Disclaimer: Unfortunately, not mine.
Warnings: Occasional strong language.
Chapter 6: Consequences
It had been close to seven months since the news of Harry's disappearance broke in the wizarding world. In that time, 156 old case files had been closed, just under three quarters of them relating to imprisoned Death Eaters. There had also been seven new arrests and six convictions. McNair had been the first to be questioned, given his attempt to flee the country, and was the fastest to be convicted. He was soon joined by Avery, Gibbon, Crabbe, Goyle and Nott.
At first, nobody was entirely certain how Lucius Malfoy managed to escape yet again, but then Rita Skeeter released a vicious article detailing the family's drastic new budgeting measures – Narcissa had even been caught buying Draco new robes from Madam Malkin's, rather than Twilfitt and Tattings, something she wouldn't have dreamed of doing before this mess started.
In the backlash against the family, Narcissa had been ostracised from her usual social circle, none of the women wanting to taint their family's reputations by associating with the wife of a twice-confirmed Death Eater. This also meant that they kept their children from socialising with Draco, which left the boy quite confused – he had been the top dog in his group of associates, Lucius' influence making him the biggest bully in the playground, so to speak. Now, he had no one to lord over but the house elves. The Malfoy's seemed to have hit rock bottom when Lucius lost his position on the Board of Governors, along with much of his influence over the Minister of Magic. As a result, the family had gone into seclusion, choosing to regroup in private, working behind the scenes to re-establish broken alliances. The few times they were seen in public, they were openly heckled, with insults thrown their way almost constantly.
Despite these major victories, the ministry could not claim to have accomplished what they set out to do – find Harry Potter. They had discovered their most promising lead a month into their investigation, when they were combing through the ministry's records of apparation. There were sensors throughout the country which detected and registered apparation, both as an aid to correcting splinching accidents, and as a method of tracking criminals. As it turned out, there were two apparations in the Little Whinging area in the week of Potter's disappearance. This had quickly turned into a dead end though, since the records only registered the fact that the apparations had occurred, and had been performed by the same person, not the origin point or the destination. Had they picked up on the apparations when they first occurred, they would have been able to track them, or even match them to the witch or wizard who performed them. After all this time though, even if he or she waltzed into the DMLE right now and confessed, they wouldn't be able to match the signatures to them.
The only positive news the Ministry had been able to deliver on the case was that none of the confirmed or suspected Death Eaters had been involved in his disappearance, along with a rather vague statement to the effect that they had very convincing evidence of his continued survival, but were not at liberty to reveal what it was – mainly because it showed how little progress they had made at tracking the child down.
Once a week, Madam Bones would use a different ministry owl to send a letter to the missing boy. No matter which owl she used, the letters never reached the boy, but the fact that the owls were willing to try told them that he was still alive. Owls were renowned for refusing to take letters addressed to dead people, after all.
Unfortunately, at least for the Dursley's, this evidence was not appropriate for convincing the muggles to drop the murder charges against them. Not that the investigating aurors particularly cared about clearing them, having no sympathy whatsoever for the abusive muggles. As it was, Amelia was beginning to think that they wouldn't get any new leads until Potter's Hogwarts letter was sent to him in two years time – assuming that it made it through whatever wards he was hiding behind, of course.
The other case taking up much of the auror office's time and resources was the escape of Sirius Black the night of the prisoner assessments. Dawlish and Timmons had both received reprimands, mainly because their assessment of the man had been proven completely incorrect by his escape. It was assumed that, upon hearing the reason for their presence, he had escaped to try and catch the boy, out of revenge for his master's demise.
Fudge and the other department heads had argued for days over how to handle the situation, ultimately declaring that revealing Black's escape would be political suicide. As such, Amelia and her aurors had been forced to disguise their hunt for him as part of the Potter investigation. They were only able to do that because of the many links between the two cases. Nevertheless, the fact that they hadn't seen hide nor hair of him since his escape did not bode well. He was proving smarter – and saner – than they had first suspected, avoiding his old haunts and suspected destinations like one would a nest of acromantula. The DMLE had set proximity wards around the majority of these locations in the hope that he would turn up and trigger them, but that eventuality was looking more and more unlikely as time went by.
Remus Lupin had initially been a boon to both cases, but recently Amelia and Alastor had started to suspect that he knew more than he said. Despite his assurances that he would do anything necessary to find and protect his best friend's son, he had slowly been disengaging from the investigation, staying involved just enough to know about all the new leads coming in, whilst paying more attention to the political side of things. It was because of his assurances that publicity would cause Black to act rashly and possibly cause a great deal of harm (using the dubious honour of being the man's former best friend to substantiate his claims), that she had capitulated to the minister and kept the convict's escape a secret. That, and the fact that by not informing the public the Ministry had no legitimate reason to allow the Dementors to participate in the search, which was Fudge's first suggestion on how to track Black. The thought of what they might do to Potter if he was with Black when they found him, and the public relations nightmare it would cause, was more than enough to dissuade him, thankfully.
Lupin's reticence made the two nervous – had he found something? It seemed unlikely, given how little luck they had been having. The only time he had had access to information they didn't was that first day, when he was rebuffed by the Potter portraits. It was unlikely that they had told him anything – not only were the Potters known to be a very suspicious, tight-knit lot, they had had no way of knowing the boy had disappeared until Lupin had told them – a fact which was confirmed by the portraits of Horatio and Rachel Potter, with both of them appearing in their Ministry frames demanding answers within an hour of Lupin entering the Nottingham property. They rarely left, keeping an eagle eye on the investigation.
Even if the portraits had given Lupin a way to track the boy, then or at a later date (not that he could have gotten back into the property without alerting them, since Amelia had returned the next day and set up perimeter wards half a foot outside the family wards), Potter had only just turned nine. He needed supervision, which Lupin couldn't possibly provide given the amount of time he spent hanging around the ministry.
Unfortunately, they didn't have the time – or the resources – to discover just what the werewolf was hiding, forcing them to grudgingly allow him to continue his machinations, and just hope he let something slip around one of them.
Little did they know that, after months of following the multitude of false leads and useless tips, things were about to heat up, and Remus John Lupin would be in the thick of it.
Wormtail scuttled through the undergrowth of a forest bordering yet another insignificant village that separated Hogwarts from Nottingham. He had been travelling south for months now, having departed his old school a fortnight after hearing of the Potter brat's disappearance. He had waited that long in an attempt to gather as much information on Dumbledore's search as possible, but the few leads he had come away with had quickly been disproved. What's more, he had almost been caught by those wretched aurors tracking unregistered apparation signatures twice now, forcing him to get to his destination by non-magical means, mainly on foot.
Pettigrew had decided to use the Potter's Nottingham property as a base of operations – he thought it fitting that the ancient protections of those he betrayed to their deaths would keep him safe as he hunted their only son and heir. After all, it was their fault he had been forced to live such a pitiful existence these past eight years.
He was nearly there.
Padfoot was tired. And hungry. But mostly tired. He had been on the run for a little over six months, by his calculations, and he had only just relocated his prey. He had figured that Pettigrew would head to Hogwarts to try and find out what Dumbledore knew about Harry's whereabouts, something he couldn't let happen. When he got there, though, he had quickly discovered that the rat had been and gone – the distraught redheaded second year scouring the grounds for his beloved 'Scabbers the rat' was more than enough for him to figure out where the bastard had been hiding all these years.
Knowing that sticking around too long was useless and would likely end with him caught – a big black dog was far from discrete – Sirius had left his alma mater with nary a backwards glance, tracking the almost forgotten but oh-so-familiar scent of his one-time friend south once more. Initially he had lost the trail, leaving him to try to continue tracking his quarry by guessing his trajectory and destination. Fortunately, something had spooked the rat, and he had been travelling exclusively on foot for nearly two months – enough time for Padfoot to rediscover the trail lost through incorrect guesses and the inability to apparate. And now, he was but a day behind the traitor, who he had determined was intent on sullying the memory of the friends he had served up to the Dark Fuckwit on a silver platter by enjoying the protection of their Nottingham property, a property they had set aside to harbour any of their friends who were in need of protection from the traitor's master.
No matter how tired Padfoot was, he would press on. He would catch the rat, and make sure he would never be a threat to his poor little godson again. Then, he would track the boy down, and protect him as he should have been doing all these years.
Albus Dumbledore was not having a good year. Despite his best efforts, he had yet to secure the Boy Who Lived, have the Dursleys released, or coerce Carla Motson into agreeing to take over the DADA position. There had also been a rather pesky lawsuit filed by Emeritus Professor Rob Kelsey. While it was bound to come to nothing – he had long since altered the DADA contract to state that the candidates accepted that Hogwarts was in no way liable for any injury, death, or damage done to their reputation sustained as a result of taking the position or residing in the school – it was not helping him to regain the respect he had lost when the Potter boy disappeared.
Taking a moment to reflect upon the circumstances that led to Professor Kelsey's lawsuit, he couldn't prevent the slight shudder that ran through him, even months later. He still had no idea how a Cornish Pixie had managed to avoid detection for so long, let alone break into the increasingly paranoid defence professor's quarters and hide in his underwear drawer. The consequences... well, Albus was just happy that the man already had grown sons and daughters, since he was sure that not even the liability waiver he had snuck into the defence contract could save the school from a charge of line theft occasioning in familial extinction.
He forcibly turned his mind to more pressing matters, such as the rather brief and uncomfortable meeting he had just had with Alastor. The meeting had basically consisted of Mad-Eye saying 'I've got no new information, and even if I did I couldn't tell you, so unless you have something to tell me I'm going home to bed', followed by a staring contest he knew he wouldn't win, concealing his wince at the contemptuous snort he received when he admitted to having made no progress himself, and ended with the aging headmaster showing the grouchy auror to the floo powder.
Popping a lemon drop in his mouth, Albus sighed to himself. Though he still had much of the Order helping him search, many of them were devoting less time to it, giving in to the frustrations of continually hitting dead ends. Losing hope. Try as he might, even Albus' everlasting optimism was not enough to maintain the Order's morale, especially when his lack of ministerial support was so evident. After all, who else would Fudge blame for this disaster other than the man who left the boy where the prophecy demanded? And the public, led by the damnable Daily Prophet, believed him.
The most galling part was that he knew there was something else, something... worrying... possibly even dangerous, that the aurors were investigating, yet he, Albus Dumbledore, had not been consulted, his opinion unwanted. Though he tried not to buy into his own legend, he was quite offended that they condemned him so harshly for the boy's treatment, when they had no way of knowing how much he knew about the Dursleys' abusive behaviour, to the extent that they would keep what was potentially a vital piece of information away from him. It was made all the worse by the fact that those who had previously been his staunchest supporters had no sympathy for him. Minerva, especially, became ropable the one time he had been foolish enough to complain in front of her. Even Alastor seemed to blame him, unwilling to accept the necessity of obeying the terms of the prophecy.
At least he still had Severus in his corner.
Regardless, it seemed he would have to reconsider his options. Working through the Order was failing; relying upon Alastor and Amelia to keep him informed was getting him nowhere; and offering his services to the Minister had practically seen him laughed out of building. In hindsight, he probably should have responded more positively to Cornelius' overtures the day the news broke, rather than give him time to figure out how to deflect the blame. The imbecile's announcement that had simultaneously reassured the public of their saviour's continued survival whilst throwing Albus under the bus was one of Fudge's finest pieces of rhetoric, and had it not been against him, the old headmaster would have congratulated the man.
As much as he hated to admit it, it might be time to take up Severus' offer of assistance. The dear boy practically begged to be allowed to help every time they spoke – always hidden behind acerbic comments and insults, but Albus knew him too well to take his words to heart. At least he wouldn't have to risk his spy's position by sending him amongst the former Death Eaters, scattered as they were now, since those that remained free had been cleared of any involvement in the boy's disappearance. He had been rather against the Ministry's decision to haul in all the suspected Death Eaters and ply them with veritaserum, if only because of the risk it posed to Severus, but thankfully there were more suspects than just Severus and Lucius Malfoy who got off, mainly due to insufficient evidence. It would have been suspicious if just the two of them got off, after all. Albus had even been able to ensure that all of the interrogation files of those who were released were sealed, so his spy's position seemed to still be safe.
Instead, he would send the man out to investigate in the muggle world. Since he was muggle raised, he shouldn't have any problems blending in, and with a little legilimancy he might be able to pick up some clue the muggle aurors had missed.
Popping a lemon drop in his mouth, he scrawled a quick note to the dour potions master, requesting his presence at his earliest possible convenience, before respectfully requesting his often temperamental companion, Fawkes, to deliver it to the dungeons. Leaning back in his chair, he pondered how he would convince Horace to return to his former post.
Unlike those searching for him, Harry had quite enjoyed himself over the last six months. He had turned nine (or eighteen, depending upon how you looked at it) nearly two months ago, and he, Remus, Dokker and the portraits had celebrated with a sit down dinner, during which many of his ancestors had lamented the loss of their own birthday traditions, and recounted the best parties their living selves had attended. Remus and Harry had been thoroughly amused, especially when Philip told them about a fancy dress party he and his cousin had once thrown. The two of them had bewitched the doors to switch and resize the guests' costumes with their partner's as they walked in. The end result, and the reactions it caused, was hilarious.
Several of the portraits had even dictated a shopping list for Dokker, and given him permission to buy something as well, so Harry even found a small pile of presents waiting for him in the lounge room after Harry, Remus and a mildly reluctant Dokker had eaten their fill. Elyzabethe had had Dokker find an original copy of The Canterbury Tales, which she remembered being a favourite of Lily's. Veronica had ordered a complete potioneer's knife set, which tended to be harder to use (the student set did not require as much precision) but would make correctly prepared ingredients more exact, allowing for more experimentation, with a wider margin of error. Philip had asked Dokker to buy Pedagogy: A Guide for Magical Educators. Harry was certain it would come in handy when he restarted the DA. Rachel had given him a ledger, so he could start training in financial management, whilst Horatio had had Dokker find several muggle books on political science. While he was searching a squib-owned muggle bookstore for Horatio, Dokker had discovered a book called The Time Traveller's Wife, which, given the information he was privy to, he decided was the perfect gift to give his Young Master. He was right. Remus, not having much time or money, had gone through his photo collection and discovered a photo James and Lily holding Harry, with Remus next to Lily and Sirius next to James, which had been taken by Pettigrew a month after Harry's birth. Remus had had it enlarged and framed. Harry loved it, and immediately hung it in his bedroom. Overall, it had been a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Most of the time though, Harry was committed to continuing his training, wanting to be prepared as possible now that his disappearance was a matter of public record. His occlumency was coming along nicely, to the point where he was confident he could block passive legilimancy from an average practitioner, while his lessons in economising the power he put into his spells had greatly expanded his spell repertoire beyond the first and second year curriculum Philip had limited him to.
Though the spells Harry was learning were all simple, and had at various times throughout history been taught to the younger years at Hogwarts before falling out of circulation, they were all potentially useful, both in everyday life and in a fight. Even if the Death Eaters knew what they were being hit with (unlikely, considering the age of some of the spells), the unusual way he would be applying them would hopefully be enough to throw them off balance. After all, what moron would use an ancient variant of the nail painting charm in a duel? What they wouldn't realise until it was too late is that, by adding a bit more force to the spell, the conjured polish could render any wand it encountered unusable for either a full week, or until the polish was removed by a potion that took five days to brew. Moony had laughed himself silly when he heard about that one.
As successful as his occlumency and wand magic lessons were though, he was surprised to find he most enjoyed his potions, history and culture lessons. Veronica had made him relearn everything about potions from the correct way to hold his knife, right up to the principles of how the age and quality of ingredients could affect how they interacted with each other. She hadn't made him memorise all the theory at the start, rather she introduced it slowly, going over it with each potion he made until the knowledge of what to do was almost second nature. Though this was the best method of teaching potions, it was never meant for teaching large classes, since the teacher couldn't possibly give every student the one-on-one attention they required. It explained why Snape was such a lousy teacher – he had probably read that practical application and observation was the best method and used it without doing any further research. Then, when he realised how difficult it was to apply to his classes, he chose to favour the Slytherins and condemn the rest of his students as 'useless, idiotic dunderheads'.
Luckily for Harry, not only had his abysmal prior potions education been corrected, but with Veronica's tutoring and Remus' supervision, he had quickly progressed to brewing the potions that would be useful in the war to come, as well as some supplements for both Harry and, eventually, Sirius. Harry had already grown 4 inches, and was looking far more like a healthy 9 year old than he had in the previous timeline.
Regarding his culture lessons, Harry was shocked at all the information he had until then been unaware of. While a good deal of what he was learning about the culture of the wizarding world had been explained to him by Ron, his friend rarely went into any depth, explaining all that was necessary for Harry to have a passable understanding of the situation without what Ron probably considered unimportant details. Hell, it was likely Ron, having grown up in the wizarding world, thought the underlying facts were obvious.
A good example of this is that, while Harry knew about the importance of making a guest feel welcome, nobody had felt it necessary to tell him about how the quality of the host's preparations (such as the quality and variety of the food, the room they received, the activities on offer, etc) were used to signify how the host felt about the guest. It explained why, the first time Harry had stayed with the Weasley's, he had stayed with Ron and they all ate traditional English fare, but by the summer before sixth year, after he had gotten to know the family better and had had a hand in saving both Ginny and Arthur, he was given his own room, while Hermione, who had arrived earlier, stayed in Ginny's room. It was also that summer that Harry noticed that Molly's recipe repertoire had expanded greatly, and given Molly's opinion of Fleur at the time, it wasn't done for her. Before second year they were acknowledging him as a good friend of their son, but by sixth year they considered him a valued ally, if not a member of their extended family. Had there not been so many people at the Burrow before the World Cup, he would probably have been given his own room then as well, given the life debt Ginny owed him. Harry was incredibly touched, but rather saddened by the knowledge that that might not happen this time through.
As for his history lessons, which were usually unscheduled due to Rachel and Horatio's main role as spies in the Ministry, he was shocked at just how interesting they were. After five years of being put to sleep by Binns, he had thought he had been turned off history forever, but hearing about how things had come to be, and how his family had helped influence those events, left him wanting to know more. As it was, he and Remus had spent many an hour brainstorming how to get rid of Binns. They even had a half-decent plan cobbled together, although they weren't sure how, or even if, they would be able to pull it off.
Sirius was the only black spot on an otherwise enjoyable few months. When Remus came to the Cottage a fortnight after their initial meeting in Nottingham, he bought with him news of the Marauder's escape (his great grandparents were limited in the information they could bring back by enchantments to ensure the secrecy of the most confidential of Ministry happenings, but not in the advice they could offer based on those happenings). Seeing as Horatio had told him of the success of Remus' suggestion to have all the known Death Eaters questioned to determine their past crimes and any connection they might have to Harry's disappearance only a week beforehand, this was a frustrating blow to them all. He was shocked to find himself actually hoping that his godfather would slip up, since Remus had assured him that there was no way the Ministry would have him kissed without first questioning him to find out what, if anything, he knew about where Harry might be. Then, should the right questions be asked (and with Remus around, they would be), Sirius should be cleared and the truth out within a matter of hours. Unfortunately, the escapee was proving to be just as slippery as he had been the first time through.
Just then, Harry was happily relaxing with a book on the wizarding education system. He had been intrigued by the thought of other British magical schools, and wanted to know more, if only to see how they could be changed to improve the overall education system in the future. After all, hadn't Lorelei mentioned something about helping revolutionise magical society? If he had any hope of fulfilling her demands, he had to start somewhere, and where better than with the area he was most familiar with? Besides, maybe he'd allow himself a bit of revenge and make Dumbledore sweat a bit by asking for more information from some of the day schools. He might not be able to choose one if he wanted his plans to succeed, but letting the old headmaster know he was aware of his options might just buy him some breathing room, not to mention some satisfaction.
The section he was currently reading detailed the standards and curriculum of the Sussex Academy of Sorcery. It was founded in the upheaval of the Reformation, when Amadeus Whitby, a great-grandson of Mathilde Potter, purchased a sacked monastery in the county from King Henry VIII. He had lamented having to send his only daughter so far away for her education, and decided to use his vast fortune to start a day school, where parents could send their children each morning and collect them each evening, maintaining their family unit. At the time, it was a novel concept, and a great many took to it happily, though after a few years the upper echelons turned back to Hogwarts, due to the Academy's popularity with the working classes, who needed their children's help over the weekend to work their farms. The upper classes didn't like the thought of their children socialising with those who had to work for a living, a concept they couldn't tolerate to this day.
The Sussex Academy was currently ranked second in Great Britain, slightly behind Hogwarts. This was partly due to the endowment of the entire Whitby estate following the death of Amadeus' last grandson, and partly due to a series shrewd of headmasters who had made use of these funds to ensure an excellent and varied curriculum. The core classes there were slightly different – Transfiguration, Charms, DADA, Potions, History of Magic, Flying, Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology and, surprisingly enough, Mathematics. The last was intended to be an introduction to arithmancy, which became compulsory after second year. Astronomy was an elective that could be chosen in third year, just like Ancient Runes, Muggle Studies and Divination. Strangely enough, purebloods and halfbloods who didn't take Muggle Studies to OWL level were required to take a condensed, ungraded version throughout their sixth and seventh years. Muggleborns were required to continue History of Magic lessons through to NEWT level, although they had the right to decline to take the test.
All-in-all, it sounded like a brilliant school. Harry was certain the only reason it was ranked second was that the purebloods who decided such things couldn't bear to think that a school that still predominantly catered to the middle and working classes could provide a better education than the school they paid four times the price to send their little princes and princesses to did. A particularly forward thinking headmistress two centuries ago had even made it mandatory that, before a teacher could be hired, he or she had to sit a teaching exam to ensure they had the right temperament to be an educator, and before they sat it they had to prove they held a mastery in the topic they would be teaching. There was no way that teachers like Trelawney, Snape, Binns or Hagrid would have made the cut. If the fate of the war wasn't so intertwined with Hogwarts, he would apply in an instant, and sign his friends up while he was at it.
With a sigh, and feeling a pang at the lost opportunity, Harry turned to the next section, on the Welsh School of Wandcraft, jotting down notes all the while. Hermione would be ecstatic when she saw his notes and ideas... once he managed to befriend her, of course.
Later that day, just as Harry was finishing his dinner, Harry felt the characteristic twinge that he had learnt to associate with Remus passing through the wards. Placing his dish in the kitchen sink, he set about making tea for his guest, wondering what could have happened that would bring his pseudo-uncle here just two days after his last visit. True to his word, Remus had been dropping by about once a fortnight, though they had quickly realised that having a regular day would appear far too suspicious, especially now that Moody and Amelia Bones seemed to be growing suspicious of him.
Harry heard the front door open and close just as he was carrying the cups of tea into the dining room. Had Dokker been around, the little elf would have quite happily done this for him, but at the moment he was taking care of a few chores at Potter Manse. Now that he had his Young Master back, he and the other elves (who Harry had only met once) were making sure that not one of his family's properties deteriorated before Harry was old enough to visit them. Unfortunately, they were limited in what they could do outside the buildings, given how much attention the properties were being given by various members of law enforcement and the Order of the Phoenix, so they had to content themselves with making sure the interiors remained in tip-top condition. Dokker was consoled by the fact that Remus had caved in and told him that his help would be greatly appreciated in caring for his house as well – if they were going to fool the muggles, they were going to do everything possible to make sure it worked. Besides, Twitch liked the company.
"In the dining room, Remus," he called back, sitting down as he did so.
"Ah, good, I'm not interrupting your dinner," he said as he entered the room and sat down in his usual seat.
"Not at all, I was just finishing when you reached the wards. Has something happened?" Harry asked, worried. It wasn't uncommon for Remus to drop by unexpectedly, but not so soon after a previous visit, and generally not so close to mealtimes. Years of being treated like a pariah and feeling like a burden made him very reluctant to turn up at a time when his host would feel obliged to feed him. Harry had been quite surprised to realise how similar the two of them were in some ways, particularly their aversion to feeling like they were putting others out. Both preferred to shoulder their burdens on their own, whilst at the same time being willing to go beyond the call of duty for those they cared for. It was this similarity, his own worries, and the knowledge that the man would refuse anyway, that stopped Harry from following protocol and offering Remus something more substantial than a cup of tea.
"No, not at all. I just thought you'd want to know that I've found a solicitor capable of representing you in the muggle world, and she's already agreed to take your rather unreasonably large number of secrecy oaths, probably out of sheer curiosity. She wants to talk to her 'mystery client' before she agrees to file any paperwork or contact any authorities, but she has a reputation of being very open-minded, and I'm quite sure you can sweet talk any of her other objections away. Before I arrange anything else with her though, I need to ask again –"
"Yes, Remus, I'm sure. No, you can't talk me into changing my mind. Just think of it as a great big prank on the bigots of the wizarding world." Harry had said this so many times over the last few months that he had lost count. That Remus had gone looking and secured someone meant that he had finally given in to the inevitable, at least in Harry's opinion, and he wouldn't let him back out now. He had gone to a lot of effort already to put his plan in motion, and make sure it worked in both worlds – not that the wizards could really do anything once they won in the muggle courts, since they were bound by their own treaties to uphold non-magical law. Lovely loophole, that. Unfortunately, it meant he was going to have to test his acting skills much sooner than he anticipated, but he was fairly certain he was ready for the task ahead.
Shaking his head with a slight smile on his face, Remus let the matter drop. "Alright. She said she was free tomorrow afternoon, and comfortable moving around the muggle world if necessary, so shall I make an appointment?"
"Yes, how about... how about booking a conference room in a hotel in... in... Lincoln, say, for a few hours. There's probably still time to do so. Then you can have her meet you somewhere in town, to make sure she's not being followed, and meet Dokker and I there." Harry paused for a moment, with a peculiar look on his face. "Does that sound too... Moodyish to you?"
Remus let out a short chuckle, before answering seriously. "Not quite, but you're getting close. Unfortunately, paranoia is probably the most appropriate mindset for you, given some of your secrets, and how many people are searching for you."
Sticking his tongue out at the smirking Marauder, Harry decided to let the comment slide. It was, after all, true.
Draining his teacup, Remus stood, preparing to make the arrangements Harry had suggested. The strangeness of being told what to do by a nine year old had long since waned, although he was still taken aback occasionally by how mature the 'child' was. "I'll be on my way then. Good night, Harry. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Night, Remus. Be careful."
The next day, Harry was nervously fiddling with his glasses as he waited with Dokker in a large conference room in an empty office building in Lincoln. Apparently, Remus had been unable to make a last minute booking in any of the local hotels, but, seeming to think Harry had some future attachment to the town, had instead located and temporarily warded the currently unoccupied building Harry was in now, before contacting the solicitor and telling her to meet him outside Lincoln Cathedral, a beautiful medieval building a 15 minute walk away. Harry hoped she hadn't decided to wear heels – to get to the office building, she and Remus were going to have to walk down the rather appropriately named 'Steep Hill' road.
Just as Harry was starting to wonder if something had gone wrong, the proximity ward he had had Remus tie to him vibrated, letting him know that the caster, Remus, and an unknown magical had entered the building. Sitting up straighter and letting go of his glasses, Harry stared intently at the door, Charlotte Potter's wand gripped tightly in his hand under the conjured table. Dokker, sensing his Young Master's alertness, shifted closer, ready to pop the two of them out if necessary.
Moments later, Remus walked into the room, followed by a woman in an expensive looking muggle suit. If he had to guess her age, Harry would probably peg her at about 30, maybe 35. Had he not already known she was a witch, he would have believed her to be a muggle herself – if he were to overlook the fact that she was holding her wand loosely in her left hand, of course. He supposed it made sense – you couldn't work in the muggle world successfully if you didn't know how to dress, after all. Remus had told him her name was Adelaide Davies.
Mrs Davies had been looking around the room cautiously, but Harry getting to his feet quickly drew her attention to him. Behind her back, Remus gave a surreptitious nod, to let Harry know she had already taken the requested oaths. The moment Mrs Davies recognised him was obvious to all three of them, given the loud gasp that involuntarily escaped her lips, and the hand that flew to her mouth immediately afterwards. After a moment, she spun around to glare at Remus.
"YOU took Harry Potter! And you want me to HELP you? Are you insane!?"
Deciding it was best to step in before the witch decided to run off to the ministry in spite of her oaths, Harry quickly walked between the two of them. "Please, ma'am, Remus didn't have anything to do with my disappearance, I ran away on my own. Dokker and I went looking for him, actually." A lie, but then, most of what they were going to tell her was false, so why not start now?
"You... but... why? I mean... not 'why run away', everyone knows that, but... "
"Well, yes... no... what I mean is... why him specifically? You obviously know about magic, or found out about it somehow, so why Mr Lupin specifically? Why not St Mungos or the Ministry? Hell, why not Dumbledore – oh, excuse my language, dear..."
Realising that the woman would obviously need some answers before she recovered from her shock, Harry decided to just start telling her the story he and Remus had cobbled together over the last few months, and hope she fell for it.
"Well, I... that is... I didn't know about magic when I ran. The thing is... my uncle, he..."
"He hurt you." He wasn't surprised that she would think that, given the press the Dursley's had received since the news of his disappearance hit the wizarding world. Thankfully, this made convincing Mrs Davies – and, hopefully, everyone else they needed to convince – that much easier.
"Yes, ma'am," he said quietly. He and the portraits had rehearsed what he'd say, and how he'd say it all morning. It didn't hurt that, at one point in the timeline, it could have been completely true. "It... it was after I ended up on the roof by accident. And then, when I didn't paint the fence well enough, he got mad... as mad as I've EVER seen him. All purple in the face and everything. But we were outside, so he couldn't do anything really bad – not until we went in... and I didn't want to. So I ran, right into the forest nearby. I heard him yelling at me to come back, but I knew if I did, it'd be even worse than before I started running.
"I stayed in the forest for a few nights – I was used to not eating much, so that didn't bother me. But then... one night I-I heard something moving, and I got really scared, and wished I was somewhere safe... and then I couldn't breathe... and then I was outside this ruined house. Dokker said it was where Mummy and Daddy were staying before they died. I went in – I figured nobody would mind... it's not like anyone could actually live there. The next day, when I woke up and looked around, I saw all these photos, and the man in heaps of 'em had hair like mine, and the lady had my eyes! And one of the pictures of a baby had my name on it! I figured I musta somehow found my old house, but I didn't know how. Dokker said I musta ap'rated. Anyhow, I looked in the study and found a letter from Uncle Remus to my Daddy, and he sounded much nicer than Uncle Vernon, so I thought maybe I could find him and go live with him instead."
They actually had a letter Remus had written to James when they were in hiding. Remus had taken it before the wards protecting the place from looters went up, but nobody needed to know that. Besides, they intended to alter the story even further and claim Harry had found it in his aunt's attic or something.
"Anyway, by then, I was really hungry, so I thought I'd go explore a bit, since I realised I'd gone quite far away. I figured I might be able find food somewhere, but when I left the house I heard this really loud pop, and Dokker appeared out of thin air! I jumped like, 10 feet or something! Then he told me he'd been looking for me for years, but couldn't find me behind the wards around me, but when I ap'rated to my old house, he could sense me! Then he took me to this other place Mummy and Daddy owned, but I can't tell you where, and told me all about magic and Mummy and Daddy! But when I asked 'bout Uncle Remus, he said he didn't know where he was, but he'd look when he wasn't working and stuff.
"When the magical world found out about me running away, and Uncle Remus went to ask the paintings at another house for help – they're really nice too – Dokker brought him to me! He's been really nice to me too, much nicer than my old Aunt and Uncle. But he said the magical government didn't like him because they're mean to different people, so he had to pretend to not know where I was. But the portraits said that if the non-magical government says he can raise me, the mean magical government people can't do anything to stop him! That's true, isn't it? You'll help us, right?"
Harry gave her his best puppy dog eyes, praying he hadn't overplayed his part. Truly, he had no idea how a nine year old was supposed to act and talk, so he was really relying on shock and his celebrity to pull this off. Thankfully, Dokker, who was watching her for any sign of malice, hadn't given any sign that this was false – he'd even nodded along at the right moments. His presence had been a bit of a gamble – house elves, though required to keep their master's secrets, were notoriously poor liars, but his presence both added authenticity to the tale, and provided Harry with a quick escape route should things go pear-shaped.
Adelaide blinked slowly, assimilating what she'd been told. She could tell there was something he hadn't told her, but knowing children as she did (which was quite well, seeing as she had three of her own, plus eleven nieces and nephews), he probably just thought whatever he was holding back would get him in trouble. Given the example she had heard those rotten muggles had provided the poor boy with, she couldn't really blame him for being reticent about anything that he thought might result in 'punishment'. The fact that he'd told her as much as he had was quite surprising.
To be honest, she saw no reason why she shouldn't help these three – Harry looked far happier and healthier than he had in the newspaper all those months ago, and both the house elf and his 'uncle' seemed to be very protective of him – especially when she took the extensive oaths she had taken last night into consideration. And, being the daughter of two muggleborns and therefore looked down upon by those same pureblood bigots, she could think of no better way than to assist a werewolf (the oaths had revealed that titbit to her) in gaining custody of the Boy Who Lived, especially when they obviously cared for each other so much.
A smile spreading across her face, she nodded once. The grin that broke out on Harry's face, along with the small, relieved one that spread across Lupin's, removed any lingering doubts about doing this. The hug around the waist Harry gave her was just the icing on the cauldron cake.
"Alright, I'll help. I'll even take you on pro bono. But before we do anything, we need to make this a bit more... ahem... 'muggle friendly'".
Harry and Remus both nodded, satisfied. The three moved over to the table and got themselves settled. This was going to take a while. Harry sat back, and Remus made a show of giving him a children's activity book, and took over the conversation. After all, if he was going to prove himself to be the 'responsible adult' he was supposed to be, he couldn't allow a nine year old to make these arrangements. And if Harry was going to play a convincing nine year old, he couldn't show too much interest in navigating the intricacies of the muggle and magical legal systems.
Had Peter been human right now, he would have been cackling. After months of travelling, of stress, of enduring the humiliation of scavenging food from muggle garbage bins, his destination was in sight. To Peter, it represented both safety, and evidence of his victory over his arrogant 'friends' – those who thought that, just because they were more skilled than he was, they could abandon him, could move on with their lives and leave him in the dust.
It was Padfoot who had left him first, running after everything with a skirt, bragging about his conquests in the dorms, leaving him reliant upon Moony, and occasionally Prongs, to tutor him once they'd finished their own work, if they had nothing better to do. At least when Prongs had been chasing Evans, he had had the manners to include the rest of them in his ludicrous schemes. But then the unthinkable had happened, and the uppity little mudblood had actually agreed to go on a date with Prongs! Peter had certainly never seen that coming – the little bitch had always acted like she hated Prongs' guts. That left just Peter with Moony to help him struggle through their final year. He thought it couldn't get much worse, that at least, when faced with the cold hard truth of wizarding prejudice, Moony would be unable to leave him behind, that he'd be as reliant on Peter as Peter had been on him. But that belief had only lasted until about a month after they joined the Order, and Moony had found his calling as an ambassador to the werewolf packs.
And then, his defeat had seemed finalised with Prongs' marriage. With her in the picture permanently, there was no hope that he could ever regain his friends – that they'd ever look at him as an equal again. He could see in their eyes – 'poor, bumbling, useless Peter, never good at anything, just as well that his mother's still alive, taking care of her gives him something to do, keeps him out of the way.'
Then, just as he was considering throwing in the towel and leaving the country, leaving the war to the 'brave warriors' his so-called friends paraded themselves as, salvation had come in the form of Antonin Dolohov. Dolohov had offered him a way to get even, to teach the traitors what happens when they throw people away. Peter had been uncertain, not sure if his friends deserved that kind of retribution. As devastating as it was, abandoning your friends was hardly a crime worthy of death. He was on the verge of telling the Order about the offer, to ask for protection. He would have done it too, had Prongs not oh-so-happily announced that he'd managed to impregnate the mudblood. Peter was expected to sit there and smile as the last remnants of his world crumbled around him. So when Dolohov came back, he had accepted. With the Death Eaters, he realised just what true friendship was, and he saw that he had had with the Marauders paled in comparison. Oh how he'd wanted to see the looks on their faces when his lord taught them the consequences of treating one's friends so poorly.
But then his lord was gone. Sure, James (he had lost the right to be called Prongs long before they finished school, Peter just hadn't realised it at the time) and the bint who had dared to usurp him were dead, their little bastard off to live with muggles, and Sirius was in Azkaban, but Moony, devastated as he was, had survived unscathed. He was a threat. What if he ever visited Sirius, what if he found out who truly switched sides? He may have bested Sirius when he was off-kilter, but he doubted he could do it again against Remus, and that was assuming he didn't tell anyone else before coming after him. And as horrid as living with muggles may be, the brat was alive, a sign of his lord's failure – of his own failure.
But now, the brat was out in the open, ripe for the picking. And surely Remus was suffering, knowing that his precious link to the past was in such danger. All that was left to do was find the boy, and finish what his master started. That would finish the so-called 'tame werewolf' off. Failing that, he would find a way to prove his loyalty to his fellow Death Eaters, help them regroup, to start getting revenge on those who had wronged him – and them, he supposed. As much as he'd love to come back as a war hero, to get his revenge and his just desserts in one sitting, it held the same risks that had led to his decision to go into hiding in the first place – namely, that someone would speak to Sirius. If nothing else worked, it was still an option, he supposed.
Peter came out of his thoughts as he reached the road, the last obstacle to his safe haven. It wouldn't do to come this far, only to be squashed flat by a muggle automobile, would it? Looking around carefully, he scurried across the road, reaching the sidewalk just as a large automobile came screeching around the bend. In his rush, he failed to notice the massive black dog appear at the end of the street, racing after his quarry.
Oblivious to the danger he was in, Peter rushed towards the wards, shifting forms as he did so. He would enter his trophy as a man, not a fugitive rodent.
Had Peter been a smart man, he would have thought that the Ministry might try to monitor the Potter properties, desperate as they were for a lead. Had Peter been a practical man, he would have thought to first check what wards surrounded the property regardless. Unfortunately for him, Peter was neither. In fact, he didn't even know how to discern which wards surrounded a property. And so, he ran straight through Amelia Bones' perimeter ward and into the house with a feeling of smug triumph, unaware of the events he had just set in motion.
Amelia Bones was just putting the finishing touches on the letter she would be sending the Potter heir this week when she felt one of the many perimeter wards she had established go off. Concentrating, she identified it as the one she had placed around the Potter's Nottingham property. Bolting upright, she tapped the mirror Lupin had suggested they use to keep in touch with each other. Of course, Moody had first made sure no mirror would respond to another's wand signature, but at least that prevented him from demanding a security protocol when communicating through them.
"Mad-Eye! Get to Nottingham now, the wards just went off. Take... Shacklebolt and Reilly. Detain anyone else who tries to go in, as well as anyone who comes out."
"Alright, I'm on it. You'll let Lupin 'know', then?"
Signing off, she tapped the mirror again, this time calling for Lupin. There was a pause this time, as Lupin took his time opening the connection on his end. When he did answer, he looked rather ruffled. From the view behind him, he was in a muggle alley somewhere, but that could easily be an illusion.
"Lupin, I need to speak with you immediately. How long will it take you to get to the Ministry?"
"Only a few minutes, Amelia. I should be able to apparate from here without any problems. Is there something wrong?"
"Just get to security, I'll meet you down there. We'll be leaving almost immediately." Barely waiting for him to nod, Amelia cut the connection and called Moody again.
"Mad-Eye, is he coming out?"
"No. No movement at all, really. Shacklebolt and I nearly took out a stray, but that's about it."
"Alright, we'll be there soon."
With that, she cut the connection for the last time and left her office, pausing only long enough to make sure it was secure as she went. Given where she was going, she really should have noticed that Horatio Potter was absent from his frame as she walked past, along with the fact that Rachel Potter was watching with even more interest than usual.
Remus, Harry and Dokker had just bid Adelaide Davies goodbye, with her promising to owl them within the next few days, once she had everything in order, when Dokker stiffened.
"Someone is being in Young Master's Nottingham property, Sirs. Dokker is not knowing who."
Remus and Harry blinked, both assuming the worst – that someone had somehow detected Harry's reappearance from behind the Cottage's wards, and made a connection they shouldn't have. After a moment, Harry leapt into action.
"We should get back to the Cottage, have the portraits investigate. Decide what to do from there. If necessary, we can always whip up a quick forgetfulness potion to threaten them with."
Before Remus could respond, or Dokker could take action, Amelia Bones' voice rang from Remus' pocket."
"Go, you two! I'll see what she wants and check in later."
Harry nodded and allowed Dokker to pop him back to the Cottage. Remus, on the other hand, apparated to the alley behind the office building they had temporarily hijacked before answering. Their brief conversation further confirmed his belief that they suspected he was hiding something. The timing of the call was also suspicious – he was willing to bet a lot of money that either Moody or Bones had set up their own detection wards in Nottingham. That meant that whoever triggered the wards wasn't attached to the DMLE – they wouldn't contact him otherwise. Of course, it could be Dumbledore, finally acting after being sidelined for so long, but Remus found himself hoping it was someone else. Preferably someone black and furry.
Gathering his wits, he quickly apparated to the Ministry visitors entrance and dialled 'magic'. He spotted Amelia before he reached the security desk, so he decided to just wait by the lifts – it would save time, and he wanted to get to Nottingham as soon as possible.
When she got close to him, Remus called out, "What's going on, Amelia? You sounded urgent."
Not pausing in her stride, Amelia continued into the visitor's exit, forcing Remus to follow her. "It probably won't surprise you to find out I added perimeter wards to several of the better known Potter properties, including the one in Nottingham. Approximately ten minutes ago, someone passed through them. Mad-Eye, Shacklebolt and Reilly are already there, but we thought we might need you to find out who it is."
"Anything to help. Do you think whoever it is might lead us to Harry?"
"We can only hope. I'll see you there, Lupin." And with that, she apparated out. Had Remus not known why she hadn't just had him apparate straight there, he would be quite annoyed. As it was, he was rather amused. He was a Marauder after all, even after all these years. He had long ago learnt to appreciate the humour in being suspected of being involved in some prank or another, especially when there was really nothing the other person could do about it.
Arriving next to Amelia with a pop, he caught a streak of black fur out of the corner of his eye, and whipped his head around to look. It was gone before he could see it, but Shacklebolt's deep chuckle let him know that he was aware of what Remus had spotted.
"Just a stray, Lupin. Mad-Eye and I almost cursed it as well."
Remus just nodded to him, having no intention of pointing him out before he knew what was going on for sure.
While he'd been orienting himself, and shaking off the slight shock of seeing his best friend after so long, the others had been strategising (and confirming Remus had not left the house since Amelia last spoke to Moody).
"Right, Lupin, there's nothing really for it. You'll have to –"
All four DMLE personnel jumped, Remus twitched, and the hidden black dog yipped.
Dokker had arrived, and he looked pissed.
"The Filthy Traitor! The Filthy Traitor is sullying my poor Young Master's house! How dare he be dirtying a house of the Family Potter after serving thems up to his evil Lord! You is being here to exterminate the Filthy Traitor, isn't you? Dokker is here to help!"
"Traitor? Black's here? Elf, if you want us to help preserve your master's house, you need tell me everything you know, now!" Growled Moody. Everyone looked grim, though only Remus knew who Dokker was talking about.
"No! Not poor Mister-Master Sirius! Filthy Traitor was framing Mister-Master Sirius, and silly Wizengamot is believing him! Mister Auror is here to get RatMan!"
Remus decided to cut in, lest they waste too much time. "It doesn't really matter who it is, does it? They're trespassing, and they might know where Harry is. We need to get him."
Amelia nodded. "Lupin's right. We need to question him at the very least. Given the fact that he's broken into a Potter abode, I think we'll be able to extend our veritaserum rights to cover him. Elf, how do you know who's inside, did you see him? Will he notice your absence?"
"No, ma'am. Potter portraits is being watching the house since Mister Remus' visit months ago. Dokker is feeling wards twinge, so Dokker is asking portraits who is being visiting, and they is being telling Dokker and asking him to be getting help. Madam Bonesie is nots being in her office, so Mistress Rachel is not beings able to tells you to come."
"Can you help me get him out past the wards, Dokker? The others can't come in with us."
"Of course, Mister Remus, sir! It is being Dokker's pleasure!" The feral grin on his face was rather disconcerting.
Peter was having the time of his life. He hadn't expected to see the portraits looking at him with such distain, and quickly figured out that James had told them who they had entrusted their secret to. Or they found out some other way. It didn't really matter, since it was so easily fixed. He simply took them off the wall, so they couldn't escape and blab. He could destroy them, but he felt like gloating first. Maybe latter, if they got too annoying. What he didn't realise was that when he had entered, there had been four ancestors glaring at him from their frames, but by the time he noticed them, there were only three.
Right now, Peter was preparing his first cooked meal in months. When James had set up the property, he was aware that whoever sought sanctuary there might have to stay out of sight for a while, so the cupboards were fully stocked with preserved food. Peter would have preferred to just order the elf in charge of the property to do the cooking for him, which he could do since the Potter's had ensured that their elves would respond to those with access to their properties, but apparently the elf was also aware of his actions, because it was staying away, despite having undoubtedly been alerted to his entry. That was fine though. It wouldn't be able to ignore his summons later on, and he fully intended to summon it to do something highly embarrassing. That would teach it to try to ignore him.
As he was staring into one of the cupboards, considering his options, he caught a flicker of something out the window in his peripheral vision. Whipping his head around, he peered out the window, but didn't see anything. Shaking his head, he wrote it off as an overactive imagination, and went back to cupboard, deciding that bacon and eggs sounded simply divine.
Determined as he was to enjoy his victory, Peter determinedly ignored the creak of a floorboard in the hallway, the scuffing of a shoe outside the kitchen, the barely there whisper of the two newest visitors to the house. He resolutely refused to accept that he could be discovered so quickly, not when he had so successfully convinced everyone that he was dead. In the end, Peter was destined to fall because of his own arrogance, and his sense of entitlement.
Remus and Dokker had entered through the front door, not wanting to risk alerting Pettigrew through the use of apparation. They crept through the house, towards the kitchen where they could hear him shuffling about. The portraits they passed, lying on the floor, silently egged them on.
Stopping just outside the kitchen door, Remus softly whispered instructions to Dokker, who nodded eagerly. Shifting into position, Remus held his left hand up, silently counting down to zero. As one, they acted.
Peter was trying to turn the stove on when it happened. One moment he was prodding it with his wand, the next there was a blinding flash of light, swiftly followed up a deafening explosion behind him. For a split second he thought it was his fault, that he'd done something wrong whilst trying to get the stove to work. Almost immediately though, he realised the awful truth. He was not alone.
In that split second of inaction, Remus did not pause to admire how well Dokker had played his part. Instead, he began charming everything in his line of sight. First he caused a low footstool to move behind Peter, so when he stepped backwards to start to flee, he fell backwards instead. Before he had even hit the floor, the rest of the charmed objects flew towards him and began to assault him. Dokker quickly joined in, sending the kitchen utensils towards him with deadly accuracy. Unfortunately, despite the shock of the sudden attack, Pettigrew had recovered enough for his basic instincts to take over. He had always chosen flight over fight before when he was backed into a corner, and now was no exception.
Staggering to feet, brandishing his wand like a sword, Peter stumbled for the door, deflecting as many of the projectiles as he could. Reaching the hallway, he failed to spot his attackers hiding in the dining room, though he did hear the portraits cheering on his misfortune. If he wasn't so busy deflecting the flying projectiles, he would have set them alight. Later, perhaps. He tried to run upstairs, or barricade himself in another room, but every time he tried he would either be blocked by a cabinet or dresser of some kind, or the door would simply slam shut before he could enter the room.
Remus and Dokker were not there to apprehend Pettigrew themselves – Harry would be horrified if he lost one of them trying to get Pettigrew and might do something rash himself. No, best leave the actual capture to the aurors. As such, they did their best to stay out of sight as they enchanted various ornaments and pieces of furniture to attack the traitor, herding him to the front door. If Pettigrew noticed, there wasn't much he could do about it.
'This is it,' Peter thought hopelessly, as the furniture pushed him up against one of the doors in the foyer. 'I'm going to die, hunted down like a mudblood by house elf of all things.' For surely that was who was attacking him – who else would know of his arrival?
Just as he thought it was all over, that he was bound to die in this Merlin-forsaken house, his hand found the doorknob. This was of little consolation to Peter, as every other door he had tried to open had refused to obey him. In the end though, he saw no reason not to try. 'It's not like trying can kill me any deader,' he thought humourlessly. Miraculously, or so Peter thought, the doorknob turned easily, and the door swung open. Peter landed unceremoniously on his backside on the top step, and wasted no time rolling over, transforming as he did so. A rat made for a smaller and more agile target, after all.
Remus and Dokker followed Pettigrew out the door, and saw the rat make its getaway. Unfortunately for said rat, it had obviously not recognised the four ministry personnel waiting outside the ward line. For that matter, it hadn't even registered their presence.
Up until now, the aurors had simply been staring at the door, waiting for the trespasser to be forced out by the two capable of entering the house. The four of them were shocked when the man transformed, but Amelia Bones wasn't the first female head of the DMLE in 250 years for having a pretty face, just as Alastor 'Mad-Eye' Moody hadn't gained his fearsome reputation by being easily taken off-guard. Shacklebolt and Reilly had taken slightly longer to recover, but the rat took long enough to reach them that they were ready to cast by the time he reached the ward line. They all shared what muggles would call a 'light-bulb moment' as they realised just what the elf was talking about earlier.
Pettigrew had little time to fully understand the situation he had gotten himself into as he left the protection of the wards, as he was finally felled under a hail of stunning and binding spells.
Upon receiving a nod from his boss, Reilly approached the unconscious rat and cast the spell taught to all aurors as part of their initial training – the animagus reversal spell. Despite how important it was to learn this spell, this was the first time since he had joined the auror department twelve years ago that Carlton Reilly had cast it in the field with the expectation of it having any effect.
Before their eyes, the rat stretched and contorted as it began the process of forced reversal. There was a reason all animagi did their utmost to avoid having this spell used on them – it was an unpleasant bordering on painful experience, not to mention highly disconcerting to watch.
Unbeknownst to all but Remus, there was another pair of eyes watching this go down, and their owner was but a moment away from barking happily and chasing his tail in joy. And to think, when the aurors had arrived he'd thought Pettigrew had won again. He had known the instant they arrived that they must have set up a detection ward of some type around the property, and he wouldn't be surprised if it was because of him.
When two of them had taken aim at him, he had barely dodged in time. Despite their apparent lack of interest in him when they thought he was 'just a stray', he had quickly ducked out of sight, lest old Mad-Eye decide to take him out 'just to be safe'. He had stayed out of sight until he heard a pair of pops indicating that two people had either apparated in or out. Deciding to take a chance, Sirius had dashed from behind the car he was hiding behind to behind an old elm tree nearby. He was shocked to see his old friend Remus there, and for a heart-stopping moment was certain the werewolf was going to snitch. Shockingly, he hadn't said a word. He mustn't have caught a good enough look at him.
Sirius had listened with rising hope as the elf (Dokker, if he remembered correctly) arrived and sextet plotted. When the door flew open, he had popped his head around the tree to watch, and when the auror forced the traitor back into his human form, he had an unobstructed view of the vermin's face. He had watched, shaking with glee, as the aurors stared at him, Bones and Moody undoubtedly recognising him, but unwilling to accept what their eyes were telling them, while Dokker glared down at him. Remus wore a look of utter disgust on his face.
Bones was the one to break the silence, glancing at Remus as she did so. "Is that – "
"Peter Pettigrew," Remus spat. Moody and Bones looked resigned, whilst their younger companions looked shocked.
Dokker obviously felt that Remus wasn't being clear enough, and decided to fill in the gaps for him. "That's Filthy Traitor. He is being the reason poor late Master James and late Mistress Lily is being late. Filthy Traitor."
In the shocked silence that followed, Sirius decided it was time for him to depart. He would allow himself today to celebrate, but tomorrow he was going to find out what he had missed since his escape, and set about finding his godson.
A/N: Guess what? I'm not dead! Nor have I given up on this story. I don't intend to either. In fact, I already have chapter 7 planned out! I won't excuse or try to explain my absence, other than to say what I'm sure you already know, which is that Real Life sucks.
I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to those of you who have not given up on me and Unlucky Thirteen, as well as those of you who have given me such nice reviews.
Just so you know, a few days ago I updated my profile to include a rough timeline for the story.
Okay, a few notes on the chapter:
#1 – I don't have much to do with eight or nine year olds (likable ones, at least), so I may have made Harry sound too young when he's 'explaining' himself, but then again, Harry hasn't had too much to do with them either, so he wouldn't have much of an idea either. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
#2 – Before anyone points it out, I know The Time Traveller's Wife was published in 2003, but I don't really care. I liked irony, and really, what does one little anachronism matter in a work of fiction, here only for our enjoyment?
#3 – As I'm sure you've noticed, I have developed a taste for using multiple POVs to describe events. I hope this has a positive effect, but I'm really just experimenting at the moment. Any constructive criticism is always welcome.
#4 – No Lorelei or Hermione this chapter. That is for two reasons. Firstly, this seemed like a natural stopping point. Secondly, Lorelei has a big scene next chapter (and that's all I'll say), whilst Hermione didn't have much to do with any of what happened this chapter.
#5 – I have, yet again, skipped a significant amount of time. This is for three reasons: a) Not much has happened, just the ministry running about like headless chooks while Harry trained and plotted with Remus. b) I doubt many people (including me) really want to know the ins and outs of Harry's training. It's fairly basic, which you can tell from my summarising. c) I want to get to Hogwarts, where the action will pick up a bit.
#6 (a side note) – proximity v perimeter wards – proximity wards are stronger, and can tell when someone approaches them with the intent of crossing or observing them, whilst perimeter wards only trigger once they're crossed. Madame Bones would have had to get a warrant to have any type of wards surround someone's house, since it is an invasion of privacy (believed to be warranted in this situation), but the purebloods, especially the DE sympathisers, would not want to create a precedent by allowing the more invasive proximity wards.