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November 11, 1984, Hogwart School, Scotland
Despite working as a matron at a boarding school, Poppy Pomfrey had seen many serious war injuries. This was the unfortunate result of the school she was employed at being considered a major strategic target.
It had been years since she had seen injuries like she had before her. At least four of her patients had been hit with the Cruciatus Curse. There was nothing that could be done about that. They just had to ride out the feelings of pain.
The most salient injuries to take care of were the ones to Remus Lupin. His body was weakened by the moon and the splinching he'd suffered had taken a good chunk of muscle out of his leg. She had been able to repair the injury, but he would need to take blood replenishing potions to make up what he had lost before he'd been treated.
The Longbottom couple were both beaten up, Frank was still trying to shake off the remnants of Cruciatus and Alice bleeding from a nasty curse across her torso.
Yuki Maeda was bruised, but Pomfrey discovered quickly most of the blood on her was not her own. There was not much to do with her other than let her heal naturally.
Sirius Black had a series of nasty, painful boils on his neck from a well-placed curse that had been easy enough to care for. Pomfrey was finding the worst part of his treatment was trying to keep him in bed, as opposed to rushing to the bedside of the terrified young children, all of whom had gathered together, holding onto one another.
There was nothing that could be done for Augusta Longbottom. In defending her grandchildren, she'd been hit by multiple curses. With the difficulty of apparating with both children, her heart had not been able to take it and she had been dead when she arrived at Hogwarts.
That Augusta Longbottom was the only casualty on their side after this battle was something of a minor miracle. There had not been an attack like this since the end of the war.
Alastor Moody looked over his compatriots with grim appraisal. He let out a small growl of displeasure.
The doors to the Hospital Wing swung open and Albus Dumbledore strode in, Bartemius Crouch Senior at his side. Despite the injuries all had suffered, these new arrivals brought everyone to attention, sitting up and speaking all at once.
"Headmaster!" Pomfrey admonished her employer. "I can't have you disrupting my patients!"
"Poppy," Dumbledore sighed, placing a hand on Pomfrey's shoulder. "I'm afraid it cannot wait. This is a very dire circumstance that must be dealt with expediently. Would you please take the Black and Longbottom children into your office? I need to speak with their parents."
Pomfrey let out of huff of displeasure, but did as instructed, bustling the children towards her office, despite how the older ones complained at being separated from their parents.
"What happened, Bartemius?" Moody growled. He pointed his walking stick towards the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. "I thought Minister Bagnold said this sorta attack wouldn't happen anymore," his words were laced with heavy sarcasm. He had known it was only a matter of time and had lobbied heavily against the lax action of his department.
"The fact that is has taken three years for such an attack and the ferocity of it suggests the Death Eaters have been very carefully planning," Crouch replied. "Four attacks were staged in a very short succession of time in order to isolate their target... The first attack was in Bristol. It was against Muggles. It's clear this attack was a diversion for the Aurors. We sent in a full assault but by the time we'd arrived, the perpetrator had gone."
"Disapparated," Dumbledore explained. "Most like to join the pair that had attacked Alice in Lancaster. Two more Death Eaters attacked Remus almost simultaneously at Oxford."
"Alice and Frank managed to stun one of their attackers. He's currently in Auror custody. Cassius Flint." Crouch nodding in approval to the Longbottoms.
"It seems once you took down one of their fellows, they joined the attackers going after Harry," Dumbledore's blue eyes surveyed Remus. "We believe the Death Eaters who attacked you, Remus, thought they had killed you."
"How many Death Eaters were there?" Sirius asked, looking irritated and exhausted. "How many of them are still running around?"
"It seems this assault was comprised of six or seven Death Eaters," Dumbledore replied. "But they were organized to commit maximum damage."
"How many of them did we get?" Frank asked.
Crouch averted his gaze, looking somewhat ashamed. "By the time the Aurors arrived at the Maeda home, the Death Eaters had fled. Only Flint was taken into custody." He glanced to Yuki. "There was a corpse on your property. He's been identified as Medan Blishwick. Stab wound to the heart."
There wasn't a trace of regret in Yuki's face. "Sou desu ka."
Sirius glanced briefly to his fiancée, but shook it off. "Six or seven Death Eaters attacked us and only two of them were incapacitated?" He let out a growl. "Sorry, Barty... Can't say I much care for how the department's been run since I left."
Crouch glared at Sirius. "If you wanted the Death Eaters caught so much, maybe you shouldn't have fled."
Sirius was on his feet, squaring off against the other man. "I had my kids to look after!" He bellowed. "What was I supposed to do? Leave them helpless while I stunned Death Eaters?"
There was a dangerous glint in Crouch's eyes. "Maybe if you- like your fiancée- had the stomach for execution..."
"Gentlemen!" Dumbledore insinuated himself between Crouch and Sirius, knowing Sirius was only a moment away from hexing Crouch or else just punching him. "Nothing can be done about the Death Eaters that have escaped capture. I assume the Aurors will be working on it?"
Moody nodded. "Already got the boys on it. Aren't too pleased the boss took some licks." He nodded to Frank.
Dumbledore turned to Crouch. "Perhaps you and Alastor should go and coordinate the manhunt."
Crouch glared at Sirius once again before letting his gaze slip to Dumbledore. "Keep me apprised of any developments, Albus." With that, he strode off out of the Hospital Wing.
Moody gave Dumbledore a nod. "And keep me up on any of the real developments." He looked to the battered twentysomethings. "You kids did good tonight. Did what you had to. Don't forget that." With that, he stumped off after Crouch.
Dumbledore turned his attention back to the worried parents. "Crouch, like most of the Wizarding World, remains unaware of the prophecy that referred to either Harry or Neville. He does not know that Neville was also a target of the Death Eaters. I believe it best that remains on a need-to-know basis. But I believe the Death Eaters were informed of it or at least told both boys were targets." He nodded to Frank and Alice. "This explains the planned attack by the Lestranges shortly after Voldemort's fall."
Remus groaned, forcing himself to sit up. The slight movement seemed to take all of his energy. "I don't understand, Headmaster. I thought you did protective blood magic to protect Harry as long as he was in Sirius's care."
Dumbledore's expression darkened and light blue eyes were fixed on Sirius. "I believe I made a miscalculation. Perhaps too much time had passed, perhaps the blood bond was not sufficient a tether, perhaps James's sacrifice was not potent enough to give adequate protection..."
"So this is all my fault?" Sirius growled softly.
Dumbledore shook his head. "This is not a time for blame, Sirius. It is a time for action. This is the second time there has been an attempt on the Longbottoms. I believe there would have been more attacks on Harry had they been able to find him."
Yuki shook her head. "How were the able to find us, anyway? We took so many precautions..."
Dumbledore bowed his head. "No matter the precautions you took on your homestead, you still showed yourself within the Wizarding World. Someone might have glimpsed Harry..."
"Snivellus," Sirius snarled. His hands tightened into fists. "I ran into him a few months ago in the Apothecary..."
Dumbledore waved a hand of dismissal. "Severus Snape has my trust. He would not have brought harm to the boy." He ignored Sirius's disbelieving look. "But someone else may have seen him when you were in Diagon Alley."
"Or maybe my mother said something... Or someone saw him at Frank's birthday." Sirius growled softly again.
"Whatever the identification of Harry was, it happened. That cannot be changed." He sighed deeply. "It is a mistake for Harry to remain here. This was where the majority of Voldemort's followers resided. Those who still follow him will cease upon any opportunity to hurt him- and, it seems, Neville as well."
Sirius sank down onto his bed. "So instead of going around the world running from you, we're going to have to run from Death Eaters."
"It may require less running on your part," Dumbledore replied. "I doubt the Death Eaters will be as dogged as me in their pursuits once you are out of England."
Frank frowned deeply. "And you mean all of us, don't you, Headmaster? Not just Sirius and his family..."
Dumbledore nodded gravely. "This is the second attempt on you, Frank. It is your decision, of course..."
Frank put his head in his hands and sighed deeply. "Those bastards killed my mother. As much as I hate running... I can't let the same thing happen to my kids."
Dumbledore nodded. "I will speak with the Ministry, start to make arrangements. Considering the difficulties of Sirius's last sojourn, we will have to take great care with the immigration, making sure you are legal immigrants, but remaining under the radar."
Without another word, he swept out of the room.
Pomfrey came back in, bustling around the beds. "I've managed to get your children to sleep. I'm afraid I had to resort to some dreamless draughts for all of them, but they need the rest."
Sirius waved Pomfrey off when she tried to attend to him. "Just worry about Remus. I think he's the one feeling the roughest." He rubbed the side of his neck, that patch of skin that had been repaired by Pomfrey still feeling tender. "Can I wash up somewhere? I feel dirty." He held up his hands to block himself when she held out her wand. "I'd rather not have washing spells right now, Poppy. I just... I need to clean up."
"Prefect's bathroom is the closest," Pomfrey gestured upwards. "You know where it is. I remember when Minerva caught you with the Daggersmith girl."
He shrank at Yuki's glare. "Before we started dating, Kitten." There was a dark expression in his eyes as he looked her over. He then grabbed her by the wrist, pulling her up. "Come on. You need to clean up too."
Pomfrey eyed the pair warily. "The students should be asleep, but you know that never stops them. Take care not to be seen. The password is 'Whistle Clean'."
Yuki allowed Sirius to pull her along. He stopped briefly between Remus and Frank's beds. Remus had fallen to sleep, a pained look on his face. "Take care of him, Poppy."
"Of course I will, Mister Black," Pomfrey said quickly, more than a little irritation in her voice.
Sirius then turned to Frank. "Frank... Your mum... I'm..."
Frank nodded. "I know. Go on, then. Need to talk with the Missus before Dumbledore comes back."
Sirius gave a firm nod to Frank before continuing out of the Hospital Wing, pulling Yuki along with him. Just as they exited, he saw McGonagall rushing towards them.
"Professor," Sirius said, his brow furrowing. "Is everything-?"
Before he could finish, McGonagall had thrown herself onto him, hugging him tightly. His eyes grew wide at this shocking development. But then the body shrank, became one belonging to an eleven year old girl and hair turned neon blue.
Nymphadora pulled back and looked up at Sirius with wide, grey eyes. "It's been going all around school," she said breathlessly. "Some Ravenclaws saw your bike fly in. No one knew what it meant, but I did! I had to come to see you! What happened?" She eyed the obvious injuries on both Sirius and Yuki- and the bloodstains on Yuki's sleeve.
"Don't worry, Pixie," Sirius said quietly, ruffling her hair. "We had some trouble, but we're all right. The kids and Remus are with Madame Pomfrey."
Nymphadora looked to the door of the Hospital Wing. "Can I go in and see them? I can disguise myself as McGonagall again."
"You shouldn't do that," Sirius replied. "If you're caught, you'll lose a lot of points for Hufflepuff. How did that happen anyway, Pixie? I was sure you were on your way to my old house."
"I wanted to be where my dad was," Nymphadora said matter-of-factly.
"You'll have to excuse him, Dora," Yuki said. "Sirius labours under the delusion anyone who displays any sort of fortitude should be a lion."
Sirius ignored Yuki and ruffled Nymphadora's hair once again. "You get back to your Common Room. We'll come to see you before we leave."
Nymphadora looked wary, but nodded finally. "You better. I need to see the kids. I want to know my cousins are okay."
"All right," Sirius said with a small smile. He gave Nymphadora a kiss on the cheek and she turned red. "We'll have Sprout bring you to the Hospital Wing before class tomorrow."
With one more wary look, Nymphadora ran off back through the corridors.
Sirius looked to his fiancée and sighed softly. He gestured towards the stairs that led to the Prefects bathroom. Without a word, Yuki continued towards the bathroom. The password was spoken and the door swung open, allowing them into the luxurious bathroom.
Sirius stood behind Yuki and started to undress her. He took care with each piece of clothing, eyeing the revealed skin closely, surveying the damage.
"It's not bad," Yuki murmured softly. "Still a bit shaky from the Cruciatus and there are some bruises... Worry about yourself."
Sirius started to undress himself, but looked down at the clothes he had just removed from Yuki. Specifically, he focused on the bloodstains. "Are we going to talk about it?"
"Talk about what? Us moving?" She shook her head. "Frankly, I'm not surprised. I figured it was a matter of time before we'd have to take off again."
"Not what I'm talking about." Sirius placed his own clothes beside Yuki's before waving his wand and casting cleaning spells, removing the grim and gore from the fabric. "You killed a man tonight."
"He was going to kill my kids," Yuki replied. "The fact I didn't tear him to pieces is a miracle."
"You took a human life," Sirius shot back. "That's got to have an impact, no matter what the situation." He paused, realization sinking in. "Unless... This isn't the first time you've killed someone."
Yuki grabbed a sponge and turned on a tap, collecting hot water in it and beginning to scrub her skin. "We were in a war for years, Sirius."
"I never killed anyone," Sirius replied. "I was in a war as long as you were. Longer."
Yuki nodded. "I know. I remember. That's what you and Crouch fought about the most. That the Aurors were given orders to kill rather than capture. And you still never did."
"I was good at what I did," Sirius said quietly. "I didn't need to kill."
"I was good at what I did too," Yuki replied, just as quietly. "Sometimes I did need to kill." She glared at Sirius. "What did you think being a Hit Wizard was?"
"Hit Wizards apprehend dangerous criminals, the same as Aurors," Sirius replied.
"Party line," Yuki retorted. "There has to be more of a difference, doesn't there, Sirius? Aurors investigate, interrogate and apprehend those the Ministry wanted brought in. Hit Wizards..." She let out a small, bitter laugh. "Do you know what I was told my job was why I was assigned? We were to subdue dangerous criminals with no strategic value to the Ministry by any means necessary."
Sirius sighed softly. "How come I'm only hearing about this now?"
Yuki bit her lip. "The Ministry isn't exactly going to advertise that there are people in their employ whose Auror Personality Test suggested moral fluidity."
"Moral fluidity?" Sirius replied, a hint of disgust in his voice. "And what sort of 'moral fluidity' do you have?"
"That sometimes, people deserve to die," Yuki replied, keeping her voice quiet. "I don't like killing, but I damn well won't hesitate to do it if I have to. I was sent after dangerous people who weren't going down without someone copping it. Rather them than me or someone innocent. Frankly, I think death is kinder than rotting away in Azkaban. You know how terrible that place is." She turned back to face him. "Considering how you liked when I was full of fury and covered in blood, I'm surprised you're so upset."
"That's different!" Sirius protested. "That wasn't... You didn't kill any of those Death Eaters."
"I killed other ones," Yuki said quietly. "And you would've killed Wormtail if you had the chance."
"Now that was definitely different..."
"Why?" Yuki asked. "Because it was out of anger and a need for vengeance? I did what I had to. Not ashamed of it for a minute."
Sirius went quiet. "Why are you only telling me this now?"
"Killing is dark," Yuki replied. "I know that's how you think. Black and white. You've felt the need to push yourself to the extreme because of the way your family is. You don't want to kill because you think that's something dark wizards do. It sets you apart from them who gain pleasure in it." She looked down. "I don't think that way."
"You put a sword through a man's heart, Yuki," Sirius whispered. "You couldn't at least use the Killing Curse?"
Yuki's lip curled in a disgusted snarl. "The Killing Curse? Are you mad?"
"The Killing Curse just snuffs the life out..."
Yuki's expression was dark. "If it was such a merciful death, it would not be the favourite of dark wizards. It leaves the body unmarred, but still dead." She shook her head. "I don't know about you, but that suggests the soul doesn't fair very well. No matter how unmarred the body is it rots eventually. Death may be mysterious, but we know the spirit remains in some form. I'd rather have whomever I kill feeling a moment's pain before death rather than an eternity of damage to their spirit. I doubt such a horrific spell leaves the caster's spirit untouched either." She shook her head savagely. "My hands may be stained, but my soul is clean. Never used the Killing Curse and I never will."
"You've put a lot of thought into this," Sirius muttered.
Yuki shrugged. "Well, I suppose you do that after you've killed people."
Once she was done cleaning, Yuki began to put her now clean clothes back on. She looked down at her hand and slipped the engagement ring off. She held it out to Sirius.
Sirius shook his head and drew her into his arms. "Don't be stupid." He kissed her on the forehead. "I'm not going to leave you because of a difference of opinion."
Yuki looked up at him. "This is a pretty big opinion."
"You own over a dozen swords. I suppose I was being dense thinking you never used them proper." He kissed her on the forehead. "I just... I wish you had told me. I know Frank, Alice and Moody have had to kill people..."
Yuki clutched to Sirius. "And I saw how disappointed you were every time someone in the Order reported they'd done so. I didn't want you to look at me like that too."
Sirius sighed deeply. "You did what you had to." His expression darkened. "Besides, with the Death Eaters after Harry... Might not be able to keep those lofty values."
Yuki looked up at him. "You think you'll be able to kill?"
Sirius's eyes glinted with determination. "I think I'll do anything to keep our kids safe."
Yuki placed a hand on Sirius's cheek. "Get dressed. We should check on the kids."
When they returned to the Hospital Wing, the kids had been moved back into beds in the ward. Harry was still sharing a bed with Noriko, Madame Pomfrey seemingly unable to prise the little girl out of his protective hold.
Frank's bed had been transfigured so it was large enough to take himself and Alice, Neville and Lex between them. They were all asleep, although it seemed uneasy on Alice's part, her wand still tight in her hand.
Remus was still asleep, Pomfrey tending to him even as he slept.
Yuki knelt down beside JJ and gently stroked his hair. He had several bruises from the fall he took while Remus was holding him. She bit her lip.
Dumbledore was standing over the four-year-old boy, looking down at him. Sirius walked to stand by his side. "Truthfully, Headmaster... Is this my fault?"
"It is your fault the protective magic did not work on Harry," Dumbledore said firmly. "However, it was James and Lily's wishes that you be the one to care for him."
"That doesn't make me feel any better," Sirius growled.
Dumbledore blinked. "I was not aware it was my job to make you feel better, Sirius."
Sirius's expression darkened. "So what are we supposed to do now? You said you were going to send us away. Make us hide."
Dumbledore put a hand on Sirius's shoulder. "For now, I believe the best solution is for you and the Longbottoms to go on... Holiday. Indefinitely."
Sirius nodded grimly. "Seems members of the Black and Longbottom clans keep doing that together."
Dumbledore narrowed his gaze. "Hm. Yes. I did heard rumour of your mother and Algernon Montague taking a trip together." He waved his hand in dismissal. "I am sure Yuki told you of my talk with her regarding my friend Nico?"
Sirius nodded. "That doesn't have anything to do with this, does it? I mean, it's not every day someone is put in contact with Nicol-"
Dumbledore held up a hand. "Anyway, Nico and his wife have a home in Provence. They haven't used it in many years. It's been cared for by a House Elf. It is well-fortified."
Sirius nodded. "I suppose it would have to be, considering how many people look for them."
"Exactly right," Dumbledore replied. "They- like you must now- move around quite a bit. Records of their movements are not entirely accurate as well. I believe most books have them living in Devon..." He nodded knowingly. "In fact, neither Nico nor Nelle have been in England since we worked together."
"Will we be safe?" Sirius asked.
Dumbledore shook his head. "I'm afraid I cannot guarantee anything, Sirius. The best I can do to protect your children is to send them away to another country, under the guard of five of the most talented young wizards I have known."
Sirius looked to his children. Harry was still clutching tightly to Noriko, while JJ had snuggled to his mother in his sleep. "What about them? What they saw tonight... And the Longbottom children... They saw their grandmother die."
Dumbledore nodded. "I am loathed to suggest it, but the horrors they saw will not be easily forgotten." He sighed. "That is, without help."
"A memory charm," Sirius finished.
Dumbledore nodded again. "Yes. A temporary one. Time heals a great deal, but for the time being... They need to forget the events of the night. Let them move past it."
Sirius nodded. "If you think it's best. You'll of course ask Alice and Frank before you do it to their children, but mine..." He swallowed hard, remembering the sight of Yuki's sword thrusting through the Death Eater. "They shouldn't remember what happened."
Dumbledore placed a hand on Sirius's shoulder. "I shall ask Filius to do so tomorrow. Now, get some rest, Sirius. There is much to do."