The Fidelius Charm – 28

Elaine hissed as Greyson stuck her, for what must have been the fifth time, with the needle and meter he called a Kitty Coupler. Elaine wasn't sure what it did exactly, but Greyson had said it measured how much cat was in her genes.

"You're lucky," Greyson said, laying the odd device on the table beside the now-empty cauldron. "It seems as though this antidote worked," he frowned. "I do hope I wrote it down…"

"So I'm not going to turn into a cat then?" Elaine clarified.

Greyson shook his head. "I don't think so, no."

Elaine couldn't be completely certain, but she thought he looked disappointed. "So then you'll help me get back at Riddle."

Greyson sighed and began putting his bottles and vials away. "I never said I would help you with Riddle."

"But you knew him," Elaine argued. "You said he killed your sister. Don't you want to get revenge for her?"

"Celine has been dead for years, anything I do won't help her now," Greyson said. "If I were to do anything, it would be to free my brother."

"Has Riddle got him prisoner?"

"No, you do. The Order of the Phoenix and that Wandless have my brother," Greyson said. "If I won't rush off to save him what makes you think I'm going to try and avenge someone who's already dead?"

"Because you hate Riddle, and I need your help," Elaine said. "I loved Regulus, and now he's gone."

"You're too young to know what love is, Girl," Greyson said.

"Love is sending someone to another country to keep them safe. It's risking Azkaban and Riddle's wrath to protect them," Elaine wiped a stray tear off her cheek. "Love is trusting someone even when the world tells you not to."

Greyson paused and turned to face her. "This Regulus, he did this for you?"

Elaine nodded. "I didn't realize it until he was already dead, but he did everything for me."

She watched as Greyson turned to look at a portrait that hung in the back corner. It was a girl with short blond hair and big blue eyes. She was smiling, laughing. "Is that Celine?"

"Was," Greyson said. "That was Celine. She died not long after I drew that portrait. It was for her graduation," he frowned and turned back to Elaine. "I'll help you get Riddle, but you need to understand that this isn't something that's likely to succeed in anything more than an early grave for the both of us."

"I understand."

"Good," Greyson turned and pulled a bag from his cabinet. Inside were several tins of cat food.

"What's that for?" Elaine asked, following Greyson and the bag from the room.

"If you want to take on Riddle," Greyson said. "We're going to need someone crazy."

"Crazy?"

Greyson grinned wickedly. "Hattington Lovegood."

Elaine quickly discovered that Hattington Lovegood was the same Hattington that had attempted to turn her into a cat. The revelation was not comforting.

"Are you sure about this?" Elaine whispered as they made their way up the winding front walk of Hattington's house. It somehow seemed taller and more twisted than the surrounding houses. A lone weathervane twirled overhead in the shape of a cat.

"If you can't take Hattington," Greyson said. "I'm not taking you near Riddle."

Elaine stood back as Greyson rang the bell. The chime of a hundred meowing cats sang to announce them, it gave Elaine the shivers.

The door opened with a bang to reveal the most peculiar woman Elaine had ever seen, at least, she was fairly sure it was a woman.

Hattington Lovegood had wiry black hair that tufted around her head like a gnarled bush. She wore a long, pointed black hat and had pointed ears. Her eyes were narrow and an unusual gold, seeming to peer into the very soul of those before her. She was tall and her black, ragged cloths hung off her thin frame. But Elaine's eyes were glued to the three-inch, black fingernails that held the door open.

"White," Hattington raised a brow of surprise, and Elaine realized that she had slit-pupils. "Do you require something?"

"We're going after Riddle," Greyson said, handing Hattington the bag of cat food and walking past her into the house without a backwards glance. Elaine followed after him quickly.

The inside of the house was dark and cramped. It seemed more vertical than wide and smelled of cats. Elaine could see several pairs of glowing eyes as she followed Greyson down the hall.

There was a moment's pause before the door slammed shut, immediately Hattington was upon them.

"Get out."

Greyson observed the enraged cat-woman for only a second before turning away and pulling a chair out for Elaine to sit in. "Would you like some tea?" he offered her.

"Err."

"No one is having tea," Hattington said, furiously. "Get out of my house or I'll have you all meowing by mid-noon!"

Elaine made to stand but Greyson put a hand on her shoulder and smirked. "Are you really so afraid, Wendell?"

Hattington's eyes narrowed, if possible, still further. "Don't call me Wendell, you pompous pustule! It's Lovegood, you slithering snake, now get out of my house!"

Greyson seemed unfazed by Hattington's snarls and instead turned his attention to the extremely tall and thin man that had appeared behind her. "Hello Gogomen," he said with a smile.

Gogomen (pronounced gaw-go-men), Elaine realized with a jolt, had striking violet eyes. The rest of his features were covered by the long, dark cloak that covered him from head to toe. He was the one that saved me from Hattington's cats.

Gogomen made no answer, instead he nodded his hood-covered head.

"He's a mute and a squib," Greyson told Elaine, ignoring Hattington's furious hissing. "But you will never find a cleverer man, of that I swear."

"There is nothing wrong with him!" Hattington exclaimed, and Elaine noticed that she had pointed teeth. "It's the world that's gone wrong!"

"Says the woman who lives with fifty-six cats, at my last count," Greyson said.

"I like cats!"

"I should hope so. You have quite a few of them for a person who isn't fond of felines."

Gogomen made an odd sound then, Elaine thought he might be laughing.

Hattington looked incensed. "I'm not helping you find Riddle, that bastard half-blood has done quite enough damage. Now get out of my house and stay out!"

Greyson frowned. "It's not going to get better, Wendell."

"No, it won't, but I'm not bringing him here. What was it you said when Celine died? The dead have no eyes to see, no ears to hear and no mind to know," she spit on the floor. "Well I'm not dead and I have no desire to be either."

"Very well," Greyson said, and he hoisted Elaine up by her arm. "We'll go then."

Shocked at how quickly Greyson had given up, Elaine followed him to the kitchen door in a half-daze. Gogomen blocked their way.

His eyes were fixated on Hattington, and their piercing purple stare did not stray from their target.

Hattington frowned. "No," she said. "I won't do it. You remember what happened last time. You remember!"

Gogmen's gaze did not waver, and after several minutes Hattington let out a heart-felt sigh. "Tonight we plan our own deaths, of that I am certain," she said.

.

"Have you gone completely insane?"

Emma hissed as Harry pulled on her hair, hard. It did nothing to soften the blow Lily and James had just dropped.

A month had passed since Harry's birth, and now the couple sat in front of her and Sirius, looking hopeful.

"I think it's brilliant," Sirius said, contradicting Emma's outburst.

"That's because you're a moron."

"We did think this through, you know," James said, looking slightly annoyed.

"Not very well," Emma countered, wrangling her hair out of Harry's grasp. "A Wandless for a godmother? Are you drunk?"

If James looked annoyed, Lily looked incensed. "He's my son," she said, and her tone brooked no argument. "I want you to think about it. Think about what I had to think about. In this scenario, Emma, I'm dead. I'll never see him again, never watch him grow up and V-the dark lord is still alive, still killing. Who would you leave him too?"

"Alice," Emma didn't even think about it. Harry watched with wide eyes as her hair pulled itself up into a neat bun. He gurgled happily.

Emma jumped when Lily grabbed her shoulder, eyes hard. "James and I are dead. Riddle probably killed us. What do I want?"

Emma paused, shocked, and then it clicked.

"You want me to take Harry and run."

Lily nodded. "As far as you can as fast as you can. I thought this through, all of it. Sirius Black as godfather and you as godmother, you'd be good to him, as parents, you'd love him the way I love him and you'd keep him safe. If anyone could keep him safe it would be the two of you."

Emma bounced Harry in her arms and exchanged a look with Sirius.

"Let's not let it come to that though," Sirius said. "Where are you staying, can we help hide you?"

"I'm still scouring Hogwarts's library for more permanent charms," Lily said. "For now we're safe where we are," she handed the heavy diaper bag over to Sirius, looking worried. "You're sure you can handle him for a few hours?"

Sirius rolled his eyes. "You just named us godparents and you're worried about us taking him for a few hours while you two get some actual sleep," he looked at their faces critically. "Seriously, when was the last time you got to sleep?"

"When you have children," James said, standing. "You'll understand that sleep isn't something you take for granted. Merlin, when I think of all the sleep I could have had while at Hogwarts and missed out on," he sighed.

"If you need anything," Lily began.

"We know where you are," Emma said. "Honestly, we'll be fine."

Sirius helped see Lily and James out while Emma began setting-up Harry's things. Harry squealed happily as an old kitchen chair rocketed into the living room and transfigured into a basinet, as his teddy jumped out of his diaper bag and danced through the air towards him.

Sirius leaned against the hall wall and watched as the stuffed bear completed the last few steps of the salsa. The Potters had told him to keep an eye on Emma for strange activity, but that they were certain she couldn't be the spy. Not now, with a twisted bond to Harry she couldn't possibly be plotting his demise.

But she still couldn't know about the prophesy – Mirage hadn't wanted her to know.

Sirius didn't know why, watching her dance around the room with Harry in her arms made it clear to him that she would do nothing to hurt Harry.

I hope you had a good reason Mira, Sirius thought as Emma placed Harry down in his crib, teddy at his side.

It didn't take long for them to discover why Lily and James weren't getting any sleep.

"Shh," Emma hushed Harry, bouncing him in her arms. "Shh, Harry, Shh!"

It didn't help. Harry was still red-faced and squalling.

Sirius was completely frazzled. He didn't want a bottle, or need to be changed, or burped. He had been sleeping, but now he was impersonating an angry banshee.

"What if we just silenced him?" Sirius half-joked. Emma shot him a filthy look.

"I think the sound of the stove fan is supposed to help," Emma half-shouted to be heard over Harry's squalls.

Sirius wasted no time in turning the fan on, and Emma stood beside it bouncing the baby.

"This is madness," she kept saying. "Epic, epic madness."

Sirius hopped on the spot for a moment, looking around for inspiration. He would do anything to shut Harry up at this point. It had been nearly an hour.

Emma jumped as Sirius transformed into a great, shaggy black dog. Harry hiccupped and silenced, looking at Sirius in wonder.

"Thank Merlin!" Emma stated, sitting on a kitchen chair and holding Harry out to Sirius. "Do you like the doggy, Harry?"

Sirius watched as Harry's eyes widened, his mouth working and bubbles forming at the corners. He was smiling.

Totally worth it, Sirius thought. The silence is totally worth it.

Lily and James didn't reappear for almost five hours, and though they both looked worried, they also looked as though they had managed to sleep.

"We overslept," Lily said when Emma got the door. "We're sorry. How is he? How's Harry?"

"He's with Padfoot," Emma said, letting them pass. "I know what you mean about him having wicked crying-fits now though."

Both Lily and James stopped just inside the living room. Even though they knew it was only Sirius, there was something about seeing their tiny baby lying between the humungous paws of the shaggy, black dog that made their hearts beat faster.

"He loves Padfoot," Emma said, walking past the couple and taking a seat on the couch. "Why, I can't understand. The big lug sheds everywhere."

Sirius swatted her with his tail for this remark, but refrained from barking for Harry's sake. Instead he nuzzled the baby before him, making Harry giggle.

"Did he cry much?" James asked taking a seat and pulling Lily down beside him.

Emma shrugged uncertainly. "Not since Sirius turned into Padfoot, but he had quite the fit after I put him down for a nap. He couldn't have been sleeping more than a half-hour before he started crying."

"We think he might have nightmares," Lily said. "He always wakes-up crying. He's a good baby otherwise though."

"How do you usually make him stop?" Emma asked.

Lily and James exchanged a look. "He stops when he wants to," James said. "We haven't figured out a way to make him. Sometimes it takes hours."

"He seems to like it when James makes fairy-lights out of his wand," Lily said. "It doesn't always work, but sometimes it helps."

They lapsed into a small, content silence and listened as Harry cooed and giggled at Padfoot. Emma had just opened her mouth to say something when the front door banged open.

James would forever be amazed at how fast Emma went from slouching on the couch to crouching in front of his son, teeth bared. But her instincts were wasted, as Remus ran into the room seconds later.

"We're needed at Headquarters," he said, and James immediately noticed how winded he was, as if he had run the whole way.

"What's happened?" Sirius asked. He handed Harry to Lily gently. Lily blinked, startled, she hadn't even noticed when he changed back. She had been too focused on who was entering the room and which spell she was going to hit them with.

"A mission went south. Fabian and Gideon are dead."

Emma couldn't remember hearing a silence so loud before.

"Dead?" James finally managed to say. "You mean… dead, dead?"

"What was the mission? Did anyone make it back?" Sirius asked at the same time.

Remus shrugged, still looking frazzled. "I don't know. Dumbledore's called a meeting about it. Whatever they were after it must have been important."

Lily and James exchanged a quick look.

It was only five minutes later that they were moving through the trees of Death Row.

Lily kept Harry close to her as they moved. The trees were curious of Harry and Lily didn't like it one bit.

"I'll key him in to the wards later," Emma had promised, but it had done little to reassure Lily now.

There had been a time when Order HQ being at max capacity had meant just that – the black house was fit to burst. Now the entire Order could fit inside and the house still seemed empty.

There were the Weasley's and all of their children; Alice and Frank; Marlene and Vicky, along with an edgy Jenkins; Dumbledore, McGonagall, Sprout, Flitwick, Hagrid and Moody. Podmore and Vance were still standing, and so was Reginald Wood and Robert Bell; Andromeda and Ted and Kingsley Shaklebolt… but that was all.

Unless one counted Dorcas Meadows, who sat beside Dumbledore, her face chalk-white and immobile.

Dumbledore looked up as they entered the room and Peter made to join them.

"What's going on, Worms?" James asked, leaning down a bit to better address Peter.

Peter shook his head. "I'm not sure," he said, very fast. "But they say Dorcas survived the attack the Prewetts died in," he lowered his voice to a whisper. "They're saying Fabian and Gideon managed to take five Death Eaters with them, including Dolohov."

"Never liked Dolohov," Sirius said. "Stuck-up git."

They fell silent as Dumbledore raised a hand, calling for their attention. "As I am sure you have heard, two more members have died in an attempt to thwart the dark lord. Gideon and Fabian Prewett were murdered earlier today. They were on a mission, which succeeded, thanks to their valiant efforts and sacrifice," Dumbledore's frown deepened. "They managed to kill 5 of the Death Eaters and are heroes in their own right. As for the mission, I will only say that there is still hope."

"He called us all here for that?" Sirius whispered, looking annoyed.

"It wasn't for us," Emma said sombrely. "It was for the spy. He's sending the dark lord a message."

"Telling him what? Well done Voldy, killing my members, but I got what I wanted?" Sirius asked sarcastically.

Emma smirked. "When you put it that way, it certainly loses appeal."

"I wonder what they were after," Lily wondered aloud, her eyes straying to Dorcas. It was hard to imagine that the terrified-looking girl beside Dumbledore was the same gallant and brilliant Ravenclaw that had served as Head Girl.

James followed her line of sight, looking serious. "Whatever it was it won't make up for the losses."

Molly's cries haunted Lily that night, as she lay in bed beside James, Harry in a bassinet at the bed's foot. And there was something else, something in Dorcas's eyes that made her blood run cold.

Lily sat up abruptly and climbed out of the bed, annoyed with herself and made for the bathroom. She had work in the morning, she should be asleep.

But she wasn't safe here. None of them were, her baby, her Harry wasn't safe. What would she have done if it had been James and Harry who were dead?

Lily fought the urge to bang her head against the bathroom wall. The Prewetts dying on a mission had nothing to do with Harry or James, she tried to tell herself. They were both absolutely fine, nothing was going to happen to them.

Despite her best efforts Lily did not sleep that night, instead she spent it gazing at the two things she could not bare to lose.

.

Dorcas dead-bolted the door behind her, the house lights coming on immediately.

It was still dark, despite the late hour. She was loath to admit it, but she had stayed at headquarters much longer than necessary, terrified to leave the guarded perimeters. In the end, she had only left at all because she was an auror, and because aurors were supposed to be made of tougher stuff than that.

Still, she could not stand the darkness. For the last two days the world had been perpetually dark, hiding every terror she had ever known in its vastness.

Dumbledore had been pleased with the information she had managed to retrieve, despite the cost. But Dorcas didn't like to think of the implications of what she now knew.

She entered the house at ease. None of her wards had been tampered with, and the house was as secure as it had been when she had left, still, there was something about knowing a hundred man-eating trees were about that would have made her feel safer.

"Maybe she'd lend me a potted plant," Dorcas murmured aloud as she entered the kitchen.

And very suddenly she was blinded by a flash of green light.

Dorcas dropped to the floor with a loud thump, the doorframe behind her blasting to splinters as it was hit by the killing curse.

"Well, well, well," Dorcas's breath stopped as a high, cold voice filled the room. "Someone certainly paid attention during auror training."

Voldemort walked out of the shadows easily, with the ease of a Wandless, Dorcas found herself thinking in horror.

"You."

Voldemort laughed. "Me," he tilted his head slightly. "You should be honoured, Dorcas Meadows. Not everyone gets killed by me in person. Only a select few."

Dorcas rolled, avoiding his next curse. She leapt to her feet, unarmed but ready for battle.

"When will you Order members learn? There is no point in resisting me."

"There will always be a point!" Dorcas shouted, swerving to avoid a blast of red, spiralling away from blue. "For as long as magic flows through this world," she said, ducking low, gaining a step forwards. "For as long as Wizards still have courage," she side swiped him, tearing his robes. "For as long as I draw breathe!"

The word ended in a choke, blood dribbling down Dorcas's chin as Voldemort thrust a newly-conjured spear through her gut. He grinned.

"Not long at all then."

.

Lily could hardly believe it when she read the news in The Prophet the next morning.

Dorcas Meadows looked so young staring out of the paper, a mischievous glint in her eye. Dorcas had been no angel at school, anyone could tell you that, but her willingness to help younger students had been enough to get her appointed as head girl. But now…

Lily flipped another page in the book she was reading, Harry gurgling beside her. She was in the Hogwarts Library, as she had been almost every day of her maternity leave, looking through the old and dusty tombs for a way to hide from Voldemort.

Harry fumbled with a set of plastic keys, eliminating the jingle-jangle steel keys made, a sound that made Pince circle the table with slit eyes.

Dorcas grinned up at Lily from the paper folded at Lily's elbow. For one reason or another, Lily couldn't bare to put the girl's photo away.

She looks so young… that seemed to be all Lily could think about, how young Dorcas had been, and how scared. Her white face from the other day at the meeting haunted Lily like a ghost. What had Dorcas been afraid of? Had she known Voldemort was coming for her? Or had it been the information she'd managed to obtain that spooked the Ravenclaw?

Lily shook her head, flipping another page in the book. She had been through hundreds of books in the last few weeks, each one dustier and less helpful than the last.

Lily started as the plastic keys, dripping with Harry drool, flew through the air and toppled a pile of books she'd brought over. Pince's hawk-eyes were on her in an instant. Lily sighed, rising from her seat, tapping Harry's keys once with her wand to clean them and then handing them to the happy baby before going to pick-up the books that lay strewn across the floor.

Harry's gurgles made Lily smile even as she bent to retrieve the books. Not for the first time, Lily marvelled at how amazing her baby was.

Lily placed a stack of seven books on the table, before reaching for the last, a particularly old volume that had been flipped open. Secrets of the Unfound blazed across the cover in gold filigree. Lily prayed the book hadn't been damaged in its fall or Pince would have her head.

She picked it up gentle, and inspected the place where the book had fallen open for damage. There was a small tear in the one corner, but Lily suspected that had been there long before the book's tumble. She was about to shut the book when a flickering title caught her eye.

The Fidelius Charm

First invented by M. I. Alexander as a means to evade military conscription in the 1400s, the Fidelius Charm requires the use of another person as a secret keeper. This secret keeper quite literally keeps the secret of the hiding individual. No one will be able to find the hidden object and its contents (most generally taking the form of a house or dwelling) unless told of the location by the secret keeper. This worked surprisingly well for M. I. Alexander who managed to hide his dwelling and farm for over 200 years. The charm broke, unfortunately, after is best friend and secret keeper died. At Steper Kreec's death, all who had been told of M. I. Alexander's address became secret keepers, leading to M. I. Alexander's ultimate betrayal by Previc Proctor.

Harry's babbles faded away as Lily re-read the passage, her eyes skimming over the following instructions. She could do this. She could do it!

Lily laughed, a hysterical sound of relief that bubbled up her throat without direction, and Harry laughed at her laughing.

They would be safe.

Lily grabbed her chest, her heart swelling and tears spilling over her cheeks. It was then Pince came over, looking decidedly cross.

Lily stood shakily, still grinning, still high with euphoria.

"Just what do you think you're doing Mrs. Potter?" Pince began, looking more than cross, only to squeak with surprise when Lily threw her arms around her and hugged her.

"We're going to live!" she whispered before pulling away and laughing again.

.

Wendell Lovegood, Elaine soon discovered, was just as brilliant as anyone she had ever met at Hogwarts – and that included Dumbledore himself.

Elaine also thought she understood where the nickname Hattington had come from – Wendell was a mad as the Mad Hatter.

Her cat-eyes skimmed across the map Greyson had conjured from an inside pocket in his robes. But her fingers remained still, clenching the pack of the chair she leaned over.

"Any ideas?" Greyson asked the cat-woman at last.

Hattington didn't bother looking up from the map to answer.

"No."

Gogomen grinned from where he stood in the shadows. Only a pair of violet eyes and a blindingly white smile visible from under his cloak.

Hattington looked up, suddenly annoyed. "When did Dung tell you? What did he tell you?"

Greyson grinned. "Riddle is holding up near Huxdown, on the other side of Rowen. But that's not what we need to concern ourselves with. Dung heard a rumour, spouted off by a black-robed patron of the Hog's Head."

"The Hog's Head – haven't those morons figured out Aberforth runs that pub yet?" Hattington asked.

Greyson shrugged. "The information was important enough that Dumbledore should know in any case."

"Oh?"

"Oh," Greyson shot a look at Gogomen before continuing. "They say Riddle is interested in finding himself a sliver of immortality."

Hattington raised a single brow. "Stone, horcrux? I don't care what he's after, I care how."

"Obviously, as do I," Greyson said, leaning back against the wall. "But I don't know. I only know what would be easiest… what would most appeal."

Hattington snorted. "A horcrux, big deal. One and done."

Greyson frowned. "There are other ways… other persons…"

Hattington's eyes narrowed. "Riddle would not be that foolish. No, Greyson, I'll not hear another word of it."

"Another word of what?" Elaine asked, feeling thoroughly left-out of the conversation.

"Never you mind," Hattington said. "A horcrux we can deal with," she said, looking at Greyson. "A horcrux is what we will deal with."

Greyson leaned forwards. "But if he's thinking about-"

Hattington's eyes flashed. "Not another word," she warned, her nails leaving marks in the wood chair. "You will not so much as whisper that name in this house. No, Greyson, I mean it," she said when Greyson made to argue. "Not a word of that Wandless."

"Wandless?" Elaine blurted. "You mean Emma?"

Hattington snorted. "Protem is the least of my concerns. There are Wandless far older and fouler than Dumbledore's pet magic trick."