afoul of the pre-existing packs.
I'm probably not going to write an episode about the Werewolf Run itself...