Minor error in the last chapter, I said Remus was in for Moody's briefing on Harry and Ron's potential location and given the task of crowd control, but he couldn't have been there because that scene takes place on the night of the full moon. I'm not going to put in an edit because this site has been making it hard for me to upload things lately. It took me 45 min to update one of my other stories and I had to retype this chapter in the website because it was actually faster than trying to upload the doc from my computer.
Bill should not have been there. It didn't occur to Arthur until he was surrounded by Hit Wizards, armed to the teeth with protective amulets and weapons. The scene was scary. Molly would be horrified when she found out he'd brought their son to a place like this, that he was hiding in the dark with Bill, a young wizard who hadn't even graduated Hogwarts, silently waiting for the raid to begin.
No time to think of that now, Arthur thought.
The squad leader gave the signal and the group surrounding the bar burst in. Arthur saw flashes of light as they immobilized the bystanders within the bar. He heard the squad leader yell commands but that was it. The flashes of light came so rapidly that the patrons within the bar didn't even have time to scream. Arthur could see them through the window of the pub from where he was standing. Many of them were in the middle of laying down cards in a game of poker or were bringing a glass to their lips.
Arthur watched as the flashes of light moved upwards and soon the attic was ablaze with light. Arthur stared, wondering if his son was up there and praying that they weren't too late.
Sirius was part of the second group to move into the bar. He followed Moody, who looked around the bar sharply before his eye swiveled up to look through the ceiling. He took off, moving swiftly up the stairs, and Sirius and Dumbledore followed him.
The second that they entered the attic Sirius's gaze locked on a body lying on the floor. It felt like the breath had been knocked from his chest.
"He's a rat animargus; we found him in a cage on the window," one of the Hit Wizards told Moody. "He tried to escape, so we stunned him."
"Peter," Sirius growled and so much hate bubbled up inside him that he could have killed him right there.
Dumbledore put a hand on his shoulder.
"We need to take him back to the ministry and interrogate him. After that, he can go to the dementors."
Sirius growled, but nodded reluctantly.
Moody was pacing down the room, his magical eye taking in everything about the place.
He stopped and picked up a jar of marbles. He glanced at it and looked down at a set of gobstones lying on the floor. "Games," he grunted. "Looks like they wanted to keep the boys happy, quiet. Makes sense. It's easier to keep kids in line if you give them something to do." He glanced at the beds, then walked up to one swiftly and bent to examine a stain on the sheets. He muttered a spell and the liquid soaking the sheets lifted into the air and glowed slightly.
"Blood," said Moody grimly. "Human blood."
Sirius felt cold.
Moody turned to the Hit Wizards.
"Take this man into custody. Maximum security, we'll take it from here."
The group shuffled out of the attic, levitating Peter with them and Moody shut the door before pulling two socks out of his pocket.
"Can you compare scents?" asked Moody, looking at Sirius.
Sirius nodded before transforming. His nose twitched as the smell of sweat, blood, and fear hit him.
He only needed a moment to identify which sock the smell matched.
He returned to human form and pointed to the sock in Moody's right hand.
"The scent of the blood matches that scent on that sock," said Sirius, pointing at the sock with a sick feeling in his chest.
Please don't be Harry's blood, please don't be Harry's blood.
"This sock belongs to Ron Weasley," said Moody grimly.
Sirius felt relieved, then he thought of Arthur and felt guilty.
"What else did you smell?" asked Dumbledore sharply.
"Hang on," said Sirius. He transformed again and smelled the sheets once more, inhaling deeply through his snout. There was a bloody bandage that was stuck to the bed and Sirius inhaled the scent. It smelled of sickness, it was strong, and somehow familiar. Sirius inhaled once more and smelled something else, something almost-venomous. The stink of some kind of animal lingered on the mattress.
He transformed back into human form.
"I think the blood is from a bite mark," said Sirius, slowly. "I can smell some kind of-it almost smells like poison, but it's different, almost like..."
His gaze wandered to the window and he froze.
"Oh bloody hell," he whispered. He turned back into a dog, inhaled again and he knew suddenly why the scent was familiar.
He shifted into a human once more and looked at Moody and Dumbledore. He didn't need to say it, he could tell by their faces that they'd figured it out too.
"A werewolf bite," said Dumbledore slowly. "Are you sure?"
"I know that smell," said Sirius and a part of him hated the certainty. He thought of Arthur once again and wondered how on earth he was supposed to tell him that his son's life would be forever damaged. If he even survived the initial shock of being turned. Sirius felt a pang of fear for both boys.
"Well, let's not just stand here, let's follow the trail."
Sirius turned into a dog and the trio moved down the steps. Sirius noted the disturbing frequency of the blood droplets and he could smell Harry and Ron's panicked scents. They traced the trail into a bathroom, then down the steps, then out into the street. Arthur ran up to them the second they stepped outside.
"Well?!" He asked, slightly breathless.
"The boys ran away, before we could get here. We're tracking their by scents to try and see where they went."
Arthur followed the trio immediately and Sirius could sense his despair, but he couldn't dwell on that.
Sirius pressed his nose to the ground noted the stench of adrenaline. Ron Weasley bolting through the night when he was hurt—Harry must have helped him run. Their scents were close together so it made sense.
Sirius thought of James for a brief moment before he refocused.
There must have been an attacker, for them to run when the Weasley boy was so unwell. Something about the illness smelled familiar to him, but he couldn't put his nose on why. The scent made it to Borgin and Burkes. Sirius pawed at the door and Moody forced it open.
Alarms that sounded like screams ripped though the air and Burke came charging down the stairs, wand in hand.
"I told you, I haven't seen—" he paused when he saw Dumbledore, Arthur, Moody, and Sirius.
"Fletch and Mundungus came crashing in here saying their cousin's kids were staying with them and had run off. Said they might have come in here. I didn't think anything of it," he told them before they could demand information.
Dumbledore raised his eyebrows.
Burke wasn't usually so forthcoming with information. He mused that Mundungus Fletcher more than likely owed him a lot of money and Burke was making an example out of him by selling him out. Burke liked send a warning to his long standing debtors from time to time.
Moody pushed forward to question the man and Sirius continued to follow the trail. It stopped at a cabinet that reeked of magic. Moody came over and opened it.
"What is this?" Moody asked Burke.
"Vanishing cabinet," grunted Burke, "very expensive. You damage it, you buy it."
Vanishing cabinet. Sirius knew what that was. His uncle Cygnus had one and his mother had the other. They would use them to pass their darkest objects back and forth to one another during ministry raids until his cousin Bellatrix had accidentally destroyed one while practicing a dangerous spell. That was the one and only time Bellatrix's respectability had dropped below his own.
Sirius was suddenly shoved to the side as Arthur bumped past him and climbed into the cabinet without hesitation.
"Hey! Get out of there!" said Burke angrily. "If you scratch it, you're paying for it!"
Arthur ignored him and shut the door to the cabinet.
After a few moments he opened it and looked out hopefully. His brows furrowed when he realized he was still inside the cursed.
"They must have left the door on the other cabinet open. Where does this lead to?"
"A man in my line of work doesn't generally test out his products," said Borgin dryly.
"You mean to tell me you have no idea at all?" said Moody menacingly.
The man shook his head.
"I really haven't the foggiest, that's why it's been in this shop for over two decades. No one wants to buy a vanishing cabinet that has an unknown twin."
"You can tell that to the ministry aurors when you give your statement," growled Moody. "Now move."
Sirius followed Moody and Burke out of the shop, looking sadly at the cabinet as he trotted out the door. Arthur clenched his fists. When he came out into the alley he met Bill's eyes. He watched as his son looked at him hope and then watched as that hope drained from his face.
So close, they'd been so close. Arthur felt a sense of horrible, bitter, defeat creeping over him and when it felt like it was going to overwhelm him Dumbledore stepped up to walk alongside him.
"They've arrested Pettigrew," Dumbledore whispered. "I'll make sure you can be there for the interrogation."
And just like that Arthur got his energy back. As long as there was some kind of clue, anyclue at all, he wouldn't rest for even a moment until he followed it to the very end.
Peter Pettigrew looked up at the intimidating trio looming over him. Dumbledore, Fudge, and Moody were all looking down at him with disgust on their faces. Sirius, Bill, and Arthur were all watching the interrogation from a hidden room. Sirius was clenching his jaws and Arthur was resting a hand on his son's shoulder.
"Why did you kidnap Potter and Weasley?" asked Moody.
The words tumbled from Peter's mouth with the encouragement of fear and Veritiserum.
"I didn't kidnap them."
The words pierced the air and stunned all the wizards into silence for a full thirty seconds.
"Explain to us how Ron Weasley came to leave the burrow then," said Shacklebolt, recovering slightly before the others.
"He ran away from home," said Peter. "He took me with him because he thinks I'm his pet and when his father caught him leaving, he disapparated."
"Did you encourage him to leave, or cast a spell that would prompt him to run away?" asked Fudge.
"No," said Peter.
"You're telling me that they left of their own accord," said Fudge sarcastically.
"Yes," said Peter.
The room went silent again.
"Ron found Harry on his own, without any help?" Shackle bolt clarified.
"Yes," said Pettigrew.
"How is that possible?" demanded Fudge.
"I don't know," said Peter.
Bill's eyes widened and looked at his father.
"Dad, did the Potters ever offer sanctuary to the Weasleys?" he asked.
Arthur and Sirius all looked at Bill.
"When I was doing that internship with the goblins, I learned about an old ritual. You can allow other wizarding families to apparate to your primary residence in the event of an emergency. The spell goes through the bloodline and needs to be purposefully broken or blocked by another spell. Most of the wards wizards use these days prevent that spell from working, but Harry Potter lived with muggles…"
Siruis's eyes widened.
"Is there such a connection, Arthur?" he man shook his head."Not that I'm aware of, yet again the Potter and Prewett households were quite close in the previous generations…I'll need to ask Molly's Aunt Muriel."
Sirius took in the information and turned back to the interrogation.
"Ron told Harry to run away with him because the muggles would starve him, lock him in a cupboard, and beat him. The boys stayed hidden because they didn't want Harry to be sent back to the muggles," Peter was saying.
Sirius's stomach dropped. He'd found out about the abuse when he was masquerading as Arthur Weasley, but it still hadn't sunk in. He still couldn't fathom anyone hurting sweet little Harry. The boy who giggled when Lily snuck up on James and tried to tame his hair, the boy who could sense when the people around him were sad and climb into their lap, the boy who had scrawled little prayers to his parents on napkins and stuffed them into the corners of his cupboard. Who could hurt a boy like that? Who could lock him away and let him starve, like he was nothing.
"So the boys have been hiding from the authorities intentionally?" asked Moody, his voice serious.
"Yes," said Peter. "A woman named Rene helped them and—"
"Rene who?" asked Moody sharply.
"Rene Trelawney. She saw the bruises on Harry and healed them. She disguised the boys and asked Fletch to take them. He let them stay, but he made them go out into the forest to find potion ingredients that he could sell."
Moody prodded for more details and soon the story unfurled, piece by piece.
Arthur clenched his fists as he listened, growing more furious with each word Pettigrew spoke. He couldn't believe it. His son had found a hurt little boy and hadn't known what to do, or who to turn to. He'd been scared and had done what any little boy would do, he ran and hid. Then the people who found him hadn't taken him in with open arms, they didn't call the authorities or him even though he and his wife had been screaming up and down the British Isles for the return of their child. No. They'd manipulated Ron, used him for child labor, put him in harm's way. Arthur shook his head in disgust. This was unfathomable.
Peter continued to talk and then he got to the more recent events and Arthur's rage faded into fear. Peter talked about Ron being carried upstairs, unconscious, his arm swaddled in blood-soaked bandages. He said Fletch took Harry downstairs to talk to him, and he didn't know what had happened to Ron. All he knew was that the boy was sick and pale, and he'd needed Harry to help him walk out of the attic. That was it. That was the last this monster had seen of his son.
Bill couldn't handle the news, he stumbled out into the hallway and Arthur let him go, too frozen with shock.
Sirius laid a hand on Arthur's shoulder as the interrogators tried to get more information out of Pettigrew.
"I know what happened Arthur."
Arthur Weasley looked at Sirius and felt nothing but dread as Sirius looked at him solemnly.
Harry woke up feeling very hot. He shifted and half a dozen blankets shifted as well. His brain registered the unfamiliar setting and he flung the blankets off himself, sitting up quickly. His head pounded at the movement and he saw stars.
He groaned and put a hand to his temple.
"Rest, young master," said a squeaky voice.
Harry jumped and looked to his right. A small creature was standing there, watching over him.
Harry scooted as far back from the creature as possible.
"What are you? Who are you?" asked Harry fearfully.
"I is Huffle, I is a House-elf," the elf explained as if she were asked those questions every day.
"Where am I?! Where's Ron," he asked, standing up.
He looked around and saw a fireplace and then he jumped. Beyond the fireplace there was a pack of little elves hovering in an archway that led to a separate room. They were all watching him with concern.
"Your friend is over there," said Huffle, pointing to another cocoon of blankets only a few yards away.
There was an elf sponging Ron's forehead with a wet cloth as the boy slept fitfully. Sweat soaked his hair and he whined in his sleep, tossing and turning.
"You is both in the Hogwarts kitchens. You is safe now. We elves is sworn to protect the young."
Harry swallowed as the pounding in his head increased and he sank slowly back onto the pile of blankets he'd been wrapped in, pressing a hand to his temple.
"Sir is needing water," said an elf, approaching the pair with a tall glass of ice water and handing it to Harry.
Harry sipped greedily.
"Th-Thanks," he rasped.
The elf that was caring for Ron stood up and approached Harry.
"I is Ritzy," she told Harry. "Your friend is very ill. Ritzy can help, because Ritzy's dearly departed master was a healer and he is teaching her how to help sick wizards. But Ritzy needs to know what ails him."
"Dog bite," Harry lied,
"Is the dog a werewolf?" asked the elf curiously. "He is feverish and Ritzy thinks it is a werewolf bite. Ritzy can gives him herbs to cool the fever, but she needs to know if it's a werewolf bite first or the herbs will not do good, they will do bad."
Harry bit his lip, unsure of what to do. Fletch told him that werewolves weren't bad, but most wizards thought they were, and they did bad things to them.
Ritzy looked up and made a shooing motion towards the other elves who scurried away.
When they were alone Ritzy leaned in and whispered to Harry.
"Ritzy will not tell anyone. Ritzy just wants to help."
Harry hesitated, then nodded.
"Yeah, it was a werewolf," he admitted.
Ritzy nodded, and patted Harry's hand.
"Ritzy knows just what to do," she said and she left to tend to Ron.
Harry sat there, sipping the water and after a few minutes an elf came up to him and asked if he was hungry.
"Yes," Harry admitted shyly, realizing that he was famished.
The elf looked delighted and hurried into the next room. Moments later elves came in and surrounded him and laid out more food than he had ever seen in his life, which was saying something as he'd lived with Dudley.
There were bowls of fruit, cakes, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cold cuts of ham, sandwiches, and trays of cheese.
"This is for me?" asked Harry, wide eyed.
"Yes," said one of the elves beaming.
"Really?" asked Harry, his eyes wide. "It's not a trick?"
One of the elves frowned.
"Is no trick, young master needs food and we brings it."
Harry didn't know why, but he was close to tears.
"Thank you," he told the elf. The elves looked at each other, laid down the food and brought out more.
Harry didn't quite know what to do, so he made himself a plate with as much food as he could fit and went to sit next to Ron. The boy was still tossing and turning, even as Ritzy applied an herb-paste to his bite mark and Harry wished he would wake up. Ron would love to eat all this food.
Harry sighed and started eating slowly carefully. Most children would be concerned about eating food provided by strangers, but Harry had only received that talk once from one of his school teachers, the Dursleys had never expressed much concern for Harry's wellbeing; his biggest worry was that the elves would snatch the food away and say he was being rude and eating too much. That didn't happen though and soon Harry was able to relax a little. It was the most delicious food he'd ever tasted and Harry felt a small twinge of satisfaction pierce through his worry and fear. Harry knew he shouldn't accept food from strangers, but he was so hungry, and the elves had saved him...Before he knew it Harry had loaded up his plate and was eating more than he'd ever had in one sitting. He watched Ron as he ate, hoping he would wake up soon. Harry was worried about him, but something deep down inside him told him he was safe. It wasn't the warm kind of safe that Harry felt once when the Uncle Vernon and Dudley had been out of town and Aunt Petunia had left him alone to wander the house, but it was close enough.
Sorry if this is kind of a cliff-hanger, but this seemed like a good place to leave it. Hope you enjoyed it! P.S. This chapter title and the last two are lines from Snape's logic puzzle in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. For some reason the lines seem to sum up these chapters nicely so I'll probably roll with it for the next few chapters.