All That Glitters
Lucius Malfoy knew he was in trouble when he looked up from his paperwork to see his wife sitting across from his desk, smiling slightly and humming lightly under her breath, the picture of serenity - except for the fact her gray eyes were slowly narrowing into predatory slits.
Suddenly, Lucius remembered the time he had unwisely voiced the (romantic, at the time) thought that Cissy's gray eyes reminded him of the silky, gray coat of a Siberian lynx, something Narcissa nor Draco would ever let him live down.
Unfortunately, Lucius thought, putting away his paperwork, the rest of Narcissa was a little too much like a carnivorous cat as well.
"Yes, dear?" Lucius asked, swallowing his fear.
"Darling," Narcissa said with a smile full of teeth. "I learned something fascinating today."
"You did?" Lucius would forever be faithful to his beautiful wife, his everlasting friend and companion, but that companion also had a tongue sharper than a sword. If Narcissa didn't like something, she would make sure Lucius knew. And slept on the couch for a month.
"I did," Narcissa nodded. "I found out that Andromeda, when she ran off with Ted Tonks, had a daughter - Nymphadora Beatrice Tonks."
Lucius blinked. Well, that was unexpected. He had known Andromeda when they were both in school, Slytherin though she'd been, she had been almost as standoffish as Regulus Black - of course, that might have had something to do with the fact she was secretly a Muggle-lover and generally despised the principles of blood purity that had usurped Slytherin House's previous principles, but Lucius declined on voicing that thought. It looked like he was nearly out of the war zone and he didn't want to become too closely acquainted with the couch. However, a daughter…
"So…" Lucius searched for something to say. Narcissa's glare intensified.
"So?" she demanded. "This is my niece, Lucius."
Lucius winced. Narcissa was many things, and one of those was loyal to her family. It was how she had been raised - how Lucius himself had been raised, for that matter - and even if Andromeda herself would not speak to Narcissa upon the pain of death, Narcissa would make damn well sure that Nymphadora and herself had the best aunt-niece relationship - in the history of forever, no doubt. Lucius recalled that when he had first met Narcissa, she had told him that when she and her sisters all had daughters, they would each name one after their sisters.
It appeared that that had certainly not happened. And Narcissa's birth family…well, they were all dead, either literally or essentially.
Lucius cleared his throat. "Yes." And the Dark Lord will have our heads if we are fraternizing with the enemy. Whatever Narcissa's motive, she wasn't stupid. She had something in mind, no doubt.
"That means she is your niece, Lucius."
"And I will prepare a lunch for us to meet?" Lucius asked, hopeful that Narcissa's glare would lessen.
"You'll attend the lunch I have prepared us today," Narcissa sniffed, rising from her chair. "And you will be a good uncle and your best behavior, not mentioning a single word about her blood or lack thereof (she is a Black, Lucius, don't give me that look, that's all that matters) and no controversial topics like politics, the Dark Lord, her parents and lineage, or her choice in hair color. You will not insinuate any of the previously mentioned or be condescending. At all. I will inform Draco to do the same. This is very important for myself and for you."
"And what forms do I put my signature on, solicitor?" Lucius muttered to himself, before saying more loudly, "yes, dear."
As Narcissa opened the door, Lucius suddenly called, "And the Dark Lord?"
Narcissa paused, her back still to him.
"The Dark Lord," she said simply, "is not family."
"I don't suppose," Remus requested in a rather small voice as Harry concluded the adventures of his first year, "that we could take a break?"
Harry looked around. Cassiopeia had gone stark white, every drop of color have drained out of her face, and the midday light that snuck in from behind the clouds and through the windows just deepened her wrinkles. Remus looked to be in a similar state, but was gripping the arm of the couch so tightly Harry could have sworn he heard either the couch or Remus's bones creak. Sirius was staring dead ahead and seemed to be spasmodically tearing at the pillow in his hands.
"Um," Harry dragged the word out. "Is something…wrong?"
"Not at all," Cassiopeia seemed to snap back into herself. "Of course not, Harry, we were simply taken by surprise that your first year was so eventful."
Remus muttered under his breath that Harry didn't catch.
"Okay," Harry shrugged, frowning at the carpet. He didn't know why the three of them were so…scared? Annoyed? Angry? Taken aback? Harry didn't know, but tiny sparks of anger were flashing and sizzling out within him. He wasn't a child, he dealt with this sort of thing all the time, and the fact that they were so frightened or something was angering because…Harry could admit to himself.
It was disappointing.
Everyone told children to stay safe and stay hidden and Harry couldn't or wouldn't because being Harry Potter didn't allow him to. It was as simple as that, and Harry didn't want to be treated like a child, like when Fudge and McGonagall told him to stay safe. They couldn't do anything, wouldn't do anything, and Harry took action on his own, no matter the cost, and it worked.
It seemed like only Dumbledore understood - and maybe it was silly and, yes, sort of childish, but Harry liked it when Dumbledore complimented him on a job well done or congratulated him. Harry didn't want attention or fame for his mother's sacrifice, but recognition of his own feats…well, he liked that.
He wasn't a child, couldn't be, and he wished everyone would stop acting like he should be.
Harry jerked his head up a burst of silver light appeared - he wasn't the only one, Cassiopeia went for her wand and Remus and Sirius jumped up to look at the…was that a phoenix patronus?
"Sirius," Dumbledore's voice echoed out of the bird as Harry spluttered in shock. "Noon, tomorrow, at Hog's Head, Hogsmeade; to order a base - Grimmauld."
The phoenix faded just as soon as it came, and Harry and everyone else were left staring at the place where it had been.
"What," Harry broke the silence, "just happened?"
As shocked as Harry was to see a mystical bird speak with his headmaster's voice, he was even more surprised that Sirius jerked into motion.
"That's summons, Harry," Sirius said grimly, and added, "Remus, stay here, please. I need to go sort a couple things out," he turned back to Harry, clasping his shoulder, "but I will be sure to tell you everything once I return. Everything, I swear on my life - but could you please stay here with Remus in the meantime?"
Harry hesitated. He was being given a choice, it sounded like, but it also sounded like that Sirius wanted to do something important - as much as Harry wanted to figure out, he wasn't in any condition to move, and he trusted that Sirius would tell him everything. Unlike everyone else…
"Alright," Harry said reluctantly, turning slowly back to face Cassiopeia and Remus as Sirius slammed the doors behind him.
Harry played with the hem of the tunic Cassiopeia had given him as he stared again at the carpet. The morning sun made the stars on the ceiling look oddly ethereal, seeing as they shined during the day anyway, but made the other dark colors of the room look drab and depressing and the outside grounds of rolling hills with soft green grass look more inviting than ever. But silence reigned in stately, if obnoxious and mildly awkward, garb.
Do something, Harry urged himself, you told yourself you'd go and do - um - stuff! You're just sitting here!
Before Harry could say something, Remus interrupted.
"Why don't you continue on, Harry?" he suggested. "I can fill in Sirius later, or you can."
Harry shrugged and agreed, launching into his story. He wasn't sure how good of a storyteller he was (did "and then me and Ron followed the spiders to a really big one whose name was Aragog and wasn't the monster in the Chamber of Secrets" count as good storytelling?) but Harry felt like he'd gotten the message across, if Cassiopeia's pale face was anything to go by.
After he finished up with "and then it was the end of school and I left" silence made another cameo and Harry went back to staring at his toes, occasionally shooting glances to the side to see a thoughtful Remus and a calculative Cassiopeia.
Anger was tugging at him again. The two had been more than terrified looking during his story, but why didn't they just get it? Harry had to do this, he was the only one who could, and he did it.
(Weren't they in the least bit sort of impressed? Harry didn't want to disappoint them, but they were disappointing him.)
"Tell me, Harry," Remus suddenly said and Harry looked up to see him furrowing his brow. "With the Chamber of Secrets, why didn't you tell someone about what you found out? A teacher?"
Harry's mood took a dark downturn. Just what he had thought.
"I did," he said stiffly, "I mean, I tried. Lockhart interrupted us before we could say anything."
"Harry," Cassiopeia reprimanded gently, "we don't mean to make you angry, but we were not present and are not you, so I must ask you to forgive us."
Harry slumped down in his seat. Well, he supposed it was a fair line of questioning; they were just clarifying - evidently his storytelling skills weren't terrific, and it wasn't like he had elaborated much; no need to scare them more than he had already.
"Sorry, Professor," Harry muttered.
"No worries, Harry," Remus waved him off. "Call me 'Remus,' please. So you continued…anyway?"
"Well, yes." Of course, he wanted to say. Who else would do it?
"It was my responsibility and it was Voldemort," Harry said honestly, but was impatiently tapping his fingers against the arm of the chair. This sort of questioning was insanely aggravating - would he just get to the point and scold him?
"So," Remus paused and Harry saw Cassiopeia narrow her eyes. "Your schoolmates…they could have done something, too. Do you think they were wrong not to?"
"I - what?" Harry looked up, startled. This wasn't going how he thought it would. He thought they would tell him how disappointed they were that he didn't confide in a teacher, and while the disapproval of Remus in particular filled him with shame, it was just his responsibility.
But that wasn't where this was going.
"No…" Harry said slowly, sitting up a little straighter. "Because…they…"
Harry struggled to find an answer, running a hand through his hair agitatedly. He didn't blame his classmates for anything they did - well, didn't - do, but he couldn't think of a reason to excuse…who? Them, for not doing anything? Or even him, for doing something? Why didn't they? They were…lazy? No, Harry could name off reams of people, not in the least Hermione, who most certainly weren't lazy. Heck, by comparison, he seemed lazy. They were clueless, maybe? Not even. And, since what Cassiopeia was telling him was true, well, they knew way more than he, didn't they? And who was to say that didn't move onto learning about Voldemort or the Triwizard Tournament? Maybe because they were…children, like he'd just delightedly reminded himself that he was an adult like Cassiopeia and Remus?
Harry slumped back in his chair. No, they weren't, he knew that immediately - but, following his own logic, wouldn't that make Ron, Hermione, and every other person at Hogwarts a child? None of his classmates had seen what he had, but Harry was suddenly filled with the mental picture of him walking into his dorm room and proceeding to lecture Ron, Seamus, Neville, and Dean on how to tie their shoes properly or help them with their Transfiguration homework. It made him want to laugh and bury his head in embarrassment in equal parts. No, his classmates weren't children, but they weren't adults…like he was an adult? No, he wasn't an adult either.
He was a teenager and so was everyone else.
The answer to that seemed so simple and so obvious that Harry buried his head in his hands and resisted the urge to groan. He was an idiot, and saying he was adult and complaining about how everyone treated him made him sound sillier than a pompous Percy and a whining Dudley combined.
But that didn't give him an answer as to why Harry did things and others, even Ron and Hermione, didn't. It wasn't like they were bad people - he couldn't imagine Lavender and Pavarti suddenly declaring their allegiance to Lord Voldemort. Did that just make Harry…special? Well, he'd escaped Voldemort the first time as a child through his mother's sacrifice, but how did you have to be a special person to save Hermione from a troll? Harry couldn't imagine anyone, except maybe some Slytherins, honestly leaving her to die. He had no doubt Seamus or Dean would've done the same thing he and Ron did, and if they didn't, they would've run straight to a teacher. Either way, they would done their absolute best to help.
"I dunno," Harry finally answered, looking up. "I don't know."
"Alright," Remus steepled his fingers together. "Why do you think they didn't go after Voldemort, or into the Chamber of Secrets, even if they could've?"
'They didn't want to die,' was the first thought that popped into Harry's mind. He could see, in his mind's eye, Lavender and Pavarti giggling over something in the corner of the common room and Seamus and Dean roaring with laughter as they played a game of Exploding Snap. Why would they want to die?
Did that mean that Hermione and Ron wanted to die, then, because they'd followed Harry? Did that mean Harry wanted to die? Well, no, he didn't, and he'd bet his Firebolt that Hermione and Ron didn't either.
Did wanting to live make them bad people?
Harry didn't think so. Sure, Lavender and Pavarti were gossip mongers, but they weren't irredeemable, soulless shells of people consumed by a lust for beauty and greed, he was pretty sure about that. He couldn't even think of Malfoy as honestly serving Voldemort without chickening out.
Harry shrugged, feeling indecision and confusion swim within him. "I don't know."
"You'd give up your life while doing this?"
He didn't even have to think about that. "Yes."
"And…" Remus paused. "Have you ever thought, if you died right now, what you would miss?"
Harry was stumped. No was the answer, and suddenly he was giving himself the answer - he'd miss Ron, Hermione, Sirius, Remus, all of his school friends and the Weasleys; and wasn't living his life what he'd sworn to do, after what Vernon did? He wanted to be Auror, he wanted to see the next Quidditch World Cup, and there were all these things he'd definitely miss out on if he was dead.
"If you thought about that, every time before you did one of these events, would you do things differently?"
The thought shocked him with how quickly it came - there was no doubt in his mind that he'd do the same things, but if he painstakingly thought through every single face and name and place he knew and miss if he died, if he counted out each and every one of his blessings, before he did something like going after a basilisk…he'd still do it, but he'd do it differently, filled suddenly with fear for losing his own life, too, next to Ginny's, when he, too, wanted to live.
Harry had promised itself to live life to its fullest.
But he didn't want to die before he had lived.
Sirius hesitated at the door to Regulus's room, hand hovering over the doorknob.
It was stupid, Sirius reasoned, to be so hesitant. Yes, he hadn't seen Regulus in over a decade. Yes, he'd thought his little brother dead. Yes, he thought that his little brother had died a Death Eater - whatever, this wasn't helping. It didn't matter; Regulus was probably more shocked to see him than he was to see Regulus.
Just as he was gearing up to open the door, Regulus abruptly started speaking, voice coming out muffled through the door.
"It wasn't - the Dark Lord liked to boast," Regulus said, voice still shaky, and then suddenly went snappish, responding to someone Sirius couldn't hear. "I know the Dark Lord was dead for fifteen years, you already told me that, Grandfather, and I'm telling you why he's alive - and if you're really bent on taking down the Dark Lord, you'll want to know!"
What? Sirius silently demanded; this made it all sound like Regulus was against Voldemort. Paralyzed with curiosity and the bizarre thought that he really shouldn't be listening in, he crept forward.
"He liked to boast," Regulus repeated, his irritation giving away little by little to audible fear. "He was always saying that he'd come closer to immortality than anyone, and that he'd outlast the stars…told us all that he'd made - made safeguards, he said. Nobody paid much attention to the Dark Lord; they weren't supposed to know anything he did - didn't want them to know. But I knew - I knew it when he said it, I knew it - I knew that he had made Horcruxes."
There was a sudden, shocked hiss from inside the room. Arcturus or Pollux? Sirius's mind raced; had he heard the word before? It tickled him at the back of his mind, a memory from childhood long suppressed, but he couldn't afford to say anything - or could he? This was his estranged little brother, who was willingly telling Arcturus and Pollux what happened - and shouldn't Sirius, if not support him with his newfound chance with Regulus, at least be honest?
Sirius flung open the door to the room, to be met with Regulus's eyes, wide with shock, and a very pale Arcturus and Pollux.
"We were at Horcruxes," Sirius announced, striding in to stand at the footboard of Regulus's bed, "continue."
So, maybe it was a misguided show of honesty, Sirius admitted, considering that he had been listening at the door beforehand, but Regulus continued, eyes on Sirius the entire time.
"He," Regulus faltered, "the Dark Lord - he had gave Lucius and Bellatrix something to guard with their lives, he said. I followed them, I figured it out."
Regulus shuddered, gaze dropping to his knees, and Sirius inched closer - Regulus was still manic, still teetering on the edge of hysteria, and Sirius wanted to…what? Give him support? Tell him to shove it with his Death Eater friends? He wasn't sure, but he was sure he didn't want Regulus to descend into the hair-pulling, cackling state he had been in earlier.
"There was a cup and a diary," Regulus sucked in a shuddering breath, burying his head in his hands, his mind seeming to be struggling on the edge of raving. Sirius hesitated, wanting to do something, but Arcturus caught his eye and shook his head. Sirius bristled but slunk back; he didn't know what to do.
"I couldn't steal it from them, but I knew where they were, I knew what they were, and I knew the Dark Lord would make more. So I - I found out how to destroy them, destroy him, because I couldn't stand it - I couldn't! I wouldn't! He was wrong, I was wrong, no one should hurt like that, no one ever at all - he killed and murdered and made me do the same, and I found out - found out he was just a little half-blood, even though he killed half-bloods and Muggle-borns - and that was his diary, I knew it! - I knew what I had done - everything! everything! I had done everything! - and, by all that is holy," Regulus shot up and stared Sirius dead in the eye, "I was going to stop Voldemort."
Sirius stared back, sick to his stomach with dread and even sicker, worse feeling of pride.
This entire thing was everything Sirius had wanted and never wanted to hear - that his little brother, the annoying shadow of his childhood had turned out right and had done right, but here he was after fifteen years - alive! - but only after suffering a death at the hands of a murdering lunatic that no one, especially not Regulus, good-hearted at the end, and James and Lily should suffer from.
Sirius took a step forward, going to do something, and then Regulus, to Sirius's utter disbelief, seemed to start to quiet.
"I was ready," Regulus said, his voice miraculously steadying. "I knew what to do, how to destroy them, I just needed an opportunity - the Dark Lord asked for a house-elf and I volunteered Kreacher. Once the Dark Lord was finished, I called Kreacher back and had him take me where he had been taken. It was a cave on the sea…" Regulus's voice cracked a little. Sirius swallowed, gripping the footboard tighter, and rest of the room seemed to grow darker and more silent with each word. "There was a lake and it was filled with Inferi…on the - there was an island and the locket - Slytherin's locket - was under a potion. It - it made me see things, bad things, but Kreacher - I had him keep me drinking it…
"I replaced the locket with one of my own…I - it wasn't right, and I wanted water, and I went to the edge of the lake and there were all these Inferi - and then I died," Regulus finished matter-of-factly.
The silence was so suppressing, too suppressing, and all Sirius could see before his eyes was his brother's funeral; his little brother in that coffin, dead, as he hid in the back of the crowd because he wasn't invited - his brother who had been killed by Voldemort, who had defied Voldemort - and Sirius shattered that thought and the silence with an loud cough.
"Well," Regulus added, still scarily matter-of-fact. "I think I was dead. It all went black."
"But," Sirius interjected before Arcturus or Pollux could say anything, "you're not…quite dead, are you? So you couldn't have died died," Sirius hurried on as Regulus's gaze sharpened into a familiar glare. "And you…defied Voldemort."
"Yes," Regulus dropped his gaze. The room seemed to shrink to just the two brothers as Regulus ventured, "And how do you…feel about that?"
"Mad as hell you died," Sirius said bluntly. For all he had thought over Regulus and Regulus's return, hearing Regulus's story seemed clear things up. A lot. About fifteen years worth of confusion and some of that resentment. "But you…the way that you - hell, Reggie, that was brave." Sirius hesitated, trying not to give into the mass of hurt and rage and plain confusion that was swarming around. "I dunno if I should say this, or if it's my place or whatnot, but…I'm proud. Really proud."
Regulus didn't smile, he didn't frown, but he sat up a little straighter.
And Sirius could only think, sick to stomach, that it had taken him a childhood, a war, a death, and fifteen years to say that.
"So," Tonks said as she laced up her boots at her kitchen table, "are you gonna tell me what your problem with the Malfoys is?"
Andromeda paced back and forth in Tonks's tiny kitchen, robes swishing about the floor and looking very imperial for Tonks's cramped and messy apartment, didn't answer as she continued to mutter to herself.
Tonks stood up, passed her mother, and examined herself in the lopsided mirror over her fireplace, grinning. She'd grown her hair out for the occasion, so her bubble-gum pink hair was in a tight bun at the base of her neck. She'd transfigured the only dress she had, a white one she'd worn to a Ministry gala, so it hung above her knees and cinched her floor-length periwinkle robes with a belt that was studded with shiny orange rhinestones that she'd gotten on an assignment to Ireland. Tonks didn't really have any of those high heels or flats her mother was always trying to make her wear, so she'd laced up her black, knee-high combat boots (newly polished for the occasion) over her pink-and-purple striped stockings; it was a bit chilly outside today.
"How do I look?" Tonks grinned as her mother appeared in the reflection of the mirror.
Tonks spun around in a circle, tried not to fall, and failed, but Andromeda snagged her arm and steadied her before she fell.
"Er, Mum," Tonks tried to peel Andromeda's fingers off her arms as the woman held her at arm's length, "you can let go now."
'Course, the likelihood of that happening was zero to one; Andromeda had always been overprotective and, after telling her throughout dinner all the reasons she shouldn't go to the Malfoys, had woken her up in the morning with a knock to the door and the same complaints. Tonks was used to ignoring those - strange thing was, though, that Ted had had similar concerns and he was usually the one to calm Andromeda down.
"You look beautiful, Nymphadora," Andromeda sighed and let go, her face softening to a smile. Tonks grinned, kissed her mother's forehead, and didn't bother to correct her name. As opposed to Tonks, Andromeda wore a color-coordinated dark green ensemble with highlights of a wild rose colored jewelry to show off the brushes of the color in the fabric. Tonks didn't know why, she was always telling her mother color-coordination was overrated.
Snatching her purse off the couch, Tonks grabbed her wand to Apparate out before her mother stopped her with a hand on her arm.
Andromeda plucked a silver hairstick out of her bun, which tumbled down around her shoulders, and deftly slid it into Tonks's bun.
"How d'you manage to hold up all that hair with one of these?" Tonks demanded, pointing to Andromeda's long, brown hair as she clumsily touched the silver piece. Tonks gave her a smile as Andromeda broke into a laugh, "Thanks, Mum."
"You're welcome, darling," Andromeda smiled back, smile turning sad as she said, "you remind me of a cousin I had."
"I - what?" Tonks blinked. Andromeda never talked about her family; Tonks didn't even know her maiden name. She had thought they were all dead.
"His name was - " Andromeda paused. "Never mind. I'm being silly. But…don't ever change, Nymphadora, do you hear me? Don't ever change. And be safe, please. I just…I want you to be safe."
"I will, Mum," Tonks assured her, frowning, "but you - you can't wrap me in cotton. I'm an Auror, I can take care of myself. You…you know I'm going to the Malfoys' anyway, right? No matter what you say? Lady Malfoy may be strange, but this is Auror business. It's my job."
"I know," Andromeda sighed, letting her hand drop. "I know…you have to go now - do not keep Lady Malfoy waiting, Nymphadora - but keep safe. Please."
"I will," Tonks laughed, "when don't I?"
And she Apparated away with a crack, leaving Andromeda alone in Tonks's messy living room, cloaks flung over lamps and robes on chairs.
"Keep her safe, Narcissa," Andromeda murmured to herself. "If you ever once cared for me at all, by Godric, Narcissa, keep her safe."
And with that, Andromeda left too.
"Pieces of his soul," Remus repeated, horrified, and then shut his eyes. "Voldemort cut up his soul to make himself immortal?"
"Yes," Arcturus said grimly.
"Just when you think Voldemort can't get any more insane," Sirius sighed and slumped down even farther on the couch. The three and Pollux were sitting in front of the fire in Arcturus's office, Remus and Sirius collapsed on the couch and Pollux and Arcturus occupying an armchair each. Regulus was once again passed out in his chambers and Sirius had run to get Remus before he got down to business with his grandfather.
Speaking of which, Pollux and Arcturus were nursing glasses of wine and there were two glasses set out for Remus and Sirius that they hadn't touched, though Sirius was undecided on either drinking both or throwing them in Arcturus's face in case they were poisoned.
"He loves to prove you wrong," Remus completed with a sigh of his own. "This means that these…pieces…have to be killed to kill Voldemort?"
"Correct," Arcturus said, staring contemplatively at his wine glass that was lit up with a burgundy hue from the fire, "unfortunately, I myself do not know much about Horcruxes. Cygnus specialized in matters such as these," Arcturus paused, then added, "as did Regulus himself, for that matter."
Sirius grunted in agreement. Regulus made those mad scientists in the movies Lily showed the Marauders look positively brimming with mental health.
"However," he continued, looking up, "we know, at least, the location of three of these Horcruxes. The only matter is how many more and what they are."
"Well, with Regulus this shan't be too hard," Pollux said optimistically, leaning back in his chair. "He knows where to look and what to think."
"'Too hard'?" Sirius repeated, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. "Pollux, Voldemort's made himself immortal."
"No," Remus contradicted. "These can be destroyed. Otherwise, Regulus wouldn't've tried, would he? Once you start thinking that Voldemort's immortal, he becomes immortal - Arcturus," Remus straightened up in his seat, "these Horcruxes - would Dumbledore know anything about them?"
Arcturus leaned forward. "Perhaps, though I would imagine that his guesses would circumstantial at best - why do you ask?"
"The diary," Remus hissed, turning to Sirius, "the diary!"
Sirius jerked up, what Remus had hurriedly relayed to him about Harry's second year as the rushed towards Arcturus's office coming back to him.
"The snake was controlled by a diary," Sirius said hoarsely, running a hand over his face, eyes going wide, "Harry destroyed it, Voldemort disappeared, and he gave it to Dumbledore - Harry destroyed a Horcrux!" Sirius barked, trying to stand up as panic tore through his veins, but Remus, who stood up, pushed him back down.
"We can explain more later," Remus said to Arcturus and Pollux, who were looking increasingly confused, "but I think that Dumbledore knows about Voldemort's Horcruxes."
Arcturus narrowed his eyes as he exchanged a glance with Pollux as Sirius clenched his fists, anger building up - he didn't like what Dumbledore was doing, where he was going, and he wanted to tell the man exactly what he thought of him.
"Dumbledore's certainly not in my good books anymore," Pollux remarked and the icy quality that had creeped into his voice was quite a reminder of his darling sister, before he went quiet with contemplation as he stared at the family portrait above the fireplace mantle.
"Indeed," Arcturus murmured, lapsing into silence for a moment before speaking up, "However, do you think it prudent to focus solely on Dumbledore at the present time? If Dumbledore has decided to take his time, we should take advantage of it - there are much more pressing matters to attend to."
"Shouldn't you speed up your efforts?" Remus asked mildly. "I haven't the foggiest what Dumbledore thinks he's doing, but I know he'll keep a watch on what you do."
Arcturus seemed to be looking at Remus in a new kind of light. "Indeed, Mr. Lupin, it'd be unfortunate for Dumbledore to attempt to stop us…of course, we have no intentions of making Dumbledore an unnecessary enemy and, at the moment, we have nothing to fear from him or doing anything to make him fear us - however, I fear that the faster we work the more it will seem like we have something to hide. We don't, of course, that would be preposterous. As for the Horcruxes…I don't think it wise to continue farther down that path without Regulus's guidance. I suggest we first turn to internal matters first and one we have been putting off - Sirius, may we hear your conditions?"
Sirius forced himself to calm. Arcturus was right about Dumbledore - too right, the sly bastard - but with Harry and now Regulus…he couldn't go off anywhere, and making Dumbledore an enemy was not a good idea.
"Look," Sirius said, leaning forward. "I'll work with you to protect Harry. But I want access to all the family files again, anything my mother or father blocked me off from, and I want to know everything about everything you do. I want you to be absolutely honest with Harry, me, and Remus."
"And," Remus added, "do not find any loopholes in those conditions and honor the spirit of those conditions completely - a spirit decided upon by Sirius."
"Very well," Arcturus said easily, "however, in return, I ask for you to be honest with us."
"Alright," Sirius narrowed his eyes as Arcturus drew his wand and raised it.
"I, Arcturus Regulus Black II, do so swear to honor follow through the conditions stated by Sirius Orion Black III and Remus John Lupin concerning the matter of Harry Potter, Heir of the Most Noble and Ancient House of Potter, and the Order of the Phoenix."
Arcturus stowed away his wand as Sirius and Remus both slowly sat down. The bright midday light seemed to bleach the blacks and jewel blues of the room and highlight the lined faces of its occupants, making everything look stale and tepid as silence reigned on, stifling in its imperial state.
"Dumbledore," Sirius broke the silence, "gave me summons to meet him tomorrow - he wants to use Grimmauld Place as a base for the Order of the Phoenix."
"The Order of the Phoenix," Pollux mused, shaking back into himself, "couldn't they think of a better name? Rather obvious, that one. Perhaps 'The Knitting Circle;' no one ever suspects a knitter of hiding anything…"
"First of all, Pollux," Arcturus frowned, "don't be absurd. Knitters are the most suspicious of folk - Cassiopeia is fond of knitting, isn't that enough proof?" (Arcturus ignored Pollux's interjection of, "You like to knit, too.") "Besides, don't you remember the stories of women who would knit at the base of guillotines during the French Revolution? Imagine it, Pollux: Cassiopeia and guillotines. Secondly, I think, perhaps, it wouldn't be wise to surrender all of Grimmauld to Dumbledore. It is your choice, Sirius, but if you are truly suspicious of Dumbledore's motives; mayhap only the basement? It has the kitchen and the house-elves' quarters, it should be enough to house the Order…isn't the place nigh on inhabitable?"
"That sounds good to me that, Sirius," Remus agreed to the surprise of Sirius. Remus raised an eyebrow at Sirius. "I trust you, Sirius, and you're my best friend, but if this falls through don't think for a second that I won't take Harry and run. Grimmauld seems a very good place to run to." Remus paused, and Sirius grinned at his friend as Pollux and Arcturus seemed to reevaluate Remus. "Also, it'd be very suspicious if a bunch of twenty-somethings went to a knitting club."
"Very true," Pollux said heartily.
"Good Godric, Remus, not you too," Sirius buried his head in his hands. This all sounded fine to him - it wasn't like he was feeling particularly charitable towards Dumbledore, to say the least, but he had friends in the Order he didn't want to see die, and Grimmauld was more than a safe place. "Fine, yes, I'll do it. But what about the rest of the place? He'll want it up and running," Sirius added, standing.
"Tell him the wards prohibit them," Arcturus suggested, "blood magic. That it will take a while to get it all down - perhaps you should check with Regulus to see if there are wards."
"We could get in just fine last time," Sirius grumbled, "that's how we got here. Nevermind, I'll go. Also," Sirius sighed as he turned to leave, "Dumbledore likes to crochet more than knit, everybody knows that."
James ran a hand through his hair as he paced.
"This isn't going well," he muttered to himself, "this isn't going well."
James and Frank were camped out in the ruins of the lodge. James had managed to maneuver them into a corner that was still partially standing with blackened, stone walls, the roof drooping over but mostly intact, and was surrounded by enough debris to make a good sort of lean-to and shelter them from the drizzling rain that bounced off the leaves of overgrown hedges and trees. Unwilling to use any magic that would set off what was left of the wards or alert the Ministry or Voldemort, James resorted to making the fire by hand and was rewarded with a small flame he'd kept going even after the rain had started.
As James paced, trying to figure out a course of action, Frank had been passed out on the one side of the fire since yesterday hadn't woken since. He was alive, thank Godric, and James didn't thinkhe should've let Frank sleep that long, but he had no idea what to do.
James ran his hand through his hair again. That was starting to be a running joke, he reflected, grimacing.
A groan sounded and James spun around, going for his wand, but stowed it and grinned in relief as he saw Frank starting to wake up and started to head over.
"James?" Frank croaked, eyes going wide as he struggled to sit up. James knelt and helped prop him up against the wall.
"Frank," James gave him a grin that wasn't entirely forced and slapped him gently on the shoulder. He wasn't about to ask about why Frank was suddenly so conscious unless Frank did. "It's good to see you, mate, you've been out for a day and a half."
"What?" Frank demanded, sitting up fully. He blinked and then slumped down. "Right, I remember. Never mind."
"So," James said carefully as he sat down next to Frank. "Are you hungry? Or thirsty? 'Cause I think we'll have to move for that…there's not much, um, left." James suddenly hoped beyond hope that Frank wouldn't recognize where they were.
"I'm fine," Frank waved him off, eyes narrowed as he started to take stock of his surroundings. "Where are we?"
"Um…" James stalled, not wanting to lie, but not wanting to upset Frank, either. He'd had been a mental patient eighteen hours ago and James wasn't a Healer, but it didn't seem like a good idea.
"Oh," Frank said blankly. "The lodge - I recognize it."
James blinked and tried not to let his shock show. What the hell? Frank recognized it like this? What had happened while he'd been gone? He'd have heard of an attack on a house of the Great Family, especially if Frank had been around to see the damage!
James forced down his questions. He'd get no where like this, and questioning a person in this state was a very bad idea.
"Alright," he said with false cheer, standing up. "Well, we need to get going - any ideas where?"
"A family house," Frank said immediately, gaze resting on the fire and not coming off.
"Okay," James trailed off. Family house, as in one of theirs, a Longbottom or Potter? Or a 'family' house in general?
"…Black house," Frank suddenly said, still staring at the fire. "We should go there. Or a Prewett house."
James ran a hand through his hair. Blacks? Yeah, not a good idea. Prewetts? Neither of them were related, no way they'd get in. Why did Frank want to go, anyway? James trusted Frank; Frank was a good man and a good friend. But Frank was also not the same, this world wasn't the same, and James wanted to get back to the people he knew and trusted.
"Frank," James said carefully, coming over to the other side of the fire to face Frank. "Frank, I think we should go to Sirius or Remus."
"No," Frank shuddered, wrapping his arms loosely around his knees, looking very small in his tattered robe and pajamas. "We - we can't."
It was as if every fear he had suppressing behind a dam burst out.
"Why not?" James demanded, completely abandoning tact as fear surging through him. "Are they - are they dead?"
"They're not dead," Frank swallowed, dropping his gaze from the fire to the ground as James laughed in relief. "You are."
And the last echoes of his laugh were suddenly laughing at him.
Ron Weasley tapped his quill against his desk, staring out his window at the clouds hanging low over the rolling hills of Devon.
So it wasn't the longest time since Harry had written - Ron could remember when Dobby stole all of Harry's letters, for one, and then the next year when he'd been in Diagon Alley…Ron frowned and tilted his chair back on two legs, letting his head drop so he could count all of the cracks in his orange ceiling.
It wasn't every year that You-Know-Who came back, either.
Ron shuddered and let his chair legs drop back down. He'd never even seen You-Know-Who, much less been in the graveyard with him, but he still had the occasional nightmare. He could only imagine the ones that Harry was having. Ron wanted to write and make sure Harry was alright, but he knew that Harry wouldn't be alright unless he was out there stabbing You-Know-Who with a fang again, and pestering him probably wouldn't make it better. Then again, Ron wanted to be out there doing something too - not that he had much to offer - but hell would freeze over before Mum would let him do that. Hermione was off in Austria with her parents, so it took days to write to her, and Ron didn't want a repeat of the telephone incident.
So he'd sit and wait.
"BOYS! GINNY!" Mrs. Weasley yelled up the stairs and Ron abandoned his desk and peaked his head out the door, hoping to hide his messy room, and glad for the distraction. Ron saw Fred and George do the same, though George was an eye-watering shade of neon green and Fred suspiciously innocent-looking, and Ginny was only in a towel and wet from a shower, something Ron desperately tried to not look at. Ron also tried to ignore the fact that Percy was not there at all.
Mrs. Weasley was coming up the stairs, partially obscured by an overflowing laundry basket, but when she moved it to her hip, she looked stark white and her jaw was set.
"Kids," Mrs. Weasley said, eyes pink like she'd dabbed at them to stop tears, "Harry - Harry's missing."
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and JKR's works do not belong to me; all material belongs to their respective owners; no copyright infringement intended; no money being made here.
Note: Alright, we're back again! This is my longest chapter so far, and the title, "All That Glitters" refers to the saying "all that glitters isn't gold," in case anyone didn't know. Also, as far as I'm aware, the thing about the knitters and the French Revolution is true - if it isn't, it's in Charles Dickens's "Tale of Two Cities."
1. Tonks's fireplace: just a small one, I know, but you usually don't have fireplaces in apartments - I think that in the Wizarding world they'd fit 'em in somehow, just because fireplaces are like their car and phone in one.
2. I thought it'd be good to address pairings before we go forward. There will be no pairings for the kids in this story. For the adults, it'll just be consistent with their married pairs, so James/Lily, Frank/Alice, and any others will be present (this will probably include mentions of canon husbands/wives on the Black Family Tree). There will probably be some pre Tonks/Lupin, but if that really becomes evident I'll tell y'all! Despite this, all of the characters will maintain their canon-confirmed sexuality in this story. The reason for this is pretty simple: I don't want to take time away from the adventure because we're focusing romance. The main relationships in focus are family ones, and I don't want to detract from that.
However, please feel free to imagine or mentally (or literally) write in/out any pairings you want into the story!
3. Also, it's time to talk about the Weasleys. I know that people have varying views on the Weasley family - some people like 'em and I know that saying some dislike 'em is a real understatement. So, before I say how I'd like to address the Weasleys in the story, I just want to share my opinion on them. I very much respect everybody's own opinion on the Weasleys and before you drop this story, I'd like to request that you at least hear out my reasoning.
In the first book, I thought that Ron had a lot of potential. He was very, very good at chess, showcasing the makings of a good strategist, and was very knowledgeable when it came to the magical world he grew up in; the "in context" sort of stuff - for example, when he mentions when dragons were outlawed and quotes the convention and dates. I thought that Ron seemed like a good balance for Hermione: while she was very much book smart, he had more of the "street smarts", so to speak, or maybe a better way to put it that while Hermione was all theory and he was more practicality - she knew about the theory of magic, while he knew about the world of magic. She had the ideas, he had the practical matters. I thought that he'd be the "tactician" of the series. (I thought wrong.)
This is, of course, not to say that PS/SS!Ron was flawless. Absolutely not - he was rather lazy and could be rude and did say hurtful things, but he was a kid - he was eleven. I could forgive those flaws in an eleven year old, similarly to how Hermione was bossy and very controlling about rules and how Harry rushed into situations without thinking a single thing through - those are all traits kids exhibit, that get dually better and worse as they mature into teenagers, and eventually soften as they become adults.
That being said, I became disappointed in the second book and the books following - where had the blossoming tactician gone? Where had the chess games and skills gone? Why had Hermione and Ron gone from balancing each other out, each with a different kind of smart, to Hermione knowing everything where Ron knew nothing? Ron seemed to have been flanderized into a caricature of himself - he just ate a lot and was rude, every other aspect of personality which he did legitimately exhibit in book one had been leeched out of him. I kept waiting for Ron to mature and smarten up, but he just kept getting worse - he did, eventually, in the seventh book, but I thought it was poor characterization and far too little far too late. I think it was the same for a lot of people and had really alienated them by book seven.
That being said: I think, with some real maturity, Ron could have been a really, really good character. The problem, I think, was that he was a plot device used for angst and drama.
Then there was the matter of Ginny. (Please remember that there are no kid pairings in this story, no need to worry.) I think, objectively speaking, that Harry/Ginny could have worked. The only problem was that the last time Ginny was seen was when she was Harry's fangirl, then abducted, and then dropped off the map for about four books, and suddenly Harry and Ginny were dating and then in love. Objectively, I think that had Ginny been around in those four books, had we been shown that the Chamber of Secrets debacle changed her and she matured, was no longer Harry's fangirl, and a personality had been written into her and with four years of friendship that people would have certainly been looking for an H/G ship. I think Ginny not being there, not being seen maturing and/or having a personality is what leads to the theories of Ginny dosing Harry with love potions - it's rather justified: where did she come from? Why only now? We've never seen her before now. Unfortunately, there was no "Ginny", at least, not much was seen of it - there was just "background character" and then "Harry's true forever love." I don't know whether or not this was bad writing or something that was just forgotten - in the sense that JKR had spent so much time knowing these characters, had had scenes planned of the two having great, deep conversation or what have you and simply was so caught up in her own story didn't quite write what the reader didn't know and, was therefore, supposed to imagine in.
That being said: I just think Ginny didn't get any screen-time, and therefore, a personality. I think she could have easily had a personality.
And there comes Mrs. Weasley. I'm not entirely sure why Mrs. Weasley gets the hate she does, but I think it has a lot to do with the fact she basically shames Sirius in his own house and essentially tells Sirius that he's not good and/or worthy of raising Harry and then turns around and tries to smother Harry and keep him in the dark. This - a lot of what she said/has done to Sirius - isn't nice, excusable, and can't just be lampshaded. But I think that Molly Weasley is more than a white/black "My Beloved Smother" who is delusional of the world around her and would help Dumbledore manipulate an eleven year old for money. I think, like everyone else, she's got shades of black and white and whole lotta gray - and some attachment and security issues. I don't think that Mr. Weasley allows her to walk all over him (the bar scene in POA, for example, is certainly not showcasing a spineless man) and do think, from all signs exhibited, they have a healthy relationship. My personal theory is that Mrs. Weasley does have attachment and security issues that particularly come to light after Percy leaves in the beginning of OOTP. After all, Voldemort had come back, some of her children were in the Order, a child was against her, she had lost both of her twin brothers to Death Eaters, her parents were dead, and I can certainly see Mrs. Weasley becoming manic, and therefore unthinking, with worry and fear.
That being said: I don't think Mrs. Weasley's been justified in things she's said but, I think, she was just a person with issues who was not called out on them (and should have been).
The other Weasleys I really liked, not gonna lie.
So: how I want to address the Weasleys.
In this story, Harry has just disappeared - and, I think, that's the perfect time for Ron to mature, step up to the plate, and start evolving into himself and Hermione, who has her own issues, as well. I think that Ron's had a lot of time to hide in Harry's (and Hermione's) shadow and, conversely, not be out of it. I'd like to treat Ron as real, growing character with flaws whose made mistakes such as abandoning his friends and is trying to move past those and not make more. I want to expand on Ron's skills, such as his tactician-like nature, and move from "Hermione knows everything and Ron knows absolutely nothing" to an equal balance of theoretical knowledge versus practical knowledge. (Again, no pairings.) I most certainly do not want to make Ron and Hermione into Stus/Sues - but I'd like to have 'em grow up a little and do their own thing without Harry and, conversely, Harry without them - Harry definitely relies on them so much he really has trouble functioning without them.
I liked the idea of the "silver trio" with Neville, Luna, and Ginny, and I'd like to actually try and bring out a personality in Ginny, so she's a real character with real flaws and not just "Harry's forever girl who appeared out of nowhere". (Again, no pairings here.) I'd like to do much the same with Mrs. Weasley.
To put it bluntly: this isn't a Weasley bashing story. However, I'd like to treat the Weasleys as real people, who made real mistakes, and have real flaws - not just flanderized caricatures of themselves, as Ron turned out, or the embodiments of pure evil as Ginny and Mrs. Weasley kinda are.
Thank you for sticking with me through my rant - as always, thank y'all for your support! 'Til next time!